New Age Islam Edit Bureau
17 March 2018
Saudisation Is Not Racism
By Talal Qashqari
The Early Disputes between Al-Shirazi Family and Iran
By Hassan Al Mustafa
The Palestine Solidarity Movement Should Focus On Palestine
By Ramzy Baroud
The Future of South Sudan Lies with the Arabs
By Abdellatif El-Menawy
Hiding In Plain Sight: Opportunities to Boost Turkish-Gulf Relations
By Sinem Cengiz
Saudi Arabia And The US: A Common Cause, Common Destiny
By Faisal Al-Shammeri
Why the Iraqi Government Is Weak In Facing Corruption
By Adnan Hussein
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
16 March 2018
IT is unfair that some people describe the process of Saudization and putting Saudi citizens first as racism. It is as if they are only looking at the issue from one side. However, the population in Saudi Arabia is increasing and young males and females, who make up 70 percent of the population, are in a serious need for jobs.
Saudi citizens do not want jobs to have fun or pass time, rather they need jobs to live and survive. They want jobs because they do not want to be poor but in order to support their families, get married, have children and support their own homes. As a result of the large number of expatriates who occupy a large number of jobs and the loopholes in employment that have not yet been fixed, many of these young males and females are unemployed.
If this were to happen in any other country, then no one would call it racism. This is the system followed in other countries, so why are we called racists when they are not?
I understand that expatriates have contributed to the advancement of our country. Honestly, I am forever grateful for the contributions of these expatriates, however, the citizens of countries should have priority in jobs over everybody else. Every expatriate is welcome, but citizens should be employed in the main.
We met with Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad al-Shirazi at a nondescript house in a narrow alley near the street of ChaharMardan in Qom in 1994. I was part of a group of men visiting from eastern Saudi Arabia. The purpose of the visit was to meet Shirazi, the controversial figure who at that time was under house arrest due to disputes between him and the Iranian authorities.
Shirazi talked about the importance of writing and said it was important for the youth to read and spread intellectualism, as many of the wars throughout history were caused due to lack of awareness and lack of reading.
I disapproved of what he said then but did not say anything. At that time, I thought his vision was naïve as how can the world change only through books, without fighting and without a blazing revolutionary spirit? Before we left, Shirazi’s companions gifted us books. We didn’t notice any heightened security presence as we left his house where he held some classes and received people.
There was a small Hussainia (congregation hall for Shiite commemoration ceremonies) next to his house. In 1987, it was packed with a group of refugees that included many children. A person who was there at the time narrated to me what happened when a missile fell nearby.
“A small group of us were with Shirazi. An Afghani cleric was with us too. We suddenly heard siren sounds. Seconds later, the entire place shook and children began to scream. Iraqi forces had shelled Qom and a missile fell nearby,” he said. This was during the first Gulf War.
“The Afghani cleric felt very afraid and began to scream ‘Oh God, Oh God,’ but Sayyid Shirazi calmly comforted the children,” he added.
The incident is significant considering what happened afterwards as Shirazi left Qom, which embraces the Hawza (seminary), and left to Mashhad as advised by those close to him as they feared for his life. They advised him to go to Mashhad considering its “sacred” status for the Shiites and since late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein promised not to shell it because the shrine of Ali al-Ridha, the eighth Shiite imam, was there.
Shirazi’s departure to Mashhad upset the Iranian authorities. They saw this as a “negative” move and thought it would’ve been better if he had stayed in Qom and raised the people’s morale.
On October 26, 1980, Iraqi forces invaded the Iranian city of Khorramshahr. Around 575 days later, on May 24, 1982, Iranian forces restored the city. This made Shirazi call for ending the war between Baghdad and Tehran considering that the Iranian regime had regained control of all the lands which Iraq had occupied. Imam Khomeini, however, refused to do so.
Shirazi’s Change Of Heart
Shirazi, who met Imam Khomeini in Iraq in 1965, was a supporter of the Islamic Revolution in Iran when Khomeini had called for it. He believed in the theory of the ‘guardianship of the jurist’ and traveled to Iran following the revolution’s victory in 1979. However, Shirazi always advised his supporters to maintain their independence.
Shirazi was an untraditional reference. His supporters had political parties and religious and charity organizations inside and outside Iran and in Arab Gulf countries. He thus had his own political and religious ambitions - especially that Shiite references always had their traditions which are based on independence from political regimes. The two conflicting logics caused tension between Shirazi’s office in Qom and the authorities, specifically with Ettela’ at, i.e. the Iranian intelligence service.
The former wanted to maintain his independence and not submit to any authority that might limit his freedom and restrain his activity, while the latter wanted the state to impose its influence under the pretext of imposing the system on everyone. The authorities simply believed that Shirazi’s office should submit to Iranian law that governs society’s different categories.
This tense relation began to escalate until things took a turn for the worse in 1984, affecting relations between Shirazi and Khomeini. Shirazi then renounced the theory of the ‘guardianship of the jurist’ and adopted the theory of ‘shurat al-fuqaha’ as he believed that Khomeini had monopolized major decisions in the country.
During the last years of Khomeini’s rule, Iranian authorities put Shirazi under house arrest due to his critical statements against the regime’s domestic policies and following the repercussions of the case of Shiite cleric Mehdi Hashemi, who was executed in 1987. Hashemi was the head of the Liberation Movement Bureau of the Revolutionary Guards. A number of groups which followed Shirazi as a reference were part of these liberation movements.
Scions Take On the Regime
Shirazi remained under house arrest until he died in Qom in 2001. Although he was under house arrest for a long time, people who often saw him said he never insulted the former supreme guide, Khomeini, or the current one, Ali Khamenei, although his relations with them were not good. According to his visitors, he used to say: “Allah have mercy on a man who shows me my faults.”
Some of his family members though did not stick to this rhetoric. For example, Ayatollah Sadiq Hussaini Shirazi’s son Sayyid Hussein Shirazi compared Khamenei to “the pharaoh” earlier this month resulting in his arrest.
Brawls during Sayyid Muhammad al-Shirazi’s funeral further worsened the already tense relation between al-Shirazi’s family and Tehran. One of those who attended the funeral told me that security forces intervened to bury the body at the Shrine of Fatima in Qom, contradictory to the family’s wishes as Shirazi had asked to be buried in his house so his remains can be transferred to Iraq if the regime ever shifts there. An Iranian opposition reporter told me that the authorities did not prevent the large crowds of people from attending the funeral.
Shirazi family’s “belligerent” and critical tone towards Tehran’s policy began to escalate. Sayyid Morteza Shirazi, the son of late Sayyid Muhammad al-Shirazi, was very critical of government policies. He was actually detained once and his supporters say he was humiliated and tortured. His uncle Ayatollah Mujtaba Shirazi, who lives in London and who is viewed as a radical figure, adopted an insulting rhetoric towards Iran’s politicians and their supporters and is never hesitant of using obscene language towards his political rivals and opponents from different Islamic sects.
The Shirazi Succession
Sayyid Sadiq Shirazi succeeded his late brother Muhammad as reference in 2001. Sayyid Sadiq was well-known for being distant from politics and for being interested in religious matters and jurisprudence in general. He lacked the intellectual presence his brother had, so he was more of a classical reference. He returned to the scene again earlier in March, when his son Hussein was detained after the Special Clerical Court summoned him.
These are only few simple details of the conflict over power and influence between Al-Shirazi and the authorities in Iran. The appetite of Al-Shirazi family and its political, charity and economic wings to expand and gather more supporters was decisively addressed by Tehran which tried to impose the authority of “the state” and prevent any opposing voices that speak out against the ‘guardianship of the jurist’ from becoming strong or influential. Several factors further complicated this conflict which is much more than a few observers see as a mere dispute between two religious references.
Iran was not innocent and Al-Shirazi family did not hide its ambitions which exceeded its actual size in the Shiite community. Iranian security forces did not stand idle as opposing voices became stronger without being deterred.
Do the Shirazis constitute one movement? I’ll discuss this in the next series of articles which will highlight the Shirazi family that has occupied the Shiite public opinion for decades!
Nada Elia holds no punches. A principled activist and an accomplished academic, she writes with honesty and vigour.
As I embarked on a worldwide speaking tour, an article she wrote two years ago was present in my mind. Entitled, "No More Mr Nice Guy: White Male Israeli Activists Exploiting Palestine Solidarity", the article details a degree of exploitation of Palestinian solidarity by ex-Zionist intellectuals, who seek high fees and special treatment when they travel the world talking about their moral awakening and ideological conversion.
Indeed, some of these "nice guys" generate so much income that they turned solidarity into thriving careers.
For the record, I don't seek honoraria myself, and if/when honoraria are available due to the rules of certain academic or research institutes, I request the money be sent to a charity that works to empower Palestinian communities at home.
It is the matter of principle. Money has corrupted the Palestinian cause. Donors' money, billions of dollars received by the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah has turned a revolution and a national liberation project into a massive investment with many benefactors and many beneficiaries. Most Palestinians, however, remain poor. Unemployment is skyrocketing.
With the billions raked in by the corrupt PA since its founding in 1994, most Palestinians in the Occupied Territories still live in dire economic uncertainty. Women are hit hardest.
A recent report by Al Jazeera's Harry Fawcett speaks of a depressing reality in the West Bank that effects women in particular. While 13 percent of all Palestinian women hold university degrees (compared to 9 percent of men), only 19 percent of all women are employed or seeking work.
Although Palestinian women are some of the most educated women in the region, they have the least work opportunities. The ratio of employment among Palestinian women, 19 percent, is significantly lower than that of working women in the Middle East and North Africa region, which currently stands at 25 percent, and even more negligible if compared with the global average of 51 percent.
This should not be the case, as 62 percent of all students currently seeking university degrees in Palestine are female.
According to Fawcett's report, the main reason behind the trials of Palestinian women is the Israeli occupation, which has battered Palestinian industries that traditionally employ women, namely agriculture and manufacturing.
Back to Elia's article - "No More Mr Nice Guy". "I have discussed this with many friends, all but one women of colour, and we have all expressed extreme frustration at the opacity around this topic," she writes.
"We (women of colour) are generally the speakers who accept the lower honoraria. More seriously, we are the ones who are offered the lower honoraria," Elia elaborates.
Compare this to "Mr Nice Guy", who receives the "royal treatment... Has a set rate... Does not negotiate, and gets what he has asked for".
"The discrepancy in honoraria is most obvious when activists for justice in Palestine celebrate decent Jews for exactly that - being decent. 'Nice' Israeli men are in a class apart, placed on a pedestal, considered heroes for not being violent, racist murderers".
To think that women, especially Palestinian women, are marginalised even within the "Palestine solidarity movement" in favour of the glorified Israeli intellectual, whose main selling point is that he is an awoken "anti-Zionist" is galling, to say the least.
To think that Palestinian women are experiencing a similar reality - educated but disadvantaged because of the Israeli occupation - at home, is remarkably unfair.
But I will take the argument even further: the Palestinian intellectual and the Palestinian narrative as a whole are underprivileged as well, even by those who maintain that they fight for Palestinian rights and freedom.
How this came about is interesting and multifaceted. It is the outcome of self-censorship and the inherent defensiveness among Western solidarity activists, often petrified by the unfair label of "anti-Semitism".
I rarely experienced the same sentiments when travelling in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America. The Southern hemisphere relates to Palestine on a whole different level - unique and mutual historical experiences. For them, solidarity with Palestinians is often rooted in their own history of anti-colonial, anti-imperialist struggles.
The first solidarity with Palestinians meeting I ever attended soon after I left Palestine over two decades ago was in Washington State. It rarely addressed the viewpoint of Palestinians.
Usually elder activists, some announcing that they have fought for Palestine for decades, charted what they assume was a pro-Palestine discourse without exhibiting a deep-rooted understanding of Palestinian reality, history or fathoming the complexity of Palestinian culture, life and collective aspirations.
The meeting focused mostly on how Israeli soldiers are, too victimized by the Israeli occupation, as they developed debilitating post-traumatic stress disorders that bode badly for their families and social lives.
When they spoke of the Palestinian people, they presented them as victims, numbers, figures and charts plagued with human misery and infinite sorrow. And of course, they decried the violent Palestinians and duly condemned any form of "terrorism" and "antisemitism".
In recent years, the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, and the work of many independent Palestinian activists and intellectuals challenged the apologist approach to solidarity, through assuming leadership and presenting a pro-active, Palestine-centered discourse. But the old trend is too powerful to be expunged easily.
The main challenge for the solidarity movement is that it was constructed in response to the powerful and omnipresent Zionist narrative in the West. The latter defined the discussion on Palestine, determined the priorities and the language.
Many Palestine solidarity groups around the world, but especially in the West were formed to combat the misrepresentations and challenge the popular conception that moulded the Palestinian as a "terrorist" and the Palestinian people as an obstacle to the rise of progress and civilisation, supposedly epitomised by Israel.
That integral defensiveness of the Palestine solidarity movement meant that the debate, in fact, the whole discourse is almost entirely, though unwittingly framed around Israeli, Zionist priorities.
For them, Palestinian culture, history, politics are, at times subordinate compared with Zionist history and Israeli politics. Their understanding of the refugee crisis, for example was shaped by Israeli historian Benny Morris (a Zionist par excellence) not Palestinian historian Salman Abu Sitta. His latest book, Mapping My Return, should be obligatory reading for anyone truly keen on understanding the Right of Return.
But Palestine was not invented in 1948. It was not the formation of Israel upon the ruined cities and villages of Palestine that gave rise to a people called Palestinians. Palestinian national identity is not an accident bestowed upon the Palestinian people by Israel.
Those who stress the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees speak of the centrality of the Nakba of 1948; those who champion the "two-state solution", negate the history of the Palestinians prior to the war and Israeli occupation of 1967.
This convenient exploitation of Palestinian history has fragmented the identity of the Palestinian, in the minds of many, and, in essence dehumanised Palestinian people - an ancient people that existed and thrived millennia prior to the inception of the Zionist movement in the late 19th century.
"As a Palestinian, my best argument against Zionism is my own story, my memory, my recollections and the oral history of other Palestinians." wrote Professor Rima Najjar.
Yet the Palestinian memory is rarely the centre of discussion, which has been centered, for nearly 25 years, around the futile language of a "peace process", "painful compromises", "land for peace formula" and the "two-state solution" that was never intended to solve anything in the first place.
The discourse, even that championed by some in the Palestine solidarity movement is often shaped by and caters to Israeli, Western sensibilities. It would be unthinkable, for example, for a mainstream solidarity group to publicly defend Palestinian armed resistance, or the democratic choices of the Palestinian people during the 2006 elections.
"Cultural resistance (is) the only resistance we can use as Palestinians whose path to political resistance is effectively blocked," wrote Najjar. "That, coupled with the collective solidarity engendered by the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) Movement, is the strongest argument against the unconscionable practices of the Zionist Movement."
I concur. Palestine is not a chart or a PowerPoint presentation jumbled with numbers and statistics. Palestine can neither be understood through the discourse of the Zionist movement (which was and remains dedicated to the erasure of the Palestinian identity) nor the stifling political discourse of the "peace process" and other pretences.
If the Palestinian discourse is not communicated in a decisive, unapologetic manner, independent from the validation of the West or anti-Zionist Israelis, it will never truly leave the kind of global impact that could potentially banish the Zionist discourse, one that is based on fabrications and riddled with falsehoods.
For that to happen, Palestine's new historians, cultural ambassadors and activists must take the stage and speak for their people and themselves. Their role should extend beyond being the narrators of victimisation and misery. Palestine is also a place of resistance, hope and empowerment, exemplifying a strong, rooted culture that survived and defeated numerous invaders throughout history.
The empowered new generation should fight for its position at the helm of this process. Palestine needs new blood, capable, self-asserting women and men who must reclaim, indeed, liberate their narrative and their honourable struggle.
The future of South Sudan lies with the Arabs
When it emerged last week that the Arab League had refused a membership request by South Sudan — followed by a denial of such an application by a South Sudanese official, who said it had only asked to become an “observer” — I recalled an interview I carried out before secession with Salva Kiir Mayardit, who is now the country’s prime minister.
His mastery of Arabic was not any less than any other Sudanese person. It was a long interview, in which he said that he welcomed any Arab or Muslim in South Sudan, but he spoke as well about the sense of injustice and neglect felt among Southerners toward the people of the North. When I moved on to record a TV interview, Kiir asked to do it in English. I asked him to speak in Arabic, which he speaks fluently, because the interview would be broadcast on Egyptian TV to an Arabic-speaking audience, but he insisted on English.
It is another missed opportunity for the Arab League that the Arab foreign ministers did not give due diligence to the request of South Sudan to join. And it is really sad for some to consider the Arabic language as a mere element, rather than part of our culture and language.
I remember that, in July 2016, Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit announced from Khartoum that he would work hard to convince the Arab states to give South Sudan “special observer” status, to stop Israel’s infiltration of African countries. I considered Aboul-Gheit’s initiative an unconventional and courageous one. Had it succeeded, it would have been a huge breakthrough.
Some members say that South Sudan cannot be given full membership as this contradicts the Arab League’s charter, which states members must be Arab and independent, and that membership should be approved by the existing members. South Sudan is not an Arab state, but there were similar debates when Somalia and Djibouti joined the Arab League after independence, even though some members did not consider them eligible because Arabic is not their most common language.
The concept of Arabism might need to be clarified. The South Sudanese speak perfect Arabic and, if not for the policies of imposing Islam and Arabization carried out by consecutive Sudanese governments following independence and the end of British colonialism, South Sudan would have become an important and vital extension of Arab culture.
This was the ideal moment for integration, as the new generation of Southerners is more open and has overcome historic complexes toward Arab culture. Nowadays there are books, newspapers and other creative content in Arabic, in spite of marginalization attempts.
The request by South Sudan was submitted to the Arab League during its 149th meeting, held at its headquarters in Cairo on March 7. It was refused without any justification, other than in some leaks to the media. Adding to the mystery was the denial by South Sudan’s Foreign Minister Deng Alor Kuol that it had asked for full membership, saying the country only wanted to join as an observer.
The Arab League had already announced in 2011, after the secession of South Sudan, that the emerging state would have the right to join the Arab League as soon as it fulfilled the necessary requirements: Mainly that it abide by the Arab League’s pact stating that the constitutions of member states must explicitly declare that Arabic is an official language. This condition was a response to the refusal by the government in Juba to add Arabic as a second official language in its constitution, under the pretext that South Sudan does not have any direct ties with the Arab world.
This issue sparked a wide debate in South Sudan’s Parliament and among the people, a good percentage of whom speak Arabic. The media also uses spoken Arabic as one of the most common languages for communication.
The rift between the Arab League and South Sudan, which has been widening day after day, year after year, led Kiir to say during a TV interview that Arabs think South Sudan lacks the will to be an Arab state because of the secession from Sudan. He added that his country was not considering joining the Arab League, saying: “What if we think of joining the Arab League, will they accept us? I doubt that, and we don’t want that.”
The recent change in Juba’s attitude might be triggered by a direct benefit it is seeking, as the country is about to slide into civil war. Joining the Arab League might offer some relative stability at the political and economic levels. South Sudan also might have reason to hide behind the Arab bloc at the UN Security Council, so that it could gain a positive vote on decisions pertaining to peace and avoiding sanctions.
Maybe the aim of this motion was to get loans and financial aid from the Arab Monetary Fund, in addition to attracting Arab investors. Or maybe it was to control closely some vital issues, especially that of the Nile Waters Agreement.
South Sudan has its own calculations when it comes to dealing with the Arab world, especially Egypt, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, in recognition of their prominent role in supporting the Southerners. On the other hand, Arabs would benefit a lot from South Sudan becoming a member of the Arab League, especially in countering the movement of Israelis inside Africa and the economic benefits and investment opportunities in this huge oil-producing country.
During my visit to Juba a few years ago, I noticed the secession indicators were not limited to the English language used by Kiir in spite of his mastery of the Arabic language, but were as bright as the burning sun, as clear as the Nile waters that cross the country en route to Egypt. Those indicators might need an inclusive Arab mind, starting from the principle of interest — which is almost entirely absent from the minds of Arab politicians.
Hiding In Plain Sight: Opportunities To Boost Turkish-Gulf Relations
Ankara, the heart of Turkish diplomacy, last week hosted a series of significant conferences and panels, which brought together prominent academics to discuss Turkish-Gulf relations during the historic times that the region is going through.
In 2008, Turkey became the first country to have a mechanism of strategic dialogue with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Thanks to this partnership, Turkey’s economic and political ties with the individual GCC countries have strengthened in recent years. However, it is hard to say the same successful record has been seen in academia. Despite the improvement in relations between Turkey and the Gulf countries, with several agreements being signed and reciprocal visits taking place, they still have a deep lack of knowledge and comprehensive understanding of each other’s priorities, agendas and capabilities.
Gulf academics and their Turkish interlocutors came to the conclusion that Turkey-GCC ties should go beyond economics in order to overcome the knowledge gap between the two sides and further strengthen their cultural, political and economic ties.
The first hidden opportunity in Turkish-Gulf relations is to establish a strong link between academics from both sides. This could be done through exchange programs between academics, students and journalists. Besides political, economic and defense deals, Turkey and Gulf nations should ink cooperation deals on education. Following a country through secondary sources, regardless of how much you have read up on it, will lead one to miss some points in interpreting developments there. Therefore, the two sides should work on bringing out “area specialists” who in the future could play a significant role in the decision-making process.
The second hidden opportunity is non-governmental interaction. In order to have an impact on the decision-making process, efforts at the civil society level should be increased by NGOs such as think-tanks and policy centers. Non-governmental interaction is a vital part of international relations, and is perhaps more important in the Turkish-Gulf relationship than most other bilateral connections. Thus, collective work by civil society, academia and the media may play a very significant role in cementing ties between Turkey and the Gulf. If both sides also solve the lack of knowledge issue, any crisis that may occur in the future could be easily overcome.
The tool of culture also offers an opportunity. Efforts could be made to hold cultural events that bring together Turkish and Gulf artists, musicians and photographers, as strong and solid diplomatic relations can only be sustained if these relations are accepted in society. Therefore, events that help introduce the two sides’ cultures to the people will have a positive impact on Turkish-Gulf relations in the long-term.
The fourth hidden opportunity is to carry out joint humanitarian activities. Last week’s initiative to bring together thousands of women from several countries to march to the Syrian border in order to draw attention to the plight of imprisoned Syrian women was significant in this sense. There should be efforts to carry out other initiatives between Turkish and Gulf women. Believing in the wisdom of women, I think there could be several fields that women from both sides could cooperate on. The inclusion of the views and perspectives of women in the decision-making process on both sides would help boost the Turkey-Gulf relationship. There is already growing evidence that women’s participation in peace processes improves stability.
We often hear trade volumes, economic data, energy deals and tourism figures discussed with regard to the Turkish-Gulf relationship. The Gulf is increasingly important to Turkey for energy security, as a source of investment capital, as a player in finance and the Islamic banking sector, and as a major market for its defence and construction industries. In the opposite direction, Turkey matters to the Gulf countries that want to diversify their economies and attract foreign investment. Also, when it comes to Iranian expansion, regional stability and national security, Turkey and the Gulf find themselves on the same page. The most important dimension of this understanding is defence cooperation.
Needless to say, there has been significant development in the areas of energy, infrastructure, defence and tourism, while business ties are the pillars of the relationship. However, in order to sustain this situation and further strengthen it, the hidden opportunities should not be overlooked. For me, the most accurate indicator of a bilateral relationship is the eagerness of the two peoples to engage and understand one another. At the end of the day, people-to-people relationships constitute the basis of state-to-state relationships.
Saudi Arabia and the US: A Common Cause, Common Destiny
We are on the eve of a visit by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the United States. It can be reasonably articulated that this is perhaps the most significant visit to Washington in recent memory. The earlier visit of President Trump to Riyadh came at a critical juncture in the relationship.
Simply put, a gap had opened in the viewpoints of long held, mutual strategic interests. The visit of President Trump had not only closed these gaps, but the subsequent policy decisions and implemented actions of Washington allowed for not only a reestablishing of mutually ascribed strategic interests, but the possibility of significantly deepening them even further.
The US is a considerably older country than the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but Riyadh has been a partner of the highest order from the very moment that the US emerged as a global superpower. In this aspect, Riyadh is unique among all other strategic partners Washington has had including nearly the entirety of NATO, or for even that matter, the United Kingdom. Since the meeting of King Abdulaziz al-Saud onboard the U.S.S. Quincy and the signing of the initial charter of the United Nations in San Francisco, these two countries have been intertwined in a “Special Relationship” of its own. Outside of the “Five Eyes” coalition of countries, there are very few nation-states that have the quality and depth of relationship that the US and Saudi Arabia enjoy.
It is with a sober assessment of the facts that the geopolitical conditions currently in existence collectively represent one of the most serious challenges both nations have faced in recent memory. Iran, Syria, North Korea, terrorism, proliferation of ballistic missiles, nuclear weapons, exporting of radical and destabilizing entities are just a few of which there are many more prominent examples in existence. Like the 1930’s and the period leading up to World War II, the world once again sees a coalition of revisionist powers who do not hesitate to state their claim to destroying the status quo. World War II in Asia began not at Pearl Harbor, but 10 years earlier in Manchuria.
World War II in Europe began in Poland, but the incubator that preceded its creation, the Spanish Civil War, began well before September 1939. The revisionist powers of the 1930’s where not addressed and identified for who they really were until it was far too late. And this cost the lives of tens of millions. And today there are a similar set of conditions that even when taking into account, the context is strikingly familiar. Saudi Arabia not only wishes to see that these challenges are addressed, but shares an aspirational vision of a peace dividend for all, a prosperous citizenry in both countries, a dynamic global economy, and its role in the 21st century as it is clearly articulated in Vision 2030.
Riyadh in the Forefront
As the leader of the Muslim and Arab World, while sitting at the very crossroads from Africa to Central Asia, and from Europe to South Asia and beyond, Riyadh stands on the eve of becoming a global power of the first order. This could not have happened without Washington and its decades long support, even in challenging periods for both. For that we are, and always will be, grateful.
With Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman representing the kingdom, it also marks a turning point. It is his first visit to the US as the leading figure of the delegation from Saudi Arabia. His persona represents quite literally one of the youngest nation-states on the planet. It is difficult to see daylight between his aspirations for Saudi Arabia from those Saudi citizens who are aged 40 and under. Or for that matter the older generation, who like anybody anywhere else, wants to see the next in line have it better than they did.
The crown prince, like this younger generation, is globally focused, and prepared to offer a deep well of dynamic talents to reshape the world. Although it is hard to determine the course of future events and the manner in which they will emerge, it seems that the year ahead could be unusually interesting on many fronts. Whatever, and wherever, those challenges may be there is no question about the resolve of Riyadh to stand with Washington, or vice versa, to present solutions that lead to peace, prosperity, and stability. You cannot have national, or regional, security without economic security. Both are intertwined and impossible to separate.
Cooperating On All Fronts
Riyadh and Washington both desire economic security for the Middle East and the Muslim world. A Middle East and Arab world proliferated with prosperity instead of radicalism is absolutely essential. Riyadh and Washington also share this viewpoint. However, you cannot have a regional peace, or a widespread regional prosperity, in the face of revisionist powers.
It is hard to lay a foundation for peace, prosperity, and stability without the acknowledgment of the revisionist actors and their efforts. Riyadh and Washington acknowledge them and their efforts. We stand on the cusp of a new, dynamic, prosperous era, while at the same time staring directly into the midst of a dangerous array of characters who wish to deny the majority of the world the chance to see this peace and prosperity. The relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia will be one of the most central, and vital, themes on the global stage during this journey.
Why The Iraqi Government Is Weak In Facing Corruption
Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi insists that Iraq has defeated terrorism, including ISIS and other militia. However, this is still wishful thinking as the developments of the past few weeks have clearly demonstrated.
Of course, Abadi wants to have a strong ace up his sleeve before the parliamentary elections. But Abadi is probably overlooking the fact that he can hold an even stronger card with him now as the importance of combating terrorism has waned from public attention. Abadi has pledged several times that after ending the war against ISIS, his next sacred battle will be against administrative and financial corruption.
Inaction and Hesitation
We have only heard statements to this effect and are yet to see any action on this front. It’s clear that there’s hesitation to take the required measures to limit corruption.
Corrupt people are not intimidated in any way because the government is still lenient towards those who have appropriated public funds and moved them outside Iraq in the past few years, and those who are currently embezzling public funds.
A few days ago, Member of Parliament Furat al-Tamimi, who represents the Diyala Governorate in parliament, said smuggling merchandise and not paying custom fees cost the treasury $1 million a day.
Tamimi explained that smuggling is carried out by manipulating large amounts of products at border crossings to pay less custom fees or by transferring merchandise without paying fees altogether at al-Safra customs checkpoint on the Kirkuk-Baghdad road.
The MP did not exclude the possibility that “some security officials are complicit in these smuggling operations.”
A few weeks ago, it was reported that the smuggling of oil from Basra and other southern governorates is ongoing. There are plenty of other examples on corruption in Diyala, Basra and other governorates.
To justify this slow process towards combating corruption and recovering the funds stolen during the rule of previous governments, Abadi claims that the issue is “complicated” and that stolen funds have been smuggled outside Iraq and it’s not easy to recover them.
Why doesn’t Abadi put this issue of smuggled funds aside and focus on preventing the ongoing theft? This will not happen until he and the government threaten to take action and until corrupt people see these serious and decisive efforts making life difficult for them.
All we hear is the old official refrain from fighting corruption. We are sick of these statements which do not intimidate corrupt people who rather find them laughable!