New Age Islam Edit Bureau
20 February 2016
Russia’s Monopoly on Intervention in
By Mshari Al Thaydi
What Are Our Priorities And Issues In
By Khaled Almaeena
How Long Will We Pay For Post-9/11
By Najat Alsaied
The Politics Of War Crimes In Syria
By James Denselow
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
Russia’s Monopoly On Intervention In
19 February 2016
The situation in Syria does not require
Russia to warn of World War III if the international community does not accept
Moscow’s point of view regarding the conflict. This is nothing more than a
crude threat that completes a mission started by the Russian military.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is alluding
to Turkish or Saudi intervention, meaning that Iran - distant in terms of
geography, religion and language - has the right to impose its Revolutionary
Guards and militias from Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon without this being
considered by Moscow as an attempt to trigger a world war.
Russia’s intervention aims to turn the tide
in favor of the Syrian regime, rather than fight the Islamic State of Iraq and
Syria (ISIS). Should we leave Russia and Iran to focus on striking the real
Syrian opposition that is fighting the regime?
Surrendering the country to Moscow and
Tehran means handing them the region, but the vast majority of its inhabitants
will reject their tyranny.
The cessation of hostilities in Syria,
agreed upon in Munich to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid, ended before
it began due to Russia’s insistence on continuing to shell Aleppo in order to
enable Kurdish militias to control the Turkish-Syrian border and prevent the
Syrian opposition from communicating with Turkey. All of this benefits Syrian
President Bashar al-Assad.
Moscow’s intervention is the dangerous one.
UNHCR spokesman Rupert Colville condemned Russian-Syrian airstrikes against
hospitals and schools in northern Syria, and the latest Russian strikes have
caused 50,000 Syrians to flee to the Turkish border. Another objective of
Moscow’s intervention is to pressure Turkey. The most serious threat would be
emptying northern Syrian for the benefit of sectarian displacement plans.
Turkey and Saudi Arabia will not tolerate
these existential risks. This is why Ankara said its determination to eradicate
this danger in northern Syria means doing whatever it takes. This intervention
must be U.S.-led under an international umbrella.
Russia takes pride in isolating the
national armed opposition in southern and northern Syria. Surrendering the
country to Moscow and Tehran means handing them the region, but the vast
majority of its inhabitants will reject their tyranny.
Saudi journalist Mshari Al Thaydi presents Al Arabiya News Channel’s
“views on the news” daily show “Maraya.” He has previously held the position
of a managing senior editor for Saudi Arabia & Gulf region at pan-Arab
newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. Al Thaydi has published several papers on political
Islam and social history of Saudi Arabia. He appears as a guest on several
radio and television programs to discuss the ideologies of extremist groups and
I recently received a call from a media
correspondent who asked me, among other things, what the priorities in our
country are and what issues prevail in the minds of the Saudi public. I cannot
speak for all, however I believe that any sensible citizen would be concerned
about the economic fluctuations and political situations across the globe.
No country is a solitary island, separated
from the rest of the world; we are all connected so deeply and are so
interwoven that any incident in the world, whether it occurs in places nearby
or far away, concerns us. There are many instances in recent history that give
credence to my point. For example, the recent fall of oil prices affects our
economy deeply, as well as the economies of other nations.
Saudi Arabia is linked inseparably to its
counterparts worldwide, and global issues will inevitably affect us in some
way. However, I feel the most pressing issues we have are internal – an issue
in particular is of youth and education, and a question we must ask ourselves
is: How can we provide an education that will instil school-leavers not only
with knowledge to make them productive citizens, but also with good characters
and values within the framework of our ideology?
We have to admit – we need a lot of
revision of our syllabi, more comprehensive training of our teachers, and to
use modern methods of communication to try and involve the youth of our country
in nation building. There is a reason that young, ambitious people who are
interested in furthering their education are pursuing their degrees abroad;
there are serious flaws that need to be addressed in our educational system,
from the method of instruction of our youngest students up to those pursuing
Context for Our Youth
Simultaneously, we have to ingrain dialog,
tolerance, acceptance and pluralism into our society, to provide context for
our youth to apply all they have learnt to the real world. To others and
myself, this is a priority; mainly because targeting the shortcomings of
education is one way we can protect our young population from the trappings of
Another priority is the prevalence of the
rule of law and a free and fair judiciary system, managed by educated members
that possess the priceless qualities of empathy and a broad, knowledgeable
outlook. Good governance, accountability and strong work ethic must all be part
of the working code governing all officials, and no one should feel that he or
she is above the law.
Furthermore, those in authority should be
role models and lead from the front! In order to give the young public a chance
to become informed, cultured and capable to succeed, they must be provided
examples in the form of real people. By observing how figures of authority
handle situations and manage different sectors of society alongside one another
to maintain healthy development of the nation as a whole, today’s youth will
progress and be able to emulate similar, if not better, productive behavior.
We need a lot of revision of our syllabi,
more comprehensive training of our teachers, and use of modern methods of
communication to try and involve the youth in nation building
Once these goals are set in motion, we can
turn our attentions to tackling other issues vital to our survival. We live in
a harsh geographical setting and water is a precious commodity. How are we
going to manage our limited water resources, and what are we going to do in the
face of unexpected circumstances?
Add this concern to our increasing energy
consumption and a rising population, and we have a very pressing question – are
we doing enough to deal with these issues? Should we set up centers to handle these
specific concerns? Do we have the courage to ask for a family planning and
population control program, and if we do, have we considered the response of
such institutions? Is our media developed enough, to a level that it is able to
point out the impending dangers of pollution and the destruction of our
environment by certain irresponsible members of our society?
We are quick to pass criticism and indulge
in the blame game whilst seated in the comfort of our drawing rooms, yet we do
not have the will or courage to point out, in public, what concerns the
citizens face. The only way these issues can be addressed is by a civil society
in which institutions act as the engines of growth.
Last, but certainly not least, I want the
government to embrace these institutions and create a partnership with them
that is beneficial to our society. Such a partnership will entail many reforms,
but if successful, government collaboration with progressive institutions could
pave the way for our nation to develop in unprecedented ways. However, for this
to occur, we need the involvement of all regions, peoples and sects.
After all, we are all equal citizens of
Khaled Almaeena is a veteran Saudi journalist, commentator, businessman
and the editor-at-large of the Saudi Gazette. Almaeena has held a broad range
of positions in Saudi media for over thirty years, including CEO of a PR firm,
Saudi Television news anchor, talk show host, radio announcer, lecturer and
journalist. As a journalist, Almaeena has represented Saudi media at Arab summits in
Baghdad, Morocco and elsewhere. In 1990, he was one of four journalists to
cover the historic resumption of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and
Russia. He also traveled to China as part of this diplomatic mission. Almaeena's
political and social columns appear regularly in Gulf News, Asharq al-Aswat,
al-Eqtisadiah, Arab News, Times of Oman, Asian Age and The China Post.
No one has taken advantage of the Sept. 11
attacks and their ramifications more than Iran, which exploited them and the
fact that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi. Unfortunately, Osama bin Laden
succeeded in driving a wedge between Riyadh and Washington by using more Saudis
than any other nationality in the attacks.
Since then, several American writers and
political analysts have accused Saudi Arabia of supporting violent extremism,
forgetting that the kingdom is suffering from terrorism as much as the United
A strategic decision was made by Washington
to change the balance of power in the region, neglecting 68 years of relations
with Riyadh. This was accomplished via military intervention in Afghanistan in
2001 and Iraq in 2003. Nobody could have prevented these invasions because
American dignity had been dealt a severe blow and the “war on terror” - or
rather against Sunni Islam - became a global war.
Once the United States had become embroiled
in these wars, it could not have found a better partner than Iran. Gradually,
the regime that was denounced by U.S. President George W Bush as part of the
“axis of evil” became a partner against terrorism, and gained legitimacy under
the administration of his successor Barack Obama.
Radwan el-Sayed describes in his book “The
Arabs and Iranians” how besides the misplaced wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, a
bigger mistake was committed by the Obama administration when it withdrew
American troops from Iraq. Washington negotiated with Iran to bring about a
In return Tehran asked for then-Iraqi Prime
Minister Nouri al-Maliki to remain in power, for the Americans to forget about
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and return their ambassador to Damascus, and
allow Hezbollah to dominate Lebanon’s government while promising not to harass
Israel or international forces. An Iranian political opponent told me one of
the reasons the United States turned its back on Iran’s Green Revolution in
2009 was because of these deals.
Regarding the nuclear agreement, the United
States focused only on nuclear weapons and uranium enrichment. It never
discussed to what extent sanctions relief would enable Tehran to exert its
influence, or what the consequences would be. If Iran was able to negotiate
with Washington about such crucial matters as the U.S. troop withdrawal from
Iraq before sanctions were lifted, what power does it have now?
The handling of Iraq by Iran did not come
out of the blue. Tehran had been planning such a move since the fall of Saddam
Hussain’s regime, demonstrated by how it courted his opposition since the
1980s. When American troops entered Iraq in 2003, so did armed Shiite groups.
Tehran did not stop with Iraq, but has
expanded by penetrating Shiite communities in Arab countries to obtain their
allegiance, as happened in Lebanon, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
It is a mistake of historical significance
that Washington has lost the trust of traditional allies such as Saudi Arabia
due to the ramifications of 9/11.
Tehran has also recruited as secret agents
those who go to Iran to study in religious seminaries. The first thing Tehran
did in Iraq in 2003 was control religious seminaries by establishing
mega-projects in Najaf and Karbala - the holiest cities for Shiites after
Makkah and Medina - and developing religious authorities loyal to Iran.
Tehran has penetrated security circles via
alliances with Arab regimes, and used aid to extend its geographic influence,
as happened in Syria and Sudan. Iran has also penetrated Sunni political Islam,
as happened with the Muslim Brotherhood, with which Tehran has established good
relations. Iran has taken advantage of the fact that many Brotherhood members
are persecuted in their own country, and expresses support for them.
Tehran has gained a good reputation among
Arab Sunni Islamists because of its support for Islamist organizations that are
fighting Israel, such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Iran has also infiltrated
missionary operations via its official and unofficial bodies to spread Shiism
in Arab countries, Africa, and central and east Asia. Authorities in Egypt,
Sudan, Morocco and elsewhere have complained about Iran exerting influence under
the guise of missionary work.
The lifting of sanctions on Iran without
signing a formal treaty that guarantees it will stop all these interventions
will lead to Iranian regional hegemony and make another 9/11 inevitable.
According to prominent political analyst Dr Zuhdi Jasser, the fact that no
Shiite militias were involved in 9/11, or on American soil generally, is not
because they are more moderate, but because of sanctions on Iran.
Accordingly, handing over the files of the
Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other extremist Sunni groups to
Tehran will fan the flames of Sunni extremism and bolster extremist Shiite
militias. As a result, the United States will find itself not only fighting
Sunni terrorist groups, but also being attacked by Shiite extremists.
Terrorist incidents are now at least five
times more frequent today than they were before 9/11, according to the Global
Terrorism Index and other reports. That proves that the U.S. approach is not
only wrong but dangerous. It is a mistake of historical significance that
Washington has lost the trust of traditional allies such as Saudi Arabia due to
the ramifications of 9/11, which was not even its fault.
Changing strategies is crucial; withdrawing
and passing on a duty of care to unreliable actors will only aggravate the
problem. If the current approach to fighting terrorism is helping anyone, it is
radicals and extremists at the expense of moderates.
Najat AlSaied is a Saudi academic; a graduate in media studies from the
University of Westminster, London-UK (October, 2013). She is the author of:
Screens of Influence: Arab Satellite Television & Social Development. She
is an Assistant Professor at Zayed University in the College of Communication
and Media Sciences.
The Politics of War Crimes in Syria
18 Feb 2016
After almost five years of brutal fighting
in Syria, the issue of war crimes has reappeared following the destruction of
two hospitals in the north.
The iconic images of bombed-out medical
facilities have set off a firestorm of accusations among some key players in
the conflict. Accountability for the crimes of war is noticeable for its
absence to date, but it is crucial that the mechanisms of global justice are
properly applied, to affect the actions of combatants today and to help heal a
Syria of tomorrow.
For this to happen, the current arms race
in the language of accusations must be focused on more practical action towards
Could A World War Over Syria Actually
The United Nations has warned that
"intentionally directing attacks" at hospitals and medical units
would constitute a war crime and Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general,
confirmed that the raids violated international law.
Turkey has been more forthright about
Russia's culpability, claiming that the Security Council permanent member is
guilty of an "obvious war crime".
Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov
has said that "those who make such statements are not capable of backing
them up with proof".
MSF, whose hospital was hit, didn't choose
to tell the Syrian authorities their exact location for fear of being targeted.
Now that the hospital has been destroyed, the Syrian Ambassador to the UN had
the temerity to describe the aid agency as an "intelligence" arm of
the French government.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin
continued his policy of complete denial of any civilian harm from his country's
actions, saying that Russia "categorically does not accept such
So could this latest attack on healthcare
in Syria be the trigger for a reasserting of the laws of war into the conflict?
This is not the first time a healthcare
facility in Syria has been hit. Indeed, there has been an exodus of medics from
the country while buildings and vehicles supposedly granted protected status
have been devastated.
Overwhelmed makeshift hospitals now operate
out of basements in Aleppo more akin to air-raid shelters.
According to the Syrian American Medical
Society, 2015 was a record year for attacks on health infrastructure, with an
attack on average every two or three days.
That the UN stopped counting the Syrian
dead in 2014 doesn't bode well for those hoping for accountability for those
Syrians yet to be killed.
However, if a mechanism by which evidence
of potential war crimes can be collected and processed by credible players, it
would send out a clear message to those who order air strikes on hospitals and
potentially check the likelihood that they will do it again in future.
Power of Evidence
One sample we've seen already as to the
power of the evidence of war crimes came in the form of the smuggled work of
the Syrian military photographer known only as "Caesar". His thousands
of photographs, which eventually found themselves on display in the corridors
of the UN, showed the reality of the grisly fate of those whose lives ended in
the regime's jails.
Yet to date nobody has been held to account
for the crimes which Caesar exposed. We should not forget that much of the
infrastructure around the laws of war emerged following the end of World War
Today the Syria crisis has heaped more
numbers on what is the biggest refugee displacement since the last global war.
War crimes were meant to be deterred and punished, yet they are being flouted
with impunity in Syria.
That such crimes are being raised now is a
positive step but there is a danger around their being used as a justification
for escalation rather than as they were originally intended.
There is a need for evidence-based
reporting of potential crimes rather than politicised accusations ratcheting up
the rhetoric. This month's hospital attacks could see independent investigators
being given a mandate from the international community and allowed to safely
access and collect evidence as to what happened as a way of signifying a new
approach to the conduct of the fighting.
One day - soon, we hope - the war in Syria
will end and the people who remain will have to come to terms with the horrors
of what happened. Without genuine accountability for what happened in the past,
the challenge of the future will be even harder.
James Denselow is a writer on Middle East politics and security issues
and a research associate at the Foreign Policy Centre.