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Middle East Press (02 Aug 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

How Qatar Mesmerizes Activists? By Turki Aldakhil: New Age Islam’s Selection, 02 August 2017

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

02 August 2017

How Qatar Mesmerizes Activists?

By Turki Aldakhil

Stop the Ethnic Cleansing In Myanmar

By Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi

A Rogue Remains Loose In the Middle East

By Tariq A. Al-Maeena

New Strategy Required To Ease Syria's Suffering

By Daniel R Depetris

Jordan And Israel: Fraught And Troubled Times For The ‘Best Of Frenemies’

By Yossi Mekelberg

Once Upon A Time In The West, Leaders Listened To Scholars: They No Longer Do

By Mohammed Nosseir

New US-Russia Schism Will Hurt Middle East

By Maria Dubovikova

Panama Papers: Pakistan’s Justice System Catches Up

By Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


How Qatar Mesmerizes Activists?

By Turki Aldakhil

1 August 2017

Qatar belongs to a category of countries that has its own ways of setting traps and hunting preys. It finds others’ weaknesses and suddenly pounces on its prey without making it feel enslaved.

It finds a student on a scholarship who has all these rightful ambitions and who is racing against time to surpass others and gain more education and knowledge. It then sends someone to sit with him to understand his mentality. Once it realizes that his line of thought agrees with it and that he likes public appearances, it organizes a seminar in a research centre and brings him to Doha after paying a hefty ticket and making expensive hotel booking. It provides him with exceptional care and then makes him the star of the seminar.

When it is time to say goodbye, it simply tells him one thing “don’t forget it was Qatar which supported it.” Of course this young man has been fascinated with money and when he returns home, he receives a research paper by an esteemed thinker and which the research center that held the seminar is asking him to evaluate. The young man is thus amazed and he wonders if he is a genius to that extent!

This is where he becomes euphoric and becomes a captive of the state that hired him as part of its agenda. His mind has now disappeared for good and he’s become the captive of exaggeration and egocentrism. He becomes a tool in Azmi Bishara’s propaganda machine and is even used against his own homeland when there’s a battle. There are countless examples to that, and to official authorities these are simply proven facts.

Then Qatar baits a publishing house which needs money or which barely has enough money. It invites the publisher to Doha and gives it even more attention than the young man. When he meets the country’s leaders, they realize they have similar orientations and that he has the tendency to collaborate with the Qatari project.

After a lavish welcome, huge sums of money are transferred to his account. He thus becomes a pawn used against his own country and begins to view Qatar as his own country and Doha as his own capital. This is achieved via projects that purposely appear to be preaching Islamic principles, interpreting the Quran or supporting Muslims across the world.

Two Distinct Approaches

This shows that Qatar adopts two approaches when it comes to supporting terrorism. The first one is direct support of the establishment of organizations such as Nusra Front or ISIS or the Popular Mobilization. The support is either direct, by providing money and arms, or through fake abductions which Doha resorts to in order to provide these groups with millions of dollars. It grants members of these groups Qatari passports to enter stable countries and carry out destructive operations.

The second approach, which I think is more dangerous, is a deceitful attitude of exploiting other people’s causes and financial needs. In the leaked audio recordings between late Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and former Emir of Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa and Qatari foreign affairs minister Hamad bin Jassim, they say that Qatar directs envoys and attaches to follow up on whoever has a need or requires medical cure or direct support or help in a personal matter. Hamad bin Jassim said that “these things cost nothing” considering that Qatar spends its abundant money to recruit others against their countries.

Qatar tried to attract Saudi thinkers, preachers, authors and journalists and established organizations that are allegedly intellectual, political and strategic. It also established the Academy of Change to urge young men and women to revolt. Considering their age, young men were lured by money and they became Qatar’s captives. It is haram (ill-gotten) income because the aim is to incite against Saudi Arabia and it also reflects the desire to topple the Saudi regime, as they put it!

Direct recruitment of terrorists is clear but we must shed light on the deceitful recruiter who’s trying to lure young men to serve the Qatari project. Some academics were granted Qatari citizenship and they gave up their original nationality since they ideologically agree with Qatar’s rulers who have a Brotherhood mentality.

Some Brotherhood supporters have been so naïve to the point where they denied they’ve been recruited by Qatar for ideological purposes. This is Qatar and these are its tricks.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/08/01/How-Qatar-mesmerizes-activists-.html


Stop the Ethnic Cleansing In Myanmar

By Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi

There is a verse of a poem written by the great Arab poet Abu Al-Tayyib Al-Mutanabbi more than a thousand years ago that states that some facts are undeniable.

In the present day, this describes the pathetic condition of the Rohingya Muslims who have been subjected to genocide and ethnic cleansing in Myanmar. This has been the testimony of all international human rights organizations as well as prominent international figures who have been able to visit that country, which was closed to the outside world for more than half a century.

Thousands of Myanmar Muslims have been killed at the hands of Buddhist extremists with the blessing and connivance of the security forces. Tens of thousands of others have perished while fleeing to escape persecution in their country. The mass graves unearthed recently in Thailand are clear proof of the extent of the atrocities being perpetrated against these hapless people.

Those who survived death and who are languishing in camps in Bangladesh and elsewhere account for hundreds of thousands of people. All of this happen at a time when the elected leader of the country Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, vehemently denies all the atrocities against Rohingya Muslims at the hands of the army and the security forces.

In March, the United Nations Human Rights Council constituted a fact-finding mission to investigate alleged human rights violations, such as murder, displacement, looting, rape, and the burning of houses and places of worship by members of the Myanmar army and security forces against Rohingya Muslims. This was in response to an attack on a military post allegedly by some Rohingya insurgents in October 2016. The mission was headed by the noted Indian woman lawyer Indira Jaising with Radhika Coomaraswamy (Sri Lanka) and Christopher Dominic Sidoti (Australia) as members.

The response of the Myanmar government was not in favor of entertaining the UN mission. The country’s de facto leader Suu Kyi and her government refused to grant visas to the mission members and she justified this by saying that sending such a panel to Rakhine state would lead to a further worsening of the conflict between different sections of society in that region. The government also denied the entry of media persons, relief workers and human right activists to Rakhine state where Rohingya Muslims are facing ethnic cleansing and genocide.

The head of the UN Human Rights Commission has replaced Jaising with Indonesia’s former Attorney General Marzuki Darusman who was earlier in charge of making an assessment of the human rights situation in North Korea. The UN rights chief did not cite any reasons for this change. However, some observers pointed out that Jaising was removed following her remarks to a section of the media that Rohingya Muslims are exposed to the danger of genocide, and that this was no longer a secret.

What prompted the Myanmar government to oppose the UN fact-finding mission and was it because of its chairperson, who was eventually replaced? Will the government entertain the new mission and facilitate it to discharge its duties by granting them visas and allowing them access to the places where the victims reside? Or will the government continue denying visas to members of the mission based on the false justification that sending such a panel to Rakhine state would further exacerbate the situation, as if the intentions of the current government are different from the intentions of previous governments that deprived Muslims of their most basic human rights?

Many think that the incumbent government has treated the Rohingya more brutally than previous ones, especially after the October attack. This attack might have been the handiwork of the authorities to justify their atrocities against Rohingya Muslims after branding them as illegal migrants from Bangladesh even though their existence in the region can be traced back for centuries to a time when they had their own emirates and kingdoms in the Arakan (Rakhine) region.

It is obvious that the regime in Myanmar is a racist. This is evident from the law that they have enacted entitled “Protection of religion and race.” Rohingya Muslims are deprived of citizenship, as well as all rights that citizens enjoy, in addition to freedom of movement besides imposing restrictions on marriage and childbirth. The authorities are involved in encouraging Buddhist extremists to get rid of Rohingya Muslims by killing and expulsion. Now the state and its army and security personnel are carrying out ethnic cleansing.

Since last October, more than 1,000 people have been killed and over 75,000 have been expelled while large numbers of women have been victims of rape. Moreover, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled to neighbouring countries.

According to UN reports, Rohingya Muslims are the most persecuted minority in the world. The situation for Rohingya Muslims has further worsened since Suu Kyi and her party assumed power in Myanmar. All evidence shows that the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and her party govern a country that is practicing ethnic cleansing and mass murder.

In this scenario, the United Nations, its organs and affiliated organizations, as well as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and all its members, especially the Muslim neighbours of Myanmar, should shoulder the responsibility of protecting this defenceless people from the atrocities, which are as a clear as broad daylight.

Source; saudigazette.com.sa/article/514251/Opinion/OP-ED/Myanmar


A Rogue Remains Loose In the Middle East

By Tariq A. Al-Maeena

A rogue has been loitering about long enough in the region. For decades now. And its presence has not been a very reassuring one; at least not to the hosts on whose land this menacing rogue wanders about, spreading venom in its path. The rogue? None other than the state of Israel in its current form.

Its leaders are continuously bleating about nuclear threats from other regional nations. Remember, they did the same thing about Iraq some years back with alarms of “weapons of mass destruction” through their proxies in the US government, leading George W. Bush and company to embark on an adventure that opened a Pandora’s box of miseries that continue to haunt us today.

Meanwhile, this rogue nation is pursuing its policy of grabbing and annexing what little land the Palestinians can hang on to through aggression, targeted killings, executions, burning of civilians and dwellings and it has explained away all of this as being “in the interests of national security.”

Israel has long learned to play the game craftily. It started by portraying itself as a victim as it began its journey in a strange land and slowly began pushing out the lawful residents, albeit with massive support from Western nations who were continually garlanded with the collective guilt of the first holocaust during World War II, and who were goaded to make amends for past deeds by defying all democratic norms and siding with this monster. It did not matter that their victims - the Palestinians - had nothing to do with events of the past. It was simply an expedient solution.

The Arabs have tried to battle and even reason with this monster to no avail. In a previous attempt, a resolution was initiated by Egypt to declare the region a nuclear-weapons-free zone and called on Israel to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The resolution would have applied less stringent supervisory conditions on Israel in comparison to those recently agreed upon with Iran. Since Iran had already sealed an agreement with the world powers on greater nuclear transparency, this vote became the first attempt to ask Israel to follow suit.

But the monster was not having any of that. It did not want any of its nuclear weapons program under any sort of international monitoring. Instead it began an earnest campaign of lobbying and arm-twisting to ensure that the resolution did not see the light of day. Predictably enough, with the Zionist lobby working overtime, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s General Conference voted down the resolution, which called for international supervision over Israel’s nuclear facilities.

Israel gloated in the aftermath of the results calling it a great victory following the culmination of a massive international campaign against the resolution. Those predictably siding with Israel were the United States, Canada, Australia, and EU members while Russia, China, Turkey and South Africa sided with the regional countries in backing the resolution. Thus, secrecy is ensured for the Israelis who can go about developing their nuclear weapons that will one day be turned against their neighbors.

Not content to bask in victory, this rogue today has stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque, situated in Jerusalem and the third holiest shrine of the Muslim world. It has fired tear gas and stun grenades on the congregation assembled for prayer; it has closed down freedom of access. It has prevented Muslim worshipers from attending to their religious calling. It has usurped their rights as well as their lands. It has embarked on a policy of murder and humiliation, one guaranteed to elicit a response that could be quickly put down by superior Israeli firepower and then explained to a compliant media as “a quelling of rebellion by terrorists”.

This ongoing policy of aggression by a nuclear-powered rogue that has been granted the freedom to remain unchecked does not bode well for a peaceful region.

Source: saudigazette.com.sa/article/514252/Opinion/OP-ED/rogue


New Strategy Required To Ease Syria's Suffering

By Daniel R DePetris

August 1, 2017

The UN does already have someone in place to set a policy shift in motion.

For the last five years, US policy on the Syrian civil war has revolved around supporting the United Nations' efforts to find a political accommodation between the main combatants in the war - and reminding anyone who will listen that only a political resolution will end the grinding conflict for good.

Unfortunately, the policy hasn't kept pace with military reality. Bashar Al Assad's position on the ground is better than it has ever been; he has no incentive to do what the international community wants - to end the carnage and eventually transition out of the presidential palace.

That means a new strategy is required, one that recognises that if a political solution was not attainable in the past it's highly unlikely to be attainable in the future. Instead, the US and its partners should do what they can to freeze the conflict in specific geographical areas, just as the United States, Russia, and Jordan successfully did in southwestern Syria several weeks ago.

The UN does already have someone in place to set a policy shift in motion. Special Envoy Staffan De Mistura, the Italian-Swedish diplomat appointed by former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to preside over the Syria portfolio, has been indefatigable in his efforts to end the violence. Barely a week goes by without De Mistura flying to regional capitals, meeting with representatives. And yet despite this Herculean effort, De Mistura has been unable to make any headway in a diplomatic process that much of the international community considers dead or dying. De Mistura is certainly not to blame; he is perseverance and determination in human form.

Discussions over confidence-building measures, which have proven instrumental in other negotiations, continue to be difficult to sustain. Even De Mistura appears to accept this sad fact, telling journalists before the beginning of the seventh round of Syrian talks that while he continues to hope that the Syrian government and rebel delegation begin to get serious, he has been "disappointed many times during these last four years and Syrians have been disappointed during the last six years." There is no reason to believe that the next round of diplomacy in Geneva scheduled for this September will be any more successful than the last six.

So if talks about Syria's politics have hit a dead end, it's time to take a hard look at the reality of the situation. Most importantly, De Mistura needs to lower expectations about what is possible. Throughout the last six years of conflict and attempted mediation, every single bid that has concentrated on the politics of Syria - how the country will be governed after the war ends; who will be represented in a transitional government; what should and should not be included in a new Syrian constitution; what happens with Assad - have collapsed.

Assad does not want to negotiate on the politics because he no longer needs to - his position on the ground is the best it has ever been. With the exception of Damascus' eastern suburbs and the northern city of Raqqa, all of Syria's major cities have been retaken by the regime or pro-regime militias. Assad's political opponents are increasingly hemmed into enclaves in Syria's Idlib and Deraa provinces - at great cost to the country's infrastructure and to the detriment of the millions of civilians who live (or used to live) there. Assad may be a brutal tyrant, but he's also a rational actor who understands that the direction of the war has been going his way ever since the Russian air force bailed him out with a bombing campaign in the fall of 2015.

Not all of the agreements reached over the previous years, however, have been failures. Accords focusing on separating the warring sides in specific areas, establishing truces to deliver humanitarian assistance, and allowing injured civilians to leave these zones for medical treatment have been slightly more successful. While it is indisputable that the regime has broken many of ceasefire accords it has signed, the de-escalation agreements arranged over the previous three months have resulted in at least a decline in hostilities that would not have ordinarily been possible. Although it is still too early to label both ceasefire deals a success - and while it is certain that breaches are inevitable - agreements that focus exclusively on security while leaving political questions to the UN have been more effective than meshing the security and the politics tracks together. It remains to be seen whether the decrease in hostilities will last over the long term, but it is difficult to dispute the argument that concentrating on stemming the bloodshed first and exploring options for political reconciliation second have had a more positive impact for the civilians on the ground.

At this stage in the war, after six years of combat, a half a million fatalities, a region teeming with Syrian refugees, and 13.5 million Syrians in need of humanitarian assistance, it is time for the international community to drop their hopes at the door. The world can continue to pray for a time when Assad magically makes the transformation from a manipulative and sociopathic war criminal to a conciliator. Or it can do things a little differently by leveraging its influence over Syria's combatants to strike agreements that provide some semblance of peace for the Syrian people on the ground.

This change in approach will not win anybody the Nobel Peace Prize, but it may be the best Syrians can hope for right now.

Source: khaleejtimes.com/editorials-columns/new-strategy-required-to-ease-syrias-suffering


Jordan And Israel: Fraught And Troubled Times For The ‘Best Of Frenemies’

By Yossi Mekelberg

1 August 2017

Relations between Jordan and Israel were put to the test in the past fortnight, near to breaking point. Between the crisis over the Haram Al-Sharif and the shooting of two Jordanian citizens by an Israeli security guard, who was attacked by one of them, it took intense diplomatic efforts to at least temporarily patch things up.

As I wrote here this week, in this most unpredictable region, two separate incidents became connected. The tragic shooting incident provided Israel with the necessary pretext to make concessions in the shape of removing the newly introduced security measures at the entrance to Al-Aqsa Mosque. Nevertheless, the insensitivity with which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu handled the return of the Israeli security guard was a painful rebuke for King Abdallah of Jordan.

Israel shares with Jordan not only its longest border, but also a web of common interests. Considering that about 60 percent of Jordan’s population is Palestinian, many of them refugees, it inherently constrains how close the Hashemite Kingdom’s cooperation with Israel can become.

Though the peace agreement between the countries was signed at the height of the Oslo Accord euphoria, even then most Palestinians felt that the late King Hussein was rushing into it and thereby undermining their bargaining power with the Israelis. They might not be too far off the mark, especially when the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 was followed by the first Netanyahu government. There has always been the fear among the Palestinians that having signed the agreement with Egypt and Jordan and having the military threat of Syria all but eliminated, there would be almost no incentive for Israel to show flexibility in negotiation with them.

The longer the impasse in the Israeli-Palestinian process lingers, the deeper the resentment among Palestinians toward the cooperation between the Hashemite Kingdom and Israel. King Abdallah, somewhat unguarded in a conversation with a journalist, remarked that “in 2016, for the first time, we captured and killed 40 (Daesh) terrorists in two major incidents. Ninety-six percent of them were of Palestinian origin.” He connected this phenomenon directly to the lack of progress in affairs between the Israelis and the Palestinians: “So if we don’t move the Israeli-Palestinian process forward, that is a major recruiting [opportunity] for disenfranchised and frustrated people.”

Historically, for Jordan and Israel strategic and economic cooperation have been paramount. Israel regards stability in Jordan as essential to its own security and also in containing the growing discord in the West Bank. Intelligence cooperation between the two countries’ security establishments in order to contain extremism has become a matter of routine.

Jordan is a fragile state due to its lack of natural resources, as well as the fact that almost one-third of the nine million people who live there are not Jordanian nationals, including 657,000 Syrian refugees. This puts immense pressure on its resources as support from the international community falls short. Not surprisingly, it has asked Israel not only for security and political support, but also to assist its economy with jobs and energy supply, for instance.

Commonality of interests cannot disguise tensions, as a consequence of Israel’s behavior toward the Palestinians in the occupied territories and in the holy places in Jerusalem. This inevitably puts King Abdallah in a very precarious situation vis-a-vis his own population, whereby he is left with very little choice but to rigorously criticize Israel’s behaviour to the extent of at least appearing to be rethinking relations with it.

The Netanyahu government behaves as if it is completely oblivious to the potential impact of its policies on its neighbour, and how it might harm Israel’s interests as a result. Twenty years ago, in his first term as prime minister, Netanyahu demonstrated recklessness in sanctioning the assassination of the Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal on Jordanian soil. When the Israeli agents were caught in this failed operation, Netanyahu was forced to accede to King Hussein’s demands to instantly provide the antidote to save Meshaal’s life and to release the leader of Hamas at the time, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, from an Israeli jail. Otherwise, the Jordanian king threatened to sever diplomatic relations.

Netanyahu, in the face of the gravity of the situation, agreed to these demands, but seems to have learned nothing from the experience. Consistently he embroils Israel in a lose-lose situation.

Netanyahu’s handling of the situation in the Haram Al-Sharif was driven by narrow political considerations, in complete disregard of the need to delicately defuse an extremely explosive situation. The hero’s welcome he bestowed on the returning Israeli security guard, in front of the rolling TV cameras, was a cheap PR stunt, pandering to his supporters. Whatever happened in the shooting in Amman, at least one person who was killed there, the landlord was completely innocent.

Netanyahu might have been within his rights to insist on bringing back the Israeli security guard, who Israel claims enjoyed diplomatic immunity. Nevertheless, turning it into a photo opportunity was provocative and offensive to the king of Jordan and the Jordanian people.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1138141


Once Upon A Time In The West, Leaders Listened To Scholars: They No Longer Do

By Mohammed Nosseir

1 August 2017

Reading hundreds of articles and essays by Western scholars every year has turned me into either a well-informed citizen or an addict of inapplicable, unrealistic ideas. My meticulous examination and scrutiny of Western scholars’ thoughts has certainly sharpened my political thinking, but it has not necessarily been of any added value to my country, Egypt. The gap between the ideas produced by intellectuals and what politicians actually do is continually widening, leaving citizens around the world lost in translation.

Scholarship in the Western world, and especially in the US, is a large industry dominated by highly-qualified professionals, thousands of scholars who work to shape their fellow citizens’ thinking patterns and to influence decision-makers. The field is dominated by the creme de la creme of Western academe, and attending their debates is often an insightful and pleasant experience.

However, while scholars stimulate the minds of Western citizens, they seem to have lost the ability to influence their leaders. The world is split between knowledgeable people capable of producing functional ideas and ignorant people in authority who insist on applying their volatile ideas — with no meeting point between the two. Today, politics is completely under the control of powerful politicians whose credo is realism and who know how to change things physically on the ground. Meanwhile, sophisticated scholars are trying to produce relevant ideas that are quickly made irrelevant by decision-makers’ actions.

Internet connectivity has substantially boosted access to the work of scholars worldwide. People are no longer obliged to read only the work of local scholars. Regardless of where they live, they can easily read and follow the works of their favorite scholars and discard the ideas that their countries impose on their societies. What used to be called the “battle of ideas” (most pleasant events at which scholars clashed mentally to produce excellent, functional ideas, reviving people’s minds and better serving their nations) no longer exists, especially among international scholars.

Western scholarly institutions and publishers tend to support only their fellow Westerners’ work, ignoring ideas developed by non-Westerners. Not only do they publish Western works exclusively; more dangerously, their minds are shaped by the Western thinking pattern. The Western world does not see any logical arguments in most non-Western scholarly writing; it publishes only works that are in line with its way of thinking, declining to consider — and, obviously, to publish — scholarly perspectives that contradict this line of thought.

Nowadays, most powerful Western countries are thrusting aside the works of their scholars, replacing them with physical action that achieves their goals more easily and quickly. The ability of these countries to realize their objectives by imposing their decisions on others has diminished efforts by scholars to change the world with their ideas. Sadly, these nations are not held accountable for their actions; their trial-and-error policy has become a phenomenon that we must live by.

Until the time comes when citizens can no longer tolerate the accumulated mistakes of their leaders, powerful nations will continue to dominate the world and to hold sway over scholars. Scholarly thoughts, however, will not expire, banking instead on the emergence of new political leaders who will revisit these ideas and restore their relevance. We are left with a single option: To hope that some sensible people will be persuaded by scholars’ works and support their ideas — and that the world will eventually become a better place.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1138146


New US-Russia Schism Will Hurt Middle East

By Maria Dubovikova

1 August 2017

Amid the worst diplomatic rift since the 1970s and 1980s, Russia has urged the US to show “real political will” to repair ties. Seven months after Washington expelled 35 Russian diplomats under the pretext that US diplomats were being oppressed in Moscow, Russia has expelled 755 American diplomats in response to new sanctions imposed by Washington. This marks the start of a political and diplomatic war between the superpowers.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday: “We had hoped for quite a long time that the situation will somehow change, but apparently if it changes, it won’t be soon.” His spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it “will take time for the US to recover from political schizophrenia,” adding: “Moscow wants constructive cooperation with Washington.”

Peskov was signaling to the US that a new diplomatic and political war will lead to further polarization of countries into Eastern and Western alliances. New US sanctions against Russia for its aggression against its neighbors and its unproven interference in last year’s American presidential election represent a witch-hunt. The sanctions were imposed despite opposition in the White House.

The Trump administration’s weakness has led to such decisions being taken by Congress. This will hurt America’s political reputation internationally. With the Senate overwhelmingly approving a bill to toughen sanctions on Russia, Putin said Moscow still “has things to say and is able to further restrict areas of common activities, which may be sensitive for the American side.” This shows confidence in Russia’s ability to retaliate against pressure.

The first reason for this diplomatic war is not alleged Russian meddling in the American election, but Moscow winning the battle in Syria against the US-led alliance, as well as in the wider Middle East and further afield. So the US started finding pretexts to take measures against Russia, its officials, diplomats and businessmen.

The second reason is that despite Western sanctions, Russia’s economy is strong and vibrant as it has natural resources that other countries badly need, such as oil and gas. So any talk of great damage done by sanctions is cynical and baseless.

The third reason is Russia’s growing global influence, especially in the Middle East, which hurts US interests. Moscow has very strong relations with Iran, Syria, Qatar and Iraq, which are pivotal to Middle East stability. As such, Russia’s measures are in self-defense as it believes the US is planning regime change, similar to what happened in Georgia and Ukraine, under slogans of freedom and democracy.

The alliance of Russia, China, Iran and North Korea, especially after recent ballistic missile tests by Tehran and Pyongyang, has driven the US to behave offensively against Russia again, dashing hopes for normalized ties under President Donald Trump. This will create a new battlefield in the Middle East, Africa or Asia for both countries to flex their muscles and extend their control.

It is now clear that the atmosphere between Putin and Trump at the G-20 meetings in Hamburg was far from cordial, as they sparred over Syria’s use of lethal weapons against its own citizens, Russia’s support for Bashar Assad and its alleged interference in the US election. This signals a sharp deterioration in bilateral ties since Trump became president.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1138151


Panama Papers: Pakistan’s Justice System Catches Up

By Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady

1 August 2017

Who says the long arm of justice does not catch up one day, irrespective of the position of the highest office holder?

The news that Nawaz Sharif has resigned as prime minister of Pakistan following a decision by the country’s Supreme Court to disqualify him from office, should be celebrated as evidence that whatever the rights and wrongs of the person involved, even in countries with so called poor governance, justice finally catches up one day.

The ruling came after a probe into his family’s wealth following the 2015 Panama Papers dump linking companies to the prime minister and his family. A five-member bench in the court handed down the verdict unanimously.

Sharif is not the first prime minister to lose his position following the leaking of documents from the Panamanian law firm as others have fallen foul of the scandal, as Iceland’s prime minister was forced to resign after documents appeared to reveal that he and his wife concealed millions of dollars worth of investments in an offshore company.

Transparency listing

In its 2016 Corruption Perception Global Index, Transparency International listed Iceland in 14th position and Pakistan 116 in global ranking, so the bar for Pakistan to take action against a sitting prime minister was far higher for Pakistani justice than for Iceland.

Conscious of the historical decision that it made and emboldened to pursue similar cases further irrespective of the political consequences, the court has recommended anti-corruption cases against several individuals, including Mr Sharif, his daughter Maryam and her husband Safdar, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and others.

No politician with a troubled conscience in Pakistan is now safe, and the population will expect the same treatment meted out to all elected and non-elected ruling party elite irrespective of party affiliation. The train of justice has started to roll and cannot be shuttled into a backyard and those who advocate transparency and accountability worldwide should celebrate the court decision.

Sharif, who was serving as prime minister for a record third time, was less than a year away from becoming the first in Pakistani history to complete a full term in office. He served as prime minister from November 1990 to July 1993 and from February 1997 until he was toppled in a bloodless coup in October 1999.

Wheels of justice

Allegations of corruption have chased Sharif since the 1980s. Much of what the Panama Papers revealed was the subject of a federal inquiry in the mid-1990s, but the wheels of justice have creaked on very slowly since then until the explosive and detailed Panama Papers revealed the extent of foreign assets of worldwide politicians.

The leaks in April 2016 revealed that three of Mr Sharif’s children owned offshore companies and assets not shown on his family’s wealth statement. The companies were allegedly used to channel funds to acquire foreign assets, including some apartments along Park Lane in London’s Mayfair area, locations favored by the rich and mighty of many nationalities.

No one can of course take way the right of individuals to do what they want with their honestly gained money gained hard working and enterprise, but what is unacceptable is for government officials to abuse their position for monetary gain and bring disrepute to the hallowed office of public service.

Ill-gotten wealth

The insinuation that the companies were meant to hide or launder ill-gotten wealth or to avoid taxes called Mr Sharif’s credentials into question. In Pakistan there was predictable anger and joy in equal measures as the country’s divisions fell largely along party lines but many have also expressed concerns over Pakistan’s political culture and the future of the country itself but they do not need to worry.

The unanimous court ruling has shown to everyone that no politician will be above the law, and in this significant victory, Pakistan can move forward and say to the rest of the world that we have done what few others have dared do, given the wide scale revelations of the Panama Papers scandal.

For once, Pakistan is making the headline news for the right reasons and we may still hear of a future Pakistani Premier peacefully serving out his full five year term in office.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/08/01/Panama-Papers-Pakistan-s-justice-system-finally-catches-up-.html


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