New Age Islam Edit Bureau
18 February 2016
The Lebanese, Not the Sunni, Saad
By Turki Al-Dakhil
What Has Happened Since Hariri’s
By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Can A Ground Offensive End The Syria
By Maria Dubovikova
Where There’s a Will There’s a Way
By Dr. Zuhair Al-Harthi
The US Failure to Battle Home-Grown
By Morwari Zafar
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
The Lebanese, not the Sunni, Saad Hariri
17 February 2016
After being forced to stay out of Lebanon
for a long time, Future Movement leader Saad Hariri returned to Beirut on
Sunday to participate in a ceremony to commemorate the 11th anniversary of his
father Rafiq’s assassination. Saad’s speech soothed the wounds of people who
remain without a president, and suffer from economic problems and the
deterioration of services such as electricity-provision and trash-collection.
His speech reminded us of Rafiq, Lebanon’s
most prominent martyr who built a modern country and wanted it to be
independent rather than under Syrian tutelage. Saad’s return to Lebanon will
reassure his supporters, and serve the values of which he spoke during his
speech, the most significant of which is the concept of a civil state.
He spoke out against militant behaviour,
intervening in other countries’ domestic affairs - unlike what Hezbollah is
doing in Syria, Iraq and Yemen - and practises that obstruct the holding of
parliamentary sessions and elections.
The current challenges in Lebanon are not
easy. Al-Nusra Front controls some Lebanese areas, and Hezbollah is engaged in
a fierce and bloody battle in Syria. Meanwhile, sleeper cells of Al-Qaeda, the
Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Abdullah al-Azzam brigades will
be a nightmare for security forces and the Lebanese people.
Uncontrolled borders and political
divisions have helped attract several terrorist groups to Lebanon. Meanwhile,
some Lebanese ministers seem to represent Iran rather than their own country.
This makes them ministers of Hezbollah, not of the government of Lebanon, which
includes more than 25 religious sects.
Saad’s return to Lebanon will reassure his
supporters and serve the concept of a civil state
Saad’s speech represented moderation, as he
did not make sectarian statements and addressed the entire Lebanese people
rather than just his Sunni supporters or certain categories of society. This is
why totalitarian parties were angry the next day.
For example, As-Safir newspaper accused
Saad of worsening the presidential crisis. Rival parties seem to forget all his
efforts to resolve the crisis. He first nominated Samir Geagea for the post,
then talked about nominating Michel Aoun, and finally nominated Suleiman
Franjieh. All these attempts yielded no results because Hezbollah wants to
subjugate and silence other parties.
There is a huge difference between
supporters of a state that unites people and respects democracy, the
constitution and civil values, and militants whose hands are stained with the
blood of innocent people in several Arab countries.
Turki Al-Dakhil is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. He
began his career as a print journalist, covering politics and culture for the
Saudi newspapers Okaz, Al-Riyadh and Al-Watan. He then moved to pan-Arab daily
Al-Hayat and pan-Arab news magazine Al-Majalla. Turki later became a radio
correspondent for the French-owned pan-Arab Radio Monte Carlo and MBC FM. He
proceeded to Elaph, an online news magazine and Alarabiya.net, the news
channel’s online platform. Over a ten-year period, Dakhil’s weekly Al Arabiya
talk show “Edaat” (Spotlights) provided an opportunity for proponents of Arab
and Islamic social reform to make their case to a mass audience. Turki also
owns Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre and Madarek Publishing House in
Dubai. He has received several awards and honors, including the America Abroad
Media annual award for his role in supporting civil society, human rights and
advancing women’s roles in Gulf societies.
By Abdulrahman al-Rashed
The assassination of former Lebanese Prime
Minister Rafiq Hariri 11 years ago robbed the country of one its most important
leaders, and thwarted his national development plans. Syrian President Bashar
al-Assad and his allies killed him because they failed to sabotage his plans
Hariri’s ambition was to attract investors
to Lebanon, build international institutions’ confidence in the country, and
make all Lebanese feel that they are partners in construction rather than
competitors over government and parliament posts. He even offered to help
Hezbollah develop its areas of influence, thinking that his opponents would
realize that they could also benefit from his plans.
He convinced prominent Lebanese expats and
high-ranking officials in the Gulf, Egypt, Europe, the United States and Russia
of his plans, and he even went to Iran more than once to reassure it. He was
welcomed by most of these figures, governments and international institutions.
Aspects of his project’s success could be
seen on the ground, but then Assad decided to kill him even though Hariri had
agreed to leave the premiership post and extend the term of then-President
Hariri’s killers wanted to keep Lebanon as
an open front with Israel in order to exploit the Lebanese people, and so Assad
would not have to open the Golan front. Construction in Lebanon stopped since
Hariri and other moderate Lebanese figures were killed. Hopes and dreams have
died - this was the assassins’ goal.
Construction in Lebanon stopped since
Hariri and other moderate Lebanese figures were killed. Hopes and dreams have
died - this was the assassins’ goal
There is no longer a need to argue about
the role of Assad and his allies in that crime, because six years later they
committed a much bigger crime by murdering around half a million Syrians.
Although assassinating Hariri resulted in
disastrous consequences for Assad, the latter still has not learnt the lessons
of history. Proof of this is that he committed crimes in Syria when his
victims’ blood in Lebanon had not dried yet. Instead of trying to please his citizens
when protests against him erupted in 2011, Assad threatened and killed them en
Although the Lebanese people bitterly
recall Hariri’s assassination at this time of year, they have still not
comprehended the importance of commemorating him by reviving his project, and
uniting for positive change and against sectarianism.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News
Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former
editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where
he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor
of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career,
Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering
worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly
regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.
The moment it seems that the crisis in
Syria cannot get worse the greatest optimist among us becomes pessimistic. The
country has been embroiled in an extremely complicated conflict the intensity
and dimensions of which continue to escalate. It is no longer just about the
domestic strife in Syria or even the rise of ISIS; it has also triggered the
Turkish-Kurdish confrontation, which appears to be escalating as Kurdish
militias strengthen their positions.
In other words, Syrian crisis has regional
and global implications and has already got all major powers involved. This
involvement is no longer merely political or diplomatic. The initial diplomatic
efforts to resolve the conflict sounded good in theory but in practice it has
all led to an impasse.
Russia’s involvement in Syria marked a
turning point in the conflict. It complicated the situation as the targets in
Syria seemed far beyond ISIS. This gave an opportunity for Russia’s
counterparts to discredit Kremlin in the eyes of the international community
and accuse it of being an oppressor, invader, supporter of a brutal dictator
and a country responsible for bombing and killing of innocent people.
Russia was also blamed for strikes that hit
two hospitals in northern Syria even though it is still not clear who carried
out those attacks. It seems that Russia was just the most convenient player to
be blamed for it. Russia has also been at the receiving end of global media
warfare and sophisticated geopolitical games.
Going by Putin’s saying “if fight is
inevitable, throw the first punch”, it seems very likely that Russia and Iran
have discussed strategies in advance
The conflict between Russia and Turkey
escalated due to the downing of the Russian Su-24, which was followed by
Russian accusations of elements within Turkey supporting ISIS. These
developments had their impact on Ankara’s ambitions and perceptions. Since then
Turkey has started to behave in a much more aggressive manner.
Turkey aspires to get back areas of Syria
and Iraq that once belonged to it. For the country, the Kurds are a much
greater evil than ISIS and they even seem ready to strike a bargain to
exterminate the Kurds. Meanwhile, Kurdish militias remain one of the key forces
in the fight against ISIS.
As a result, Turkish maneuvers seem largely
predetermined not by the will to settle the mess in Syria but to solve its
problems and address its ambitions. These ambitions do not seem to be in sync
with the resolution of conflict within the current borders and with the
preservation of Syria as a state. These motives have been extremely
counterproductive and have complicated the matter.
Concerns have also been raised about the
ground offensive to fight ISIS. There are those who believe that such an
operation will target ISIS in the same way Russia has already done with the
difference being that the targets will not be rebels but forces loyal to the
regime in Damascus. The collapse of Geneva talks and the reactions of mediators
of the peace process suggest that diplomacy has been a total failure in Syria
and the conflict can only be settled through military means.
Remarks made recently by Saudi Arabia’s
Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir that Assad could be overthrown through military
means makes the prospects of ground operation clear. On the other hand, Russia
continuing to maintain that Assad is the legitimate leader of Syria and his
stepping down will lead to chaos, as noted recently by its Prime Minister
Dmitry Medvedev, also sounds exaggerated.
Nothing will be legitimate in Syria as long
as there is chaos in the country. It is also too early to expect the
international coalition members to settle the issue through a ground operation.
Such a move may also increase the number of people fleeing the country,
increase death toll dramatically and could also mean significant losses for all
stakeholders. Instead of resolving an already complex conflict, this could also
lead to a full-scale war.
Russia has made it clear that if the forces
loyal to Damascus are attacked it will respond. Such a response would most
likely not leave space for talks. We should also not forget about Iran, which
is backing the Assad regime in Damascus, and will respond if the international
coalition puts boots on the Syrian ground.
In recent days, there have been a buzz
around Iranian Defense Minister meeting his Russian counterpart in Moscow,
including Kremlin’s strong man Putin himself. The talks were held behind closed
doors. The two sides have been discussing arm sales and military cooperation.
Most likely Syria was also discussed in the light of Saudi Arabia and Turkey’s
military drills and the intention to put boots on the ground.
Going by Putin’s saying “if fight is inevitable,
throw the first punch”, it seems very likely that Russia and Iran have
discussed strategies in advance. The Syrian conflict, manoeuvred by hot-headed
leaders, is becoming even more dangerous. World powers, including Turkey, the
U.S., Russia, Gulf states and Iran were supposed to be the cornerstones of the
peace process, but their roles have become mangled.
Meanwhile, cool-headed experts stay mostly
unheard, along with voices of the reason from all the sides of this mess. The
hawks continue to shout louder than the doves.
Maria Dubovikova is a President of IMESClub and CEO of MEPFoundation.
Alumni of MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations [University]
of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia), now she is a PhD Candidate there.
Her research fields are in Russian foreign policy in the Middle East, Euro-Arab
dialogue, policy in France and the U.S. towards the Mediterranean,
France-Russia bilateral relations, humanitarian cooperation and open diplomacy
Throughout modern history, national
transformations have led to the emergence of new concepts and priorities in the
global system. The Arab world, however, has not kept up with these. In fact, in
the last five years, it has witnessed something not seen in the past.
In a historic moment, the people rose up in
response to internal challenges such as tyranny, corruption and poverty.
However, they did not necessarily agree on a unified definition of what
happened in 2011; it does not really matter since we know that these uprisings
established a historical sample that cannot be overlooked.
These revolutions and the resulting chaos
and conflicts are still raging in some countries to this day and this sparks
bitter questions: When will the situation be stabilized and when will change be
Revolutions definitely produce shifts but
that does not necessarily equal an achievement. Therefore, in order to exit
this phase, we need to absorb the meaning of the experience and rely on
people’s awareness, though much of what we have witnessed has been negative
phenomena. Perhaps the most prominent is the Tunisian experience; it is proof
of the transformation.
It is fair to say that after the departure
of colonial powers from some Arab states, nation states were established with
slogans linked to land, freedom and independence. Soon, however, they returned
to the practice of repression with the coming of military regimes. We managed
to get rid of colonialism but then we fell for it again in different forms.
The most notable challenge faced by nation
states in the Arab world is the lack of or delay in initiating internal
reforms. Overcoming these obstacles is possible only through strong political
will — a determination to achieve change, especially in the absence of
constitutional institutions. In addition to that our region needs to understand
the concept of citizenship, which calls for rising above differences.
Since the beginning of the Renaissance,
there has been a long and arduous journey of cognitive and critical research
with major philosophers like John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau, reaching the
conclusion that social tolerance is the first and only choice in the search for
value in life.
Transformations in the region have shown
that we, as Arabs, are still living in a spiral of conflict and disagreements.
These conditions within the political map of the Arab world are bound to push
us to further fragmentation, which we have started to observe in Sudan, Iraq,
Libya and Syria. All of these as political cases illustrate the inability of
their systems to establish the basic components of a united and productive
The growing concern revolves around any
problem that might hinder progress in Arab societies. There cannot be political
stability in the face of the sectarian conflict that has spread in the Arab
world. There are dangerous signs of ethnic and sectarian divisions that will
surely impair democratization.
Historically, we find Copts in Egypt, Sunni
Kurds in Syria, Sunni-Shiite tensions in Iraq and Lebanon, sectarian tribal
conflicts in Yemen, Islamists’ disagreements with other forces in Libya,
Tunisia and Egypt. We have not even mentioned Kurdistan, which demands
self-determination for itself in Iraq and the Western Desert. Even though
Somalia is in a very important geostrategic location, it has been dealing with
conflict for over two decades and is now threatened with division. The question
here is: What led things to become this bad?
There are two main reasons behind these
problems: Inadequate socioeconomic development and the inability of leaderships
in strengthening the concept of citizenship. Growing population is yet another
issue. The population of the Arab world is now about 350 million; it is
expected to exceed 500 million by 2050, which means a great deal of pressure on
the resources. It is ticking time bomb and it is to be expected that people
will protest when their demands are not met. Job opportunities should be
created and standards of living should be improved. This problem will not go
away since two-third of the current Arab population is under the age of 30.
The Arab world may continue with limited
economic growth, but the indications are that its unemployment rate will remain
the highest in the world. Whoever contemplates the political scene sees at once
that there is a major movement in the region that has used its vigour to
intervene and disrupt the political process in some countries.
Led by Tehran, Damascus, Hezbollah and the
Houthis, this axis is trying to expand the scope of the conflict and to involve
other countries in it. Apparently things cannot improve due to the complexities
of their own internal situations on the one hand, and the return of radical
interventions on the other.
There is no Arab plan to deal with this
complex situation. Of course, external influence will not go unnoticed.
Surprisingly, there are some who justify repeated failures by blaming others
and calling them traitors and agents of foreign powers. It is high time that we
stopped blaming others and introduced reforms in all spheres of life. We should
devise a comprehensive strategy to face the current challenges.
Reformation process needs coordinated
mechanisms and a timetable. This does not mean that the project should move one
step forward and two steps back. To achieve this feat, religious, political and
cultural elements need to be on the same page.
Arabs need the political will to believe in
the process of reformation and openness to others. They should take the
responsibility of admitting their mistakes.
Dr. Zuhair Al-Harthiis a member of the Shoura Council.
17 Feb 2016
Threats from home-grown terrorism continue
to challenge the outcomes of the White House Summit on Countering Violent
Extremism (CVE) paper almost half a year later. Incidents such as the San Bernardino
shooting have reignited socially divisive responses similar to the aftermath of
the 9/11 attacks.
But to strengthen United States' security
posture, its administration needs to shift from unsustainable reactive
responses to more proactive approaches in identifying, countering, and
preventing home-grown terrorism.
Identifying Home-Grown Terrorists
National security efforts rest on the
assumption that home-grown terrorists can be detected. This is not necessarily
a fallacy. Promoting acts of violent extremism on social media, for instance,
would be a valid indication of threats.
But the tactics to observe such behaviour
disproportionately rely on racial profiling and perpetuate a "clash of
civilisations" mentality that has increasingly focused on Muslims and
Islamic extremism despite the fact that more people in the US have died from
far right-wing attacks.
Responding to the identity of the San
Bernardino attackers in a New York Times article, a former director of the
National Counterterrorism Center noted: "What's really troubling is that
they appeared to be a well-integrated and stable couple with a baby and a
It is unrealistic to assume that extremist
violence can be forever eradicated. But the current strategy zeroes in on
Muslim communities and links 'countering violent extremism' programmes with law
What is all the more troubling is the
assumption that normative values such as marriage, children, and a job would
deter certain ideologies from taking root. Such conceptions create a false
threshold of risk for extremism and/or recruitment.
A better way to examine and understand
home-grown extremism is as a "generational revolt". Olivier Roy's
recent article pragmatically characterises the "opportunism" of
Islamic extremism among second-generation immigrants in France.
He argues, as I have elsewhere, that
second-generation youth often struggle to reconcile disparate cultures and
subcultures. They negotiate nebulous boundaries, seeking belonging and
relevance, and often end up frustrated by or falling short of societal and
Roy points out that many extremists have
past lives steeped in partying, sex, alcohol and drugs. Consider Khalid Sheikh
Mohammad, who was no stranger to strip clubs in the Philippines.
But, according to Roy, they choose
Salafism, "an Islam possessing of norms that allow them to reconstruct the
self all by themselves. Because they want nothing of the culture of their
parents or of the Western culture that has become a symbol of their self-hatred."
This view of extremism focuses on the
formative nature of household dynamics, cultural environment, and the
psycho-social impact on personhood rather than politically or religiously
motivated ideologies. It more accurately situates home-grown extremism as an
explosive mix of very human experiences and frustrations that lack outlets for
Breaking the Brand
When extremism becomes an outlet, fighting
a propaganda war is futile. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant's (ISIL)
recruitment of foreign fighters online has spurred US counterterrorism
officials to revise their approach.
Lisa Monaco, President Barack Obama's
counterterrorism adviser, stated that the US government "can work with the
private sector to get additional messengers with alternative voices out there.
Frankly, we've got to do a better job of approaching this in a way that allows
us to - the phrase has been used - break the brand of ISIL's message."
One suggestion, supported by presidential
nominee Hillary Clinton, has been increased Internet controls. At a news
conference in December, the director of the FBI, James B Comey, conceded that
Internet controls could not sufficiently encompass recruitment via the Internet
and social media.
Simply because extremists stop
"tweeting" does not necessarily mean they stop talking. Shutting down
internet technologies just shifts the conversation to another space - one that
can actually be counterproductive in the government's attempts to keep a pulse
on online recruitment.
A useful approach to "breaking the
brand" is to look at extremist narratives as products that are packaged,
marketed and sold to consumers. It is easy for the producers, such as ISIL or
al-Qaeda, to redefine their brand and target it to their consumers because they
know what their consumers want.
Much of the current strategy focuses on
discrediting extremist narratives in the media with the objective of decreasing
their impact. All it does is limit the market share of jihadist messaging.
Understanding the demand or why some people buy such propaganda is a more
There is no need to confound blatant
sociopathy and narcissism with, for example, an aberrant interpretation of
Islam. Most foreign fighters are between 18 and 29 (PDF), and extremist
propaganda caters to a demand among them that is much more intrinsic than any
religious or political ideology.
Preventing the Problem
It is unrealistic to assume that extremist
violence can be for ever eradicated. But the current strategy zeroes in on
Muslim communities and links CVE programmes with law enforcement agencies.
Muslim leaders in cities such as Boston and
Minneapolis that are running pilot CVE programmes have criticised the
initiatives as opportunities for police monitoring and intelligence gathering
rather than integration.
In Minneapolis, for example, grants for CVE
programmes have introduced allegations of opportunistic crisis conflation among
members of the Somali diaspora who want to secure government funding for their
For "Community Resilience
Programmes" to be truly effective, they cannot be based on reactive ad hoc
community mobilisations when a crisis emerges. Education is the best mechanism
for social and structural integration across diverse populations. Education is
also the key commonality among the cohort of home-grown extremist recruits in
the US - most have been or will go through the US school system.
This is an opportunity for the US
government to exponentially augment programmes for the children in mandatory
school-sponsored community service initiatives. It is lamentable to have to
spend millions of dollars on counterterrorism, when the government can
cauterise the problem by investing that money, up front, in an overhaul of the
Police brutality, racism, bigotry, and
extremism are all rooted in insular mentalities and ignorance. And when they
are chalked up to inherent violent tendencies among certain populations, it
further fuels the animosity, segregation, and dehumanisation that characterises
the US', if not the world's, political landscape at present.
Morwari Zafar is an international security consultant and a PhD candidate
in anthropology at the University of Oxford.