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Middle East Press (20 Apr 2016 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Letter from a Saudi Citizen to Obama: New Age Islam's Selection, 20 April 2016

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

20 April 2016

Letter from a Saudi Citizen to Obama

By Mohammed Fahad Al-Harthi

Are The Good Old Days Of US-Gulf Ties Gone For Good?

By Howard Lafranchi

Preventing Break-Up of Iraq

By Osama Al-Sharif

The Lebanese Politics

By Eyad Abu Shakra

Saudi-US Relationship

By Talal Al-Harbi

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Letter from a Saudi Citizen to Obama

By Mohammed Fahad Al-Harthi

20 April 2016

Mr. Obama, welcome to Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia that you have visited more than any other American president. I must say, Saudis are proud of their historic relations with the United States. The Kingdom has always valued principled alliances. Our 80-year-old ties have been the cornerstone of the region’s stability for decades.

Riyadh has played its part in trying to bring peace and security to the region by seeking to establish good relations with neighbors, and fighting threats such as that posed by the former Soviet Union, in its bid to spread communism. Indeed, despite having differing views on various issues, this has not impeded joint political action when needed the most.

Mr. President, what we are now seeing is that many countries in the region, and the most powerful in the world, are changing their positions. Like many others, we were surprised at your recent comments in The Atlantic magazine where you accused Saudi Arabia of inflaming sectarian tensions in the Middle East, and saying that we have adopted plans contradicting US foreign policy.

At first, I was one of many who thought that you may have been misquoted. So it came as a great disappointment to learn that this was what the American president thinks of its most important ally and friend. Mindful that foreign policy should not be based on media reports, the Kingdom ignored these statements, with officials even going out of their way to stress the depth of the two countries’ friendship.

Mr. President, as a Saudi and Arab, let me tell you that there was unprecedented joy and celebration when you won the elections to become president. We were optimistic that there was an intellectual in the White House, who was aware of world issues.

The reality of your time in office has tempered our hopes. Not that we want to hold you responsible, but the United States’ disengagement from assisting in resolving the region’s problems, has resulted in a somewhat gloomy outlook for nations here.

We must realize that the gamble on political Islam by nations in the region was wrong. In Egypt, the people protested against the Muslim Brotherhood president and demanded change on June 30, 2013. This was a defining moment and sounded the death-knell for political Islam. This movement, like others, was obsessed with authority and promoting their ideology. Saudi Arabia, recognizing the danger, stood with Egypt. What is happening behind closed doors in Washington is contrary to what is actually happening on the ground in Cairo and the rest of the Arab capitals. The international political and strategic thinking concerning the region passes through Riyadh, especially because this country is known for eschewing expansionism and only seeking stability and security for the region and avoiding wars and conflicts.

Iran, which claims it wants peace and understanding with Saudi Arabia, is still supporting terrorist militias, harbouring fugitive extremists and attacking embassies. It is politically isolated in the region, with 50 states at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Summit in Istanbul recently slamming Iran’s interventionist policy.

Mr. President, this is not a Saudi-Iranian conflict but a dispute between Muslim and Arab countries on one side and Iran’s policies on the other. As you arrive in Riyadh, Mr. President, there are thousands of Iraqis protesting and raising their voices against Iran’s blatant intervention in their internal affairs.

As a Saudi with a great deal of respect for American values and culture, I wonder how Washington can seek rapprochement with a pro-terrorism Iran. The Kingdom has initiated several anti-terror measures, including Operation Decisive Storm in Yemen, to prove, as the US administration has always demanded, for Middle East countries to assume greater responsibility to keep the region safe. This has saved Yemen from Iran’s imperialist clutches. The Kingdom also took lead in forming the Islamic Military Alliance to counter terrorism. The Kingdom is also working with Egypt and the rest of the Arab countries to form a joint Arab force to be tasked with the responsibility of countering terrorism.

There have been press reports that the US Congress is drafting a law to hold Saudi Arabia liable in its courts for the Sept. 11 attacks. Although your administration has warned of the consequences of such a move, we Saudis are extremely embittered by this bizarre situation emerging from Washington.

Saudi Arabia knows that there are no free rides in politics and that’s why it took all these initiatives. Saudis understand that their strategic relationship with your country is an integral part of the Saudi political doctrine. But, as they say, it takes two to tango. And both sides need to synchronize their steps to be in the same rhythm.

Source: arabnews.com/columns/news/913126


Are The Good Old Days Of US-Gulf Ties Gone For Good?

By Howard LaFranchi

April 20, 2016

Obama seeks to reassure Riyadh, but Saudis looking past the president

For much of his presidency, Barack Obama has encouraged America's allies to take on more responsibility for their own defence.

Obama will get a firsthand look at how that central tenet of his foreign policy doctrine is working when he visits Saudi Arabia. What he finds will likely drive home the point that allies left increasingly to their own initiative aren't always going to act in ways that suit the United States.

In the case of Saudi Arabia, the chief example is the war in neighbouring Yemen, where the Saudis intervened more than a year ago against advancing Iran-backed Houthi rebels. The Saudis have become bogged down in a war that has caused tremendous suffering among civilians, paved the way for expansion of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and pitted the region's two rival powers - Saudi Arabia and Iran - in a proxy war.

The result is "a kind of catch-22," says Frederick Wehrey, an expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. "We want them to be more responsible" for themselves, he says, "but when they do it. It’s destabilising."

Obama is travelling to Riyadh as part of a pledge made a year ago at summit of Gulf countries at Camp David. There, he promised to follow up with a second summit this year in the region. That meeting of the US-Gulf Cooperation Council summit will take place on Thursday.

In the April issue of The Atlantic magazine, the president lamented "free riders" - including Saudi Arabia - who traditionally have relied too heavily on the US for their national security.

But the Saudis have been charting a more independent course at least since the outset of the Obama presidency and the president's focus on securing a nuclear deal with Iran. The disagreement now is over the path a more proactive Saudi Arabia should take.

"I find it a little difficult to understand how the president could accuse the Saudis of not quite pulling their weight," says Anthony Cordesman, a national security analyst and Saudi Arabia expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Pointing to the Saudis' "much more active military voice in the region" - specifically Saudi initiatives in Syria, Iraq, and now Yemen - Cordesman says tensions have more to do with divergent priorities, first and foremost over Iran.

Saudi defence spending is the equivalent of about 14 per cent of the country's gross domestic product, Cordesman says. That order of annual contribution, even as oil prices have plummeted, "doesn't exactly equate to standing aside."

The Riyadh meeting should allow the two countries to iron out differences. "It's an opportunity to stabilise the relationship and move it in a different direction," says Wehrey.

That could include "reassurances to mitigate the fallout" from The Atlantic interview. Obama is also expected to emphasise that the US is, like the Saudis, deeply concerned about Iran - both its pursuit of missile development and recent missile tests, and its involvement in Syria and Yemen.

In the "you can do more" column, Wehrey says, Obama is likely to suggest that the Saudis step up support for the fight against the Daesh - particularly financially - and move forward on domestic political reforms.

The Saudis, along with other Gulf leaders at Thursday's meeting, will have in the back of their minds that the American leader is on his way out.

"The end of the Obama administration can't come quickly enough for these leaders," says Perry Cammack, a regional expert at the Carnegie Endowment. But the next president might not give them what they want, either.

"The hope is that with a new [US] leader, things will revert back to where they were for decades - and I'm not sure that's the case," says Cammack, a former Middle East analyst on the State Department's policy planning staff.

Obama is likely to be quizzed about a topsy-turvy presidential campaign that has America's international partners uneasy.

But while extremism and Syria's civil war will keep the US engaged in the Middle East, Cammack and other say, other factors - like falling US dependence on Middle East oil and continuing implementation of the Iran nuclear agreement - will also mean that the good old days of US-Gulf relations are likely gone for good.

Source: khaleejtimes.com/editorials-columns/are-the-good-old-days-of-us-gulf-ties-gone-for-good


Preventing Break-Up of Iraq

By Osama Al-Sharif

20 April 2016

Iraq has been facing a deep political crisis since 2003 — the year it was invaded and occupied by the United States and Britain. For over a decade this religiously and ethnically diversified country has suffered under a dysfunctional political system that was abused by Iran and its proxies and tolerated by the West.

Aside from the continuous pillaging of Iraq, where hundreds of billions of dollars ended up in the pockets of influential players, corrupt officers and foreign companies, the political system had disenfranchised the Sunnis and triggered bloody sectarian conflicts. Eight years under former Prime Minister Nuri Al- Maliki’s rule had brought the country to the brink of collapse.

Iraq today is a failed state; controlled by self-serving politicians with various agendas, heavily in debt with a non-functioning economy and facing an existential threat in the form of Daesh. Last week that crisis deepened as the Iraqi parliament rejected Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi’s proposal for a government of technocrats that represented an attempt to depart from the political quota system. Following that a number of deputies voted to oust Speaker Selim Al-Jabouri but the legality of that move, which would have paved the way for firing Al-Abadi as well, was in doubt.

As backroom negotiations went into the night in an attempt to avoid political chaos, influential Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr issued a statement giving the Parliament 72 hours to vote in a new Cabinet. His followers staged a sit-in outside the Green Zone waiting for further orders. Now various players are trying to hold an emergency session of Parliament, under Al-Jabouri, to allow Al-Abadi to present a new Cabinet. It is clear that Baghdad is witnessing an unprecedented crisis that threatens to unravel the country altogether.

Doing away with the political quota system is a step in the right direction. That system has been abused in a way that has weakened the country’s institutions, allowed for corruption and graft to spread and alienated the country’s Sunnis. It has also paved the way for the emergence of largely Shiite militias, some under the direct command of Iranian officers, who have committed human rights abuses against the Sunnis. Furthermore, the dysfunctional system has marginalized the Iraqi Army, which has been attempting to recapture large areas under the control of Daesh in Al-Anbar province. And as things stand now many doubt the ability of the army to launch a much-anticipated campaign to liberate Mosul in northern Iraq.

The plague of sectarian confrontations has been masterminded by Iran and its proxies. But one cannot exempt the US, which carried out regime change and enforced a controversial political system, from the responsibility for the destruction of Iraq. The birth of Daesh and its expansion in the past few years is a direct result of America’s myopic policies and Iran’s direct meddling in Iraq’s affairs.

If Iraqi politicians fail to find a new political formula that would restore people’s trust and defuse sectarian tensions, in addition to making those who participated in pilfering the country and deepening ethnic and sectarian divides accountable, Iraq as we know today will cease to exist. The Kurds will be the first to distance themselves from the central government in Baghdad and carry out their historical ambition of independence.

The breaking up of Iraq, along ethnic and sectarian fault lines, is more plausible today than any other time. If that chaotic scenario takes place its geopolitical reverberations will be felt across the region. Preserving the unity and territorial integrity of Iraq is a direct responsibility of the Arab world at a time when countries in this region are facing possible disintegration.

But this is easier said than done. Arab countries are engaged in internal challenges and their contribution to resolving the crises in Libya and Syria has been limited. A more boarder coalition, along the lines that Saudi Arabia is proposing, will bring pressure to bear on capitals that still carry influence in Iraq such as Tehran and Washington.

Iran has every reason to keep Iraq weak and divided. This is part of implementing its regional agenda and Iranian officials have made no secret of their goal to extend their influence from Tehran to Baghdad and from there to Damascus and Beirut. This is why its designs for Iraq must be stopped before it is too late.

The lessons drawn from Iraq should be remembered as America and Russia seek to implement a political solution in war-torn Syria. And this is why only Syrians should be involved in writing a new constitution for their country that excludes political quotas, which has brought Iraq to its downfall.

Saving Iraq now rests with a small political group that has no outside agendas or loyalty to outside powers. A federal and democratic Iraq that does away with political quotas and severs ties with Iran and its proxies is a tall order at this stage; but it’s the only path forward.

Source: arabnews.com/columns/news/913051


The Lebanese Politics

By Eyad Abu Shakra

20 April 2016

The Gemayel family, which produced several prominent Lebanese politicians, never really enjoyed nationwide support. The reason being that Sheikh Pierre Gemayel, the family’s “patriarch” founded a political party with candid sectarian overtones in 1936.

Indeed, throughout Sheikh Pierre’s long leadership of the party “The Lebanese Phalanges,” its ideological and political identities became ever more pronounced. Although like most successful parties it has been able to develop an ideological “cliché” that was relatively free from static sectarian boundaries and more open to interacting with the “others.” This “cliché” took the shape of “Lebanese” nationalism against those speaking of “Syrian” or “Arab” nationalism.

The said party, which developed from a youth and sports movement into the most powerful and highly organized Christian political party in Lebanon thanks to Sheikh Pierre Gemayel, had other co-founders some of whom later left it. Today, the political dynasty is represented in the Parliament by the two surviving grandsons: Sami Amin Gemayel and Nadim Bechir Gemayel, with the first assuming the party’s leadership too.

During Pierre “the Grandson’s” short period in politics, his younger brother Sami was preoccupied in a youth organization with candid slogans and ideas that many Lebanese at the time thought controversial and marginal. In reality, those slogans and ideas were closer to being voices of protest than proper blueprint for a comprehensive political agenda that deserves to be taken seriously, in a divided society that became even more divided, obsessed, extremist and exclusionist as a result of a 15-year civil-regional war.

Pierre ‘the Grandson’ managed to “re-establish” and reorganize the “Phalanges” during his father’s (ex-president Amin) exile in France, and succeeded in returning it to its position as the biggest organized Christian political force in Lebanon. At this juncture it is important to mention that the party had been weakened by internal dissent and the exit of several leading figures, while other figures became openly associated with the so-called “Syrio-Lebanese Security apparatus.” The party had also suffered from the emergence of new organizations, which were once part of or close to it, like “The Lebanese Forces,” and the extremist “Christian” outbidding of Gen. Michel Aoun claiming to be more “Christian” than all, including the Maronite Patriarch himself, to the extent of refusing the “Taif Accords” accepted by the Patriarchate!

Thus, the assassination of Pierre Amin Gemayel during the wave of assassinations targeting the leaders of the Lebanese popular uprising against the hegemony of the Damascus-Tehran axis, was a very well-thought out and meticulously calculated crime. What the murderers intended was to undermine a young and highly promising Christian leadership that was also capable of crossing religious and sectarian barriers, more so, as it neither participated directly in the war like “The Lebanese Phalanges,” nor is an avowed enemy to other Lebanese sects like Michel Aoun.

For a while, the murderers appeared to have won. The “Phalanges” were shaken and confused, partly because few expected the younger brother Sami to be a worthy successor. However, Sami Amin Gemayel was quick to surprise the skeptics and prove them wrong. He firmly took over the party leadership, and soon enough emerged a serious player on the national arena. Some might say it is the “political instinct” within Lebanon’s many traditional political dynasties that is instrumental in the “rapid maturing process.”

Today, in spite of a bout of vigour, which is a hallmark of youth, Sami enjoys a real presence that has benefitted from his self-confidence, clear vision, candid honesty, as well as the disappointment of many who had expected more from Christian alternatives.

Sami who once, before 2006, shocked the Lebanese when he called for a “federal” Lebanon when he was still on the fringes of the political arena, has not really changed his deeply-held convictions on that matter, although he is now more mature and diplomatic in arguing his views. Moreover, after the debacles of Iraq and Syria, the term “federalism” does not sound like a “partitioning” nightmare nor an act of treason given Iran’s expansionist schemes and the threat of Daesh. In addition, the “Taif Accords” specifically called for “Broad Administrative de-Centralization” as they noted the impossibility of continuing with a fully centralized system of government after a devastating civil war before re-assuring the fearful vanquished and containing the ambitions of the jubilant victors.

It is obvious today that the gamble of Dr. Samir Geagea, the leader of “The Lebanese Forces,” of securing a political breakthrough through a “Christian reconciliation” with Aoun has lost its glitter, if not its credibility. This “Christian reconciliation” has provided Iran’s strategy of creating a political vacuum that facilitates its hegemony — through Hezbollah — an extended Christian cover, instead of convincing Aoun to stop using Hezbollah to gain personal ascendancy. Furthermore, instead of putting Iran and its henchmen in a fix, this “reconciliation” has strained the relations within the anti-Tehran March 14th Alliance and shaken trust among its members.

Thus, Sami Amin Gemayel has now emerged as the frankest and most realistic Christian voice; firstly, in diagnosing Lebanon’s problem as it approaches two years without an elected president; and secondly, in telling the truth about Hezbollah, its organization, role, philosophy and loyalty; and thirdly, in dealing with fears relating to the future of Lebanon as regional taboos are broken, identities redefined, borders re-drawn, demographic uprooting and change is in full swing.

Source: arabnews.com/columns/news/913046


Saudi-US Relationship

By Talal Al-Harbi

20 April 2016

US President Barack Obama is visiting the Kingdom. He is scheduled to meet Custodian of the Two Holy Mosque King Salman and will also attend the Gulf Cooperation Council’s summit to be hosted by the king.

The visit comes at a critical juncture in the bilateral relations between the two countries. We all know that the ties between Riyadh and Washington are not as cordial as they used to be just a few years ago but analysts and policymakers believe that both sides have not yet reached the point of no return.

The Saudi-US relationship goes back to 1943. Since then the two countries have always maintained strong cooperation in all fields. It is true that the ties have experienced ups and downs, which is natural.

However, the last 14 months have witnessed a dramatic increase in the differences between the two sides over various regional issues like the Iranian nuclear deal and the Syrian crisis. The Kingdom’s leadership has expressed its disappointment over Washington’s inaction in the region and its policies toward Tehran, which are apparently seen as attempts to appease a country that is openly flouting international laws by interfering in the internal matters of other countries. As a matter of fact, many regional conflicts are the result of the Iranian covert and overt support — Assad would not have possibly been able to resist popular pressure without Iranian backing and the Houthi militants in Yemen created unrest at the behest of Tehran. In addition to this Iranian elements are responsible for stoking sectarian sentiments in Iraq and Bahrain.

There is a growing feeling in the region that the United States has abandoned its traditional allies and is gradually withdrawing from the region, as is evident from its eerie silence over Iranian aggression in the Middle East.

The situation led Saudi Arabia to take bold and decisive measures to check the Iranian threats in the region. Through an Arab alliance, the Kingdom launched the Operation Decisive Storm against the Houthi rebels to restore the legitimate government in Yemen. The rebellion is almost coming to an end.

As for the Syrian crisis, the Kingdom has extended its support to moderate opposition fighting against Bashar Assad’s regime, Iran, Hezbollah and their allies. Had the US intervened earlier in Syria, the situation would have been very different today.

The entire Arab world is disappointed by the US double standard. Former US President Bush invaded Iraq under the pretext of weapons of mass destruction, toppled Saddam’s regime and allowed Shiite fanatics to run loose in the country. The same country, however, did nothing to stop the massacre of innocent Syrian civilians. A prompt US action in Syria could have saved thousands of lives and averted the refugee crisis but it did not even allow providing the armed resistance with qualitative weapons as suggested by the Kingdom.

Seeing that the US administration had no plans or intentions to help put an end to the Assad regime, while giving Vladimir Putin a free hand to send his war planes to bomb the opposition forces, the Kingdom invited representatives of various Syrian opposition parties to meet in Riyadh to elect a united leadership to manage negotiations with the regime representatives in Geneva. Although a cease-fire agreement was reached, the regime and its allies are continuing their bombardment against the opposition forces while the US is watching silently. This has only encouraged Iran to increase its military intervention in Syria.

Despite statements by the US State Department and the White House against Iran’s armament and missile program, the US is merely watching Iran arming itself to the teeth, and has recently received the first shipment of the Soviet missiles. The Kingdom believes that Iran is amassing weapons to threaten the security of the GCC countries, which always have called for peaceful coexistence and friendly neighborly relations with their neighbors including Iran.

So, the Kingdom’s leadership had no option but to work for the formation of an Islamic alliance to contain Iranian ambitions. The OIC summit in Turkey last week was another victory for the Saudi diplomacy where the final communiqué accused Iran and Hezbollah of spreading dissention and sectarian strife in the region, while President Obama wants the Kingdom to “share” the region. In fact, the Kingdom has no territorial ambitions in the neighboring countries, but it wants to keep Iran away from its borders.

Another important thing that the Americans are not prepared to understand is that the Kingdom has nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. It is true that 14 of the hijackers were Saudi nationals but they were members of Al-Qaeda, which was and is at war with the Kingdom.

We know that the Zionist and Jewish lobby is behind this hostile campaign against the Kingdom. Those who want to know the truth should read Susan Lindauer’s book “Extreme Prejudice,” and they should ask the US administration to release the full report of the investigation committee and why a New York court has convicted Iran for its involvement in the conspiracy.

It is an Arab and Muslim tradition to honor their guests and this is what we are going to do when President Obama visits our country. But we hope that President Obama is not coming to say goodbye at the end of his term. What we hope is that the US will remain faithful to the legacy of the founders of the US and will work to bring Saudi-US relations to their past glory.

Source: arabnews.com/columns/news/913066

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/middle-east-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/letter-from-a-saudi-citizen-to-obama--new-age-islam-s-selection,-20-april-2016/d/107046


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