New Age Islam Edit Bureau
09 April 2018
On Teaching Philosophy in Saudi Arabia
By Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran
How to Work With Mohammed Bin Salman
By Saud Al-Qahtani
Now Is The Time To Hit Assad Hard, Not Withdraw
By Faisal J. Abbas
From Gaza Border to Ahed’s Prison Cell, Palestinian Youth United by Pain and Resistance
By Ramzy Baroud
Iran Is On The Brink Of A New Popular Uprising
By Huda Al-Husseini
A Yemen Political Solution Is Needed, But Which One?
By Mohammed Al Shaikh
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
8 April 2018
Philosophy’s relation with societies has not always been cordial as philosophy has been resisted by society from the very beginning as a process that seeks to create wisdom, a spark of continuous amazement and a never-ending flame over gloomy questions. Some have confronted philosophy because they believed it led towards misguidance.
It’s said that Imam al-Shafi ruled in favour of striking philosophers with leafless palm branches and with shoes. However, if it hadn’t been for Aristotle’s logic, al-Shafi would not have been able to write ‘Al-Risala’ which is the most important book in the history of establishing the principles of jurisprudence.
Teaching Philosophy in the Kingdom
These days, amid the current social transformations in the kingdom, there have been calls in the media for the education ministry to devise a plan to begin teaching philosophy in high schools and universities. This is an important call as teaching philosophy is essential at the level of education. Several Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa, and even some Gulf countries, teach philosophy. Teaching philosophy is a necessity in education. However, there are few points in this regard that pertain to obstacles and problems in the teaching of philosophy.
Philosophers have propounded theories since the days of minor Greek academics, until universities and teaching halls were established. Teaching halls transformed philosophy’s trajectory over three centuries for Hegel, Schopenhauer, Schelling, Fichte, Feuerbach, Habermas, Deleuze, Foucault, Derrida, Rawlsand and others. However, philosophy does not take the word “teach” well, and this is where confusion rises from observing philosophy’s effects and from teaching it.
The philosophical field consists of a series of questions, dialogue and discussions. During philosophical deliberations, everyone is equal and ‘truth’ is absent. Education’s structure requires a minimum level of facts for repetition and promotion. This does not apply to philosophy — whose history consists of 2,500 years of conflict over varied issues like the fire, the universe, the sun, astronomy, existence, language, time and death.
Philosophy is not about any one subject to be taught, as each theory is a philosophy on its own. Philosophy is a subject of possibilities, mistakes, experiments, confrontations and failures. When some philosophical waves were populistically tamed, they became famous but this fame soon decreased, as seen with existentialism, logical positivism and analytic philosophy and other waves that intersect with philosophy like structuralism.
Freedom of Thought
It’s been 70 years since philosophy has been taught in the Arab world. Results have not been satisfactory mainly because teaching it relies on memorization techniques or sanctifying information. Philosophy sessions did not allow students to think freely and ask whatever questions came to their minds. I think Arab and Islamic societies reject this and it’s sometimes even strictly punished. Philosophy sessions at schools need an atmosphere where students can freely ask any question and respond to theories or reject them. This environment is what makes philosophy a developed field. Only then we can notice reasonable results from teaching philosophy.
Gilles Deleuze, an influential French philosopher who passed away in 1996, first taught at high schools then became a lecturer at Sorbonne. He has videos on YouTube which show how he conducted a philosophy class. Students gathered around his table and did not stay in their allocated seats. Sometimes, he sat with his legs crossed on the table and students did not sit at all.
His book ‘What is Philosophy?’ is regarded a classic reference in renewing philosophical definition, which he wrote with Félix Guattariis. In addition to its famous definition of philosophy, as a creation or production of concepts, the book also tackles the distinction between philosophy and science. In the book, Guattari and Deleuze say: “The object of science is not concepts but rather functions that are presented as propositions in discursive systems.
The elements of functions are called (functives). A scientific notion is defined not by concepts but by functions or propositions. This is a very complex idea with many aspects, as can be seen already from the use to which it is put by mathematics and biology respectively… Science does not need philosophy for these tasks.” Martin Heidegger says: “Science does not think.” This is not a condemnation of science, and it does not aim to derogate the scientific field. However, the aim is to note differences of the overlapping between these two fields that have two different structures and tasks. Philosophy as Deleuze puts it has “a permanent genealogical task.”
This is why philosophy sometimes resists classifications and categories which suffocate it via scientific definitions or confinement to classes. Philosophy is an ally of rebellion. It’s with the wind, waves and fire and not with stillness, stagnation and ashes. Teaching is rigid when you examine its roots. What actually enhanced the inclusion of philosophy at schools and universities in America and Europe was some philosophers’ amazing success at discussing the philosophical concept and meaning and developing their lectures based on their discussions with their students in class.
This is what German philosophers did as they mastered the technique of transforming a teaching hall into an arena to create, examine and overlap theories even in the public domain. This is what Gadamer, Heidegger’s student, who has been acquainted with prominent German philosophers, noted in his book ‘Philosophical Apprenticeships.’
The journey of philosophy
In brief, teaching philosophy requires a free atmosphere - colleges in Islamabad, Kabul and Tehran teach philosophy, but it’s important to liberate the atmosphere from oppressing knowledge. To do so, one must begin with teaching eastern philosophies of India, China and the ancient east.
Then they must transition to the Socratic stage, Plato and Aristotle, Stoicism and Epicureanism and up until the Middle Ages and teach about Augustinus, Duns Scotus, William of Ockham and Nicholas of Cusa. Then comes the Renaissance, the beginning of establishing the theory of knowledge beginning with the Baconian method developed by Francis Bacon and all the way to Descartes, Leibniz, Hobbes,Locke, Berkeley, David Hume, Smith, Pascal, Voltaire, Montesquieu and Rousseau. Then there’s Kant and German philosophers who followed up until Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and Dilthey.
The 20th century witnessed the rise of philosophies that are important to be discussed in academies and high schools, like phenomenology developed by Husserl, analytic philosophy developed by Russel and the philosophy of language developed by Wittgenstein. This is in addition to the philosophies of difference which was known as the postmodern wave.
As such, the process will take a possible and preliminary educational path which, despite its scarcity, one can base work on towards establishing and deepening questions. And as Deleuze puts it: “Concepts are flat surfaces without levels, orderings without hierarchy; hence the importance in philosophy of questions.”
By Saud al-Qahtani
A friend of mine working in media asked me: “What has changed in your administrative work with Prince Mohammed bin Salman?”
I told him that my modest experience of working in the state and the Royal Court has firmly established bureaucratic practices that could not be violated as if they were sacred traditions we inherited with respect. We could hardly dare to amend or change such practices. We thought that government work had unchangeable standards that are passed from generation to another as if we were isolated from the successively changing and developing context surrounding us.
There are terms and concepts in management that we did not know nor even recognized. We only heard about them in the media. We quickly scanned them without interest, such as management, planning, strategic analysis, performance measurement, project management and other developments that were believed to belong to the private sector with its volatility.
The most embarrassing and perplexing situation in my humble career was my first meeting with Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, after assuming the Presidency of the Royal Court. He asked me “What is your strategic plan at the Media Monitoring and Analysis Center?”
“A strategic plan!” was the reply with which I wanted to answer his Highness question. I thought that such terms are marketing idiomatic terminology! We work around the clock, and then a range of various and huge achievements crossed my mind – based on my calculations of course. I was prepared to describe them in a proper, orderly and interconnected manner.
I believe that His Royal Highness found about my confusion and made it easy for me, saying: "I mean, where were you 3-5 years ago; where are you today; and where will you be after 3-5 years?”. I spoke at length elaborately with great pride about where we were and what we have achieved. As for where we would, I had to be frank telling His Royal Highness that I had no idea.
He had the following questions for me: “How did you know you succeeded? What was the standard you scientifically used? I have been baffled and hesitant: “Your Highness, these are the achievements and accomplishments I have personally witnessed, and are confirmed by many ministers and officials” I answered. He replied calmly: “So is the criterion, Saud, your impression or their personal impression? Do you think that personal impressions are the standard in assessing the success of institutions or departments?
What should I say? How should I respond? In a quick manner I said:” No, of course Your Highness President, you may advice the referral to a neutral arbitrator.”
“How is it going to arbitrate?” He asked. “Who will draw up the measuring standers? Who will approve them? And I am not referring here to the Center in specific, but asking about your opinion in general.” I was bewildered, and he felt it. One of my flaws is that my body language always reveals my feelings, a flaw from which I could not release myself.
Noticing my bewilderment, he told me very politely that he wants me to conduct a research, one that I conduct myself, not assigning someone else to do it. The research was about strategic planning. “I want you to completely devote yourself for this task,” that’s what he said when I was about to tell him that I was too busy doing more important things. He then lowered his voice and continued, “This is important to me personally, and I do not want anyone to know about it.” He made me feel that it is a huge classified task; he discussed with me the sources he read and liked in this field with the spirit of a colleague, not a superior. He discussed certain courses that he attended or that he watched online, many of which were so advanced. His language was encouraging, which gave me the impression that the research I am about to conduct will be the final say. He also gave me the impression that the outcomes of this research will be continuing our successful work style, and throwing whatever new terms we heard, as employees, to the wastebasket.
I had a conflicted set of abjection feelings against the new terms we heard from the prince, terms we have never heard of. We know what we are doing, we work very hard, and this is just a theoretical talk. I am going to prove it to him using this research! This is what I was telling myself at that time, so were my colleagues in the Royal Court and other ministries.
So What Happened?
Amazement, delight, and self-criticism, this is simply how I felt when started working on the research. It forced me to look into many aspects, including vision, mission, values, strategic objectives, executive objectives, operational plan, and performance measurement. It also forced me to dig deep into other aspects, such as strategic management and project management. The prince has always insisted during every meeting on having a project management office (PMO), he asked me and others about it. Yet, our response always was “this is a private sector work, our work is confidential, and we are no company!” I then studied PM thoroughly; it amazed me. So I looked for the best PMO trainers, and organized a special 40-hour-course for my colleagues and myself. This was three years ago. A month ago, we organized another course at the Center, a project management professional course, and I attended it once again.
I finished my strategic planning research, attended one of the online courses the prince mentioned, and I believe that I read most of what was written in Arabic about this subject. It was a work mission. At the beginning, back in my mind, I was aiming to insert what I believed is the right management approach, but the experience turned into a joyful one. I greatly value discovering new things, and expand in understanding them whenever I was convinced of. I requested all strategic plans drawn by universities and governmental bodies to read them. Why have not I done so before? Because I used to say that they are nothing but essays and a waste of time and effort, and I was right! The various plans of different governmental bodies I read led me to a certainty that the prince is totally right. Strategic planning is important and vital, and we cannot ever succeed without it. We, however, do not apply it. And who ever did, they did not do it right. I went back to the prince, excited about strategic planning as if I invented it. I talked to him with enthusiasm about the subject and how it was not applied here, telling him that it was necessary to be applied. I was carrying the strategic planning study he asked me to conduct. I proudly handed it to him thinking that I came up with something no one has ever came up with. He swiftly browsed it, then smiled and said “now Saud we have a common language. Tell me now where were you, where are you now, and where will you be in the future?” I am going to answer Your Royal Highness, I just need three months. "No”, he replied. “You first join the (….) committee, which will draw up the strategic plan for (….).”
I joined to this committee with enthusiasm, and later joined a second and a third. Those who worked on the committees have had already worked with the Prince and have learnt the same difficult lesson. I have benefited greatly from my involvement with high-level foreign experts. I worked with them on non-confidential matters. Another committee was at Misk Charity, which I was honoured to join its board that is full of professionals coming from both the government and private sector. I have worked enthusiastically with the greatest scientific references in strategic planning. Then I was honoured to lead the strategic plan of the Centre for Studies and Media Affairs with an elite of Saudi colleagues. Today, I saw the initial presentation to update the plan after three years of the previously adopted one. And I recalled the fateful meeting with the Prince.
Now, I recall my joy and my pride of my research in strategic analysis when I presented it to His Highness. How naive I was. I did not realize that he was performing “Change Management” on me very effectively that I could not imagine it.
How was I working in the past? I do not know. But whenever I remember his method with me that day, I say: “this is the difference between a ‘manager’ and a ‘leader’." Now, I cannot start my working day without seeing the PMO’s report, which I used to mock, or rather, did not understand. Today, I take my dashboard and key performance indicator (KPIs) with me wherever I go; it is always on the iPad. Moreover, we are currently working on developing it and make it more effective. The strategic plans committees that I used to hate and fight are my happiness today when I join one of them.
What I'm sure of now is the following:
If you want to work with Prince Mohammed bin Salman then you must have the knowledge, professionalism, an accurate understanding, and the ability to form a distinguished team and work with it in the following fields:
- Leadership and Strategic Thinking
- Strategic Planning
- Strategic Analysis
- Performance Measurement
- Project Management
- Crisis Management
- Risk Measurement
- Change Management
Then you must integrate this knowledge into thinking outside the box and continuous improvement for the work process, and more importantly self-improvement. You must also follow up the latest theories, ideas and techniques, as well as the never-ending love of endless challenges, and the well-known professional national work. Therefore, if you do not have these elements of professional, it is better for you to excuse yourself from working with the Prince.
Working with the Crown Prince is a duty; he will not compliment you; he will detect your mistakes, measure your performance, and foresee your work path. The Prince is a reference in these sciences, which are strange to our government culture. I have seen it many times.
I do not mean that we were wrong in the past. Other times, other manners. In the past, the government had its way to manage its work in light of changing variables. Now, Saudi Arabia, surely, is renewing and adorning with our young Prince vision and in the eyes of our King. Our power is our ability to interact, to move, to develop, to deal with our mistakes and address them. Nothing stops us. “Sky is the limit”. So said the Prince. This is who we are.
Now Is the Time to Hit Assad Hard, Not Withdraw
April 08, 2018
US President Donald Trump has made it clear that, with Daesh defeated, he wants to end the US military presence in Syria and bring his soldiers home. The horrific chemical gas attack on Douma is an indication of how important it is that, rather than withdraw, America re-engage in Syria.
Despite the denials from Damascus, there can be no doubt who did this. The only people who have what was required to carry out such a monstrous attack — the capability, the chemical weapons arsenal, the callous disregard for civilian life — are the Assad regime. They have done it before. And unless they are stopped, they will do it again.
It has become evident that the only language the Assad regime understands is the language of force. In August 2012, Barack Obama said the use of chemical weapons in Syria would be “a red line.” A year later, when Bashar Assad attacked his own people with sarin gas, that “red line” was forgotten. Today, the people of Douma are paying the price for a US president’s vacillation.
However, who can forget the shock and awe when, in response to Assad’s chemical weapons attack in Idlib in April last year, President Trump ordered cruise missile strikes on the Syrian air base from where the attack was launched?
The Douma outrage cannot be read as anything but a response to the US announcement of withdrawal. It sends a clear sign to the international community of what kind of future awaits Syria — just when we all thought things could not become any worse.
Indeed, such a vacuum would no doubt be viewed as an opportunity by the malign powers at work in this region, chief among them Iran.
Douma should ring alarm bells in Washington; far from withdrawal, what is required is greater engagement. If America takes that path, it can be sure that the whole world, including Saudi Arabia and its allies, will follow.
Starting Friday, March 30, tens of thousands of Palestinians amassed at Gaza’s eastern border gearing up for protests and vigils that are expected to last until May 15. On that date, 70 years ago, Israel declared its independence, resulting in the exile of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.
There is more to this unique act of popular mobilization than the need to underscore the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees, as enshrined in international law, or to commemorate Land Day, an event that has united Palestinians of all factions and backgrounds since the mass, and bloody protests of 1976.
The popular initiative has served as a platform for Palestinian youth in Gaza, and other parts of the Palestinian homeland to reassert their relevance and anger, and to challenge bitter factionalism and political rivalry.
In a rare show of popular mobilization, thousands of Palestinians descended on the Gaza border, separated from Israel by a narrow but deadly “buffer zone”.
The intention of the organizers who represented all Palestinian factions was to restate the urgency of the dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza. But for thousands of protesters, the hope was to restate national Palestinian priorities that transcend factionalism and regional politicking.
The Israeli army’s response, however, was immediate and lethal. By killing 15 unarmed protesters and wounding 773 people with live ammunition in one single day, the Gaza protests, dubbed the Great March of Return, became an international event, bringing neglected Gaza back to the centre stage.
Gazans pitched tents, conversed, sang together and waved Palestinian flags as opposed to the banners of the various factions. Even circus clowns joined in, amusing the numerous children who came along with their families. It was a rare moment of respite and unity.
Watching Palestine’s youth taking their first steps in reclaiming their fight reminded me of the potent quote by Frantz Fanon, the anti-colonial author and revolutionary who wrote in his seminal book, ‘The Wretched of the Earth’, “Each generation must discover its mission, fulfil it or betray it, in relative opacity.”
Youth under Occupation
The current generation of Palestinians is embarking on the task of discovering and fulfilling their mission. This mission of Palestinian youth under siege in Gaza is the same as that of Palestinian youth under military occupation in the West Bank.
Indeed, the arrest and prolonged detention of Palestinian teen, Ahed Tamimi, starting December 19, highlight the nature of the challenge facing Palestine’s budding generation. They are faced with a brutal Israeli military regime and a self-serving Palestinian leadership.
On March 21, Ahed’s lawyer reached a plea bargain agreement, the terms of which state that she is expected to serve 8 months in Israeli military prison before being set free.
Ahed was detained, along with her mother, for slapping an Israeli soldier, an act that was filmed and went viral on social media. Nine other members of her family were detained in February, including Ahed’s 15-year-old cousin, Mohammed who was shot in the head by Israeli police, at close range. They all hail from the small village of Nabi Saleh.
The 500 residents of Nabi Saleh have tirelessly challenged illegal settlements and Israeli Apartheid Wall, built illegally on Palestinian land. These protests have been a staple in the everyday life of the village for nearly 12 years.
Anywhere between 600,000 and 750,000 illegal Jewish settlers live in settlements placed strategically throughout the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem – a glaring violation of international law. Aside from the massive Israeli army build-up in the Occupied Territories, these armed settlers have been a major source of violence against Palestinians.
Ahed and Mohammed Tamimi, along with thousands of Palestinian children and teenagers, were born into this violent reality and feel trapped, violated and frustrated.
Their collective imprisonment is not only as a result of the perpetual military occupation of their land by Israel, but also of the ineffective Palestinian leadership which has pursued its self-interests for many years, orbiting far away from Nabi Saleh and its small but resilient populace.
The village is a short distance northwest of Ramallah – the political base of the Palestinian Authority (PA) – but in some ways, both places are a world apart.
The PA was formed in 1994 as one of the outcomes of the Oslo Accords, which was initially reached and signed in secret by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) 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 as a result of its wealth and status and, with time, evolved into a culture of its own.
United In Grief
The Palestinian reality is now shaped by three forces: the domineering Israeli occupation, the subservient and self-centred PA, and the indignant and leaderless Palestinian youth. Ahed’s counterparts in Gaza have endured brutal wars and a suffocating siege. The youth of Palestine are not only united by their pain and grief, but also by their determination to attain their freedom.
This is why Ahed’s slapping of the Israeli soldier resonated throughout Palestine, and among Palestinians and non-Palestinians internationally. It was a symbol of defiance that, despite the twofold oppression, Palestine’s youth still have the power to articulate an identity, one that despite being captive, is nonetheless irrepressible.
Alas, the mission of this generation of young Palestinians is much more arduous than previous generations, especially Palestinian youth who led and sustained a seven-year-long uprising, the Intifada of 1987, also known as the Intifada of the Stones.
That generation resurrected the Palestinian cause as they daringly organized their communities, mobilizing all efforts to challenge the Israeli occupation. Thousands were killed and wounded at the time, but an empowered Palestinian nation arose in response.
The Palestinian leadership used the Intifada to reinvent itself. It exploited the attention young Palestinians had garnered to negotiate Oslo, which ultimately gave some Palestinians special status and denied others any rights or freedoms.
The PA, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, an ailing 83-year-old, understands well enough that if the youth are to be given the chance to mobilize, another Intifada would dismantle his entire leadership, likely in a matter of days.
Numerous Palestinians have been arrested, imprisoned and tortured by Palestinian police in the years that followed the formation of the PA, under the veneer of ‘national interest’. 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 aimed at keeping the illegal settlements safe and preventing Palestinian youth from confronting the Israeli army. Such a practice has meant that the PA became a first line of defence against rebelling Palestinians.
Palestinian youth already understand this, and it is mostly up to them to free themselves from the confines of military occupation and corruption.
Iran Is On the Brink of a New Popular Uprising
By Huda al-Husseini
New sanctions against Iran can be viewed as a warning to Tehran to halt the activities of Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force. Trump has set a deadline that ends in the first two weeks of May to amend the nuclear deal with Iran. The political arena is troubled as France, Britain and Germany began to move backward in the last few weeks to please Trump in an attempt to convince him not to withdraw from the agreement. Meanwhile, these countries proposed new sanctions to restrain Iran’s activity in terms of its ballistic missiles and its regional activity in Syria, Yemen and Iraq. Iran seems to be “working as usual” as it’s using the Houthis in Yemen to launch missiles that target Riyadh upon Soleimani’s orders. However, Iran cannot continue to pursue this policy of “working as usual” for a long time because the political campaign launched by some European countries is tantamount to issuing a warning to Tehran to decrease Soleimani’s military activity which may reignite the problems that Iran suffered from before the nuclear deal was sealed – or perhaps cause even worse problems.
Prospect Of US Withdrawal From Nuke Deal
Regardless of what Washington decides to do, Iran has to show relative self-control and at least act responsibly. However, internally, it is probably difficult to maintain a unified front, as all old contentions will resurface. Even if the recent wave of protests seemed to have apparently ebbed, there is an ongoing low-level public unrest against the situation in Iran. Although the regime thinks the containment of the recent protests as being a success, it’s only a matter of time before fresh wave of strong protests erupt again. The US’ withdrawal from the deal or imposing additional sanctions may motivate a new popular uprising.
Ever since the nuclear deal was signed, Iran succeeded in attracting more than $15 billion in foreign investment. However this is not enough for the people who are in dire need of economic relief, especially when a large part of these investments need to be activated. While President Hassan Rouhani is aware of the need to translate economic growth into improving the quality of the Iranian people’s lives, Soleimani has completely different plans as he does not intend to allow Iran’s citizens to enjoy the fruits of the nuclear deal. On the contrary, Soleimani is investing massive funds which Iran secured after signing the deal for his adventures in other countries resulting in domestic and foreign criticism.
Loss of Iranian Lives, Capital
According to Iranian reports, the country has spent around $20 billion on fighting in Syria since 2011. It sent a large number of Revolutionary Guard members to Syria, funded Shiite militias from Afghanistan and Pakistan, supplied huge quantities of ballistic missiles, military equipment and arms to the Syrian army and Hezbollah, continued to invest in civil infrastructure in Syria and provided financial aid to the Assad regime.
Soleimani did all this to save the Syrian regime and Iran has got nothing in return. Therefore, Iran intends to attain return on its investment and resume the series of civil agreements with the Syrian government. Since the regime in Syria has relatively stabilized, it preferred to rehabilitate itself without relying on Iran and has headed more towards Europe. Given the competition between Russia and Iran on civil and economic resources there, Syria sees itself more committed to Russian President Vladimir Putin as Iranian presence has become more of a burden than an advantage. It’s been recently noticed that the Syrian government is creating obstacles and obstructing financial cooperation with Iran to prevent it from attaining financial gains. However, this has not prevented Soleimani from expanding Iran’s investment in Syria, which are expected to grow when the fighting is over. This is in addition to millions that are given to Syria at the expense of restoring the Iranian economy.
The story of Iran with Yemen will not be tragic if the end is not known in advance like Syria. Iran has been deeply involved in the Yemeni swamp for years. A UN report in 2015 said Iran has been transferring weapons shipments to the Houthis since 2009. Ever since 2011, Iran has increased its aid to the Houthis, including transferring millions of dollars to them. The tragedy is that after all these years of fighting in Yemen, no solution has been reached to justify Iran’s large investments there.
In addition to the financial cost, Iran has also suffered human losses. So far Soleimani has sacrificed many of “his proxy fighters” and thousands of Houthis have been killed in Yemen. Many Hezbollah and Shiite militia fighters have also been killed in Syria. Last year, the number of the Quds brigade fatalities increased dramatically. Some Iranian political leaders have voiced their worry that in the light of the unrest in several related fields, Iranian human losses will increase. Therefore, Iran may soon find itself confronting direct escalation on its territories.
As for Tehran, the protests which have been ongoing for months have not succeeded in changing the concept of the security command which has not yet comprehended the hefty price the country is paying for regional reinforcements. Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of dollars are being transferred from the national treasury to build military forces, cover the activities of the Quds brigade and develop surface-to-surface missiles which are expected to be the reason for imposing more sanctions on Iran.
This Iranian activity is viewed as leading towards a collision. The millions spent will turn the engineer and executor of Iran’s foreign policy, i.e. Soleimani, into the man whose behaviour will lead to approving the framework of a new agreement that imposes additional sanctions on Tehran. The momentum of international investment which began last year has in fact decreased, and it’s expected to be undermined due to concerns over the global financial system and worries of international companies regarding the consequences of additional sanctions.
Iran will continue to suffer from banking problems that will increase the international isolation it has suffered from in the past. Anyway, Iran will need Europe to go back to negotiations either in terms of the nuclear agreement or in terms of an agreement with a different framework. Following months of disputes between the two hawks, France and Britain and European countries that are more moderate, like Germany, a unified European front has now emerged in terms of a policy towards Iran. Europe agrees to keep the nuclear deal despite American pressure; however it is fully aware that Iranian military activity which is led by Soleimani cannot be ignored. This harmonizes with the general atmosphere in Washington which is demanding imposing new sanctions on Iran due to its ballistic missiles and regional destructive activities.
An American politician involved in the matter told me that the comprehensive agreement between all these parties is an important wake-up call and a chance for the Iranian people to take to the street and also a chance for reformist powers and Rouhani to halt Soleimani’s activities and save Iran from falling back into complete isolation and the consequences which this shall entail.
Iran depends on three militias to expand and “export the revolution.” The first and most important militia and probably the most successful one is Hezbollah in Lebanon. The second one is the Islamized Hamas militia in Gaza while the third, and which is so far considered the weakest, is the Houthi militia in Yemen.
Iran’s Three Militias
Among these militias, Hezbollah is the strongest and it’s due to former prime minister Rafiq Hariri who approved to disarm all the factions fighting in the Lebanese civil war except for Hezbollah; thus allowing it almost complete control over Lebanese territory. Thanks to Iran’s financial support, the priorities of Hamas, the terrorist militia in Gaza, focused on paving way for the Persian expansion after which they will liberate Palestine from the river to the sea as they claim. Hamas greatly contributed in turning the Palestinian cause into the “shirt of Uthman” which the Iranians use to extend their expansive influence in Arab countries.
The third militia is the Houthi Militia which belongs to the Zaidi sect but it’s oriented towards Jarudiyah branch which is a very small percentage of the Zaidi sect in North Yemen. Their percentage ranges between 5 to 10% of the Yemeni people, and they almost have no influence over people in South Yemen.
Avoiding the Lebanese Scenario
Due to objective reasons, Saudi Arabia and the UAE cannot allow repeating Lebanon’s mistake, i.e. replicate Hezbollah’s model in Yemen. The war in Yemen may last for 10 years or more and so be it as the Houthis’ victory there means that Iran would be at our south. The Saudi people and government totally and irrevocably reject this regardless of any pressure or arguments under the pretext that the Yemeni war destroyed everything like human rights organizations, which are generously funded by the Qatari regime, claim.
The Saudis do not reject a political solution, but they strictly reject that the political solution in Yemen resembles the solution reached during the Lebanese civil war. Hezbollah was allowed to keep its weapons thus becoming the strongest party with no competitor after the civil war ended in Lebanon. The political solution in Yemen should thus begin with the Houthi militias’ handover of their weapons to the national army which represents all the Yemeni people and not only one category. Iran of course rejects this - and the Houthis consequently do as well – because the Houthis’ coup mainly aimed to let it have the final word when directing decisions. This goal helps the Houthis achieve what they are fighting for. This is also what mainly obstructs any political solution to the ongoing war.
That’s why I believe that the political solution suggested by the Houthis is impossible and it will not be accepted by the Yemeni legitimacy or the coalition members, especially Saudi Arabia, even if the entire world takes their side. Saudi Arabia and the coalition states do not mind forming a consensus government in which the Houthis are represented as a political movement and not as a military militia. The unpoliticised national Yemeni army will be the one to protect this consensus while everyone, including the Houthis, contributes to it like all other parties.
Here lies the complex that will eventually require the coalition countries to impose their perspective of a political solution with the force of arms. This is the only option.