New Age Islam Edit Bureau
21 April 2018
EU Continues To Ignore Rohingya In Myanmar
By Dr. Azeem Ibrahim
Will Arabs Intervene Militarily In Syria?
By Mashari Althaydi
Curbing Iran’s Devastation in the Region Is a Must
By Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri
The Russian Ambassador and Qaradawi
By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Syria in 2018 Is Not Iraq In 2003
By Muhammad Idrees Ahmad
The Iran That Europeans Do Not Know Of
By Sawsan Al Shaer
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
20 April 2018
The European Union is the largest economic block in the world and also has the distinction of holding a Nobel Prize. It has historically taken a lead on human rights issues and has prevented many a conflict as former Easter bloc countries mull whether to risk EU membership and the economic benefits it’s brings by antagonizing their neighbors. However, when it comes to the Rohingya in Myanmar, the EU has been completely absent.
Take for example, the EU’s Facebook page in Myanmar. A key accusation against the Rohingya minority by the Myanmar authorities is that the word ‘Rohingya’ did not historically exist but was manufactured by illegal Bengali immigrants to give themselves an identity.
An examination of the EU’s Facebook page shows that the word Rohingya is not even used once. One would think the EU would speak truth to power considering the millions of Euros they continue to pour into the country building roads and infrastructure.
The EU's Weak Stance
This should not come as a surprise. When it comes to the genocide itself, the EU has been exceptionally weak to even acknowledge its existence. It has passed a resolution stating "the very serious nature of the allegations" and "current investigations conducted at the domestic level", it stopped short mandating the investigation sought by Commissioner Ra'ad al-Hussein.
EU diplomats justified the move by claiming they preferred using an existing mechanism that had received “good cooperation” and access from Myanmar's government, rather than gamble on a new approach, and to give more time to the domestic process.
To be sure, there have not been hundreds of thousands of people executed with machetes like in Rwanda, but the swift and calculated violence has already driven more than 90% of the stateless Rohingya from the land of their birth. Almost all the agencies of the state have aligned against them, and there is no element of the state, either local or federal, nor indeed no element of Burmese society, that is on their side. There is, in other words, no reason to expect that things will improve and Rohingya will be allowed to return.
Need For Immediate Action
For both historical reasons, and current geopolitical reasons, the most likely authority at the UN to intervene is the European Union. Neither Russian, nor China, nor Trump’s America have any concern for human rights in Myanmar – or anywhere else, for that matter. It is left to the EU to be the last defender of human rights and universal values on the world stage. And the EU also has a checkered history with genocides and ethnic cleansings to make up for.
The EU infamously failed to take any action in Bosnia when there was a genocide happening on their doorstep. Just as it failed to in Kosovo, and had waited until the US stepped in and provided 97% of all military assets in the action against the Serbs. Then, as now, the EU does in fact have the necessary assets, military and diplomatic, to intervene effectively on behalf of the Rohingya. What it lacks is any meaningful foreign policy direction.
This lack of direction from the EU is no longer something we, and indeed the world, can afford. In a world dominated by an unholy triumvirate of Putin, Jinping and Trump, the European Project is left as the last hope for civilized values and for the weakest peoples of the world.
This UN Commission of Enquiry is the absolute minimum the EU and the international community should be calling for. It is time to step up to the plate. And in doing so, the EU must finally arrive, in a meaningful way, on the geopolitical scene as a force, and what is more, as a force for good.
No matter what happens in Syria, can Russians and Iranians remain stuck to the idea that Assad should remain in power forever or that ‘it’s either Assad or nothing’, which are the most popular regime slogans sprayed on the walls of Damascus and Syria, or whatever is left of these walls?
Is it possible to overlook the facts written in the blood and tears of millions of refugees and displaced people as well as in the hundreds of thousands who were killed, wounded, missing and imprisoned? Is it possible to overlook these facts that are documented with the ashes of tens of billions worth of losses in construction, agriculture and many others?
More importantly, can Russian emperor Vladimir ‘the terrible’ or the religious Shah, Khamenei, wipe up the wounds, the anger and the malice, resulting from the sectarian murder and abuse that has been ongoing since 2001 from the hearts of the Syrian people and many Arabs?
Can the world – the reasonable and the just – forgive that Bashar’s regime and his protectors ploughed the earth and dug holes in which murky waters attracted al-Qaeda’s pestilence and the ISIS disease?
Syria's Neighbouring Countries
In the end, the Syrian cause remains the primary concern of Syria’s neighbors and its partners in the wider region of the Middle East.
After the American-British-French airstrikes against Assad’s deadly chemical weapons warehouses, US President Donald Trump said Syria’s crisis is also the region’s crisis, and they must seek to resolve it. Frankly, and away from interpreting the significance of his remarks, he’s right.
During a press conference with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in Riyadh on Tuesday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said: “We are holding talks with the US about sending troops to Syria within the context of the Islamic Alliance, and we have been doing so since the beginning of the Syrian crisis.” He added that Saudi Arabia had proposed this idea to former US President Barack Obama.
This came a day or two after the conclusion of the Joint Gulf Shield 1 massive military drills by Islamic Alliance forces in east Saudi Arabia.
Assembling Arab Forces
The Wall Street Journal recently quoted American officials as saying that the Trump administration is seeking to assemble an Arab force in Syria. The report added that there was actual communication with Egypt for this purpose.
This came after the Saudi Kingdom reaffirmed that it stands with the Syrian people, and called for “maintaining the unity and independence of Syria’s sovereignty.” This is according to the Saudi government’s statement during its weekly meeting chaired by King Salman. Of course, the statement here is clear when they mentioned the “unity and independence” of Syria.
If this intervention happens, it won’t be solely Saudi, but rather an intervention within the context of an international plan and international guarantees. It will also be under the umbrella of a massive Islamic alliance in partnership with the US.
Will this happen?
April 20, 2018
Last week, a strike was launched by the US, the UK and France against the Bashar Assad regime in Syria. The strike was below the expectations of many parts of the world, which were that the strike would make a difference and end the seven years of suffering of the Syrian people. If the attack was not to change the regime but only to punish Assad because he used chemical weapons, the least we were hoping for was 50 strikes to equal the number of times he has used chemical weapons against his people, according to US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley.
From another viewpoint, people were saying such air strikes would not change a great deal, especially the situation on the ground. Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said this week that Saudi Arabia is ready, willing and able to deploy troops in support of any US-led effort to stabilize Syria. Of course this offer from Saudi Arabia is not new because a proposal was made to the Obama administration that, if the US was to send forces, then Saudi Arabia would, along with other countries, do likewise as part of a coalition. Surely this is the right way to free Syria from the terrorists, and it would counter terrorism using correct methods.
Syria today is full of terrorist activity, beginning with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, all the way to the militias that, like Hezbollah in Lebanon, are connected to Iran. There are also militias from Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan — as well as Daesh — and other groups from around the world. So what is the best way to fight terror in Syria and avoid sinking deeper and deeper into this quagmire? Is the solution to use terror to fight terror, as the Russians and Iranians are doing today? Using sectarian militias will produce more extremism and using militias that are not controlled by their countries, like Hezbollah and the Iraqi militias, or militias brought from failed states, will lead to chaos, not stability. The Iranians are telling the world that they are facing Daesh and Al-Qaeda, but who believes them if neither Daesh nor Al-Qaeda has even attacked Iran? The country is, on the contrary, a safe haven for them.
Eradicating the problem at its roots is needed today more than ever. If we refuse to face the origin of terror, it will be present forever. Countering Iran and its militias will bring stability not only to the region but to the whole world. Stopping Iran’s projects is the only right way. Curbing its devastation is absolutely necessary — in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon.
Saudi Arabia is not asking the international community to operate alone without contributing itself, as the Kingdom plays a major role in attempting to restore stability to the region. It is a member of an international coalition fighting against terrorism; is a leader of the Arab coalition for deterring Iranian projects in Yemen; and is the head of the Islamic coalition for fighting terrorism that has perverted the meaning of Islam. We will find Saudi Arabia in every arena where terror is fought and stability is being sought. This is the way for all those who really want to put an end to terrorism and the suffering of innocent civilians.
By Abdulrahman al-Rashed
While recalling his memories as a diplomat, former Russian ambassador to Qatar Vladimir Titorenko spoke about his experience in Qatar and narrated an interesting conversation that happened between him and the Muslim Brotherhood’s leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi.
During an interview with a program that airs on the Russia Today channel, Titorenko said: “Qaradawi told me: ‘Russia must accept the truth that bloody and corrupt regimes in Arab countries must go, and that people have gotten sick of their old governments which must be replaced by the power of society.
When these countries get rid of their expired rulers, they will be able to build prosperous societies that are based on our authentic traditions.’ I then asked him: ‘Excuse me but you keep repeating the word democracy so do you think the regime of the country where you live is democratic? I mean Qatar and other neighbouring countries where there are no political parties and parliament but absolute monarchies, so is this democratic?’ He answered: ‘No, but their turn will come too.’”
Qaradawi Links To Qatar
Speaking on the program called ‘A Journey Through the Memory’, the former envoy continued: “I repeated my question: ‘Do you think it’s necessary to also overthrow the rulers and emirs of Qatar?’ and he answered: ‘Emirs must first carry out their role and the people will overthrow them later.’”
Titorenko thinks that Qaradawi has influence in Qatar as, for instance, he would contact the Amiri Diwan to advise that Qatari television channels air more horrific scenes. Titorenko said that Qaradawi did that in front of him and quoted Qaradawi as saying: “Air more scenes that show plenty of blood and murder of children as much as possible.”
The program’s host then commented: “Really?! That is horrible!”
The envoy responded: “Indeed. I informed Moscow of this and wrote about my impression that Qaradawi gives directions to Qatar’s command on how to manage propaganda and how he asks them to show the massacres of children and women on television stations.” Titorenko’s story and his impressions do not surprise us and do not provide any new information. However, it is a testimony from a retired diplomat, who is not part of the dispute, although Russia remains friendly with some of Qatar’s allies like Iran and Hezbollah.
Those who heard what Qaradawi said and what the Russian envoy testified – and it is what others from among Qaradawi’s followers also say in public – may see it as a testimony for the Brotherhood and not against them. That is that it is testimony that their vision and approach for a system of governance is modern and believes in political participation via democracy.
There is not enough space here to fully discuss this, but I’ll clarify that Islamic groups’ political expressions and speeches, particularly the Brotherhood’s, are distinguished for their advanced political vocabulary which are in fact misleading and do not reflect their exclusionary, religious and theological agenda.
The Brotherhood and the Arab Spring
During the Arab Spring in 2011, they tried to hijack the historical moment so they abandoned talking about their political religious project under the slogan “Islam is the solution” and went along with the new situation, focusing on three words in their speech, “freedom, rights and elections,” so that it harmonizes with Egypt’s and Tunisia’s elections.
However, the truth is incomplete, as democracy is a term which they copied and linked to fascist and harsh religious concepts which guarantee governance to a certain group in terms of nomination and ruling forever. This is exactly the case of the democracy of Khamenei’s Iran which brags over empty elections till this day when it had executed tens of thousands of its partners in the revolution who belonged to nationalist and leftist groups.
Qaradawi’s statements – according to the envoy’s narrative – about Qatar and the rest of the Gulf kingdoms are not strange as the religious group has used the Shah during a difficult period of his reign. They also rode the horse of democracy in Gaza and have been in power ever since, turning the strip into an Iranian garrison. This is what the Brotherhood did when they were given a chance in Sudan as they seized power and toppled the elected government of Sadiq al-Mahdi.
Therefore, extremist ideological groups will not fool us into believing that they really want popular change and political participation and that they believe in rights and elections because they don’t. Communists, too, used to use the same rhetoric.
However, I do not believe what the former envoy sees: That Qaradawi manages Qatar. Qaradawi probably has a function in the Diwan and has exploited the Brotherhood’s closeness with some Arab nationalists. And just like the former envoy, we do not understand how Qatar’s politicians can overlook those conspiring against them as this is something that has no scientific explanation nor a historical logic to it.
Syria in 2018 is not Iraq in 2003
Last Saturday, when the United States, the UK and France launched strikes on three chemical facilities in Syria, the move was met with disapproval in some quarters. The pre-announced spectacle blew up three buildings and took no lives, but some pronounced it a "dangerous escalation". Some spoke of its "illegality". All complained about its disregard for the OPCW investigation.
The action, which lasted less than an hour, was an escalation only if everything that preceded it was normal. By this reckoning, Syria has now returned to its status quo of genocide by the Assad regime.
The action was illegal only if by legality we mean approval by the UN Security Council. But the Security Council is not a neutral adjudicating authority like a court. Its decisions are constrained by the interests of its permanent members. To say an action is "legal", in this case, would be to say: "Vladimir Putin approved".
What then of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) investigation?
This depends on what answer is being sought. Because the OPCW's remit does not include apportioning blame. Untrammelled access for the OPCW would have merely proved what was already known: that a chemical attack took place. It would not have resolved the manufactured controversy over who was responsible (manufactured, because there is only one party in Syria with the means, intention and history of deploying chemical weapons by air).
But had the OPCW confirmed Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad's responsibility, what consequences should have followed?
Last year, after the Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack, the UN did respond to the calls for an investigation by creating the UN-OPCW Joint Investigation Mechanism (JIM) with the authority to identify perpetrators. But once the JIM concluded that al-Assad was responsible for the attack, Russia revoked its authority. And the fact that the UN confirmed the regime's responsibility for the attack didn't provoke any calls for accountability from the crowd currently insisting on the sanctity of the legal process.
All calls for "more investigation" sputter into platitudes about a "negotiated settlement" or "UN authorised action" (which, is another way of saying "never", since Putin is unlikely to grant western powers the authority to act against his interests).
Fetishising a dubious legal process thus becomes a temporising measure that grants the perpetrators of mass crime impunity against the palpable illegality of using chemical weapons. That the case is not made in good faith is obvious from the analogy that often accompanies it.
Should we be trusting the same governments and agencies that lied to us about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMDs)?
Is Syria like Iraq?
Considering the ubiquity of the Iraq analogy, it would seem that the old cliche that generals are always fighting the last war also applies to their critics. Syria is Iraq only if facile juxtapositions replace substantive comparisons. Beyond the fact that both countries have been led by Baathist regimes that brought immense misery upon their people, there is no concrete detail in which Syria and Iraq are similar.
In 2003, Iraq was invaded even though there was no imminent humanitarian catastrophe demanding action; in Syria, the regime has been on a rampage since 2011, yet only on two occasions has it been subjected to limited and rather ineffective military strikes on "humanitarian grounds".
Where in Iraq, the US and Britain had used false pretexts for action, in Syria real and frequent violations have only twice shaken the west out of inaction. Where in Iraq, the alleged possession of WMDs was deemed sufficient grounds for an invasion; their confirmed use in Syria has only belatedly occasioned a response, largely symbolic, lacking shock or awe.
The analogy also seems ignorant of the knowns and unknowns in the case against Iraq. In 2003, despite intense US pressure, international bodies like the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and OPCW declined to endorse the administration's case against Iraq. In Syria, the regime hasn't denied its possession of chemical weapons and the UN has confirmed their use on at least 34 occasions.
The 'Deep State' Argument
But what of the claim that a "deep state" is trying to mislead us into war, as it did in Iraq?
In 2002, the CIA resisted administration pressure to provide a defensible rationale for invading Iraq. Then Vice President Dick Cheney had to personally visit the CIA's headquarters in Langley several times to pressure analysts to produce an assessment favourable to the administration's case. But, in spite of the bullying, the "deep state" (including the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency, the Department of Energy and the State Department) delivered their combined judgment in a caveat-laden National Intelligence Estimate that would only confirm that if left unchecked, Iraq may develop nuclear weapons in a decade.
The Bush administration recognised the inadequacy of the assessment and, in the end, had to rely on two ad hoc operations based in the Pentagon to produce its own politicised intelligence, outside the recalcitrant channels of the "deep state". French, German and British intelligence also failed to oblige Bush (leading the UK's then-PM Tony Blair to produce his own politicised "dodgy" dossier).
In Syria, by contrast, US, British, and French intelligence agencies have been unanimous in delivering confident judgments on the regime's responsibility for the chemical attack. These judgments have been corroborated by Open Source Intelligence (OSINT), journalistic investigations, witness testimonies, human rights organisations, and, of course, the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria (which confirmed at least 34 instances of the regime's use of chemical weapons even before Douma).
The case for Iraq never came close to achieving this kind of consensus.
The Halabja Massacre
There is, however, an Iraq analogy that is relevant to Syria: It is not 2003, but 1988, when, during Saddam Hussein's military campaign in the north, nearly 5,000 civilians were killed in a chemical attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja.
The attack followed the town's capture by the Iranian army, and Iraq immediately blamed it on Iran as a "false flag" operation. US intelligence, which at the time was allied to the Iraqi regime, amplified the claim. But in an ironic twist, once Hussein fell out of western favour after annexing Kuwait, "anti-imperialists" (including, sadly, the late Edward Said) felt obliged to use the "false flag" theory to absolve Hussein in their misguided attempt to forestall an intervention.
Therein lies the lesson: Facile contrarianism is an intellectual dead end that contributes to moral atrophy and reactionary politics. We live in a time of great danger and, due to its scope and consequences; Syria may become the defining conflict of this century.
We can differ on our views about the best course for achieving peace, but we must not allow our conclusions to determine which facts we acknowledge and which we don't. Let us certainly not distort or bend the truth to satisfy our preconceptions. In these times of universal deceit, it must become a moral duty for all citizens to confront misuses of language and history.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has equated the danger posed by Khamenei with that of Hitler, a threat the Europeans realized too late back then. This is an analogy that Europeans, especially the French, can resonate with pretty well.
Yes, we need to expose Iran to the European public opinion, specifically Germany and France. There is another medium through which this message should be communicated well to the Europeans, which is the North African Arabs. They are the most capable of addressing European parliaments, organizations and media outlets in a language that Europeans can better understand, as they are closer to them geographically and historically and are more related to them culturally.
Iran has gotten involved and stationed in areas that are remote from the Arab center in the Arabian Peninsula. It specifically got involved in North African regions like Algeria and created problems that North Africans had not experienced throughout their history ever since they were introduced to Islam.
They had never witnessed Sunni-Shiite sectarian conflict, but it is Iran that has introduced these conflicts and is now seeking to uproot North Africa from its Arab roots as much as it can.
Before visiting France, the Saudi Crown Prince said: “The biggest enemy in the region is the Iranian regime and not the Shiite sect.” He highlighted that Islam is totally different from what extremists are trying to promote. It is a fact that the Arab world with its Sunni majority had no problems with the Shiite minorities before the Khomeini revolution. The Sunni sect peacefully co-existed with the Shiites and granted them the freedom to practice their beliefs in all Arab countries.
We never heard about Shiite-Sunni issues, especially in North Africa, until Khomeini came. Thus, the problem is not sectarian, but it became so after Iran’s involvement.
Former Prime Minister of Algeria and Chairman of the Arab Islamic Solidarity Committee Sid Ahmed Ghozali recently said: “(I am speaking) as an Algerian citizen who does not serve any political trend or movement. The cause which I believe in and commit to is the cause of the people who have been taken hostage by the most dangerous regime in the world.
The path I am taking is not a theoretical or intellectual one; but rather it stems from my personal beliefs and experiences. It is based on my experience in Algeria with Iran, whether during the Shah’s era or even the new regime, which claims to be ‘Islamic,’ until the phase when we cut ties with it. I have known the Iranians since the Shah’s era. Our relation with Iran back then was cold…I have also known them through (OPEC).”
“After the revolution, Algeria was against the war against Iran and stayed neutral during the Iraqi-Iranian war. Algeria also played the role of an honest mediator in solving the American hostage issue, between the US and Iran. In spite of all this, we later learnt that the Iranians were working through their networks inside Algeria.
They began to lure and recruit Algerian youths by promoting Nikah al-Mut’ah (pleasure marriage),” Ghozali said, adding that Ali Akbar Velayati, then-Iranian foreign minister, bluntly told him: “You allowed the Salafists from Saudi Arabia to work on promoting Wahhabism in your country so allow us to promote for Shia!”
“After that we knew that they were supporting terrorists with money, training them and politically supporting them so we severed ties. President Boudiaf decided to sever ties as per a suggestion from my government. Ties were severed after Boudiaf was assassinated,” he added.
“I have no doubt that the Iranian regime thrives on destabilizing other countries, and pushes all countries to instability. It wants to exploit Islam and Shiites…to control all Islamic countries,” Ghazali also said, noting that “Iran’s theocracy claims to be Islamic, but it has killed the largest number of Muslims, (more) than any other country in modern times. There is no doubt that there is no solution for the Arab and Islamic countries except to eliminate this cancerous tumour which defines itself as Wilayat Al-Faqih regime.”
“The Iranian regime sees itself as a guardian of the Arab and Islamic countries, and it works to flagrantly interfere in these countries and to export terrorism and sectarian wars. Unfortunately, Western policy also supports it in this regard.
The question I always ask is how did countries that were the cradle of civilizations such as Iraq, Syria, Iran and Yemen, the countries which I consider as the pearl of human civilization, became a prey to this regime and its destructive practices? When we look at these countries, we see in each, the hand of the Iranian regime behind all ordeals, wars and destruction, as it was in Algeria in the late 1980s and 1990s,” the former PM said.
“Yes, our elites must wonder: how did countries like Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen which were considered as the most important centres of human civilization, turn into an arena for killing, terrorism, wars and tragedies, behind which stands Iran’s theocracy?” Ghozali inquired.
Such a speech knows how to persuade the Europeans and reach their ears, better than our speech does. We have to unite our efforts and arrange meetings with the Arab North Africa who knows Iran as well as us to make their voices heard in Europe.