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Middle East Press (07 May 2018 NewAgeIslam.Com)



When Will Iraq Become Another Armenia? By Adnan Hussein: New Age Islam's Selection, 07 May 2018

 

 

 

 

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

07 May 2018

When Will Iraq Become Another Armenia?

By Adnan Hussein

Hezbollah Sips at the Heart of the Lebanese State

By Mashari Althaydi

How Disregard For International Law Undermines Middle East Security

By Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg

Now Is Not the Time to Send the Rohingya Back to Myanmar

By Michael Kugelman

Protesting Iranians Disregard Regime’s Clampdown

By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

Lebanon's Parliamentary Elections to Deliver More of the Same

By Halim Shebaya

No Excuse for Our Ignorance in An Information Age

By Sawsan Al Shaer

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau

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When Will Iraq Become Another Armenia?

By Adnan Hussein

6 May 2018

Another country has presented itself as a model and example of the patriotism of its political elite, whether it’s the ruling party or the opposition, and how it puts the interest of the country and its people before partisan and personal interests.

Armenia’s Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan, also the chairman of the ruling Republican Party in Armenia and a former president, opted to be wise and rational and submitted his resignation upon the people’s will who have been protesting for ten days demanding he steps down because he failed. People have also called for appointing Armenian opposition leader Nikol Pashinian as his successor.

For those who do not know, Armenia is a stone’s throw away from Iraq as all that separates between the two countries is Turkey from one side and Iran from another.

Sargsyan did not only hand governance over without any resistance but he also addressed people and said: “I address you one last time to say that Nikol Pashinian was right. I was wrong.”

Before that, Sargsyan had tried to manoeuvre to stay in power but when he realized that this may lead the country to general unrest and perhaps cause a military coup, he put the interests and the future of the country and its people first and decided to submit to the demands of the Velvet Revolution that swept through the country.

This revolution has erupted due to the deterioration of the situation in the country during Sargsyan’s term as administrative and financial corruption has spread, the rate of inflation, unemployment and poverty as well as prices have increased and the situation of general services has worsened, like what Iraq has been suffering from for over 10 years.

Such a move by a man in power, like the Armenian prime minister, can only be described as patriotic, wise and responsible. This of course is the complete opposite of the behavior of the influential political category in Iraq as once its members attain power, they fight tooth and nail to keep it and state that they will not give it up. Not to mention that before they attain power, they seek it by all means possible, even if via despicable methods, like what’s happening in the current election campaign which they spent tens of millions of dollars on that were looted from public money and from the share of poor people who are deprived of a decent livelihood and from proper and basic healthcare, environmental, educational and municipal services.

Can we one day be like Armenia?

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2018/05/06/When-will-Iraq-become-another-Armenia-.html

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Hezbollah Sips at the Heart of the Lebanese State

By Mashari Althaydi

5 May 2018

What will the situation of the Lebanese state be if Hezbollah manages to cobble a majority in parliamentary elections?

On May 12, US President Donald Trump will announce his new strategy on Iran by deciding on the flawed Iranian nuclear deal.

In brief, Trump has repeatedly warned about “amending” the agreement or scrapping it altogether.

The amendment addresses two major threats which former President Barack Obama neglected, which are related to Iran’s ballistic missiles’ capabilities and the prevention of Iran’s bad behavior in the region, i.e. in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and even Morocco — where Iran’s “blessings” have reached through its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah!

There is in fact a new version of the US draft law on combating the financing of Hezbollah. The US Congress passed this draft law last year but the Senate hasn’t voted on it yet and it hasn’t reached the American president’s office.

Combating Hezbollah’s financial activity is part of the US legal and oversight framework, as is the case with other countries, and not just with Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates as the “resistance” mouthpieces try to make everyone think.

Trump’s anticipated stance on the Iranian issue will serve as a decisive moment and Iran’s leaders know this well.

In an analysis on Iran’s response to Trump’s anticipated storm, journalist Amir Taheri quoted Hossein Mousavi whom he described as a leader of political lobbying groups in support of the Islamic Republic in the US as saying: “In the case of the conflict with the US, Iran will do anything, anything at all, to have the upper hand.”

Commenting on the phrase “anything” which this Iranian activist said, Taheri wrote: “Tehran can order the Lebanese party Hezbollah to kidnap more hostages in other parts of the Middle East, like they did in the 1980s and 1990s.”

The story is true. Lebanon’s politicians may have succeeded in “postponing” the problem but this does not mean ending it.

Hezbollah is a genuine “part” of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and the latter is the first target in the American-Arab-Islamic confrontation.

At the same time, Hezbollah is present at the heart of the Lebanese system, in the core of the army, security, political and parliamentary institutions so how will Lebanon, the state, be safe from the blows that will hit the body of the terrorist Khomeini?

This is the question.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2018/05/05/Hezbollah-sips-at-the-heart-of-the-Lebanese-state.html

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How Disregard For International Law Undermines Middle East Security

By Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg

May 06, 2018

At the recent annual meeting of the Helsinki Policy Forum, I was asked to identify the main challenge to peace and security in the Middle East. Many factors came to mind, but I suggested that the weakened role of international law and institutions was the main issue underlying the region’s chronic instability and insecurity.

What I mean by that is the fact that international law is being violated in the region on an almost daily basis by states and non-state actors alike. Not just promises, but treaty obligations are also repeatedly shirked. This permissive environment is being enabled by superpowers shielding their allies from UN Security Council scrutiny by vetoing unacceptable draft resolutions. In other cases, when a UNSC resolution is somehow adopted, its implementation is dodged, even when it is under Chapter VII of the UN Charter — i.e., being binding and enforceable by any means necessary.

Here are some glaring examples of the breakdown in international norms. The Assad regime has routinely used chemical weapons, in clear violation of the universally accepted Chemical Weapons Convention. According to UN reports, the regime has used chemical agents dozens of times, frequently causing devastating loss of life among civilians. No regime officials have been held accountable.

Bashar Assad and his Lebanese allies have also assassinated or attacked numerous Lebanese political figures, writers and journalists. Those attacks have so far gone unpunished.

Almost every week, Iran-allied proxies are launching ballistic missiles indiscriminately against civilian populations. The Houthi rebels, Iran’s proxies in Yemen, use internationally banned anti-personnel mines and IEDs, killing and maiming innocent children.

Siege and starvation are now widely used as methods of warfare, with this approach perfected by the Assad regime. This medieval stratagem is responsible for the “success” of the regime in retaking large swaths of territory from the opposition and rebel groups.

It is fair to say that some countries still adopt a laissez-faire approach to terrorism. Iran in particular takes a proactive approach by training, funding and arming cross-border terrorism. Hezbollah of Lebanon has been designated as a terrorist group and has openly admitted it receives Iranian funding, yet it occupies a significant number of seats in the Lebanese Cabinet and Parliament. Hezbollah has turned its facilities in Lebanon into a centre of excellence and logistics hub for terrorism training, with graduates operating throughout the region (including Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq and Syria).

Israel has consistently flouted Geneva Conventions, universally considered as the binding rules of war, especially the Fourth Convention regulating the governance of occupied territories. It has for years failed to accept Arab offers to negotiate a peaceful end of the conflict. Israel adds insult to injury with the frequent use of excessive force against protesters and disproportionate collective punishment against whole families and entire communities, in clear violation of international humanitarian law.

Finally, Iran violates the UN Charter on an almost daily basis, especially the provisions on state sovereignty, respect for the political independence and territorial integrity of states, and non-interference in their internal affairs. The charter prohibits the use or threat of force to settle disputes and its spirit rejects sectarian-based politics. The UN system rejects a priori extraterritorial reach by any government to sow the seeds of civil strife by exploiting such differences. Regrettably, Iran has declined to commit in words or deeds to the UN Charter’s principles and refrain from inciting or exploiting sectarian differences.

It is true that international rules and the institutions set up to enforce them are not strong enough to fully restrain large powers, especially permanent UNSC members, but it is counterproductive to dismiss them altogether. International norms, which took decades, even centuries, to develop, can still play an important and effective role.

I will cite two examples where international rules and institutions played a deciding role: The current fight against terrorism and the experience of the Helsinki Accords a few decades ago.

Al-Qaeda and Daesh are on the run now thanks to international cooperation based on the UN system and international law. UNSC resolutions 2199 (2015), 2249 (2015) and 2368 (2017), among others, established an international consensus to fight those groups.

Acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the council adopted resolution 2368, a sweeping 33-page text detailing the types of sanctions already imposed on Daesh, Al-Qaeda and associated individuals and groups. The UN further set up powerful bodies to impose sanctions, monitor compliance and coordinate security work against them. The result is that we are now close to winning the war against those two groups.

In the 1970s, the Helsinki Accords demonstrated the worth of appealing to the values embodied in the UN Charter. Those accords started by restating the axioms of international behaviour laid out by the charter and establishing a body to monitor compliance. Gradually, the accords were able to influence the conduct of international relations across the Iron Curtain and elsewhere.

The current UN approach toward our region’s crises, whether in Syria, Iran, Palestine or Yemen, is not working because it is not anchored in a similar international consensus, but rather on ad hoc arrangements. UN mediators are left trying to get compromises any way they can, often ignoring long-established rules.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1297571

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Now Is Not the Time to Send the Rohingya Back to Myanmar

By Michael Kugelman

May 06, 2018

Recent days have brought a new flurry of international diplomatic activity intended to help ease the plight of the Rohingya.

The Rohingya are a deeply impoverished and marginalized Muslim community that has suffered horrifying acts of repression and violence in Myanmar. In recent months, several hundred thousand of them have taken refuge in neighboring Bangladesh, where many others were already based.

Over the final days of April, senior UN diplomats traveled to both Bangladesh and Myanmar to discuss how to ensure the safe repatriation of Rohingya refugees to the latter. Though Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a deal several months ago to repatriate 750,000 of them, none have yet returned. For the officials trying to orchestrate this delicate operation, time is of the essence because of the coming monsoon season, which could complicate relocations.

In reality, monsoon or no monsoon, sending the Rohingya back anytime soon would be a terrible idea. They certainly don’t have it easy in Bangladesh, where most of them are toiling away in overcrowded refugee camps. Still, they are much better off there than they would be in Myanmar. Simply put, there is little reason to believe the Myanmar armed forces will rein in their repressive behaviour toward the Rohingya.

In Buddhist-majority Myanmar, anti-Muslim sentiment runs deep, with sizable pockets of society harbouring nasty views toward Islam. For some casual observers, the notion of Buddhist extremism may seem far-fetched — but it’s very real. For example, several key religious figures in the country espouse sickeningly bigoted views toward Muslims. Take Ashin Wirathu, a prominent monk who has been described as a “Buddhist Bin Laden.” He once said he wants his fellow monks “to feel gross” about Muslims, “like they feel gross about human excrement.”

Given this societal backdrop, it’s easy to understand why Myanmar’s military has continued to crack down, harshly and relentlessly, against the country’s most vulnerable community.

The Rohingya, like many marginalized groups, are frequently scapegoated. The Myanmar military justifies its crackdown with the need to combat a small Rohingya-led militant group, known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, which in recent months has launched a series of attacks on local military and police facilities in Rakhine State to avenge the Myanmar security forces’ repressive acts. Most Rohingya have little to do with this group. However, the military, undaunted and perhaps galvanized by occasional media reports in Asia suggesting that Islamist terror groups are trying to recruit from the Rohingya community, pushes on with its scorched-earth tactics.

Additionally, even though she recently hosted senior UN diplomats for talks about the Rohingya, there is little reason to believe that Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Laureate who now serves in the powerful role of State Counsellor, will do much to help the Rohingya. To this point, she has largely refused to champion their cause. In some ways, her seemingly callous position, which has tarnished her global image, isn’t surprising. Suu Kyi is a democracy activist, not a crusader for the underclass. She made her name by taking on authoritarianism, not by taking up the cause of those living on society’s margins. Furthermore, she is unlikely to go out of her way to assist a deeply disenfranchised constituency that in Myanmar generates more scorn than sympathy. The sad and sobering reality is that Suu Kyi’s failure to embrace the Rohingya is a prudent political move in Myanmar.

However, even if Suu Kyi, motivated by a desire to repair her shattered global image, were to change her position and come to the Rohingya’s side, she would likely have limited success in making their lives less miserable. In Myanmar, the military, not civilians, have the final say on policy matters. Ultimately, Suu Kyi’s hands are tied.

The fact that the Rohingya — long overlooked and ignored by the international community — are garnering so much global attention and sympathy is a good thing. To that end, the active involvement of the UN to help improve their plight is a welcome development.

However, it’s important that the international community gets its priorities straight when it comes to the Rohingya. Trying to facilitate repatriations amounts to a fool’s errand. This isn’t the time to send the Rohingya back to Myanmar. Instead, the focus should be on providing more support to Rohingya refugees wherever they are now — whether in Bangladesh or in the many other countries where this nomadic-by-necessity community has sought refuge, from India to Indonesia and many places in between.

We live in an era of donor fatigue, with humanitarian appeals often falling on deaf ears; and yet the world is clearly captivated and moved by the perilous plight of the Rohingya. Now is the time to redouble efforts to ensure that they receive the food, shelter and, above all, the dignity that they deserve — wherever they may be.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1297566

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Protesting Iranians Disregard Regime’s Clampdown

By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

May 06, 2018

The Iranian regime last week doubled down on its intolerance of demonstrations on the streets; but nevertheless Tehran and other Iranian cities were the scenes of protests and anti-regime activities. In the capital, many workers had planned to hold a rally in front of the Majlis (parliament), but they were denied permission. However, a large number of the workers still made it to the Majlis and others came out to support them.

This highlights the fact that many Iranians have become so disaffected and frustrated with the authorities that they are willing to risk their lives by taking to the streets and protesting. People of all ages and social classes appear to have overcome their fears regarding the regime’s warnings.

In these situations, the regime has demonstrated repeatedly that it responds through a technique that it has been utilizing since its establishment in 1979. Deploying brute force against protesters has become the clerical rule’s modus operandi. The security and suppressive forces dispersed the demonstrators and a number of them were arrested. In addition, the regime unleashed its paramilitary and Basij forces and many protesters clashed with plain clothes Basij agents.

Protests were not limited to Iran’s capital, as there were also gatherings and clashes in several other cities, including Isfahan and Saqqez in Iranian Kurdistan. In the latter’s Chami Vali Khan Square, one protester was injured after being attacked by the regime’s forces.

One of the major grievances of the protesters is associated with economic difficulties. Neither the moderates nor the hard-liners appear to be willing to address their citizens’ underlying problems and satisfy their demands. Since January’s widespread and nationwide demonstrations, when tens of thousands of people took to the streets across Iran’s cities, the Iranian leaders have not taken any concrete steps to tackle the issue.

Instead, the leadership has been playing the blame game or resorting to empty rhetoric. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani continues to boast that his government has reduced inflation and is helping the economy, but the reality — such as the recent currency crisis and people’s living standards — tells a different story. Some Iranians even believe that Rouhani has been more detrimental to their economic situation than his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who offered social subsidies.

Arezoo, an Iranian mother of two, told me during a phone interview: “My husband is a full-time teacher. At night he also works as a taxi driver. I have a master’s degree and cannot find a job. I have been sewing clothes all day and sell them. We work seven days a week and our incomes put together ($390) are not enough to pay the rent for a one bedroom apartment in a lower class neighborhood of Isfahan ($550). My children have been sick for a long time, I have dental pain, but we cannot afford to go to a doctor. On TV, we hear Rouhani keep saying the economy is improving. But he is completely disingenuous.”

Many skilled and educated Iranians cannot find a job, and the unemployment rate and inflation remain high. Food, housing and healthcare have become extremely expensive for ordinary Iranians. This was reflected in chants such as “astronomical wages (for senior officials), public misery” at the latest protests. Placards carried by the workers read: “Our dinner table is still empty.” One of the workers carried a large placard that read: “Hey, you, billionaire minister, I haven’t been able to buy meat for the past 40 months.”

In spite of his promises to promote economic equality and improve people’s living standards, Rouhani’s moderate establishment has mostly acquiesced to the hard-liners’ power, particularly Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the senior generals of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. According to official figures, Tehran’s military budget saw an unprecedented increase of 145 percent during the first four years of Rouhani being in office.

It is worth noting that the protesters also had political demands, particularly after the arrest of several of demonstrators. Many Iranians were chanting: “Arrested workers should be freed,” “Bread, housing, freedom, are our inalienable rights,” and “Worker, teacher, student, solidarity, solidarity.”

The National Council of Resistance of Iran and the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, which boast a large network inside the country, were active through their networks in the run-up to the protests.

The Iranian regime should comprehend the hard truth that cracking down on the protesters will not eliminate the underlying causes of its citizens’ grievances. The Islamic Republic needs to take tangible steps in order to adequately satisfy the economic needs and address the political grievances of its people.

Otherwise, the frustrations and disaffectedness of the population could significantly endanger the hold on power of the ruling clerics. After all, Iran’s history in the last century reveals that its society is not unfamiliar or fearful of an uprising and changing a political establishment when the leadership ignores people’s socio-political and economic needs.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1297556

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Lebanon's Parliamentary Elections to Deliver More of the Same

By Halim Shebaya

5 May 2018

As Lebanese people prepare to head to the polls on Sunday, May 6 to vote according to a new proportional law, it is worth remembering that Lebanon's 128 members of parliament, who were elected in the last legislative elections in 2009, got a very good deal.

Instead of serving for one term (four years), they eventually extended their terms for an additional five years, allegedly due to security concerns and fear of political instability due to the situation in Syria and a presidential vacuum. In the process, they benefited from the many perks that accompany their posts while giving practically nothing back to the Lebanese people who were robbed of their constitutional right to vote for new representatives. (See this feature on the key players and the political landscape in Lebanon).

Thus, in the bigger picture, the on-going elections (the Lebanese diaspora voted last week) are really "too little, too late". It is an attempt by the government to portray normalcy and a properly functioning democracy, whereas the dire situation in the country requires a major overhaul and a comprehensive project of reform and anti-corruption measures.

Legal Agenda, a Lebanese specialised legal NGO/publication, summed it up neatly: the elections are "a wedding on the ruins of democracy" - in reference to a Ministry of Interior and Municipalities ad dubbing the elections as "the wedding of democracy".

The publication concluded that "we can predict that the elections will not bring us the best candidate but rather the most sectarian, powerful and wealthy candidate - bringing about a new 'wedding' celebrating all that is wrong in a democracy: a wedding on democracy's ruins."

New Vote, Same Leaders?

It is indeed distressing, as a Lebanese citizen, to think about, let alone write about, the Lebanese parliament. Lest I be accused of unwarranted pessimism, suffice it to mention some conclusions from a parliamentary monitoring project conducted by the Lebanese Centre for Policy Studies to give the reader an idea about the subject matter: "Addressing Citizens' Concerns is not on the Parliament's Agenda"; "By and Large, Politicians Don't Know the Issues"; "Lebanese MPs: Little Time to Legislate and Hold Government Accountable".

Of course, all this should be material for a political tsunami whereby voters would normally be expected to punish their underperforming and incompetent representatives and parties at the ballot box.

But Lebanon Operates Differently.

In Lebanon's power-sharing arrangement (consociational democracy) among various religious groups, consensus among the political elite is key or else paralysis in state institutions prevails. However, when Lebanese politicians speak about the need for "consensus" or "compromise" to accommodate the various communities' (rightful or imagined) demands, grievances, and "existential concerns", what is meant, in practice, is a negotiation of the terms of a deal (short-term or longer-term) between the various "zu'ama" (sectarian leaders).

These zu'ama running for elections have convinced their supporters that they are their individual and communal sole guarantors in a political system that will ignore them if they do not contact it (for services and protection) via their designated sectarian leaders who, owing to their strong position within that system, are able to provide them with the needed connections (or "Wasta").

This is why many analysts and scholars predict that Lebanese people will once again elect the same leaders and parties, since, as Lebanese scholar Rima Majed rightly asked: "Why would voters give up on their powerful sectarian leaders and go for independent individuals who are definitely weaker within the existing Lebanese system?"

'Irrelevant' Parliament

Ultimately, the key issue here beyond electoral campaigns and anticipated results is simple yet sombre. Lebanon's parliament is not, and will not be, the place where key decisions are taken.

Lebanon's consociational democracy has come to mean, in practice, that sectarian leaders agree among themselves on the best course of action to take on single or multiple issues and then proceed to parliament to "discuss" or to "vote".

Take the example of the "presidential settlement" that ended the presidential vacuum. When parliament elected General Michel Aoun as president in 2016, there were no surprises - except for the lame sense of humour of some MPs who put in random names including a pop star Myriam Klink.

There was no anticipation or uncertainty that would usually accompany a parliamentary vote of that magnitude (the presidency). Everyone knew that the agreement had been made for Aoun to assume the presidency in return for Saad Hariri's return to the premiership - among other terms of an agreement that was discussed and agreed upon in private.

Thus, the parliamentary vote was not really a "vote" in the full sense of the term. It was simply a chance to confirm a decision that had been taken outside the parliament, similar to Michel Sleiman's election in parliament after the Doha Agreement in 2008 - with the difference that Aoun was one of the "Christian street's" most popular candidates.

Stated differently, state institutions, including the parliament, have not been the place where the democratic process takes place since the end of the civil war, as Max Weber fellow Jamil Mouawad wrote. They have been transformed into institutions whose role is to ratify agreements woven outside parliament; that is, between the political elite and regional and international actors.

Will Lebanese Vote For Independent Candidates?

Be that as it may, the parliamentary elections remain important, in so far as they provide a chance for the Lebanese people to vote, and inasmuch as the new electoral law will likely generate a slightly more diverse representation after an electoral campaign that saw some improvements in political discourse and gender representation.

Indeed, the choices are not great. The same players are asking the Lebanese people to trust them for an additional four years - claiming achievements, loyalty, steadfastness, pledges to fight corruption and to build a strong state. And it is a safe bet to expect these very same players to be voted back into parliament on Sunday - with a few changes here and there, and with the "son" replacing the "father" in some instances (Teymour Walid Jounblat and Tony Sleiman Frangieh to name a few).

In contrast, there are lists of non-traditional newcomers (commonly referred to as "civil society" candidates) who, in contrast to the established influential parties, are calling for a non-sectarian outlook to Lebanese politics and a citizen-focused approach that seeks to address citizens' daily concerns rather than focusing on religious communities' "existential threats" and stoking up fear of the "Other" or "foreigner" (refugees). Theirs is an attempt to challenge the status quo and to offer an alternative.

Prospects for reform from within the parliament might become a "pilot project", if these independent candidates running on a non-sectarian human rights-based agenda manage to secure a couple of seats across Lebanon. Whether they convince Lebanese voters to switch teams, or whether the same sectarian parties will be brought back remains to be seen in the next 72 hours.

At the end of the day, the outcome of the elections will not change much in the political landscape - unless, of course, we will witness unforeseen huge electoral surprises radically altering the balance of power in the country. Otherwise, the elections will be followed by the formation of a national unity government headed by current PM Saad Hariri and Lebanon will try to "survive" another four years of power-sharing arrangements and very little legislation that directly address citizens' concerns.

Thus, the parliamentary vote was not really a "vote" in the full sense of the term. It was simply a chance to confirm a decision that had been taken outside the parliament, similar to Michel Sleiman's election in parliament after the Doha Agreement in 2008 - with the difference that Aoun was one of the "Christian street's" most popular candidates.

Stated differently, state institutions, including the parliament, have not been the place where the democratic process takes place since the end of the civil war, as Max Weber fellow Jamil Mouawad wrote. They have been transformed into institutions whose role is to ratify agreements woven outside parliament; that is, between the political elite and regional and international actors.

Will Lebanese Vote For Independent Candidates?

Be that as it may, the parliamentary elections remain important, in so far as they provide a chance for the Lebanese people to vote, and inasmuch as the new electoral law will likely generate a slightly more diverse representation after an electoral campaign that saw some improvements in political discourse and gender representation.

Indeed, the choices are not great. The same players are asking the Lebanese people to trust them for an additional four years - claiming achievements, loyalty, steadfastness, pledges to fight corruption and to build a strong state. And it is a safe bet to expect these very same players to be voted back into parliament on Sunday - with a few changes here and there, and with the "son" replacing the "father" in some instances (Teymour Walid Jounblat and Tony Sleiman Frangieh to name a few).

In contrast, there are lists of non-traditional newcomers (commonly referred to as "civil society" candidates) who, in contrast to the established influential parties, are calling for a non-sectarian outlook to Lebanese politics and a citizen-focused approach that seeks to address citizens' daily concerns rather than focusing on religious communities' "existential threats" and stoking up fear of the "Other" or "foreigner" (refugees). Theirs is an attempt to challenge the status quo and to offer an alternative.

Prospects for reform from within the parliament might become a "pilot project", if these independent candidates running on a non-sectarian human rights-based agenda manage to secure a couple of seats across Lebanon. Whether they convince Lebanese voters to switch teams, or whether the same sectarian parties will be brought back remains to be seen in the next 72 hours.

At the end of the day, the outcome of the elections will not change much in the political landscape - unless, of course, we will witness unforeseen huge electoral surprises radically altering the balance of power in the country. Otherwise, the elections will be followed by the formation of a national unity government headed by current PM Saad Hariri and Lebanon will try to "survive" another four years of power-sharing arrangements and very little legislation that directly address citizens' concerns.

Source; aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/lebanon-parliamentary-elections-deliver-180504124439415.html

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No Excuse for Our Ignorance in an Information Age

By Sawsan Al Shaer

6 May 2018

I understand that people could be deceived at times when information takes decades to be revealed to the public. I understand that people could be driven towards the unknown due to rare sources of information, slow communications and the absence of truth due to a massive amount of falsehood, ambiguity and the absence of information that would take decades to be revealed and published – and which even when published by western media, it needs another decade to reach people in the Arab world.

However, the present is quite different. Digital technology is now available to children who can access information even before their elders and is on hand to both the rich and poor alike. For example, you can read the Washington Post in Bahrain even before it has been published in print yet in the US. Even when you are thousands of miles away, online tools enable you to receive breaking news from, for instance, The Guardian. You’d learn the news even before millions of British people know about it, because you may have been online in Bahrain and notified about it on your Twitter account, while many in Britain were asleep at night.

Information Warfare

There is no excuse for our ignorance now as information is easily and quickly available. Meanwhile, we should not ignore or pretend that we are not aware of what is being planned for us due to lack of information, and justify our mistakes at being deceived.

Today, competition between conflicting parties in our world makes information warfare one of its tools. Information reaches more quickly and accurately than one might expect. We now have the proof and evidence that Iran and Qatar were involved in funding armed Arab militias belonging to both sects. The evidence is available for all those who defend these two regimes, thus there is no excuse for their defence.

All you need to do is to use your mobile phones and search on Google or on Twitter to find the evidence. You can search for the keywords Iran and al-Qaeda, Qatar and Qassem Soleimani and you will find plenty of news.

Iran, Qatar support both Shiite and Sunni terror

Thus given all these easy methods to attain knowledge, I wish that those who see Iran as a Shiite supporter or see Qatar as a Sunni supporter answer the following questions: Why does Iran harbor al-Qaeda commanders? And why does Qatar pay billions of dollars to Shiite militias headed by Qassem Soleimani?”

These facts cannot be denied, they are out there. They are both assisting each other. Each party claims that it is supporting a sect to protect it from the other. Is not the Iranian-Qatari rapprochement enough?

Does This Not Sound The Alarm To Awaken The Asleep?

After all this available information for everyone to access, is it logical that any Arab Shiite would still believe that the Iranian regime is good when he knows that it harbors and helps commanders of al-Qaeda, which bombed Shiite mosques and killed Shiite people? Is it logical that any Sunni still believes that Qatar is protecting the Sunni people and is its chief defender, while it provides Shiite terrorist militias with money that was used to kill Iraqi Sunnis and displace Sunnis of Syria from their cities?

Doesn’t this huge torrent of available evidence about the Iranian-Qatari linkage open people’s eyes? Is not Qatar the one that is funding militias which kills Shiite in Iraq? Is not Iran is the one that is funding the Shiite militias that is killing the Sunnis in Iraq? How would one “honourable” party that’s fighting another “honorable” party meet while they are both funding fighting militias?

Did not you realize after all this information which spread quickly over the last year that these states are not about supporting the Sunni or the Shiite, but rather about nurturing terrorist militias without distinction?

If the available information reaches us and we do not analyze and understand it, then ignorance lies with our analyses and understanding, not in the paucity of information, and this is a disaster!

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2018/05/06/No-excuse-for-our-ignorance-in-an-information-age.html

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URLL: http://www.newageislam.com/middle-east-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/when-will-iraq-become-another-armenia?-by-adnan-hussein--new-age-islam-s-selection,-07-may-2018/d/115161




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