Age Islam Edit Bureau
06 May 2017
Possible Political Solution for Syria
By Oubai Shahbandar
Difference between Weakness and Confrontation
By Jameel Al-Theyabi
Saudi Visit Will Mark the Real ‘New Beginning’
By Faisal J. Abbas
and the ‘Battle Of Empty Stomachs’
By Diana Moukalled
Is Winning Enemies and Losing Friends Abroad
By Fareed Zakaria
And The Gulf: Toward Even Closer Defence Cooperation?
By Sinem Cengiz
Washington-Riyadh Counterterrorism Relationship
By Dr. Ibrahim Al-Othaimin
Relationship Brings Trump to Saudi Arabia
By Dr. Theodore Karasik
Future of Smart Classrooms In The Middle East
By Ammar Enaya
Malema Succeed Zuma?
By Sisonke Msimang
By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
Political Solution for Syria
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
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
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.
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
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?
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
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.
between Weakness and Confrontation
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
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
Faisal J. Abbas
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.
And The ‘Battle Of Empty Stomachs’
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Dr. Ibrahim Al-Othaimin
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.
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.
Relationship Brings Trump To Saudi Arabia
Dr. Theodore Karasik
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,
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
of Smart Classrooms in the Middle East
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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