New Age Islam Edit Bureau
23 November 2017
Why Is Nasrallah Angry With Arabs?
By Mashari Althaydi
Now That Baghdad Has Won, It’s Time To Talk To The Kurds
By Sharif Nashashibi
A Window Has Opened For Middle East Peace — Let’s Grab The Chance
By Khalaf Ahmad Al-Habtoor
When Aoun ‘Hallucinates’, Parroting Khamenei
By Jameel Al-Thiyabi
Macron As A Firefighter Diplomat
By Christian Chesnot
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
22 November 2017
In Hassan Nasrallah’s recent speech, in which he commented on the Arab foreign ministers’ statement on Iran and its followers, Houthis in Yemen and Hassan Nasrallah’s Party in Lebanon, two things drew my attention.
The first is Nasrallah’s insistence on the idea that the axis of opposition – meaning the axis of Iran – has won a sweeping victory for the benefit of not only Syrians and Iraqis, and not for the benefit of Arabs and Muslims. According to him, this is a clear and historic victory for the benefit of humanity as a whole.
Nasrallah went on and on and boasted about Qasem Soleimani’s leadership. Nasrallah also corrected the name of Qasem’s network as Quds Force and not Quds Fleet. Let our brothers in the Arab take notice.
Anyways, what is important about the Quds Force, according to Nasrallah, is that it led the victory march against evil ISIS in the city of Abu Kamal, Syria. This was for the betterment of humanity and coincided with the victory accomplished on the Iraqi side in the district of Rawa by militant Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
What does Nasrallah want from this? What he wants to say is the following: We, the Iranian group, the Shiites, the axis of resistance, have achieved victory over ISIS, the Saudi Wahhabis – this is what Nasrallah insisted on in his speech.
He would also want to say that Saudi Arabia and the remaining Bedouins of the Arabian Peninsula never fought ISIS, all the while pointing with his finger to undermine. It seems that Nasrallah has never followed, or didn’t want to, the Saudi security battles over the years with ISIS in Saudi cities and the mountains of Yemen.
Nasrallah wants to celebrate his new “divine” victory in Lebanon. He said he was preparing the grand celebration of the Shiite victory worldwide. Perhaps he would also sell this victory to the West and the East in favor of Iranian propaganda.
Nasrallah may have rushed to celebrate and jumped the gun as Iran is itself condemned. The second thing that drew my attention in Nasrallah’s speech was his mockery of Arabs and the whole idea of “why are Arabs so full of themselves” against the Persian Iranians.
He also mocked the Gulf people’s traditional clothing, the Ghatrah and Shammagh. However, Nasrallah didn’t tell us about is his Abaya, turban and rings and where did all these come from?
Aside from the absurdities, Nasrallah’s bitterness toward Arabs is a good indicator of the birth of a real Arab position that has angered Khomeini. That in itself is a good start.
Will Arabs complete the journey toward creating a responsible Arab policy, which aims to protect Arab security, in a serious way this time?
The Saudi-Israeli Relationship Status Remains Unchanged
By Faisal J. Abbas
There has been no shortage of speculation, assumptions and even fake news recently about the status of Saudi Arabia’s relationship with Israel. This has been fueled by a number of factors, most notably the drama of the resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
Before Hariri returned to Beirut and retracted his resignation, there were many who predicted that his stepping down was in anticipation of a major military strike against Lebanon, which Saudi Arabia was going to magically outsource to Israel (a country with which it has no diplomatic ties, and a country that has no interest into going to war with Lebanon at the moment). This, of course, was all quickly proved outrageously wrong.
Other factors include the fact that Riyadh and Tel Aviv are both US allies. They also share a common threat — the ruling rogue regime in Iran. This is not new; many pundits have long assumed that the two countries would become natural allies on the basis that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
There is also the fact that Saudi Arabia has never said “never” to normalizing ties with Israel. In fact, it was the Kingdom — through its significant regional and religious weight — that was behind the most significant peace plan of its kind: The Arab Peace Initiative.
Announced in 2002, the proposal offered Israel normalization with all Arab countries in exchange for resolving the conflict with the Palestinians. Furthermore, the Saudi government — unlike Qatar — did not support Hamas’ offensives against civilians, and unlike Iran or its Houthi and Hezbollah militias, did not incite the demolition and destruction of Israel or threats to Israelis.
However, there is a big “but” here — which is that the Israelis and Palestinians never reached a peace deal, whether based on the Arab Peace Initiative or any other initiative.
Now, while the arrival of President Donald Trump — who has said that he is eyeing “the ultimate deal” in terms of achieving peace in the Middle East — may have shaken things up a bit, the reality will always be that Tel Aviv must resolve its issues with the Palestinians for it to normalize relations with the rest of the Arab world.
A few Israeli officials have offered security coordination with Saudi Arabia, and others have said that communication is already established. Of course, this has been neither verified nor confirmed by Riyadh. If there are any Saudis who, in a personal capacity, have spoken at conferences or engaged in talks with Israelis, this hardly means that diplomatic relations have been established.
As for security coordination, the fact that both countries face the threat of terrorism — whether from states such as Iran or from militias or extremist groups — makes it not so unlikely that an indirect sharing of information could occur via the US or some other entity. But again, this is merely speculation and such highly classified information will always remain unconfirmed; in other words, even if it were true, how would anyone know? And if it were true, why would the Israelis expose an important secret source of crucial information? The story just doesn’t add up.
Of course, there are many reasons that speculation of closer Saudi-Israeli relations may have floated around recently. The Israelis may themselves want to test the water, while both Iran and Qatar — with which Riyadh has severed ties over their support of terror and interference in other countries’ affairs — have an interest in moving public opinion against Saudi Arabia.
Furthermore, there has been unprecedented change in Saudi Arabia over the past two years under the ambitious Vision 2030 reform plan; so some pundits may assume that this also includes a redrawing of Saudi alliances and diplomatic relations.
The reality, from everything I have seen and heard, is that there has been no change in terms of the normalization of ties with Israel. The other side of that coin is that Saudi Arabia is still very much committed to achieving regional peace. Under the new leadership in Riyadh, and the Trump administration in Washington, this could not be more possible — if only the Israelis and Palestinians could get their act together.
By Khalaf Ahmad Al-Habtoor
The human race is gifted with an amazing capacity for problem solving. With God’s will there is nothing we cannot achieve. Scientists have cured illnesses that used to be death sentences. We take for granted that we can turn wind and sun into electricity and sea into drinking water, and hold face-to-face conversations with people on the other side of the planet.
We have also been successful in resolving the bitterest of conflicts. Who could have imagined that Germany and Japan would become two of the closest US allies, or that the Berlin Wall would fall and free Soviet satellite nations from communism?
Humanity always finds a way forward on the path to peace, with one exception — the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has dragged on painfully in one form or another since the birth of the Israeli state, condemning millions to misery.
This untenable situation has resulted in serial wars between Israelis and Arabs, and the failure to reach an accord is not for the want of trying on the part of mediators. In 2000, a Palestinian state was close to being a reality but was thwarted by leadership changes in Israel and the US, where voters delivered hawks.
Any efforts in that direction since then have been nothing more than token. Palestinian hopes have been dimmed and most fear they have been abandoned by the community of nations and by a Palestinian-fatigued media.
I have been batting for my Palestinian brothers and sisters since I rushed home as a boy to listen to the Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s weekly radio addresses. Former Palestinian President Yasser Arafat was a personal friend of mine, and to this day I do what I can to alleviate the financial burdens of Palestinians in dire need. It should go without saying that I would love in my lifetime to see a Palestinian state emerge on 1967 borders, but reality dictates that pragmatism must prevail over what has become a mirage.
I was once an idealist; no longer. Unrealistic dreams are of no use to a people yearning for a place where they can live peacefully and prosper in dignity. The painful truth is that resistance against a militarized, nuclear state has served only to elicit a brutal backlash, encouraging the occupying power to dig in its heels.
In short, it is time to implement new strategies requiring creative thinking and courage from all sides. A brand new page must be turned; a clean slate where the dredging up of past injustices has no place. Right now is the moment to write a new chapter, Israelis and Arabs together.
“Israelis and Arabs together” — the very phrase will offend the ears of many entrenched Israeli and Palestinian supporters, but since we are the parties to the conflict, is there any other way? If so, tell me about it. To quote the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, whose life was taken because of his peace efforts in partnership with Arafat: “You don’t make peace with friends. You make it with enemies.”
You may be asking yourself, why now, when there is a pro-Israel president in the White House and Israel has a hardliner prime minister?
In my opinion, it is now or never. First, US President Donald Trump would be ecstatic if he were the only US leader to secure such a deal. Second, and most important, the implacable enemies of Israel are also the enemies of almost all Gulf states and their Arab allies. Combating those mutual threats rests on cooperation between threatened countries. As they say, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
There is one state which, together with its overt and covert allies and proxies, is the greatest supporter of terrorism in the region and further afield: Iran. It operates on medieval values; it craves an Ottoman-style empire and disseminates a poisonous, backward ideology. Its aggression harms the Arab world and is seen in Israel as a threat to its very existence. Close cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Israel on that front would stop Iran’s ambitions in their tracks.
The late Saudi King Abdullah offered an olive branch in 2002 during an Arab League Summit in Lebanon in the form of the Arab Peace Initiative, a solid proposal based on a two-state solution. Israel left the offer hanging. Perhaps, then, the timing was not right.
The logical step now is for Israel to recognize the legitimacy of Palestinian aspirations by agreeing to a viable Palestinian state; or, at the very least, working toward a one-state solution with seriousness and dedication. Both the Israeli and the Arab sides should offer security guarantees backed by the US.
Israel’s defense chief Gadi Eisenkot told the online Arabic language journal Elaph this week that Israel was ready to share intelligence with “moderate” Arab states such as Saudi Arabia to thwart Tehran, which he accused of “seeking to take control of the Middle East… we must prevent this from happening.”
I could not agree more, but in the absence of any vision to improve Palestinian lives, cementing ties with Israel would engender conflicting emotions within the minds of Arab leaderships and peoples. Surely relinquishing land mostly populated by Palestinians is a relatively small price to pay for an enduring peace with almost the entire Arab world that would bring mega economic, diplomatic and social rewards to all participating states. The only alternative is one state in which Israelis and Palestinians live side by side, enjoying equal rights.
Lastly, I would remind Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the half-open window of opportunity to end decades-old tensions can shut just as fast as it opened. It has been created by a confluence of circumstances whereby Israelis and Arabs must overcome the nefarious schemes of a common enemy.
Mr. Netanyahu, this is your one chance to make history, not only as an Israeli patriot but as a peacemaker, a man capable of displaying pragmatism for the benefit of your people and ours. Let us put our hatred and fears behind us so that we deliver freedom to generations of Palestinians while beating back those wishing to do us harm.
As a first step, I advise you to approach the Saudi leadership as well as other Gulf Cooperation Council member states, such as the UAE and Bahrain, with sincere resolve. If you do, I strongly believe you will encounter fertile ground in which the first seeds of peace can be planted. Be brave enough to take a leap. Create a legacy of which you can be proud to safeguard generations of Israelis and Arabs to come.
By Sharif Nashashibi
Last week’s acceptance by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of Iraq’s Supreme Federal Court decision barring secession represents the Kurds’ capitulation to Baghdad in the standoff surrounding September’s independence referendum.
In the run up to the vote, Baghdad rejected the KRG’s proposal to delay it in return for concessions. After the referendum, the Kurds offered to delay implementing the result; again the central government stood firm. Until last week, the KRG’s position was that independence was a matter of when, not if, but its acceptance of the court decision represents the official burial of Iraqi-Kurdish statehood.
This is a stunning reversal from the Kurdish fanfare that preceded and followed the referendum, and is a stark indication of how limited the KRG’s room for manoeuver has been since the vote. It may have been counting on regional divisions hampering a united front against Kurdish independence, but the referendum created that very unity, particularly among its neighbors.
Iraq, Iran and Turkey coordinated their responses closely, implementing military, economic and political measures that were tantamount to a siege of the Kurdish region. This resulted in the KRG’s swift loss of swaths of disputed territory — most importantly oil-rich Kirkuk — and subsequent Kurdish political infighting.
The absence of regional or international recognition of Kurdish statehood elicited a deep sense of betrayal among Kurds, particularly toward the US and Russia, which were clearly unwilling to jeopardize important relations with regional allies despite Moscow’s and Washington’s close ties with the KRG.
Emboldened by the Kurds’ geographic, economic, military and diplomatic isolation, Iraq, Turkey and Iran threatened further coordinated action. Given all this, the KRG had little choice but to cave to Baghdad’s central and consistent demand that negotiations be based on accepting the ruling of the court, whose decisions cannot be appealed against.
The central government’s strident, decisive, maximalist approach has paid off handsomely, with the KRG basically accepting defeat and relinquishing its people’s national aspirations. However, this should be met not by further hard-headedness and heavy-handedness by an emboldened Baghdad, but by a willingness to negotiate with the Kurds in good faith over remaining issues of contention, and to show flexibility and pragmatism in the process.
So far, however, Baghdad’s response to the Kurds’ momentous climbdown has been muted, save for the prime minister welcoming a ruling this week by the Supreme Court that the referendum was unconstitutional. The central government should seize this opportunity rather than spurn or ignore it.
Baghdad, Ankara and Tehran have forced the Kurds to remain part of Iraq, but a lack of incentives to do so will only ensure the continuation of an unhappy marriage, which is untenable in the long run and benefits neither Iraq as a whole nor its constituent communities. After all, Kurdish secessionist sentiment in Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran has been spurred by grievances of discrimination, inequality and disenfranchisement.
If Kurds are punished and threatened into submission, rather than being made to feel genuinely a part of these countries, separatist sentiment among the Kurdish public will only grow, regardless of what their leaderships do or say.
Indeed, the KRG may have accepted the banning of secession, but Iraqi Kurdistan is a democracy, and its people could easily elect leaders who will not be so accepting if they see that their compromises are not being sufficiently reciprocated. As such, Baghdad — having largely achieved its objectives — should now extend a hand to the Kurds, not a fist.
The Challenge Of ‘Iranian Interference’
By Ghassan Charbel
It is enough for Arab foreign ministers to open their world map to confirm that their emergency meeting in Cairo yesterday was justified and necessary.
Talking about the “Iranian interference” is not a passing accusation that lacks evidence. The insistence on discussing it never falls within the framework of harassment or escalation.
It is an attempt to crystallize a unified Arab will to deal with a tense Arab reality in a group of countries and maps. Repercussions of continued interventions are not only limited to countries, in which Iranian-backed militias operate, but they can affect the balance of power across the region.
The most striking aspect of these interventions is that Tehran is not trying to deny them. The missile that targeted Riyadh bears a clear signature, and the Houthis were only used as a platform to launch it. General Qassem Soleimani’s pictures, touring among militants and between crescent states, leave no room for doubt.
Statements made by the generals of the Revolutionary Guard about the control of four Arab capitals are not just a blur or an exaggeration. President Hassan Rouhani’s words on the compulsory Iranian crossing complete the image.
“Iranian interference” is nothing new. The policy of “exporting the revolution” is primarily a declaration of the right to intervene in the affairs of other countries. What is new is the extent of this interference, the increasing threats it is posing and its growing exposure. Political changes, distortion of the power balance and demographic modifications to guarantee the consolidation of the new features…
“Iranian interference” is nothing new. But after the blatant Iranian role in Yemen, it took a more dangerous course. What is new, however, is that targeted countries feel that they can no longer avoid calling things by their proper name and that this interference is a fixed item in Arab meetings and talks with international powers.
Core Of Relationship
What is also new is the presence of an American administration that is not reassured with the nuclear deal, the achievement of which was an obsession for Barack Obama. The current administration has included the item “Iranian interference” at the core of its relationship with the region and its crises.
What is new in the “Iranian interference” is that Tehran has not dealt with the nuclear agreement as an opportunity to show respect to international laws and covenants. One can say that what happened was exactly the opposite. After signing the agreement, Iran stepped up its intervention in the region as if it considered the deal an opportunity that must be seized and used for the sake of the “big coup” project.
It was an unprecedented scene: removing maps’ immunity, violating international law and turning allied militias into small armies to topple some regimes and prevent the fall of others, regardless of the feelings of people, whose maps have been violated. The situation became more dangerous with the formation of rocket-armed militias, which complement abuses committed by militias through ground-based incursions.
What is also new in the “Iranian interference” is that talks about it reemerged after threats posed by ISIS diminished. There are those who believe that Iran’s sectarian-based policy of destabilization was the reason for the fragmentation of national unity in more than one Arab country and that ISIS was born out of these ruptures.
Since the region is also a hub of vital fortunes and corridors for global economy, international concern over Iranian role in missiles and militias has escalated. On the eve of the Cairo meeting, Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron discussed the situation in the Middle East. The White House said the two presidents “agreed on the need to work with allies to counter the destabilizing activities of Hezbollah and Iran in the region.”
Iranian interventions have reached an unprecedented level. This reality is even embarrassing for countries that usually prefer to adopt lukewarm stances and treat Arab wounds with general repeated terms.
It has become difficult for any Arab minister to justify the Iranian behavior or give pretexts to mitigate its role. The Iranian missile on Riyadh and the content of the resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri presented new evidence to those who were still looking for proof.
A Firm Note
Mounting interventions explained the rhetoric used by Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit at the opening of the meeting. They also explained the firm tone used by Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir.
At the meeting, Iran was accused of pursuing sectarian policies, deploying its militias on Arab soil and interfering in internal affairs. All these accusations have put the “Iranian Interference” item at the top of the agenda of regional and international meetings.
One does not exaggerate when saying that the stance towards these interventions will be an influential factor in Arab inter-relations, as well as in Arab-international relations.
Three parties must reflect on the outcome of the emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers. The first is Iran, whose behavior was condemned by the participants. The question is whether it wants to coexist with its Arab neighbors, or it insists on trying to subjugate them… If it chooses the second option, the winds of confrontation will intensify and Tehran will face isolation.
The second party is Hezbollah, which must think about its current image at the Arab level. Hezbollah is no longer seen as a resistance against Israel, but as a terrorist organization, based on its role in the Iranian coup.
The third party is President Michel Aoun, who will be the biggest loser of the resignation of Saad Hariri. The presence of Aoun – the former Army commander – in the presidential palace, will be meaningless if he does not employ his position to defend the idea of the state, the factors for its existence and the interests of the Lebanese people.
Unless Iran makes a quick decision to stop its comprehensive offensive in the region, the “Iranian Interference” item will be the title of the next confrontation and the slogan for a new alignment. The same item will be the title of the move towards the Security Council and will leave its mark on the situation in exploding areas and those which are likely to explode.
By Jameel al-Thiyabi
Exactly one year ago, on the 1st of November, I wrote an article titled “What will Aoun achieve?” Actually, all the opinions I presented came true, as it was a correct reading of the history of the current Lebanese President Michel Aoun, his "disturbed" approach, personal interests and his old and reawakened dreams!
Undoubtedly, Saad Hariri’s resignation from his post as Lebanese Prime Minister will not turn into a big crisis between Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. However, it has become a real crisis for the Iranian influenced and funded camp in Lebanon.
At the peak of the pyramid of power, Aoun has been affected by a slight mental derangement that has made him leave aside his presidential affairs and devote his time to firing statements accusing Saudi Arabia of holding Hariri, who announced his resignation from Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia repeatedly denied these charges. Furthermore, Hariri himself denied them many times. He was received by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman in his office at Al-Yamama Palace in Riyadh. Hariri also flew to Abu Dhabi where he met with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Muhammad Bin Zayed. He then returned to Riyadh.
Hariri also met with the Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai, who paid the first visit by a Maronite religious leader to Saudi Arabia. After a series of tweets by Hariri confirming that he was free to move wherever he wanted and that he would return to Lebanon, Aoun came up with a new fabrication: that it was not only Hariri who was being held but his family, as well, were being held in Riyadh.
Echoing Tehran’s Views
Actually, Aoun is a capricious person. He is ready to change his convictions for the slightest reason. When he chose to speak on the allegations that Hariri was detained in Riyadh, he had actually decided to echo Tehran’s views. Aoun was speaking on behalf of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who preceded him on the same day in stating similar allegations.
Strangely enough, apart from both having Iranian inclinations, both are in the post of a “dummy” president. In Iran, all power is in the hands of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. In Lebanon, the real power is in the hands of the Iranian Hezbollah.
Michel Aoun is the clearest example of politicians who are not governed by principles or morals, but by their interests and gains. He was obsessed by the ambition to reach the Baabda Palace (the Lebanese Presidential Palace). He was bent on achieving his interests and did not give a hoot that it would divide the ranks of the Christian community he belonged to.
He accepted Iran’s offer, via its puppet “Hezbollah” that they would enable him to become President in return for being at Iran’s beck and call. There was a blackout on the price of this deal by giving glittering promises to the Sunni, Shiite and Christian communities that were not under Iranian influence.
They were promised that Hezbollah would not be an impeding power in the government. They were also promised that Hezbollah would keep Lebanon neutral vis-à-vis the conflicts ablaze in the region, especially the civil war in Syria. On this basis, the Sunnis led by Hariri, accepted that Aoun be president and Hariri should form a government.
No sooner had the deal been concluded than Iran pushed Hezbollah to boost its participation in the Syrian war, so as to defend the Bashar Assad regime and set up an armed presence in Iraq and Yemen. Furthermore, Hezbollah impeded the Hariri government until it was incapable of fulfilling its promises to the Lebanese people.
Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, who is President Aoun’s son-in-law, shaped Lebanon’s policy the way Iran and its terrorist party wanted. Bassil’s contradictory stances were so numerous that Aoun became the headline for the political current that was waging a war to undermine Lebanon’s Arab character.
This current was bent on instilling a Persian identity for Lebanon to appease Tehran, which was represented by Hassan Nasrallah and the Iranian weapons he was brandishing at the Syrian state and people, the Sunnis in Iraq and the people and children of Yemen.
Therefore, Aoun has decided to persist in distorting the image of Saudi Arabia in collusion with his Iranian ally. This was after his decision in January 2017 to make Riyadh the destination for his first external visit after taking the oath of office. The problem is that Aoun is not the only evil person in the Lebanese arena. But the number of good people in Lebanon is greater than those who are evil.
The leaders of the Christian, Druze and Sunni communities have reached a consensus to value the Saudi role in boosting Lebanon’s security and strengthening its economy, without bragging or harming anyone. These good people recall with all loyalty the role the Kingdom played in bringing together all the Lebanese factions embroiled in the 1975-1990 civil war.
The Kingdom brought them together in Taif and they reached an agreement that put an end to the bloodshed in Lebanon. The Lebanese are still benefitting from the results of the Taif Agreement, despite evil people devoting all their time and effort to creating tension and attempting to booby-trap the political and social atmosphere. This is due to their belief that Iranian arms and money will place Lebanon under the hegemony of Iran’s agents and puppets.
Hariri was pragmatic enough to tender his resignation instead of taking refuge with his sect and allies in one trench so as to embark on an armed confrontation against Hezbollah and its puppets. His resignation revealed the real reason for the crisis in Lebanon; that is, Hezbollah’s hegemony and meddling as well as Iran’s interference.
This resignation aroused the madness of “the general” and his son-in-law because it simply removed the Sunni cover from Aoun’s presidency. If Hariri does not withdraw his resignation, Lebanon will suffer due to a vacuum in the prime minister’s office, the way the country suffered earlier from a presidential vacuum.
Undoubtedly, Hariri’s resignation is purely a Lebanese issue and a decision Hariri himself had taken. If Aoun believes that by spreading his lies, falsehoods and rumors and mobilizing the satellite channels and newspapers financed by terrorist Hezbollah, he will succeed in spoiling Saudi Arabia’s reputation, then he is mistaken as he has been since the time he was the Commander of the Lebanese Army. This was prior to his escape to France.
The reason is that the internal and external Saudi media networks are stronger than Aoun’s smear campaign through his yellow-page newspapers and shaky Iranian satellite channels.
But, Saudi Arabia, as a state, will not do the same because it realizes very well that Lebanon is not Aoun alone nor Hezbollah alone. The Kingdom’s reply will be what he sees and not what he hears. Let’s see after the return of Hariri what excuses Aoun will come up with and who he will scapegoat for his fiascoes in dealing with the real, essential reasons that led the head of the government to tender his resignation.
Not only this, but he failed to find a Lebanese Sunni leader to succeed Hariri as Prime Minister, as the leader of the Future Movement did not budge from his resignation. He stuck to the resignation he announced, amid very critical circumstances.
Half A Million Saudis Leaving Jobs!
By Hussain Abu Rashid
THE title a report in Al-Watan newspaper was “Half a million Saudis leave the labor market”. The newspaper cited statistics provided by the General Organization for Social Insurance (GOSI).
This means that 1,881 employees leave the labor market every day, which is an unexpectedly large number. The number is likely to increase in coming days because of the conditions the private sector is experiencing, aggravating the condition of Saudi families that are already reeling under difficult circumstances.
Meanwhile, the number of insured non-Saudi employees increased to 8.210 million at the end of 2016 to 8.513 million, while the number of insured Saudis, males and females including, rose to 1.890 million, compared to 1.878 million last year.
Half a million Saudis leaving the job market is a big deal because this is a huge number and should not be underestimated. The bulk of these people leaving the job market have families with an average of at least three members to support. The total number of people affected may thus reach 1.3 million. Between women and children they include young people who will suffer due to a lack of regular income to have a decent life.
The situation is expected to continue for years when more of our people will be leaving the labor market. In the absence of a viable strategy in place or any urgency to address the problem, unemployment will inevitably lead to many consequences.
Unemployment is one of the most serious problems that threaten security, stability and cohesion in society. While other countries are striving to solve the problem of unemployment, we find the issue getting aggravated to an alarming level in our country.
Is it possible to find solutions to the problem in current circumstances? The answer certainly lies with the stakeholders concerned.
The mediation of Emmanuel Macron in the Hariri affair confirms France’s desire to play a central role in the Middle East. The principles of the diplomatic posture of Paris are regularly hammered by the French president’s advisers.
France speaks to everyone – be it Saudis or Iranians – and does not have to take sides in the struggle for influence in the region. In this context, the Lebanese crisis was a promising test case for the French president who was able to deploy all his talent as a diplomat.
If Emmanuel Macron has got involved in this, it is because Lebanon remains the main gateway to French influence in the Levant and that Saudi Arabia was promoted by his predecessor Francois Hollande to the rank of strategic partner. Paris could not stay away from a case involving two of its main allies in the region.
To settle the Hariri case, President Macron was able to engage with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with whom he speaks frankly. Apparently, the two men have good chemistry and, according to a diplomat, even exchange text messages on their phones.
This is not surprising considering they are both young leaders belonging to the same generation and yet embody political succession in their respective countries. Thanks to this successful mediation, Emmanuel Macron scored points. This is an indisputable personal success that France had not known for a long time.
However, beyond this timely intervention, the president is doing a tight balancing act between Saudi Arabia and Iran. His bet is to have the ear of both Riyadh and Tehran. Is it possible? But above all, is it tenable?
The Iranians are furious that France has put on the table the question of Islamic Republic’s ballistic missile program as well as the influence of Tehran in the region.
On the other hand, French president has sent several messages to the Saudi leadership suggesting that Paris does not wish to call into question the Vienna agreement on the Iranian nuclear deal and especially does not share the anti-Iranian approach with Riyadh.
France thinks that it is today in an ideal position to try to make reason, pragmatism and realism prevail. Will it be heard though? Faced with an unpredictable American president, there is certainly room for Paris to play a different tune.
“France is available”, the Elysee repeats. Seen from Paris, accumulation of crises that pile up and feed off each other, increases the risk of a destructive embrace for the entire region.
Realistically, the current priority of French diplomacy remains the stability of Lebanon. Paris wants to “distance” the country from Cedar regional crises, because in the current highly volatile context, nobody has interest in its destabilization.
As a firefighter diplomat, this is the message that Emmanuel Macron repeats to all the Lebanese parties, but also to Teheran and Riyadh. To match the words with action, the French president also intends to organize an international aid conference for Lebanon in Paris next year.