The Arab Voice – June 2020

Arab writers from the Middle East and beyond,  weigh in on the economic crisis facing countries in the region and the proposed plan of Israeli annexation

 

Now Is Not The Time For Chants About Jerusalem!

By Kheir Allah Kheir Allah

Al-Arab, London, May 29

Despite the chants coming from senior members of Hezbollah, who vow that we will all soon be praying in Jerusalem, there is only one truth in the region, at least in the foreseeable future: Israel was, and still is, the sovereign in Jerusalem. And it is not going to vanish overnight. There is, unfortunately, nothing other than this reality. Announcing that we will pray in al-Aqsa will not change the truth.

Before Hassan Nasrallah and his aides prepare to pray in Jerusalem, it is necessary to look at some figures related to Syria and Lebanon.

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Breaking The Bank. Anti-government protesters smash a window of a Lebanese bank during protests against the deepening financial crisis at Hamra trade street, in Beirut, Lebanon, January 14, 2020. (Hussein Malla/AP)

Today, 86% of Syrians live below the poverty line, while Iran considers how to recover the estimated $30 billion it spent in the country to protect the Bashar Assad regime. Syria needs at least $500b. to rebuild itself.

Who exactly is going to come to Syria’s help, given the current financial crisis caused by the coronavirus epidemic and the drop in the price of oil? Frankly, no one.

In parallel to the figures coming out of Syria, we’re also witnessing alarming figures in Lebanon. The Lebanese banking sector is quite literally on the verge of collapse, and the country’s education system is about to be obliterated. People who want to pray in Jerusalem forget that hunger and poverty threaten a million Lebanese citizens.

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Crumbling Buildings To Crumbling Currency. A Syrian man holds up a 2,000-pound banknote, featuring President Bashar Assad, in front of damaged buildings, in Duma, Syria. (Mohammed Badra / EPA)

This is what the regional director of the World Food Program and his representative in Lebanon, Abdullah al-Wardat, warned of. Wardat said that a million Lebanese are at risk of falling below the food poverty line this year, noting that the program is preparing to provide emergency food assistance to support some 50,000 Lebanese families exposed to the repercussions of the current economic crises.

Yes, before praying in Jerusalem, there is hunger, there is suffering, there is death, and there is a need for real political leadership that speaks truth to its people. Syria and Lebanon are in shambles. Nevertheless, there are those who want to pray in Jerusalem.

This does not mean, of course, that the Israeli occupation of the holy city can be justified. It also does not mean that we should condone Israel’s desire to perpetuate its occupation of Jerusalem and the West Bank. But before delivering promises to pray in Jerusalem, it might be wiser to think of ways to avoid a disaster in Lebanon and Syria. The numbers don’t lie. They show the raw and harsh truth unfolding around us. People must confront these figures before making empty promises.

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State Of Syria. A Syrian laments the steep drop in his country’s currency at a festival in Damascus. (Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images)

Turning Israel into a ploy or a distraction undermines the magnitude of both our problems at home, as well as the plight of the Palestinian people.

Kheir Allah Kheir Allah

(Translated from Arabic into English by Asaf Zilberfarb)

 

PA Counter-proposal to US Peace Plan Calls for Demilitarized State

 By Mohammad Al-Kassim

The Media Line, 09 June 2020

PM Shtayyeh: Israel must ‘face the consequences’ over Netanyahu’s planned annexations in West Bank.

The Palestinian Authority will declare an independent, demilitarized state in the entire West Bank and Gaza Strip, with parts of Jerusalem as its capital, if Israel goes forward with plans to annex parts of the West Bank, PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Tuesday.

This would mean the transition from “a temporary authority” to “the imposition of a state on the ground, and Palestine will be a state along the pre-1967 borders and its capital will be East Jerusalem,” he told members of the foreign press in Ramallah.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu says annexation could start as early as July 1. If so, Shtayyeh said the PA would make a “constitutional announcement” and establish a “constituent assembly,” saying that Israel would have to face the consequences.

Annexation “would kill any possibility of peace with Israel,” he explained, and erode “the Palestinian, regional and international consensus” on a two-state solution. Israel, he warned, must now “feel the heat of international pressure.”

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Anxiety Over Annexation. Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh addresses the issue of annexation on Palestine TV, June 8, 2020 (Screenshot of Palestine TV)

He said the PA had sent a plan for Palestinian statehood to the Middle East Quartet – the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia − in response to the Trump Administration’s own peace plan, which sees as much as 30% of the West Bank being annexed by Israel.

“We submitted a counter-proposal to the Quartet a few days ago,” Shtayyeh said.

The PA plan provides for the creation of a “sovereign Palestinian state, independent and demilitarized,” with “minor modifications of borders where necessary,” he noted.

Responding to a question from The Media Line, the PA prime minister insisted that the EU’s backing for the Palestinians was solid.

“We know the decision-making process in Europe is complicated. European decision-making is built on consensus. And we know that there are one or two countries in Europe who are not in line with others,” he stated.

“But I want to assure you,” he continued, “that it’s the first time that European decision-makers are actually debating two things: One is sanctions on Israel and freezing… agreements, as well as cancelling some research programs…. The second thing being discussed in Europe is recognizing Palestine. These measures are important to us because at the end of the day, we have to break the status quo. For us, this is not lip service.”

Shtayyeh made clear that the PA was not going anywhere.

“On the issue of dissolving the Palestinian Authority, look, let’s not fool ourselves: The PA is not a gift from anybody. The PA came into being because of the sacrifices of the Palestinian people since 1965 [when the PLO began its militancy campaign]. So we are not waiting for somebody to give us less or more. It’s not a gift. And you don’t give a gift back,” he said.

He called the PA a “national interest” for Palestinians.

“For us, the issue is not to dissolve the PA, throw away the keys and go home,” he explained. “But if Israel wants to destroy the Authority with the measures it is taking, we know how to resist it. And that is why I’m saying that the status quo cannot be maintained.”

Shtayyeh called Israeli annexation an “existential threat” for the Palestinians.

“It’s a serious violation of signed agreements between us and Israel, a total breach of international law. It’s a threat to regional security, in particular to Jordan, and it is part of the systematic destruction of a future Palestinian state,” he said.

“Frankly, this peace process has a reached a serious impasse,” he continued, “and I think the situation is irreversible.”

Shtayyeh told a packed hall of reporters from around the world that Israel had already implemented small steps on the ground in the Jordan Valley in preparation for annexation.

“There are a number of measures that Israel started to take [in order] to implement its annexation plan,” he stated.

“First, they started sending utility bills to the people and villages in the Jordan Valley – electricity and water… and the sign that usually says ‘Beyond this point is Palestinian Authority domain’ has been removed,” he said.

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Is This Water Under The Bridge? The previous coordinator of government activities in the territories (COGAT) Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai (left) and the Palestinian Authority’s Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh sign an agreement to revitalize the Israeli-Palestinian Joint Water Committee in 2017. (Courtesy COGAT)

On Monday, a demonstration by about 500 people took place in downtown Ramallah against Israel’s annexation plans.

“The anger is there, the dissatisfaction is there, the frustration is there, and all that is a recipe for more problems,” Shtayyeh said.

He reaffirmed the PA’s position against Washington’s involvement in the peace process.

“The whole world has been waiting for President [Donald] Trump to come up with an initiative,” the prime minister said. “He came up with a proposal that has been totally rejected by the Palestinians, the Arabs, the Europeans [and] the rest of the world. Even Israel objects to certain elements.”

Shtayyeh believes a new approach to peace is necessary.

“There has to be a serious paradigm shift, from bilateralism to multilateralism,” he stated. “We want a serious break of the monopoly of Washington over the process. Washington cannot be an honest broker. You need a different broker. An international mechanism.”

Israel would not have moved in the direction of annexation without US approval, he added.

“Unfortunately, annexation has been based on maps provided by the Trump Administration,” he said, “so the maps provide some sort of [American] legitimacy to the Israelis.”

Mohammad Al-Kassim

(Translated from Arabic into English by Asaf Zilberfarb)

 

Barack Obama And The Middle East Revolutions

By Hassan Al-Mustafa

Al-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 26

I was asked a lot about the reason for which former US president Barack Obama was blind in his support for the Arab revolutions, a characteristic of his presidency that almost destroyed his country’s relations with the Arab world.

The short answer to this question is that in Obama’s worldview, spreading freedom and democracy is paramount to anything else. Indeed, Obama’s worldview was shaped directly by the writings of scholars like Fareed Zakaria who believe that in order to fight terrorism, the Western world must first understand the reasons for its emergence. According to Zakaria, terrorism occurs due to the absence of democracy and the presence of oppression at the hands of dictatorial regimes. This idea clearly appealed to Obama, leading him to support the Arab revolutions with full force.

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Strategizing At The Sphinx. President Obama during a tour of the Great Pyramids of Giza following his Cairo speech in June 2009 lending his support to the youthful revolutionaries. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP-GETTY IMAGES)

Was Zakaria’s idea correct? Have the Arab revolutions succeeded in bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East, thereby eliminating terrorism?

The answer here is very obvious. It suffices to look at the Muslim Brotherhood, the biggest winner of these revolutions, which failed miserably in governance in both Tunisia and Egypt.

The most ironic part is that this failure could be attributed, in large part, to the strong tailwinds and backing that the movement received from leaders like Obama. In trying to eradicate terrorism through support and containment, Obama may have only helped spread terrorism. In seeking to replace one dictatorship with another, his vision for the Middle East was doomed to fail from the very beginning.

Hassan Al-Mustafa

(Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

 

 

 

While the mission of Lay Of The Land (LOTL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LOTL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs

 

 

The Arab Voice – May 2020

Arab writers from around the world opine on the consequences of Corona  to Erdogan turning Turkey  into a “Republic of Terror”

 

Who Exactly Is Going To Buy Oil?

By Muhammad Khalil

Al-Watan, Egypt, April 22

There is a lot of buzz surrounding the plunging prices of oil, which crashed in the past week and entered into negative territory. Those most worried about this trend are obviously oil-producing countries, which have enjoyed disproportionate political power to date and are now at risk of bankruptcy.

The inevitable truth is that countries that have based their economies on oil or gas revenues will suffer greatly in the coming months. They will quickly witness their geopolitical power diminish, together with each decline in the dollar value of a barrel. Therefore, many spokespersons representing these nations were quick to appear in television studios worldwide, where they attempted to reassure viewers that the current crisis is just temporary.

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Heading South. Price of oil spiraling downwards.

Those who believe this claim should consider two basic things. First, the origin of the thunderous collapse in oil prices is in future contracts. The collapse in the prices of future contracts provides an unequivocal indication of how policymakers, industry officials and buyers anticipate the coronavirus crisis to unfold in the coming months. It is clear to all parties involved that the virus is here to stay for an extended period of time. Some countries already responded to falling prices by purchasing and stockpiling oil reserves.

China, for example, began in early April to purchase additional quantities of oil – taking advantage of its price collapse – to store it in its warehouses. I suspect other countries, like the United States, took similar measures. Warehouses around the world are full to the brim with oil reserves. This means that the collapse in oil prices is likely to continue for many months to come and that the matter is not temporary as some people may claim.

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Countries Pounce On Low Prices To Build Stockpiles. Crude oil storage tanks are seen in an aerial photograph at the Cushing oil hub in Cushing, Oklahoma, US, on April 21, 2020. (REUTERS/Drone Base/File Photo)

Second, one must keep in mind that irrespective of the COVID-19 crisis, the world has already begun moving toward renewable energy resources and substitutes for oil. Technological breakthroughs now allow shale oil to be extracted almost at the same cost of tar sand oil. In addition, petroleum derivatives are on the rise.

The world around us is rapidly changing. The countries that were rich yesterday may very well find themselves struggling for cash tomorrow. Oil empires that had once experienced crowds of buyers lining up at their doorstep might now find themselves begging nations to buy oil from them. They will encounter budget deficits, economic slowdown, and political instability. The outbreak of coronavirus is changing the way our world is operating in so many ways. One of them is the harsh future awaiting oil-producing countries, which once wielded influence over markets around the world.

 

Who Is Responsible For Coronavirus?

By Muhammad Al-Sheikh

Al-Jazirah, Saudi Arabia, April 20

There appears to be a diplomatic battle looming between the United States, Europe and China over Beijing’s responsibility for the spread of the coronavirus, which has struck all countries of the world and led to unprecedented economic losses exceeding several trillion dollars. The Americans still aren’t claiming that China is responsible for premeditatively spreading the virus but rather posit that the virus accidentally leaked out of one of China’s biological research laboratories, from which it made its way to the city of Wuhan and from there to the rest of China and the world.

This allegation is still being investigated by US authorities. It appears to be complicated to prove, mainly because US authorities lack irrefutable evidence about the spread of the virus. Unlike Iran or North Korea, China is far from a pariah nation. It is a member of the UN Security Council and wields enormous influence over almost every country around the world. Therefore, the US must be careful in provoking it.

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Blame Game. A close up of US President Trumps notes shows where Corona was crossed out and replaced with Chinese Virus as he speaks with his coronavirus task force in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic during a briefing in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on Thursday, March 19, 2020 in Washington, DC. Jabin Botsford | The Washington Post | Getty Images

I am skeptical that the Americans or Europeans will cross the red line and wage a diplomatic war against Beijing, but what I am sure of is that Western countries will try their best to pressure China into making political concessions related to its economic expansion, including the Belt & Road Initiative. It is true that the Western world, represented by the United States and the European Union, is no longer what it was before the outbreak of corona. The European Union is falling apart, while the United States’ economy lost trillions of dollars.

Yet all of this does not mean that this camp is entirely weak. Aware of this dynamic, the US is looking at this pandemic as a way to weaken China and undermine its foreign policy. The corona epidemic will end sooner or later but the greater geopolitical consequences of this virus will be the focal point of the conflict between China and the Western world for years to come.
Muhammad Al-Sheikh

 

Erdogan Turned Turkey Into A Republic Of Terror

By Habib Al-Aswad

Al-Arab, London, April 21

Last week, Turkish authorities blocked the website of British newspaper The Independent. This incident came just days after the public prosecutor in Turkey demanded one to two years in prison for journalist Hazal Ocak, who exposed a bribery scandal involving the son-in-law of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. After accusing Ocak of treason, the prosecutor later amended the charges into the insulting of a public official, claiming that the journalist dishonored the dignity of Erdogan and his family in publishing the story.

Unfortunately, such developments are no longer considered newsworthy in the Republic of Terror established by Erdogan, as the country has turned into a large prison since Erdogan took the reins of absolute rule. According to Reporters Without Borders’s 2019 report, Turkey ranks 157th of 180nations in the Freedom of the Press Ranking and is thus one of the most established dictatorships. Furthermore, behind these numbers and figures lay massive violations of fundamental rights of ordinary Turkish citizens, alongside the detention of dozens of journalists speaking out against the regime.

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Press On. Demonstration in Turkey in defense of freedom of the press.

International organizations often cite China as the world’s most abusive country to journalists. However, a look at the data shows that in 2019, China, a country of 1.4 billion people, sentenced 48 journalists to prison, while Turkey, whose population is 82 million, imprisoned 47 journalists. In comparison to Turkey, China appears to be a safe haven for journalists and a beacon of free speech. Erdogan is keeping tight control over media outlets in his country to ensure that they refrain from criticizing his regime or revealing unnecessary information about its doing.

He also ordered them to launch an orchestrated campaign against Arab countries that reject political Islam. This includes the spreading of fabricated news and even the broadcasting of fatwas encouraging terrorism against these states. Most shockingly, Arab governments, parties, movements, associations, and media organizations associated with political Islam seem totally unconcerned with these violations of freedom of the press and expression. In their view, Erdogan is an infallible sultan who is being chased by conspirators.

This is the ultimate proof that political Islamists care about freedom only when it promotes their own political goals. When it serves to protect or empower others, it is simply too dangerous.

Habib Al-Aswad

 

*Translated from Arabic into English by Asaf Zilberfarb

The Arab Voice – March 2020

From Coronavirus to  Idlib

Arab writers respond to perplexing ‘plaguing’ issues in the region

Is Coronavirus a Conspiracy?

By Abdullah Bin Bakhit

Al-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, February 14

We live in an age of fake news and conspiracy theories not only in the Islamic world, but also in America, where they have become more popular than ever. Today, there are books, magazines and online forums dedicated solely to the topic, many of which have been energetically covering the issue of the coronavirus epidemic. Did the virus originate from bats? How come it only broke out now and not in prior years? How come it emerged just as the US government exerted greater economic pressure on China? Did the Chinese physician who discovered the disease die of infection or was he killed? What are the Chinese authorities hiding from the rest of the world? Each of these questions generates tales, books, dialogues and interviews that neither the Chinese government nor news agencies can answer. Refuting these claims is not enough when people who are so skeptical of the existing world order.

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Before and after photos show how coronavirus fears have emptied out some of Saudi Arabia’s busiest holy sites (Getty Images/Business Insider)

The way in which people respond to these events – pandemics, accidents and wars – is no different than the way avid fans watch important sports matches: Everyone knows the details of the game, but everyone is keen to know the details behind what the facts hold and what the news says. Sadly, real news is often void of juicy stories that the public is looking for. Very few people possess the ability to hear the truth and act on its basis. There is also a big difference between conspiracy theories in America and those in the Arab world. Conspiracies in America stem from a mistrust in political institutions. The average American politician cannot capitalize on it. Conversely, in the Arab world, conspiracy is propagated by politicians. It’s always used to galvanize the masses. A review of the history of conspiracy theories in the Middle East will reveal that the conspirator always has a name: Zionism, the Mossad, the CIA, Freemasonry.

Abdullah Bin Bakhit

 

 Coronavirus: Between Reputation and Safety

 By Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, February 17

One of the biggest lessons we can learn from the coronavirus epidemic is that public health is an interconnected issue requiring cooperation by many different actors. Countries cannot combat the virus alone, and any attempt to conceal incidents of the disease might cause it to spread even more. The anger directed toward governments is further exacerbated by various rumors and conspiracy theories that have been spreading around, including the idea that the virus originated from a military laboratory at a biological-weapons hospital. The truth is that epidemics have accompanied people since ancient times. With the boost in global travel and environmental change being brought about by human activity, viral epidemics are only expected to grow. Governments can only be blamed for one thing: if they choose to advance their political reputation over the safety of citizens. The Chinese government, for example, is said to have contacted Li Liang, the first doctor to warn about the corona danger, threatening him to cease his warnings. Unfortunately, Liang was right, and he himself died of the virus he warned the world about. The good news so far is that the spread of infection within China has slowed for the first time since its outbreak. Because of corona, Chinese President Xi Jinping faces the most challenging time of his term since he stepped into office seven years ago. He deliberately took to the streets, accompanied by the media, and visited patients at different hospitals with a mask on his face. Clearly, the current state of panic surrounding the disease is far more dangerous than the virus itself. Despite the fact that coronavirus mortality rates stand at less than 2%, the news coming from China has been causing major concern in the West.

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Members of Kuwait’s national guard wearing safety masks keep watch outside a hotel in the capital where Kuwaitis returning from Iran are quarantined and tested for coronavirus COVID-19, on February 24 (Image Credit: AF)

The main concerns are that there is no vaccine to prevent the illness, no drug to treat it, and death occurs within three weeks of infection. Popular anger is a natural consequence of helplessness and fear, and if the scientific deficit persists in discovering treatments and vaccines over the next few months, the situation will become even more complicated, particularly at the political level. Economic breakdown, civil disobedience, travel boycotts and halts to trade are only a handful of the possibilities. Governments around the world have already resorted to harsh measures to prevent the virus from spreading in their own jurisdiction, including through the forceful isolation of anyone returning from Asia. These are harsh measures, but they are becoming more and more common. They might very well be the only way to stop the spread of the disease.

 Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed

 

Idlib in the International Arena

By Riad Naasan Agha (former Syrian minister of culture)

Al-Etihad, UAE, February 15

Many observers believe that what is happening in Idlib these days may inadvertently lead to the outbreak of a world war if the situation continues to get out of hand. Undoubtedly, the international community is keen on disarming this Syrian bomb for fear of getting involved in a bloody war. Unfortunately, Idlib, which used to be called the “forgotten city”, has become one of the most infamous places in the world. Today, over 4 million Syrian civilians are held there as hostages. Hundreds of thousands of others have fled. Instead of reducing tension and violence in Idlib, it seems like regional powers are turning the city into a site of never-ending bloodshed. The entrance of Turkish forces into Idlib Province to support rebel groups, concurrent with a growing Russian campaign to empower a local pro-Assad government, presents a real danger of escalation.

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People check the damage in a street following an air strike in Ma’arrat Misrin, part of Idlib governorate. Feb. 25. (Photographer: Mohammed Al-Rifai/AFP via Getty Images)

Indeed, the Idlib land mine might explode in the faces of Turkey, Russia, Iran, the United States and NATO following the failure of the Astana and Sochi agreements, which had been doomed to fail due to each actor’s own goals. Time and time again, I have called on our Arab brethren to restore their role in the conflict and demonstrate leadership at a time of need. There is no need to solve the Idlib crisis in the corridors of Geneva or Washington, but rather in the hallways of the Gulf. It is time for the Arab world to step up to the plate and fight to make sure that the Syrian people can finally live a free and dignified life.

They, too, understand that Syria is the gateway to greater security in the region.

Riad Naasan Agha

 

 

 

Shifting Sands

Saudi Writers To Palestinians: Accept Trump’s Peace Plan Or “You’ll Regret It Later”

By David E. Kaplan

While British Prime Minister Boris Johnson lavished praise on Donald Trump’s vision for Middle East peace during the PM’s question time in the House of Commons, far more telling was the ‘Shifting Sands’ responses from Saudi Arabian intellectuals and journalists.

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In 1960, a British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan spoke of a ‘Wind  of Change’ blowing across the continent of Africa. Could it be that in 2020, another such transformative shift  could be blowing across the Middle East, emanating from the Arabian Peninsula –the birthplace of the Islamic prophet Mohammed?

While and to be expected, there is no change of the solid Saudi support of the Palestinian people and their quest for statehood, nevertheless, the official Saudi position on U.S. President Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century” was one of support, albeit qualified.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry reaction was clearly revealed in the Riyadh-based, pro-government Saudi daily newspaper, Al-Riyadh  in the January 29, 2020 edition:

the Kingdom appreciates the efforts made by President Trump’s administration to develop a comprehensive Palestinian-Israeli peace plan, and it encourages the start of direct peace negotiations between the sides under U.S. sponsorship, in which any dispute regarding details of the plan will be settled. This, in order to advance the peace process and arrive at an agreement that will actualize the brother Palestinian people’s legitimate rights.”

This is a marked shift in attitudes from the past and a clear indication to move the process forward.

To  encourage the Palestinians and offer reassurance that they were not being abandoned by the kingdom’s “qualified” support for the plan, the Saudi press reported in Al-Watan that King Salman spoke with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas by phone, assuring him of “the Kingdom’s steadfast position vis-à-vis the Palestinian cause and the rights of the Palestinian people.”

winds of change3.JPG

Over and above the royal position, most illuminating is the support the peace initiative has received from the Saudi media, as well as telling tweets by intellectuals and journalists.

Noting the famous line by famed Israeli diplomat, Abba Eban that “The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity”, a number have been calling on the Palestinians not to miss “this opportunity” and to approach the plan with a positive mindset.

The articles and tweets recall that every plan offered to the Palestinians has been worse than the one preceding it and that if they reject the ‘Deal of the Century’ now, they may well long for it in the future.

Hereunder are extracts from articles and tweets:

Ibrahim Al-Nahas in the Saudi daily Okaz

Hasten not to reject and examine the plan carefully is the advice to the Palestinians from Political Science lecturer at King Saud University and Saudi Shura Council Member, Ibrahim Al-Nahas.

In an interview with the Saudi daily Okaz, Al-Nahas expressed that “Trump’s Peace Plan,’ or, as media call it, the ‘Deal of the Century,’ is an important stage in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process in particular, and in the peace process in the Middle East in general.” While this “does not mean that it should be accepted without discussion of its goals and objectives,” he added that “all the Palestinian elements must examine the plan carefully, and especially while keeping in mind past experience [with previous proposals]. ……”

He advised that Palestinian decision-making should not be linked “to regional elements [such as Iran, Qatar, or Turkey], as some Palestinian factions and movements do,” and “cease the accusations of treason voiced by some of the Palestinians and Arabs against Arab countries that maintain advanced ties with the U.S.”

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Ahmad Adnan in Okaz

Saudi journalist Ahmad Adnan wrote in his column in the Saudi daily Okaz located in Jeddah.

The PA has made negative statements against the deal. I maintain that at this stage it needs a friend to be honest with it, telling it and advising it: Sign the deal and then curse it as much as you want, day and night. The Palestinians have in decades past specialized in missing golden opportunities because of [their] mistaken assessment of their capabilities and of the crisis.”

After listing a number of examples of these ‘missed opportunities”,

Adnan writes that “In actuality, the Palestinian cause is no longer the Arabs’ main cause – not because the Arabs have given up on Palestine, but because this matter [i.e., the Palestinian plight] is mirrored in all Arab states, as we have seen in Syria, for example. The Palestinians will hear the merchants of the Palestinian cause creating a great uproar and will discover too late that this uproar is aimed at exploiting them in order to take over and destroy the region.”

Perhaps the merchants of the [Palestinian] cause will manage to torpedo the Deal of the Century, and, as we today bemoan the [missed opportunity of the] Arab peace initiative, we will tomorrow bemoan the Deal of the Century – while the Palestinians, unfortunately, descend towards the fate of the [American] Indians…”

 Khaled Al-Suleiman in Okaz

Concerned that if the Palestinians reject the deal that they will be compelled to relinquish even more, Khaled Al-Suleiman wrote in his column in ‘Okaz:

The history of the Palestinian cause has proven that reality is the greatest enemy of the Palestinians. The price of Palestinian and Arab rejection of every peace plan was [only] more concessions, beginning with the partition plan through the Clinton plan to the Trump plan.

It should be noted that the Palestinian decision-making has always been subject to pressure and control by  Arab regimes that harmed the Palestinians as much as Israel did, if not more.

Today, the Palestinians again find themselves facing a peace plan that gnaws away more of their rights and sets them against options even more bitter than those in the past. But rejecting [the plan] this time does not mean that the [next] will carry a lower price-tag. International reality is now presenting the Palestinian cause  with the worst possible scenario, since it is weak, isolated, and ignored. Therefore, the Palestinians’ options today are more limited, and cannot tolerate unrealistic positions.

“The Palestinians must calmly examine the reality of their struggle with Israel and of their relations with the Arab [regimes], so as to draw up a position that will serve their interests, not the slogans of others. All the Arab regimes that have in the past traded in their cause, and that continue to do so, live within their own independent borders, far from any state of war with Israel. Their support for the Palestinians consists of nothing but hollow slogans and incitement, for which the Palestinians pay with their spirit, blood and money.”

Muhammad Al-Osaimi in the Saudi daily Al-Yawm 

Noting that  the Palestinians have missed many opportunities over the years, columnist Muhammad Al-Osaimi in the pro government Arabic daily newspaper Saudi Al-Yawm daily, argues that had they grasped them, they would have been better off today. He therefore counsels they should not be quick to reject the ‘Deal of the Century’:

Who knows how many opportunities [for peace] the Palestinians have had in the past 30 years? Had these opportunities been realized, they could have been today in a better situation as a people and as a country …… Now they face another opportunity that they are rejecting, and that they may  long for in another five or 10 years.”

winds of change4
Al-Yawm daily

 

Truth On Twitter

“The Day Will Come When The Palestinians Yearn For It” is the message from Saudi intellectuals on Twitter.

Saudi intellectual Turki Al-Hamad tweets:

The Palestinians are making a big mistake by not agreeing to the American peace plan. I mean, what’s the alternative? The Palestinians have missed numerous opportunities because of slogans that led [them] astray and strategies of ‘all-or-nothing.’ The end result was nil: continued occupation, loss of Jerusalem, erosion of large parts of the West Bank, and an internal Palestinian struggle harsher than the conflict with Israel.”

He followed with this further tweet:

Previous opportunities were better than this one, but their answer was always no. This was when the Palestinian issue headed the global agenda. Today, the Palestinian issue has been cast into oblivion, and the Palestinians have no other alternative – unless the chaos of Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad or the powerlessness of the PLO can be considered options.”

And in a subsequent tweet::

Politics is the art of the possible, and what is possible today is the proposed American plan. Should the deal be rejected, the alternative will be the continued erosion of the West Bank territories. Then the Palestinians will say ‘If only we had agreed’ – just like with the previous plans.

It’s time for the Palestinians to change their behavior so that it serves the interests of their people…”

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Saudi Intellectual Turki Al-Hamad who earlier criticised the Palestinians for forfeiting an important opportunity by boycotting the Bahrain Economic Workshop in 2019. (Watanserb.com, March 10, 2019)

A former columnist for Okaz and the Al-Arabiya website , Saleh Al-Fahid, tweeted:

The Palestinians’ rejection of the Deal of the Century reminds me of their rejection of the 1947 Partition Plan and of all peace plans proposed to them since then. Each time they were offered less, and they pointlessly yearned for the previous plan. I am worried that if they reject the Deal of the Century, the day will come when they yearn for it …”

Another Okaz columnist, Abd Al-Rahman Al-Lahim tweeted criticism of the Palestinian organisations opposing the deal:

Imagine you had a hen that laid golden eggs. Would you relinquish her? Never. You would make an uproar so as to fill your pockets. This is the situation of the Palestinians who trade in the Palestinian cause and reject peace…”

Changing Landscapes

Away from Saudi Arabia, no less illuminating of changing perceptions on Israel was Al-Jazeera presenter Faisal al-Qasim tweeting that “Zionism was the most successful project in the twentieth century.” Despite risking the wrath of his 5.5 million followers for “his kind of praise for the Zionists”, al-Qasim was not deterred.

He tweeted:

Who are the most advanced, developed, democratic and successful … Israel or the Arab regimes?

…..The majority of Arabs, if they want to insult you, they describe you as ‘Zionist,’ knowing that the most successful project in the past century and the present is the Zionist project, while all projects of the Arabs, especially Arab nationalism, have failed. Before you use the word Zionist as an insult you must first reach the shining sole of Zionism.”

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Al-Jazeera presenter Faisal al-Qasim.

A Far Cry

These words reveal changing mindsets.

They represent a far cry from the crazed anti-Israel rhetoric of the 1960s fueling Egyptian strongman, Gamal Abdel Nasser to unite the fractious Arab states behind him leading to the Six Day War. Now, in 2020, that anti-Israel fanaticism has begun to dissipate, and a new somewhat more positive attitude toward the Jewish state has begun to emerge not only among rulers eager for allies in confronting Iran, but also among segments of the Arab populace across the Middle East eager for peace and prosperity.

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Fueling mass hysteria against Israel in the sixties, President Gamal Abdul Nasser is seen here delivering a speech in Aleppo on February 17, 1960

The Arab Voice

Insightful perspectives in the twilight weeks of December 2019 from two Arab journalists on two politicians – one in the East and one in the West.

These writers note the duplicitous nature of both the Malaysian president, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and the electorally trounced UK Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn and warn of the dangers of  their flirtations with the world’s extremists and supporters of terrorism.

 

The Kuala Lumpur Summit – A Play To Mislead The World

By Ali Kassem

Al-Arab, London, December 21

It is very surprising that the Malaysian prime minister chose to speak about Islamophobia in front of three leaders who sponsor notorious acts of terrorism

Why did the president of Malaysia, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, choose to talk about Islamophobia, blaming Islamic countries for the exacerbation of the phenomenon, in the presence of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani? And who exactly are the Islamic countries that bear responsibility for exacerbating Islamophobia, according to Mr. Mohamad?

Let’s start by introducing Mahathir Mohamad. He was born in 1925 and grew up in a poor suburb, in a household with modest financial and social means. His academic excellence enabled him to obtain a scholarship to enroll in an English school, after which he studied medicine. But his passion for politics sent him on a long journey in which he assumed various positions in government, including the premiership of Malaysia since 1981.

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From Leader To Misleader. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad delivers his keynote address at the Kuala Lumpur Summit Malaysia December 19.

Mahathir brought many accomplishments to the prime minister’s office. His greatest achievement was his economic recovery strategy, which he implemented after the Asian economic crisis in 1998. He defied the opinions of his advisers, who foolishly urged him to peg his country’s currency to the US dollar, and this bold step was one of the main reasons for the recovery of the Malaysian economy at a faster rate than other Asian countries. Mahathir received many local and international awards and honors, including the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding in 1994 and the King Faisal International Prize for Service to Islam in 1997. In 2007, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

It is therefore very surprising that a man of such stature chose to speak about Islamophobia in front of three leaders who sponsor notorious acts of terrorism, generating the problem of Islamophobia in the first place. Perhaps it is Mohamad’s old age which rendered him blind to this fact. Mahathir’s comments were made during an Islamic summit in Kuala Lumpur, in which Saudi Arabia refused to participate. Riyadh explained that it will not attend a conference claiming to represent the interests of the world’s 1.75 billion Muslims unless it is held under the auspices of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

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Conspicuous By Their Absence. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani arrives in Malaysia to attend the Kuala Lumpur Summit 2019 at the invitation of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Notably absent was – Saudi Arabia.

At a time when Saudi Arabia is making efforts to combat manifestations of extremism and battle Islamophobia, the architect of political Islam, Mahathir Mohamad, has chosen to surround himself with three of the most powerful regimes sponsoring extremism and terrorism in the world. The strained relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar are caused by the Qatari sponsorship of the Muslim Brotherhood, and its support for political Islam, both Sunni and Shiite. A Saudi presence in the summit would have given legitimacy to the Iranian regime, which does not hide its expansionist ambitions in the region. The same logic applies to Turkey. The three regimes mentioned above try to delude the rest of the world by participating in a conference condemning terrorism, while they ignite conflict and spew hatred behind the scenes. Mahathir would have been wiser not to associate himself with these three regimes.

Ali Kassem

 

Britain Needs To Get Rid Of Corbyn

By Amir Taheri

Asharq Al-Awsat, Lebanon, December 20

The British Conservatives’ victory in the recent election was described as a “landslide victory” and an “earthquake” by pundits. Indeed, given the fact that the Tories won their first parliamentary majority since the 1980s, the election may very well signal a “landslide victory” for Prime Minister Boris Johnson. And given the major defeat suffered by the Labour Party, the title “earthquake” seems fitting. However, a closer look at the results may give us a more nuanced picture of the results.

One of the key questions pundits have raised again and again is: How did voters who associated themselves with socialist values decided to abandon the Labour Party and vote Conservative this time around?

There are two possible ways to approach this question. First, what pundits fail to recognize is that the transition from Labour to Conservative isn’t necessarily new to these elections; it already happened during the 2016 vote on Brexit.

Put simply, the recent UK election just confirmed what we’ve previously seen in the Brexit referendum. Beyond the issue of Brexit, another key factor in Labour’s downfall is undoubtedly the party’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn’s duplicitous response to antisemitic tropes within his party, his flirtation with the Irish Republican Army, his “brotherly” affinity with Hezbollah and Hamas (as well as his decade-long career as a commentator on the English-language channel of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards), his anti-Israel sentiment, and his anti-NATO stance, have all rendered him an unfit candidate to lead a major Western democracy.

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Labour Of Hate. It all went wrong for Corbyn and Labour.

Corbyn and his colleagues did everything in their power to destroy British social democracy and replace it with a radical movement that suffers from what Lenin described in 1918 as a “childish disorder.” With their own hands, they destroyed the Labour Party of Britain. Much to the luck of liberal British voters, the central pillar of democracy is that nothing is irreversible. Even the Labour Party can recoup and rebound. However, it must reinvent itself first. This cannot, and will not, be achieved with Corbyn as its head. The sooner Corbyn and his supporters step aside and give room to a new Labour leadership, the better for democracy in Britain.

Amir Taheri

The Arab Voice

Perspectives this week from three Arab journalists on three countries in the region – Turkey, Iraq and Iran

The first, Ashraf Al-Barbari examines the price being paid by the people of Turkey due to the confrontational and reckless path of its long-serving President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan; the second, Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed  reveals how the protest movement in Iraq is not calling for a coup against the regime but for early elections to hold corrupt politicians accountable and ensure the rule of law; and the third, Ameel Amin, speculates that Iran – facing debilitating sanctions and weakened in leadership beset by internal disagreement – could face “collapse” unless it negotiates soon with the USA.

 

Lessons Learned from the Tyranny of Erdoğan

By Ashraf Al-Barbari

Al-Shorouq, Egypt, December 6

It seems as if the illusions from which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been suffering, have reached a new and unprecedented level. They now exceed the limits of perception. The man has redrawn his country’s map to unilaterally include many Greek islands. Determined by an obsession to recreate his country’s lost empire, he continued by signing an agreement with Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj to draw a maritime border between the two countries, even though the two countries share virtually no water between them. Although the entire purpose of a border demarcation agreement is to make it publicly known to all, Erdoğan made sure that his agreement with Sarraj stayed secret – mostly because he understands, better than anyone else, that the paper on which it is written lacks any value, especially from the standpoint of international law.

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Meddling In The Med. Turkey sparks Cyprus and Greece fury with provocative oil drilling project in the Mediterranean.

This agreement is nothing more than new evidence indicating that Erdoğan’s long stay in power has transformed him from a successful prime minister with undeniable development experience in his early years to a despotic ruler leading his country to the abyss after he toppled his closest allies and advisers. The leaders of Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party have paid the price for allowing Erdoğan to be transformed from a mere party leader whose term must not exceed two periods every four years to a lifelong leader. Erdoğan turned the party into his own political organization and toppled every leader who contested his authority. Now, the entire Turkish public is paying the price of allowing Erdoğan to stay in power for more than 16 years, whether as prime minister or president of the republic. In the past few years, Turkey found itself drowning in a sea of problems with virtually all of its neighbors, while the Turkish economy entered a freefall following years of stability and growth. Erdoğan’s transformation from a successful prime minister to a ruler haunted by paranoia and delusions was nothing but a direct, and possibly inevitable consequence of staying in power for too long. If the president had adhered to the rules of the democratic game and left his executive positions after eight years, Turkey would have perhaps continued on its path toward prosperity. Erdoğan is a living testament to the fact that power corrupts. In seeking to secure his own thrown, he manipulated the rules of the democratic game, overthrown his political partners and opponents, and corrupted his country.

 Ashraf Al-Barbari

 

Iraq Is in Great Danger

By Al-Rahman Al-Rashed

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, December 8

Iraq, which is looking to get out of its crisis, may very well turn into another Syria unless Iraqi politicians, parliamentarians and the military apparatus remedy the situation and block the way to the “third party.” Sadly, the campaign to target unarmed protesters is getting more violent and bloody with each passing day. This will eventually push the protesters to turn violent, themselves. The perpetrators of these brutal crimes, known as the third party, are Iran-backed militias that get their money and the salaries of their tens of thousands of militiamen from the Iraqi government.

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Iraqis Take To The Street. Iraqi demonstrators carry the national flag and placards amid ongoing anti-government protests. (Sabah Arar/AFP via Getty Images)

Since the demonstrations erupted in early October, about 500 protesters have been killed and 20,000 others have been injured. The attack on demonstrators this past Friday was the boldest and most violent we’ve seen to date, as unknown militants killed about 50 people in Baghdad, while security services remained neutral. And because no one calls the killers by their name, even though it is a secret known to everyone, whether they are Asaib Al-Haq or other armed groups, organized violence will continue, and the Iraqi state will continue losing its grip over the situation. These militias dare to engage in confrontations because no one calls them by name, and there is no public warning against them, and they exploit their semiofficial status. They live on the government’s money while not abiding by its rules, despite attempts to tame it. And the army, the country’s official military force, is sitting on the sidelines without intervening. No one wants to see Iraq pushed toward complete chaos, but everyone is monitoring with concern how Tehran increases its grip over Iraqi state organs. In Iraq, Tehran sees an opportunity to overcome its serious financial crisis brought about by the American sanctions. What about those who are claiming that the Iraqi protests are an attempt to collapse the Iraqi political system and should, therefore, be suppressed? Unfortunately, those making these claims, trying to sow distrust in the protests, are the very same people who are forcefully trying to take over Iraq. As for the protesters, they are, in fact, strengthening the Iraqi political system because what they are demanding is change and reforms from within; not a coup against the regime. The protesters actually recognize state institutions. Their only demands are early elections, to hold corrupt politicians accountable, and ensure the rule of law. The third party, in contrast, want to crush the protests because they fear institutional change that would diminish their power. The protesters represent the power of the state and the opportunity of the Iraqi political system to finally reform itself. Therefore, protecting protesters means protecting the regime, and fighting against the killing of protesters means fighting against the killing of the modern Iraqi state.

 Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed

 

IRAN AND THE ESCAPE TO THE UNKNOWN

By Ameel Amin

Al-Arabiya, Saudi Arabia, December 6

Iran is still trying, in vain, to find a way out of the sanctions and its inevitable fate. But it failed yesterday, today, and will continue to fail tomorrow. Its leadership is failing to understand that its strategic recklessness does not improve its bargaining power; it only tightens the noose around its neck. Events of recent days suggest that the mullahs are anxious and confused, suffering from disagreements and contradictions even among themselves. This may be the reason why President Hassan Rouhani declared a few days ago that his country was ready to launch negotiations with the United States on a multilateral framework if Washington lifted the sanctions that it re-imposed on Iran. However, Trump resents the Iranians and, unlike his predecessor in office, is unwilling to make any gestures toward the mullah regime.
A few days ago, The Wall Street Journal drew attention to what US financial intelligence revealed – that the Iranian government is experiencing a crisis in foreign exchange reserves, a crucial indicator of the country’s ability to control economic forces and import supplies. This lack of foreign exchange reserves, the decline in oil exports, and the increasing trade deficit place Iran in greater economic distress than it was in 2013 – that is, before it signed the notorious agreement with the US in 2015.

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Death To The People. Following a fuel price increase, Iranian protesters clash in the streets in the city of Isfahan in central Iran. With Amnesty International reporting at least 208 killed in Iran protests, rights group are calling the ‘alarming’ death toll ‘evidence that Iran’s security forces went on a horrific killing spree’.

Therefore, the immediate question is:

Will Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, drink from the cup of poison that was drunk by Khomeini the founder, and accept submission to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s 12 conditions?

Evidence seems to suggest otherwise.

Observers of Iranian affairs believe that Iran would rather ignite the whole region in its attempt to save itself. On Wednesday, Washington was talking about new evidence indicating that Iran was smuggling new weapons and forces into the Middle East, possibly indicating that it was planning for a possible attack. In this context, the American Politico website reported that the US government is planning to support the protests of the Iranian people in several ways, most notably by lifting the Internet ban in the country and by escalating the media campaign in support of the Iranian people. The Americans believe that the recent Iranian youth protests are a sign of the effectiveness of the intense American pressure campaign against Iran. If the Iranian people take to the streets, the mullah regime will have no choice but to continue burning its foreign reserves to save the economy. This will only expose it to further danger and potential collapse unless it comes to the table and negotiates with the United States.

Ameel Amin

The Arab Voice

Perspectives from two Arab journalists: the first on on the concern of the Lebanese economy imploding due to Hezbollah’s policy of “crazy adventurism” and confrontation, and the second on recognising that  time is now ripe to honour the late Egyptian President, Anwar Sadat’s for his pursuit of peace with Israel that was both risky and right.

 

HEZBOLLAH IS BRINGING DOWN LEBANON’S FINANCIAL SYSTEM

 By Tony Abi Najem

Nida Al-Watan, Lebanon, November 25

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah was not joking when he threatened that if Iran was attacked, Hezbollah would be ready to set the entire region on fire in its defense. But now a new kind of war is being waged by Washington against Tehran: an economic and financial one revolving around sanctions and which has proven to be less effective than a traditional war. Since announcing its withdrawal from the [2015] nuclear deal, the Trump Administration has imposed successive economic sanctions on both Iran and Hezbollah.

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‘The People Are One’. Lebanese unite against the political elite with hundreds of thousands taking to the streets in October in large protests threatening the coalition government.

From the very first moment, Tehran realized that the battle would be unconventional, harsh and long, and that precautionary measures had to be taken, notably the reduction of Hezbollah’s reliance on Iranian money. This necessitated trying to secure alternative sources of funding for Nasrallah, and at this point, the game became clear to him as well. Just like he’s done so many times in the past, Nasrallah responded by doing what he does best: hide behind civilians. Hezbollah itself began hiding behind the people of Lebanon and their banks, financial institutions and economy. Hezbollah members of parliament took it upon themselves to obstruct any attempt to reform the economy.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah members upped their illegal smuggling of goods into the country while circumventing the formal banking system. It is for this reason that Hezbollah refuses to capitulate to the people’s demand to form a technocratic government that would protect the Lebanese national interest. Instead, it seeks to take the country and its economy hostage in the Iranian-American confrontation, even at the cost of a complete collapse of the Lebanese financial, banking and economic system!
Simply put, all Lebanese people pay the price for Hezbollah’s decision to engage in a confrontation with the United States from Lebanon in the service of Iran. This crazy adventurism is coming at the expense of the Lebanese people’s livelihoods, savings and financial stability.

Certainly, those who have declared their readiness to ignite the entire region, including Lebanon in defense of Iran will not hesitate to destroy Lebanon’s economy and financial system in the current financial war in an attempt to defend the mullah regime!

Tony Abi Najem

 

ANWAR SADAT’S HISTORIC VISIT TO ISRAEL

By Ibrahim Al-Bahrawi

Al-Arabiya, Saudi Arabia, November 23

Forty-two years ago, on the evening of November 20, 1977, Egyptian president Muhammad Anwar Al-Sadat stood at the Knesset podium to deliver a speech demonstrating his remarkable ability to eliminate Israeli resistance to peace and the restoration of Arab land occupied by Israel in the 1973 war. In my estimation, this unprecedented step could only have been reached by a self-confident fighter willing to make great sacrifices for his country and his nation.

Sadat’s bold personality was exactly that. It was the same vision and conviction that pushed him, during the 1940s, to resist the British occupation of Egypt – making him lose his career as an army officer. With his historic visit, Sadat was able to achieve a huge political gain by breaking many barriers that prevented the Israelis from responding to calls for peace and withdrawal from the occupied Arab land in the Sinai Peninsula, Golan Heights and West Bank. He also helped Israelis overcome their mistrust of outsiders, specifically their inherent fear of, and hostility to, Arab nations.
After all these years, I believe it’s our historical duty to recognize Sadat’s huge political accomplishments and to apologize for all those Arab leaders – in places like Iraq, Libya and Syria – who defamed him for his actions.

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Peace Of Mind. EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT Anwar Sadat (left) and prime minister Menachem Begin deep in conversation at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

These leaders waged a harsh campaign against Sadat and, in doing so, prevented other Arab nations from following in his footsteps and seizing the opportunity to liberate all the occupied territories through negotiations. Sadat’s speech ended the political stalemate imposed by the Israelis, with US support after the 1973 war, and shook the expansionist concepts that were implanted in the mind of Menachem Begin, founder of the extremist-minded Likud Party, who claimed in 1967 that “Sinai is an organic part of the Land of Israel.”

President Sadat was the veteran Arab fighter who successfully led the October military battle in 1973. But he was also unafraid to fight for peace by making risky political decisions that others criticized at the time. Now, through the perspective of history, we know he was right. It is time to give Sadat the respect this great leader deserves.

Ibrahim Al-Bahrawi

 

The Arab Voice

A selection of opinions and analysis from the Arab media

This month’s selection of articles reflect on the repercussions and ramifications following of the death of Abū Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Iraqi-born leader of ISIS as well as the  nationwide demonstrations taking place in Lebanon, Iran and Iraq.

 

Baghdadi and Bin Laden … What’s the Difference?

 By  Waheed Abd al-Majeed 

Al-Etihad, UAE, November 7

When Osama bin Laden announced in 1988 the creation of what he called the “Global Front for Jihad against the Jews and the Crusaders,” known as al-Qaida, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had just turned 17. When bin Laden claimed responsibility for the September 11 attacks, Baghdadi was an anonymous preacher at a Baghdad mosque. This generational difference between Baghdadi, born in 1971, and bin Laden, born in 1957, influenced the path the two men took.

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Death Of ISIS Leader. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi killed himself after US special forces found him in north-west Syria.

The circumstances surrounding the establishment of Islamic State in 2013 were considerably different from those in which al-Qaida was born. Although it is tempting to compare the assassination of Baghdadi just a few weeks ago to that of Bin Laden in May 2011, it is important to remember that the two events and their impact on the two organizations are inherently different. Bin Laden was able to play a pivotal role in his organization even while hiding, based on two factors: – First, his historical record in the war in Afghanistan and also the fame he gained during that war, which enabled him to lead global terrorism. – Second, his ability to communicate and attract attention, as demonstrated in his countless speeches.

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Revealing Reality. Zeid Ali, 12, left, and Hodayfa Ali, 11, comfort each other after their house was hit and collapsed during fighting between Iraqi forces and Islamic State militants. (Felipe Dana/AP)

In contrast, Baghdadi had neither of these factors. There is no remarkable historical record and no markers indicating that he was a strong or influential figure. From his supporters’ point of view, Baghdadi’s main achievement was in transforming a terrorist organization that operated only in Iraq into a larger movement operating in other Middle Eastern countries as well. By these measures, the impact of his death on ISIS may appear less important than that bin Laden’s assassination had for al-Qaida. But this conclusion may be hasty because it overlooks an important variable: Both men spent their last few years in hiding. Therefore, it was extremely difficult for them to play an effective leadership role in their respective organizations. Bin Laden’s role was considerably diminished in his final years and he became essentially irrelevant from an operational standpoint. Meanwhile, Baghdadi was killed after his organization was defeated militarily and expelled from areas it controlled in Syria and Iraq. But Baghdadi’s weakness was even more dramatic because he lacked the moral authority that bin Laden had. Yet this difference, however important, is not enough to conclude that the repercussions of Baghdadi’s killing for ISIS will be less monumental than the effects of bin Laden’s death on al-Qaida. If al-Qaida became weaker after bin Laden’s death, it was linked to the emergence of ISIS, which attracted some of its cadres and many of its supporters. Therefore, the fate of ISIS after the killing of Baghdadi may depend on two central questions: The first is the fate of Abu Ibrahim Al-Hashemi Al-Qurashi, who was coronated as ISIS’s new leader. Will the movement consolidate behind Qurashi’s back? The second relates to al-Qaida:

Will it be able to exploit the confusion and disorder within the ranks of ISIS to regain the forefront of global terrorism?

Or, alternatively, will a third organization, separate from these two, emerge in the region and vie for leadership?

History tells us that this is certainly possible.

Waheed Abd al-Majeed (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

 

 

Trust: Basis of Social Contract between Ruler, Ruled

 By Muhammad Al-Sheikh

Al-Jazirah, Saudi Arabia, November 6

One of the most important things that have emerged from the ongoing demonstrations in Lebanon is that confidence is an indispensable requirement in the so-called “social contract” between the ruler and the ruled.

The people of Lebanon, who have grown accustomed to all of their sects and parties, do not trust their elected politicians anymore. Lebanese politicians, like many of their counterparts around the world, fail to deliver on their campaign promises as soon as they are elected. It seems as if this has been particularly true in Lebanon and Iraq, where leaders handed out promises only to pave their way to the throne but then turned their backs on the people as soon as they won the election. Politicians hiding under the cloak of democracy, speaking of accountability and transparency, have been the first to abandon these concepts when assuming power. The problem with Lebanon, just like the problem of Iraq, is that sectarian loyalties triumph political competence. People are elected to office based on ethnic labels, not political credentials; this inherently diminishes any prospect for equal opportunity in society while creating a deep sense of clientelism and injustice. Therefore, it can be argued that the first condition for democracy is the abolition of sectarianism because when sectarianism meets patriotism, only one survives.

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Lebanese Demand Change. Following nationwide cross-sectarian rallies across Lebanon since October 17, 2019 demanding a complete overhaul of an inefficient and corrupt political system, the government resigned and spurred promises from political leaders, who have vowed to enact serious reforms to combat corruption.

In Iraq, sectarian loyalties have allowed the country to fall into the hands of Iran. The Iraqi parliament is simply unable to make an independent decision and lacks any capacity to pursue its own national agenda. This is true, at least to some extent, in Lebanon as well. Thankfully, I am confident that the uprising in Lebanon will be sufficient to turn the table against the Iranian regime trying to take over the country. The people of Lebanon are going through a historic opportunity to liberate themselves from the hateful Iranian occupation. We must remember that Iran is extremely weak from the inside. The Iranian people are closely watching what is happening in Iraq and Lebanon. Revolutions can easily spread from one country to another, as the Arab Spring has taught us.

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Rise Of Fuel Price Rises Tensions. Iranian protesters block a highway following fuel price increase in Tehran, Iran, 16 November 2019 CREDIT: REX

The Iranian regime might unwillingly find itself being the next target of demonstrations, but this time, from the inside.

Muhammad Al-Sheikh (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

 

 

 Can Iraqi Regime Be Changed?

By Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed

Asharq Al-Awsat, London, November 7

A handful of revolutions have shaken the region of late, but none has paved the way to the rise of a new regime. Leaders resigned and governments fell, but the regimes remained strong in Egypt, Tunisia and Sudan. In Libya and Yemen, state institutions have completely collapsed, yet the two countries are still in political limbo, finding themselves without alternative political systems or effective state institutions. The protests in Iraq caught the world by surprise since no one truly expected them to erupt, let alone be sustained at such intensity throughout the entire country.

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Anger At Leadership. Discontent over economic hardship and corruption, Iraqi demonstrators take part at ongoing anti-government protests at Tahrir Square in Baghdad, Iraq November 2, 2019. (REUTERS/Saba Kareem)

Although Iraqi phone lines had been cut off and Wi-Fi signals suspended, the Iraqi people have not backed down. The sad truth, however, is that despite the protesters’ admirable insistence, they are unlikely to topple the regime. The Iraqi masses who have taken to the streets are certainly able to force the government to resign. But this will change very little on the ground. The biggest achievement of these protestors is the ability to send Iran a message that its influence over Iraqi politics is not wanted. This is what brought hundreds of protestors to demonstrate outside the Iranian consulate and set it on fire. The people of Iraq are well aware of the fact that their government might be Iraqi, but its orders come from Tehran. Unfortunately, previous experience teaches us that the alternative to a government that steps down is not always clear. Sometimes, the resignation of the government is the easiest thing to offer because the alternative is not much better.

Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

 

 

 

The Arab Voice

NO INTEREST IN ISLAMIST RULE!

The Arab people do not wish to be governed by Islamist parties

By Suleiman Gouda

Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt, October 1

When the first round of presidential elections in Tunisia took place in the middle of this month, Abdelfattah Mourou, the vice president of the Islamic Renaissance Movement, ran on a list of 24 candidates. When the result was announced, Mourou was not among the two candidates that advanced to the final run-off. The Ennahda candidate, which is usually described as the Tunisian version of the Muslim Brotherhood, received 13% of the total vote in the first round, coming in third after businessman and media mogul Nabil Karoui, and renowned Tunisian law professor Qais Said, who came in first.

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Fingers On The Pulse. “It’s our right and our obligation to vote,” said Nourhene Ben Chalbi (left) with Mariam M’hamdi and Sabri Mohamed showing their inked finger after voting. Simon Speakman-Cordall for The National

Interestingly, when the losing candidates came forward to challenge the results, Mourou was not among them. This can only mean one thing: Mourou understood what had happened and realized that his movement is simply unpopular among the people. The small share of votes given to Ennahda was commensurate with its shrinking popularity. This in and of itself was a kind of sensibility that we can only wish to see enacted by our own Brotherhood branch, here in Egypt. The Egyptian Brotherhood is still far from a point where it can reckon with its defeat. Its members still vehemently refuse to recognize their political insignificance and failure to rule the country.
After the first elections were held in Libya in the post-Gaddafi era, the Muslim Brotherhood contested the results. Their share of votes was barely enough to pass the threshold. This meant that nothing on the ground gave them the right to rule Libya.
However, they did not stop protesting, and until today target the army with all sorts of baseless accusations. If elections were held in Yemen today, the Houthi group would gain a similar share of votes to those won by the Ennahda movement in Tunisia and the Brotherhood in Libya. The meaning of this would, again, be the same:

The Arab people do not wish to be governed by Islamist parties! Not in Yemen, and certainly not in Libya, Tunisia, or Egypt.

Suleiman Gouda

 

 

 

ROUHANI AT THE UNITED NATIONS

By Radwan Al-Sayeed

Al-Etihad, UAE, October 2

Iran, caught in yet another misfortune caused by its reckless behavior, seems to always speak in two voices: One talks about global peace and security, and one creates problem and spews hatred in the region.

At the United Nations last week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani looked like a peace dove. But don’t be mistaken: this peace dove has teeth. He wants peace in the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz through a security system linked to charters and contracts. He wants negotiations, not war.
He said that the Iranians had treated the European initiative positively, but the Europeans could not deliver on what they had promised. Just as Iran accepts negotiations in every way, it has commendable efforts to cooperate in solving problems. From Syria to Lebanon, Palestine to Yemen, it is ready to help achieve peace!
Rouhani began his speech with prayers for the martyrs of the revolution. I tried to understand which “revolution” he was referring to. He spoke about the martyrs in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Palestine and Afghanistan. But he neglected to mention that in all of these places, Iran has committed massacres either directly or indirectly, through its proxy militias. In Syria and Iraq, Iran participated in the killing of hundreds of thousands and the displacement of millions of others.
Just a few days ago, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah called on the inhabitants of the Syrian town of Qusayr (which housed more than thirty thousand citizens) to return to their homes, from which Iranian and Syrian militias had kicked them out. The very same martyrs Rouhani was talking about in Syria and Iraq are those murdered by ISIS, the Popular Mobilization, the Revolutionary Guards Corps, and Hezbollah – all of which are supported by Iran. And who carried out the coup in Yemen, which killed and displaced thousands? They are the Houthis trained and armed by Iran. But Rouhani, for some reason, wants to be a negotiator who solves these problems.
Needless to say, this makes absolutely no sense. Iran is the problem.

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Mixed Messages. In the Iranian president’s address to the 47th session of the United Nations General Assembly on the 25th September 2019, Hassan Rouhani – contrary to Iran’s aggressive behavior in the Middle East – spoke about a “Coalition for Hope” and called for “Let’s return to justice, to peace, to law, commitment and promise and finally to the negotiating table.” (Richard Drew – AP)

It is Iran that is influencing the militias to reject any diplomatic solution, even the Hodeida agreement, which Rouhani praises and extols. He would have been “proud” if the Houthis had cooperated in its implementation, but they – unbeknownst to him, of course – did not. In Afghanistan, Iran is involved in working with the Taliban against the legitimate government. In Palestine, where Israel is maintaining its brutal occupation of the Palestinian people, there have been several wars Iran needed in its bargaining with the United States.
Rouhani came to the United Nations after Iran targeted Saudi oil installations with guided missiles. The Europeans condemned the strike, but French President Emanuel Macron remained determined to get Rouhani and Trump in the same room. Rouhani refused until Trump promised to ease the sanctions on Tehran. Eventually, it was Teheran who came out with the upper hand. Wouldn’t it have been wiser for the Europeans to come to terms with Iran’s true identity, instead of rushing to embrace Rouhani at the UN? Iran needs to be spoken to in the language it best understands: that of threats and force.

Radwan Al-Sayeed

 

 

No To Blackmail

400 MILLION POUNDS FOR A BRITISH FEMALE PRISONER

By Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, October 2

Did you think that ISIS and other terrorist groups are the only ones to kidnap innocent people and ask for money in return for their release? Well, think again. You might be surprised to hear that Iran adopted the same modus operandi. The British government recently revealed that Iranian Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif asked Britain for 400 million pounds in return for the release of a British woman of Iranian origin who has been jailed for extortion charges in Tehran.
We have never, and will never, accept any suggestion that the UK government should pay Iran to release its nationals who have been arbitrarily detained in the country,” the British government, which exposed the negotiations, said in a statement. They must be released unconditionally. The UK will not be blackmailed, and the comments of the Iranian foreign minister will only further discredit the Iranian government.”
Indeed, Minister Zarif, with his usual double tongue, to which his listeners are accustomed, said his request for money in exchange for the release of the British detainee was meant to convince the Iranian court that the release of the prisoner is an exchange of British money owed to Iran, and that these funds accumulated and accrued interest! But we all understand that this is plain old ransom.

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Bring Nazanin Home. Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of imprisoned Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe outside the Iranian embassy in London with Vicky Foxtrot, MP for Lewisham Deptford & Shadow Minister for Civil Society. In April 2016, Nazanin and her two year old daughter Gabriella were arrested at Tehran airport after visiting family in Iran. Iran does not recognise dual citizens, and Nazanin has been illegally imprisoned ever since on false espionage charges. (Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA)

This is Iran’s old-fashioned approach. Indeed, its first “diplomacy” was the detention of 52 employees of the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979 for 444 days. Subsequently, it carried out several kidnappings, mostly through its proxy Hezbollah, which targeted Western civilians in Lebanon in the early 1980s and bargained against them.
This behavior continued during the war in Syria. The notorious Evin Prison in Tehran hosts dozens of detainees of British, Australian and other Western nationalities, most of whom were arrested for the purpose of bargaining. In this ongoing series of bullying as a state policy, we should not rule out the possibility that Iran, through its organizations in Iraq and Lebanon, abduct Americans with the sole hope that this would embarrass US President Donald Trump and push him to make more concessions vis-a-vis Tehran. This is Iran’s ideology, and without the world sending it a strong message of deterrence, it will continue to practice this diplomatic terrorism.
Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed

The Israel Brief-16-19 September 2019

 

The Israel Brief – 16 September 2019 – All your pre-election updates! Israel in Dubai? Watergen in Monaco!

 

 

 

The Israel Brief – 17 September 2019 – Election Day! Women’s March terrible trio are out! Did IDF stop Bibi going to war?

 

 

 

The Israel Brief – 18 September 2019 – All your election results….so far!

 

 

 

The Israel Brief – 19 September 2019 – Election results update. What does Trump say about Israeli elections? World Muslim League President to visit Auschwitz.