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Middle East Press (24 Jul 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Al-Aqsa Crisis Is Tillerson’s First Real Mideast Test By Faisal J. Abbas: New Age Islam's Selection, 24 July 2017

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

24 July 2017

Al-Aqsa Crisis Is Tillerson’s First Real Mideast Test

By Faisal J. Abbas

Trump Kicks the Iranian Can Down the Road

By Amir Taheri

The End of Lebanon

By Diana Moukalled

Will The GCC Crisis Be Resolved Soon?

By Rami G Khouri

Qatar and the Bribing Of Journalists

By Ahmad Al-Farraj

America Acknowledges: Assad Stayed In Power Thanks To Russia, Iran

By Huda Al-Husseini

Why Is Qatar Holding On To A Newspaper Clipping

By Mohammed Al Shaikh

Why Is Kuwait Angry With Iran

By Mashari Althaydi

The Al-Aqsa Metal Detectors Aren't A Security Measure

By Diana Buttu

Macron's Francafrique

By Pape Samba Kane

Temporarily Filing Away The Qatari Crisis

By Salman Al-Dossary

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Al-Aqsa Crisis Is Tillerson’s First Real Mideast Test

By Faisal J. Abbas

23 July 2017

The stars were perfectly aligned for Rex Tillerson. As secretary of state under a Republican president whose party enjoys a majority in both sides of the house, and given the massive damage done to the US interest and traditional allies by the Obama Doctrine, Tillerson could not have had a clearer mandate. This is particularly true given that President Donald Trump seems to have got it right regarding Iran and the controversial nuclear deal.

Unlike his predecessor who — intentionally or not — turned a blind eye to Tehran’s support for terror and its damaging behaviour, Trump sought to rectify the situation and reassure long-term regional allies in a bid to undo the damage done by the Obama administration’s “leading from behind” approach (whatever that is).

It is extremely significant that Trump has made it very clear that he is serious about trying to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Right after his visit to Saudi Arabia in May — his first foreign trip as president — he made Israel his second stop. He was warmly greeted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who both seemed willing to work closely with the new US administration to get the ball rolling again.

Yet there is only so much the US president can do personally. International affairs should be handled by his secretary of state, and Tillerson has been doing a good job. But he is now faced with his first real regional test: The escalating situation at Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Serious Consequences

Surely Tillerson must realize that this is not merely an Israeli-Palestinian matter. Given that Al-Aqsa is considered the third-holiest mosque in Islam, the issue affects more than 2 billion Muslims worldwide (nearly 30 percent of the world’s population). It also puts moderate and peace-advocating Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan, in a complicated situation. Both countries are US allies and are directly impacted by the escalation.

Neighbouring Jordan, whose king is a Hashemite (a direct descendent of Prophet Muhammad), has long been entrusted to act as guardian of Al-Aqsa, a temporary solution that has been accepted by all stakeholders given that Amman has signed a peace treaty with Israel. Jordan feels betrayed by Israel’s unreasonable handling of the situation.

The Palestinian Authority has halted all communications with Tel Aviv, the situation is brewing on the ground, and there is technically nothing that could prevent another Intifada (uprising). Should that happen, Jordan (whose population is predominately originally Palestinian) will definitely be impacted.

Saudi Arabia, the cradle of Islam and land of the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah, has a direct stake in seeing the situation calm down. In the past, Riyadh has used its weight in Washington and its influence on Arab and Muslim countries to contain the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories.

As a force for stability that is renowned for the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which until today remains the region’s best hope for peace, Saudi Arabia deserves global partners to be equally concerned and offer help when such a crisis happens.

It is odd that Tillerson — who hails from an oil background — showed much more personal interest in the Qatari crisis (a standoff that has had no real humanitarian impact and a very limited regional one, as confirmed even by Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim himself during his recent speech) than in trying to seriously defuse the ticking time bomb in Jerusalem.

If he is not already on a plane, he should head back to the Middle East immediately to talk to Palestinians and Israelis. At the moment the matter is still containable, but as a wise US politician by the name of Henry Kissinger once said: “An issue ignored is a crisis ensured.”

To the Israelis, I repeat what our Arab News columnist Yossi Mekelberg said recently: “The metal detectors (around Al-Aqsa) are not worth insisting on considering the political cost. Israel would be foolish and irresponsible to allow them to become a test of its control of the holy sites.”

It would also be wise — especially given the sensitivity of this particular issue, and with such uncertainty and unprecedented turbulence in the region — to contain the situation diplomatically and as quickly as possible.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1133446/columns


Trump Kicks the Iranian Can Down the Road

By Amir Taheri

23 July 2017

Over the past six months, in one way or another, US President Donald Trump has kicked several of the cans inherited from his predecessor Barack Obama down the road. After several attempts to abolish it, “Obamacare” has been kicked into legislative oblivion. Obama’s policy of courting the Castro brothers has been slightly modified but not scrapped. The Paris climate accord has been verbally dismissed but not definitely buried, if only because it will not become binding until 2020.

The latest can to be kicked down the road is the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the curious press release that enumerates things Iran must do about its controversial nuclear project in exchange for the temporary suspension of sanctions.

Last week, the US State Department informed Congress that Trump would extend the waiver for suspending sanctions for a further three months. The department justified the decision by claiming Iran had respected the letter of the JCPOA while violating its spirit.

Trump’s extension of Obama’s favour to Iran comes exactly two years after the JCPOA was unveiled in Vienna and hailed by President Hassan Rouhani as “the greatest diplomatic victory in Islam.”

The truth is that Iran has violated both the letter and the spirit of the JCPOA. For example, it has reduced the number of centrifuges enriching uranium, but not overall productive capacity because new high-powered machines have a higher output than the older ones that are decommissioned.

In any case, since Iran has no nuclear power stations that might need the enriched uranium as fuel, one must assume that whatever uranium is enriched will be stockpiled for other purposes, including nuclear warheads when and if the leadership wants them.

To keep alive the fiction about needing uranium for fuel, Tehran periodically announces plans to build nuclear power stations with help from China or Russia. But everyone knows that Iran does not have the money to spend on such vanity projects, and that neither Russia nor China is keen to invest in an economically insane project. A report by Iran’s Ministry of Energy shows that nuclear power would cost at least 40 percent more to produce than power from natural gas, of which Iran has plenty.

Another example concerns the stockpiles of “heavy water” that Iran has built over the years. The plutonium plant in Arak has been decommissioned, temporarily blocking one of the two ways that Iran might have developed nuclear warheads. But what will Iran do with the reserves it has already built up? Under the JCPOA, they must be sold on the world market.

But what happens when you cannot find a buyer? To defang that question, Obama promised to arrange for the stockpiles to be bought by US companies in case other buyers were not found. Two years later, there are no buyers and it is unlikely that Trump can persuade US companies to buy the Iranian stockpiles, which may or may not be up to their standards.

The JCPOA was never meant to solve the problem of Iran’s real or imagined nuclear ambitions. Nor was it meant to reaffirm the authority of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which Iran has publicly admitted violating at least until 2003. It was meant as part of a broader strategy by Obama to “empower the moderate faction” in Tehran and thus modify the nastier aspects of Iran’s behaviour.

Two years later, everyone knows what some of us knew from the start: There are no moderates in the regime, and no chance of it significantly changing behaviour dictated by its ideological DNA.

This does not mean the regime is unable to change its behaviour. It does so only when it has to. In Syria, for example, Tehran has lowered its profile not because it has become aware of the cost of its folly, but because Russia has asserted itself as the master of ceremonies.

The liberation of Mosul has lowered Tehran’s profile in Iraq, if only because Iraqi security forces, endorsed by the Shiite leadership in Najaf and backed by Sunni Arab tribal chiefs, achieved victory. Iran has been reduced to second fiddle in Yemen, if only because the groups it sponsors, notably the Houthis, have all but failed in their war objectives.

Tehran has been forced to eat humble pie on the thorny issue of Haj. Having advanced 16 demands in order to resume pilgrimage by Iranians, it had to withdraw all of them.

With such a panoply of diplomatic setbacks in the background, it is no surprise that the mullahs are clinging to the JCPOA as their chief achievement. Is Trump right in letting them cling on, at least for another three months? The answer must be yes, if only because he does not seem to have fully studied the Iranian problem, let alone devised an alternative policy.

He has spoken of regime change as opposed to change of behaviour, without any evidence that the new approach is backed by concrete measures. In such a situation, it would make no sense to denounce the JCPOA and provoke a dispute with European allies without being able to offer them an alternative.

In other words, kicking the can down the road was the least bad option. But the Iranian can will return in three months’ time, forcing Trump to choose between a new version of Obama’s failed strategy, and a more effective way of dealing with what both he and Obama have described as the “No. 1 challenge to US national interests.”

Source: arabnews.com/node/1133836


The End of Lebanon

By Diana Moukalled

23 July 2017

The battle of Jaroud Arsal, launched by Hezbollah on the Lebanese-Syrian border, has multiple goals.

This battle was waged after a primary Russian-US agreement regarding safe zones in Syria. Iran apparently did not welcome this agreement, thinking it marginalized Tehran; its discontent was manifested in efforts to assert its influence in Syria and Lebanon, where the Arsal battle is taking place.

The Iran-backed Hezbollah paved the way for this battle through a large political media campaign in Lebanon supported by political forces, either because they are Hezbollah’s allies or have decided to surrender to its power. Behind the fabricated speeches about “protecting Lebanon,” they are in fact working to create a safe zone for future repatriated Syrian refugees. Iran also wants to strengthen its areas of influence in Syria and tighten the safety belt around these areas.

Hezbollah knows that no one in Lebanon can object to this battle because no one wants to keep Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham (JFS), the militant group formerly known as Al-Nusra Front, controlling the barren areas on the borders. Hezbollah knows very well how and when to take advantage of decisive moments.

Hezbollah waged these battles, supported by shallow patriotic feelings, and undermining the role of the military institution on the borders. Hezbollah was able to get the needed compassion and support by launching a campaign of hatred against the Syrian refugees by spreading racist videos, in which Lebanese were seen beating Syrians, following the killing of Syrian detainees tortured by the Lebanese army. Hezbollah sowed misperceptions about Syrian refugees and the terrorists.

Patriotism in Lebanon today is just blind, ignorant hatred, and allows for the depiction of what is going on in Jaroud Arsal as a battle against terrorism. It is in fact a battle to confirm regional Iranian influence and undermine Lebanon even more.

What homeland are they defending, when the citizens’ feelings are being fueled with hatred against refugees, who are portrayed as terrorists?

The Lebanese have accepted the army’s killing of four Syrian detainees because they believed that this will pave the way for a stronger state fighting terrorism. However, it is really about preparing the soil for a wider regional sectarian plan.

Hezbollah is today the sole decision-making power in Lebanon. The government has to secure the party’s mission in Syria, in return for trivial rewards. No one cares about refugee camps being set on fire, detainees being tortured and killed, a journalist being arrested for commenting on Facebook or a lawyer being threatened because she dared to defend victims of torture. All this no longer offends anyone in Lebanon, and we cannot escape the fact that Lebanon is now a state ruled by Hezbollah.

What is happening in Arsal is that Hezbollah is expanding its influence, with the Lebanese army remaining mute. When there is no value to borders, sovereignty and citizens, the end of Lebanon becomes a crystal clear reality.

Source; arabnews.com/node/1133831


Will The GCC Crisis Be Resolved Soon?

By Rami G Khouri

23 July 2017

A string of rapid-fire developments this weekend in Qatar, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates will likely mark this as the turning point that nudged the seven-week-old GCC crisis towards a resolution. A combination of public statements, practical policy measures, and a veritable armada of foreign mediators should prompt indirect negotiations in the coming week, leading to direct talks soon after that.

The bitter conflict that saw Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt impose a land, sea, and air siege of Qatar on June 5 now appears to be solvable, due to three critical new developments. First, the US has intervened forcefully, repeatedly, and publicly to end the disputed, and on Friday called for removing the land blockade of Qatar because Washington is "satisfied" with Qatar's new counterterrorism actions.

Qatar for its part has responded defiantly, but with political acumen - launching a strong counterterrorism financing policy with the US, showing that it has almost totally absorbed the inconveniences and cost hikes from the failed siege, and repeating its willingness to negotiate a resolution based on principles that apply to all parties. The Saudi-Emirati-led siege-masters, for their part, seem to have recognised that their case against Qatar was gaining no significant supporters around the world, while Qatar enjoyed deep and widespread backing.

The points of convergence that will allow Qatar and its erstwhile Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) partners to resolve their dispute were already evident in early July in the six principles that the GCC besieging states issued and demanded that Qatar accept - replacing the original 13 "non-negotiable" and highly exaggerated demands they had made in mid-June. The six principles all focus on internationally accepted norms for fighting terrorism and terror financing, respecting the sovereignty of other states, and abiding by negotiated agreements. 

The Friday night speech by the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, his first since the crisis erupted, was forceful, defiant, and steadfast, but not aggressive or insulting. It captured three critical dimensions of this crisis to date: 1) the vital importance of strong domestic and regional support that allowed Qatar to resist the siege and reject the original 13 demands, 2) Qatar's desire to negotiate on the basis of shared values, mutual respect, non-interference, and without wild pressure tactics like the siege, that all GCC states should commit to, and, 3) Qatar will safeguard above all its sovereignty and its promotion of freedom of expression.

The Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs said on Friday that, "The Qatari decision to revise their law regarding the financing of terrorism is a step in the right direction towards addressing the terrorism blacklist of 59 entities [which the besiegers had issued in mid-June]. The pressure from the crisis has borne fruit."

Whether indeed pressure on Qatar caused it to respond, or Qatar's resistance to the exaggerated and unrealistic original 13 Saudi-Emirati demands caused them to be discarded quietly in the middle of the night, will long be debated by partisans of both camps. More importantly, the US now seems to have pressured all sides to find a speedy and peaceful solution, and all parties share a set of principles and concrete actions they can agree on and refine into an agreement.

At the same time, major countries like the US and Germany are already getting involved logistically to make any new agreement stick, while half a dozen international mediators are working hard to find the magic formula to end the siege and resume normal relations among the fractured GCC states - the latest being the Turkish president and the European Union foreign relations chief who will visit the Gulf in the coming days.

Thanks to the Saudi-Emirati climb-down from their slightly hysterical original demands and the Qatari commitment to universally accepted counterterror and sovereign non-interference principles, conditions exist today that could allow all concerned to end the crisis while saying they achieved their objectives and retained their honour and their sovereignty.

Award-winning new mechanisms of national and political face-saving will have to be created to finalise an agreement to resolve this dispute, probably drawing on commitments by states beyond the GCC or even the Arab League, perhaps even using available instruments from multinational organisations like the United Nations or the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

When the dust settles on this dispute, many lessons will be learned by all concerned, including small and big countries, and Arab and non-Arab states. At least two important ones have already been learned.

First, strong-armed, gangland-like pressure tactics will not succeed in securing submission from countries whose policies align with international norms, and whose citizens genuinely express solidarity across society and state. Second, virtually the entire world respects policies that promote pluralism, freedom of expression, open exchange of ideas and total human development, and rejects policies that limit the ability of men and women to use all their intellectual and cultural faculties in the service of building more stable societies.

Source: aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2017/07/gcc-crisis-resolved-170721193141148.html


Qatar and the Bribing Of Journalists

By Ahmad al-Farraj

23 July 2017

All indications suggest that Qatar is counting on buying time and internationalizing the Gulf crisis. To achieve this end, Doha recruited all its media outlets inside the country and abroad to forge facts. It went as far as distorting official statements and altering translations.

It goes without saying that Qatar has always denied that some media outlets are affiliated with it and funded by it – one of the journalists it hired in Doha for this purpose has recently scandalized it though. What’s strange about these websites is that they worked on publishing everything that harms Saudi Arabia, and they’ve done so even before the decision to boycott was made.

These outlets are managed by suspicious Israeli Azmi Bishara who is aided by a group of Arab mercenaries who manage the so-called Qatari propaganda machine and who get promoted and richer the more they harm the Saudi kingdom.

What’s strange is how Gulf citizens who support the Brotherhood, particularly in Saudi Arabia, provide Azmi Bishara and his mercenaries of everything that harms their country to publish it on websites affiliated with Qatar. Many of the Saudi Brotherhood supporters visit Qatar regularly and the latter honours them and takes pictures of them while carrying expensive gifts and cheques.

Qatar does not honour them for nothing but it honours them in exchange of providing services that harm their country. These figures have not realized the magnitude of the crime they’ve committed until after the boycott decision was made. They ended up in trouble as they could not side with their country out of fear they will be blackmailed by Qatar.

This exposed them and showed their true colour to the Saudi people. This is one of the boycott’s positive results as before the boycott, Brotherhood supporters concealed their intentions, claimed they are patriots and used religion to deceive Saudi youths.

Qatar did not just establish and support media platforms that are also supported by Iran but it also bribed western media outlets and writers who were once well-known. Yes, don’t be surprised. The western media is not all pure as we thought it was or as they wanted us to think. Human being, irrespective of his nationality or colour, gets weak before the power of money and Qatar’s rulers are generous when it comes to that.

Who thought Qatar will pay David Hirst and that he will manage a website for it? In addition to Hirst, there is Fareed Zakaria, the star who has fallen and who transformed from an intellectual and unbiased journalist into an Iranian mouthpiece speaking against the Saudi kingdom and keeping silent when hosting guests affiliated with the fascist regime of the supreme guide in Tehran.

The funds which Qatar spent on its media platforms and the bribes it lavishly paid to Arab and western journalists will not save it from evading the responsibility of supporting terrorism and terror groups. Is Doha aware of that?

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/07/23/Qatar-and-the-bribing-of-journalists.html


America Acknowledges: Assad Stayed In Power Thanks To Russia, Iran

By Huda al-Husseini

22 July 2017

The Mercer Island High School’s magazine The Islander recently conducted an interview with US Secretary of Defense James Mattis. Mattis is a retired four-star general. He was a NATO official and a commander of the joint forces command and has participated in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

When asked why out of the thousand calls, he responded to theirs, Mattis, who was a teacher at Stanford University for 3 years, said: “I’ve always tried to help students because I think we owe it to you young folks to pass on what we learned going down the road so that you can make your own mistakes, not the same ones we made.”

During the interview, Mattis who owns a library that contains over a 1,000 books and who has a degree in history focused on the importance of studying history, said: “I wish now looking back on it, if I’d known what waited for me in life, I would have put a lot more attention into history.”

“No matter what you’re going to go into, whether it be business or politics or international relations or domestic politics, I don’t think you can go wrong if you maintain an avid interest in history. The reason I say that is you’ll find that really, there’s nothing new under the sun, other than some of the technology we use,” he added.

When asked about the war on terrorism in the Middle East in particular where ISIS is suffering military losses by recruiting foreign fighters, Mattis said the key to establish an atmosphere of stability in the Middle East is through education. “I think ideologies can be countered by showing people a better education and hope for the future,” he said.

The Saudi Example

Mattis gave Saudi Arabia as an example and cited late Saudi king Abdullah bin Abdulaziz’s scholarships program which was launched in 2005 to enable academically qualified Saudi students to study abroad in esteemed in order to contribute to their country’s economic and social development.

Mattis added that Middle Eastern countries must become more productive on the economic level to guarantee that they can confront the challenges confronting society and improve education. He then talked about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and commended his efforts to shift the kingdom’s economy from a consumer economy into a productive economy and described this as “a revolutionary effort.”

Mattis then focused on youths’ energy and said youths must be part of a positive environment in order to be safe and protected and avoid being recruited by extremist groups.

He then went back to discussing history which he said it “will show you not all the answers, but it’ll tell you a lot of the questions to ask.” Mattis voiced his rejection of ideological people and said: “It’s like those people just want to stop thinking” as they reject those who are not like them. He asked why they bother and make so much effort to show that “the other” is evil or crazy. “None of us are perfect and all-knowing,” he said.

When asked about war, Mattis voiced his admiration of Greek historian and leader Thucydides who wrote the first book about history 2,000 or 3,000 years ago. He said: “The fundamental nature of war, you go all the way back to Thucydides” who said that the motive for war is fear, honor and interests and they all still exit to this day”.

“What he wrote over 2,000 years ago, 3,000 years ago still consumes people. That’s what I meant about studying history,” Mattis said. He added that although technology has become part of war, the latter is “still full of fear and courage, cowardice and duplicity, treachery, and clarity, honesty and confusion.”

When President Donald Trump picked him as Secretary of Defense, he said before the Congress that the military institution must be lethal. In the interview with The Islander, he explained: “The way that you get your diplomats listened to in an imperfect world is you make certain you back them up with hard power. So what you have to do is make certain that your foreign policy is led by the diplomats, not by the military. I meet for breakfast once a week with Secretary of State Tillerson and I’ll advise him on the military factors for his foreign policy. I think that’s where diplomats lead and the military then reinforces the diplomats.”

After ISIS

On what will happen after ISIS is defeated, Mattis explained how Tillerson held a conference in Washington 7 weeks ago. As many as 65 countries and military, financial and humanitarian organizations participated in it and Mattis spoke during it.

Mattis told The Islander: “You don’t have to have the Americans do it all. There are many nations that said, if you will lead, we will contribute. Many nations don’t trust each other as much as they trust America, no matter what you read in the newspapers right now.”

“We spent 85 percent of the meeting not talking about the military aspects. I think what you want to do is look at the Marshall Plan, but instead of the American’s carrying the full burden or even the heaviest burden.” Mattis acknowledged America’s “defeat” of wars after military victories. He noted that: “The most important thing is, if you have to go to war, then do everything you can not to go to war if at all possible.”

Mattis explained that in Desert Storm, the US achieved victories on all levels. He said that in that war, President Bush, the first President Bush, said ‘we’re not going to tolerate a nation being taken over,’ and went to war.

“And we went in, kicked them out of Kuwait, freed Kuwait, and then he would not go any further. Some people said ‘oh we’re winning let’s charge into Baghdad.’ He said ‘nope. all we’re going to do is free Kuwait.’ We went in with more troops than we needed and we ended it quickly, because he had the political end state right. Even the Russians helped us in that war by the way. They told us exactly what their radars they’d given Saddam Hussein could do so we knew where we could fly through the radar coverage.”

Trust with Arabs

Asked how the US can create an atmosphere of trust with the Arab people, especially in Iran, he said: “That’ll be a little tough, since it’s not really an election. It is the Supreme Leader who decides who gets to run. It would be like having the current American president decide who gets to run in the next campaign, and by the way, when they come in he stays in the White House and the others just kind of rotate through. So the point is that this is a country that is acting more like a revolutionary cause, not to best interests of their own people so it’s very, very hard. What you have to do eventually is what then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did, which was to move sanctions, economic sanctions, against them and force them to the negotiating table because they want to stay in power.”

He added: “They tried to murder an Arab ambassador in downtown Washington D.C. for example. Right now, they have moved ballistic missiles down to Yemen that were shot into Saudi Arabia from Yemen. It is going to be very hard to deal with them. So somehow, you don’t want to unite the Iranian people with that unpopular regime because if you pressure them both then they will grow together. We’ve got to make certain that the Iranian people know that we don’t have any conflict with them. Iran is certainly the most destabilizing influence in the Middle East.”

Mattis then discussed Syria and said Bashar al-Assad’s regime has stayed in power thanks to Iran and Russia. “Russia right now has chosen to be a strategic competitor with NATO and with the United States, so this is an area they can compete in although frankly between US military and the Russian military, we maintain very open communications with each other. We’re not engaged in the fight to get rid of Assad, we’re just there fighting ISIS. The Russians are trying to figure out how to get out of it now.”

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/07/22/America-acknowledges-Assad-stayed-in-power-thanks-to-Russia-Iran.html


Why Is Qatar Holding On To a Newspaper Clipping

By Mohammed Al Shaikh

23 July 2017

The Washington Post published a report claiming that the Emiratis were the ones who hacked the Qatari news agency and published news pieces – as the Qataris allege – which sparked the crisis with the four countries.

No official sources confirmed this report but the Qatari authorities rushed to circulate it. Its satellite channels and dailies republished it and reported it like it was conclusive evidence that will get Qatar out of the trouble or rather the dilemma for which the Hamads, i.e. Emir Tamim and his father Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, are responsible.

The Qataris’ celebration of a newspaper report that was not confirmed by any official sources is proof of weakness and it clearly indicates that they sense they are in real trouble which they don’t know how to overcome.

This is why they viewed the news report as a “victory” and used it as conclusive evidence although it’s nothing more than a report that could be right or wrong.

By the way, the daily itself noted that the report was not confirmed by any official or intelligence sources.

Weak Stance

The joy that the Qatari authorities found in this report confirms that they feel their stance is weak, especially as wise citizens began to ask: “What will we, as Qatari citizens, benefit from Hamad’s conspiracies and adventures that are as clear as day in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt? Can a small country like Qatar bear the price of these absurd practices and support terrorism when the entire world is determined to pursue it, fight it and seek to dry up its funding?”

Resorting to a news report in a daily and using it as conclusive evidence rather than as a piece that is probably right or wrong – as a Qatari who complained to me said – was not meant for people abroad or to other Gulf countries, but rather directed to the Qatari people who began to complain of the Hamad’s irrational and childish political acts and of squandering money to accomplish ambitions that are closer to madness. There are reports which confirm that Emir Tamim, to whom his father handed over but who’s actually an emir with no real powers, is very upset with what’s happening and is completely against these mad practices which no sane man approves of.

The reports added that Tamim and his mother despise Hamad bin Jassem bin Jaber and hold him directly responsible for the dilemma, the repercussions of which worsen with time.

The Hamad’s confusion while confronting the alliance of four countries comprising Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain and their insistence not to be responsive are allegedly matched by desperate and secret attempts in which they (Tamim and his father) are willing to accept the demands of the four boycotting countries. They are willing to do so in secret but not publicly.

Lost Faith 

The Gulf countries and Egypt began to lose faith in Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who is Qatar’s real ruler. Their previous work with him confirmed to them that he is untruthful and an evasive man who does not keep his word.

This time the four countries will not agree to restore normalcy unless the demands, particularly the list of 13 demands which they submitted to Qatar last month, are publicly approved before the entire world.

He who feels lonely and isolated without any friends or relatives in a barren desert deals with a mirage like it is water. This is the Qataris’ reality these days.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/07/23/When-states-hold-on-to-a-newspaper-clip-.html


Why Is Kuwait Angry With Iran

By Mashari Althaydi

22 July 2017

Kuwait’s decision to expel Iranian diplomats and close down some of the Iranian embassy’s offices suggests that the situation has become intolerable and that Kuwait, the Gulf state, which has been friendly to its Iranian neighbour, has run out of patience.

Kuwait has been very patient with regard to its neighbour’s intransigence and acts that hurts with Kuwait’s national security. Iran’s behaviour has been the same since the sectarian regime came to power in 1979 and the Khomeini era began.

But there are questions craving for attention. Who blew up the convoy of Kuwait’s former and late Emir Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad? Who blew up Kuwait’s popular cafes? Who hijacked a passenger aircraft? Who recruited the Kuwaiti cell in Mecca? Who established the Khomeini terrorist cell in Kuwait, known as the Abdali cell?

In August 2015, Kuwaiti interior ministry said that a number of suspects who possessed weapons were arrested. The seized weapons were found in a farm in Abdali near the Iraqi borders and in houses owned by the suspects and included 19 tons of ammunition, 144 kilograms of explosives, 68 different types of arms, 204 grenades and electric detonators.

At the time, the Iranian embassy issued a statement condemning the Kuwaiti interior ministry. This upset many Kuwaitis and they have every right to be angry. The Iranian foreign ministry has today condemned Kuwait and threatened it following its recent “sovereign” measure, which it took after the Kuwaiti judiciary made a decision regarding the terrorists of the Abdali cell.

Iranian Boats

The cell’s members are being pursued and monitored. Following reports that they escaped on board Iranian boats and headed to the Khomeini republic.

Let us also recall the attack on the Bahraini Jaw Prison last January, which was meant to break out members of a terrorist cell after killing a Bahraini policeman. The plan failed after Bahrain’s security forces captured the wrongdoers before they reached the Shetan shore.

Kuwait has for decades been lenient with its neighbor. Partisan political figures supporting the Khomeini republic – such as famous MP Abdul-Hamid Dashti – have enjoyed decent margin of activity in Kuwait. A while ago, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Sabah al-Khaled went to Tehran to mediate between Iran and the Gulf countries. But at the end of it all, this is how Iran has rewarded Kuwait.

Kuwait’s official statement voiced “regret over the negative developments in relations between the two countries.” This is not the first crisis to erupt between Kuwait and Tehran as there have been other developments, one of which happened five years ago.

The moot point is that Iranian intransigence will not end until it destroys everything. According to their fatal illusion, they think they are God’s representatives. This is the unfortunate reality.

Iran is not a country that one can reach an understanding with. The best solution is a “truce” as for peace, yet there isn’t any.

Source; english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2017/07/22/OPINION-Why-is-Kuwait-angry-with-Iran.html


The Al-Aqsa Metal Detectors Aren't a Security Measure

By Diana Buttu

23 July 2017

Yesterday, thousands of Palestinians came to Jerusalem to perform the most simple, most peaceful act: prayer. Palestinians - Muslims and Christians, women and men, young and old - prayed in the streets after refusing to enter through the new metal detectors and barricades erected by Israel in front of the al-Aqsa compound. Israeli forces, armed with live ammunition, stun grenades, sound bombs, water cannon and tear gas, came prepared to kill.

And they did: by the day's end Israeli forces and armed settlers had killed three young Palestinian men and injured more than 450 others, some of them very seriously. Israeli forces even raided a Palestinian hospital in an attempt to arrest those injured by their weaponry.

Israel claims that the metal detectors are necessary for Israel's "security" following an incident last week in which two armed Israeli officers were killed. These metal detectors are not about security, but rather about deliberately attempting to bar Palestinians from their places of worship. Contrast, for example, Israel's recent stance towards the Temple Mount Faithful - a group of Jewish extremists who have openly announced that they seek the destruction of the al-Aqsa compound in order to build a Jewish temple in its place.

Yet, while openly advocating for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and the destruction of Muslim holy sites, the Israeli government continues to allow this group to enter the al-Aqsa compound (including with arms) under the guise of "freedom of religion".

In 1990, this group attempted to lay a cornerstone for a Jewish temple at the compound triggering protests in which some 20 Palestinians died.

The demand for freedom of religion for Palestinians - the ability to worship without the interference of Israel's armed forces - is conveniently ignored. The metal detectors must be viewed in their proper context: as another of Israel's settler-colonial acts of erasing us, the indigenous population, erasing our homes, our culture and our religious sites and replacing us with settlers.

For his part, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu is happy to see Jerusalem erupt in violence. Facing a corruption investigation for a submarine scandal, Netanyahu is refusing to remove the metal detectors so as to ensure that attention is deflected from this deal and instead focused on violence. You see, in Israel, "security" sells - it ensures votes and ensures that corruption charges are deflected.

To be clear, no Palestinian wants to see their holy sites turned into places of armed conflict. But using the guise of "security", Israel has ensured that we, Palestinians, live as prisoners in our homeland.

In the name of "security," Israel expropriates Palestinian land. In the name of "security", Israel builds Israeli-only settlements on stolen Palestinian land. In the name of "security" Israel demolishes Palestinian homes and schools and in the name of "security" Palestinians are besieged in Gaza, forced to live without electricity, adequate medical supplies or water and even barred from accessing the sea.

And, when Palestinians are gunned down by mass murderers, as they were in the 1990s in Hebron by Baruch Goldstein, in the name of "security", Palestinians - and not Israelis - are subject to increased security restrictions. In short, Israel seeks to turn Jerusalem into Hebron: blocked off from Palestinians, with convenience for Israeli Jews taking precedence over Palestinian rights. So as Israel continues to gun down Palestinians, who will provide security to Palestinians?

This security will not come from the current unelected Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, who spent four days in China as Palestinians were barred from accessing al-Aqsa compound and as Gazans suffered under a siege that he has openly supported. Nor, of course, will it come from a silent international community that only knows how to wring its hands and meekly condemn Israel.

Rather, Palestinians will continue to bravely stand and defend themselves, bowing down only to the God they worship and never to Israeli diktats.

Source: aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2017/07/al-aqsa-metal-detectors-aren-security-measure-170722091622756.html


Macron's Francafrique

By Pape Samba Kane

23 July 2017

These days in Dakar, Bamako and elsewhere in Francophone Africa, everyone is talking about French President Emmanuel Macron.

President Macron, born long after French colonies became independent, displays an ostensible modernism, and - at least on the surface - attacks the obsolete political apparatuses, which, according to him, harm the vitality of the French society. As a result, perhaps too naively, many Africans expected him to change the old "Francafrique" - France's relations with its former colonies in Africa - for the better.

But the reality is more than disappointing. So far, Macron not only insisted on the continuity of France's economic dominance in the region as a former colonial power, but he also signalled his support for French military presence in the continent. Within the first weeks of his presidency, he has also clearly demonstrated that his assumptions about Africa and Africans are just as racist and colonialist as his predecessors'.

The Colonial Money

Earlier this month at the G5 summit in Mali, Macron responded to the leaders of several countries of the African franc zone who see this currency as a cause of economic misfortunes.

"If you feel unhappy in the franc zone, you leave it and create your own currency as Mauritania and Madagascar did," the 39-year-old president said. "If you stay there [in the franc zone], you must stop demagogic statements, making the CFA franc the scapegoat of your political and economic failures and France the source of your problems."

This statement, as one might expect, triggered a flood of protests in Africa, and revived the debate on the viability and the colonial legacy of the CFA franc.

The CFA franc, the franc of the French colonies of Africa, was created on December 26, 1945, in the wake of the Bretton Woods conference, in which allied countries decided on what the international financial order should be like after World War II. According to French authorities at the time, the main purpose of this new currency system was to cushion the colonies from a strong devaluation of the franc.

In 1958, to settle the independence movements that were gaining ground all over colonial Africa, a new constitution was passed in Paris, transforming the French Union into the French Community - a federation of states with their own self-government. Under this new governance system, the CFA franc became the currency of the French Community of Africa. But this status quo did not last long, as almost all states in the newly formed "African French Community" declared independence from France in the two years that followed the constitutional change.

The CFA franc, however, managed to survive the declarations of independence.

After independence, several countries did choose to leave the franc zone: Tunisia in 1958, Morocco in 1960, Guinea in 1959, Algeria in 1964, Madagascar and Mauritania in 1973. But a total of 14 countries, 12 of which are former French colonies, decided to continue using CFA franc as their official currency.

At the moment, the CFA franc is the official currency of the African Financial Community comprising eight countries within the Economic and Monetary Union of West Africa (UEMOA), as well as the Financial Cooperation in Central Africa, with six countries in this region.

The CFA franc is guaranteed by the French Treasury. It had a fixed exchange rate to French franc until 1999, and now - to the euro under agreements that force the countries of the franc zone to deposit 50 percent of their reserves in foreign currency to the French Treasury.

This currency, which is manufactured in France, follows the fluctuations of the euro, thus depriving the countries that use it from monetary sovereignty. That the CFA franc is bad for the economies of the 14 countries using it is clear. A country cannot have an independent economic path to development without control over its monetary policies.

The complaints of African leaders are justifiable and by far not "demagogic". Macron made this statement knowing full well that the colonial set-up of the CFA franc makes it quite difficult for countries to launch a unilateral withdrawal, given the high costs involved.

France's Continuing Military Presence In Africa

Macron made his first official visit in Africa to Mali - a country that is considered to be a brilliant symbol of French military's triumphant return to the continent.

France launched an intervention in Mali in 2013 to push out fighters linked to al-Qaeda who had overtaken key northern cities. That mission evolved into the current Barkhane deployment launched in 2014 with an expanded mandate for "counterterror" operations across the Sahel. Currently, more than 4,000 French soldiers are participating in the operation in five Sahel nations alongside UN and Malian troops.

From Serval to Barkhane, French military operations in Africa are allegedly aiming "to fight terrorism" and more specifically to "return to Mali its sovereignty over Timbuktu and Kidal". But, of course, another objective of these military operations - if not the primary one - is to protect French economic and geostrategic interests in the region, such as exploitation of Nigerien uranium and Malian gold. Also, it is well known that France is behind the creation of the G5 Sahel (an institutional framework for regional cooperation in development and security policies, incorporating Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad). The G5 helps France seal its military's influence in the region and President Macron seems to be committed to maintaining the current unfair status quo.

During his visit to Mali, the new French president reaffirmed France's commitment in the fight against terrorism in Africa and assigned a quasi-subordinate role to G5 Sahel countries, indicating that they can form indigenous armies, "to combat drug and human trafficking" at the border areas.

During the same visit, Macron also managed to offend Algeria, the mediator in the Malian crisis. At a joint press conference with the Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Macron said: "I will have a stronger demand from the states of the Sahel and Algeria," he said, before stressing that "we cannot show any weakness whatsoever with regard to terrorist groupings, regardless of domestic political reasons."

Macron's comments were meant to suggest that Algeria is supposedly allowing al-Qaeda-linked individuals to freely move in its territory.

Africa's 'Civilisational Problems'

But the harsh words on the CFA franc and the subtle accusations against Algeria were nothing compared to his comments at the G20 summit in Hamburg regarding Africa's so-called "civilisational problems".

The young French president managed to make several stigmatising declarations about Africa in the short time period that he has been in office, reducing Africans to something sub-human. His declarations were akin to the ones that have been used, since slavery, to justify the extractions of African resources.

During a press conference at the G20 summit in Hamburg, as he was responding to a question about the necessity of a "Marshall Plan for Africa", Macron made his most offensive declaration about Africa to date.

"The problems Africa face today are completely different … and are civilisational," Macron told a reporter from former French colony Ivory Coast.

"What are the problems? Failed states, complex democratic transitions and extremely difficult demographic transitions." He said that although France accepted to help with infrastructure, education and healthcare, a "simple money transfer" was not the answer.

"It's by a more rigorous governance, a fight against corruption, a fight for good governance, a successful demographic transition when countries today have seven or eight children per woman," Mr Macron added.

Macron's words bordered on deliberate provocation, especially since the memory of the outrage caused by Nicholas Sarkozy's Dakar speech is still fresh a decade later.

"The tragedy of Africa is that the African has not fully entered into history ... They have never really launched themselves into the future," Sarkozy had said in that speech delivered in July 2007.

"The African peasant only knew the eternal renewal of time, marked by the endless repetition of the same gestures and the same words," he said. "In this realm of fancy ... there is neither room for human endeavour nor the idea of progress."

Like Sarkozy and the countless other French leaders before him, Macron sees Africa only through the prism of colonialism and white supremacy. He carries, like a disease, the profound collective European feeling of civilisational superiority and parallel fear of the demographic strength of Africa.

Colonialists have long sought to control African women's fertility, as colonial masters dreaded being outnumbered and overpowered by the people they were enslaving and oppressing. Perhaps it was Africa's demographic strength that helped it survive centuries of abuse and colonialism.

What Mr Macron and the rest of France's political elite need to understand is that our problem is neither demographic, nor "civilisational". Our problem is colonialism and the entrenched system of corruption and exploitation that Europe has set up and maintained in Africa.

Europe and North America continue to approach the continent with this extractive behaviour and demand to deal with African leaders not as equals. Historically, those who have resisted have either been corrupted or killed.

What Mr Macron et al need to understand is that times have changed and as much as the old system is entrenched, Africans are now more than ever aware and ready to resist it. And they would not take any more insults in silence.

Source: aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2017/07/macron-francafrique-170721190500965.html


Temporarily Filing Away The Qatari Crisis

By Salman al-Dossary

22 July 2017

Forty-five days have passed since Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt took their measures against Qatar. A Kuwaiti mediation tried and strove to resolve the crisis, but the isolated party ensured its failure from the very beginning when it leaked the demands of the four Arab countries. It then went beyond that and did not even comply with any of them.

The foreign ministers of the United States, France, Britain and Germany toured the region and their luck was not any better than Kuwait’s. The four countries are firm in their stance and say that Doha signed the 2014 Riyadh agreement and has not committed to it, but it is time that it does. Any mediation less than that is unacceptable.

Qatar in return is insisting against respecting and committing to what it signed. It has announced that officially and boasts about it. It believes that playing the waiting game will be enough for the four countries to change their stance. It also believes that its reserve of $300 billion will be enough to save it from the boycott of its neighbors.

As long as Doha believes that it can wage a long-term confrontation and insists on reneging on its pledges and as long as the four countries believe that they have shut the doorway of evil that has been open for too long, then there is no problem in filing away the Qatar crisis after the emirate has become isolated and unwanted.

The crisis should be filed away until Doha regains its memory and seriously and rationally deals with the problem. As long as it does not change its political ideology, then its neighbours will be better off continuing on a path that does not include it.

Fair demands

The Saudi cabinet stressed its firm stance in continuing the measures adopted by the four countries until the Qatari authorities completely comply with the fair demands, which include confronting terrorism and achieving security and stability in the region. This is a stance, that since day one of the crisis, the countries have not wavered on.

UAE State Minister for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said from London’s Chatham House on Monday: “We want a permanent solution and not one that will prolong the crisis. Diplomacy will remain our main course and we have said in the past that we will not escalate the situation beyond what is permitted by international law.”

Indeed, the permanent solution of rehabilitating the Qatari regime will require the four countries to continue their decision to clip Doha’s political nails that have scratched so much that blood has been shed everywhere. Any temporary solution will only exacerbate the crisis and the region will once again return to square one. Without a permanent and radical solution the crisis will continue and with greater intensity.

The difference this time is that the Qatari policy will operate in dark rooms and it will be alone and isolated on its path. It will not regain the ties that it exploited terribly in order to target the national security of its neighbours.

Implementing Commitments

The four countries have succeeded in cutting the road halfway for Qatar. It will cross the remaining road when Doha expresses its desire to return to their fold and implement the commitments that are required of it.

It is certain that Qatar, which Gargash described as far back as 1995 as a “rebel looking for a cause” and which has found its way with extremist movements, will not be able to again play this revolutionary role. After today, it will no longer be able to spark fires throughout the region and be the only side with a fire truck.

One after the other, western foreign ministers left the region without being able to give Doha what it is bargaining on. The stances of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE are firm, their vision is clear and the commitments are known.

Gradually, Qatar will run out of options and the world, except for Iran and Turkey, is no longer even that concerned with its crisis. The days have gone by and it has found itself isolated after everyone washed their hands clean of it. If it was capable, as it claims, to confront the measures taken against it, then this is its decision and choice. The upcoming months will be a tough test of its claims.

The Kuwaiti mediation still stands and is ready to search for a solution and not waste time in international tours. As for the four countries, it is enough that they kept on giving Doha chance after chance. They have placed its crisis above all others because they are eager for their “sister” to return to them.

It is time however for them to walk without her as they have several crises and files to deal with in the next phase and away from Qatar, which ultimately chose to isolate itself.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/07/22/Temporarily-filing-away-the-Qatari-crisis.html


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