New Age Islam Edit Bureau
11 April 2018
Europe’s Hypocrisy on Democracy
By Max Ferrari
Middle East’s Problems Have Never Been So Far From Settlement
By Eyad Abu Shakra
Taken For a Ride!
By Tariq A. Al-Maeena
The Saudi Crown Prince’s Message to the World
By Sawsan Al Shaer
Is There Any Justification For The Attack On Khales Jalbi?
By Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi
OPEC and Non-OPEC Pact Exit Strategies: Saudi, Russia Alliance Is ‘Thicker Than Oil’
By Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady
How Saudis Are Protected Against Cybercrime
By Dimah Talal Al-Sharif
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
Europe’s Hypocrisy On Democracy
April 10, 2018
The Catalan situation has become an embarrassment for the European Union for several reasons: It shows that democracy in Europe is optional (and therefore the EU has no right to preach democracy to the rest of the world), it raises many doubts about the so-called sacredness of borders, and it reopens the question of small unrecognized nations in search of independence.
How could the EU call for sanctions against Poland and Hungary, condemn Russia and even criticize Donald Trump’s United States for alleged deficits of democracy, when Brussels not only tolerates but supports and justifies the police and judicial repression of Catalan politicians “guilty” of organizing a referendum?
How does one justify from a democratic point of view the incarceration of regularly elected parliamentarians whose guilt would be that of having given the people the opportunity to vote on an issue deeply felt by the majority of Catalans? And beatings to voters are a bad thing only if done in far away places: Do they become good if they serve the interests of a European government?
Another big question this opens up is the topic of borders. The EU, dominated by leftists, has a mantra: Borders are an ancient thing. Instead we must live in a world without frontiers, where everyone enters and exits as one wants, and anyone who asks for control and defense of national borders is a reactionary, a populist, a fascist. Like democracy, however, this concept is also variable. As soon as a European region demands greater autonomy, national states react very harshly and the various governments threaten police, army and judicial intervention because “sacred” national borders must be defended.
A striking example of this is Italy, which is famous for its punctured borders, through which millions of illegal migrants and several terrorists pass without a problem. Rome has always replied that we are now in the no-borders era of free movement, but when some parties (for example the Northern League before its national turn) propose a strong federalism or the secession of northern regions, the answer has always been very harsh: Those who touch the borders go to jail.
This is a disconcerting double standard that the Catalans were well aware of. They cleverly tried to ride it by saying to the EU: Let us create our nation and we will then let all migrants enter without problems. The leftist component, very strong among the Catalan separatists, thought that openness on migration and on ethical issues would be enough to convince Brussels to recognize the new state, and most likely it would have been if such recognition had not risked starting a chain reaction.
Almost all European states have within them regions that demand autonomy or independence, and the Catalan precedent would have meant not only the pulverization of Spain (there are also the Basques to ask for freedom in Madrid) but also would have created enormous problems for France (specifically in Corsica, Brittany and Basque areas), Italy, Belgium, the Balkan states, Romania and, of course, the UK, which already manages the Scottish and Irish dossier.
The problem that the EU has clumsily sought to circumscribe to Spain has followed Catalan’s former president Carles Puigdemont to Belgium (not by chance) and then to Germany. His release on bail was a defeat for Spain and a huge problem for the EU. A ghost is wandering around Europe — but it is not Puigdemont, it is the concept of democracy, for which the EU would like to be a standard-bearer. It has disappeared in the fog of double standards that surrounds Brussels.
The blood that was shed in the occupied Palestinian territories on the anniversary of Land Day will be followed by more of the same if the “March of Return” continues until Nakba Day on May 15.
The Palestinian wound has been bleeding for 70 years and, with the current Israeli and global leaders in place, the prospect of any meaningful compromise is virtually non-existent. Rather, it may be said that the issue has never been so far from settlement as it is today, and there are a number of reasons for this.
The first reason is Palestinian division. This division serves the tactical interests of many regional and international players, as well as serving opportunistic groups within the Palestinian territories that benefit from the division. Therefore, despite the desire of every sincere Palestinian for unity, the beneficiaries are not willing to give up their gains.
Second, Israel’s continued evasion of peace. Any real peace must be based on a sincere desire for a coexistence that rejects oppression, domination, captivity or transfer. But, when we look at the political programs of the partisan Israeli forces, we can only come to the conclusion that the Israeli evasion of peace is fixed, and that any other talk or goodwill is a variable.
A third reason is the regional reality. Despite the centrality of the “question of Palestine,” it is no longer the only issue in the Middle East. As well as the occupied lands in Palestine, there are occupied lands in the “Palestines” of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen; and in addition to Israeli occupation, we now complain of Iranian, Turkish, Russian and American occupations in the region.
Fourth is the international situation. The state of Israel was originally established by a resolution adopted by the UN Security Council, which became the representative of global legitimacy after the end of the Second World War. Yet, over the past 70 years, Israel has been one of the leading violators of UN resolutions, either through total disregard or by protection from the American veto. In fact, a major part of the region’s dilemma — and indeed the world’s dilemma — is the reliance of rogue governments on the protection of absolute power, or the protection of the American veto in the case of Israel, and Russian and Chinese vetoes in the case of Syria.
With regards to Syria, US President Donald Trump — in the midst of the tit-for-tat diplomat expulsions with Russia and the accelerating sectarian cleansing by Moscow and Iran in Syria — announced his intention to withdraw US troops after “knocking the hell” out of Daesh.
Up to this point, the statement was clear. But the second part of his speech was a bit strange, as he went on to say: “We’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon. Let the other people take care of it now.” In Syria, the “other people” he referred to are Russian and Iranian forces, which are supposed to be Washington’s bitter opponents globally and regionally. Therefore, there is a need to clarify the background of what the American president meant; and here the issue of different priorities within the administration arises.
Apart from the recent changes that affected prominent figures — including replacing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with Mike Pompeo and the appointment of John Bolton as National Security Advisor instead of H.R. McMaster — the power struggle within some US institutions is familiar, particularly during Republican administrations. It is no secret that the biggest role in the preparation for the 2003 invasion of Iraq was played by the Pentagon and the hawks in then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s team.
Over the past two weeks, Washington observers have seen the removal of Tillerson and McMaster and the choice of Pompeo and Bolton as a double victory for the “big stick” approach to foreign affairs at the expense of those who cherish compromise and quiet diplomacy. A number of European allies even expressed fears that the White House would adopt radical positions, but Trump’s words gave a completely different indication.
Undoubtedly, US foreign policy is not limited to one region of the world, and is generally based on priorities, strategic and tactical balances, and compromises. Besides, many statements and initiatives are meant to be testers for the intentions of friends and foes.
However, as far as the Middle East is concerned, it is wise to deal with crises with two different approaches. First, the specifics of each case should be taken separately due to the different composition of Arab entities and their geographic locations and demographics. Second, there is a need to recognize there are more pervasive dangers beyond the current existential limits that seek to change the broader regional reality.
A deep understanding of the Middle East is vital, not only for the forces concerned with their own destinies, but also the powers that deal with the region as a mere chessboard. Consequently, if the policy used to deal with the phenomenon of Daesh — i.e., to treat the symptoms and neglect the causes — is repeated, the world will have to wait much more than 70 years before it ends its Middle East concerns.
10 April 2018
Khales Jalbi is a Canadian Muslim national of Syrian origin. He studied medicine in Germany with a specialization in vascular surgery. Apart from being a physician, he is a thinker, writer and critic. He worked in the Kingdom for more than 30 years as a doctor being transferred to several regions of the country. He also used to write in many Saudi newspapers.
I knew him as a writer before I learned that he was a doctor. I was keen to read his articles whenever I had an opportunity to do so. In his writings, Jalbi tended to criticize some heritage sites, and called for a review of the texts associated with some of them. This provoked one sheikhs to blame him for treachery and apostasy. He also sought Jalbi’s deportation but that did not happen.
Jalbi responded to the sheikh’s plea in a gentle and polite way by supplicating Almighty Allah to forgive him and guide him to the right path. He emphasized that extremism is not good for the country or anyone else, adding that he was ready to kiss the head of the sheikh not as a compliment but out of keenness not to allow him to fall into an abyss out of excessive enthusiasm in the defence of Islam.
Jalbi no longer lives in the Kingdom. I do not know when he left for good. I also do not know whether he made a request not to renew his work contract or whether the firm where he worked terminated the contract. He moved to Morocco where he bought a house overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. He spoke about this in a lecture that he delivered at a club. During the event, he praised Morocco and its people, saying that they were friendly, tolerant and loved foreigners. He also said that he was happy with Morocco’s moderate and rainy weather. Jalbi said in the lecture that he regretted the years that he had spent in the Gulf where people have only a surplus money. He cited Ibn Khaldun’s words to bring home the idea about the impact of weather on people’s conduct and behavior.
The words of Jalbi have angered many Saudi intellectuals and writers and they expressed this while speaking to Okaz newspaper. Khalid Al-Sulaiman, a writer, sharply criticized Jalbi: “I regret that you are so stupid. Believe me, we extremely regret opening our doors and hearts to people like you.”
Abdul Salam Al-Wail, a writer and academic, reacted: “The offensive remarks made by Jalbi showed that he lived among people to whom he did not have any love or respect. It is the good nature of a human being to show gratitude to the host community.”
The writer Wahid Al-Ghamdi said: “We circulated your articles and we were fascinated by the innovative ideas that were in them. What forced you to resort to this level of disloyalty? Khaled Al-Adhad, another writer, said that Jalbi was known to be a mercenary and arrogant without principles while he was in Buraidah.
Dr. Ahmad Abdullah Al-Taihani, a writer and academic, added that it is not surprising that Jalbi and other such people do not appreciate principles and values, and that what he now says about Morocco, he had said about Saudi Arabia when he landed in the Kingdom as a homeless man. Al-Taihani lambasted him, saying he was a mercenary and that he had drawn SR15,000 per month while writing for Al-Watan newspaper.
The poet Ibrahim Talie said Jalbi’s remarks about Saudi Arabia and its people were out of his anger over the termination of his work contract and it showed that such people are no longer capable of objective criticism when they lose the opportunity to make money.
Dr. Lamia Baashen said that Jalbi was not only offensive to Saudi Arabia but also offensive to himself with his disgraceful words. “He removed the mask of flattery from his ugly face,” she said and added: “We treated him with our dignity but the malignant soul only produces malice.”
Dr. Abdullah Al-Kaaid blasted Jalbi, saying that he had reached the stage of dementia because of old age. He said that some Arab loyalists have a syndrome of hostility and hatred for the Gulf and its people without any justification, but on the other hand we only wish them well and invite them to take part in our good initiatives.
These are the comments of some Saudi writers and columnists when they were contacted by Okaz newspaper for their reactions to Jalbi’s remarks. There were also articles and comments in other newspapers and there were many tweets attacking Jalbi and accusing him of denying and forgetting the good that he has experienced while living in the Kingdom.
However, I personally do not find any real justification for such an excessive attack upon him. I think that Jalbi has the right to express his regret over the years that he spent in the Kingdom. But at the same time, I do find fault with him when he generalizes about the people of the Gulf with his remarks that he lived with people who have only a surplus of money. These remarks are improper and unreasonable. Perhaps, Jalbi has more money than many of those who lived around him. Similarly, some of those who have a surplus of money may also have more intellect, knowledge and better manners.
Recently, my morning reverie and the gentle calm before the day begins were shattered when my friend Barakat burst into my office frothing at the mouth and fuming in anger. Barakat who works at one of the country’s larger corporations was obviously in an elevated state of distress and agitation.
After a prolonged interval of soothing and words of comfort, I managed to calm him down long enough to get to the cause of his frustrations. It seems that he had just been to his boss asking for a performance review and a promotion to a vacant position. His boss, as some bosses are inclined to be, took him for a ride on the long road to nowhere.
He explained to his subordinate that the company’s output was below par, profit margins were off target and the company was seriously considering downsizing it’s labor force to remain afloat. He tried to persuade Barakat that it was in his interest to assume personal sacrifice for the sake of the company’s survival, and forego any demands for additional rewards for the present.
Their industry was in a highly competitive market, and the corporate yield had not been positive in the past few years. Neither were the projected results for this year very encouraging. They were already far behind the set target. However, if the situation improved, Barakat’s request would be considered, his boss reassured him.
Barakat was not so easily dissuaded. He knew through the rumour mill that this same individual who was pontificating so loftily about personal sacrifice was in the process of pushing his own papers for a transfer and promotion to another division within the company. And to a great degree, it was his boss’s performance and decision making processes that contributed to the present and sorry state of affairs. Yet, his boss sat there with a demeanour of humility and penance.
“And what about your own sacrifice?” Barakat angrily demanded. “Why are you not putting the interests of the company ahead of your own? I have heard from sources that you are currently in the process of seeking a promotion and a pay raise. And yet, you just sit there and expect me to be the sacrificial lamb. Besides, I don’t see you breaking your back and putting out a lot of effort yourself.”
“Aha, but that is the way things run in life,” his boss reasoned. “Look Barakat, the Queen of England recently applied for a pay raise.” Noticing the quizzical look on Barakat’s face, he continued. “Don’t you think she warrants it? What does she really do? She wears a crown, smiles and waves at her subjects, patronizes the horse races once a year, and generally remains inactive. It is her people that play the role of busy bees.
“Notwithstanding that Great Britain is not so financially sound and secure as some of the other industrialized countries, the Queen must maintain her status,” he continued as Barakat sat before him wondering where all this was leading to.
“Even though unemployment affects many sectors in Britain and has not abated, crime in the inner cities remains uncurbed and spreading, and ethnic violence is on the rise, don’t you think she deserves it?” he asked Barakat who was desperately trying to suppress all passions of violence and mayhem toward this individual.
His boss continued: “She inherited an empire that today is a skeleton of its former self. The glory and far-reaching arm of the British Empire is all but a distant memory. She lost Hong Kong. The Spice girls have broken up, and the English cricket team is an embarrassment. There are rumbles in Australia about breaking away from the Commonwealth. Did you also know that previously loyal Scotland attempted to disassociate itself from this dwindling empire?” he demanded, failing to notice that Barakat’s eyes were by now a glaze of confusion and despair.
“But!” he added with a twirl of his finger, “She is after all a boss. And as such must be granted the privileges of one!” he concluded triumphantly, rising to his feet to indicate their meeting was all but over.
I knew of no current vacancies in nobility; otherwise, as Barakat sat so disconsolately across from me, I would have suggested that he apply for one. And with a pay raise!
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has sent a strong message to the world that Saudi Arabia is capable and intent on eliminating terrorism. This message constitutes a new language for Saudi Arabia in its relations with the international community.
There is also the message he conveyed in his interview with The Wall Street Journal, where he said that the international community must keep pushing Iran economically and politically to avoid a direct military confrontation in the region, adding that “sanctions will create more pressure on the regime.”
“We have to succeed so as to avoid military conflict,” the royal said. “If we don’t succeed in what we are trying to do, we will likely have war with Iran in 10-15 years.”
No Holds Barred
We can see here a man who doesn’t speak in vague terms, nor issues statements he has does not intend to take action on. Prince Mohammed bin Salman has warned that it is necessary that the international community bears its moral responsibility and takes a position against Iranian terrorism, which is directed against the whole world and not just against Gulf or Arab countries, to avoid a war which although it seems direct between Saudi Arabia and Iran, it’s actually a war that will take place in a vital region that concerns the entire world.
This war as everyone knows — if it, God forbids, breaks out — would not take place between just two countries or just harm these two countries but would harm the whole world which depends on Gulf and Iranian oil and relies on using sea and air routes in the region – passages that are controlled by the two countries’ geographical and economic location.
Iran has already launched a proxy war against Gulf and Arab countries for more than 30 years by arming Shiite militias in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and Kuwait after smuggling medium and heavy weapons to them. These militias have launched war against their own people at the behest of Iran. We have been facing these militias for decades and have scarified lives to prevent them from controlling and dominating our capabilities and resources.
The Saudi crown prince issued a warning to the international community that we are engaged in an actual war with an expanding and hegemonic country that threatens international security. We are the only ones confronting this while the world sits and watches. Iran’s nefarious attempts would never stop, as long as the international community seems to be interested in cutting its commercial deals which Tehran exploits to serve its interests.
Sanctions on Iran
Prince Mohammed bin Salman said succinctly, if terrorism was an island, he would isolate it. He said that this proxy war cannot last forever, and that Saudi Arabia and its brotherly countries, like Bahrain and the UAE, cannot defend the interests of the international community on its behalf. The crown prince called on the international community to stop this proxy war before it develops into a direct war as by then it would be too late.
Pressure on Iran today will inevitably halt its terrorism and prevent war tomorrow. The Iranian regime cannot bear the consequences of a re-imposition of international sanctions especially as the Iranian people are holding it accountable for pursuing an expansionist policy that has come at the expense of their welfare and have been protesting, escalating their rebellion and refusing to keep silent.
What European or Asian countries may lose as a result of joining the decision to boycott Iran in order to sanction it would be much less than what they would have to bear later in case such a war erupts in the region.
Saudi Arabia does not fight and protect regional water only for its interests but also for the security of the international sea routes, which are used by all countries. Everyone sees the amount of weapons that Iran exports to conflict areas through these routes. Actually, plenty of these weapons have been confiscated several times by foreign patrols, European, Australian and others. However these incidents have not pushed European countries to take a firmer position, instead of just issuing statements which are not followed by serious action.
The recent announcement by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his recent US visit that the Kingdom is looking at a long term relationship between Saudi Arabia and Russia, extending from 10 to 20 years, has taken the markets by surprise.
Everyone’s attention had been fixed on whether the current full year 2018 OPEC and non OPEC production cut agreement will be renewed in 2019, or reversed or a new short term mechanism is put in its place.
The Saudi Prince’s comments seems to have dispelled a short term, year by year approach and has opted for a longer lasting energy relationship with Russia giving credence to the saying that the existing relationship between the two countries is deeper and the alliance or confluence of self interest is indeed “thicker than oil”.
Any so-called “exit strategy” from the November 2016 Vienna agreement for the 24 OPEC and non OPEC oil output cuts is going to be a crucial policy decision that carries far larger implications than just for Saudi Arabia, Russia, or OPEC, but the global economy and the monetary policies of both the European Central Bank and the US’s Federal Reserve: what would be the impact of another oil price collapse or spike, as opposed to a measured, gradual increase in the price of crude oil that more or less is aligned with a balance between supply and demand?
Getting it right is crucial for all sides to avoid another bout of economic recession or high inflation and this is where the Crown Prince’s statement becomes more important.
The fine tuning of a successful exit strategy is also important for the next stage of the energy geo- political relationship built between Russia and Saudi Arabia and how both sides see the exit game of the current OPEC plus agreement due to expire at the end of 2018.
The questions are many and the answers are still few and sketchy – will the agreement be extended or not? If not, how will a successful exit mechanism be set in motion with success defined more broadly to take account of both consumer nations and producer nations agendas.
Will it be first in – last out type of scenario for the major oil producers like Russia and the Gulf states that allow the smaller fiscally stressed oil producers to start ramping up production, if they have the spare capacity and have invested in this spare capacity over the past few years? These are big ‘ifs’. Again, the Crown Prince’s statement for a long term vision of the energy market has set a new marker for the OPEC plus alliance.
Learning from Experience
OPEC producers and others who have joined the production agreement can learn from the experience of Central Banks in managing their own policy exit strategies. Indeed, it is striking how much Saudi and other oil policy officials sound like central bankers these days when they talk about “rebalancing” the supply and demand of crude oil or an “equilibrium” price.
As Saudi Energy Minister Khaled al-Falih recently remarked, a willingness to “overshoot” the crude oil equilibrium price for a while; that sounds an awful lot like Fed officials describing their willingness to tolerate a “temporary” overshoot of the Fed’s 2 percent inflation target, as this was the main target matrix for a successful Fed policy , just like one of OPEC’s success targets is to ensure that oil prices remain within “reasonable levels” and do not erratically overshoot.
Much of the thinking going into devising a successful OPEC exit strategy is in fact borrowed straight out of the USA’s Federal Reserve playbook with the famous “taper” when it exited its Quantitative Easing (QE3) Large Scale Asset Purchase Program beginning in 2014.
Looking back over the period, the Fed successfully achieved its exit from QE, despite the difficulties of crafting a policy consensus among 19 members of the Federal Open Market Committee who held widely differing views on the economic outlook, the nature of inflation dynamics, and indeed the merits of QE itself.
But its most pressing challenge was in communicating the policy of the taper convincingly to the markets. The Fed learned its lesson when the reverse tapering back fired – that communications and the “signal” was as or more important than the actual tapering of the bond purchases – and OPEC may do well to heed the same lesson.
This however will not be as easy as the problems faced by the Fed in having to deal with an internal constituency as there are 23 OPEC and non-OPEC members to the pact, but in reality there are only two that matter – Russia and Saudi Arabia and how these two manage the exit, if any, will set the agenda for the others despite some Iranian reservations.
The appointment of an anti -Iranian neo -con hawk John Bolton as the new US National Security Advisor adds another dimension. If the Iran Nuclear agreement is abandoned and fresh sanctions are imposed on Iran, or a military clash takes place between the USA and Iran, given Bolton’s public statements of favouring bombing Iran, then the current pact could well unravel if oil prices go well beyond the $ 70 per barrel or $80 levels.
Any tapering of the output cuts, essentially a reverse taper, is likely to come only after a long period of messaging its framework and some of its operational details to ensure as smooth an effect on crude prices as possible.
That would suggest first discussing the Exit at the 2018 June OPEC meeting to begin shaping the internal consensus, followed by several months of preparing the markets, and perhaps its formal adoption at the November OPEC Ministerial meeting for a taper that begins in 2019. The Crown Prince’s statement has added a bit more certainty of long-term intentions.
April 11, 2018
Media is one of the most influential pillars of social interaction that gathers opinions, ideas and concerns and, at its best, creates solutions. Nowadays, with the development of technology and the rapid evolution of social media, the concept of media has become more complex and diffused.
Social media has become an open platform for everyone to express their views. The downside is that infringement of privacy and cyber bullying have become widespread. In Saudi Arabia, the legal limits on the use of social media are defined by the Anti-Cyber Crime Law. The terms of this law are often exaggerated, and not communicated properly to the public.
First, the main aim of the law is to create a secure and protected society. It takes into consideration the community’s ethics, manners and interests. The system criminalizes the use of the Internet to wiretap others, or to gain unauthorized access to their data through hacking or other methods, for threats or extortion. Defamation is one of the most prominent crimes committed in relation to social media networks, and the Internet in general. Anyone convicted of these crimes may be imprisoned for up to a year and/or fined up to $133,225.
The law also prescribes a penalty of imprisonment for up to four years and/or a fine of up to $799,353 for leaking data or damaging the information technology network, or blocking access to Internet services. This part of the law illustrates legislators’ determination to protect online access to both public and private services.
The law also aims to protect national security and the economy, by imposing the heaviest penalties — imprisonment for up to 10 years and/or a fine of up to $1,332,250 — on anyone convicted of establishing terrorist sites and assemblies, or even dealing with such matters, or of violating internal security data.
Public morality has a role in every Saudi law, and the Anti-Cyber Crime Law is no exception. It prescribes penalties of up to five years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $799,353,000 for anyone convicted of using the Internet to infringe on religious boundaries and social morals and ethics. This includes the production of offending material, whether pornographic or drug-related, and human trafficking.
It should be clearly understood all these penalties apply not only to the creation of illegal content, but also to sharing it.
To encourage the public to report cybercrimes, the authorities have given courts the power to exempt from penalties those who do so. In cases where the perpetrator of a crime did not know they were violating the law, or before any harm has been caused, penalties may also be waived.
Finally, the Office of the Public Prosecutor is responsible for investigating cybercrimes, with assistance from the Communications and Information Technology Commission.