Islam Edit Bureau
Search Of A Future
A Time! What a World!
Khaled M. Batarfi
Benefits of Demarcated Borders
Saudi-US Relations beyond Mutual Ambivalence
The US And Russia Helping Or Deceiving The Syrians?
the Assad Files
By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
act like them, we will not use violence or force, we are peaceful (people), we
believe in peace, in peaceful popular resistance.
part of a message issued by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in
October — only days after a few incidents took place in which Palestinian youth
were accused of attacking Israeli soldiers and settlers with knives.
would have carried some weight were it not laden with contradictions. On one
hand, Abbas’ supposed “peace” quest has only entrenched the Israeli occupation
of the West Bank, and all but completely isolated illegally occupied and
annexed East Jerusalem.
what “peaceful popular resistance” is Abbas, 80, referring to? What war of
“peaceful” national liberation has he been leading?
while Abbas continues to prophesize about some non-existent peace, Israel
continues to wreak havoc on Palestinians, using every means of violence at its
Israel’s propensity to maintain its violent occupation cannot be blamed on
Abbas. It is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing
coalition that should be blamed squarely for the occupation, the mistreatment
and humiliation of Palestinians on a daily basis.
such truth should not detract from Abbas’ terrible legacy and ongoing
misconduct. The huge discrepancy between funds allocated to Palestinian
security forces — which never confront Israel’s military occupation, only
Palestinian Resistance — and those spent to assist farmers in their “sumoud” (steadfastness)
while their land is being targeted and confiscated daily, is a testament to the
mixed priorities of Abbas and his Authority.
In a recent
interview, he insisted that security coordination with Israel is a top priority
for him. Without such coordination, the PA will find itself “on the brink of
collapse,” he told Israel Channel 2 on March 31.
apprehending suspected Palestinian resisters, the security coordination
includes searching schoolchildren’s bags for knives, according to the Palestinian
leader. “Our security forces are entering schools and checking if students are
carrying knives. In one school, we found 70 students with knives, and we told
them that this was wrong. I told them I do not want you to kill someone and
die; I want you to live and for others to live, too.”
statement on life and death does not, in the least, address the context of
oppression, the humiliation of military occupation and the prevailing sense of
despair that exists among young Palestinians, caught between a belligerent,
violent occupation, and a submissive leadership.
them not to “kill someone and die, involved the security forces arresting the
students who were found with knives, questioning them, torturing them and
threatening their families,” wrote Palestinian commentator, Munir Shafiq.
Rai Al-Youm, Kamal Khalf wonders if it is time to look into the legitimacy of
Mahmoud Abbas, a man who has ruled with an expired mandate for years. While
refraining from any personal attack on Abbas, Khalf raises the possibility
whether the PA President’s emotional and psychological well-being in his old
age ought to be questioned, especially when one considers some of his latest
statements: Attacking Palestinian Resistance, searching children’s schoolbags
and avowing his love for Israeli music.
Zaki, the well-respected member of Fatah’s Central Committee, returned from a
recent visit to Tehran, he was attacked by Abbas who “accused him of receiving
$50,000 from the Iranians and he demanded the money be given to him instead,”
of Abbas’ bizarre actions and strange statements seem to be increasing with
age. It is no secret, of course, that there has been much discussion about
succession within Fatah and the PA, once Abbas is no longer in the picture.
Until then, such eccentricity should be expected.
is essential that the discussion does not entirely focus on Abbas, for he is
merely representative of a whole class of usurpers who have used the Palestinian
cause to advance their own positions, wealth and prestige.
little evidence to suggest that Abbas’ current position — soft on the
occupation, hard on the Palestinians — is new, or motivated by age and mental
health. For the sake of fairness, the arbitrator of the Oslo accords has been
consistent in this regard.
Arafat’s death in 2004, and his advent to power through a questionable
democratic process in 2005, Abbas has worked laboriously to coexist with the
Israeli occupation but failed to coexist with his own Palestinian rivals.
has been a decade of unmitigated Palestinian leadership failure, but it
certainly took more than Abbas to manage that political fiasco. Now, at 80,
Abbas seems to have become a scapegoat for a whole class of Palestinians, which
has worked to manage the occupation and benefit from it.
Time! What a World!
live in interesting times!” says the ancient Chinese curse. Are we? Just look
around you! Or at the TV screen in front of you! Are we in Hell? Or is it just
track of what is going on, on hour-by-hour basis. As a political analyst, I
have to, even though my doctor and wife are not in total agreement, to say the
always been like this? There were times in the past, when the world was on
fire. In my lifetime, I could vividly remember the Arab-Israeli war of 1973,
the Israeli invasion of Lebanon (1982), the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait (1990),
the US invasion of Iraq (2003), then came the so-called “Arab Spring” that
started with a protest in Tunis 2010. Within months, a domino effect took
Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria and Bahrain by storm.
Now, it is
constant, persistent and nonstop “Reality TV.” Like a drama series, you need to
watch, document and memorize every episode, lest you have missed something that
might explain anything!
watching now, for an instance, the Iraqi episode. I see the elected
representatives of the people in a group fistfight inside the Parliament. The
country is half lost to terrorists and extremists — Daesh (so-called IS) has
created its own nation in the Iraqi territories they gained so easily and
quickly from the government and its mighty armies!
Libyan episode, competing Libyan governments are in a street fight — with live
ammunition! For years, now, since the fall of the Gaddafi dictatorial regime,
the Libyans could not agree on one government. The country is divided among
tribal, political and religious groups
episode is not less dramatic or complicated. Rebels are fighting the
government. Arabs are supporting the government. The UN Security Council,
Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the rest of the world community —
except Iran — are standing with the government—in principle.
the ongoing Syrian fight. This time it’s not just locals fighting each other.
Iranians, Russians, Kurds, Turks, Arabs, Afghanis, Pakistanis, Lebanese,
Europeans, Americans, even Chinese, are in the show. The theatre has become
more complicated with each entrance of a new player.
in all the above is the American stands. On the face of it, they seem in and
out at the same time. Different officials, from the president to his Cabinet
and military chiefs, say different things, at different times.
are with Geneva 1 agreement that has no place for Assad, and then they don’t
seem in a hurry to take him out of the picture. Once they are totally opposed
to the Russian and Iranian interference, and then they look like they were in
bed with them last night. If that is not confusing enough, they called for
Syrian neighbours to shoulder the responsibility of fighting Daesh and stopping
the Syrian regime’s war on its own people, and when we answered the call and
announced our readiness, they put us on hold!
questions are raised even by NATO members and US allies. They include: Why
after over a year of bombing, Daesh is not only intact, but also expanding; its
oil fields are humming, bumping and selling? Why would the US stand with Russia
in support of the terrorist Kurdish groups, threatening the security of a NATO
member —Turkey? How could the US trust a revolutionary, unstable, rouge regime,
like the mullahs, to serve its interests in a volatile region like ours – —
side stepping traditional, steadfast allies? Why the hesitation in supporting
the Syrian resistance and providing, or allowing others to provide them, with
badly needed equipment to face Russian, Iranian, Shiite militias and regime
news is depressing, though. Saudi Arabia is leading the Arab and Islamic
resurrection. The Muslim Nation is awakening, and steps are taken to diagnose
the ills and take proactive measures to resolve troubles and isolate
The war in
Yemen is nearing its end and Iran is publicly admonished and criticized for
interference by its agents — the Houthis.
In the Gulf
Cooperation Council, Arab League and Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC),
Iran and its agent of terror, Hezbollah, are named, shamed, and isolated.
Summit in Istanbul (April, 2016) condemned Iran for its destructive
intervention in member states’ affairs and the spreading of division,
sectarianism and hate, as well as “the aggressions against the missions of the
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Tehran and Mashhad.”
Conference also “rejected Iran’s inflammatory statements on the execution of
judicial decisions against the perpetrators of terrorist crimes in Saudi
Arabia, considering those statements a blatant interference in the internal
affairs of the Kingdom.”
is getting more interesting by the day, but at least someone is doing something
about the dark side of it. And I am proud and optimistic that my country is in
the driver’s seat.
proverb says: “Good walls make good neighbors.” The same goes for demarcated
borders, such as the recent demarcation of maritime borders between Egypt and
has long been keen on demarcating borders with its neighbors, such as a deal
with Kuwait in 2000 to divide a neutral zone. This was preceded by a deal with
Qatar in 1992, with Oman in 1991, and with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in
1974. The first such agreement was with Bahrain in 1958.
that each deal was signed in a different Saudi area may be an unintended symbol
of the extension of relations between Gulf countries. Despite their borders,
their people can move to any Gulf city due to Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)
guarantees on freedom of travel and work.
signing a border agreement with UAE founder Sheikh Zayed al-Nahyan, the late
Saudi King Faisal reportedly said: “Abu Dhabi’s borders end here in Jeddah.”
This spirit resolved any subsequent problems demarcating borders and
implementing agreements in areas with massive oil resources.
importantly, Riyadh quickly registered such deals at the Arab League and the
United Nations, thus avoiding dangerous problems caused by oil companies. The
kingdom was also keen to seize the appropriate political moments to demarcate
its borders with undemocratic countries such as Yemen and Iraq, which were
highly influenced by their leaders’ moods.
Salman’s proposed bridge linking his country and Egypt will alter the region’s
policies, economy and geography
borders with Iraq was the most complicated given competitive bilateral
relations from the days of the Hashemites in Iraq until the era of late
President Saddam Hussein. The deal was finalized at the start of the Iran-Iraq
war, and all relevant documents were submitted to the United Nations. It was
also not easy to reach agreement with Yemen given complicated bilateral ties,
but a binding deal was finalized 2003.
only demarcated its borders with its immediate neighbors, but also with those
across the Gulf and the Red Sea. There is a maritime border agreement with
Iran, and another with Sudan. The former has benefitted both countries by
avoiding disagreements over oil and gas deposits, particularly amid current
bilateral tensions due to Tehran’s hostile policies.
keen on excellent ties with Egypt. The lack of a border agreement could raise
disputes, even among brothers. Nevertheless, some are asking: “Why now, when
the Tiran and Sanafir islands have been under Egyptian control for three
quarters of a century?” There are four reasons. Firstly, the timing is
appropriate as bilateral relations are at their best, and Egyptian President
Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has the popularity and ability to take such a decision.
Riyadh has become the most important regional power, and it is time for it to
bear its responsibility in this sensitive region, where Israel possesses power
and influence that it does not deserve. Thirdly, Saudi King Salman’s proposed
bridge linking his country and Egypt will alter the region’s policies, economy
and geography. It is also best for the islands to be returned to Saudi
demarcated borders make for good neighbors. No one knows how many gas and oil
reservoirs there are in the Gulf of Aqaba and south of it - that could lead to
future disputes without clear borders.
of the demarcation agreement were not revealed, but knowing the Saudis’ style
of signing deals and negotiating, they would not miss a single detail. An
example of this is the agreement in which the Saudi-Jordanian border, which the
British drew, was amended in 1965 when Saudi Arabia gave up tens of kilometres
of its coast to lengthen Jordan’s coastline on the Gulf of Aqaba.
gave up a considerable area of the Sirhan Valley to Jordan. The deal obliges
the division of resources discovered in these areas. Perhaps there is a similar
clause in the Saudi-Egyptian agreement to handle future possibilities.
Saudi-US Relations Beyond Mutual Ambivalence
end of his presidency, President Obama’s visit to the Gulf this week is a
symbolic final gesture before he leaves office in January of his commitment to
his Gulf partners over a year since he hosted a number of the GCC leaders at
Camp David. However, Obama’s frank words in his interview with The Atlantic
underline a leader who is equally deeply skeptical of his Gulf counterparts and
of the post-1979 Washington consensus on America’s strategic position in the
Riyadh, Obama will be offering a mixed message: continued American investment
in the GCC’s security but a message of change as well: Washington and the GCC
should be looking beyond the waters of the Arabian Gulf to Iran to build a more
secure region and to address regional challenges. The President will convey
this message to an understandably sceptical audience who he’s had at best an
ambivalent relationship with these past eight years.
message though obscures darker realties that Obama has often been to dismissive
of. As Obama has made the bet that empowering the “moderates” in Iran over the
longer-term will reap eventual rewards, President Putin and Ayatollah Khamenei
are currently playing a more insidious game to the detriment of Washington and
expanding its ballistic missile program, the Iranian leadership is focused more
on a contest for regional hegemony than “sharing” the neighbourhood with its
Gulf neighbours. The failure to reach a production freeze in Doha this past
Sunday underscores how Khamenei and Rowhani are unwilling to make any
concessions to improve relations with their Gulf neighbours in their efforts to
revive Iran’s regional position.
Summit may not resolve the larger strategic differences between President Obama
and his Gulf partners, it isn’t a completely ceremonial exercise
Obama seems unwilling to digest this reality in fear of unravelling his legacy,
and instead will be coming to the summit with no real deliverables. Obama’s
more inclined to pontificate and to discuss the tactical minutiae of their
relations (increased security assistance and more bureaucratic inventions that
give the appearance of deep cooperation) than to substantively address his
regional partners’ strategic concerns. In the final months of his presidency,
the President isn’t interested in bridging these strategic differences beyond
It’s not a
surprise then the US presidential elections garner more interest than the
sitting President’s own stay in the Kingdom: will the next American President
have a more sanguine view of Iran? Will a President Clinton come to the 2017
Gulf summit with a strategy to contain Iran’s rising regional aggression and
Summit may not resolve the larger strategic differences between President Obama
and his Gulf partners and 2017 is on the horizon, the Summit isn’t completely a
ceremonial exercise. It’s an opportunity to address regional challenges such as
Syria and Yemen. With Washington considering recalibrating again its approach
to address Da’esh’s growth, this Summit is an opportunity to discuss options
for deeper GCC security involvement in the military campaigns in Syria and Iraq
to counter the extremist group.
enhanced regional role could also be examined and how the GCC states and the US
can work to counter-balance Russia’s support for President Assad. President
Obama could also discuss how the US can better work with the Gulf States to
deepen their conventional and asymmetric capabilities in the face of the
deepening threat Iran poses to their security.
push for further integration and inter-operability of the GCC’s security
architecture and will also discuss how the US can more effectively support and
work with its Gulf partners in regional military campaigns and operations (this
follows in line with the President’s belief that the GCC states should take
more responsibility of their regional security).
purely hard power issues, the summit is an opportunity for President Obama to
discuss with his counterparts states in transition such as Egypt, Tunisia, and
to a more complicated degree, Libya and how the US and the GCC can work
together to more effectively ensure these states’ prosperity and stability.
unlikely that the visit will move their respective relations beyond mutual
ambivalence, Obama has an opportunity to re-establish some level of trust after
his sharp comments in The Atlantic so that he can have a better working
relationship with the GCC states in the final months of his presidency and
importantly leave his successor more stable ground for a deeper relationship.
US And Russia Helping Or Deceiving The Syrians?
18 Apr 2016
American and Russian spokespersons deny the existence of a secret agreement
between them over Syria, they’re not necessarily lying - but they are being
need an agreement to have an understanding. This is evident by what they’ve
highlighted as much as what they de-emphasised during US Secretary of State
John Kerry’s last visit to Moscow.
evident in Kerry’s attempts to bring US regional allies on board with these new
years on: What is the prospect for peace?
media is abuzz with leaks and innuendos about the US finally recognising that
the way forward in Syria goes through Moscow, and that treating Russia like a
second-rate power - whether in Eastern Europe or the Middle East - could
equally hurt American interests.
four-hour meeting between Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the
relations between the two countries, which soured over Ukraine, appeared to be
secretary said the US "reached a better understanding of decisions
President [Vladimir] Putin has made of late", a particularly tolerant
comment after the two countries engaged in what seemed to be a proxy war in
out of their meeting with a "target schedule" and agreed to speed up
the timetable for Syrian political transition - with the goal of having a new
Syrian draft constitution by August.
Putin has strengthened Bashar al-Assad’s position, and Obama made it clear he
will only focus on fighting ISIL during his last year in office, the ducks are
lined up for a Russo-American 'understanding' on Syria.
despite their distaste for each other, US President Barack Obama and Putin have
found a way to work out their differences through their foreign ministers.
(This is the subject of a five-part series that Al Jazeera will publish in the
administration doesn't deny its need for and willingness to work with the
Kremlin to get this done, especially when Obama made it clear that he has no
intention to get his own hands dirty in distant conflicts.
one exception: isil.
administration announced this week that it will expand its military campaign
against ISIL and find ways to intensify the battle.
Putin has strengthened Bashar al-Assad's position, and Obama made it clear he
will only focus on fighting ISIL during his last year in office, the ducks are
lined up for a Russo-American "understanding" on Syria.
ISIL first, Assad last.
The US has
caved in on the need for Assad to go and accepted the Russian position that the
choice should be left to the Syrians - or, in other words, that Assad must
covered up their disagreements on the issue by saying: "The US has plenty
of partners who do not agree with them ... It does not mean that the
differences on one particular issue should stop them from talking at all."
President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
asked about the Syrian dictator, the secretary didn’t even bother bringing him
up after the talks - refusing to say whether or not the future of Assad figured
in the talks.
Russo-American complicity centres on ignoring the “contentious” issue of
Assad’s future in favour of focusing instead on writing a new constitution that
redefines the Syrian system of governance and the role of the presidency.
that if the Syrians embrace a parliamentary system with only a symbolic role
for the presidency, then Assad would lose his powers.
And even if
Syrians embrace a presidential system, Assad could run like any other Syrian in
a future transparent, internationally monitored election based on a new
constitution with clear divisions of authority.
lies the scam.
is not "like any other Syrian”. Any
such phrasing is an insult to the memory of the hundreds of thousands of
Syrians who died because Assad insisted on monopolising power.
understatement to say that Assad has forfeited his right to run for president
when he barrel-bombed his own cities. But such a moral argument is lost on the
cynics, many of those governing the region and the world.
about the political argument? The basic premise advanced by Moscow and embraced
by Washington, goes as follows: Why dictate who should or could govern the
Syrians, when they can make that decision in their own in democratic elections
to be held in just over a year's time.
appears to be a pragmatic, even a democratic position is in fact an utterly
cynical one. Assad is like no other Syrian, not only because he’s responsible
for more war crimes than any other, but also because he's got all the power in
his hands and all the security services under his command.
As long as
he continues to control or intimidate the population centres of the country,
notably the capital, he will continue to dictate progress and regress during
the transitional period according to the interests of his regime.
from Yemen is instructive in this regard. Even when the international community
sidelined President Ali Abdullah Saleh, he continued to exercise great power
through his links with the military, and eventually conspired in driving the
country into civil war.
really think that a dictator like Assad, who ruled over Syria for the past 16
years, is about to run and lose elections?
something? Maybe he would have if only he hadn't sacrificed a quarter of a
million people just to hold on to power.
after five years of indifference to their suffering, asking the Syrians to
fight ISIL and to give Assad a chance is as short-sighted as it is deceitful
Geneva talks on the Syrian conflict resumed, the New Yorker revealed documents
that show President Bashar al-Assad’s responsibility for mass murder and
this did not obstruct the talks, nor the Syrian regime holding a charade of
parliamentary elections. There is schizophrenia in terms of how Western
politicians and media outlets deal with Syria.
example, for an international channel to broadcast a detailed report on the
significant documents that the New Yorker published, then broadcast news of
regime celebrations over the elections without noticing the inconsistency
between these two developments, exposes negligence regarding the approach
toward anything related to Syria.
has grown accustomed to the regime’s mass murder. Meanwhile, international
talks completely resemble the empty celebration over the farcical elections. At
this point, we deserve it when Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad
says Assad’s departure will never happen.
over what would replace the regime if it fell becomes the justification for
remaining silent over its violations
coverage of the elections was neutral in its language, to the extent of
collusion. Scare-mongering over what would replace the regime if it fell
becomes the justification for remaining silent over its violations.