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Middle East Press (09 Aug 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)



Haj Is Not Just A Business Tariq A. Al-Maeena: New Age Islam's Selection, 09 August 2017





New Age Islam Edit Bureau

09 August 2017

Haj Is Not Just a Business

By Tariq A. Al-Maeena

Israel’s Demographic Game in Jerusalem

By Yossi Mekelberg

Pakistan Judiciary and the Trial of Nawaz Sharif

By Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi

Qatar Ties to Hamas Could Spell Chaos

By Mustafa Al Zarooni

Qatar Makes Things Difficult For Itself

By Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri

Why OPEC’s Long-Term Strategy Needs Regular Reviews

By Wael Mahdi

An Anniversary to Reflect On Nuclear War

By Chris Doyle

The Liberation of Mosul, Raqqa and Idlib... But Then What?

By Christian Chesnot

How Does This Figure Accept To Represent The UN In Libya?

By Fares Bin Hezam

A Top Saudi Diplomatic Assignment

By Anthony Harris

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau

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Haj Is Not Just a Business

By Tariq A. Al-Maeena

8 August 2017

With Haj less than a month away, many who have committed to perform this arduous requirement for Muslims are preparing for the task. Performance of the Haj (pilgrimage to Makkah) is required of every adult Muslim, male or female, if physically and financially possible. Many Muslims spend their entire lives saving and planning for this journey; others make the pilgrimage more than once if they are able.

The requirements for performing the pilgrimage are as follows:

• Pilgrims must have maturity and a sound mind, in order to understand the significance of the pilgrimage experience;

• They must have the physical capability to travel and perform the pilgrimage rites;

• They must demonstrate financial stability, be free of debt, so that they are able to bear the pilgrimage expenses as well as provide for dependents during travel.

For those who meet these criteria, performing the pilgrimage is obligatory at least once in their lifetime.

To combat the rising prices of performing Haj, the Haj Ministry in 2013 announced that it had licensed 22 companies to provide low-cost Haj services to domestic pilgrims, including expatriates. “These companies will charge SR1,900 to SR3,900,” it said, adding that such services would cover 20 percent of domestic pilgrims.

The ministry at the time said it was encouraging Haj companies to provide low-cost services to meet the requirements of a large number of Saudis and expatriates by providing incentives such as increasing the number of pilgrims they serve.

“They are also given priority in tent allocations in Mina,” a ministry official said. Moreover, they are allowed to rent 70 percent of buses from foreign companies. The ministry stressed that the prices of low-cost Haj firms would remain within the range of SR1, 900 to SR3,900 in the coming years.

But many are finding it hard to pin down Haj operators who are abiding by the Ministry’s rules. One such hopeful is Yawar Ayub who because of his journey in a fruitless search for affordable Haj operators vented his ire in an email addressed to me.

He said: “I am an expatriate, and I have always read your columns and found you to be neutral, while discussing matters related to expatriates or Saudis. Hopefully, you will find time to read my email. I have been trying to get registered in a low-cost Haj scheme through the Internet since last year, but, unfortunately, I have not found the low-cost or Muyaser slot for low-income people on the official website. The website only shows the cost for the normal fare. Every time I search it is the same. I have even tried odd times like 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. in the morning or during the working day.

“Is this some type of joke with us low-income people or are the low-cost slots already distributed before the website goes online? Due to the rise in the cost of rent and other items including family fees, I was planning to send my family back, but before that I wanted to avail the opportunity of doing Haj while being in Saudi Arabia.

“I have complained to Allah and said that I am sorry that I am unable to afford the Haj from Saudi Arabia, and I am also writing this to you as I have no one else to share my feelings with. Please highlight this matter because no one is writing anything in the print media about the plight of us low-income people who want to perform Haj before returning home.

“There are many more like me who are wondering what to do. Once we go back to our country, it will be impossible to return and perform Haj due to the high traveling costs.”

Yawar has a legitimate complaint. Haj operators have raised prices atrociously with the result that many low-income people cannot afford to perform Haj. The website dedicated to supporting individuals like Yawar apparently falls short of expectations, leaving many dreams unrealized.

The Haj Ministry should review the prices that are being charged in order to ensure fair value, and prevent Haj from becoming just another business venture for greedy operators.

Source: saudigazette.com.sa/article/514721/Opinion/OP-ED/Haj

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Israel’s Demographic Game in Jerusalem

By Yossi Mekelberg

8 August 2017

In its scheming ingenuity, Israel’s government will not cease its efforts to hammer nail after nail into the coffin of a final-status deal with the Palestinians based on a two-state solution. One facet of these attempts is manipulating the demographic balance between Jews and Palestinians in Jerusalem.

As the incompetent era of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, engulfed in corruption allegations, looks increasingly likely to end sooner rather than later, his ultra-right partners in the government coalition are setting the tone. It is mainly a jarring tone led by Naftali Bennett, leader of the HaBayit HaYehudi (The Jewish Home) party and his ilk.

They exploit their power over government institutions and legislation to reduce the possibility of a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem. By entrenching the occupation and marginalizing the Palestinian population, they suppress Palestinian aspirations for self-determination while depriving them of basic rights.

Jerusalem has a special constitutional status in Israel’s law, which asserts that “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel.” Any change in the city’s legal status requires the support of an absolute majority of 61 members of Israel’s Parliament.

To prevent East Jerusalem from ever becoming the capital of an independent Palestine, a new amendment to the Jerusalem Basic Law, sponsored by Bennett, states that dividing the city requires a two-thirds majority in Parliament. The possibility of this, and thereby the two-state solution, is almost nil.

To add insult to injury, this new amendment, which has already been given preliminary approval by Parliament, will also remove two Palestinian communities, the Shuafat camp and the neighbourhood of Kufr Aqab, from the municipality of Jerusalem. Both are already separated from the city by the so-called security wall, and if this bill becomes law, Israel is arbitrarily stopping 140,000 Palestinian Jerusalemites from being residents of the city.

It is estimated that this will increase the Jewish majority in the city to 70 percent, guaranteeing their control of the municipality. In addition, it has raised suspicion and fear among these communities that this is the first step in taking away their Jerusalem ID cards. As minimal as the benefits are from holding these cards, it is still more than their West Bank compatriots enjoy.

In the same vein, Israel is plotting to enable the residents of some Jewish settlements around Jerusalem — such as Ma’ale Adumim, Givat Ze’ev and Gush Etzion — to vote in the city’s local elections without becoming part of the municipality, to ensure that it is in complete control of Jerusalem and only Jews can decide who the mayor is.

Over five decades of occupation, Palestinians have been severely restricted spatially as they are gradually surrounded by Jewish settlements and even encroached upon by new Jewish neighbourhoods. In the last few weeks, the Palestinian Shamasne family, who reside in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, received an eviction order for the benefit of settlers.

In Jerusalem, Israel wants to have its cake and eat it, again and again. Pretending that the city is united under Israeli law, it is not applied equally to its Palestinian inhabitants, who are treated as second-class (sort of) citizens. One of the first acts by Israel after the occupation of 1967 was to declare both sides of the city the “united and eternal capital of Israel,” applying Israeli law to a much more extended area of East Jerusalem than under previous Jordanian rule. This annexation, which is not recognized by the international community, also entailed residents of the newly defined East Jerusalem being forced to be part of Israel.

But Israel never intended to bestow full citizenship rights on them, only the status of permanent residents. East Jerusalemites are only allowed to vote in local elections, not national ones, and are prevented from holding Israeli passports. Worse, their residency can be revoked if they reside outside the city for a certain length of time.

When it comes to building permission, they can only watch with sorrow the expanding Jewish neighbourhoods in close proximity and the enormous investment in their infrastructure, while their needs are deliberately and hardheartedly ignored. This manipulative social and legal engineering by Israel’s government in Jerusalem is telling about its lack of sincerity in reaching a just solution to its conflict with the Palestinians.

Only a delusional government can convince itself that a peace deal can be reached without recognizing parts of Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. This Israeli government combines deliberate obstructionists to peace with those who are detached from reality. Both are almost equally dangerous.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1141676

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Pakistan Judiciary and the Trial of Nawaz Sharif

By Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi

8 August 2017

The trial of Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and the verdict to disqualify him from holding public office as Pakistan’s prime minister have sparked controversy in various circles. There are some people who welcomed the court’s landmark ruling. They are of the view that this was a significant step in securing justice and fighting corruption in the higher echelons of government. Those who expressed joy over this verdict, which forced the head of the country’s executive to quit the post after his election as prime minister for a third time, considered that it was in line with the theory of the late Singaporean leader Lee Kuan Yew, who believed that fighting corruption is just like cleaning staircases and as such that it should start from the top to the bottom.

However, there are others who see this verdict as one that is doubtful, lacking in clarity and seeming more like a desire for revenge. This was obvious from remarks made by a judge of Pakistan’s Supreme Court suggesting that Sharif and his family were like members of the mafia as depicted in the famous American film The Godfather. I do not know whether this judge was accurate in making a comparison between the mafia and a prime minister who was elected three times by the people of Pakistan. However, it is a fact that Sharif is very popular, whether we agree with him or not.

The name of Nawaz Sharif did not figure in what was known as the Panama Papers leak, but it was said that the names of his sons and the names of other Pakistanis appeared in the leaks, and that it was his political opponents, who were unable to defeat him through the ballot box who lodged the lawsuit against him. After their election debacle, these opponents made attempts to overthrow him by organizing demonstrations on the pretext that the elections were rigged, but they were unable to do so. Eventually, they reportedly attempted to use their proximity to the military establishment, which ruled Pakistan for nearly half of the country’s history.

In most cases, the military establishment is allied with judicial authorities not only in Pakistan, but also in other parts of the world. However, the trend of military coups has subsided as a result of their failure in governance all around the world whether in Latin America, the Middle East, Asia or even Europe.

The countries ruled by military junta are among the least developed and most heavily indebted nations across the world. It is unfortunate that in many countries, including Pakistan, the military establishment still imposes itself on civilian rule with its intermittent interventions. There have been rare instances when the judiciary has put on trial military officials who were responsible for such interventions that have nothing to do with their basic functions.

The Pakistani Supreme Court judges took a unanimous decision to the effect that Sharif was not eligible to be prime minister besides barring him from holding any public office for life after denying him a fair trial that fulfills all legal procedures. If there had been any such a trial, he would have been given the right to defend himself. On the other hand, the entire exercise seemed to be designed to deny him justice.

The integrity of the team, carefully formed by the Court to investigate the leak case, was also doubtful. One of its members is close to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party leader Imran Khan, the archrival of Sharif. Khan lodged the case against Sharif after he failed defeat him in the election. More than one member of the team was chosen by military intelligence and, hence, the outcome was almost predictable. It was also evident from the difficulties faced by the lawyers of Sharif.

The guilt of Sharif was not because of the Panama Papers leak. It was also not because of corruption. Instead, his apparent “fault” was that he wanted politics to be handled only by politicians and wanted the military to concern itself with its own responsibilities. His initiative to find a political solution to the long-standing issues with India and Afghanistan angered the military establishment as it felt that it had a role to play in such decisions.

At the same time, the military found that it was no longer appropriate for it to involve itself in a political intervention in the country. In the past, the military did not hesitate to ratify all the coups that overthrew elected governments, the latest of which was that of Pervez Musharraf that toppled the government of Sharif in 1999.

However, the judiciary has a long history of alliance with the military and this time it took charge of the mission of isolating the elected prime minister through a trial that lacked many legal requirements and procedures. In this way, the Supreme Court has set a dangerous precedent that will not serve the interests of democracy in Pakistan.

Source; saudigazette.com.sa/article/514720/Opinion/OP-ED/Pakistan

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Qatar Ties to Hamas Could Spell Chaos

By Mustafa Al Zarooni

August 8, 2017

Doha's support of the Hamas is detrimental to all

Today's young Arabs will have many stories to narrate about a bothersome neighbouring nation which went about hatching conspiracies and funding terrorism for over 20 years. They will talk about how that nation cozied up to an unholy anti-Arab alliance, how it played against its sisterly countries, how it manipulated the rest of the GCC countries and how it hosted insidious terror groups on its soil. Arabs will also recall how the quartet - Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt - gave this nation many a chance to return to the fold, and how they put a stop to its dangerous agenda.

Many instances of this nation, which is Qatar, supporting terror groups thereby giving them a free hand to flourish on its soil and endangering the sovereignty of the region will be recounted to the coming generations.

Doha's support of the Hamas is detrimental to all. The free hand given to Hamas in Qatar was referred to by Hamas top leader Khalid Misha'al in an interview on Al Jazeera TV. Wherever Hamas leaders have landed, there has been destruction and chaos. Gaza, Tunisia and Syria are glaring examples.

Hamas leaders have tried to manipulate Arab-Muslim sentiments by playing the Palestinian card. And it has been trying to get as many countries under its fold. Even as top Hamas leaders flew to Tehran when Hassan Rohani assumed office as president, Saleh Al Arouri was meeting Iranians in Lebanon where Hezbollah leaders had gained a foothold. This is the formula of the Muslim Brotherhood which follows the state of the Faqih (Iran) as an example of ideology and organisation to prevail.

At the same time, Qatar played a double game by bowing to US-Israeli pressures and expelling Saleh Al Arouri, senior Hamas military operative and leader and supposedly the Hamas' military commander in the West Bank, after he was believed by Israeli intelligence officials to have planned the kidnap and murder of three Jewish teens in the West Bank in the summer of 2014. Now the expelled leader along with others are on the lookout for refuge and their options are Lebanon, Turkey or Algeria, once more making evident the cohesion and solidarity between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Iranian model, and how they support each other against the Arab countries.

However, their plots have been foiled and Hamas soon realised its tactics would not go a long way. It then decided to go slow and declared the new Hamas Charter on May 1 in Doha. This charter which for the first time accepted the idea of a Palestinian state within the borders that existed before 1967 at the same time rejects recognition of Israel. The new document stressed that the group doesn't seek war with the Jewish people but only against Zionism which it holds responsible for the 'occupation of Palestine'.

Hamas is aware that the Arab masses have realised its real aim is to dominate and control communities by distorting religion, and it succeeded in influencing one member of the GCC. Hamas quells any real example for a civil state, but thrives on countries like Iran, and now Turkey, which under Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has thrown 100,000 civilians in jail under the pretext of hatching a plot against the government. One wonders if they are striving to create another Hafez Al Assad or Saddam Hussein by silencing and gagging voices that call for civil freedom.

Source: khaleejtimes.com/editorials-columns/qatar-ties-to-hamas-could-spell-chaos

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Qatar Makes Things Difficult For Itself

By Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri

8 August 2017

From the start of the ongoing crisis with Qatar two months ago, Doha has shown itself to be confused and in a bad situation. It does not know how to deal with the boycott, or how to resolve its differences with its neighbours or with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), of which Qatar is a member. Doha has been found out, and has lost its cover for interfering in our countries.

This impasse is creating a Qatari policy that goes directly against the interests and stability of the GCC countries. The boycott of Qatar was put into place to deter it from resorting to this policy, and to remind it that the 2013-2014 treaty was signed by its Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani. Doha should be wise and try to solve the problem without making the situation worse for Qatar and its people. But it has worsened matters.

Many believe Qatar supports extremists and the Muslim Brotherhood. Doha decided on its policies after Sheikh Tamim’s father took power in the 1995 coup. Qatar has clearly refused to honour its commitments to stop interfering in other countries’ internal affairs.

It agreed not to fund terrorists, not to incite trouble in other countries, not to allow Al Jazeera to be used as a platform by extremists, and to cease its dangerous and destructive relations with Iran and its terrorist militias. What we are seeing today is the result of the decisions made by the former Qatari ruler, Sheikh Hamad, who had an anti-GCC agenda and willingly worked with Iran and used it as a tool of destruction in our region.

Qatar is looking for solutions from outside the Gulf, namely Turkey and Iran. That shows where Doha wants to go and what its strategy is. In this case, it was easy for it to be a part of another group or alliance. Qatar tried to show that it was with Arabs and Muslims, but it is lying. Anyone with a basic knowledge of the region’s politics understands that most of our problems come from Iran and its export of terror since its satanic revolution in 1979.

How can Qatar maintain good relations with Iran if Doha is serious about wanting to support Arab causes? Iran is the principal state undermining our stability, and its malign influence in four Arab capitals has resulted in the deaths of millions of Arabs. Meanwhile, Doha is using the Palestinian cause to gain more empathy even though its relations with Israel began in 1996, when Israel opened a commercial office in Doha. Qatar also exported gas to Israel.

Actions speak louder than words, so we look at Doha’s policy of funding militias such as Hezbollah and making them heroes on Al Jazeera, and of funding Houthi terrorists and Iranian militias stirring up turbulence in Bahrain. There was also support for Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi in Iraq, and providing help to Al-Qaeda and Daesh. All this shows very well that Doha has not kept its promises, and will only make things worse for itself.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1141736

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Why OPEC’s Long-Term Strategy Needs Regular Reviews

By Wael Mahdi

8 August 2017

It was in Saudi Arabia in November 2007, only a few days ahead of the third summit of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) heads of state, that I met with one of OPEC’s former secretary-generals, the Ecuadorian Rene Ortiz.

Ortiz, who headed OPEC between 1978 and 1982 when oil prices skyrocketed after the Iranian revolution and the Iran-Iraq war, discussed the beginnings of a Long-Term Strategy (LTS) for the organization.

He said that OPEC acknowledged that China might consume more oil following its decision in 1974 to liberalize a small part of its economy. Yet none of OPEC’s officials expected China to carry on its economic liberalization to make it the major oil importer it is today. Not only did they underestimate China’s growth, but they also completely misjudged India’s economic potential at that time, Ortiz added.

The whole idea of the LTS was born in the mind of the former Saudi Oil Minister Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani. He saw in 1978 that his counterparts in OPEC were only meeting to discuss prices and short-term issues, rather than long-term challenges (nothing has changed since that time).

Luckily, Yamani was able to convince other OPEC ministers of the need for a long-term plan during an informal meeting in Taif, Saudi Arabia, in May 1978. The committee completed its work in May 1980, and OPEC held a ministerial conference — also in Taif, where I was born — and approved a strategy that would cover the next decade.

The LTS was ready and it was about to be presented at the second summit in Baghdad in November 1980 — but the summit did not take place.

Abdulsamad Al-Awadhi, an OPEC veteran who worked closely with Yamani, said that a series of unfortunate events deterred OPEC from implementing its long-term plan, most notably the Iran-Iraq war, the sharp fall in prices, and the hassle with the quota system. Another issue that hindered the LTS development was the lack of will to implement it and the prevailing mindset of officials who could not think beyond prices.

Turning to OPEC today, planners have managed to identify 10 challenges in the latest update of the LTS, including technological developments and uncertainty over demand for OPEC crude, and therefore uncertainties over investments.

Identifying the challenges is key, but the new LTS may see the same fate as its previous version if there is no implementation of the plan.

OPEC cannot afford to miss the long-term planning train as it did in the early 1980s. It is facing today the same challenges: Low oil prices for longer, abundant supply from outside OPEC, and a fierce push in the industrialized world toward alternative energy and electric vehicles.

What will OPEC do to address these challenges? This is still not clear.

What if OPEC underestimated some of the challenges, like shale oil growth or electric vehicles, or breakthroughs in renewables technology? Can OPEC members afford another lost decade or two like what happened in the 1980s and 1990s? The answer is no because their populations are much larger.

OPEC needs a permanent committee for its LTS. Putting deputy ministers in charge of it (as in the past), or governors (as it stands today) to review it every five years is not enough as the world is developing fast. Long-term planning should be annual as technology develops rapidly. Above all, OPEC countries need a sense of future, resilient economies, and sound institutions to confront the new reality.

As Benjamin Franklin once said: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

Source: arabnews.com/node/1141731

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An Anniversary to Reflect On Nuclear War

By Chris Doyle

8 August 2017

As Japan marks the 62nd anniversary of the dropping of “Little Boy” and “Fat Man” on Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively, when a total of 105,000 died and countless others had their lives ruined, perhaps the world should reflect how fortunate we are that no nuclear bomb has been used in war since. Many will equally reflect on the failure to rid the planet of these vile, destructive weapons.

At the height of the Cold War, mass fears of mushroom clouds and nuclear winters were the norm. The US and the Soviet Union faced off with an Armageddon arsenal fit to annihilate the planet multiple times. Apparently there were 20,000 US-Soviet false alarms between 1977 and 1984 alone. Back then, it seemed a question of when, not if, another bomb would be used. Today, fears of nuclear war seem to not rank high on people’s threat perceptions.

Are we perhaps a little too comfortable with nuclear weapons still in the hands of a handful of global hegemons, just because they have not been used in anger since 1945? In 2017, we have nine states with acknowledged, if not declared, nuclear weapons. Much of the focus is currently on the so-called rogue states, North Korea and Iran. North Korea, estimated to have around 20 bombs, launched two intercontinental ballistic missiles this year.

It claimed to have detonated a hydrogen bomb last year, a dubious claim but alarming if true. Whether North Korea can miniaturize a bomb to put on the missiles is as yet unclear, but as Pakistan and Iran have shown, elements of nuclear programs can be hidden even today from the technological might of the US. This was even the case in the 1960s with China and Israel, which both caught Washington napping.

The US administration is bullish. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said bluntly: “It is impossible to overstate the danger associated with a rogue, brutal regime.” In reality, despite President Donald Trump’s bluster that North Korea will not be able to arm a missile capable of hitting the US, it appears inevitable, and neither the US nor China can stop it.

The 2015 Iran nuclear deal has only temporarily put this crisis on the backburner. Trump may not renew the sanctions relief under the deal, which he has consistently railed against. Does this mean we return to a “no way out but war” scenario, or is Trump right that Iran can be pushed harder into changing its behaviour?

All this has a potential snowball effect for proliferation efforts. Just how long will other Asian powers feel safe without a nuclear shield of their own? After the war and the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan adopted a staunch no-nuclear-weapons stance, but will that survive? If Iran makes the breakthrough, which major Middle Eastern powers will go down the nuclear route?

Just where the sense will be injected into the system to de-escalate tensions, let alone find lasting solutions, is unclear, but it is far from the only area of concern. Kashmir represents the nuclear frontline between India and Pakistan, a contested area fought over three times so far. Experts are alarmed by the cavalier attitude by both sides at times.

Many also fret over how secure these weapons and associated materials are. The fear of nuclear terrorism also abounds, as it has ever since the first atomic bombs were dropped, amplified by fears of advanced hacking and cyber warfare. As alarming is that the White House and the Kremlin are inhabited by two gargantuan egos determined to advance their nations’ interests.

Together they control some 14,000 nuclear weapons. Trump has made clear the US has to be “top of the pack” in terms of nuclear weapons, and in December even threatened a nuclear arms race. Trump and Putin may yet form a working relationship, but over Ukraine, Crimea and Syria dangerous tensions exist, and all too quickly actions could be misinterpreted and a full confrontation ensue.

This terrible anniversary is a moment to remember the horror, and rekindle opposition to nuclear war and the spread of nuclear weapons. But let us not forget that the greatest crime is war itself, and as awful as nuclear war would be, conventional war is monstrously devastating.

As appalling as Hiroshima and Nagasaki were, the deadliest conventional bombing in history was carried out by the US on the night of March 9-10, 1945, killing over 100,000 people with nearly 400,000 bombs destroying 16 square miles of a city. It was called Operation Meetinghouse. The city underneath was Tokyo. It was not alone. All in all, in the summer of 1945 the US devastated 68 Japanese cities. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were just two of them.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1141686

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The Liberation of Mosul, Raqqa and Idlib... But Then What?

By Christian Chesnot

8 August 2017

Mosul is finally liberated; Raqqa is expected to follow the same path in the coming weeks as well as the Euphrates Valley where the last jihadists of ISIS are being eliminated. The self-proclaimed Caliphate of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi is in agony. His plan to create an “Islamic State” straddling between Syria and Iraq will be remembered as a brief moment of bloodshed in history.

As Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan before him, the "Caliph" Baghdadi failed. His chances of survival are very slim. But will this really be the end of ISIS? Certainly not. Recent history preaches caution. Let us remember George W. Bush’s declaration of war. A few days after September 11, 2001, the president of a traumatized America spoke before Congress and the House of Representatives as a sign of sacred union. Bush solemnly announced the beginning of the "war on terror," a war that targets al-Qaeda and will continue, said Bush, “until terrorist groups of global reach have been found, have been stopped, and have been defeated.”

More than 15 years later, not only has al-Qaeda not disappeared despite the death of its leader Osama bin Laden, but ISIS and other movements have taken over. Worse still; the Taliban, driven out of power in 2001, are back on the offensive. Where are the hundreds of billions of dollars supposed to put Afghanistan back on track? We are almost tempted to say: what have we really accomplished?

The Hydra

The terrorist nebula of al-Qaeda and ISIS resembles an octopus or rather the Lernaean Hydra of Greek mythology: a monster with several heads that doubly regenerate once they are sliced.

In Iraq and Syria, there is no doubt that the jihadists will be defeated militarily. But they will go underground and disperse not only in the Middle East, but all over the world. They will remain a threat for a long time, from the Sahel through to Sinai, from Yemen to Asia. All the intelligence services in the world have been warned: cells can strike anywhere, at anytime. A global anti-terrorist hunt is underway.

But the antidote to terrorism cannot be reduced to security. The ingredients of the remedy are also political, economic and social. In Iraq, ISIS has largely developed a Sunni alienation, which found in jihadism its most radical expression. Today, without exaggeration, the responsibility of the Baghdad government is truly historic in the reconstruction of Mosul.

It is not just about restoring buildings and infrastructure. This is probably the easiest, although it will be necessary to mobilize significant funds, particularly from the international community. The most important task will be to reconcile souls and hearts, including better integrating Sunnis into the Iraqi state apparatus and reassuring all religious minorities. After so many tragedies, a strategy of revenge would be worse than evil itself. In this sense, Mosul will be a crucial test. Failure would seriously jeopardize the future of the country.

In Syria, the situation is even more complex. After six years of war, Bashar al-Assad is still firmly attached to power, the moderate opposition is no more than a residue, and the jihadist groups are now cornered on the periphery of Syrian territory. Idlib is now under the control of Tahrir Al-Sham, a coalition of armed groups dominated by Nusra front, the Syrian branch of al Qaida. There is little doubt that the liquidation of the "Idlib pocket" is already programmed by the Russians with the blessing of the United States. But what comes next?

The stabilization of Syria, beyond the de-escalation zones supervised by Moscow, will be as in Iraq, through a great political and social "deal". How to invent a new architecture of power and administration in Damascus? What is certain is that a return to the ante 2011 situation is impossible. Too much blood has been shed, too much misfortune has plagued the country, and too many Syrians have fled their homes.

While the language spoken is that of arms, in what way can one predict that viable and perennial solution could emerge from the chaos? It's probably premature. In any case, it will take years to recollect the pieces of the Syrian human mosaic. But one day or another it will be necessary to recast a new political and social pact acceptable to all the components of Syrian society. Otherwise, with or without Bashar Al-Assad, the terrorist Lernaean Hydra in the shade will not fail to bite again in Syria ... or elsewhere.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/08/08/Mosul-Raqqa-Idlib-then-what-.html

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How Does This Figure Accept To Represent The UN In Libya?

By Fares bin Hezam

8 August 2017

The Arab world and the West’s elite know Dr. Ghassan Salameh as a refined man whose education is a combination of Arab and Francophone cultures. There’s no wonder he’s the son of Lebanon. He’s thus an important voice in Europe and America and an honest man who looks after Arab causes during critical and decisive times.

He’s a prominent Arab intellectual who achieved some balances despite the conflicts during the last decades of the past century. This qualified him to stand out in achieving peace and stability as he represented international organizations, particularly in Arab countries. He has played several roles since the Camp David negotiations in the 1980s and until the 1990s when he intervened in the name of the UN to calm the situation between Saddam Hussein in Iraq and the US before the situation entirely collapsed at some point.

However, the question today is: What pushes someone this significant to end a long journey by accepting to represent the UN for the task of reaching a consensus between a legitimate government in Libya and rival parties in several fronts?

It’s normal for Salameh’s role to extend beyond university platforms and intellectual tasks to include international roles. This happened before. However what’s the reality of today’s Arab causes? Who is this intellectual who will dissociate himself from the swamp of developments in Arab countries?

Dominating the Arab cultural scene and possessing this long and honorable experience to later accept the role of an unarmed policeman among the mud of militias is an unfortunate development which we cannot explain unless by concluding that it’s the end of a man whom it’s too late to award any decorations.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/08/08/How-does-this-figure-accept-to-represent-the-UN-in-Libya-.html

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A Top Saudi Diplomatic Assignment

By Anthony Harris

8 August 2017

Prince Khaled bin Salman’s presentation of his credentials as Saudi ambassador to US President Donald Trump caused me to reflect on the role of a diplomat in the modern world, especially in a post as dynamic and testing as ambassador in Washington, which is surely one of the top jobs in any foreign service.

There are many facetious definitions of a diplomat, perhaps the most famous being that he or she is “a person who thinks twice before saying nothing.” But in a challenging environment like the US, an ambassador, especially from a close ally such as Saudi Arabia, has to always be ready to explain his country’s views and actions to the press, to the public on social media, to businessmen and academics, and — crucially — to the US government.

At the same time, the ambassador must keep his own government closely informed about what is going on in the US. At the present time that is extremely difficult, given that a line being developed by the State Department might at any time be changed by a presidential tweet in the early hours of the morning.

It is a curious fact that an ambassador’s own nationals often have only the vaguest idea about what he or she is doing in a far-off capital. The common belief is that ambassadors engage in endless receptions and dinners, which can be an entertaining, if challenging, part of the job — one that requires considerable self-control — and that they have a duty to protect their fellow countrymen from coming to harm abroad, which is true, and can be very difficult and time-consuming.

But most people seem to forget the huge amount of time and effort that an ambassador must spend getting to know the leading figures in the country where he or she is stationed in order to represent his own country’s interests.

During my time as British Ambassador to the UAE, I recall a senior British lady asking me why I did not spend more time with the St. David’s (or was it the St. Andrew’s?) Society, as the Welsh (and Scottish) national associations are called. When I explained that my official diary was very full, she said: “Oh yes, sorry. I forgot. You have to get to know all them foreigners.”

Precisely. An ambassador has to be able to move around town and be an acceptable interlocutor in every kind of forum: Commercial, economic, political, academic and so on. Prince Khaled has already served in Washington and knows America well. He has got off to a confident start, as the interview he gave the Washington Post, published on Monday, indicates. The American press can always be relied upon to bowl some fast balls at interviewees.

His family connections will give him a head-start in understanding how the inner circle of Trump’s family and advisers operates. One of his predecessors, Prince Bandar, was given the nickname Bandar Bush because of his close ties to the Bush family. To me, that sounds like praise indeed.

I am often accused, now that I work in financial services, of being too diplomatic, as if diplomacy is a sign of weakness. I patiently explain that diplomacy means getting your way, if possible by as quiet and subtle a route as possible, since there is no point antagonizing your colleagues on the other side of the table, especially if you have to negotiate with them again next week and the week after. Your job is to get your way, if you can.

It helps to be as open and frank as possible. Just as an ambassador must know how the other country’s leaders think, he or she must not leave anyone in any doubt as to what their own country’s policies are. Diplomacy is not really skating on thin ice while fishing in murky waters, as I have heard said. It is much better to be an open and trusted intermediary.

The Russian ambassador in Washington, Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak, seems to have done an excellent job in spotting the key players in the Trump administration and getting close to them even before they assumed office. He is perhaps guilty of getting a little too close to the action, but there is much to learn from his approach. No one has suggested that he has done anything other than his job.

For the Saudi ambassador in Washington, explaining to the new administration what is going on in the Middle East, in all its complexity, is a huge task. Even if Trump is a bit sketchy on the details of the war in Syria or the dispute with Qatar, and sends out confusing messages on the Gulf, there is an enormous well of expertise in the US, and many who will be keen to hear and debate policy with the new ambassador.

One area that is relatively new in modern diplomacy is social media. The ambassador in Washington will need a first-class press secretary or media adviser, preferably one who never sleeps. Every ambassador and every minister in government now uses Twitter and Facebook to express policy and commentary, not to exchange family news and photographs. Demands on the modern ambassador have grown exponentially: Everyone can now be in touch with the embassy all the time.

Prince Khaled’s youth and energy will stand him in good stead. If he has the stamina and can build up his contact list in the new administration while looking out for the next one, and if he can see his job as an extended jazz concert, with endless variation on a theme, he will have the tools to handle this most taxing appointment. There is no better job on the planet. I wish him well.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1141766

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URL: http://www.newageislam.com/middle-east-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/haj-is-not-just-a-business-tariq-a-al-maeen--new-age-islam-s-selection,-09-august-2017/d/112143





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