New Age Islam Edit Bureau
23 December 2016
On Justifying Russian Envoy’s
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
By Murat Yetkin
Saudi Budget Is Vital First Step in
By Frannk Kane
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
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
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.
By Fares bin Hezam
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
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.
December 21, 2016
Paris - Montaigne Avenue
Fares bin Hezam is Editor-in-Chief - Al Arabiya Channel.
Aleppans to Idlib: Out Of The Frying Pan
Into The Fire
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
Was The Killer Of The Russian Ambassador
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.
Saudi Budget Is Vital First Step In
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Frank Kane is an award-winning business journalist based in Dubai.