New Age Islam Edit Bureau
09 August 2017
Haj Is Not Just a Business
By Tariq A. Al-Maeena
Israel’s Demographic Game in
By Yossi Mekelberg
Pakistan Judiciary and the Trial of
By Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi
Qatar Ties to Hamas Could Spell Chaos
By Mustafa Al Zarooni
Qatar Makes Things Difficult For
By Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri
Why OPEC’s Long-Term Strategy Needs
By Wael Mahdi
An Anniversary to Reflect On Nuclear
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
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
“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
“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
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.
Israel’s Demographic Game in Jerusalem
By Yossi Mekelberg
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.
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.
August 8, 2017
Doha's support of the Hamas is detrimental
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
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
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
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
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.
Qatar Makes Things Difficult For Itself
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
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.
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
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
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.”
An Anniversary to Reflect On Nuclear War
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
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
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.
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 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 ...
How Does This Figure Accept To Represent
The UN In Libya?
By Fares bin Hezam
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.
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
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
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
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.