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Middle East Press (28 Mar 2018 NewAgeIslam.Com)



PA The Biggest Loser in Failure of ‘Peace Process’ By Ramzy Baroud: New Age Islam’s Selection, 28 March 2018

 

 

 

 

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

28 March 2018

PA The Biggest Loser in Failure of ‘Peace Process’

By Ramzy Baroud

 Iran Will Come To Regret Its Destructive Policies

By Fahad Nazer

Chances of a US-Russia Confrontation Set for a Significant Increase

By Maria Dubovikova

Iranian People Are Ready To Usher In a ‘New Day’

By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

One Step at a Time

By Tariq A. Al-Maeena

Houthis Can No Longer Get Away With Playing the Victim

By Faisal J. Abbas

Qatar Takes One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

By Sawsan Al Shaer

Iranian Missiles on the Anniversary of the Yemen War

By Abdulrahman al-Rashed

What Should Qatar Do To Resolve the Gulf Crisis, 'Post-Rexit'

By Sultan Barakat

Are We Witnessing A 'New Scramble For Africa'?

By Ahmed H Adam

GCC Should Now Lobby US over Turkey’s Red Sea Military Ambitions

By Martin Jay

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau

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PA The Biggest Loser in Failure of ‘Peace Process’

By Ramzy Baroud

27 March 2018

The “deal of the century” is a farce. We suspected that, of course, but, upon his return from Washington, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed in more detail why the long-anticipated US plan has no basis in reality. Netanyahu told his cabinet there are “no concrete details” to report on the White House peace plan. One has to suspect that the “plan” was, all along, the US disavowal of the so-called peace process and the dropping of the “honest peace broker” act.

In fact, that much has been achieved, especially with the US decision last December to accept Israel’s illegal annexation of East Jerusalem by agreeing to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Since then, Israel has initiated a clear strategy to annex the West Bank. Its top officials are contending that the “two-state solution” is not even deserving of a conversation. “We are done with that,” said Israel’s Education Minister Naftali Bennett in remarks to students in New York. “They have a Palestinian state in Gaza.”

The Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas was, thus, left in an inviable position. It is lashing out left and right, convulsing like a wounded animal.

It is hard to imagine that, at the moment, Abbas is orbiting within a grand strategy of any kind. Random statements and attacks on his Palestinian rivals, the Israelis and the Americans — mostly for betraying him — is all that seems to keep his name in the news. “May God demolish his home,” was one of the statements attributed to the Palestinian leader in response to President Donald Trump’s decision regarding Jerusalem. That was on January 14. A few days ago, Abbas referred to David Friedman, the ardently right-wing and pro-Israel US ambassador to Israel, as a “son of a dog.” Friedman is an avid supporter of the illegal Jewish settlements, but name-calling is not a promising sign of a constructive Palestinian strategy.

Abbas feels beleaguered, disowned by Washington and a victim of an elaborate US-Israeli plot that has cost Palestinians precious time and much land, while leaving Abbas with nothing but an embarrassing political legacy. He is not necessarily angry because the US has betrayed its role in the “peace process.” He is angry because he has, for years, perceived himself as a member of the American camp of “moderates” in the Middle East. Now, however, he matters not. The US government is notorious for betraying its allies.

The US, now run by the most pro-Israel administration in years, has no role for Abbas to play. They renounced him, and carried on to imagine a “solution” in Palestine that only serves the interests of Israel. A recent meeting, chaired by leading pro-Israel officials in Washington, including Jared Kushner, was dubbed a “brainstorming session” on how to solve the Gaza crisis. No Palestinian was involved in the conference.

Since Abbas had hung all his hopes on Washington, he is left with no plan B. The Europeans don’t have the will, desire or political clout to replace the US. They have often served as lackeys to US foreign policy, and it would not be easy, if at all possible, for any European government to replace the US as the new “honest peace broker.”

Abbas’ popularity — and that of the PA — among Palestinians is negligible. In fact, 70 percent of Palestinians want him to step down immediately, according to a poll conducted last December. Yet, at 83 and suffering from ill health, Abbas is still holding on tightly to his chair.

It may appear that, during this time of political uncertainty and isolation, it would be advantageous for Abbas to reach out to other Palestinian factions. However, the opposite is true. Abbas is accusing his main rival, Hamas, of an assassination attempt on PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.

After a promising agreement, signed in Cairo between Fatah — Abbas’ party — and Hamas in October last year, all hopes have been dashed once more. In a joint conference with visiting Bulgarian President Rumen Radev in Ramallah last week, Abbas proclaimed: “The Gaza Strip has been hijacked by Hamas. They must immediately hand over everything, first and foremost security, to the Palestinian national consensus government.”

What “national consensus government” is Abbas referring to? There have been no general elections since Hamas won a parliamentary majority in 2006, while Abbas himself rules on an expired mandate.

Oddly, it is the conflict between Abbas and Hamas that is allowing both sides to impose themselves on the Palestinian public, which is left disenchanted, practically leaderless and facing the brunt of occupation and apartheid on its own. Instead of mending fences with the Palestinian people, Abbas continues with his political one-man show, encouraged by his enablers in the PA, who are equally responsible for the havoc wreaked by the US and Israeli governments.

Still, the Palestinian leadership (whether in the PA or the PLO) continues its desperate attempts to resuscitate the “peace process.” They are lonely warriors in a political illusion that has been abandoned even by its own masters.

For Abbas and the PA, participating in the US-led project was the final bridge they hoped would not be burned. However, the decision to relocate the US Embassy signaled that the last bridge was indeed up in flames — but Abbas is yet to be convinced of this obvious reality.

From American and Israeli viewpoints, the “peace process” could be considered a success. It allowed the US to define the political agenda in the Middle East and for Israel to shape the physical reality of the Occupied Territories in any way it found suitable.

The Palestinian leadership has emerged as the biggest loser. It first sat at the negotiation table to talk of borders, refugees, water, territories and Jerusalem, only to be left with nothing. It has lost both credibility and legitimacy. The space in which it was permitted to negotiate has withered year after year.

The Palestinian people must reflect on this current harsh reality, but also hope for a new beginning predicated on unity, the re-articulating of national priorities, and a new strategy.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1274426

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Iran Will Come To Regret Its Destructive Policies

By Fahad Nazer

27 March 2018

It is now more than three years since a 10-nation coalition led by Saudi Arabia launched Operation Decisive Storm to help restore the internationally recognized government of Yemen, led by President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, after Houthi rebels took up arms and forced Hadi out of the capital Sana’a by force.

Although the Iranian-supported Houthis have since lost much of the territory they occupied — and have very little support to speak of inside Yemen and virtually none in the international community — they continue be completely disinterested in helping bring the conflict to an end. Not only do they continue to demonstrate, in both word and deed, a total disregard for the safety and wellbeing of the people of Yemen, they continue to violate international laws related to the conduct of war in a flagrant fashion.

On Sunday, the Houthis decided to usher in a dangerous and, from the perspective of Saudi Arabia, unacceptable phase in the conflict. This clear escalation was in the form of seven missiles that were launched against civilian targets, including airports, inside Saudi Arabia. Three missiles targeted the capital Riyadh.

This latest egregious violation of international laws and United Nations resolutions related to the conflict make two realities clear: The Houthis have no interest in bringing the conflict in Yemen to an end, and Iran continues to support the Houthis by providing them with missiles, technology and launchers that they simply did not possess at the beginning of the conflict, nor did they have the technological knowhow to deliver.

According to Saudi, American and other officials, Iran is supplying these weapons most likely for the sole purpose of launching them against Saudi targets. The Saudi leadership, especially Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also the minister of defense, has made it clear that Iran will not be allowed to continue to destabilize the region by turning the Houthis into yet another militant group that seeks to impose its will by force on an entire Arab country, the way Iran did in Lebanon with Hezbollah.

Following Sunday’s late-night missile launches, Turki Al-Maliki, the spokesperson for the Coalition Forces to Support the Legitimate Government in Yemen, stated that, according to the Coalition Air Defense Forces, seven ballistic missiles were fired into the Kingdom from within Yemeni territory. Speaking in a fairly detailed manner, Al-Maliki said the seven missiles had various targets in different regions of the Kingdom. Three were fired in the direction of Riyadh, one toward Khamis Mushait in the southwest, one along the southern border targeting Najran, two aiming for the southern city of Jizan, and “one was randomly launched with the intent of hitting a densely populated civilian area.” He also confirmed that all seven missiles were intercepted and destroyed.

The spokesperson added that the interceptions resulted in fragments raining down on a few residential neighbourhoods, leading to the death of an Egyptian resident, as well as material damage to civilian areas.

As I have argued before in the pages of this publication, Iran and its client militant, non-state actors have shown repeatedly that they will not adhere to the norms, conventions and laws of the international community. While Iranian officials, especially Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, routinely pay lip service to respecting international agreements and periodically even feign interest in multilateral arrangements to help bring stability to the region, Iran’s actions always bely its words. On the other hand, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir has famously and repeatedly said there are two issues over which Saudi Arabia will not compromise: “Our faith and security.”

Under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed, Saudi Arabia has shown that it does not engage in empty rhetoric, especially when it comes to its security. The Houthi rebels’ attacks on Sunday are not an indication of an ascendant power but rather a desperate attempt to suggest their defeat is not imminent when, in reality, they simply cannot survive given their isolation both domestically and globally.

It is Iran that is keeping them from collapsing completely, but that too is not sustainable. The Saudi leadership has issued several clear warnings to Iran not to continue its destabilizing activities in the region and not to think it will be allowed to threaten the security of the Kingdom by its continued support of the Houthis. It is only a matter of time before Iran regrets its nefarious activities. Much like its client Houthis, its destructive policies will come to an end sooner or later.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1274441

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One Step at a Time

By Tariq A. Al-Maeena

27 March 2018

Jeddah is undergoing massive transformation in the sense that it has begun holding world-class events with vigour. The intent is to help heighten Jeddah’s various economic and commercial venues and interests, and that all preparations are in place to receive the huge number of tourists and visitors to the historic city.

With summer fast approaching, it is expected that the number of visitors will break all previous records and indeed all preparations had taken place to welcome the large numbers of visitors.

For some inexplicable reason, that zeal and fervor in the actual effort of trying to make our city look somewhat better and more appealing to our visitors does not match up to the excitement of those planning the events, and somehow seems to escape the attention of those busily engaged in drawing up such plans.

To drive home the point, I have included an observation by a resident European lady by what she sees during her daily walks along Jeddah’s sidewalks. She writes:

“During my routine, I pass almost daily in front of the former office building of the Jeddah Governor. The building is nice, but since the day the Governor moved to his new office building no care was taken anymore of it and the garden. Meanwhile trees died, grass and weeds are growing. Why not take care of this building and preserve it, or use it for something else instead of letting it just go to ruin?

“Opposite this building there is a park... It is still being used by families but has become quite a dangerous playground for children as stones and glass splinters are lying around, plants are not really taken care of, and there are some deep holes in the grass. It shows a complete lack of proper maintenance.

“For the litter decorating the park instead of pretty colored flowers, the people should also share the blame along with the authorities as it is an unfortunate fact that people use the whole city as a waste bin. I agree that there are not enough waste bins around. Waste bins could even be decorative and beautiful as can be seen in the Nusa Dua area in Bali; waste bins in the form of all sorts of animals and decorative art, to invite people to use them. The behavior of some of the inhabitants here displays a lack of respect toward other people. Another question still arises in this context: Why let go to wreck and ruin a stylish historic building with its garden on one side of the road and on the other side try to create a real park?

“Back to my daily walking with eyes wide open: dirt, rubbish is everywhere, drain covers are missing (a phenomenon I encountered only a few months back, but I notice it today with increasing frequency), bushes are crowding into the sidewalks preventing people easy passageway and forcing them to walk on the street. Instead of nice plants one comes across road-sign poles bent and lying on the ground.

“Furthermore, since the lack of respect shows everywhere, drivers often block pedestrian by leaving their cars on the sidewalk with the same effect for pedestrians: the only place left to walk is the street. Is there any responsible person to inspect the status of the streets, sidewalks, parks and buildings? Or are these responsible people just sitting on the green desk? Can anything be done towards the lack of respect and love for their environment,” she concluded. Words spoken through the eyes of a visitor, albeit a long-term one!

If indeed we are to provide “quality events that match the soaring reputation of Jeddah as a pioneering city of festivals not only in the region but on an international level,” shouldn’t more coordination be made with the appropriate authorities to clean and fix the rubble in the city first prior to the influx of our visitors?

Or would such steps be dismissed as someone else’s job.

Source: saudigazette.com.sa/article/531434/Opinion/OP-ED/One-step-at-a-time

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Chances of a US-Russia Confrontation Set for a Significant Increase

By Maria Dubovikova

27 March 2018

The recent series of firings and appointments in the American administration have come quicker than expected. After the sudden dismissal of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, US President Donald Trump appointed conservative politician and hardliner John Bolton as national security adviser, triggering mixed reactions. Bolton’s appointment as successor to H.R. McMaster has created an earth-shaking outcome worldwide, especially as the US government was already heading in a hawkish direction with the appointment of Mike Pompeo as Tillerson’s replacement.

From the beginning of the Trump era, Bolton was named as a candidate for foreign affairs or national security. Although he was previously ruled out by Trump, the president had many times voiced his appreciation of Bolton’s approach to Iran and North Korea. While Trump’s foreign policy remains motivated by his “America First” motto, Bolton’s appointment came after Pompeo had already bolstered the hawkish pro-war neocon camp in the White House.

Are these appointments indicating a strike against North Korea? Are they a signal for ripping up the nuclear deal with Iran? Both Bolton and Pompeo favor a hard line approach to Pyongyang, possibly even a pre-emptive strike, and are for cancelling rather than amending the Iran deal.

The selection of Bolton means that the US is probably seeking to impose more sanctions on Russia following President Vladimir Putin’s election victory. Pompeo, US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and Bolton are all similar in their attitude toward Iran. They call on ending the pact with Tehran and even toppling the regime as they see no prospect of reforming the nuclear deal, which is deemed a strategic disaster for the US.

Thus, the three recent changes in the American administration — including the appointment of Gina Haspel as Pompeo’s successor as director of the CIA — means three hawkish officials will be dealing with North Korea and Iran in a harsh manner. All of this means the serious rise in tensions between Moscow and Washington in the Middle East and globally will continue. The three partisans all support US military involvement in conflicts, adopting regime change in rival countries, and the use of hawkish rhetoric.

It is important to remember that Bolton served as under secretary of state under George W. Bush, was the US ambassador to the United Nations between 2005 and 2006, and was one of the signatories to a letter sent to Bush shortly after 9/11, which publicly called for the US to launch a unilateral war to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Despite the disastrous outcome of that intervention, Bolton continues to boast that the Iraq War a right step.

Both Pompeo and Bolton reject the nuclear deal with Iran. Last August, Bolton presented a plan to rip up the agreement and to blacklist the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for its terrorist activities. Thus, the three new appointments will support Iranian opposition forces in bringing about regime change, and will back imposing comprehensive sanctions that cripple the Iranian economy.

The views from Iran about these appointments are that the US seeks to humiliate an arch-enemy. However, this may have negative repercussions if Iran seeks Russian and Chinese support, leading to limited regional clashes that could lead to international involvement in the region on a larger scale.

The American appointments are considered an enhancement of its security approach, with Washington set to become more extreme and less rational. With the new White House team, there is a growing belief that the administration will not endorse the Iran agreement and will renew all US sanctions on Tehran, meaning Iran will likely act on its threat to resume the production of highly enriched uranium within five days of the deal being revoked. This will drive the whole region to a nuclear arms race.

Britain, France and Germany had proposed new EU sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile program and its role in the Syrian war in order to ensure the US will not revoke the nuclear deal or impose any further sanctions. This means further concessions from Iran, which Tehran will not accept.

The scene is generally viewed as being set for further tension. The US announced last December that it was working to build an international coalition to counter Iran’s behavior, calling on all countries to join it in facing down the Iranian threat and indicating that the international community should act before Iran becomes like North Korea.

Surprisingly, Russian reaction to the appointment of these hawkish figures in the White House has been quite reserved, with Moscow asserting that it is ready for constructive dialogue. Furthermore, during a question and answer session on an official visit in Hanoi, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov shared his personal views regarding the personality of Bolton. Lavrov characterized him as “a professional” and “a tough diplomat and politician.” Lavrov added that “after he resigned (as ambassador to the UN), he remained active in politics and we called each other from time to time.”

Russia continues to hope that the US might start constructive dialogue with Moscow on the burning issues of the international agenda, but current trends show that the process is moving in the opposite direction. With neocon hawks such as Bolton and Pompeo in place, the White House will be far less careful in its foreign policy decisions, endangering the world by escalating conflicts and further destabilizing war zones. The chances of a Russia-US confrontation will increase significantly as the issues surrounding Syria, Iran and North Korea are less likely to be settled though dialogue as the US administration closes the door on talks.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1274436

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Iranian People Are Ready To Usher In a ‘New Day’

By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

27 March 2018

For many of Iran’s democratic activists and for much of the expatriate community, there was a growing sense of optimism as they celebrated the Iranian new year last week. Specifically, there are signs that the coming year could herald an era of freedom from the theocratic regime that has been ruling the country for 39 long years.

That optimism is being built, in large part, on the foundation of mass protests that quickly spread throughout the country in late December and January. Every major town and city was affected, and the movement represented an expansion of pro-democratic actions to demographics that were once thought to be inert and either disinterested in politics or even supportive of the clerical regime.

The uprising conclusively debunked that myth. Not only did farmers and the rural poor participate in the demonstrations, they also helped to popularize much bolder slogans than those which characterized the urban middle class movement in 2009. Protesters in the past few months have risked execution by chanting “death to the dictator” and telling both factions of the Iranian political establishment that “the game is over.” And some did indeed pay the ultimate price, with approximately 50 people having been killed in the streets by security forces, with several others tortured to death while in police custody.

But, as many experts have observed, these acts of repression only serve to make a renewed uprising more likely, and more imminent. Iran’s pro-democratic resistance movement continues to drive protests and global outreach aimed at exposing the government’s abuses, securing the release of political prisoners, and keeping alive the promise of regime change. Consequently, the clerical establishment is feeling the heat, and its chances of suppressing the next mass uprising seem increasingly slight.

Insofar as the demonstrations in December and January gave rise to explicit calls for a change of government, they also gave voice to popular support for the resistance movement, as led by the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). In the face of that challenge, the regime’s violently repressive response was highly predictable. What was surprising, however, was its uncharacteristic admission of vulnerability when Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei acknowledged the leading role that the PMOI had played in planning and carrying out the nationwide protests.

The relevant statement on January 9 exposed a kind of anxiety that remains pronounced in the regime’s establishment to this day. On March 11, Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, admitted that Khamenei’s main concerns included the persistence of domestic unrest and the internal situation of the IRGC in the days and months ahead. Although funding for the hard-line paramilitary group has been greatly expanded in recent years, even during the tenure of the supposedly moderate President Hassan Rouhani, the IRGC and other repressive forces have proven incapable of keeping ahead of popular demands for change.

Even before January’s uprising, thousands of protests and other instances of activism were recorded throughout the Islamic Republic over the past year. Since then, there has been a series of long, confrontational labor protests, and bold calls by the PMOI for mass gatherings in the run up to the new year celebration of Nowruz.

In her new year message, the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), Maryam Rajavi, gave voice to the growing recognition of the regime’s vulnerability and the chances of a democratic transformation of Iranian society. Rajavi said: “Last year ended with the season of uprising, and the coming year can and must be turned into a year full of uprisings. And this is going to be an uprising until victory.” According to Rajavi: “The critical situation of the mullahs’ regime is a product of the Iranian people’s historic resistance. The Iranian people have never accepted this regime. The time is up for protecting this decadent regime and the uprising will continue until final victory.”

The NCRI president called attention to Khamenei’s admission that “the force inciting protests in Iran is the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran.”

Meanwhile, the optimism has been spreading across the globe, not only among Iranian expatriates but also among their supporters in Western policy circles. The PMOI has a large and growing network of non-partisan supporters, and this fact testifies to the real threat the organization and its affiliates pose to the clerical regime. A number of those supporters attended a major event in Tirana, Albania, that was attended by thousands of PMOI members on the occasion of Nowruz. Rudy Giuliani, former Mayor of New York and advisor to the US president on cyber security, said in a speech at that event: “You are the vision for the future of Iran. You are Madame Rajavi. I have a very simple message for the Iranian regime. Their future is in hell.” He added: “The right policy on Iran by any decent government in the world is regime change in Iran.”

It remains only for Western governments as a whole to set policy in accordance with these sentiments.

It is all but certain that the Iranian people will rise up again in opposition to the clerical regime. The international community must be ready to stand on the side of the Iranian people and the resistance and to make certain that those people retain access to the internet and social media, which were so instrumental in the astonishingly rapid and expansive spread of the January uprising. This will in turn make it easier for the world to recognize the abuses that the regime visits upon its restive population, and to hold Iranian officials accountable.

With this type of support from the free world, the Iranian people and the organized resistance movement could soon have an unprecedented opportunity to realize the promise that is inherent in the literal translation of Nowruz: A “new day” for an ancient civilization — one that has long been ready to enter an age of secular democracy and civic freedom.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1274381

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Houthis Can No Longer Get Away With Playing the Victim

By Faisal J. Abbas

26 March 2018

Yet again, the Houthi militias aimed their missiles at Riyadh; and yet again, their cowardly attack, aimed deliberately at seven million civilians, was successfully intercepted by Saudi air defense forces.

This is not the first time these barbaric religious fanatics have targeted Saudi cities. In fact, we should all remember that these terrorists — whose official slogans are “Death to America” and “Death to the Jews” — had previously launched missile attacks that were intercepted near Makkah, the Saudi city that is home to the holiest site for two billion Muslims throughout the world.

Cynics would say that this is the price Saudi Arabia has to pay for interfering in Yemen. They forget that the Riyadh-led Arab coalition is fighting a war on behalf of the international community, and indeed all of humanity. They forget that the intervention came at the request of a UN-backed legitimate government that was overthrown by these thugs. They also forget that, had it not been for the sacrifices of the brave Saudi and Arab coalition soldiers, civilian lives, Islam’s two holy shrines and the world’s biggest oil reserves would have been at risk.

Cynics would also argue that the Arab coalition has blood on its hands. That is true. However, there is a world of difference between military strikes in Yemen that accidentally cause civilian deaths, and the deliberate — and repeated — targeting of residential areas, which is what the Houthis are perpetrating against Saudi Arabia.  

Another major difference is that when the Arab coalition makes a mistake, it investigates and issues a report on the findings. It also introduces measures to ensure that such errors do not occur again. The same cannot be argued for the Houthi thugs, who are driven by the hope that their indiscriminate terrorist tactics will strike fear into the hearts of Saudis, and prevent them from leading their normal lives.

Well, the bad news for the Houthis is that they seem to have underestimated the resilience of the Saudi people. With each and every attack, our support and appreciation of our armed forces increases. With every failed missile they fire, we become more determined to turn our ambitious reform plans into a success. The Houthis preach death; our leadership wants us to live better.

More importantly, attacks that deliberately target Saudi civilians will rid the Houthis of their most effective weapons — playing the underdog and playing the victim. Human rights groups such as Amnesty International are now finally condemning these indiscriminate attacks.

The only people who appear to remain unconvinced are the Al Jazeera Arabic news channel. Their biased reporting, and justifications of the Houthis’ conduct, is shameful. The Qatari broadcaster seems to have forgotten that Qatar itself was part of the Arab coalition, until its participation was ended last year when the Anti-Terror Quartet (Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt) cut off diplomatic ties.  I wonder if Al Jazeera — and some Qatari commentators — would take the same view if the Houthi missiles were raining down on Doha.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1274086

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Qatar Takes One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

By Sawsan Al Shaer

27 March 2018

The Gulf will never allow Qatar to be ripped from it, regardless of its behavior and how astray it goes. The Gulf will always embrace Qatar.

The shortest way to get somewhere is through a direct route. My advice is to seize the opportunity and not further complicate the matter for itself.

Qatar has recently acknowledged that it shelters 20 terrorists and 8 terrorist entities on its territories. Then it said that this list is nothing new but publishing it is! When did Qatar ever say that ISIS-Sinai Province (ISIS-SP) is a terrorist group? This is the first time that Doha describes the groups which are practicing terrorism in Egypt, and in Sinai in particular, as terrorists. The list is thus new but Doha continues to play arrogant.

Then through a tweet by Hamad bin Jassim, he hinted that the acceptance of the solution might be in Riyadh and we don’t know how he would later retract from his statement. Will he also claim that his account was hacked?

Why take this long route? Haven’t the Qatari regime learned audacity, frankness and direct talk? Hasn’t it realized that our problem with is originally due to it endless elusive tactics? If Doha has kept its word and committed to it, there wouldn’t have been any problems.

Why does it think that being devious can succeed? Why is Doha overcomplicating this for itself and its people? Hasn’t Qatar realized that it no longer poses a problem for the Anti-Terror Quartet after it decided to boycott it to “shut the door from which the wind blew”?

Now, after the dismissal of Rex Tillerson as secretary of state and the appointment of John Bolton as national security advisor, Qatar will not be included in any agenda or discussed in any meeting between US officials and any officials from the quartet.

The Qatari regime’s trial balloons to observe reactions to the possibility of "a partial solution" are a waste of time. They actually show that the regime hasn’t learnt anything and also prolong the crisis. There is no difference between this time and previous tricks, including their “pledge” to implement and this ended in 2014. Hamad bin Khalifa said it himself that it was over after King Abdullah died and gave himself the right to betray the pledges made. So how can we guarantee or respect any future pledges Qatar makes? After violating signed agreements, what sort of verbal reassurances can Doha offer us?

Qatar cannot resolve this crisis via partial solutions such as by buying cattle, buying Neymar and football clubs, or pasting posters on cabs in London or even buying votes in the congress and pursuing planes and threatening navigation. Qatar spent billions on these deceitful approaches and it was all in vain. The solution has, since day one, been to implement all the demands of the anti-terror quartet and then sit down in Riyadh.

Very Simple, Easy Solution

Qatar widened the gap with the quartet after Azmi Bishara tempted it to resume its policies. Bishara managed the crisis for Qatar while taking his own agenda – which Doha has not yet realized – into account. He kept Doha away from us and separated it from its embrace. He drowned Qatar and complicated its process of swimming back to the surface.

The solution was actually very simple and easy, and it would have greatly benefitted Doha and rectified the deteriorating situation caused by those who had managed to convince Qatar that it will one day rule the Arab order. At the beginning, the quartet was still lenient while addressing its disputes with Doha but Bishara advised the latter to expand the circle of dispute and gave it hope that Donald Trump will be removed. He also misguided Qatar into thinking that its money can solve the crisis. Days went by, Qatar has wasted billions and it has now found itself back to square one!

One last advice to Qatar: Do not wait any longer to resolve the crisis because this will only widen the gap. Do not expect that there will be negotiations and verbal commitments. They’ve tried this before but it didn’t work. Wise men once said: The shortest distance between two points is a straight line

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2018/03/27/Qatar-takes-one-step-forward-two-steps-back.html

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Iranian Missiles on the Anniversary of the Yemen War

By Abdulrahman al-Rashed

27 March 2018

The seven ballistic missiles which were fired by the Houthis towards four Saudi cities confirm that it was right to wage this war. The incident also validates all these warnings against Iran’s threats in the region, as it is Tehran that is smuggling missiles to Yemen and managing their launch towards Saudi Arabia.

Sunday’s attack marked the largest attack on Saudi Arabia ever since Iran sought to control Yemen three years ago. Seven missiles were launched towards the kingdom but despite this number of missiles and the distance they crossed, the operation was nothing more than a show. The four missiles in Riyadh’s skies resembled fireworks. It’s no coincidence that these missiles were fired on the third anniversary of the military campaign launched to confront the coup staged by the Houthis and former President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s forces and their seizure of Yemen. All seven missiles failed to hit any vital target and actually helped the Saudi government remind everyone that the war against the Houthis and those allied with them is a war of necessity.

The Houthis currently control around one fourth of Yemen. However the Houthis are governing these areas, including their stronghold Saada, with great difficulty. The Houthi militias had seized the entire of Yemen all the way to Aden in the South forcing the legitimate government led by President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi to flee from Aden to Oman and then to Saudi Arabia. If the military campaign had not been launched, all of Yemen, and not just one fourth of it, and its ports and airports, would have been under Iran’s influence.

In that case Iran would have been able to launch thousands of ballistic and traditional missiles towards Saudi Arabia.

Political Efforts Are Not Enough

Those who condemn the military campaign on its third anniversary must imagine if Yemen, or most of Yemen, is still under the control of the Houthis and the other insurgents. The situation would be horrific! It would be worse and more dangerous for both Yemen and Saudi Arabia, and it would have led to war on a wider scale, bigger than what we witnessed in the past 36 months.

Launching the seven missiles towards Saudi Arabia was a propaganda show; however, it does not prove that the Houthis have any superior capabilities and rather proves their incapability to use these missiles as they want. It also proves that the quarter of the territories in North Yemen must be militarily liberated and it’s not enough to just rely on political efforts. These areas in the North are densely-populated mountainous and rugged areas where the insurgents use civilian neighborhoods to shield themselves from airstrikes.

The missile attack, which killed one and injured two others, confirms that Saudi Arabia, along with the coalition, must resume the path to Sanaa, liberate Yemen from the Houthis’ control and restore Yemen as a state with a central authority led by a legitimate government. All the attempts to convince the coalition to halt military operations and activate a political solution were proven wrong and that they can lead to dangerous consequences. The Houthis and the Iranians are currently struggling to smuggle missiles. The number of these missiles is limited due to the ongoing battles. The seven missiles recently launched and others launched before them were mostly randomly fired as a result of the coalition’s military activity that purses the Houthis in areas they control.

Any perception of political negotiations that halts or decreases military work actually achieves what the Houthis want to rearrange their situation on the ground and get arms and fuel supplies. Iran has condemned itself, via its Houthi proxy, before the UN’s new envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths. Due to the missile attack on Saudi Arabia, Griffiths now sees that a political solution cannot be based on granting the Houthis any political concessions outside the framework of the original political project, which calls for participating in governance only under the legitimate government and calls for withdrawing all arms in the possession of warring parties that are not part of legitimate forces.

A political solution that grants the Houthis or others tutelage over some Yemeni areas, or lets them keep their arms, or allows them a larger political stake, cannot be justified.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2018/03/27/Iranian-missiles-on-the-anniversary-of-the-Yemen-war.html

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What Should Qatar Do To Resolve The Gulf Crisis, 'Post-Rexit'

By Sultan Barakat

27 March 2018

Rexit - the firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Mike Pompeo's nomination as his replacement - has unnerved many in Qatar, but was applauded by pundits in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This difference in reaction was based on the assumption that Secretary Pompeo would be less likely to push for a resolution to the Gulf crisis. Also, experts in the region speculated that without Tillerson's balancing act, the Trump administration would start favouring Saudi Arabia and the UAE against Qatar in the ongoing crisis.

The optimism of Saudi Arabia and the UAE is misplaced, however. Following Tillerson's sacking, the Department of State may initially take some actions in favour of their camp, but this phase will not last long enough for them to exploit the situation, given the expressly anti-Muslim, "clash of civilisations" rhetoric evinced by Pompeo, former chief of the CIA. As he establishes himself in that post, his contempt for Arabs and Muslims is unlikely to allow him to distinguish Saudis and Emiratis from others.

Trump prefers a stalemate in the conflict

With or without Tillerson, the Trump administration has several reasons for not viewing the Gulf crisis as a strategic priority, as they recognise that the stalemate serves at least three main domestic objectives outlined by the president.

First, the crisis is helping Trump achieve his goal of putting "America First" and creating jobs by driving an arms race between rich Gulf states, encouraging them to make major purchases of weapons and military equipment. In fact, this increased emphasis on deterrence has led to the Middle East accounting for almost half of all US arms exports, with rich Gulf states the top customers.

Second, the ongoing crisis has caused Gulf states to start competing with each other to earn Washington's support, and most Gulf states believe that the shortest route to Trump's heart is via support for Israel. As a result, these states have fallen over themselves in their rush to establish and normalise relations with the Zionist state and its support groups in the US - even as Trump slapped them in the face with his decision to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem - allowing the president to meet another domestic commitment.

Third, with accusations of supporting "terrorism" at the heart of the crisis, Gulf states have started to compete with each other to look cleaner than clean on "terrorism". Gulf ministries, institutions and even NGOs have opened up their books to American eyes to an unprecedented extent. Meanwhile, the US and Saudi Arabia in March 2018 co-led a meeting of the little-known Terrorist Financing Targeting Center in Kuwait. This was the first time that senior Gulf state delegations met face to face to produce a common statement to counter "terrorist" financing.

An opportunity for resolution

That meeting went unnoticed because Gulf states were busy with an unprecedented PR battle that has ratcheted the crisis up several notches. On the one hand, Al Jazeera alleged that Khalifa bin Hamad, king of Bahrain, and Mohammad bin Zayed, crown prince of the UAE, were instrumental in the 1996 attempted coup in Qatar, while on the other hand, Al Arabiya claimed that Sheikh Hamad, former emir of Qatar and target of the attempted coup, played a role in the sudden death of his uncle, Sheikh Suhaim Al Thani in 1985.

This fever pitch of slander has, ironically, brought the conflict to ripeness. Acting as a scalpel, the events of the last couple of weeks have cut open a cyst that has been growing for over two decades. To turn these recriminations into an opportunity for resolution, Qatar must take three strategic steps:

First, Qatari leaders and media outlets should continue to exercise restraint in criticising Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, while avoiding forthright attacks on King Salman. Traditionally, the king of Saudi Arabia has resolved disputes in the Gulf, and the royal throne will likely be called upon to play a key role in any political settlement to end the blockade.

Second, while much attention has been placed on Mohamed bin Zayed, the alleged architect of the Gulf Crisis, moves should be made to reach out to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai. His measured, rational and pragmatic approach could be invaluable to mediation efforts. Also, Dubai has reason to want the crisis resolved quickly, as the current rift with Qatar could cause disruptions to the Dolphin Gas Project, which supplies much of its energy. Moreover, any major geopolitical shock to Iran could have major spillover effects on Dubai.

Third, Qatar should acknowledge that a stalemate suits the Trump administration and use the influence it has over the two issues of immediate concern to the president - Iran and the safety of US personnel in Afghanistan - to encourage the American leadership to take action to resolve the Gulf crisis. With hostile views towards Iran and its nuclear deal gaining ground in Washington, Qatar should leverage its links to Iran to engender negotiations, if only to allow Trump to feel that he has had his say about the deal. This issue is connected to the peace talks between the Taliban and the US, in which Qatar already plays a supporting role. Progress towards a peaceful settlement would reduce American military expenditure, and the risk American soldiers face in Afghanistan, reinforcing Trump's domestic agenda and the prospects for more serious US engagement in efforts to resolve the Gulf crisis.

Source: aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/qatar-resolve-gulf-crisis-post-rexit-180326104047661.html

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Are We Witnessing A 'New Scramble For Africa'?

By Ahmed H Adam

27 March 2018

The world's most powerful nations are once again competing for the control of the abundant natural resources of the African continent. Some analysts describe this phenomenon as a "new scramble for Africa" in reference to the first "scramble for Africa", which took place between 1881 and 1914 and resulted in powerful European nations dividing, occupying and colonising the continent.

Superpowers like the US, China and Russia, as well as some key European countries, and less powerful nations like Japan, India and Brazil are currently active in Africa. Some energy-rich Gulf countries are also racing to consolidate their investments on the continent, as they seek to expand their economies beyond oil and gas sectors.

Foreign military presence is also growing on the continent under the guise of counterterrorism efforts. Djibouti has agreed to host American naval and drone bases that conduct operations in the Horn of Africa and beyond. Many other nations have also established military bases in the country, including France - the former colonial power - Italy and Japan. The French military base in Djibouti is hosting troops from Germany and Spain. On the other hand, some of the parties to the GCC crisis, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have established military bases in Eritrea and Somaliland, while Somalia is hosting Turkish troops. Furthermore, the US has been increasingly involved in the fight against "terror" groups in the Sahel, providing arms and military training to the governments of the region.

At the moment, Africa does not have a serious, unified strategy or the institutional capacity to effectively respond to this so-called "new scramble for Africa". It is true that, in 2016, the African Union (AU) introduced an ambitious strategic framework called Agenda 2063 under the leadership of Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the former Chairperson of the AU Commission. But this agenda does not include a clear and coherent strategy on increasing foreign presence and competition in Africa. Furthermore, African leaders seem to lack the necessary political will to counter these efforts and protect the continent's vital interests. But all is not lost - Africa can still turn this situation around, reclaim its sovereign rights and take its rightful place on the world stage.

Trump's lack of interest in Africa

The United States is losing some ground against China in Africa, but it is still an influential foreign power on the continent.

For decades, it has invested billions of dollars in aid, health, development projects, and cultural and educational programmes. Furthermore, it supported peacekeeping, peacebuilding and humanitarian intervention operations. In return, it used Africa's immense natural resources to meet the needs of its industries.

However, since the 9/11 attacks, US activities in Africa have been shaped by the so-called "war on terror". Even US humanitarian aid to Africa has been linked to this agenda. Since 2007, AFRICOM, the US Africa Command, has been playing a major role in the fight against "terror groups" across the continent. Nevertheless, African countries have been reluctant to host AFRICOM as they are deeply suspicious of its agenda and feel it could undermine their sovereignty. For this reason, AFRICOM is based in Germany and not on the continent.

Moreover, Washington's policies on Africa are more enigmatic today than ever before.

Africa was not a foreign policy priority for the Obama administration, which focussed its efforts in the Middle East, and it is also not a priority for the current administration. Some key vacancies in the Department of State's Africa Bureau have not even been filled yet. Just like his predecessor, Trump's focus is currently on the Middle East. It is obvious that the new US president is not looking to form a meaningful, mutually beneficial partnership with Africa - he only wants to pursue narrow national interests, namely counterterrorism efforts and extraction of natural resources. 

Also, during his election campaign and after assuming office, Trump made several controversial remarks about Africa that were described by Africans and many others as insulting and racist. In January this year, it was claimed that Trump had referred to African nations as "sh****** countries". The president immediately denied using such vocabulary, but this remark has since turned into a symbol of his insulting attitude towards the African continent and its people. Even if Trump decides to make Africa a priority later in his tenure, he would be facing the gruelling challenge of gaining the trust and respect of African peoples.

Africa as a market opportunity for Russia

Russia is another key player in Africa. Earlier this month, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov went on an extensive Africa tour during which he visited Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia and Mozambique. In Ethiopia, he attended the joint ministerial committee that was established to advance bilateral relations between the two countries. Lavrov also met the chairperson of the AU in Addis Ababa.

It is quite revealing that Lavrov chose to visit only one East African country - Ethiopia - during his Africa tour. All the other countries he visited were Southern African countries that have huge natural resources like oil, uranium, copper, gold and cobalt. This shows that Russia's main priority in Africa is not reviving its Soviet-era prestige and influence, but extraction of natural resources.

But Russia is also investing in security and military projects in Africa. As the second-largest arms exporter in the world after the US, it sells billions of dollars in weapons annually across the continent. During his latest visit, Lavrov signed a defence cooperation agreement with Mozambique.

As a result of the sanctions that have been imposed on it by the US and Europe, Russia is now looking for new markets and seeking to make Africa one of its main export centres. All in all, Russia views Africa as a major trade opportunity and hopes to extend its influence in the continent rapidly.

China: the new dominant foreign power in Africa

As the world's second-largest economy, China has become Africa's most important and influential development and trade partner over the past two decades. China has no colonial past in Africa, in fact, like Russia, it supported Africa's liberation struggle in the mid-20th century. China's "clean" history in Africa makes it easier for the country to extend its influence in the region.

China's influence on the continent started to increase rapidly in 2000, after the establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). Since then, cooperation forums have been held every three years, and the next forum is scheduled to convene in Beijing later this year.

In 2000, the China-Africa trade volume was just $10bn. By 2014, the value of contracts that were undertaken by Chinese companies in Africa reached $75bn. In 2015, China pledged to invest a further $60bn in Africa to cover major collaborative projects on industrialisation, agricultural modernisation, infrastructure, finance, green development, trade and investment, poverty reduction, public welfare, public health, and peace and security.

Nevertheless, China's activities in Africa are under harsh criticism. For instance, the head of the US' National Trade Council, Peter Navarro, had accused China of "locking down strategic natural resources, locking up emerging markets and locking out the United States". Others criticised China for pursuing a "new form of colonialism" and "massive resource grab" in Africa. Furthermore, Chinese programs have an adverse impact on the environment.

How to respond to the 'new scramble for Africa'

Today, these three superpowers may be competing for influence in Africa, but the level of exploitation and cruelty caused by this rivalry does not amount to the atrocities committed during the original "scramble for Africa".

Africans still have a chance to successfully navigate the situation.

The AU should develop a coherent, unified and comprehensive strategy to deal with the three superpowers' competition over its natural resources and engage all three superpowers to cooperate with Africa instead of exploiting it. It should swiftly implement robust institutional reforms and start acting as the decisive power on the continent. Also, in order to resist any detrimental foreign interference and preserve their independence, dignity, and sovereignty, African states should work towards ending their financial dependency on the West and other international players. The continent's independent military capabilities should also be increased in order to have the ability to maintain peace and security without needing any help from foreign powers that undoubtedly have ulterior motives and conflicting interests.

Most importantly, African masses, civil society, youth and women groups should play a leading role in Africa's relations with the world - the era of gatekeepers must end. It is natural and vital that Africans engage with the world directly. There may be a "new scramble for Africa" under way, but this time, Africans can and should be the ones benefiting from the superpowers interest in their countries. The US, Russia and China - and any other foreign power - should only be allowed to operate in Africa as long as their actions are also beneficial for the continent.

Ahmed H Adam is a Research Associate at SOAS' School of Law, University of London.

Source: aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/witnessing-scramble-africa-180324124416405.html

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GCC Should Now Lobby US over Turkey’s Red Sea Military Ambitions

By Martin Jay

27 March 2018

How long will Trump’s patience hold out with Turkey particularly with the appointment of John Bolton who is clearly not a fan of President Recep Erdogan? Until now, GCC states, as well as Iraq have all been remarkably despondent to Turkey’s intervention in the region, despite reports that Qatar backed Turkey, with rumours of other neighbours supportive of Kurdish YPG forces in Afrin. Then there is the more recent somnolent stand by Iraq against Erdogan’s forces possibly moving into Sinjar region in pursuit of escaping PKK militants there.

Yet there are other plans by Turkey, which, if they don’t agitate America’s allies in the region, will certainly stir a hornet’s nest in Washington and finally place Turkey on a collision course with the Trump administration.

Since Afrin fell neatly into Erdogan's palm, the Turkish leader is making moves now to go ahead with his dream of being a regional power with its own hegemony - which of course is a dangerous thing – with Qatar as a key partner.

In recent months western press has little mentioned Turkey’s deal with Sudan, to effectively lease the historical Ottoman island of Suakin back to Turkey which has great plans for it to be a Red Sea military base – angering neighbouring Egypt which accuses Qatar of harbouring Muslim Brotherhood members. Qatar, it was always expected, would be a military partner on the Island and has already signed a $4bn deal with Sudan to develop and manage a port on the island, with a naval dock also planned to be constructed by Turkey.

Flexing Its Muscle

But this grandiose plan will also, in time, irritate neighbours when Turkey starts to flex its muscles in the Red Sea and starts to act as a regional power. Not only could such a move threaten to destabilize the Red Sea and Egypt’s Suez Canal but it will also create a problem for the Trump administration.

Turkey believes that it can use the location to leverage itself against both Egypt and Saudi Arabia – its regional foes who are weary of Ankara’s relations with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Yet Bolton's appointment of national security adviser might skupper such plans. His hatred of Turkey might push this issue up the agenda.

But equally, one might also ask is it time now for GCC countries to make their case to Washington to stop Turkey preparing to expand in the region? Should Washington intervene and derail Turkey’s plans of building its own military base on Suakin Island (which belongs to Sudan – a recipient of US aid) which can only, once operational, threaten Saudi Arabia and the entire region?

Turkey’s recent tumultuous period of Trump’s period in office has not stood it in good stead. There was the arrest of US consulate employees and the request from Erdogan that the US extradites Fethullah Gulen, Turkey’s prime suspect in the July 2016 attempted coup. In New York, a trial reached a guilty verdict against Turkish banker for evading US sanctions on Iran, which some say had Erdogan’s tacit approval. Turkey also leaked the secret locations of US forces in Syria, and when visiting the US in 2017 to meet President Trump, the Turkish leader’s personal guards clashed with protesters in Washington DC. Then there was the veiled threat by Erdogan to give US forces an “Ottoman slap”.

Not exactly a great impression for Trump’s people who never trusted Erdogan from the beginning anyway and now with Bolton – considered an extreme hawk among hawks – will all be aggregated negative collateral, perhaps contributing towards his recent comment against Erdogan.

Of course there are still questions over whether Iran will join Qatar and Turkey in its new foray into Red Sea superpower war games. But Iran and Russia are responsible for Erdogan’s new virility in the region as both allowed Turkish forces to take Afrin so as to tactically prevent Syria’s Assad from capturing one more inch of soil back, in a bid to clip his wings.

That same strategy may well be what is happening now in the Red Sea. Or perhaps Iran and Russia are playing a wait-n-see game. Certainly Russia has huge ambitions in the region and might consider being part of the Suakin gambit, or certainly supporting it as a counterweight to US hegemony in the Middle East in general. Yet Bolton’s admission in earlier articles that the US administration under Trump was confused about the YPG’s role in Syria and not seeing the problem with Turkey (which sees it as the PKK) is a clue that he will be a security adviser who wants to make corrections to Trump’s erroneous first year in office, which in the Middle East had to take on Obama’s strategies. But the Suakin Island was not part of that plan and Arab leaders should not dilly dally and hope Erdogan’s dream of restoring a modern Ottoman state in the region will vanish like mist over the Bosporus.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2018/03/27/GCC-should-now-lobby-US-over-Turkey-s-Red-Sea-military-ambitions.html

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