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Middle East Press (23 Dec 2016 NewAgeIslam.Com)

On Justifying Russian Envoy’s Assassination: New Age Islam's Selection, 23 December 2016

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

23 December 2016

On Justifying Russian Envoy’s Assassination

By Turki Aldakhil

December 21, 1976

By Fares Bin Hezam

Aleppans To Idlib: Out Of The Frying Pan Into The Fire

By Sultan Barakat and Sansom Milton

America’s Empty ‘Happy Talk’ On Palestine Coming To An End

By Ray Hanania

Was The Killer Of The Russian Ambassador Silenced?

By Murat Yetkin

Saudi Budget Is Vital First Step in Balancing Act

By Frannk Kane

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


On Justifying Russian Envoy’s Assassination

By Turki Aldakhil

22 December 2016

Following the assassination of Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov, a debate has erupted among Twitter users.

Some people mix up injustice taking place in some countries with the strong relations that stay intact even during the most difficult circumstances. Even during wars, ambassadors and embassies are considered among sanctities.

It’s everyone’s right to be different and to reject Russia’s intervention in Syria. However, going as far as cheering for the assassination of an envoy and a diplomat reflects flaws in thinking and lays bare mistake in the attitude as international laws and conventions prohibit harming envoys no matter what the circumstances.

Even when fierce wars erupt between two countries envoys are not targeted. Assassination is a crime which the Saudi Arabian leadership has condemned.

Threat of Terror

This episode also shows the persistent threat of terrorism as recruitment for terror groups is happening even among police ranks. This indicates a serious and grave threat the consequences of which we may witness in the future.

What we can conclude from this dramatic scene is that terrorism feeds off crises and tries to invest in them. The murderer of the envoy shouted out against Russia and tried to use the tragedy of Aleppo to gain sympathy and support.

What’s happening in Aleppo is a bold crime and assassinating the envoy is a heinous onee. This is how the situation must be viewed.

Turki Aldakhil is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. He began his career as a print journalist, covering politics and culture for the Saudi newspapers Okaz, Al-Riyadh and Al-Watan. He then moved to pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat and pan-Arab news magazine Al-Majalla. Turki later became a radio correspondent for the French-owned pan-Arab Radio Monte Carlo and MBC FM. He proceeded to Elaph, an online news magazine and Alarabiya.net, the news channel’s online platform. Over a ten-year period, Dakhil’s weekly Al Arabiya talk show “Edaat” (Spotlights) provided an opportunity for proponents of Arab and Islamic social reform to make their case to a mass audience. Turki also owns Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre and Madarek Publishing House in Dubai. He has received several awards and honors, including the America Abroad Media annual award for his role in supporting civil society, human rights and advancing women’s roles in Gulf societies.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2016/12/22/On-justifying-the-assassination-of-Russian-envoy.html


December 21, 1976

By Fares bin Hezam

22 December 2016

Now at 40, oh how life has been the way I wished. Yet, I didn’t notice the 30 years that have gone by. I don’t even remember the years that flew away.

Now at 40, I am half-way through with the feeling of wholeness and on the verge of being satisfied. I will not present a list of promises that were broken, and will not ignore the beautiful defeats.

I will not count the bullets hanging on my age like medals, including sincere efforts, friends, disappointments, travel, songs, the shattering of my dream, love, homeland and family. All these are benign bullets.

Now at 40, I roam around cities, bags in tow. I carry all moving between cities without a house that knows me and that I know; without a family that reminds me of sleeping hours.

Inside me, I carry the hustle of celebrating the mid years of the escaping age. I escort the days of anticipation for this moment. In Montaigne Hotel, I escort silence. I enter a decisive year. I welcome the inevitable.

I am now in a city that has begun to welcome people for holidays. It could be the first year of the first month for some. These years do not shield one from the s frost and do not open the door to it. They come as calm as the oceans, as if they are taking me toward a level of satisfaction. They deliver their last foresight.

Today, I feel postponement was a reasonable plan but there’s no going back after this. I do not have the right to appeal to commend the days and how they change.

Now at 40, there is no reprimand that revives the conscience. Battles only committed to history and daily wars kept their former gains. There are plans that are satisfied with their phase and come to an end. Now, satisfaction bleeds all its strength and gives up its weapons in total surrender to 40 years of my life.

Has Anything Changed?

Now at 40, not a lot has changed in terms of the shoe size, clothes and spirit. Addresses, buildings and friends’ phone numbers have not changed. I have not lost attention to work timings and control over the desire to be absent.

Health means enthusiasm for the joy of thinking and proposing modern ideas. I did not leave beautiful poems behind. In a quick and faraway isolation, I find that in this smile, there’s something calling for victory to be mine.

I feel the submission of many kingdoms and the end of impregnable forts that choose surrender. I feel some sort of deadline in the shape of a flower, in the form of a salutation from someone I don’t know. It’s a feeling that does not end at my need for some sort of day in the form of a butterfly.

Now at 40, I choose a hand watch from a brand that rejoices in me, a shirt and a jacket that alternate over the heart’s warmth. These are comfortable shoes this night. I make sure that I won’t come across closed doors.

On a table all by myself and a dinner that suits a veteran military commander, I spoil myself. In this moment, I charge the spirit for a day which previous days will not resemble at all. But it will not require more than the usual act of waking up at 6 am.

The birds in the morning will not be surprised when they see a man in his 40s and thus search for someone younger. In the morning, the road to work will not be different and colleagues’ names will be the same.

They will not notice the glory of years in two eyes alight with passion. No one will write me a note about my change and hands trembling. The health of the spirit will grant me the health to hang on.

Now at 40, there are no regrets, no unfortunate calculations. On the way to them, I picked the fruits and cut branches and not a single tree died. What more do I want from this at 40, this passing age? Bring your chest, I am all yours.

Now, tomorrow.

December 21, 2016

Paris - Montaigne Avenue

Fares bin Hezam is Editor-in-Chief - Al Arabiya Channel.

Source; english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2016/12/22/December-21-1976.html


Aleppans to Idlib: Out Of The Frying Pan Into The Fire

By Sultan Barakat and Sansom Milton


Since December 15 an agreement brokered between Russia, Iran and rebel fighters to evacuate besieged communities in eastern Aleppo and the villages of Foua and Kefraya has been under way, albeit faltering at times owing to infringements of the deal.

While the humanitarian crisis of Aleppo is rightly under the international spotlight, the wisdom of the evacuation deal has largely gone unquestioned. This is unfortunate because in many ways the uprooting of Aleppo's residents to Idlib is a case of jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Moving Aleppans to an already stressed area

The evacuation of Aleppans will inevitably lead to their displacement in temporary shelters where they are more vulnerable away from their home environment and families.

Idlib province is already struggling to meet the basic needs of its residents under the governance of deeply divided rebel groups. The transfer of 50,000 internally displaced persons could overwhelm local coping capacities, leaving both local residents and the newly displaced increasingly dependent upon the humanitarian system, while they both remain at the mercy of the regime and its allies as they make up their mind as to their next move.

An International Rescue Committee spokesperson last week said that "escaping Aleppo doesn't mean escaping the war. After witnessing the ferocity of attacks on civilians in Aleppo, we are very concerned that the sieges and barrel bombs will follow the thousands who arrive in Idlib".

Given that the international community has failed to stand with Aleppo at its time of need, there is no basis for thinking that civilians caught in the crossfire of renewed attempts by Russia and the Assad regime will fare any better.

This is made all the more so considering that the international community increasingly sees Bashar al-Assad as the lesser evil in the face of the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly al-Nusra Front) which dominates much of Idlib province.

A European diplomat is quoted as saying that "fighters had a choice between surviving for a few weeks in Idlib or dying in Aleppo".

By extension, civilians evacuated to Idlib face the same prospect of buying time at the cost of their evacuation. Yet this stark warning presents a false dichotomy. There are other destinations that should have been explored for evacuees.

Turkey has constructed camps for the internally displaced near its border within northern Syria, yet is allowing in only those in urgent need of medical treatment. The depravity of the situation calls on Turkey and other neighbouring states to act unilaterally to provide safe haven to displaced Aleppans.

Meanwhile, the international community should have stood by the position where the evacuation is made to neutralise eastern Aleppo by offering safe passage to fighters and their immediate families, leaving their arms and ability to pose a threat behind.

Ideally this would have been accompanied by a monitoring mechanism to ensure that the forces of the Assad regime and its allies respect international law as they enter the east of the city.

To turn the concept of evacuation for safety into a full-scale eviction of an entire community is totally unacceptable. While rebels faced a choice in accepting or rejecting a deal, the same is not true for residents of eastern Aleppo, some of whom at least are reported to favour remaining in their homes.

How Should Russia Weigh In?

Taking civilians out of eastern Aleppo will diminish the likelihood of their eventual return to their homes. The evacuation and subsequent destruction in 2006 of the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp in Lebanon led to a protracted displacement under which residents are still returning to their homes a decade later.

Given that this double displacement occurred in a relatively stable context with high international support, the chances of a return to eastern Aleppo are vanishingly small.

It is worse now because the fate of Aleppo's residents is tied to the destiny of other communities that will go through a similar ethno-sectarian uprooting.

The Iranian intervention to tie the evacuation to the fate of Foua and Kefraya has complicated matters where there was an existing balance between the two villages and Madaya and Zabadani based on a gentleman's agreement between Hezbollah and the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.

If anything, this shows that although Russia seems to have focused its mind on reaching a solution that meets its own objectives and has finally reached an understanding with Turkey, it has clearly underestimated the deviousness of the "deep state" in Iran, which hides behind excuses that it cannot control all of its militia on the ground.

The Russians must tread carefully because where the war is fought on land and not in the air they will inevitably have less control over the situation.

The United Nations Security Council's resolution that was unanimously accepted on December 19, establishing a monitoring mission, is a welcome development, albeit several weeks too late.

Russia should now seek to play a proactive role in the monitoring to protect civilians and uphold its reputation in the region.

Sultan Barakat is the director of Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies, Doha Institute for Graduate Studies.

Sansom Milton is a senior research fellow at the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies, Doha Institute for Graduate Studies.

Source: aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/12/aleppans-idlib-frying-pan-fire-161221085918248.html


America’s Empty ‘Happy Talk’ On Palestine Coming To An End

By Ray Hanania

22 December 2016

US President-elect Donald Trump is doing exactly what Palestinians and the Arab world need. He is throwing out all the useless, do-nothing “happy talk” about saving Palestine and Jerusalem that has put the Arab and Muslim worlds in a coma. Arabs and Muslims do not see it because their minds are numbed by nearly 24 years of American “happy talk” about Middle East peace, which has failed to deliver on any of its promises.

The days of relying on American largesse to make peace happen is over. Trump’s recent Middle East pronouncements have yanked away the blanket of hypocrisy that has covered and enabled Israel’s steady destruction of Palestine. Instead of reacting with justified indignation to Trump, as we have seen from Arabs and Muslims in all quarters, we should recognize that the Arab world has been romanced into an atrophy of false promises and hope.

We have been duped. It is hard to see through this fog, but Arabs and Muslims need to open their eyes to what has taken place since Palestinians accepted Israel’s right to exist in a handshake on the White House lawn on Sept. 13, 1993, in exchange for a promise of statehood that has never come. Two years later, Israeli extremists destroyed peace by murdering the one Israeli leader who was willing to make it, Yitzhak Rabin.

Israel has since continued its deliberate and systematic destruction of Palestine under a blanket of “happy talk” about peace, compromise and unfulfilled promises. Many Arabs and Muslims are angrily blaming Trump for destroying this system, as if the US ever really embraced the “two-state solution” or a peace that gives Palestinians statehood.

Look at the reality. Trump has named David Friedman as US ambassador to Israel. Friedman is a well-known Israeli-American settler who has openly denounced the two-state solution, called the Palestinian Authority corrupt, vowed to crack down on “Palestinian extremism,” and urged that economic support be provided to the Palestinian “middle class” to address its needs.

We have always believed their needs would be solved by the two-state solution, which has been propped up as a corpse for the past 24 years. Ironically, the loudest screamers against Trump are Arab activists who have for years rejected the two-state solution, denouncing both Rabin and co-signer Shimon Peres, just the way Friedman has done.

Arab and Muslim extremists have worked hard to destroy the two-state solution, so why are they complaining about Trump? The emotions of these predictable activist extremists have mis-focused the Arab and Muslim world’s dysfunction into a false anger against Trump. He is the wrong target.

As for “moderates” like myself, we have clung futilely to an illusory hope. Two states is the best solution, but the truth is Israel does not accept it. It continues to expand settlements, steal more land and make the occupation of Jerusalem and the West Bank more brutal. Worse is that the most powerful nation on Earth, the US, has been incapable of stopping Israel.

President Barack Obama, who more than any past president strongly advocated the two-state solution as the face of his Middle East policies, has been thwarted not just by the American right and Trump’s conservative circles, but by the hypocritical, double-talking American and Israeli left too.

Palestinians have lost more land, seen illegal Israeli settler numbers increase at a record pace, and witnessed the second-largest civilian death toll during Obama’s presidency than under any of his predecessors. Why did we sit back and accept that reality? Because we preferred smiles, handshakes, false promises and “happy talk” over the truth.

Without getting one significant concession from Israel, Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims have blindly opened their arms and embraced Israel on nearly every level while all this oppression continues unabated. Though Palestinians are far worse off today than they have ever been, Israel is enjoying new partnerships in the Arab world. Israel has received the largest grant of US taxpayer funding in history, more than $38 billion.

It is taking pictures with Arab leaders and sharing in multimillion-dollar business investments. Meanwhile, Arabs sit in cafes smoking hookahs and sipping coffee, pretending that Trump is the problem.

Had Hillary Clinton won the presidency, Arabs and Palestinians would be catatonic on a political gurney being fed lies intravenously to keep us in our coma. Trump has thrown cold water in our faces. If we look, we can see the ugly truth and ignore the worthless “happy talk.” He is waking the Arab and Muslim sleeping giant, but will we be awakened?

Israel’s refusal to accept the right of Palestinians to exist is the main obstacle to peace. Its refusal to implement the basics of the peace accords has fueled growing extremism in the region. Israel is the obstacle to peace.

However, this is not just about the future of the Palestinians. It is also about the integrity of the Arab and Muslim worlds. Israel’s rejection of Palestinian rights is a slap in the face of every Arab and Muslim. Do we just stand there and take it? It is shameful that Arabs and Muslims have done nothing, propped up in our hopes by empty “happy talk” and the false promises of a brighter future that Obama fed us in Cairo in 2009.

Peace does not come from pretense, but from clearly defined and well thought out strategies that Arabs and Muslims must develop to force Israel to recognize Palestinian, Arab and Muslim rights.

Either the Arab and Muslim worlds develop new strategies to restore their honor and force Israel to recognize Palestinian statehood, or we just accept the reality that Jerusalem is irrelevant and “saving Palestine” is a pipe-dream. If that is the case, who cares where Trump puts the US Embassy?

Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian-American columnist.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1027926/columns


Was The Killer Of The Russian Ambassador Silenced?

By Murat Yetkin


Shortly after a breaking story on the Russian news site Sputnik on Dec. 21 about the al-Nusra Front’s claiming of responsibility for the assassination of Andrey Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Ankara, on Dec 19, it was understood that the claim was fake.

Before it was understood that it was fake, I was speaking to a ranking security source who was saying that the way the claim of responsibility was made did not fit the method of al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda. “They always claim responsibility on their website, Minaret ul-Beydha [The White Minaret], not random letters like this,” the source said.

The security source, who asked not to be named, also said terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda or the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) were “after scores, the highest possible number of people that they can kill, whether it is a suicide attack or not. The Berlin attack is an example of that, they attack without discrimination. In this case, the killer’s sole target was the Russian ambassador. After he fired almost all the bullets in the cartridge of his pistol [a total of 11, with nine of them hitting the body of Karlov, according to the forensic report –MY], he asked the crowd who were there for the exhibition to leave, saying he ‘had no problem with them,’ which is not typical for the method of Salafi jihadists.”

Earlier, another source told me that “after examining the videos of the assassination and the aftermath in the building over and over again,” there was probably another person in the photograph exhibition in connection with the murderer, Mevlüt Mert Altintas, a 22-year-old police officer, acting as the instructor and/or the overseer of the attack.

“Up until a moment the killer was standing there behind the ambassador like any other bodyguard policeman would do,” the source, who asked not to be named, continued. “At a certain point, he immediately moved as if he was activated, started shouting slogans and fired at the ambassador from behind. He fired more rounds into the body of his victim already lying on the floor and after making sure he was dead, the killer did not make any attempt to run from the place immediately. It was as if he had gotten some assurances from his instructor that nothing would happen to him.”

The fake responsibility claim on behalf of al-Nusra was in line with the impression the killer wanted to give. In broken Arabic, he repeated lines from the anthem of al-Nusra with his finger pointing up in the sky like a typical jihadist and said the murder was revenge for the Russian role in Aleppo. When? Hours before the Dec. 20 meeting between Turkey, Iran and Russia in Moscow to find a viable solution to Aleppo and perhaps to the future of Syria. If it was a provocation like Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin said right after the assassination, the aim could be broader than revenge for Aleppo, perhaps beyond the Moscow talks, by stepping up the level of wave of terrorism in Turkey.

The ranking security source, who has seen the profile file of the killer, said he was raised in in a social environment with a number of sympathizers of Fethullah Gülen, the Islamist preacher living in the United States, who is accused of masterminding the July 15 coup attempt, and allegedly tried to get in contact with local Salafi jihadists in Turkey. According to one witness account, he allegedly wanted to go and fight in Syria but was denied and asked to stay in the police force for better use. However, a firm connection could not be established between him and the jihadists, probably because jihadists did not trust him, thinking that he might be a police agent or an agent of the Gülenists.

Turkish security units think with “95 percent” probability that Altintas was recruited by Gülenists in earlier times to work in the police force and that at some stage, was asked to pretend as if he was from a different Islamist group, so as not to expose himself as a Gülenist because the cleansing of Gülenists from the state apparatus had already started in early 2014 after the graft probes of the Dec. 17-25, 2013, which were seen as a betrayal and a coup attempt by Erdogan.

Security units are also working on the probability that the killer might have been silenced by a member of the special forces squad entering the exhibition hall building after the ambassador was shot. “The killer who was expecting that he would be saved, perhaps by a fake escape scenario after being nabbed, might have been killed by another member of the same secret organization among the special force squad.”

The picture, as of today, resembles a Russian matrushka doll, with scenarios within scenarios.

Like their Russian counterparts, Turkish officials also said it was too early to make an exact evaluation of what and who was behind the Karlov assassination. After all, joint work by Turkish and Russian security units has just started. But there is the remark of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on the phone – who was complaining that the U.S. should not be accused because Gülen was living there – that both Turks and Russian believe that the probability of the Gülen network being behind the murder was high.

Source: hurriyetdailynews.com/was-the-killer-of-the-russian-ambassador-silenced.aspx?pageID=449&nID=107608&NewsCatID=409


Saudi Budget Is Vital First Step In Balancing Act

By Frannk Kane

22 December 2016

A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, the old saying goes, and Saudi Arabia’s 2017 budget should be seen as the first step along the path set out in the two key strategy documents of the year — the National Transformation Plan and the Vision 2030 plan.

As such, it is no exaggeration to say that this is arguably the most important budget statement in the Kingdom’s history.

The transformation underway will be profound in economic, political and social terms. But it will be measured by financial progress, because it is at heart a financial challenge: how to reduce the dependence on oil revenues before lower oil prices eat so deep into financial reserves that the country’s capital is exhausted.

The harsh reality is that Saudi Arabia must try to balance its budget in the new era of low oil prices, or risk running out of cash.

This might have seemed an impossible task two years ago when crude was plummeting and the national accounts were hemorrhaging, but the 2017 budget statement gives some confidence this will be possible. It restates the goal of having a balanced budget, which means the elimination of the deficit, by 2020.

This is all important. The sooner the Saudi economy behaves like a normal one — avoiding using the capital account while taking measures to optimize its current account — the better.

The measures implemented last year to reduce spending have been rather more efficient than imagined, as have been the Kingdom’s forays into the international markets, with the result that the final figure for the deficit in 2016 will be just short of SR 300 billion ($80 billion) — a big improvement on what should turn out to be the high-watermark deficit of SR 366 billion the previous year.

Total debt this year will be an estimated SR 316.5bn, or some 12.3 per cent of projected gross domestic product (GDP). That is still comparatively high for an emerging economy, but lower than some of the gloomier forecasts.

One very significant line in the statement is that the total value of debt instruments issued in the course of 2016 was just over SR 200 billion, illustrating the ease and regularity with which Saudi Arabia has been able to tap into international financial markets. That is another step towards becoming a “normal” economy.

These capital raising initiatives will continue, and will be enhanced, in 2017 and beyond. The budget statement gives the parameters for debt management leading up to 2020, with the proviso that debt must not exceed a fairly comfortable level of 30 percent of GDP, while retaining a credit rating of AA2 for the Kingdom.

More bond issues like the record-breaking $17.5 billion issue earlier this year are imagined, as and when market conditions allow. The government will tap the domestic, regional and international markets for Islamic bonds (sukuk), and will vary the denomination of bond issues — a very practical measure in the era of rapid dollar appreciation.

The projections for 2017 also represent a significant step towards deficit elimination. Based on a conservative estimate of oil prices ($50) and the usual mean calculations of global growth from the International Monetary Fund (3.4 percent in 2017), total revenues are expected to reach SR 692 billion next year, 31 percent better than was anticipated 12 months ago.

The oil price recovery accounts for the bulk of this increased revenue, but even the much-criticized non-oil economy is expected to grow significantly.

Against this income, expenditure is still expected to rise. Estimated at SR 890 billion, that is 8 percent higher than last year. But the itemized details of the expenditure give some fascinating insight into Saudi Arabia’s new priorities.

Public administration costs will be held steady at around SR 26 billion, but military expenditure will be reduced significantly from SR 205 billion to SR 190 billion. Security and regional administration costs will also be cut, from SR 100.5 billion to SR 96.7 billion.

The social side of the economy — municipality services, health and social development, infrastructure and transport, and public programs — will be allocated more next year. Government-funded education will be shaved, from SR 205.8 billion to SR 200.3 billion.

It is worth noting too that the NTP itself has a considerable budget, with SR 268 billion allocated to be spent in the four years of its duration. Of this, only some SR 51 billion has already been spent or is allocated for 2017.

Further streamlining of the Kingdom’s financial infrastructure will also be undertaken in the run up to 2020, all aimed at increasing transparency and efficiency according to international best practice.

All this is commendable progress, but of course there will be challenges, not least the need to get continued buy-in from Saudi citizens that the economic transformation envisaged by policymakers is the correct one.

But the 2017 budget makes the case persuasively that the country is on the right track towards economic diversification and transformation. It is a significant and impressive first step.

Frank Kane is an award-winning business journalist based in Dubai.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1028051/columns

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/middle-east-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/on-justifying-russian-envoy’s-assassination--new-age-islam-s-selection,-23-december-2016/d/109462


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