New Age Islam Edit Bureau
06 March 2018
Oil, A Curse Or A Blessing?
By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
From Florida To Syria, Children Are Vilified Mercilessly
By Malak Chabkoun
Saudi Reforms Are Vital For Mideast and the World
By Boris Johnson
Why Palestine’s Youth Must Break Free from Dual Oppression
By Ramzy Baroud
Iran on Fast Forward Thanks To Nuclear Deal
By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
By Abdulrahman al-Rashed
5 March 2018
There are two important dates in Saudi Arabia: the day when King Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman established the kingdom and the date when the American company Standard Oil discovered oil on in the newly-established kingdom.
It’s been 80 years since the day that changed the future of Saudi Arabia following five years of failure. Their attempts to find resources finally yielded results when they discovered well no.7 which released a huge fountain of black oil in the sky.
If King Abdulaziz had not unified this huge country, there would have been smaller states fighting in the Arabian Peninsula. If oil hadn’t been discovered, the country would have suffered due to its weather conditions and rare water resources and pastures.
Before the Americans dug for oil, the British were in the kingdom exploring. However they were convinced there was no oil there so they left and gave up on cooperation with the king. Britain’s viceroy in India responded to the king’s letter himself after the latter proposed cooperation. He said Britain does not desire to cooperate with him and he must handle his affairs on his own, adding that all that concerns the British Empire is that no one obstructs its fleet’s navigation activity in Gulf waters.
After this harsh reply, the king went to the Americans who had nothing to do with the region. The Americans came from the end of the world to try their luck. It’s said that the Americans did not want to upset Britain for working in their traditional areas of influence so they told the British that they went to Saudi Arabia to help find water for the locals.
Although oil was discovered in Saudi Arabia in the 1930s, it was not exported and it did not become a financial resource until around 20 years later. This was due to international economic circumstances and World War II.
We are now entering a new phase as there are plenty of doubts regarding oil as a reliable economic resource. The state’s official policy is based on searching for other options that decrease reliance on oil. Those devising the new policy believe that resuming work according to the old logic – that oil is the only resource – may lead to the collapse of the entire national economy if it makes modest incomes due to dangerous shifts in the oil alternatives market. No one can assert anything yet but relying on oil is not a solution.
The True 'Curse'
Some believe oil has been a curse on the region due to fighting over oil-rich areas and exporting it and because it brought superpowers from across the world and they ended up competing to provide it for their own markets. However, oil could have been a blessing for those who used it right. The region, and not just Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries, is lucky because around half of its countries are rich in oil and make easy incomes out of it. Unfortunately, the problem has always been related to how its wealth is managed. There is no “curse of oil” but a curse due to the people whose lands are rich in oil as they squandered the greatest opportunities in the history of their countries. When we recall what Saddam Hussein did to oil revenues in Iraq and what Moammar Qaddafi did to oil revenues in Libya and what Qatar is doing now with its oil revenues, we feel sorry for what ignorant people have done to their countries’ resources.
These are depleting resources which lucky ones get the chance to make use of once in their history. If they use them wisely, they will change their sons’ future and their countries’ future for generations to come, and if they misuse them, they will destroy them and impoverish them making them poorer than they were before discovering oil!
From Florida to Syria, Children Are Vilified Mercilessly
Describing the human depravity it takes to insult and throw accusations at children facing deadly violence is quite difficult to do in any language, polite or otherwise.
It is absurd and unnecessary to have to say that it is wrong for adults to attack children, who have survived a school shooting or facing facing bombardment on a daily basis. But apparently, we live in a world where children in distress are seen as "fair targets", accused of everything and anything from being actors, to being exploited for regime change, to being al-Qaeda agents.
This was recently the case with a Syrian boy, 15, who has been viciously attacked online and in the media for posting videos showing the devastation of Eastern Ghouta.
The reaction against him was hardly surprising. Syrian children have been mercilessly killed by the regime and its allies for seven years now and there has been a constant stream of images of their bloodied faces. But the response to them has been scepticism and online attacks instead of sympathy and an imperative for change; news outlets and activists alike, in a bizarre vague manner, mention the "deaths" of these children but somehow fail to say who murdered them.
For children in the Middle East, this is nothing new. For more decades than I have lived, children who are victims of murderous US and Arab foreign policies have been treated with a shocking lack of sympathy by both the mainstream and alternative media.
To be perfectly clear, this is not the fault of any of these children: It is the fault of adults who claim to be up in arms about US imperialist ambitions, yet defend Russian imperialist ambitions.
Palestinians have fought the battle of "humanising" their victims for over 100 years, documenting their victims, giving media interviews, creating their own media, and generally using any tools at their disposal to show how Israel is an aggressor. Afghans, Iraqis and Yemenis have had to do the same.
In some cases, they have succeeded. Yet, some of the very westerners who were thought to have finally admitted the nature of the aggressor that Israel is or that the US is, have now turned around and used Israel as an argument against another oppressed people: the Syrians who rose up against Bashar al-Assad, Russia, Iran, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS). They, this "logic" goes, are pawns of Israel, so vilifying them and their children amid death and destruction is acceptable.
Many failed to recognise the danger of these attacks on children, until this type of human depravity came home to roost.
From Florida to Syria to the West Bank, children are victims thrice over
When a young man shot and killed 17 children at a Florida high school, the aide to a local legislator accused the students speaking out against guns and the National Rifle Association (NRA) of being paid actors. Some conspiracy theorists went so far as to claim the whole thing was suspicious because one of the outspoken students' fathers was a retired FBI agent.
This wasn't the first time children in the US were accused of being crisis actors, but the difference between them and children from the Middle East who have faced the same accusations is the ferocity with which they have been defended. For example, actor Mark Ruffalo, who has nearly 4 million Twitter followers, is on a crusade to defend Florida students against the NRA's attacks (as we all should), but when it came to Syria, he called media coverage on the Assad regime's crimes "propaganda".
When Bana al-Abed went viral for her daily reporting on her life as a child in besieged Aleppo late 2016, so-called journalists began to question her motives, making fun of her English and calling her a paid propaganda mouthpiece for "jihadists".
Sixteen-year-old Ahed Tamimi of Palestine received the same treatment, with commentators obsessing over her looks, accusing her family of being paid actors and claiming she was at fault for slapping the Israeli soldier.
Now, as the Assad regime and Russia pound the Ghouta region's people into oblivion, the anti-imperialism crew is reacting with its usual attacks on the children who are trying to use social media to save themselves and their families while at the same time defending children in the US who are speaking out against the NRA.
One of the biggest and yet-unaddressed problems with this "political tactic" is that it abuses these young people on three different levels. They are victimised by the oppressors, such as the Assad regime in Syria, or Israel in Palestine, or the shooter in Florida; then by the "alternative" media which accuses them of being paid to publicise their reality; and finally by the political actors, both for and against these children.
Children can and have been exploited by actors in conflicts. But those who deny them the freedom to express their reality and discount their very real experiences of fear are the bigger criminals.
This Is Not About Us
There is a reason I limited myself to linking to those who vilify children rather than mentioning them by name. They have been named and shamed by several outlets and countless activists, and there is no need to rehash their crimes against these children.
Yes, we must challenge the narratives produced by these child attackers. However, tempting as it may be, we must also avoid falling into the trap of focusing our discourse on responding to their bogus claims.
It is time to refocus all efforts on the children who are living in these adult-created hell-holes and trying to survive by telling their stories in the ways they believe will reach the widest audience possible. A suffering child in the US deserves our attention and for us to come to his or her defence, and so do the suffering children in the Middle East.
March 6, 2018
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is on his maiden international visit to Egypt, the UK and US.
It was 73 years ago - almost to the day - that Winston Churchill travelled to Fayoum Oasis in Egypt for a meeting with the king of Saudi Arabia. "His own cup-bearer from Mecca offered me a glass of water from its sacred well, the most delicious that I had ever tasted," wrote Churchill of this encounter with King Abdulaziz Al Saud.
If that meeting in the desert was an early chapter in relations between Britain and Saudi Arabia, then we will turn a new page on March 7 when his grandson, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman, visits London.
There will be those who would object to engaging with a kingdom that is a powerhouse of the Middle East and, incidentally, one of Britain's oldest friends in the region.
If you have any sympathy with such views, then let me highlight a few salient facts.
In the eight months since Mohammed bin Salman became crown prince, Saudi Arabia has introduced exactly the kind of reforms that we have always advocated.
The ban on women driving has been overturned. Gender segregation has been relaxed. The kingdom has adopted an official target for women to account for 30 per cent of the workforce: in February women were allowed to register their own businesses. Women now attend sporting events and from next month cinemas will open their doors to everyone.
If you are inclined to dismiss these advances, then I will respectfully suggest that you are making a profound mistake. Change does not come easily in Saudi Arabia. In a matter of a few months, genuine reform has taken place after decades of stasis.
And that fact tells an important story. The crown prince and his father King Salman have together embarked on the social and economic renewal of Saudi Arabia, launching a national programme known as Vision 2030. In October the crown prince said that the overarching goal was to build a "country of moderate Islam that is open to all religions and to the world". He also promised to "eradicate promoters of extremist thoughts".
If you are tempted to brush off those phrases as platitudes aimed at outsiders, consider that the crown prince was speaking not in English in some western capital but in Arabic to an audience in Riyadh. His words have been given meaning by the establishment in his capital of a new centre to counter the financing of terrorism.
What conclusion should we draw? I believe that the crown prince, who is only 32, has demonstrated by word and deed that he aims to guide Saudi Arabia in a more open direction.
The worst response would be for Britain to criticise from the sidelines or shun the kingdom altogether; instead our role must be to encourage him along this path.
Be in no doubt: the future of Saudi Arabia - and indeed the region and the wider Muslim world - depends on his success. Hence the importance of the crown prince's visit to London. This will be a chance to strengthen our relationship with Saudi Arabia, both as an end in itself and as the best means of promoting reform.
I will not minimise Britain's differences with the kingdom. I want Saudi Arabia to do more to protect human rights. But we cannot deliver these messages or resolve our disagreements unless we meet the kingdom's leaders.
Nor can we uphold the British national interest. Remember that tens of thousands of British jobs depend on our exports to Saudi Arabia, which climbed to £6.2 billion in 2016, a 41 per cent rise since 2010. When it comes to keeping Britain safe, intelligence from Saudi Arabia has been crucial in the struggle against terrorism. The simple truth is that British lives have been saved and attacks prevented because of our security cooperation with Saudi Arabia.
This relationship has long been important for global security. Saudi Arabia was a firm ally during the Cold War and, amid all the turbulence of the Middle East, the kingdom has generally acted as a force for stability and moderation. It was the late King Abdullah who threw his diplomatic weight behind a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict by proposing the bold Arab Peace Initiative.
Today Britain and Saudi Arabia are working together to counter Iran's disruptive behaviour in the Middle East and bring the war in Yemen to an end. Last year King Salman took the far-sighted decision to pursue a rapprochement with the Shia-led government in Iraq, something that will help to stabilise the country after the defeat of Daesh.
You might reply that far more needs to be done to reach a peaceful settlement in Yemen and ensure that aid gets through to everyone in need. I agree. That is exactly why we need to discuss these vital matters with the crown prince during his visit to the UK.
UK's foreign policy is designed to promote the safety and prosperity of the British people while upholding our values as a force for good. We cannot achieve any of these goals unless we meet the leaders of Saudi Arabia on equal and friendly terms.
That was true when Churchill drank the spring water of Mecca with Ibn Saud in 1945, and it remains true today.
As global voices continue to demand the freedom of 17-year-old Palestinian girl Ahed Tamimi, Israeli authorities have arrested nine additional members of her family. Those who were detained include Ahed’s 15-year-old cousin, Mohammed Tamimi. Israeli troops had shot Mohammed in the head last December, shattering his skull. The teenager, who is awaiting reconstruction surgery, is unlikely to receive proper medical care should he be sent to an Israeli jail.
Ahed’s crime was that, shortly after her cousin was shot, she slapped an Israeli soldier, a video of which went viral. Mohammed was then placed in a medically-induced coma, while the Israeli soldier who shot him has not even received a reprimand.
The Israeli military provided an outrageous explanation of why the Tamimi family members, all hailing from the small village of Nabi Saleh, were detained in a pre-dawn army raid. “The detainees are suspected of involvement in terrorist activities, popular terror and violent disturbances against civilians and security forces,” said a military spokesperson. By “popular terror,” the statement was referring to recurring protests led by the 500 residents of Nabi Saleh against the illegal settlements and apartheid wall. These protests have been a staple of everyday life in the village for nearly 12 years.
Anywhere between 600,000 and 750,000 illegal Jewish settlers live in settlements placed strategically throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They are a glaring violation of international law. Aside from the massive Israeli army build-up in the Occupied Territories, armed settlers have also been a major source of violence against Palestinians.
Ahed and Mohammed Tamimi, along with hundreds of thousands of other Palestinian youths, were born into this violent reality and feel trapped. Their collective imprisonment is not only a result of the perpetual military occupation of their land by Israel, but also the fact that their leadership has operated for many years in a self-centered fashion, orbiting far away from Nabi Saleh and its tiny, struggling but brave population.
Nabi Saleh is, relatively, a short distance northwest of Ramallah, the political base of the Palestinian Authority; but in some ways the two places are a world apart. The PA was formed in 1994 as one of the outcomes of the Oslo Accords, which were initially reached in secret by the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Israel.
Most Palestinians in the Occupied Territories matured politically or were even born after the advent of the PA. They have no other frame of reference but Israel and the Ramallah-based authority. The latter has grown comfortable thanks to its wealth and status and, with time, evolved into a culture of its own. It is no longer a democratic institution, and definitely does not represent all Palestinians.
Thus, Palestinian reality is now shaped by three forces: The domineering Israeli occupation, the subservient and self-centered PA, and the indignant and leaderless Palestinian youth, which is held captive in dual bondage.
This is why Ahed’s slapping of the Israeli soldier resonated throughout Palestine and among Palestinians across the world. It was a symbol of defiance announcing that, despite the two-fold oppression, Palestine’s youth still has the power to articulate an identity; one that is perhaps captive, but nonetheless resilient.
Although Mohammed’s skull is crushed, he continued to speak out as soon as he left hospital. The spirit of the Palestinian people is clearly not broken, and Palestine’s youth is the only way out of the double-walled cage.
Alas, the mission of this generation of young Palestinians is even harder to achieve than previous generations, especially those that led and sustained a six-year-long uprising — the First Intifada of 1987, also known as the “war of the stones.” That generation resurrected the Palestinian cause as it daringly organized its communities, mobilizing all efforts to challenge the Israeli occupation. Thousands were killed and wounded, but an empowered Palestinian nation arose in response.
The Palestinian leadership used the First Intifada to reinvent itself. It exploited the attention young Palestinians had garnered to negotiate Oslo, which ultimately gave some Palestinians special status and denied the rest any rights or freedoms.
The PA and aging President Mahmoud Abbas understands well that, if the youth is to be given the chance to mobilize, another intifada would dismantle his entire leadership, possibly in a matter of days. This is why, no matter how serious the disagreements between Abbas and the Israeli government become, they will always stay united against any possibility of a popular Palestinian revolt led by the youth.
Numerous Palestinians have been arrested, imprisoned or tortured by Palestinian police in the years that followed the formation of the PA. The latter allowed this in the name of “national interest” when, in reality, it was done in the name of Israeli security.
Indeed, Oslo has allowed both Israel and the PA to maintain “security coordination” in the West Bank. This has mostly been used to keep the illegal settlements safe and to prevent Palestinian youths from confronting the Israeli army. Such a practice has meant the PA became the first line of defense against rebelling Palestinians.
While Palestinian officials continue to pay lip service to Ahed Tamimi and thousands of other young Palestinians who continue to endure imprisonment and ill treatment by Israel, in truth Ahed epitomizes the antithesis of everything the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah stands for. She is strong, morally driven and defiant; the PA is a morally bankrupt entity.
Palestinian youths already understand this and it is mostly up to them to free themselves from the confines of military occupation and corruption.
In his seminal book “The Wretched of the Earth,” anti-colonialist author and revolutionary Frantz Fanon wrote: “Each generation must discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it, in relative opacity.” Ahed and Mohammed Tamimi’s generation has already discovered its mission, and it will be they who continue to fight for its fulfillment, their freedom and the freedom of their homeland.
The Iranian regime has significantly expanded its investment and spending on terrorist and militia groups. Gen. Joseph Votel, who is in charge of US Central Command, recently told lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee that Iran has made “an enhanced investment in their proxies and partners.”
There are several factors behind the Iranian regime’s increased capability for financing terrorist and militia groups across the Middle East in the last few years, but the key issue is the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), known as the Iran nuclear deal.
When the multiple rounds of United Nations sanctions were in place against the Iranian regime, Tehran was still supporting militias and terrorist groups but at a much slower pace. For example, it took the Iranian regime decades to empower Al-Qaeda to carry out attacks, or to train and create a proxy in Lebanon. But, since the nuclear agreement was reached in 2015, Iran-backed groups have proliferated, are much more empowered and have become major players across the region.
In Iraq, the Iranian regime currently supports at least 40 militia groups under the banner of the Popular Mobilization Forces. Some of these militias are known for committing war crimes, serious violations of international laws, and egregious crimes against humanity. After the nuclear deal, the Iranian leaders have even pushed and succeeded at making the Iraqi government officially recognize these militias and incorporate them into its political and security establishment.
And consider another proxy of Iran, the Houthis. It was after the JCPOA that Iran significantly increased its financial and military assistance to the militia. And it was after the nuclear agreement that the Houthis became empowered and emboldened to such a level that they became capable of destabilizing the country on such a large scale, as well as involving the nation in a bloody war.
Since the JCPOA, Tehran’s increasing military, intelligence, advisory and economic assistance to Bashar Assad’s regime has also fundamentally strengthened the hold on power of the Syrian regime.
One major by-product of the nuclear agreement is an economic boost, as Tehran is allowed to reap profits from its increased integration in international markets. Iran’s oil revenues have more than doubled in the last three years, and the trade between the regime’s state-owned firms and European countries has brought Tehran rewards worth billions of dollars.
It is also worth noting that the latest protests in Iran were clear evidence of the fact these increased revenues have not been distributed among the Iranian people. Instead, the budgets for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Quds Force, which is in charge of extraterritorial operations and their affiliated groups have increased significantly. The IRGC is considered the godfather of many militias and terrorist groups in the region and it was after the nuclear deal that President Hassan Rouhani increased its budget by at least 145 percent.
Another by-product of the nuclear deal that is helping Tehran increase its support for militias and terrorist groups is the issue of global legitimacy. Enhanced diplomatic ties with the EU, rising trade and business deals, and the JCPOA have brought Tehran out of isolation and considerably enhanced its legitimacy in the international arena.
Global legitimacy is crucial due to the fact that it is providing the Iranian regime with some kind of impunity in violating international laws. Global powers will be less likely to hold the Iranian regime accountable and responsible when it enjoys enhanced legitimacy. This legitimacy has facilitated Tehran’s logistical, military and illegal connections with terrorist groups.
In conclusion, the Iranian regime has increased its support and spending on terrorist militia groups across the region to an unprecedented level. The goals that the Iranian regime wished to accomplish over decades seem to have been achieved in the few years since the nuclear agreement. Thanks to the nuclear deal, Iran is continuing to pursue its regional hegemonic ambitions and achieve its objectives, but at a much faster pace.