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Middle East Press (16 Jan 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)



Forced Disappearances Will Not Silence Us: New Age Islam's Selection, 16 January 2017





New Age Islam Edit Bureau

16 January 2017

Forced Disappearances Will Not Silence Us

By Usama Khilji

Iran In Yemen: See No Evil, Hear No Evil

By Baria Alamuddin

How Soon Will Trump Violate International Law Against Palestinians?

By Yara Al-Wazir

Northern Syria … Where To?

By Eyad Abu Shakra

Strong Action Needed To Prevent Adhl

By By Samar Al-Mugrin

Syria Safe Zones Are Still Possible And Necessary

By Dr. Azeem Ibrahim

New Joint Message From Kremlin And Trump Administration

By Raghhida Dergham

The World Obama Bequeathed

By Hisham Melhem

The UAE: Why Do Moderates Love It, But Extremists Hate It?

By Mamdouh Almuhaini

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau

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Forced Disappearances Will Not Silence Us

By Usama Khilji

14-01-17

In the first two weeks of 2017, five activists have reportedly gone missing in Pakistan. Others have taken to social media to share what they referred to as failed abduction attempts. Chat groups, email lists, and social media are abuzz with multiple reports of as many as nine activists and citizen journalists who have reportedly gone "missing". There is one common thread that haunts the families and the larger civil rights community in Pakistan: uncertainty.

No groups have taken responsibility for abducting them. There's been no response from the authorities on the whereabouts of these individuals and no admission that they may be under arrest. The interior ministry has so far said that they're looking into the issue.

The implication that they've been taken by a security agency stems from the testimonies of their families that are far too familiar. Men in plain clothes picking up individuals from their home and taking them away in an unmarked car. At least two of those missing were taken from their homes.

Salman Haider: Professor at Fatima Jinnah Women University, active in Awami Workers Party, a leftist socialist party who was very critical of state policies, editor at Tanqeed - an independent e-zine critical of state policies - and a poet. Ahmed Waqas Goraya, Asim Saeed - both visiting from abroad - and Ahmed Raza Naseer were active political commentators online. Samar Abbas is the president of Civil Progressive Alliance Pakistan - working on minority rights especially the targeted killing of Shia Muslims in Pakistan.

The one thing common between the missing five was their critical approach to state policies, the rise of extremism, and the military's overreaching on matters outside its ambit. Their abduction sends a strong message that the state is willing to bypass the constitution, and overlook the legal and constitutional rights of every citizen to critique and debate state's affairs, in order to threaten, intimidate, and silence citizens.

A History Of Forced Disappearances

Pakistan consistently ranks very low for press freedom, ranking 147 in the 2016 World Press Freedom Index, and "Not Free" in the Freedom of the Press 2016 rankings by Freedom House. This is largely due to several cases of killing of journalists with impunity.

Both the reports point to threats to journalists, not only from extremist militant organisations, but also the powerful military and its associated intelligence agencies. Journalists covering issues and activists criticising state policies considered sensitive by the military often come under scrutiny, are forcibly disappeared, or killed.

These issues include fighting in the Balochistan province - where the state alleges Indian involvement, investigating links between the military and "extremist" organisations and lately, criticising projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) worth a total of $51.5bn.

Despite the fact that forced disappearances have been a pressing issue in Pakistan, the number of people who have been abducted, and their whereabouts, is still not known and widely disputed. In 2015, the Supreme Court of Pakistan issued an order demanding that the authorities produce a report on the number of missing people in Pakistan.

While the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances (CIED) said that it has received 1,265 cases as of Dec 31, 2014, the Defence of Human Rights (DHR) - a civil society organisation working with the families of those missing - claims that the total number of cases of missing persons is 5,149 and 252 of them surfaced in 2014 alone.

In its final report last year, the CIED, headed by retired Justice Javed Iqbal, directed the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Interior to lodge criminal cases against some 117 officials of secret agencies, police and Frontier Corps accusing them of participating in illegal abductions of individuals across the country. Despite the 400-page report and its very clear recommendations, forced disappearances have continued in Pakistan.

Accusations Of Blasphemy

Since the disappearance of the five activists this month, there has been a campaign against them on social media accusing them of blasphemy - a sensitive issue in Pakistan that has cost the life of several activists and politicians including federal minister Shahbaz Bhatti and the governor of the Punjab province, Salmaan Taseer, both in 2011.

Not only are the activists missing, but those that are speaking out to demand accountability now bear the risk of being painted as supporters of blasphemers.

The controversial blasphemy law, which activists allege has been used as an easy way to settle disputes, seems to be an added tool in the campaign against these activists deemed problematic for breaching national security - another excuse regularly employed to silence free speech.

This is especially concerning because the government passed the controversial cybercrime related act, the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act 2016, in August 2016, that has been criticised for its draconian approach to freedom of expression online.

In October 2016, the military's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency successfully sought the authority from the government to take pre-emptive actions against individuals or organisations that it deems to be breaching national security.

However, the forced disappearances of these activists have happened outside the law, leaving their families with no legal recourse and no way of inquiring the whereabouts of their loved ones.

There are two important takeaways from these alarming disappearances. First, that the state apparatus is willing to go beyond the draconian laws it has pushed through to silence dissent and free speech. Second, that the state is successful in setting a narrative where not free speech, but the extent of the limits around it are being negotiated by citizens.

Many fear these disappearances are a warning shot: Whereas traditional media was easier to censor, it has been more difficult to silence individuals on digital media. These disappearances are setting a precedent whereby many bloggers and activists are likely to give up their right to freedom of expression and choose censorship in fear of similar consequences.

However, amid fears and unconfirmed reports of more disappearances, hundreds have come out to the streets to demonstrate across Pakistan and to make one thing clear: They will not be silenced.

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Usama Khilji is a writer and researcher on refugee rights, civic education, and democracy. He is a free speech campaigner and Chevening scholar.

Source; .aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2017/01/forced-disappearances-silence-170114103746777.html

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Iran In Yemen: See No Evil, Hear No Evil

By Baria Alamuddin

16 January 2017

Western leaders have displayed astonishing unwillingness to acknowledge the evidence of their own intelligence agencies and militaries concerning Iranian interference in Yemen and the region.

During Gen. James Mattis’ Senate hearings for his appointment as defense secretary last week, it emerged the degree to which Barack Obama’s administration had closed its ears to Mattis’ weekly warnings about Iran’s destabilizing role in Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq and elsewhere during his tenure as America’s top military commander in the Middle East.

Eventually Obama’s team, preoccupied with engaging Iran, had enough of being told what it did not want to hear, and the general was replaced. As Obama’s adviser Dennis Ross relates: “It was a kind of culture clash. There was such a preoccupation in the White House with not doing things that would provoke Iran or be seen as provocative. Mattis was, by definition, inclined toward doing those things that would be seen as provocative.”

In recent days, the Australian government released photographic evidence of thousands of weapons of Iranian origin, including rocket-propelled grenade launchers, seized in just one raid last year off the Yemen coast. Far greater quantities were impounded in multiple seizures by French, US and other vessels in 2016. Considering the difficulties of patrolling Yemen’s long and inaccessible coastline, these seizures represent the tip of the iceberg.

In November, Conflict Armament Research released an extensive report demonstrating that impounded arms were primarily of Iranian origin. The report talked of a “weapons pipeline extending from Iran to Somalia and Yemen; which involves the transfer, by dhow, of significant quantities of Iranian-manufactured weapons.” A single dhow in March 2016 contained 2,000 Kalashnikov-style rifles “characteristic of Iranian manufacture.”

Under the international sanctions regime, Iran is prohibited from exporting arms, a ban that Tehran has flagrantly flouted in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Meanwhile, Iranian shipments to Bahraini terrorists continue to be intercepted. Kevin Donegan, commander of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, acknowledged that recent seizures were part of a much larger effort by Iran to move weapons to the Houthis.

Intelligence experts also raised concerns about the exploitation of the porous Yemen-Oman border for smuggling weapons. A US official told Reuters: “We are aware of a recent increased frequency of weapons shipments supplied by Iran, which are reaching the Houthis via the Omani border.”

Rather than denying such allegations, senior Iranians have bragged about them. A senior Iranian diplomat confirmed there had been a “sharp surge in Iran’s help to the Houthis in Yemen” since May 2016, including weapons, training and money. He told Reuters the objective was to escalate conflict with Saudi Arabia: “The nuclear deal gave Iran an upper hand in its rivalry with Saudi Arabia, but it needs to be preserved.”

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s closest confidants have been similarly vocal. MP Alireza Zakani in 2015 bragged that Sanaa would be the “fourth Arab capital” to fall into Iran’s hands after Beirut, Damascus and Baghdad. Zakani predicted that the “Yemen revolution” would extend into Saudi Arabia. Ali Akbar Velayati called for the Houthis to play “the same role in Yemen” as Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Earlier this month, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander Hussain Salami declared: “It is now time for the Islamic conquests. After the liberation of Aleppo, Bahrain’s hopes will be realized and Yemen will be happy with the defeat of the enemies of Islam.”

Until very recently, the Houthis were a minority group in the far northwest of Yemen with around 2,000 fighters, only capable of stirring up localized bouts of unrest. During the 2011 disturbances, Hezbollah’s Unit 3800 with support from Iran’s Al-Quds Force channelled funds and training to Houthi insurgents. The head of Unit 3800, Haj Khalil Harb, was later designated for US sanctions for his role in training and arming the Houthis.

US National Intelligence Director James Clapper said in 2014: “Iran will continue to provide arms and other aid to Palestinian groups, rebels in Yemen, and Shiite militants in Bahrain to expand Iranian influence and to counter perceived foreign threats.”

Iran and its allies have declared that when fighting finishes in Mosul, Iraqi and Syrian proxy militias will be reconfigured as a regional “expeditionary force.” The Washington Times reported: “Iran has positioned thousands of loyal Iraqi Shiite militia fighters around Mosul with a strategic goal of creating long-lasting armies inside Iraq that can also deploy as an expeditionary force to Syria, Yemen and other contested regions.”

Senior Iranian military figures confirmed that they already had assets on the ground and intended to increase their presence in Yemen. In August 2016, IRGC Brig. Gen. Mohammed Ali Falaki told hard-line Iranian media sources that Iran was working toward “the formation of a Shiite liberation army whose commander is Qassem Soleimani… One front of this army is in Syria, the other in Iraq, and another in Yemen.”

Faliki is a senior figure in the Syria-based Fatimiyoun Brigades, a mainly Afghan militia of 8,000-12,000 fighters recruited by Iran. After such proxies played a leading role in brutally subduing east Aleppo, there has been increasing discussion of these assets being redeployed elsewhere.

While Iran looks to pivot troops away from Syria, it remains involved in a massive feat of social engineering, relocating thousands of Shiites to western Syria to fundamentally alter the demographic balance in the region between Damascus and the Lebanese border.

An exclusive report by The Guardian illustrated how far-reaching these measures are, with one source saying: “Full sectarian segregation is at the heart of the Iranian project in Syria. They are looking for geographical zones that they can fully dominate and influence.”

These measures resemble similar strategies pursued by Iranian proxies in mixed areas of Iraq, where tens of thousands have been terrorized into exile and prevented from returning to their homes, in a transparent effort to alter the sectarian balance ahead of crucial provincial elections over the coming months.

It took Israel decades for its settlements project to divide the West Bank into ungovernable cantons. These Iranian-engineered population shifts are happening before our eyes. Tehran must not be given carte blanche to do the same in Yemen, which is already facing a humanitarian catastrophe.

Iran’s self-proclaimed role in “liberating” Yemen is being ignored in the West. The smuggling of eye-watering quantities of heavy Iranian weaponry into Yemen passes without comment. Meanwhile, the media and human rights groups have taken every opportunity to give intense coverage of allegations of humanitarian suffering resulting from actions by the Saudi-led coalition.

The Kingdom is the primary source of humanitarian aid to Yemen, supplying hundreds of tons of food and emergency supplies, and billions of riyals of financial support. Yet specious Houthi allegations that the coalition has blocked aid are what the media has tended to focus on.

In the case of Bahrain and Yemen, Iran-funded “opposition” entities have been waging an intense media campaign, vilifying Gulf leaderships and inciting human rights organizations against Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

Dozens of Iranian and Hezbollah media channels have waged campaigns of hate speech and incitement to violence across the region. There is a need for systematic efforts to counter these dangerous lies and propaganda that are fueling and perpetuating civil conflicts.

Warehouses full of impounded Iranian weapons are testimony to the massive scale of Tehran’s interference in Yemen. Iranian military and political leaders have made it crystal clear that they intend to escalate their involvement by putting militia boots on the ground and making local proxies increasingly dependent on their support — exactly as Iran has done very successfully in Syria.

Yemen’s central position on the world’s shipping routes, and its position as the gateway between the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, give this nation tremendous strategic importance. In light of Iran’s dominant position across a huge swathe of territory stretching through Iraq and Syria to the Mediterranean, allowing Iran to consolidate a foothold in Yemen would have catastrophic consequences for the region’s geopolitical balance of power.

Iranians are sick of their hard-line leadership, which is wasting billions exporting revolution overseas, leaving the nation impoverished. A Zogby poll shows how Iranian support for involvement in Syria plunged from 90 percent to 24 percent in just two years. Iranians want less ideology, theology and foreign meddling, and a regime that prioritizes their aspirations.

However, the figures being pushed by entities such as the IRGC to replace the ailing supreme leader — such as Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, Sadeq Larijani and Mohammed Taqi Mesbah Yazdi — are even more hard-line and fanatical than Khamenei.

We have spent too long covering our eyes and ears and pretending that Iran’s involvement in Yemen and elsewhere is exaggerated and insignificant. The facts speak for themselves. Pessimists would say it is too late to roll back Iranian hegemony in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. However, there remains a narrow window of opportunity for Yemen.

The international community must compel Iran to recognize that there are consequences to its far-reaching meddling in Arab states. When ordinary Iranians and the outside world speak with one voice, pouring billions of dollars into policies of regime-change, meddling and proxy war may eventually become suicidal for this regime.

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Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate, a foreign editor at Al-Hayat, and has interviewed numerous heads of state.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1039566/columns

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How Soon Will Trump Violate International Law Against Palestinians?

By Yara al-Wazir

15 January 2017

Many of President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign promises were far-fetched, but perhaps the most easily attainable is the one that risks the greatest disruption to the political stability of the Middle Eastern peace process: his vow to relocate the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Earlier this week, reports that the Trump administration has assured its allies that the US he will push for this move has been met with two responses at either ends of the spectrum: widespread condemnation or a loud applause.

What the Trump administration does not realize is that meddling with Jerusalem is like playing with fire – the cities legal definition as a corpus-separatum dates back to 1947 in the United Nations partition plan and resolution 181. The cities legal status has been further reaffirmed in 11 separate UN-resolutions, which have jointly referred to the city as an international City, and to East Jerusalem as an occupied territory.

Thus, moving the Israeli embassy to Jerusalem, combined with recognizing an undivided-Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city would be considered to be a violation of international law.

Trump isn’t the first president to try and make this move. In 1995, the US congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act. Since then , three US presidents including Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have signed waivers every six months to delay the move.

The real question isn’t will Trump’s administration move forward with the move, rather when will the move become permanent, and how will the Palestinian people and the Palestinian government react?

The Palestinian Authority Has Its Say

The Palestinian Authority, the representative of the Palestinian people since the Oslo Accords in 1994 has spoken out by threatening to revoke its recognition of Israel if the move goes forward. What this rather unprecedented stance by Mahmoud Abass’s government says is that moving the embassy will not only halt any efforts in the peace negotiation process, but that relocating the Israeli Embassy to Jerusalem will set the negotiations back to 1993 when Yasser Arafat signed the Oslo I accord to recognize Israel.

In the occupation there are two sides, the occupied, and the occupier, without the legal precedent to regencies either side the countries involved throw themselves into turmoil, dragging the neighboring states with them. Moving the Israeli embassy to Jerusalem risks retaliation by the Palestinian public as well as neighboring Arab states that recognize the religious importance of Eastern Jerusalem in Islam.

What A Move Would Look Like

Moving the Israeli Embassy to Jerusalem won’t lead to a simple address update on Google Maps; the implication would be near impossible to reverse and would put an inevitable end to working towards a two-state solution, which has been for decades the stance by the United Nations and peace negotiations that have involved the parties. And end to the two-state solution and recognition of Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel would further pressure the 300,000 Palestinians in Eastern-Jerusalem who live under the poverty line.

It would legitimize further expansion of Israeli settlements on Palestinian soil (which are also illegal under five different resolutions dating back to 1979), and extend further power and control to the occupier to further widen the apartheid status of Israel.

Palestinians Must Recognize Their Legal Rights

The “burning bridges” approach imposed by the Trump administration will not push the Palestinians into a corner where they are forced to negotiate, mostly because the Palestinians have nothing to negotiate with. Nor is that the aim of the Trump administration – the aim is to burn the bridge towards a two-state solution and force the Palestinians to give up their fundamental rights to their land.

What the Palestinians need to recognize is their wants: the right to a free existence. The significance of Jerusalem to the Jewish faith is not up for negotiation as it has been recognized for over 80 years, since the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. The core thing to understand is that contesting the move of the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem does not constitute a stance towards Jewish heritage – it has nothing to do with that.

In the 21st century, human beings self-worth and right to determination should not be constituted by their religion, rather by their right to live as human beings. This is exactly what the Palestinians must continue to fight for, and what the government of Mahmoud Abbas is pushing for: recognitions of Palestinians as human beings with the right to free movement, free employment, and full rights to existence.

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Yara al Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/2017/01/15/How-soon-will-Trump-violate-International-Law-against-the-Palestinians-.html

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Northern Syria … Where To?

By Eyad Abu Shakra

15 January 2017

Northern Syria seems to have become a focal point for regional and global players as questions are raised about its future after the handing over of Aleppo.

The town of Al-Bab has become a battle ground, murderous explosions are shaking the town of Azaz, and international alliances are strained and threatened by intersecting and opposing blood-stained ethnic projects, namely a ‘Kurdish Homeland’ and a ‘Turkish Safe Haven’.

Current developments there have brought back memories that are a few decades old. It was during the worst days of the Lebanese War that two couples of progressive intellectuals sought a temporary refuge in my serene mountain village from the gales of extremism blowing in the war-torn country. The two couples had to leave their homes for ideological reasons, but no sooner had they crossed the ‘Green Line’ dividing Christian East Beirut from Muslim West Beirut that they became under fatal sectarian danger.

‘Oases’ Of Tolerance, Diversity

Luckily, however, there were some ‘oases’ of tolerance and diversity still left in the country, like my village, in which they had friends who were extremely happy to welcome and accommodate them until the worst was over.

During their sojourn, one of the two ladies was applying the final touches to her PhD dissertation about Syria’s political history under the guidance of her husband, a prominent academic. From then on, ever since I had a look at some of the original documents she kept with her, my deep interest in Syria’s history and anthropology got much deeper.

I remember well how I was fascinated by the local urban, rural and tribal elites which made up the Syrian Parliament, including of course those of Aleppo Province. In those days, Aleppo Province was much larger than what it is now as the present Idlib Province was still part of it. Thus, it stretched along Turkey’s southern borders from Ayn Al-Arab (Kobani) going west to Azaz and Afrin, then south all the way to Ma’arret Al-Nu’man, including Harem, Kfar Takharim, Idlib and Jisr Al-Shughour.

In turn, the composition of the Syrian Parliament was almost a ‘Who’s Who’ of the notables, clan and tribal chiefs, such as the MPs from Ibralim Pasha Al-Melli’s tribe in Ayn Al-Aran and Jarablous, Sheikh Dhiab Al-Mashi, who was famous for being the longest serving parliamentarian in the Arab world, as he was the MP from Manbij for 55 years (between 1954 and 2009).

As for the cities, led of course by Aleppo itself, its seats reflected the politico-economic city life dominated by the rivalry between the later dominant People’s Party (led by Rushdi Al-Kikhia, Dr Nazem Al-Qudsi, Ma’rouf Al-Dawalibi, Rashad Barmada, Mistafa Barmada and Ahmad Qanbar) and the remnants of the National Party (led by Sa’dallah Al-Jaberi, Dr Abdul Rahman Al-Kayyali and Michail Lian).

Commercial Interests

Evidently, commercial interests in Syria’s two great metropolises - Damascus and Aleppo - expressed themselves in the political leanings and loyalties of the two bourgeois ‘elite-led’ parties.

Straddling the trade route connecting Baghdad and Istanbul, Aleppo’s interests were thus tied up to the Baghdad-Istanbul ‘axis’, and consequently its dominant party became identified with the Baghdad Pact (later CENTO) during the Cold War.

On the opposite side, Damascus was the political and economic pole in the south, lying on the trade routes between Arabia and Egypt, thus the pro Riyadh-Cairo ‘axis’ National Party was the more powerful here.

Back to the north, throughout the 20th century, the richly diverse communities of northern Syria, Arab and non-Arab, Jewish, Christian and Muslim of various sects lived in peace and harmony. No noteworthy discrimination existed between Orthodox or Catholic Christian Arabs and Christian Armenians and Jacobite Syriacs. The same was true among Arab Muslims whether Sunni, Shi’ite, Alawite, Ismaili or Druze; and Sunni Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen.

Issues of ethnic-based partition or secession were never raised, in fact the opposite was true when most Syrians of all faiths and persuasions opposed annexing the Syrian ‘Liwa’ of Alexandretta to Turkey (present Hatay Province). In short, despite the beautiful diversity in this area, one the world’s richest in history, almost all were convinced that what united them was far more important than what would set them apart.

Alas, what we see today is quite different. Many of ‘The Defenders of the Homeland’ as mentioned in Syria’s national anthem have been willing to destroy their ‘Homeland’ and tear apart its social and ethnic fabric. The ‘secular’, later ‘socialist secular’, ruling Ba’th which for a while claimed to rise above sectarianism, and fight for the rights of the peasantry ridding them of ‘the yoke of feudalism’, has been transformed into a flimsy cover concealing a monopolistic sectarian and clannish ‘mafia’ crushing its own people with the help of ‘imported’ confessional militias and even foreign regular armies.

‘Nationalist’ Slogans

As for the much-trumpeted ‘nationalist’ slogans which were supposed to bring people together, they became so ‘chauvinist’ to the extent of alienating non-Arab minorities, hence, encouraging unhealthy isolationist and secessionist aspirations in several places throughout northern Syria.

As a result, the weekly published maps showing the various sectors controlled by different armed groups, give the impression that northern Syria is heading towards the unknown. Indeed, thanks to Barack Obama’s concentration solely on “downgrading” ISIS, Washington has set out its ‘constants’ in Syria, which are:

1- Preventing the Syrian Opposition from acquiring the weapons they have been demanding for years.

2- Refusing all Syrian and Turkish demands of ‘No Fly Zones’ and ‘Safe Havens’.

3- Siding with and aiding secessionist Kurdish militias, despite Ankara’s protests.

‘Constants’ like these are bound, logically, to cause the current state of loss and uncertainty we see throughout Syria, but more so in the north.

The regime and its allies, clearly emboldened by America’s inaction and Iran’s and Russia’s direct support, are now on the attack. While Turkey, the old Cold War US ally has been let down and left in the cold. Finally, the Kurds think that Washington has provided them with a unique opportunity to fulfil their ambitious nationalist dream.

The massive explosion in Azaz yesterday was nothing but a ‘new message’ to Ankara written in blood, after the Istanbul New Year’s Eve and the Izmir attacks.

Furthermore, the bogged down ‘Shield of the Euphrates’ operation around Al-Bab confirms the existence of serious differences between regional and global powers in northern Syria, firstly, regarding ‘Useful Syria’, secondly, the ‘Kurdish Homeland’, and thirdly, the price extricated from Turkey and Iran in order to keep the Kurds, while we the Arabs are nowhere to be seen!

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Eyad Abu Shakra (also written as Ayad Abou-Chakra) began his media career in 1973 with Annahar newspaper in Lebanon. He joined Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper in the UK in 1979, occupying several positions including: Senior Editor, Managing Editor, and Head of Research Unit, as well as being a regular columnist. He has several published works, including books, chapters in edited books, and specialized articles, in addition to frequent regular TV and radio appearances. Eyad tweets @eyad1949.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/2017/01/15/Northern-Syria-Where-to-.html

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Strong Action Needed To Prevent Adhl

By By Samar Al-Mugrin

Jan 16, 2017

MANY Saudi men have been doing injustice to their daughters by preventing them from getting married. At the same time, there are some young women who do injustice to their fathers and themselves by pretending that they are being subjected to adhl (the act of a male guardian preventing the marriage of female relative under his care).

The Justice Ministry recently announced its plan to open family courts in the evening hours to sanction the marriage of adhl victims whose fathers do not allow them to get married.

Adhl is an Islamic term that denotes the act of a father or guardian preventing a woman from marrying a man she likes without any legitimate reason. It’s undoubtedly a big injustice toward women. The ministry should have explained the mechanisms it would apply to make sure that the woman was a victim of adhl so that the system would not be misused by rebellious daughters.

The prevailing system— which is quite reasonable — in our social setup is for young men and women to get married with the consent and support of all parties, including parents.

The ministry has not clarified whether it would act against the practice of arranging marriages based on tribal compatibility. I believe the issue of compatibility in lineage is behind most adhl cases in the Kingdom. The ministry should stop the tribal practice of seeking out the pedigree of the bride and bridegroom it really wants to address the issue of adhl and root it out from our society.

What is the use of a woman getting married in the courthouse if her guardian raises the issue of pedigree and demands a divorce because she had married a man who is presumed to have a lower pedigree? By that time the couple might have got children and this will virtually destroy that family for no reason.

Procreation is the nature of humans. Parents patiently bear many hardships throughout their life to bring up their daughters and the eagerly await the results of their patience on the day when they get married. I don’t know how this nature got changed, prompting some fathers to bury the dreams of their daughters.

I believe that all parents are not the same and adhl should be the subject of a special research as the number of fathers who prevent their daughters from marriage is on the increase. We should find out why some fathers exercised adhl and did injustice to their daughters?

We should also study the arguments and complaints made by young women against their fathers and guardians to make sure whether they were genuine or not. Since I am engaged in looking into human rights issues of women I have seen so many cases of women facing injustice and torture.

I have also noticed that some daughters were just pretending that they were subjected to adhl. This is the reason I request the Justice Ministry that they should not allow such daughters to exploit the system. It should set out strong conditions and conduct studies to make sure these women are in fact victims of adhl.

At the same time, the ministry should not leave fathers and guardians who use adhl to continue their unjust and unlawful practice at the expense of their daughters and the law should specify deterrent punishments for such fathers who do not fear God.

The punishment should not be limited to allowing the woman to get married or withdrawing guardianship from her father because such individuals should not be allowed to continue their cruelty on other members of the family. I believe that a strong law would put an end to this spiteful culture in our society and reduce the number of fathers and guardians who practice adhl.

Source: saudigazette.com.sa/opinion/local-viewpoint/strong-action-needed-prevent-adhl/

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Syria Safe Zones Are Still Possible And Necessary

By Dr. Azeem Ibrahim

15 January 2017

Now that Aleppo has fallen, many analysts would argue that the civil war in Syria will end. Yet I am not alone in arguing that the fighting will not end even if the war will be declared over. Fundamentally, the Assad regime or his Iranian and Russian allies will not become much less of a threat to the security of civilians in the rebel areas.

This is for several reasons. Chief amongst them is that Assad will want to completely break any notion that he can be opposed in the future, so he has to make an example of all civilian populations which have supported the uprising against him. And what is more, after the long and bitter war, the victorious elements will still have plenty of scores to settle with their enemies. And now they will have the opportunity to settle those scores with impunity. 

Two Most Powerful Actors

On top of that, the two most powerful actors in this conflict, Assad and President Putin of Russia, both have strategic reasons to want to keep the pressure on civilians. Assad hopes to push out of the country as many of the rebel populations so that he can consolidate his hold on Syria. And Putin also wants the migrant flow to continue, especially towards Europe.

The migration crisis so far has put European Unity under serious strain, and Putin will want to keep that pressure up. The European Union is more vulnerable than it has ever been in its entire existence, and for Putin now is the time to press home the advantage and hopefully destroy the entire edifice, giving Russia the geopolitical upper and on the continent.

It is thus for both these reasons, humanitarian concern and self-preservation, that the West must make sure none of this comes to pass. The abuse of the Syrian people in Syria must stop. And in order to stop it, the first step is for us to guarantee their security in Safe Zones within the borders of their countries.

This will require us to make greater commitments than we have been happy to do so far, but I would argue the alternatives are simply unacceptable. If Assad is let loose on his country without any resistence, we know full well where things will go: this is a man who ordered the use of chemical weapons and cluster munitions against his own people, and who has bombed hospitals, schools and humanitarian aid convoys. This is the same man, and the same regime, that before the conflict ran an extensive network of prisons where ordinary Syrians would routinely be “re-educated” through torture whenever they had any political opinion that diverged from the political line of the government. It is all too easy to imagine how this man and this regime would go about re-educating their rebelious population after such a long and brutal civil war.

And if that were to happen, most Syrians would simply have to seek refuge in other countries. Could we then blame them for wanting to come to Europe? Yet can Europe continue to absorb them in the current environment, where we are celebrating that only 46 percent of Austrians have voted for a neo-Nazi who promised to “secure the borders”? Where French politicians can scarcely out-do each other in anti-Muslim proclamations and dog-whistle racism for fear that if they do not the fascist Marine Le Pen will take the presidency next year? Where even Angela Merkel, seemingly the only sane adult still left in the room, has felt compelled to call for a ban on the burqa.

The how of implementing such Safe Zones has already been discussed extensively. We have a number of options that could be pursued. The main thing standing in the way is political will. The West does not have the stomach to do this because they think their electorates will not suffer any more military intervention in the Middle East. But will they be happier with the consequences if we do not intervene to establish these Safe Zones?

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Azeem Ibrahim is Senior Fellow at the Centre for Global Policy and Adj Research Professor at the Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College. He completed his PhD from the University of Cambridge and served as an International Security Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and a World Fellow at Yale. Over the years he has met and advised numerous world leaders on policy development and was ranked as a Top 100 Global Thinker by the European Social Think Tank in 2010 and a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/2017/01/15/Syria-safe-zones-are-still-possible-and-necessary.html

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New Joint Message From Kremlin And Trump Administration

By Raghhida Dergham

15 January 2017

Amid a calculated and proactive realignment by Russia and China ahead of the inauguration of Donald Trump as US president, Europe appears tense and scattered. The Gulf states seem to be waiting in limbo without a pre-emptive strategy. Iran appears vigilant, eager to preserve its regional gains and protect itself from the new US administration that seems intent to scrutinize its every action.

The UN has launched a new era with the inauguration of Secretary-General Antonio Guterres earlier this month, amid reinvigorated efforts by the Security Council and international envoys in conflict zones, including Libya, Yemen and Syria. Russia has commandeered the Syrian issue from the UN in Geneva, and taken it to its backyard in Astana, Kazakhstan, deliberately excluding the international organization from the Syrian peace process.

The Gulf countries have responded by clinging to the UN role and resolutions, and by renewing their wager on the partnership with Europe in rejecting Russia’s hijacking of the issue and refusing to reward Moscow by allowing the talks in Astana to succeed, betting instead on their failure.

Washington is still familiarizing itself with Trump as it bids farewell to President Barack Obama, amid deep division among Americans regarding the identity of their country at home and its foreign policy, especially regarding its leadership of the world and US-Russian relations. Trump will enter the White House next week in the middle of a storm of controversy and apprehension, but also enthusiasm from his uncritical supporters.

He enters the White House armed with threats against the media and his ability to stir up social media. Meanwhile, the unprecedentedly public rift between him and US intelligence services over alleged leaks and Russian hacking shows no sign of healing. All indications suggest Trump will keep his campaign promises, unless his Cabinet and the establishment manage to restrain his arbitrary tendencies.

His nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, has given the House of Representatives a glimpse of his attitudes and convictions, but also made it clear that he had not coordinated in advance those positions with Trump, and that the final decision will be in the president’s hands.

The priorities listed by Tillerson indicate that he desires a partnership with Russia against the terrorism of Daesh and similar groups, and fighting the rise of Sunni and Shiite radicalism alike, including the Muslim Brotherhood. He blamed the Obama administration for supporting radical Islamism and the rise of Daesh, and for abandoning global US leadership and traditional alliances, especially in the Middle East.

Tillerson vowed that Iran would be under a microscope, whether with regard to its support for extremists and militias, or its implementation of its commitments under the nuclear deal. The deal will be kept in place apparently contrary to what was suggested on the campaign trail, but will be reviewed.

The nominee appeared to be a pragmatist, well versed in the language of strategic interests, bringing to the post his experience in energy and geography. Tillerson also had a lot to say about Russia and China.

The key difference between what the Kremlin wants for American and European communities, by destabilizing them through support for nationalist movements and undermining their social cohesion, and what Tillerson wants for America and the world, lies in the principle of leadership and restoration of prestige.

Russian President Vladimir Putin benefited immensely from Obama’s leading from behind, and reaped great rewards after the US abandoned its global leadership. They had radical differences on the issue of the rise of Islamists to power in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Syria. This point is the subject of convergence that will newly emerge between Russia and the US under Trump: Opposing the rise of Islamists to power, including the Brotherhood.

This will have implications for the relationship with Egypt, which is fighting the Brotherhood, and will affect Turkey if it remains a key sponsor of the organization. Indeed, the joint message that will be sent by the Kremlin and the Trump administration will address all stakeholders, including the Arab Gulf states, declaring a refusal to coexist with Islamic radicalism and any encouragement of the Brotherhood, in addition to declaring a joint intent to eliminate Daesh and its ilk.

The shelf life of Daesh has expired, and the time has come to take it out of the equation with a joint Russian-American decision. However, relations between the two countries will not be confined to this convergence on fighting terror and extremism.

The yardstick for US interests will differ from the one used by the Obama administration. It will instead be a version of what Tillerson described, in terms of reviving US global weight after the absence of American leadership allowed the reassertion of Russian influence in its neighborhood and the Middle East.

Tillerson said US allies in NATO were right to worry about Russian resurgence, and that to restore stability, it is necessary to not only revive US leadership but also assert its position vis-à-vis threats coming from Russia. Tillerson therefore backed the continuation of sanctions against Russia until opportunities for cooperation are carefully explored.

He also proposed giving room to cooperation with China, but insisted that Beijing has not been a reliable partner and has failed to use its influence to contain North Korea. Tillerson said China’s goals sometimes conflict with US interests, saying Beijing always places its own objectives above all considerations.

Another major difference between Trump’s administration and Obama’s will emerge with regard to the relationship with Iran. There had been some convergence on the matter between the Kremlin and Obama. Obama’s fixation with the need to conclude the nuclear deal intersected with Putin’s need for a strategic alliance with Iran in Syria. Both effectively blessed the rise of Shiite extremism in Iran and rewarded it.

Russia’s strategy was intent on fighting Sunni radicalism and stopping Washington’s bid to push forward so-called moderate Islamists represented by the Brotherhood. However, Moscow turned a blind eye to the growth of radical Shiite Islamism represented by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and proxy militias in the Arab world.

Tillerson placed the Brotherhood, Iranian elements and Al-Qaeda in the same basket of Islamic extremism. This is an important difference in the attitudes of Trump’s administration and Obama’s, and also between the Kremlin and the new White House depending on how Russian-Iranian strategic relations evolve.

Iran is aware that the Trump administration will bring new pressures, but also through Russian eagerness to have special relations with the new US administration and even forge a grand bargain with Washington. This does not mean Moscow is automatically ready to discard its strategic alliance with Tehran, but if Russia is forced to choose between Washington and Tehran, Washington may take precedence.

Russian-Iranian differences over Syria are not small, but any rush to assume that a strategic divorce is coming is a mistake. Moreover, addressing the longstanding crisis of confidence between America and Russia, the competition over grand interests, and forging what may become a grand bargain subsequently, all take time because conditions have yet to fully ripen.

Meanwhile, Iran is bent on benefitting from opportunities wherever they may become available, in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. Iran is adopting a strategy of building on victories on the ground, while giving signs of diplomatic demarches and willingness to engage in dialogue on its own terms.

The diplomacy of the Arab Gulf states seems deliberately absent while moving to contain Iranian regional influence and Russia’s hijacking of the Syrian issue, pending Trump’s inauguration. The Gulf states seem reassured by the uncertainty surrounding the incoming Trump administration, because the certainty that comes with Obama has been disappointing.

Tillerson’s remarks this week revived some hopes in the corridors of Gulf diplomacy, when he called for rebuilding America’s old, now-fragile links, being firm with foes and responding when they violate agreements, referring to the Iran nuclear deal. His caustic criticisms of Obama’s policies reassured many in the Gulf and increased their sense of anticipation.

Waiting is not a policy, however, especially since all other parties are actively aligning and carefully planning their next moves. Insisting on keeping the Syrian issue in the UN is a position but not a strategy. Betting on the failure of the Astana conference in the absence of Saudi Arabia and European powers may be a winning wager, but this amounts to little more than a tactic amid Russian and Iranian victories in Syria.

The Gulf states are in dire need of a comprehensive strategy of alignment, not just vis-à-vis the Trump administration but also Russian infiltration of the Middle East, Russian-Iranian victory in Syria, Iranian supremacy in Iraq, and Iranian incursions in Yemen. Perhaps the time has come for a Gulf initiative that would sweep the rug from under the feet of Washington, Moscow and Ankara, and move away from the wait-and-see tactic.

The traditional cold, back-channel communication between Gulf countries and Iran has not advanced Arab interests, especially in the time of the love triangle between Iran, Obama’s America and Putin’s Russia, allowing Iran to advance its strategic agenda in the Arab world. Perhaps then Trump’s tenure will make room for a new approach, but this cannot happen through complacency. It requires a calculated push and a daring initiative.

The emir of Kuwait’s dispatching of a high-level delegate to offer condolences for the death of Iran’s former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was a good message. However, what is needed is a qualitative shift in Gulf-Iranian relations, in accordance with a comprehensive, pragmatic and realistic initiative coinciding with the new US administration, in order to avoid relying on false preconceived notions regarding Trump’s thinking.

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Raghida Dergham is columnist, senior diplomatic correspondent, and New York bureau chief for the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper since 1989.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1039051/columns

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The World Obama Bequeathed

By Hisham Melhem

14 January 2017

During his eight year tenure at the White House president Barack Obama, entered into grueling duels with a variety of domestic and foreign opponents. Despite his occasional rhetoric to the contrary, Obama never relished the clanging of swords. Sometimes he could not avoid the fight; after all when the gauntlet is thrown in your face you have to unsheathe the blade. But in all of these contests, Obama was unable or unwilling to go for the jugular, and his opponents knew that before they entered the fray. Unfortunately for Obama, his adversaries and enemies played for the kill.

For eight years Obama continuously fought his major Republican opponent in Congress, Senator Mitch McConnell; but the wily Kentuckian, who mastered the art of rearguard battles got the best of him. Early in his first term Obama wanted to test the resolve of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, regarding a settlement freeze in the Palestinian occupied territories, but the veteran brawler who knew how to exploit America’s complex domestic politics, outmaneuvered Obama who could not mobilize his party for a fight. Obama tried a variety of means in dealing with his most cunning and bloody foreign foe, Russia’s president Vladimir Putin, from cajoling, to “resetting” relations, to dueling. But after each round of fighting the Russian opponent, even when damaged, would emerge more brazen than before. The American president reacted timidly to Russia’s swift kill in the Ukraine in 2014 which resulted in the annexation of Crimea and the destabilization of Eastern Ukraine.

That infamous timidity of Obama encouraged Putin to commit more war crimes in Syria after he dispatched his air force and special forces to do what they do well; raze cities and reducing them to wastelands. Aleppo in 2016 met the fate of Grozny, Chechnya in the 1990’s. In August 2011, president Obama called for Syrian dictator Bashar Assad to resign, after months of brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters. Typically the American president who issued his demand hours before leaving the White House on a 10-day vacation at Martha’s Vineyard, conveniently forgot to add: or else. What occurred in the months and years that followed was a classic case of gradual escalation in the degree of savagery on the part of the Syrian regime to test the seriousness of President Obama and his European allies. Assad moved from the use of medium weapons, against mostly civilian protesters, then heavy artillery and tanks against the lightly armed rebels controlling towns and hamlets, then bombers and attack helicopters laden with primitive but very lethal barrel bombs. Assad even used Scud missiles against rebel held cities and towns. And with each military escalation, the Obama administration reacted by upping the ante of its moral denouncement of the Assad regime. (President Obama and US Ambassador at the United Nations, Samantha Power, are accomplished wordsmiths.)

Assad was so dismissive of Obama’s hollow threats that he defiantly crossed the president’s red line against the use of chemical weapons killing thousands of Syrian civilians.

Good Riddance

On Friday January 20, at high noon, Obama’s era will be over, and the strange, raucous times of his successor Donald J. Trump will begin. It must be especially painful for Obama to spend his last days at the White House watching his nemesis on Capitol Hill senator McConnell, who is now stronger than ever, leading and relishing every moment of the beginning of the slow dismantlement of the Affordable Care Act better known as Obamacare, his single most important domestic achievement. Soon, a smug Netanyahu will visit Washington to celebrate and bask in Trump’s victory which he considers his final victory against Obama. During the Obama years, more than 100 thousand Israeli settlers moved to East Jerusalem and the West Bank, raising the overall number of settlers to more than 600 thousand, hence the claim of Naftali Bennett leader of the pro-settlement Jewish Home party that “the era of a Palestinian state is over”.

Even after the President-Elect Trump, grudgingly admitted after months of suspicious denials, that Russia did indeed hack the Democratic National Committee, he is still eager for President Putin’s affection, to the point where he is discussing now with the Russians before he enters the White House ways and means of talking and meeting. The Russian president hacked his way into the heart of America’s democracy, wreaked havoc and sowed divisions within its institutions, and exposed the fragility of a political order that was supposed to be eminently solid. And all of that happened on Obama’s watch. Once again, Putin has proved that he can rampage his way militarily in the Ukraine and Syria, and wage a cyber war against the United States with impunity, unless you consider evicting some Russian intelligence officers masquerading as diplomats from the US a serious punishment.

Most people never thought that Syria’s lisping psychopath would survive Obama, but Assad who is presiding over a patchwork of destroyed cities did, and one could see him with his Iranian and Russian masters sending off Obama and saying good riddance. It is a damning testimony to Obama’s weak leadership, and his abject failure to use America’s considerable leverage in the world to check Russia’s aggression in the Ukraine and Syria, or to severely punish Assad and his regime, his Iranian allies and their Shiite militias for their war crimes. Obama who provided Israel with unprecedented military and economic support beyond any provided by a previous US president, could not prevail in his confrontation with an Israeli prime minister whose policies are detrimental to America’s moral and political standing in the region, and who repeatedly lectured and humiliated him.

It is ironic that the man from Chicago, who once extolled the virtue of fighting the Chicago way: “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun” never delivered. Obama never instilled fear in the hearts of his enemies, and potential detractors, a clear violation of one of Machiavelli’s important dictums, for a good Prince “must endeavor only to avoid being hated”, but not feared.

The Rise Of The Autocrats

It is an axiom of American politics that a president through his actions and inactions contribute to the election of his successor. President George W. Bush through his imperial overreach and ambitious invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and his reckless tax policies that plunged the country into a disastrous recession, played an important role in electing Barack Obama as the Bush antidote. President Obama, a man with considerable talents and a cool temperament that helped him achieve economic recovery from the worst recession since WWII, never managed to be a transformational leader. The slow economic recovery, and more importantly the widening gap in income inequality, the inability of both the Obama administration and the Republican controlled congress to address the devastating economic impact of automation and globalization on American workers, convinced many Americans that the country is in perpetual decline. Obama’s failure to exercise decisive leadership in the world, to assure allies and friends of their safety and well-being particularly those living in the menacing shadows of a revanchist Russia and a more belligerent China and Iran, created the impression in the US and the world that Obama no longer believes that America is truly the indispensable power, still capable of doing great things in the world, alone if she has to.

In the Middle East, President Obama inherited a weak and dysfunctional region, mostly the Arab states, from his predecessor George W. Bush, who contributed to the chaos there by invading Iraq in 2003, will bequeath to his successor Donald J. Trump a disintegrating Levant, and a fraying Libya and Yemen, with other weak Arab states on the verge of collapse. Obama’s early and very rushed and unnecessary withdrawal from Iraq, just to prove that he could put George W. Bush’s “dumb” war behind him, was disastrous, and that irresponsible decision forced him – when he again misjudged the growing threat of the so-called Islamic State ISIS- to return militarily to Iraq by dribs and drabs. Obama’ contributed militarily to the demise of Qaddafi’s dictatorship in Libya, but when the deed was done, he went home. He broke it, but refused to own it. So much for the honorable word of the great power.

But Obama’s tarnished legacy in the Middle East has one name: Syria. Almost everything Obama did in Syria was not either fully honest or was purely tactical designed to buy time, and postpone hard decisions. His almost obsessive drive to reach a nuclear deal with Iran made him sacrifice the Syrian uprising even when it was peaceful, and when it was possible for the US early in the conflict to tip the balance, with limited use of military force in favor of the nationalist opposition, before the rise of monstrous groups like ISIS and al-Nusra, and long before Russia or even Iran could interfere decisively on the side of the despot in Damascus. It should be a bitter moment for Obama, to see his tenure end at the time his shameful policies in Syria were contributing to the gradual destruction and death of the once great city of Aleppo and its fall in the hands of the modern day marauders from the East. President Obama in recent years avoided mentioning Syria and particularly Aleppo by name. One would like to think, that president Obama who loves his children, will be haunted by Aleppo’s children who were systematically bombed in hospitals by the air forces of Russia and the Assad regime, and by Aleppo’s ruins which were before the war elegant souks, beautiful stone homes and graceful Mosques, Churches and schools.

Obama’s failure to check Russia’s revanchist predations in the Ukraine, China’s rising hegemony in East Asia, and allowing Putin’s systematic campaigns to weaken Europe’s democratic if fragile institutions, are indirectly contributing to the return of the autocrats and the legitimation of autocratic tendencies in western democracies. The rise of right wing and nationalist, even chauvinistic political leaders and movements in Europe like the National Front in France where its leader Marie Le Pen is a serious contender in this year’s elections, is in part the result of the machinations of Russia which contributes financial support to these groups, and the lack of assertive US leadership. These autocratic tendencies have been manifest in America’s recent presidential elections.

There are many structural political, economic, cultural and demographic reasons for the fundamental problems facing the US, Europe and the Middle East. The diminished stature of the US is the result of reckless and unwise policies pursued by both the Republican and Democratic parties since the terror attacks of September 2001. America’s partial disengagement from the ME and Europe in recent years, the absence of decisive leadership in dealing with Russia, China and Iran have contributed to the current state of fear and loathing in Europe and the Middle East. After eight years in the White House, we see an uncertain world being gradually engulfed in the shadows of the autocrats; we see a weaker European Union challenged from within and without and a disintegrating Middle East. This is in part the world Obama bequeathed.

Hisham Melhem is a columnist and analyst for Al Arabiya News Channel in Washington, DC. Melhem has interviewed many American and international public figures, including Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, among others. He is also the correspondent for Annahar, the leading Lebanese daily. For four years he hosted "Across the Ocean," a weekly current affairs program on U.S.-Arab relations for Al Arabiya.

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Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/world/2017/01/14/The-world-Obama-bequeathed.html

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The UAE: Why Do Moderates Love It, But Extremists Hate It?

By Mamdouh Almuhaini

14 January 2017

There is a common saying, though a bit exaggerated and inaccurate, that states: A plane that takes you from an Arab country to Europe in five hours, is – in fact – taking you five centuries forward, from the Middle Ages to modern times. When I traveled two years ago from the US to the UAE, nothing changed. I am not exaggerating, I traveled from a first class world to another first class world.

The first thing that people notice is the luxurious airports, towering skyscrapers and vast shopping malls. However, what is even more important is the order, strict security and the respect for laws, as well as many other values that build up the pace of a modern and comfortable life. You should not offend others and others should not offend you, out of respect and fear. Nor should you be afraid of encountering hotheads on the streets, harassers in shops, or disheartened bureaucrats in ministries and government departments.

All of the above are the characteristics of a modern state, where the citizens respect the following unwritten rule: I will literally abide by everything that makes me a good citizen and resident. I will maintain order, abide by the law and live in peace, without problems. Law will even support and protect those whom, we sometimes believe, are marginalized and without any support. Once, a taxi driver complained that a customer hit him after a disagreement about 7 AED but he later proudly told me: "But he [the customer] paid 7,000 AED in court for hitting me, in addition to spending a few days in prison.”

The UAE also offers a civilized image of tolerance, human diversity and individual freedoms. It’s not just about the bright lights all around you, but one can feel the peace and appeasement. You can see an array of different races, colors and religions, all living in harmony. There is a school near my apartment, where you can find students of more than 83 nationalities, coming from different parts of the world. You can see Scandinavian, Nepalese, Egyptian and Asian faces roaming the markets and the streets. In other Arab countries, they would ask you irritating labelling questions: Where are you from? What are your family’s roots and religious identity? They make you gradually feel smaller, you go from feeling like a free human being to a mere sample in a social and sectarian museum. In the UAE, people have gotten used to, as in developed countries, minding their own business without asking personal questions. People have the right to escape themselves and enjoy the blissful feeling of individual freedom that does not offend others. They are also entitled to merge and melt in the new world and the present moment, disregarding the restraints of the past.

Extremist Hate

Despite all the success, peace of mind, respect towards the citizens and residents in the Emirates, extremists and instigators are waging a constant verbal war against the UAE.

This is not surprising for those who are used to using indecent language, but in my opinion, there are five main reasons that would lead them to do so. It is important to mention and be aware of these reasons.

First, the political realist and wise approach that supports moderation, but is widely hated by extremists who advocate chaos and revolution. The second is that the UAE has turned into a model for prosperity, which is against their political project that seeks to remind people of the futile experiments of repressive regimes, from Saddam to Qaddafi. The third is that the UAE relies on development and opening up on the economic level. As for the extremists’ economic model, it is based on totalitarian ideologies and emotional speeches. The fourth reason is tolerance, coexistence and the love of life and the arts, which are in severe contrast with their doctrine that is based on all kind of hatred and reminding people of death. The fifth is that the UAE has prevented the spread of hatred and intolerance from getting into its public speech, by preventing these advocates and theoreticians from broadcasting them inside UAE territories, in the media in and schools. This is a wise step because the past and present have taught us that this infiltration will lead to the disruption of development and peace.

These are the reasons that push extremists to hate the Emirates, and at the same time, the reasons why moderate people love it. There is also another reason that pushes those who live in the UAE to love it, which is the generosity and respect that links them to modern world, without having to travel thousands of miles.

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Mamdouh AlMuhaini is the Editor-in-Chief of Al Arabiya News Channel’s digital platforms. He can be followed on Twitter @malmhuain

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/01/14/The-UAE-Why-do-moderates-love-it-but-extremists-hate-it-.html

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/middle-east-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/forced-disappearances-will-not-silence-us--new-age-islam-s-selection,-16-january-2017/d/109729




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