Islam Edit Bureau
Have Not Lost Hope
Awad Bin Mubarak
Offer Hope For Syria Diplomacy
Egyptian State And Its Youth: Who Is Afraid Of Whom?
Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Transform The Country?
Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030
By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
Not Lost Hope
26 Apr 2016
heading to the Yemeni peace talks in Kuwait last week when I received a message
from a young lady that read: "Please don't come back without peace."
demand became a trend on social media that Yemenis launched to demonstrate
their need to end the war. It is about time that we Yemenis realised how much
we have lost in this terrible war. People have been suffering in silence for
more than a year now; some lost their lives, some lost their homes, some lost
their prospects, but they didn't lose hope.
talks: Useful start or doomed to fail?
good faith and strong will is what brought us here. It is about time that we,
Yemenis, realise how much we have lost and will lose if this war continues.
In a little
over a year, this war has managed to unravel a massive humanitarian
catastrophe. It killed thousands of people and forced roughly 1.5 million
people to flee their homes and embark on a journey of misery and despair.
vulnerable groups are the ones paying the heaviest price; women and children.
Damages to infrastructure, water supply systems, health facilities, electricity
and schools are beyond recognition and beyond any common sense.
talks that commenced this week in Kuwait offer a golden opportunity for all
parties to end the people's struggle and end the cirsis. This could be achieved
by the return to the agreed mechanisms: the Gulf Cooperation Council
initiative, the National Dialogue outcomes and the UN Security Council
Resolution 2216 (2015).
which have provided the guiding principles for the Yemeni transition and the
restoration of a functioning state.
talks that commenced this week in Kuwait offer a golden opportunity for all
parties to end the people's struggle and end the crisis.
Security Council Resolution laid out the plan for the new solution, namely an
end to the use of violence, withdrawal of Houthi forces from all areas they
have seized, including the capital Sanaa, relinquishing all arms seized from
military and security institutions, including missile systems, halting all
actions that are exclusively within the authority of the legitimate government
of Yemen and the safe release of all political prisoners, and all individuals
under house arrest or arbitrarily detained.
coup that spiralled into a full-fledged war and triggered the regional intervention,
Yemenis had come very close to successfully completing the political
constitution drafting process had completed its first phase by submitting a
draft constitution to the national body which was supposed to convene and
constitution was exclusively based on the National Dialogue outcomes. It
included progressive texts on rights and freedoms and ground-breaking
provisions for the reinforcement of democracy and good governance.
was a true victory for all the advocates of human rights and participatory and
engaging government. The draft empowered women and the youth and set out
guarantees to bring the government closer to the people through the federal
But this came
to the dissatisfaction of certain parties that sought not to maintain the
status quo, but to drag Yemen backwards and throw it in the abyss instead of
fulfilling the people's aspirations for change.
movement was engaged in all the political processes since 2011 although it is
not a formal party. Indeed, it had endorsed the outcomes like everyone else.
But all of a sudden, it decided that an inclusive government was not its thing
and a peaceful approach was not the means.
stormed the capital and forced the president to once again opt for peace and
sign an agreement that gave Houthis a share in government and state
stop there and they continued to march south and west, conquering one province
at a time until they swallowed half the country by force and intimidation.
back at the choices the government of Yemen was forced to make to address this
enormous predicament, it seems that it was left with no option but to act. The
decision was to stop a bloodthirsty militia from undermining the state and
suppressing rights and freedoms.
decision was to prevent Yemen from sliding back half a century in time just to
please a group that thought it had a divine right to rule. This is a group that
had no problem blowing up homes, shelling heavily populated areas, kidnapping
people, shutting down the media and putting cities under siege.
the government continued to show willingness to engage in peaceful solutions.
It sent high-level delegations to Switzerland in June 2015 and then again in
December 2015. It was agreed that a number of confidence-building measures will
be applied to pave the way for future talks.
measures included the release of prisoners, the end of siege and the
implementation of a ceasefire. Weeks and months went by and the Houthis/Saleh
loyalists showed no sign of positivity.
Yemeni government goes to another round of dialogue without any true guarantees
regarding the Houthis/Saleh positions. It goes armed with only good intentions
and determination to end the people’s sufferings.
have changed since the last round, including major developments on the ground
in favour of the government, beside the successful military campaign against
AQAP (al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) in Lahj, Abyan and Al Mukalla.
been notable understandings on the borders between the Houthis and the Saudis
that may mark the beginning of a series of other understandings.
government is the Yemeni people's tool to achieve what they want.
the government want? The government is the Yemeni people's tool to achieve what
they want. It is the end of war, the safety and stability, the respect for
human rights and the implementation of the National Dialogue outcomes.
afford to let the people down once again. But we can't also afford to trick
them with an elusive peace or an unfair settlement. For that, we need
guarantees that whatever is agreed in Kuwait will be implemented fully and
need to reach a comprehensive negotiated agreement on a number of issues,
listed in the UNSCR 2216, in the correct sequence so as to prevent the process
from collapsing because of delays or poorly planned transition.
peace talks ended with an agreement on a future plan, Yemenis will still have
much work to do. Internally, the Yemeni communities will need to learn how to
forgive and move forward.
to the social fabric has been unprecedented, so the healing process will take
time and we hope it won't consume Yemenis and frustrate them even more. There
is, of course, the reconstruction and recovery processes that will require the
support of our friends in the international community.
hindsight, Yemen could have been spared all this misery if armed groups weren't
blinded by their greed and ego. Yemen is a beautiful country that deserves a
strong, responsive and inclusive government - and that is what we will always
Offer Hope for Syria Diplomacy
conflict has not only ruined the country, killed hundreds of thousands and
displaced millions, but also fueled regional sectarian and ethnic tensions to
It would be
difficult for peace talks to succeed without the backing of Saudi Arabia and Iran,
yet there are no diplomatic relations between the two countries, which are
involved in the Syrian conflict.
last week US President Barack Obama visited Saudi Arabia to meet with Gulf
leaders, and Secretary of State John Kerry met with Iranian Foreign Minister
Mohammad Javad Zarif in New York during a UN climate-change summit.
complained of difficulties regarding implementation of the nuclear deal and
access to the international banking system to encourage foreign investors.
“We do not
stand in the way of foreign banks engaging with Iranian banks and companies,”
Kerry said on Friday.
meeting with Gulf leaders last week, it is now possible for Iran and Saudi
Arabia “to sit down at the table” and break the ice
statement helps Iran’s economy, that may help in finding a solution to the
Syrian conflict and the future of President Bashar al-Assad.
Saturday, Iranian Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi said Tehran had offered
Assad’s family asylum in Iran, but Assad “declined,” saying his family “is like
the rest of Syrian families and will remain in Damascus.”
signifies important political changes in Iran and Syria, and that the Geneva
talks can continue.
opposition participated in the talks reluctantly, and based on their
consultations with Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
visit last week satisfied his Gulf allies, Assad’s inclusion in a transitional
government should not be a problem.
the BBC on Saturday that with just nine months left of his presidency he did
not think the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) would be defeated.
said the international community must continue to pressure all parties -
including Russia, Iran and moderate opposition groups - “to sit down at the
table and try to broker a transition.”
Obama’s meeting with Gulf leaders last week, it is now possible for Iran and
Saudi Arabia “to sit down at the table” and break the ice.
certainly strengthens entities and, consequently, people. Illegitimate
strength, however, is not sustainable. This is what Egyptians should have
learnt in the course of their genuine attempt to revolt against the autocratic
regime on January 25, 2011. Once they had come together, the accumulation of
tiny, weak cells (individual citizens) was able to break the power of the
state, built over decades.
themselves as statesmen, persons who are willing to serve their country to the
best of their knowledge. In reality however, because they have been ruled by
the same regime for decades, Egyptians have come to confuse the regime’s
politicians with state entities and authorities that are supposed to function
independently of the ruling regime. On the other hand, Egyptian youngsters, who
often proudly call themselves “the kids”, represent the large segment of
society that has always been ruled by senior citizens (who only leave their
positions upon their deaths).
state, in my view, has been notorious for its power that, in the absence of the
proper application of rule of law, it uses only to serve its affiliates – and
to demolish its opponents. Meanwhile, the youth, who benefit from greater
international exposure, have been struggling to bring their ideas forward and
to capitalize on their energies to modernize their country. These qualities are
not really recognized by the state, which accuses the youth of importing
western values that will defile our country and insists on using its outdated
mentality to overcome challenges facing the nation.
believes that to remain united and strong, it needs to expand its muscle by
acquiring more weapons, adopting harsher measures against protestors and
inciting Egyptian citizens against their young
youngsters have been subject to state manipulation for decades. Their ideas
have not been paid attention to; their energy has been used to serve the ruling
class as they have watched the country deteriorate further. The state came to
realize the power of youth only for a few weeks when they attempted to bring
the country to revolt on January 25, 2011. At that time, the state, which has
made a habit of scaring the society, was forced to flee the streets occupied by
the youth. The state’s worst nightmare is the youth taking to the streets
Even as the
youth demanded dignity, the events of 25 January damaged the state’s pride.
Accusing a number of foreign countries of being behind the events of the day
serves to soften the impact of the revolution on the state. The state believes
that to remain united and strong, it needs to expand its muscle by acquiring
more weapons, adopting harsher measures against protestors and inciting
Egyptian citizens against their young. Meanwhile, the powerless youth are
holding fast to their single, effective tool: thinking about when they will
manage to protest against the state again.
currently in a state of complete political immaturity. The state doesn’t want
to understand that it will never be able to bring back its repressive policies
and manipulate its youth as it used to in the old days; the old tricks it used
to employ to handle the youth have become obsolete. One example is the meetings
between the president, and his affiliates, to which young people were invited.
They had completely different demands (even though they were not allowed to
express their opinions at the meetings). It was a kind of monologue that only
strengthened the prejudice.
is continuously warning Egyptians against the “Evil People” i.e. the Muslim
Brotherhood. Now an outlawed organization, with thousands of its leaders facing
prosecution in Egyptian courts, the Muslim Brotherhood today doesn’t represent
a real threat to the state. The Brotherhood will make a deal with the state
eventually – leaving the president and the state to face the real challenge of
how to deal with the youth.
Egyptian state is growing old and weak, but its egoism is preventing it from
releasing this fact. The state’s current invulnerability could be broken at
anytime. If it were politically mature enough, the state would work on
integrating our youth’s ideas and energies into its political mechanism, with
the aim of modernizing Egypt.
the state is our best option, but it is not the one foreseen by the state. This
step might lead to discarding the current ruling regime, but it will develop
and enhance the functionality of state entities and authorities. The
alternative is the collapse of the state, the scariest scenario – and the one
that, gradually and contentedly, we are moving towards.
27 April 2016
It is not
surprising that the Geneva peace talks on Syria are on the brink of collapse
following the opposition’s suspension of its participation and the regime’s
refusal to discuss a transitional ruling authority with full powers.
outset it was clear that the Damascus delegation was not going to negotiate any
proposal that would diminish the powers of President Bashar Assad or replace
him entirely. This is something that UN envoy Staffan de Mistura never acknowledged.
All his efforts to extend the lifespan of the talks were founder over this
why the regime is playing hardball is that it feels it is no longer under
international pressure to give in on any point. The US has allowed Russia to
lead on the issue of finding a political solution to the complex Syrian
Obama made it clear that he does not favor a military intervention in Syria to
topple Assad nor is he supporting a proposal to establish safe zones for displaced
people on Syrian territory. His only goal now is to intensify military efforts
to defeat Daesh; thus his decision to beef up Special Forces deployed in Syria.
And when it
comes to Russia its goals and objectives have little to do with reaching a
political deal that would end Assad’s rule and allow the opposition to take
over. For one Moscow would like to see the Riyadh-based Syrian opposition
alliance, the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), weakened and replaced by the
so-called Moscow and Cairo opposition groups, which include Syria’s Kurds and
individuals who are more willing to cooperate with the regime. Discrediting the
opposition will derail the current round of talks. Moscow continues to claim
that the factions that make up the HNC include radical groups who are
ideologically close to Al-Nusra Front.
the fragile truce has already crumbled with the regime focusing its military
operations in Aleppo and its surroundings.
this important city from vital supply routes through Turkey will accelerate the
process of its recapture. If and when this happens the regime would emerge more
confident of imposing a de facto military solution. Russia’s military support
of the regime has not waned even after Moscow’s surprise decision, last March,
to wind down its operations in Syria.
of the HNC will be seen as a major victory for the regime and its allies. If
the opposition does not return to Geneva soon, internal divisions will spread
and Moscow’s argument that other opposition groups are ready to replace it will
be proven right. The HNC’s choices are difficult; it will have to give up on
one key condition, which is the fate of Assad, if it wants to remain relevant,
but if it does just that it risks imploding from within, which will allow
Moscow to offer a replacement.
Obama has cast doubts over President Putin’s real intentions in Syria, he has
failed to offer his Arab and western allies a clear view of what should be done
to end the five-year civil war. Washington’s commitment to supporting the
so-called moderate rebel groups is being questioned, giving the Russian-backed
regime forces the opportunity to retake additional territory in recent weeks.
For the HNC
the US position is baffling. While Washington says that there is no role for
Assad in Syria’s future, its position is ambiguous over his function in the
proposed transitional phase. This is one reason that the HNC is frustrated with
the US and is suspicious of Washington’s understandings with Moscow on Syria.
the regime continues to enjoy Russian military support as it advances toward
Aleppo, moderate rebel groups complain that they are severely under equipped.
Again US military support of opposition groups appears to have stopped
altogether, in contrast to what it is giving to Syrian Kurds who are fighting
dictating the pace of the political process while boosting the regime’s chances
on the ground, it seems inevitable that the Geneva talks will shut down soon.
Moscow will blame the HNC and is likely to offer substitutes who are willing to
accept a formula that does not exclude Assad and his regime from a political
solution. This is now the most likely scenario and it is not far-fetched that
Washington will tag along.
With the US
abandoning the Syrian opposition it is difficult to see how it can hold
together politically. Those who belong to armed groups, like Jaish Al- Islam
and Ahrar Al-Sham, will be targeted by the regime and Russian jets and the
areas they control will eventually be recaptured. Moscow’s intervention in
Syria, while criticized by the Americans, appears to be achieving its
objectives for now. But the cost for the Syrian people will be devastating and
in the words of Tacitus “they make desolation and they call it peace.”
watchers, the new plan “Vision 2030” is the most radical economic news coming
from the country since the establishment of Aramco in 1933. However, its
trajectory reverses the old economic pillars of the oil boom days, promising to
rid the country of the petroleum dependency, while cutting subsidies and
boosting the middle class.
the plan and Saudi’s ambitious transformation is its youngest Deputy Crown
Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who since assuming his responsibilities in January
2015 has surprised policymakers in regional and Western capitals.
diplomats in Riyadh call him “Mr Everything” because of his large portfolio
that includes the ministry of defence, the royal court and as chairman of the
Council for Economic and Development affairs. Those who know and have worked
with Prince Salman, describe him as "a bold thinker, a strong
conversationalist and a very meticulous leader”.
becoming the first of the Grandsons to assume the third most powerful position
in the country, the 31-year-old has been a crucial aide to his father King
Salman. He accompanied the King since age 17, and helped in both getting the
family and the government priorities in order, angering and clashing at times
with traditionalists and big spenders.
his young age, Saudi Deputy Crown Prince’s approach to governance and openness
to the media signal a break with the more cautious style of his predecessors.
In the last six months alone, Prince Salman granted two lengthy interviews to
The Economist and Bloomberg, and he gave an unprecedented 48 minutes televised
interview to Al-Arabiya. Those who follow Saudi politics closely will pick up
immediately on the more open and direct tone by the Deputy Crown Prince in
speaking to both the Saudi public and the West.
three interviews, Prince Salman comes across as a detail-oriented planner who
exhibits the knowledge and understanding of the economic changes, albeit
unpopular, that Saudi Arabia should undertake.
working regimen, and surrounding himself with top tier economic experts and
advisers who include the Secretary General of Public Investment Fund, Abdul
Rahman Al-Mufdhi, is driving a sense of optimism in his agenda inside the
country. A US visitor who met the Prince in Riyadh recently, described him as
“great conversationalist, very smart and with a strong work ethic.”
know and have worked with Prince Salman describe him as "a bold thinker, a
strong conversationalist and a very meticulous leader”
Al-Arabiya interview, there is an embrace of big ideas that challenge economic
old taboos in Saudi Arabia. A primary example is in Prince Salman’s pledge for
transparency in the process of converting Saudi Aramco into a holding company,
guaranteeing that all the financial information will be disclosed and that the
new board will be elected.
day and age, no country can afford to not be transparent”, Prince Salman (also
known as MBS) told Al-Arabiya while decrying the “oil addiction” that Saudi has
developed over the last century.
message also takes note of the demographic changes in Saudi Arabia, with almost
51 percent of the population under the age of 25. Creating job opportunities
and reforming the subsidies system, while leveling the field for women are
echoed in his Bloomberg interview. Coming on the heels of a cabinet decision to
reform and outline the powers of religious police, this new plan points in the
direction of incremental changes in the country.
on Foreign Policy
meetings with US officials and Arab dignitaries in the last year, there is a
strong impression that the Saudi deputy Crown Prince is “a good listener”, and
not wed to ideological thinking or dogma in the foreign policy discussions.
He has a
close working relationship with the United Arab Emirates, and has prioritized
strategic long-term interest over current differences, as seen in his latest
visit to Sochi where he met Russian President Vladimir Putin. In a more
regional context, the new Saudi leadership has shown more signs of pragmatism
in approaching the Muslim Brotherhood for example than the former leadership,
while displaying a more hawkish stance against Iran.
officials see the war in Yemen as a direct response to a national security
threat from Iran on their country’s border. In Syria as well, Riyadh is focused
on the growing Iranian influence in the conflict. Over the course of his 16
months in office, Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Salman has attempted to restructure
Riyadh’s foreign spending.
There is a
new pivot to Africa, peeling off Sudan from the Iranian axis, and drawing plans
to open a military base in Djibouti. This is paralleled by scrapping funds to
Lebanon and applying more political and economic pressure on Hezbollah.
2030 vision and Prince Salman’s big ideas come at a critical juncture for Saudi
Arabia. His success could turn him into Saudi’s Deng Xiaoping, the former
Chinese leader who transformed his country’s economy in the eighties, and
helped turn China into the global giant that it is today.
It may be a
case of, “Gentlemen, we have run out of money; it’s time to start thinking,”
variously attributed to Winston Churchill and physicist Ernest Rutherford, but
the need to reform Saudi Arabia’s oil-dependent economy has actually been the
subject of “thinking” for decades.
years ago the Fourth five-year development plan started the emphasis on
boosting private sector growth and industrial sector efficiency. Twenty years
later the Eighth plan added emphasis on foreign investment and renewed
attention on Saudi human capital. While economic reforms in that era yielded
results the current circumstances call for new, bolder action.
report from McKinsey, a leading consultancy to the government, noted the
economy was at an “inflection point” following a decade of oil fuelled
prosperity. “We see a real opportunity for the country to inject new dynamism
into its economy through a productivity and investment-led transformation that
could help ensure future growth, employment, and prosperity.”
announcement of Saudi Vision 2030 heralded a dramatic retooling of the Saudi government’s
objectives not only in the economy but also in social circles. The plan,
approved at Monday’s Cabinet meeting, chaired by King Salman, will be
implemented by the Council of Economic Development Affairs (CEDA), headed by
Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
and scope of the “Saudi Arabia Vision 2030” will require more study and
feedback from those sectors directly affected by its provisions but one can
expect there will be no shortage of strong opinions
Mohammed has signalled elements of the Saudi Vision 2030 for months including
expansive high profile interviews with The Economist and Bloomberg earlier this
year and a first-ever television appearance with Al Arabiya News Channel on the
occasion of the announcement. In the interview he said, “The ‘Vision’ doesn’t
require high-spending but restructuring.”
called the National Transformation Plan, a component of the “Vision 2030” is
expected for release in coming weeks with more details on the initial phase.
restructuring, as described by Prince Mohammed, will include privatization of
state assets – most notably an IPO for as much as 5 percent of Saudi Aramco,
expansion of the Public Investment Fund to a goal of $2 trillion to serve as a
holding company, slowing and in some cases redirecting subsidies,
liberalization to attract foreign investors, improving economic efficiencies
and attacking wasteful spending, and spurring expansion of the private sector.
2030 is more than a roadmap for economic transformation as were earlier plans
for commercial activities. In addition to marquee plans like the $2 trillion
investment fund and multi-sector privatization like the Saudi Aramco IPO, the
goals include broad social targets.
notes, “Our goal is to promote and reinvigorate social development in order to
build a strong and productive society.” It addresses a wide swath such as
education, healthcare, urban development, pride in Saudi “identity” and focus
on Islamic roots, tourism, culture and entertainment, healthy lifestyles,
promotion of family life and children’s character, modernized social welfare,
spurring SME capabilities, empowering women, rehabilitating economic cities and
includes both generalized objectives and specific goals. The comments on
women’s empowerment are indistinct, saying only that the “Vision” will “enable
them to strengthen their future and contribute to the development of our
society and economy.” The 2030 goals in other areas get very specific, for
example, in the area of leisure activities: “To increase the ratio of
individuals exercising at least once a week from 13 percent of population to 40
to the wider range of goals the “Vision 2030” offers a new approach in that
CEDA will head the implementation rather than individual ministries each with a
narrower focus. It also comes at a time when a wider segment of the population
is supportive of transformation as the country faces a confluence of
challenges. However, there will be resistance from conservative quarters.
and scope of the Saudi Arabia Vision 2030 will require more study and feedback
from those sectors directly affected by its provisions but one can expect there
will be no shortage of strong opinions given the expansiveness of its
provisions. There will be both support and acrimony expressed by differing
see it as timely and a necessary action by the government to address economic
and social needs, as well as pushback from those whose core interests will be
impacted by liberalization and modernization.
Vision 2030 offers a roadmap that may not be new thinking in terms of the need
for transformation but its extraordinary and wide-ranging objectives provide
reform initiatives on a much grander scale than anything before and foretells a
different future for Saudi Arabia.
“Yemenis Have Not Lost Hope”.
The Quran says: “And
whosoever fears Allah…He will make a way for him to get out (from every
difficulty). And He will provide him from (sources) he never could imagine”.
(The holy Quran 65:2-3)
“…After a difficulty, Allah
will soon grant relief” (The Holy Quran 65:7)
“So, verily, with every
difficulty, there is relief: Verily with every difficulty there is relief.
Therefore, when you are free (from your immediate task), still labor hard. And
to your Lord turn (all) your attention”. (The Holy Quran 94:5-7)