Middle East Press(06 May 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)
A Possible Political Solution for Syria: New Age Islam's Selection, 06 May 2017





New Age Islam Edit Bureau

06 May 2017

A Possible Political Solution for Syria

By Oubai Shahbandar

The Difference between Weakness and Confrontation

By Jameel Al-Theyabi

Trump’s Saudi Visit Will Mark the Real ‘New Beginning’

By Faisal J. Abbas

Palestinians and the ‘Battle Of Empty Stomachs’

By Diana Moukalled

America Is Winning Enemies and Losing Friends Abroad

By Fareed Zakaria

Turkey And The Gulf: Toward Even Closer Defence Cooperation?

By Sinem Cengiz

The Washington-Riyadh Counterterrorism Relationship

By Dr. Ibrahim Al-Othaimin

Binary Relationship Brings Trump to Saudi Arabia

By Dr. Theodore Karasik

The Future of Smart Classrooms In The Middle East

By Ammar Enaya

Will Malema Succeed Zuma?

By Sisonke Msimang

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau

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A Possible Political Solution for Syria

By Oubai Shahbandar

5 May 2017

Syria's religious and ethnic minorities are faced with difficult choices as the Syrian conflict shows no sign of abating.

They, along with the rest of the country, have suffered at the hands of the Assad regime, which has unrelentingly assaulted the civilian populace and persecuted any political, religious or intellectual figure that dares question the Assad family’s legitimacy to rule Syria.

Rich in diversity, Syria hosts a significant number of Syriac Christians and other Christian denominations, as well as a Kurdish community that under Baathist rule was marginalized.

Many pro-Iran media outlets in the West continue to push the narrative that without the Assad regime, Syria’s minorities will face almost sure destruction.

In Washington, this narrative has gained much currency among a vast spectrum of politicians.

One of Congress’ most colorful proponents of the Assad regime, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, from California, recently used this tired canard while attempting to block additional congressional sanctions on the regime.

And while it may be easy to laugh off characters such as Rohrabacher, American social media are packed with fake news sites claiming that the Assad regime defends Christians and other minorities in Syria.

I was recently in Cairo where I had the chance to talk with Syrian Christian, Arab and Kurdish opposition figures.

On May 3, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Jarba, a Shammar tribal leader and a leading Syrian opposition figure, led a conference of the Syrian National Democratic council hosted by Cairo.

Al-Jarba is leading a group of Arab fighters in the eastern Syrian countryside who are helping the Kurds and other Syrian rebels battle Daesh.

This gathering was a sign of Kurdish-Arab and Muslim-Christian solidarity. Al-Jarba was joined by the head of the Syrian Kurdish National Council and the head of the Syriac Council.

The Syrian National Democratic Council and its diverse members want to impress that the Assad regime does not put Syrian Christian interests above all.

According to Rudaw, an English language Kurdish news service, Al-Jarba has raised a tribal force of approximately 3,000 Syrian Arab fighters to battle Daesh in the Raqqa countryside.

US Special Forces recently agreed to provide training and support to Jarba’s Syrian Elite Forces that seek to encircle the remaining pockets of Daesh fighters and cut them off from the group’s self-declared capital Raqqa.

A formula that may be successful in the fight against Daesh will require Arab-Kurdish cooperation, as well as the cooperation of Syriac fighters from Christian villages in northeast Syria.

President of the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq Masoud Barazani could, under one scenario, lend the support of Kurdish Peshmerga to help Sunni Arab forces and allies not only defeat Daesh in Raqqa, but also to ensure that Daesh does not re-emerge.

This would first necessitate an end to the fight against Daesh in Mosul.

Compounding the difficulty of finding a sustainable strategy against Daesh, US forces partnered in Syria mainly with the problematic PYD, which the Turkish government considers a terror group.

Moreover, There Is No Real Plan For After Raqqa.

When asked this week who will administer Raqqa once Daesh is defeated, a US military representative failed to come up with a clear answer.

The PYD will attempt to place proxies to administer the city, and this could be problematic, for it could offer a reason to the Assad regime and Iran — who both cooperate from time to time with the PYD — to eventually take over Raqqa and launch a campaign to retake the rest of eastern Syria.

At this time, a sustainable peace agreement for Syria is nowhere near the horizon.

The ongoing discussions in Astana, Kazakhstan, for cease-fire parameters do not offer much hope in the long run.

Although a deal appears to have been struck on “zones of de-escalation,” neither side can agree on the details of a cease-fire nor on a true enforcement mechanism.

Indeed, the Russian government remains stalwart in its denial that the Assad regime used chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhun, which makes it difficult to see how Moscow could prevent future Assad regime attacks against civilians in the prescribed zones.

It also means that the fighting will continue for some time to come.

So the question is how to ensure that Syria’s Christians and Kurds are protected, not only from the extremist Daesh excesses but also from an Assad regime that is now totally dependent on Iran-backed Shiite extremist militants?

A Three-Prong Approach Is In Order.

First, ensure that the final push to liberate Raqqa and the strategic city of Deir Ezzor is not undertaken without a clear political framework.

Two, ensure that Sunni Arab tribes are offered the necessary tools and military support to defeat Daesh and hold liberated territory.

And three, ensure that any political solution for Syria includes groups such as the National Democratic Council, to show the world that Kurds and Christians can coexist with Arab countrymen in Syria without the need for Assad’s rule.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1095131

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The Difference between Weakness and Confrontation

By Jameel Al-Theyabi

May 6, 2017

American tanks are roaming about in the Syrian territories near the Turkish border. What is the implication of disseminating pictures of these tanks that display the flags of the United States of America?

Is there not a huge difference between the words and deeds of the administration of US President Donald Trump and that of his predecessor Barack Obama? The weak and hesitant policies of Obama were instrumental in plunging the region into the chaos and turbulence that we are witnessing now, and this has lost American prestige in the region.

Three months after the end of the tenure of Obama – which is not at all a matter of regret – the volume of difference between the US administration of words (Obama) and the administration of deeds (Trump) is obvious for all those analyzing and observing the situation.

The scene of rolling US tanks on the battlefront in northern Syria is a strong message tantamount to threatening Russia, and it happened immediately after the US cruise missile attack that almost incapacitated the Syrian airbase at Shayrat.

Similarly, the reactions of Trump to the threats contained in the statements of Russia and Iran were very strong and tough. This coincides with Trump’s dispatching of an aircraft carrier to waters near the Korean peninsula in a show of naval might to confront the nuclear threat posed by North Korea. Will it force North Korea’s Kim Jong-un to retract his war rhetoric when he sees that the Trump administration is prepared to take tougher action?

Analysts see that the Houthi militias in Yemen, supported by Iran, are in a state of bewilderment following the statement of the United States that it is exploring the prospect of lending a helping hand to the Saudi-led Arab Coalition to Support Legitimacy in Yemen by supplying intelligence. This will, of course, help the Coalition to pinpoint the ulterior designs and vicious plans of the Houthis, who receive dictates from Iran and its militias, especially the Lebanese Hezbollah, which is involved in the killing of unarmed civilians, including children, in Syria by supporting the Assad regime.

The difference is obvious: Some 100 days ago, the world was almost like a lawless jungle because of the policies of a weak President Obama, who delivered Syria to Russian President Putin and his ally Iran to the extent that the Kremlin was eager to support Assad even in the UN Security Council. Russia wielded its sword of veto to defeat not only the resolutions to condemn the barbaric massacres and chemical attacks unleashed by the Assad regime but even a probe into such attacks perpetrated in flagrant violation of international law. However, this imperial arrogance showed signs of retreat 100 days after the Republicans returned to power in the United States.

Here, we should not forget the fact that Saudi Arabia was in the forefront of those who came down heavily against the weak policies of the Obama administration. We still recall how the late King Abdullah did not go to Riyadh airport to receive Obama and how the King concluded his meeting with Obama abruptly in less than half an hour. We also remember that the Kingdom reacted very strongly before and after the adoption of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) by the US Congress, and that Riyadh totally rejected the policies of the Obama administration, which seemed to be marketing the exhausted policies of Iran.

During the 100 days after assuming the presidency, Trump confronted Hezbollah with a strong reprimand that made its leader Hassan Nasrallah tremble and the outfit started receiving blows from those Syrian groups opposed to Assad. There is no hope for any change in Tehran’s policy even after the presidential election scheduled for this month. Changes in presidential posts are not going to make any shift in that country’s ulterior designs and hence the Kingdom will continue to expose them.

Saudi Arabia is one of the most influential and powerful nations in the region, and its strong presence is felt in all international and regional forums. It will continue to exercise its pioneering role in the Arab and Muslim world. It will not accept any solution in Syria without serving the interests of the people who have been displaced and driven out of their country. The number of people who were martyred in the ongoing conflict in that country will exceed the number of Palestinian martyrs. The Kingdom is also not going to accept a solution that includes Assad as he is the crux of the problems in the country. Saudi Arabia also rejects Iran’s policies of intervention in the affairs of the states in the region, and hence it will confront Iran’s bid to enforce its hegemony with all its might and influence as a key member of regional and international coalitions.

The 100 days of Trump witnessed the restoration of the historic and strategic bilateral relations between the Kingdom and the US. The alliance of the two nations is inevitable in maintaining the security and stability of the region as well as that of global oil prices. After the evaporation of the cloud of weakness, which prevailed in the period of Obama, now is the time for the world to march forward with more vigor and boldness to promote peace, security and prosperity through the strategic cooperation among partners so as to eliminate the evil forces of Daesh, Al-Qaeda and Assad as well as Iran’s ambitions for hegemony.

The battles of Trump began on his first day in office as he remarked recently in Pennsylvania when speaking about his “fruitful 100 days in office,” but as he noted, “other great battles are ahead.”

Source: saudigazette.com.sa/opinion/difference-weakness-confrontation/

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Trump’s Saudi Visit Will Mark the Real ‘New Beginning’

By Faisal J. Abbas

5 May 2017

It is very rare in international affairs for the stars to be perfectly aligned the way they are today when it comes to Saudi-US relations; and this is not only good on a bilateral level, but on a regional and global level too.

Anyone who has seen Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s recent television interview with leading regional broadcaster MBC would have reached the conclusion that the Kingdom has tried everything possible to support the previous US administration. However, when it came to the Syrian crisis, for example, President Obama “wasted many opportunities to resolve it,” as Prince Mohammed pointed out.

In fact, President Obama’s misled policies only encouraged the Assad regime to continue slaughtering the Syrian people, particularly when the former US President didn’t respect his own chemical weapons redline. This “hands-off” Obama doctrine  also arguably allowed the like of Daesh to thrive in the absence of a real deterrent, particularly given that the airstrikes the US coalition led were mostly cosmetic and didn’t do much to combat the ideology and actual forces on the front.

On the contrary, it only took one chemical attack in Khan Sheikhon for the Trump Administration to immediately strike back and put the Assad regime in check.

Furthermore, Washington seems to be finally concerned with Tehran’s destabilizing terrorist activities in the region, which the Obama-enforced nuclear deal only helped expand (again, against the repeated advice of Riyadh at the time).

These recent changes in US foreign policies are accompanied by positive changes that have been brewing in the Kingdom for the past two years. Indeed, when President Trump met Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the White House last March, he saw the face of this new Saudi dynamism and genuine efforts to reform and lead from the front.

Saudi Arabia itself is undergoing a massive transformation embodied in its ambitious Vision 2030 and is opening to investments and free trade like never before. It is also — as the country that hosts The Two Holy Mosques — leading the first-of-its kind Islamic coalition to combat Daesh and has just launched its own Ministry of Defence-backed initiative to take the ideological warfare against these terrorist groups and those who promote their ideas to a whole new and sophisticated level.

This perhaps explains why Trump chose Saudi Arabia to be his first foreign destination as a US president, and this is why he said he is adamant to meet with Muslim allies there “to build a new foundation of cooperation” to fight extremism.

These developments are cause for a new sense of excitement sweeping much of the Arab world; but unlike the 2009 excitement, which came after Obama’s famous Cairo Speech, this time it is an excitement which comes from actions, not words.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1094631

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Palestinians And The ‘Battle Of Empty Stomachs’

By Diana Moukalled

5 May 2017

The Palestinians are now embarking on a new course in their conflict with Israel.

More than two weeks ago, some 1,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails began an open-ended hunger strike, refraining from eating any food and only drinking water mixed with salt, to protest the deteriorating conditions of the prisons.

The hunger strike has so far caused the death of one person while many of the remaining striking prisoners are suffering from serious health problems.

There is no doubt that their strike brings the situation back to the beginning stage of political action, the stage before an armed struggle.

This is an example of peaceful civil action that is taking place in a very complex political situation.

For the Palestinians, the strike comes as ruling powers Fatah and Hamas failed to provide effective political leadership to lead the struggle for Palestinian rights.

Within the Arab context, it is happening at a time of general collapse in some countries or of tyranny in others, therefore no Arab help should be expected to strengthen the Palestinian movement.

The biggest obstacles are attempts by some Arab parties to hijack the strike and use it to advance their political agenda.

How can people trust figures who lend their support to the regime of Bashar Assad, one of the most prominent jailers and murderers of our time, while they shed tears over the Palestinian prisoners?

What credibility have those who have been blind toward, and even blessed, the deadly Baathist regime and now launch propaganda-filled solidarity campaigns with the Palestinians on hunger strike?

Palestinian prisoners undoubtedly deserve support, but the Arab world is full of political prisoners, of people who have disappeared or who were killed during torture.

The numbers of people captive in Syrian prisons is terrifying.

How can anyone who ignored the plight of the Syrians over the past years, or has supported the regime that is responsible for the catastrophe that befell Syria, claim solidarity with Palestinian prisoners?

It is this hypocrisy, and nothing else, that allows Israel to continue to humiliate the Palestinians and deprive them of their rights.

The Palestinian cause has suffered under tyrannical regimes just as it suffered due to the occupation.

In other words, regimes such as the Syrian Baathists, which was preceded by the Iraqi regime, which exercised tyranny and dictatorship under the pretext of helping the Palestinian cause.

This has harmed the just cause of the Palestinians.

Today, some are trying to breathe life into these harmful policies by linking the prisoners’ strike with the falling axis of resistance represented by Bashar Assad.

Such attitudes only mislead those trying to understand the struggle of the Palestinians against occupation and of some Arabs against tyranny.

Therefore, it is imperative to clarify and protect the Palestinian cause and to show respect for the lives lost in the prisons of repressive and absolutist regimes.

The campaign of the Palestinian prisoners is based on an independent choice, one that is not subject to extortion by authoritarian regimes.

Therefore, Palestinian society should be called upon to circumvent it and get out of the state of total political inertia that almost destroys the meaning of the Palestinian cause.

The hunger strike should also be an opportunity to make a clear distinction between the Palestinian fight for justice and the Arab fight against the tyranny of some of their leaders.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1094636

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America Is Winning Enemies and Losing Friends Abroad

By Fareed Zakaria

May 5, 2017

In every country in the world, America's friends are embarrassed and on the defensive, and its enemies are gloating

There has been much focus on Donald Trump's erratic foreign policy - the outlandish positions, the many flip-flops, the mistakes. But far more damaging in the long run might be what some have termed the Trump effect - the impact of Trump on the domestic politics of other countries. That effect appears to be powerful, negative and enduring. It could undermine decades of American foreign policy successes.

Look at Mexico. For decades, this was a country defined by fiery anti-Americanism. Founded by a radical revolutionary movement, fueled by anger against American imperialism and high-handedness, Mexico would rarely cooperate with Washington. Since the 1990s, the landscape has shifted, indeed almost reversed. Thanks to intelligent leadership in Mexico City and consistent bipartisan engagement by Washington, the United States and Mexico have become friendly neighbors, active trading partners, and allies in national security.

Mexico buys more US goods than does China and is, in fact, the second-largest destination for US exports after Canada. Sales to Mexico are up 455 per cent since the passage of NAFTA. The country cooperates with the U.S. on border security, helping to interdict drug shipments and deporting tens of thousands of Central American migrants who aim to enter the US illegally. Mexico is an ally of the US in most international negotiations and organisations.

All of this could change easily. Over the last year, as candidate Trump and now President Trump has attacked and demeaned Mexico and its people, the political landscape there has shifted. President Enrique Pena Nieto's already-declining approval ratings have plummeted after he was seen as too conciliatory toward Trump. It is now quite possible - in fact, likely - that the next president of Mexico will be an anti-American socialist-populist similar to Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was polling around 10 percent at the start of 2015. He is now around 30 per cent, the front-runner among the potential candidates for next year's election.

A victory for Lopez Obrador would be a disaster for Mexico - but also for the United States. It would likely take Mexico back to its days of corrupt socialism and dysfunctional economics, all sustained by populism and nationalism. Lopez Obrador has described Trump as a "neo-fascist," attacked the Pena Nieto administration for being too weak to confront Trump, and promised to get tough with Washington. In February, he began a tour of several American cities, speaking to large rallies of Mexican-Americans and symbolically standing up to Donald Trump.

Now consider South Korea. Trump's demand that Seoul pay for the THAAD missile defence system, threatening to overturn the existing agreement with Washington, has fueled the forces in South Korea that oppose that system in the first place, along with any aggressive military measures against North Korea. Trump has casually delivered a number of slights to one of America's closest allies, accepting wholesale China's claim that Korea once belonged to it and threatening to tear up the US-South Korea free trade agreement. South Korea is facing a snap election for its presidency, and the candidate who is benefiting most from Trump's antics is the left-wing Moon Jae-in. Anti-Americanism has returned to South Korea in force, though not quite as strongly as in Mexico. Were these trend lines to harden, it could mean decades of difficulty for American foreign policy. Dealing with North Korea is hard enough as it is, but with a recalcitrant South Korea that is determined not to be viewed as overly pro-American, it would become impossible.  There are other places where the Trump effect is also clear. Politics in Iran have become more favourable to hard-liners, and the re-election of the relatively moderate President Hassan Rouhani, once seemingly assured, is now in jeopardy. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei appears to be campaigning against him and supporting a far more anti-American candidate. In Cuba, Raul Castro has gone from inching toward better relations with the US to lambasting Trump and his policies. In every country in the world, America's friends are embarrassed and on the defensive, and its enemies are gloating.

In foreign policy, great statesmen always keep in mind one crucial reality - every country has its own domestic politics. Crude rhetoric, outlandish demands, poorly thought-through policies and cheap shots all place foreign leaders in a box. They can't be perceived as surrendering to America, and certainly not to an America led by someone who is determined to show that for America to win, others must lose. That's one big difference, among many, between doing a real estate deal and managing foreign policy.

Source: khaleejtimes.com/editorials-columns/america-is-winning-enemies-and-losing-friends-abroad

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Turkey And The Gulf: Toward Even Closer Defence Cooperation?

By Sinem Cengiz

5 May 2017

Turkey has been bolstering its relations with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries over the past decade in various fields, including politics, trade and energy. Above all, Ankara has moved to diversify its regional military relations with those countries through defence deals signed with each GCC state.

Recently, Turkey’s Defence Minister Fikri Isik stated that Turkey hoped to ink a major defence export deal with Saudi Arabia soon, but did not give further details. He also said that the possible deal would be the “largest export agreement of the Turkish defence industry.”

Last year, Turkey’s largest defence company, Aselsan, and Saudi Arabia’s technology development and investment company, Taqnia, formed joint defence company SADEC. Saudi Arabia has the third highest defence budget after the US and China, which is a significant indicator of its needs.

Also, executive vice president of HAVELSAN, a Turkish air defence and software company, Lutfu Ozcakir recently confirmed that the company will soon open its first Middle Eastern office in Qatar. The office in Qatar, where 15 to 20 engineers and technicians will be stationed, is set to conduct business development and provide project management services in Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Jordan and the UAE. It will be not the first time that HAVELSAN has cooperated with Gulf partners as it previously inked deals with companies based in Saudi Arabia.

Qatar is one of Turkey’s strategic partners in the Gulf, with several agreements having been signed between the two countries, not to mention the close relationship between the leaders of both nations. More importantly, Turkey is set to establish its first foreign military base in the Middle East in Qatar.

Since October 2015, about 150 Turkish army, navy and Special Forces personnel have been based temporarily at a Qatari military base. Once the construction of the base is completed, it is expected to house more than 3,000 personnel. The base is to be used to counter “common threats,” according to statements by Turkish and Qatari officials.

Needless to say, among the GCC countries, Qatar enjoys a special relationship with Turkey. However, Turkey has also engaged in defence cooperation with the other Gulf countries.

For instance, Turkish company Otokar won a deal worth $661 million to establish a joint venture with UAE Company Tawazun Holding to build Arma 8x8 amphibious armored infantry vehicles for the UAE land forces.

Also, Turkey sold 80 armoured personnel carriers and 12 anti-riot water cannon vehicles — or TOMAs — to Kuwait recently and has signed several deals in the military field. The Gulf country is also interested in cooperating with Turkey on pilot training. Bahrain, for its part, has signed several deals with Turkey in a bid to deepen cooperation in the arms industry.

Importance of State Visits

In international relations, reciprocal visits between state leaders play a crucial role that improves political relations and leads to various deals being signed.

It seems that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to the Gulf countries, namely Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain, in February paved the way for further cooperation in the area of defence.

The nature of defence cooperation is that countries orient their military relations on the basis of their respective national interests and regional strategies to maintain their position. Gulf countries’ defence cooperation with Turkey is based on this understanding. Although GCC countries are determined to maintain their strategic alliance with the US, despite the uncertainty of policies emanating from Donald Trump’s administration, they are also seeking to pursue their own defence strategies to guarantee their security in the future.

Here Turkey, a NATO member that has years-long experience in military training, appears as a potential partner. Moreover, Turkey and the Gulf do have similar security dilemmas that push the two sides closer together. With every passing day, new threats are emerging from the region. One of their common perceived threats is Daesh.

The elimination of this terrorist organization, which carried out a series of attacks not only in Turkey but also in some Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait is the priority. So, the fight against terror, which is the most significant source of the region’s instability, is one of the main reasons behind this defence cooperation. Also, the growing influence of Iran in the region, through its proxies and armed militias, is another common concern. Although Turkey and the Gulf countries do not view Iran in a similar fashion, the policies of Tehran in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen and its nuclear program are concerning for both sides.

Lastly, the policies of former US President Barack Obama not only brought instability to the Middle East but also disappointed the US regional allies, namely Turkey and the Gulf countries. The reluctant policies of Obama in Syria led to the emergence of several threats in the war-torn country which are now harming US allies in the region.

When it comes to relations with the US, terrorism, Iranian expansion, regional stability and national security, Turkey and the Gulf understand each other now more than ever. The most important dimension of this understanding is defence cooperation. That is to say, we are most likely to see an even closer defence alliance between Turkey and the Gulf in the future as long as the aforementioned regional threats continue to exist.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1095126

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The Washington-Riyadh Counterterrorism Relationship

By Dr. Ibrahim Al-Othaimin

5 May 2017

On Friday 10 February 2017, CIA Director Mike Pompeo awarded Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Naif, deputy premier and minister of interior, the George Tenet Medal for his distinct intelligence counter-terrorism work, which has made him the subject of numerous serious life-threatening assassination attempts. The Crown Prince is internationally known as one of the most prominent influential figures in the fight against terrorism.

The New York Times described him as the “Caesar of combat against terrorism” and a smart person who knows the nature of terrorism very well. The receipt of such a high award is not only an exceptional occurrence at a personal level for the Crown Prince, but also at a national and international level for the following reasons:

First of all, it was awarded by a highly credible security and intelligence agency of a country that is an indispensable strategic ally. The fact that the CIA director honored the Crown Prince by presenting the medal in person refutes any allegations by Western writers who suggest that Saudi Arabia supports terrorism.

In an article published on Foreign Policy, Simon Henderson, Baker fellow at The Washington Institute and director of the Institute’s Gulf and Energy Policy Program, alleges that Saudi Arabia supports ISIS in Iraq in its rivalry with Iran. This medal indicates that Saudi Arabia, which is actually the main target of terrorist groups, also suffers from terrorist attacks and engages itself in a fierce war against them.

Secondly, Saudi Arabia has not yielded to terrorism; rather, it has faced terrorism with the decisiveness of its vigilant security forces headed by the Crown Prince, thereby acquiring considerable experience that has benefited many countries including the US and the UK.

In his remarks on President Trump’s travel ban on the citizens of seven countries, the US Secretary of Homeland Security, Gen. John Kelly, stressed that the ban excludes Saudi Arabia, which has effective security forces and reliable intelligence agencies.

Terror Cooperation

In the closing session of the recent GCC summit in Manama, the UK Prime Minister Theresa May said that British intelligence has received many alerts from Saudi Arabia concerning imminent terrorist attacks, which have saved many lives. Former UK Prime Minister David Cameron and officials from different countries have made similar statements, confirming the strength of Saudi security forces in combating terrorism.

Thirdly, the awarding of the medal to the Crown Prince waves aside any speculation around the alleged links of Saudi Arabia to the 9/11 attacks raised by the missing 28 pages of the US 9/11 Commission Report that were kept in the basement of Congress as classified documents.

It should also be noted that when the papers were released by the CIA, they neither showed anything linking Saudi Arabia to the attacks nor included any proof of the baseless speculation, but showed that they merely served to stir up public opinion.

Fourthly, the awarding of the medal will inspire the US administration to reconsider the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), which allows civil lawsuits to be brought in US courts by families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks, against countries involved in terrorist attacks on US territories. Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir has insisted that the Trump administration must reconsider the controversial JASTA to avoid its exploitation.

Source; english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/05/05/The-Washington-Riyadh-counterterrorism-relationship.html

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Binary Relationship Brings Trump To Saudi Arabia

By Dr. Theodore Karasik

5 May 2017

Yesterday’s White House announcement that US President Donald Trump will make his first visit abroad as America’s 45th president to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is activating a new level of cooperation unseen between Washington and Riyadh in decades, and possibly, ever.

Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s cemented the new foundation between the two countries in Washington D.C. a few months ago. The visit to Washington occurred during a full court press for Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and the drivers to bring that vision, mainly next year’s Aramco IPO and the growth of the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), to fruition in a logical and timely manner.

The Saudi defence minister cemented this new binary relationship with the Trump administration to not only counter Iran and extremism but to see both Trump’s America First and Saudi Vision 2030 succeed. The Trump Administration likes this transactional approach by the Kingdom.

Trump’s visit to a Muslim country is also significance. In one quick swoop, Trump is leaving his predecessor Barack Obama in the dust when formulating America’s relations with the Muslim World: By visiting Saudi Arabia, Trump is showing the Kingdom and the world that his agenda is not anti-Muslim by instituting extreme vetting or laptop bans.

Trump said he "will begin with a truly historic gathering in Saudi Arabia with leaders from all across the Muslim world….It is there we will begin to construct a new foundation of cooperation and support with our Muslim allies to combat extremism, terrorism, and violence and to embrace a more just and hopeful future for young Muslims in their countries.”

Same Worldview

Clearly, the Trump Administration and Saudi Arabia share the same worldview on necessary measures to protect public safety but also to support better understanding. The Kingdom wants to show the Muslim world that Donald Trump is a moderate.

To be sure, the Trump Administration sees a golden opportunity to work with the Kingdom to show respect to Islam as well as in support of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. Protecting achievements and pacifying battlefields are front and centre between the Trump National Security Council and Riyadh.

Specifically, the Trump Administration is looking to Muslim countries to partner in the fight against terrorism and to hem in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The American move is meant to throw a counter arc to the Shiite crescent. In other words, the Trump administration is throwing its full support behind the Saudi-led Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT).

The IMAFT is gaining momentum on an organizational level. Now with Pakistani General Raheel Sharif at the helm of the emerging security group, the IMAFT is to receive a major boost from America through the Kingdom’s lenses.

What Riyadh sees is serious business: Senior US Administration officials are working to build a framework in the Middle East by using the IMAFT as one major arc to not only destroy ISIS and al-Qaeda and its affiliates but also eject Iran from Arab lands too eventually by force. The other arc, involving Israel, comes soon.

The Threat of Iran

Clearly, the Trump Doctrine toward Saudi Arabia is going to bring into sharp relief the threat posed by Iran with serious moves to stop Tehran’s aggressive behavior. The ongoing review of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in Washington D.C. is bringing a Saudi voice into the process, a fact that the Kingdom and other GCC states complained about constantly during the P5+1 negotiations, according to several GCC interlocutors.

Saudi Arabia and allies felt left out of the process when they sit on the front lines of Iranian aggression, eight minutes away from a missile impact. Trump is also visiting Saudi Arabia at a critical juncture in many of the region’s multi-level civil wars, especially Yemen where the Kingdom is conducting Operation Restore Hope.

The Trump Administration seeks to help Saudi Arabia with bringing stability and humanitarian aid to the beleaguered and highly fractured country while at the same time hitting Al-Qaeda Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) with drone strikes and providing maritime support. Saudi Arabia requires replenishing of its armoury and Trump and American defence manufactures are excited about possibilities including missile defence.

A larger, bilateral military-to-military relationship is in the works along with a restructuring of the Saudi Defence Ministry. American ingenuity is going to help launch Saudi Arabia’s local defence industry, a point emphasized strongly in Mohammed Bin Salman’s extraordinary interview a day before the Trump visit announcement.

The GCC

Trump will also be meeting with other GCC leaders, and Arab and Muslim religious leaders. A forceful joint statement between Trump and his hosts and visitors in Saudi Arabia may bring new vigour to taking firm steps to resolving the Yemen, Syria, and Libya civil wars on the eve of Ramadan.

In addition, the Trump Doctrine, with Saudi Arabia’s full cooperation, is to work together to counter radical ideologies that bequeath only violence and death.

Riyadh is ready to provide whatever assistance to the Trump administration and the Pentagon as is necessary: The Kingdom’s work, specifically the Ministry of Interior’s de-radicalization program and the Saudi Ministry of Defence’s media monitoring center are truly fully functional, more advanced than found in other Global Coalition to Fight ISIS members. The Trump Administration sees these Saudi attributes in an extremely positive light and is to focus on vast expansion of Riyadh’s programs.

The combination of King Salman’s royal decrees, Mohammed Bin Salman’s television interview, and the announcement of the Trump visit, all in the past week, is bringing excitement especially to youth who are energized by their Kingdom being front and centre. The binary relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia is just getting started.

Source; english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/05/05/Binary-relationship-brings-Trump-to-Saudi-Arabia.html

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The Future of Smart Classrooms in the Middle East

By Ammar Enaya

5 May 2017

The speed at which mobile devices, mobile apps, and IoT are entering the Middle East market is rapid, and with that it is no surprise we are seeing the school classroom (education) as an early adopter of this tech.

With mobile devices at the heart of how this generation interacts, it naturally falls to schools (education institutions) to pioneer mobile innovation and enable pupils to have a more enhanced learning experience. To do this, they must invest in technology that does not hinder pupil’s natural desire to be mobile, but also keep them focused on the task in hand, namely the lesson (learning).

With the curriculum constantly evolving and formats of major exams including SATs, GCSEs and A Levels changing it is important to ensure that IT and other departmental functions can continue to evolve to meet the needs of pupils and staff in order to give pupils the best opportunities.

Through working closely with our customers in education, we are in constant discussion over the changing demands of the classroom, these include: Device proliferation, app usage, room/building environments, IoT onset, pupil and teacher collaboration and data-driven decision making, to name just a few.

Through these conversations we have pulled out 6 key themes and trends that we expect to see come to fruition in the very near future:

1. IoT Spreading Across the Institution – With Gartner estimating that 5.5 million new “things” connected to networks every day last year, adding up to nearly 21 billion connected devices by 2020, IoT is swiftly expanding beyond devices for schools. The onslaught ranges from connected lights and door locks to classroom instruction and pupil registrations, with ever-more introductions in sight.

2. Always-On Experiences – It’s not only IoT devices demanding ‘anytime, anywhere’ connectivity. Whether in the playground, classroom, gym or assembly hall all users now expect speedy performance from their devices and apps, enabling them to work, teach and learn seamlessly indoors and out. (anytime, anyplace and anywhere)

3. Intelligent Spaces – A year ago, location-specific services were novel. This year, context-aware mobility is about adding intelligence to spaces so that the space interacts with you. For example, when a teacher walks into a room, the configuration of equipment and amenities can now adjust automatically to that individual’s profile. Or, as a pupil who has opted-in for notifications walks past a specific classroom, they will receive a push notification telling them when their homework is due.

4. Wearables and Location-Awareness Solutions – Although decision-makers within schools are still working out guidelines around maintaining privacy, many expect it’s only a matter of time before institutions begin leveraging data collected from mobile devices and networks as pupils move around the school grounds. With research establishing that class attendance is the best predictor of academic performance, the ability to quickly identify at-risk pupils enables establishing interventions that can help get them back on track.

5. Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) for Teaching – Wider access to commodity virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) innovations is moving the technology out of research labs and into classrooms. From entry level to higher level learning, teachers are embracing VR and AR as mechanisms to immerse pupils in realistic simulations unavailable in the past.

6. Multiplication of Dense Environments – Given the preceding trends, it’s a clear that device density isn’t limited to lecture halls anymore. Pupils use multiple devices on site, from laptops to entertainment systems to connected lights. Outside the classroom, pupils expect to share their experiences on smartphones, smartwatches and tablets. Food halls rely on temperature gauges for warming trays, sensors on vending machines and scanners for meal tickets – all of which need network access in addition to the pupil’s devices being used during meal times. From Wi-Fi network’s perspective, all of these devices are “things” demanding connectivity. What’s more, given mobile’s ubiquity, there’s little tolerance these days for down time or poor experiences.

Today’s pupils have an innate ability to understand most user interfaces - meaning that for most, new devices are intuitive to use, making it integral to factor these devices into the lesson plans and school culture in general in order to maintain high levels of engagement.

The smart classroom has always been an exciting yet sensitive subject given that it is imperative that pupils continue to learn and grow their knowledge in core subject areas, but it is with the rise in secure IoT environments, we expect to see it thrive.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/05/05/The-future-of-smart-classrooms-in-the-Middle-East.html

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Will Malema Succeed Zuma?

By Sisonke Msimang

5 May 2017

In recent years the relationship between South African President Jacob Zuma and Julius Malema, the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), has dominated South African politics.

With an almost 40-year age gap, their partnership has played a profound role in shaping the tone and bent of post-apartheid politics. Although they were initially close allies, in recent years Zuma has served as an effective punching bag for the young leader. Malema has made a meal out of Zuma's shortcomings and his mistakes. He has used each fresh scandal related to the president's alleged misuse of state funds, or his relationship with wealthy benefactors such as the Gupta family, or his relationships with women, to demonstrate to the electorate that Zuma is unworthy of their votes.

Startling Similarities

Yet despite their differences, the men are startlingly similar. Indeed, it was Malema's ability to mobilise, cajole and cause strategic political chaos that helped to bring Zuma to power.  Malema was the snarling pitbull whose presence allowed Zuma to play the even-keeled and charming elder statesman.

Over time, Malema's adversarial approach to politics (and Zuma's implicit support for the conduct) became emblematic of a new riotous culture in the ruling party - one in which booing, populism and loyalty to personalities rather than policy positions became the norm. Malema may have been expelled from the ruling party, but his tactics of disruption and conflict have continued to mar elective conferences and major events.

While less overtly confrontational than Malema, Zuma has also stamped his imprimatur on the political landscape. Like Malema, Zuma has encouraged factionalism, maintaining a firm grip on those who are loyal to him, quashing dissent through political favours. Zuma has also been able to change tack quickly and with agility when required.

Both Zuma and Malema can turn on the charm. Throughout most of his first term of office, Zuma was often referred to as "the people's president". Similarly, Malema is able to draw large crowds and inspire his followers with his common-sense appeals. More worryingly, both men have been embroiled in legal cases that have required them to fend off allegations of corruption and abuse of state connections and resources.

Importance of Demographics

Despite these similarities, there are two key differences between the two men. It is these differences that will determine Malema's political future in a post-Zuma South Africa. The first lies in the demographics they attract. The second relates to their commitment to constitutionalism.

In terms of demographics, as a rural African man with a poor education and humble beginnings, Jacob Zuma has risen to the highest office in the land in what is seen by many in his base as a clear sign that the politics of the apartheid era are over. Similarly, Malema also comes from humble beginnings - his roots are in the township of Seshego in the province of Limpopo. However, the young leader offers an equally powerful and perhaps more resonant example of the post-apartheid dream. His rise from the streets of his township, to being one of the most powerful political figures in the country, is as meteoric as Zuma's rise from cattle-herder to president.

However, Zuma's base - indeed the base of the African National Congress (ANC) - is dying.  Appealing to the rural poor in a country that is rapidly urbanising holds little strategic value.

The EFF, on the other hand, is attractive to the exploding youth demographic: those under the age of 30, whose numbers are on the rise. In this sense, then, Malema's future is bright. His core constituency is young and urban.

This, above all else, marks the difference between Malema and Zuma. It is not just Malema's age that works in his favour, it is that those who support him are young themselves; they represent the future. Whereas those who are being considered for the top position in the ANC are in their mid-to-late 60s, Malema will still be under 40 in 2019 when Zuma steps down.

Defending the Constitution

Still, at a more substantive level, what matters most is how similar the two men are when it comes to defending or trampling on the country's iconic constitution. Zuma has already demonstrated his contempt for the rule of law and for the spirit of the constitution in the past five years and has been sanctioned by the constitutional court in a judgment that ordered him to pay back some of the costs of building his village palace in Nkandla.

Malema, on the other hand, began his career by undermining democratic processes within his party and has faced a number of corruption and fraud court cases.

In recent times, however, as he has taken on Zuma, the young leader has spoken eloquently in defence of democracy, accountability and the constitution. Those who are skeptical of his about-turn say "a leopard doesn't change its spots". They worry that  after 2019, without Zuma in the top spot, Malema may move into a central position within the ruling party. Firmly ensconced there, he may forget his allegiance to democracy.

These anxieties are not unfounded. Yet they diminish the agency and sophistication of the South African voters. South Africa is a country whose citizens are torn between old loyalties to the liberation movement and a deep commitment to democracy on the basis of their apartheid past. How Malema chooses to negotiate these competing interests will determine his future, and in the process, the future of the country.

He must play his cards right because there is a real risk that, fed up with the sort of charismatic populism that Zuma and the ANC have represented in recent years, the electorate in 2019 may see Malema as too deeply embedded in the very culture of cronyism and populism that they wish to escape. If this is the case, voters may punish not just the ANC but also the combative, disrespectful and machismo style of leadership and politics that Zuma and Malema have represented. In so doing they may decide to reject Malema, opting instead for a fresh start with a candidate who is yet to emerge.

There is no question that even in such a scenario Malema has a long career ahead of him. In the end, the battle for the hearts and minds of South Africans will not come down to age or political party affiliation or a struggle between two men who have shadowed each other for years. All indications are that after nearly a decade of infighting and political decay, it is the politician most closely aligned with the values espoused in the constitution for which so many South Africans fought and died for, who will win the day. Malema would do well to keep his eye on this political reality. 

Source: aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2017/05/julius-malema-inherit-jacob-zuma-south-africa-170504105419665.html

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URL: http://www.newageislam.com/middle-east-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/a-possible-political-solution-for-syria--new-age-islam-s-selection,-06-may-2017/d/111041