New Age Islam Edit Bureau
30 April 2018
Lebanese Shiites, Too Prominent To Be Monopolized By Anyone
By Hassan Al Mustafa
Iraq: Not a Functioning State, But We Think It Is!
By Adnan Hussein
Sense of Denial in Bahrain Could Prove Dangerous
By Sawsan Al Shaer
Why Is Turkey’s NATO Membership Valuable?
By Serkan Demirtas
The New UN Envoy’s Almost Impossible Mission with the Houthis
By Mashari Althaydi
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
29 April 2018
Despite the violent civil war and armed sectarian conflict, Lebanon’s society has remained open to plurality, diversity, tolerance and individual freedom.
You won’t find a religious sect that has isolated itself in this small Mediterranean country. Everyone, without exception, exudes political, social and intellectual vitality that makes plurality a major feature of the country.
Shiite Diversity of Political Views
It’s true that leaders of sects are still present and continue to use rhetoric to mobilize people against each other; however this exhortation is only used to serve certain vested interests, usually during elections or in times of disputes over economic matters. The aim is to achieve goals within the framework of “political quotas” which is actually the “golden” rule for administrative and financial corruption.
Shiites in Lebanon are part of this diversity and they cannot be dealt with as one deaf bloc that follows just one leader without questioning where he is taking the community and what kind of future plan he has for it.
Historically speaking, many Shiites have been active in leftist and nationalist struggle movements in the mid-20th century. The most prominent ideologues of leftist thought were Shiites like the late Hussein Mroueh and Mahdi Amal. Shiites are now also at the forefront of secular intellectuals and writers who believe in the importance of deconstructing extremist speeches – fields which intellectuals like Ali Harb have written about. Thanks to his views, Ali Harb — who is influenced by French philosophy — is considered as one of the most prominent Arab intellectuals with a deconstructionist approach.
The religious movement itself also included references and intellectuals who created cultural diversity that developed an atmosphere of discussion and debate, which was not common in traditional Shiite circles.
Sayyed Hani Fahs and Sayyed Mohammed Hassan al-Amin were two examples of the politically open religious figures who believed in the civil state and reconciled with “secularism” and who were not afraid of the “other” but believed in its significance for self-fulfilment.
There are many other Shiite models as well. Some are characterized by their deep intellect and political maturity and some are not as mature - however, all of them definitely contribute to diversity that enriches Lebanon and the society.
Today, Shiites in Lebanon are part of this entity. They present themselves as citizens and not as followers of a certain sect. They believe in the state as the reference and in the importance of working to remove sectarianism from political life and reduce the extent of sectarian tensions which are caused by conflicts among political parties.
An Intolerable Invective
This awareness that has been building must not be suppressed or pictured as a reflection of familial or personal interests or as if this elite is a bunch of mercenaries and egoists who sold themselves at the embassies’ auctions!
The term “the Shiite of the embassy” is nothing more than an invective that is so vile that it ill behooves those who use it against those who disagree with them. It’s a phrase that’s used as a weapon to execute rivals and distort their political history.
Opportunists are present in every movement, sect and group but projecting anyone who disagrees with Hezbollah and the Amal Movement as traitors and agents of Washington and people who receive bribes and stab their people in the back is an obvious lie.
This civil vitality in Lebanese Shiite circles must be strengthened and dealt with in a mature way to establish a public opinion that does not have sectarian biases and so individuals can present themselves as Lebanese citizens while overcoming the narrow identities of any religion or sect.
Iraq: Not A Functioning State, But We Think It Is!
“Do we have a state in the first place?” I concluded a column earlier this week with this question that has been asked for 15 years, and it seems it is going to be asked for perhaps another 15 years. Political Islam groups have governed Iraq for all this time and despite their failure, they’ve been clinging on to authority.
No traffic laws
Yes, we do not have a state in Iraq but it just looks like a state to us. There is no country in the world, even an underdeveloped one, which does not, for example, have a traffic law. It is in our “state” that you do not see any sign of traffic laws on the streets, squares and highways. Car drivers, motorcycle riders and pedestrians do not abide by the traffic law. The traffic police also does not abide by it or work to impose it. Even the traffic lights lack a functional system!
Let’s put the traffic law aside. Here is a story about our “new” Iraq that documents and proves that Islamist groups, after ruling for 15 years, have not been able to establish a state and will never do.
A university lecturer of repute, whom I do now know personally but whose colleagues all speak well of her competence, was fired because she was absent from work for a few days at a time when people were being killed during the peak of the sectarian violence.
She and her family had been threatened to be killed based on their sect, so she decided to stay home out of fear the threat will be carried out. She later returned to her job, “theoretically,” based on a ministerial order that directed returning those who were forcibly displaced to their jobs. However, the dean of the college refused to execute the order. The prestigious academic was thus fired and she has now joined the unemployed force, whose number is increasing.
There are thousands of other stories that resemble this one which I may not have brought up if I hadn’t checked the recent report of the Iraqi parliamentary center of the Madarik foundation for studying the mechanisms of conceptual promotion. The report reveals a huge political scandal. It’s huge because it seriously violates the internal system of parliament which states that if a member remains absent for over a third of the sessions of the council, his/her membership would be terminated and h/she would be replaced by another person.
The report indicates that in the first legislative term of the fourth year of the third electoral cycle, between 4/7/2017 and 27/11/2017, there were 15 deputies from various blocs with the percentage of their absenteeism ranging between 35% and 88%!
Undermining People’s Interests
The presidency of the parliament which is made up of Speaker Salim al-Jabouri and his two deputies Humam Hamoudi and Aram Sheikh Mohammed perjured their oaths and did not commit to the internal system. These 15 MPs continued to enjoy full authority and privileges, including being absent without being held accountable, as if they had been doing their duties and responsibilities to the fullest! Of course they were not held accountable because there are political and non-political interests the presidency members and their blocs which put their own interests before the country’s and the people’s interests.
A distinguished university lecturer who had to be absent for a few days against her will and due to sectarian killings was fired while 15 MPs who were absent for so many times were rewarded and saluted!
Did I not say we do not have a state, but it looks like one to us!
28 April 2018
Many people ignited the fire in 2011 in Bahrain across several areas. Justice has dealt with most of them, while the rest have gone silent and are no longer heard. The Bahraini society thought that the situation has calmed down and that each person has gone his own way to work and rebuild. Thank God that good sense has prevailed for the sake of the homeland and national unity.
One tends to feel that there is no need for alarm or anxiety as things are following their normal course and the recurrence of the 2011 development is impossible as these illogical ideas have come to an end. You’d think that the lesson has been learnt and that after the failed attempts in 1995 and 2011, these ideas and projects have been buried once and for all. The pervasive serenity assures you that there is recognition that what had happened was wrong and that the problem of the “conflict of identities” was acknowledged and there are efforts to at least review it.
No one can argue that this problem was one of the main reasons that led to recruiting youths. It is well known that this problem, or any other problem, can only be resolved by first admitting it exists.
Once we began addressing this problem of “conflict of identities,” we were surprised by the incendiary rhetoric of those who claimed that they’ve stopped talking on behalf of others.
Those who stand behind the previous failed attempts have re-emerged on the scene. They’re once again speaking on behalf of the category of people they belong to while completely denying the presence of that problem. They’re reviving a rhetoric that speaks of injustice as they aim to reshuffle the cards. They act as if they had not caused the calamity which impacted their people.
Have some mercy on your people and give them a chance to review what happened! Let them self-criticize comfortably. If your resistance of public affairs was any good to them, you would have benefitted them the first or second time but you’ve repeatedly failed.
Think about future generations. Which homeland and which Bahraini society do you want? The uprising of the oppressed, which erupts spontaneously in your minds, has always been the driver of the situation. It is an uprising that refuses to listen and interprets statements however it wants. It rushes to defence before listening. The frequent uprising of the oppressed will not end the present problem, and reshuffling the cards will not hide the clear facts. Diverting attention from the major problem will not solve it. The ears of the crowd will only momentarily be pleased and the youth will applaud for you, but then what?
Each one of us will resume working towards his goal after the end of your show. The conflict of identities will go on as long as denial pervades and as long as you do not regret bringing misfortune to your group time after time!
Poet Abbasid Salih ibn Abd al-Quddus once said:
When will the buildings reach their final stages
if you build while others destroy?
When will he who commits evil stops
if he does not feel regret?
April 28 2018
NATO’s entire staff of diplomats, military officers and employees is these days waiting excitedly to move to the alliance’s new headquarters. The old HQ, which has served the alliance for the past 50 years, recently hosted NATO foreign ministers for the last time, just days before the entire relocation begins. Heads of government and heads of state from NATO countries will meet in the new premises at the NATO summit to take place in July.
The changing of premises is taking place at a time when security challenges are tough in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and beyond, with NATO-Russia tension likely to escalate in the coming period. Unfortunately, there is little sign of improvement in global peace and stability.
It is in this context that one should analyze Turkey’s place in the alliance. It is no secret that there are some significant problems between Turkey and leading NATO countries, particularly the United States. There are scores of news reports in the Western media and commentaries released by Western think tanks questioning Turkey’s place in the alliance. Ankara’s developing ties with Russia, its plans to procure Russian S-400 anti-ballistic missile systems, and ongoing tension with the U.S. in Syria have long been cited as major reasons for growing scepticism about whether Turkey is still a loyal ally.
No one can deny these existing problems. But beyond all of them an assessment of Turkey’s role and place within the alliance requires a broader, holistic and historical perspective. Situated at the core of one of the most unstable regions in the world, only a few prejudiced people would deny Turkey’s contribution to allied security throughout the Cold War and post-Cold War era.
Today, Turkey is actively taking part in many NATO operations - from Afghanistan to Kosovo, from Bosnia-Herzegovina to the Horn of Africa. It has been hosting the NATO land command in Izmir and strategically important radar systems in Kürecik, has been allowing allies to use its highly strategic Incirlik and Konya bases for NATO operations, and has been actively fighting against jihadist terror in the Middle East. Turkey is today the fifth most active country in NATO operations and the eighth biggest contributor to the NATO budget.
This is certainly not one-way relationship. Turkey has long benefited from its membership of NATO. NATO never hesitated to provide anti-ballistic missile systems to Turkey in the first and second Iraqi wars in 1991 and 2003, and most recently over the course of Syrian civil war. Turkey has activated NATO’s Article 4 for four times in a bid to garner alliance support and solidarity against threats posed from Syria.
What’s more, Turkey has long actively used NATO as a platform to express its concerns and views about key strategic and political issues. For example, some of the harsher reactions against Turkey’s military operations into Afrin were able to be avoided through frequent updates under the NATO roof.
The reason why all these well-known facts are cited in this column is the fact that a perception is snowballing that Turkey is an isolated member of the alliance. In some cases Turkey is even mentioned as a kind of non-NATO country.
Both Ankara and the NATO HQ are aware of and worried about this trend. This is why there are so many things that both need to do to reemphasize Turkey’s place in the NATO. From NATO’s perspective, an active media and social media campaign to highlight Turkey’s longstanding contributions to the alliance is a must. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has been pursuing this campaign for some time, but obviously more needs to be done, particularly in prominent NATO countries. Turkish contributions to and participations in NATO activities should be better promoted in the Western media.
Turkey’s stake in this regard is much heavier and more substantial. Take the S-400 anti-ballistic missile procurement issue: It seems that Turkey will not abandon its plans to buy them from Russia and deploy them. But it should be much more open and convincing that this deployment will not in any way cause any weakness or loopholes on the collective defense systems of the NATO. Turkey should also be able to explain its allies that its ties with Russia will not weaken its commitment to NATO.
Public bashing of NATO allies and NATO itself is not helpful either. Turkish politicians should avoid further tarnishing the image of the alliance if they want NATO and allied members to highlight Turkey’s role in the defence organization. Last but not least, Ankara should prioritize improving its image in the West by revisiting long-suspended democratization reforms.
Turkey and NATO should work together to emphasize once again that former’s membership in the alliance of value to both sides. Neither side has anything to win by undermining this value.
Does the new UN special envoy have a plan for Yemen that differs from that of his predecessors’? Asharq Al-Awsat has learnt from high-ranking sources that the most important features of the new plan of UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths includes “withdrawing arms and planning a transitional phase that includes Houthi participation in the government and ends with elections.”
These general points for the new plan on which the new peace envoy is working on falls within the general context of the political solution that’s based on relevant international resolutions, the Gulf initiative or the Yemeni national dialogue. The Houthis and Saleh’s party were present in Yemeni national dialogue discussions.
Perhaps some people, including myself, denounce the idea that Houthis should have any place in Yemen’s political future and believe this group should not be engaged with at all as its ideology must only be dealt on par with that of Nazis and other fascist movements following World War II: via prohibition and prosecution.
This is a fair and rational request that takes into consideration protecting Yemen’s future on the long term. However, if we are to realistically look at the matter, disarming the group and depriving it of its military capabilities will turn it into a toothless tiger. More importantly, the group’s legitimacy, according to its followers, is linked to the permanence of war and the sanctification of divine weapons within the efforts of the “Hashemite Quranic march.”
I think the Houthis’ core remains inflexible and does not accept dialogue or else it would immediately break. Just like his predecessor, the Mauritanian Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed eventually realized, British envoy Griffiths will also come to realize that he’s chasing a Houthi smokescreen.
Any apparent Houthi flexibility seeking political talks instead of resorting to the language of weapons and to the threats of Abdulmalik al-Houthi, Abu Ali al-Hakeem or their new prime minister, the extremely dreamy Mahdi al-Mashat is a tactical flexibility that is only meant to gain time. The Houthis’ doctrine is aggressive and is based on gobbling up others and is certainly invasive – anything else is mere talk.
As the foreigners say, we tell Mr. Griffiths: “Good luck!”