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Middle East Press (29 May 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)



Rouhani and The ‘As-If’ System: New Age Islam's Selection, 29 May 2017





New Age Islam Edit Bureau

29 May 2017

Rouhani and The ‘As-If’ System

By Amir Taheri

Trump’s Visit to Israel: How US Media Ignored Palestinians’ Plight

By Ramzy Baroud

Iran: the Regime’s Nature and Its Calculations

By Eyad Abu Shakra

The Riyadh Partnership Affects Tehran’s Influence In The Region

By Huda Al Husseini

Qatar’s Deal with the Devil

By Oubai Shahbandar

Will Iran Be Permitted To Complete Its Corridor To The Mediterranean?

By Baria Alamuddin

The United States Of Insanity

By Belen Fernandez

Iraq Must Invest In Education to Secure Its Future

By Peter Hawkins

The International Pursuit of Inciters in Egypt Must Begin Now

By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau

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Rouhani and The ‘As-If’ System

By Amir Taheri

28 May 2017

In traditional clerical schools in Iran and Iraq, one of the skills aspirant mullahs learn is known as “shabih-khani.” Broadly speaking, it means “narrating as if.” It is a primitive form of theatre imitating life with a few broad strokes of words and images.

So it was no surprise that when the mullahs seized power in Iran in 1979, they dipped into their immense experience of “shabih-khani” to create a political system and way of being that imitates reality but is as far from it as possible.

The “as-if” technique was first reflected in the name they chose for the regime they created: The Islamic Republic of Iran. Anyone familiar with history and theology knows there can be no republic in Islam. In a republic sovereignty belongs to the people, in Islam it belongs to God. In a republic, laws are made and unmade by the public via elections and parliaments. Islam is the realm of divine law that can never be changed.

The “as-if” scenario also applies to including the name of Iran into the regime’s triple identity. One problem is that Islam is a universal faith and cannot be confined to any particular national identity. Another problem is that Iran existed as a nation-state and a cultural space long before Islam appeared, while Islam does not depend for its existence and success on Iran or any other particular country. In other words, outside the “as-if” exercise, the Khomeinist regime is neither a republic nor Islamic, and even more so not even Iranian.

The mullahs also created an “as-if” Parliament, a body that looks like a Parliament and sounds like one but is miles away from a real legislature. Ruhollah Khomeini was obliged to include this pseudo-Parliament in his scheme in order to hoodwink the Iranian middle classes, who had dreamt of a Western-style parliamentary democracy since the 19th century.

But the most glaring example of the “as-if” gimmick is the election of a president, which we witnessed earlier this month. Since the Khomeinist system is not a republic, it is logical that it should have no president. Yet such a position is included in the regime’s constitution.

Leaving aside “as-if” considerations, the position has nothing to do with the presidential function in any normal republic. The man who occupies it could, at best, be described as head of the Council of Ministers or first minister. Muhammad Khatami, who played the role of president for eight years, has described his position as that of a “logistics man” whose task is to provide the wherewithal to implement policies set by the supreme leader.

To foment more confusion, the so-called president is allowed to have countless “assistants” (mu’awen). The trouble is that the term “assistant to the president” is translated as “vice president.” This is why a foreign visitor is flattered when on arrival in Tehran he is greeted by an “as-if” vice president who, in reality, could be no more than a bag-carrier for the “as-if” president.

Having said all that, one must give it to the mullahs: Their “as-if” scheme has fooled many people inside and outside Iran. In the latest pseudo-election, we saw some otherwise sane Iranians arguing about the necessity of voting for Hassan Rouhani, as “the bad candidate,” to prevent the election of Ebrahim Raisi, branded “the worst candidate.”

This has been the theme of several panels organized by the Tehran lobby in Washington and elsewhere, to sell the idea that the re-election of “moderate reformer” Rouhani promises a change of behavior by Iran.

He is neither a moderate nor a reformer. He started his career as a member of the Islamic Majlis by introducing a bill to have the hanging of regime opponents organized in public, preferably during Friday prayer gatherings. He claims that his greatest “honor” is that he was the first mullah to refer as imam to the late Ayatollah Khomeini.

Rouhani was also a member of a committee charged with purging the Iranian army of its best officers, which weakened Iran immensely on the eve of Saddam Hussein’s invasion in September 1980. A member of the security services from the start, Rouhani was deeply involved in almost all the regime’s atrocities.

As for his description as a “reformer,” in his first four-year term Rouhani did not suggest, let alone implement, a single reform in any walk of life. He says he wants reform, but does not say what it is precisely that he wants. Nonetheless, I believe everyone, including Rouhani, should be given the benefit of the doubt. Maybe age has mellowed him. Maybe he had his fill of revolutionary blood-letting and is seeking to burnish his historic image.

If Rouhani has truly changed, we shall soon know. Even within his extremely limited powers, he can still do quite a few things to ease pressure on the Iranian people and reduce tension in the region. Even if he cannot do anything, he can at least call for some things. For example, he could ask for a moratorium on executions, which in his first four years reached the highest peak since the 1980s.

He could also call for the release of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience who have already served their sentences but are still being held without fresh charges. He could publicly demand that those put under house arrest without charge regain their full freedom.

Maybe because he is conscious of his limited powers, in his first message after the election Rouhani promised to be “a good advocate for you, pleading your cause.” On foreign policy, he could at least “plead” for the release of 11 hostages from five countries, including the US and UK.

He may not be able to efface the “Death to America” slogan that constitutes the cornerstone of Khomeinist fake ideology. But he could at least paint over the US flag on which he walks every day before entering his office. How would he feel if US President Donald Trump walked on an Iranian flag every day before entering the Oval Office?

Rouhani or any other “as-if” president cannot decide radical changes in the Khomeinist regime’s policies. But he can, if he has the courage, at least ask for change.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1106716

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Trump’s Visit to Israel: How US Media Ignored Palestinians ’ Plight

By Ramzy Baroud

28 May 2017

The US President Donald Trump left many analysts mystified after his 27-hour trip to Israel. It was as if he had been transformed into a master politician overnight.

Mitchell Barak, an Israeli pollster and former political adviser, was quoted by the New York Times as referring to Trump as the “Liberace of world leaders,” in reference to flamboyant piano player Wladziu Valentino Liberace. The latter, known as “Mr. Showmanship,” was once the highest paid entertainer in the world, in a successful career that spanned four decades.

Dan Shapiro, the former US ambassador to Israel, was also left trying to decipher the supposedly complicated persona of Trump.

“Either Trump’s visit was substance-free — or he ‘is being uncharacteristically subtle’ in planting the seeds for new round of peace negotiations,” stated New York Magazine, quoting and paraphrasing Shapiro’s tweets.

The “liberal” US media outlets, which previously stooped to many lows in attacking Trump — including criticisms of his family, mannerisms, choice of words, even mere body language — became much more sober and quite respectful in the way they attempted to analyze his short trip to Israel, and the very brief detour to Bethlehem, where he met Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority leader.

“Mr. Trump’s speech at the Israel Museum was so friendly and considerate of Israeli emotions,” reported the New York Times, “that one right-wing Israeli legislator described it as deeply expressive of the ‘Zionist narrative.’”

Palestinian emotions, however, were of no consequence to the Trump entourage, the New York Times or others in mainstream media.

The Washington Post found faults with Trump’s visit — but certainly not because of his lack of balance or failure to deride Israel’s occupation and mistreatment of Palestinians.

Despite the fact that Trump has, indeed, fully embraced a “Zionist narrative,” and a rightwing version of it — for example, he made no reference to a Palestinian state — it was his performance at Israel’s national Holocaust memorial (Yad Vashem) that did not impress one writer.

Max Bearak wrote in the Post: “Trump’s entry in the guest book at Israel’s national Holocaust memorial was strangely upbeat, self-referential and written in his signature all-caps: ‘IT IS A GREAT HONOR TO BE HERE WITH ALL OF MY FRIENDS — SO AMAZING & WILL NEVER FORGET!’”

Bearak found such choice of words and the style in which the message was written sort of offensive, especially when compared with the supposed thoughtfulness of former President Barack Obama’s entry in the guest book on an earlier visit.

In contrast, Obama wrote a significantly longer note, which partly read: “At a time of great peril and promise, war and strife, we are blessed to have such a powerful reminder of man’s potential for great evil, but also our capacity to rise up from tragedy and remake our world.”

Neither then, nor now, did the Washington Post bother to examine the historical context in which this particular sentence was written and find the hypocrisy of the whole endeavour.

If they bothered to ask Palestinians, they would have found a whole different interpretation of Obama’s words.

Indeed, wherever occupied Palestinians look, they find “man’s potential for great evil”: A 400-mile Israeli wall being mostly built over their land; hundreds of military checkpoints dotting their landscape; and a suffocating military occupation controlling every aspect of their lives. They see the holiest of their cities, Bethlehem and Al-Quds — occupied East Jerusalem — subdued by a massive military force, and thousands of their leaders thrown into prison, many without charge or trial. They see siege, an endless war, daily deaths and senseless destruction.

But since none of this matters to the “Zionist narrative,” it subsequently matters so very little to mainstream American media, as well.

Trump’s trip to Israel, however short, was indeed a master stroke by the ever-unpredictable Liberace of world politics — although it takes no particular genius to figure out why.

From an American mainstream media perspective, to be judged “presidential” enough, all US presidents would have to commit to three main policies. They are, in no particular order: Privileging the economic business elites, war at will and unconditionally supporting Israel.

Media channels in the US, which have been otherwise polarized based on political allegiances, have so far taken a break from their raging conflict over Trump’s presidency, and rallied behind him on two separate occasions: When he randomly bombed Syria and during his visit to Israel.

Ironically, Trump has been judged for lacking substance on numerous occasions in the past. But his trip to Israel was the most lacking and most divisive. However, the fact that he, time and again, reiterated Israeli priorities was all that the media needed to give the man a chance. Their collective verdict seems to rebrand his lack of substance as his unique “subtle” way of making politics.

Israeli media, which are often more critical of the Israeli government than their US counterparts dare, needed to keep up with the “democratic” tradition. But Trump’s groveling also gave them little room for criticism. The often-impulsive Trump this time stuck to the script and followed his repeatedly rehearsed speech and media comments to the letter.

But writer Josefin Dolsten insisted on finding ways to nitpick, composing for the Times of Israel the seven “awkward moments from Trump’s Israel trip.”

One of these awkward moments, Dolsten wrote, was a White House statement that listed Trump’s goals for the trip, and which “included a hilarious (and juicy!) typo: ‘Promote the possibility of lasting peach’ between Israel and the Palestinians. Yes, we get it — it meant to say peace, but who’s to say the two sides can’t bond over some delicious fruit?”

For Palestinians, it must not be easy to find the humor in these tough times. Hundreds of their prisoners, including the popular political figure Marwan Barghouti, were enduring a prolonged and life-threatening hunger strike in which they were making the most basic demands for better treatment, longer visitation hours with their families and ending of arbitrary detentions.

More telling is that, on the day Trump, along with right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lectured Palestinians on peace, 17-year-old Tuqua Hammad was shot for allegedly throwing stones at Israeli military vehicles at the entrance of her village of Silwad, near Ramallah.

Hammad “was shot in the lower extremities and Israeli troops prevented a Palestinian ambulance from accessing the victim to treat her,” Ma’an news agency reported.

Only a few miles away, Trump was writing his remarks after visiting Israel’s Holocaust memorial. Regrettably, he failed to meet the expectations of the Washington Post, for unlike Obama, he was not poignant enough in his language and style.

The irony of the whole story is inescapable. But American media cannot see this — for it, too, seems to follow a script in which Palestinian rights, dignity and freedom are hardly never mentioned.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1106736

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Iran: the Regime’s Nature and Its Calculations

By Eyad Abu Shakra

28 May 2017

It was interesting that the arrival of the US president Donald Trump in Riyadh in his first foreign visit since taking office should coincide with the election of Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani for a second term.

Avoiding the temptation of ‘conspiracy theory’, I reckon it was very much in the interest of the Iranian regime that Rouhani easily defeated his opponent Ebrahim Raisi who is thought of as the future ‘supreme guide’, given the change of leadership in Washington. Such a result reflects a wise and tactful approach by the ‘movers and shakers’ in Tehran to internal as well as foreign policies.

Those ‘movers and shakers’ may be pretty extremist anti-Arab and anti-West, but it doesn’t follow that they are stupid. Actually, the opposite is true; as there are many smart and cultured individuals in the Iranian regime who are skilful political and tactical operators and understand the limits of adventures and open hostilities, thus, never hesitate to bend before the storm.

Now that Barack Obama has left office carrying with his vision for the Middle East, a Republican administration is in charge. It is less convinced of Tehran’s leaders’ ‘moderation’, and more doubtful that their policies of sectarian incitement, military intervention, and direct hegemony adopted towards the Arab world are the best way to fight terrorism.

Hence, with the apparent end of the American-Iranian honeymoon, beginning with Syria, Tehran’s political ‘kitchen’ felt in need to balance out the two Iranian power blocs, although they are nothing but the two sides of one coin. With this in mind, the final six presidential candidates were approved, while others were disqualified including Mahmud Ahmadinejad, the former two-term president!

Of course, the ‘supreme guide’ remains the real ruler of Iran, regardless of the attempts of its state PR machine to promote a mirage of democracy. Indeed, the unrivalled position of the ‘supreme guide’ is a fact even the much trumpeted ‘reformists’ Rouhani and his vice president Mohsen Jahangiri by the Iranian people during the last four years of his presidency, he would never had the courage to raise the issues of corruption, unemployment, social problems, and claim to the champion of the poor, as he did during the televised debates. The fact is that Rouhani’s tough talk was directed at the de facto presidential candidates of the IRGC, which thanks to its institutions, interests, and money, network the real powerbase of Iran’s security system and its major strike force.

Flawed Democracy

Despite this fact one has to accept that Iran has gained in political savviness since 1979 with the emergence of ‘pragmatists’ like Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Mohammad Khatami, and later Hassan Rouhani, who have mastered the policy of taking a few steps forward and one step backward. And although ‘conservative’ hawks remain the real mainstay of the regime and the honest reflection of its true nature, those infrequently described as ‘reformists’ and ‘moderates’ are much closer to the pulse of people, millions of whom do not agree with the regime’s political priorities.

Here it is worth recalling how the ‘Revolution devoured its children’. Hundreds, indeed, thousands of the Iranian revolution were liquidated. Former foreign minister Sadegh Ghotbzadeh was executed after being accused of plotting to overthrow the Government and kill Ayatollah Khomeini; Abolhassan Banisadr, the first president after the 1979 revolution, had to flee the country after being impeached and is now living in exile in France. Even senior clerics, such as Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Kazem Shariatmadari and Grand Ayatollah Hussein Mutazeri, suffered for their opposition. And last but not least, both a former prime minister, Mir Hussein Mousavi, and a former parliament speaker Mehdi Karoubi, have been placed under house arrest since the 2009 pro-democracy ‘Green Path of Hope Movement’.

The reality is that most Iranian voters do not remember – and do not care about – the old legacy of hate against the Pahlavi royal family, and the abuses of the old royalist SAVAK secret police; as around 70% of Iranians are under-30 years old. Thus, they are not hostages to memories but are rather dreamers for a better future, and deservedly so. They have every right to dream of steady jobs, better education, refining their oil more efficiently, and sure enough, live in peace with their compatriots and neighbours instead of demonizing and fighting them.

Moreover, it is ironic that against the logic of accountability in proper democracies, incumbent president Rouhani was re-elected by ‘protest votes’ against the real rulers. Most of the votes cast in Rouhani’s favour were not ‘his’ but ‘against’ his adversaries, i.e. the ‘supreme guide’ and the IRGC and their authority, even though he is a product of this authority.

What Will Happen Next?

The first question must deal with Rouhani’s policies during his second term, and the second would be about the future of his challenger Raisi.

The new Middle East perhaps best portrayed by Trump’s pictures in Riyadh should send a clear message to Rouhani. It may be beneficial for him if follows Washington’s new approaches in the Arab ‘arenas’ that Tehran managed to penetrate during Obama’s presidency. So far one of Washington top goals is undoing the Russo-Iranian alliance with all its consequences in the Region.

As for Raisi, one wonders if his chances of becoming ‘supreme guide’ can survive his crushing defeat. For even in a lame democracy, like Iran’s, it may prove difficult for someone so strongly rejected by people, in what has been described as fair and clean election, to assume absolute power like that of the ‘supreme guide’!

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/05/28/Iran-The-regime-s-nature-and-its-calculations.html

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The Riyadh Partnership Affects Tehran’s Influence in the Region

By Huda al Husseini

28 May 2017

Let us admit that during Barack Obama’s rule, Iran enjoyed eight years while most of the Arab world went through tough ones. Let us also admit that the election of Donald Trump as president of the US has had the effect of the snowfall on the American media, as they described him with all the negative characteristics.

But for Iran, they believed that Trump is the candidate they wanted. He focused on ‘America first’ and attacked a lot of countries, including NATO member countries, the Gulf countries, China, Japan and, of course, described the nuclear deal with Iran as the worst. Iran was shocked by the transformation that happened to Trump after becoming the president, as they made their plans according to his fiery speeches during the campaign.

During Obama’s time, Iran succeeded in portraying any resistance to the Syrian regime as terrorism and succeeded in portraying any terrorism as Sunni and Wahhabi.

Strategy

As per Iranian reliable sources, Iran’s strategy, according to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was that the first and most dangerous enemy for the Iranian people is Saudi Arabia. The Supreme Leader will wait until October of this year, if the US did not remove the sanctions made upon Iran, especially those related to banks, the leader will only have one choice: to give the orders to heat up the situation in the Gulf. His calculations were based on the assumption that no country would stand with the Gulf countries, and that if America threatened to intervene, then Russia will say that it will intervene too.

The Iranian plan started to be implemented since the signing of the nuclear agreement. The justification was that the leadership has stopped working as per Khomeini’s strategy of exporting the revolution, but worked with Khamenei’s strategy, which is that Iran will protect the Shiites wherever they are. The plan included more details, but at the end Iran would demand the disarmament of the Gulf countries!

Then Trump came, and with his victory, the Republicans have returned to knock at the doors of the terrorist Iran. Then came the visit of the American president to Saudi Arabia which impacted the image of the play of Rouhani’s overwhelming victory, and even revealed the lack of differences in the Iranian leadership. Then comes the signing of the pact, with Saudi Arabia and the United States restoring the full partnership launched by King Abdul Aziz and US President Franklin Roosevelt. 

Rouhani Threat

Rouhani’s immediate response to Reuters was a threat: “Is there security in the Gulf without Iran? Trump’s visit is meaningless, just a show,” he said. But Mohsen Rezai, secretary of the Iranian Expediency Council, said: “We have to take the Saudi alliance with Trump very seriously. Saudi Arabia wants to take Saddam’s place”.

The Iran-Iraq war ended when Khomeini said, “He was forced to drink poison.”

Ali Shamkhani, the Iranian national security official, rushed to Moscow and called from there for a meeting for security officials in the “allied” countries of Syria.

Iranian Manoeuvres

What happened in Saudi Arabia proved the Kingdom’s ability to gather two billion Muslims and be responsible for them. Saudi Arabia was determined not to comply with the Iranian manoeuvres. If Foreign Minister Mohammed Jawad Zarif had visited Saudi Arabia after signing the nuclear agreement, he would have played the role of the Iranian person who succeeded with the West and dominated the region.

Rouhani, who has been re-elected, wanted to be armed by this majority and send a message to the West by saying that Iran wanted to open up, issue his orders to the Arab countries and try to create a conflict between the Gulf countries by saying after Trump’s visit, that “the policy of Kuwait and Oman towards Iran is good. We ask the rest of the Arab countries to follow the same policy.”

Rouhani, who is portrayed by the Western media, especially the American, as a reformist, moderate and open-minded, said one day before the election: “Since the victory of the revolution, I always supported the Revolutionary Guards and the Basij forces, do you think that I have a problem with the ‘dear’ Revolutionary Guards and the ‘dear’ Basij ?.”

America has placed the Revolutionary Guards on the list of terrorist organizations. After the visit of Trump, Ruhani said that Iran is facing the Takfiri terrorism.

It must be noted that so far the supreme leader has not commented. They depend on Rouhani’s ability to persuade the West.

Rouhani did not say that Iran has established the Hezbollah in Lebanon since the early 80s and considers it as the first line of defence. This has been proved in all battles, particularly in Syria, and also extended to the training of Shiite militias in Iraq, and to Yemen. The slogan of ISIS was: Exist and expand. It seems that Hezbollah wants this slogan for itself!

Iran has also tried to apply the Hezbollah model in Iraq and has been trying to apply this model in Syria since 2011 by establishing its pro-regime national defense, as well as sponsoring, arming and funding the Houthis in Yemen.

A Path to the Mediterranean

Before Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, an exciting military action took place. Washington took the decision to arm the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units. By which Washington forced Iran to abandon its plan to make a path to the Mediterranean through Kurdish areas along the Syrian – Turkish borders. Iran has taken a strategic decision to turn the Syrian part of the path, which is supposed to link Tehran to Lattakia along 225 km, turning it south to avoid the locations of US forces. The decision to turn the path was made by Qasem Soleimani, commander of the “Quds Force”, and Hadi al-Amiri, one of the leaders of the Iraqi ‘popular gathering. The path starts from Iran and heads north-west through the areas controlled by pro-Tehran Kurdish parties. The Tehran-Latakia part passes through the Syrian Kurdish areas of Qamishli and Kubani.

To achieve that, Iran has begun building a railway from Tehran to Sanandaj, the capital of the Kurdish-Iranian region bordering Iraq. President Rouhani visited Sanandaj last March, describing the railway as one of the most important infrastructure projects. “By extending the railway from Sanandaj to the Kurdish region of Iraq, we will link Iran to the Mediterranean through Syria,” he said.

This path, if established, is a vital strategic goal for Iran, and the strict ones consider this path to be essential for Iran’s superiority.

The late Iraqi politician Ahmad Al Jalabi in 2014 quoted Kassem Soleimani saying: “If we lost Syria, we lost Tehran, so we will turn all this chaos into an opportunity for us.”

That’s why, Iran’s focus on the Shiite militias fighting in Iraq and Syria is being mobilized by a revolutionary Shiite ideology that instils absolute loyalty to the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and considers Soleimani the military leader who “terrorized” the Middle East!

Hadi Alamri said two years ago that “Khamenei is the first leader not only for the Iranians but for the Islamic nation as well.”

Now, after the American intervention and the arming of the Syrian Kurds, the path which Iran has sought to have a link to the Mediterranean depends on the success of its militias in controlling the lands occupied by ISIS in Tal Afar in Iraq and Deir al-Zour in eastern Syria. That’s the American role.

Trump during the campaign or after being the president did not forget Iran’s ballistic missile program.

Rouhani said: “Our missiles are for peace and to prevent others from misbehaving!”

But two weeks ago, security reports revealed that Tehran had tried to launch a cruise missile from a small submarine and said the submarine design wase of the North Korean origin, which was used to sink a South Korean warship in 2010. Iran has tried to launch an underwater missile for the first time but failed, Pentagon officials said. Defence experts have also warned that Iran and North Korea share military expertise. Iran’s latest ballistic missiles have North Korean designs, and that the North Korean ‘Taepodong’ missile appears to be identical with Iran’s ‘Shahab’ missile.

That’s the moderate Iran, while the innocent mask has started to fall off.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/05/28/The-Riyadh-partnership-affects-Tehran-s-influence-in-the-region.html

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Qatar’s Deal with the Devil

By Oubai Shahbandar

29 May 2017

On the same day that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had a weekend phone conversation with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei issued his latest broadside against Saudi Arabia and the Arab coalition.

In a perhaps fitting reminder of just who at the end of the day rules the Islamic republic, Khamenei claimed that Saudi Arabia faces “certain downfall” over its alliance with the US, following the recent meeting of Muslim states in Riyadh in which they declared their readiness to work in a joint alliance with the US to fight global extremism. President Trump’s successful visit to Riyadh struck a sensitive chord with Khamenei.

Khamenei issued this latest threat against the Kingdom because the specter of a unified Saudi-led Muslim-American alliance poses an existential challenge to Iran’s hegemonic aspirations. The Riyadh Summit equated Iranian-sponsored extremism as being on par with the destruction and mayhem waged by Daesh and Al-Qaeda.

The Iranian response is typically to employ an asymmetric strategy to divide and weaken its adversaries. Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, senior military officer of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Khamenei’s personal adviser, has deployed this strategy with impunity over the past decade.

That is why recent reports that a Qatari official met with Soleimani fit into the wider operational methodology of the IRGC. Soleimani is the keeper of Iran’s foreign policy, particularly when it relates to the Arabian Gulf and Syria. Rouhani’s position is merely a facade intended to provide a false veneer of “moderation” to an aggressive Iranian regional policy bent on proliferating Iranian-trained and armed militants. When Rouhani told Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim this Sunday that “we want the rule of moderation and rationality in the relations between countries,” what he really meant is that cooperation with Iran can only come at the price of recognizing and submitting to Iran’s ideological and hegemonic ambitions.

It was no coincidence that Khamenei made his statement about a Saudi Arabian “downfall” while Rouhani attempted to woo Qatar under the false banner of conflict resolution.

Soleimani is the one who holds the cards and personally oversees the logistics and operational direction of the myriad Shiite extremist militias from Bahrain, Yemen, Iraq, Syria and the wider region. For Soleimani, the only “cooperation” that Iran can accept is pledging fealty to Iran as the predominant power in the Muslim world.

Qatar already once before struck a deal with the devil, when they negotiated directly with Iran to gain the release of members of the royal family who were kidnapped, shockingly, by Iraqi Kata’ib Hezbollah militants. That deal involved a complex trade that included a cease-fire and forced displacement of thousands of Syrian families in four Syrian towns which ultimately advanced Iran’s agenda of changing the demographics of Syria to benefit its sectarian militias.

Doha’s negotiations with Iran have proved to be a bitter display of utter humiliation and kowtowing to Soleimani and the Iranian sectarian agenda he represents. In Iraq and Syria, Soleimani has demonstrated time and time again that Iran’s diplomatic overtures are meant to achieve the overarching objective of entrenching the “wilayat Al-faqih” concept and Khamenei’s role in it. There is no “moderation” or mutually beneficial cooperation possible with such a paradigm.

The only workable outcome to achieve security and prevent wider instability in the Middle East is the total dismantlement of both the ideology and network of Khamenei and his emissary Soleimani.

It is now prudent for the Arab coalition to work with the US to begin exploring in earnest the feasibility of relocating the military assets and personnel in Al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar back to the Prince Sultan Air Base south of Riyadh. The only language Soleimani and his militants understand is that of military deterrence and force.

Anything short of that can only be naive seditious capitulation to Soleimani’s dangerous, and divisive, seduction.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1106766

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Will Iran Be Permitted To Complete Its Corridor To The Mediterranean?

By Baria Alamuddin

29 May 2017

The creation of Israel almost 70 years ago physically severed the Arab world’s Maghreb from its Mashreq, creating a wound that continues to fester. Today the Arab world is being bisected once again.

At this very moment, on both sides of the Syria-Iraq border, Iranian proxy militias are clearing a path giving Tehran direct land access to the Mediterranean Sea. Just as Israel during the 1947-1948 war purged Palestinians from their villages to massively expand its territory, substantial Arab populations today have been cleared across this vast area to consolidate Iran’s corridor of control.

To the east, the Iraqi province of Diyala has effectively been incorporated into Iran, with its infrastructure and electricity grid merged into that of its neighbor. In 2003, Sunnis represented 60 to 70 percent of Diyala’s population. Trapped between the hammer of Daesh and the anvil of the militias, most Sunnis fled. Since Hadi Al-Amiri was appointed security czar of the province, his Badr militias murdered and terrorized the remaining Sunnis; sending thousands more into exile and preventing others from returning.

From Diyala heading northwest, Iran’s corridor transverses the mainly Sunni governorate of Saladin. All the key towns are under the control of Shiite militants known as Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi. Thousands of Saladin’s Sunnis have been forcibly disappeared; many were ransomed off — and then killed anyway. Proud cities like Tikrit witnessed systematic destruction of property on a scale last seen when Mongol invaders thundered into Iraq, via exactly the same route, some 760 years ago.

This passage of Iranian control runs parallel to the Arab-Kurd fault line, fueling tensions in contested towns with diverse communities, such as Tuz Khurmatu, where separating walls were built to halt inter-communal killing triggered by Shiite militants. Next door in Nineveh governorate, Iran’s Hashd militias are pushing tensions to breaking point in towns like Tal Afar and Sinjar, risking conflict with Turkey by allying with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Last year the world was deceived by an elementary sleight-of-hand, following demands that Shiite militias should not be allowed to perpetrate war crimes by participating in the battle for Mosul. In reality these fighters proved singularly incompetent at urban fighting, and the Hashd has little interest in Mosul. These proxy militias instead were granted exactly what they wanted: Responsibility for rural areas to the west. Thus, while only having to flush a few Daesh hangers-on from remote desert villages, these paramilitaries were gifted the real prize — control of the Syria border zone.

Meanwhile, Al-Amiri and Iranian senior military officer Qassem Soleimani coerced the Iraqi Army into completely surrounding Mosul to block Daesh’s escape route. The result was catastrophic losses by Iraq’s best regiments in the fighting and the almost complete destruction of Mosul and its population.

We are now entering the endgame as Hashd militants retake Iraq’s border areas, combined with a renewed push by paramilitaries from the Syrian side. Soleimani this month directed his forces to focus on central Syria, after northern routes were headed off by pro-US forces preparing to push Daesh out of Raqqa.

Soleimani must therefore have been gnashing his teeth earlier this month, when these militia forces were bombed by US planes as they tried to advance toward Tanf in southeast Syria. Are we seeing the outlines of a US-Arab strategy to block Iranian aspirations for a corridor through Syria, or should we take US military statements at face value that this was a one-off operation?

Sunni populations have been expelled from towns west of Damascus, while impoverished Iraqis are bussed-in to engineer a population conducive to Iranian hegemony. One route to the sea passes through regime-held Latakia. Massive ongoing construction projects in Lebanon are also linking Hezbollah strongholds of Beqaa, south Beirut and the south.

Sceptics question why Iran even needs these routes when control of Iraq’s skies allows it to fly billions of dollars-worth of arms to its allies. One reason is that these proxies are victims of their own success, as their aggressive actions are precipitating the disintegration of Iraq. When Iraq relapses into conflict, the strategic priority of Tehran’s allies will be to expand this belt of territory, while consolidating Baghdad and the Shiite south.

Just as Israel in the 1940s plunged a dagger into the Arab nation-building project, today Iran’s efforts threaten to annihilate three Arab states. Nobody can put Syria back together again and direct Iranian access to Lebanon means that Hezbollah can go from being a “state-within-a-state” to becoming the state.

A window of opportunity remains for Iraq, with possibilities including: Preventing paramilitary participation in elections; enhancing the role of Arab states; enforcing militia demobilization; and cultivating an inclusive political system in Baghdad. The vacuum created by the eradication of Daesh should not be occupied by Iran.

Although at each opportunity the Iranian electorate votes in droves for the most moderate shade of hard-liner on the ballot paper, the result for Tehran’s confrontational policies is negligible. Iran’s leadership has been prone to hyperbolic boasts about capturing Arab capitals and “exporting the revolution” to Bahrain, Yemen and elsewhere. Will we soon be hearing these demonic figures gloating about the far-flung extent of their new empire as proxy militias finalize their operations?

Seventy years on from its foundation, Israel only grows more dominant and more hostile to Arab interests. In another 70 years’ time, will our offspring be cursing our missed opportunity to prevent Persian vultures from stripping a 1,000 km swathe of territory from the carcass of the Arab world?

Source: arabnews.com/node/1106761

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The United States of Insanity

By Belen Fernandez

28 May 2017

Since the ascent to power of US President Donald Trump, two discussion topics have become increasingly popular: whether or not the man is insane and whether or not it's appropriate to talk about whether or not the man is insane.

While many psychiatrists, mental health workers and media figures have abided by the idea that it is unethical to publicly debate the head of state's mental soundness, others view the taboo as reckless.

In an interview with The Independent, for example, Yale University's Dr Bandy Lee cited Trump's "taunting of North Korea" and spontaneous bombing of Syria as indications that his "instability, unpredictability and impulsivity … point to dangerousness due to mental impairment."

In February, The New York Times ran a letter to the editor signed by 35 mental health professionals concerned that Trump's "words and behaviour suggest a profound inability to empathise".

Such traits, the authors note, cause people to "distort reality to suit their psychological state, attacking facts and those who convey them".

This diagnosis would appear to be pretty spot-on, as anyone can tell from a quick glance at the president's Twitter account.

But while Trump's unregulated comportment tends to endow him with an aura of singularly unhinged dangerousness, it's worth recalling that his presidential predecessors weren't exactly racking up any points in the empathy department.

Barack Obama's secret "kill list" comes to mind, as do George W Bush's gleeful escapades in Afghanistan and Iraq, Bill Clinton's bombing of the former Yugoslavia, George H W Bush's barbaric invasion of Panama, and every other form of US-backed slaughter and global plunder that have characterised imperial policy from the get-go.

Call it bipartisan insanity, a pre-existing condition that constitutes one of the very foundations of the US political establishment.

Super-Sized Symptom

Indeed, although many residents of Trump's America may fear themselves the subject of a cruel new psychology experiment, the fact is that US society has been sick for quite some time - with Trump merely constituting the latest - and super-sized - symptom of this psychological malaise.

For starters, the unrelenting capitalism to which the US is wedded is anything but conducive to collective mental stability, entailing as it does a vicious pursuit of profit at the expense of human wellbeing.

OPINION: Breeding mental illness in the US

Tied up in the capitalist approach is an emphasis on individual success that inevitably erodes communal bonds, which of course further deteriorate in accordance with the ongoing technological onslaught.

The permeation of existence with attention-obliterating electronic devices results in a situation in which physical human interaction - by most accounts a prerequisite for mental soundness - is increasingly replaced by interaction between oneself and one's mobile phone screen.

It's hardly far-fetched to speculate that, in a profit-driven age of institutionalised distraction, empathy might find itself in rather short supply. This means, once again, that it's not only Trump who may be suffering from "a profound inability to empathise", though he's certainly better equipped to act on it.

Mental Tolls

As part of an evolving backdrop of popular alienation from reality, empathy voids are no doubt catchy music to the ears of those in the business of dropping bombs and engaging in other forms of high-level sociopathic behaviour.

For an example of the latter category, recall the time a certain prominent US politician argued that the "price" of killing half a million Iraqi children via sanctions for achieving US policy objectives was "worth it" (hint: it wasn't Donald Trump).

And while the health of the American defence industry is generally treated as a national priority, the same can't be said for the health of sectors of the domestic population, which alternately assume the position of collateral casualty or de facto enemy in the government's various wars on black people, poor people, immigrants, healthcare, and so forth.

For many Americans, having to contend with such antagonisms - not to mention the common predicament of being saddled with eternal debt in exchange for education and other services - can take a considerable mental toll.

In my own experience as a US citizen born and raised in the country, I find it curious, to say the least, that out of the 60-plus nations I've since travelled and resided in, the homeland is the only place I've ever experienced acute panic attacks - some of them lasting several months.

Downright Crazy?

Lest we despair, a thriving American pharmaceutical industry is ever on hand to ensure that egregious over-prescription remains the name of the game and that everything that can be pathologised will be - except, of course, the socio-political context fuelling psychological and other maladies and guaranteeing their profitable exploitation.

Now, with the advent of Trump - who feels no need to even pretend to disguise his war on reality behind pseudo-civilised discourse - an already depressing situation has become more overtly so.

Each new outburst against Mexicans, Muslims, "so-called" judges and the other nemeses that populate the presidential tweets is liable to make even those folks most mentally secure in their existence begin to fear a descent into insanity.

It seems, then, that there's no time like the present to dismantle the enduring stigma attached to discussions of mental illness in order to more profoundly consider the current president in historico-psychological context.

Because to ignore the bigger picture would be downright crazy.

Source: aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2017/05/united-states-insanity-170522104610470.html

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Iraq Must Invest In Education to Secure Its Future

By Peter Hawkins

28 May 2017

Even though 200,000 people - 85,000 of them children - continue to be trapped in the violence raging in west Mosul's Old City area, work is ongoing to re-open 47 schools in the areas of west Mosul that were retaken from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) by Iraqi forces.

I visited east Mosul, which was fully recaptured by Iraqi forces in January this year, after the violence wound down. I spoke to many parents; their one request was for schools to re-open and for their children to finally continue their education after being deprived of it for so long.

Since then, many schools in east Mosul are reopened with remarkable success. Although many challenges remain for families living in this section of the city, more than 380,000 children are now back in school.

We have seen this enthusiasm for education in the face of incredibly difficult circumstances across Iraq: in Fallujah and in Ramadi we have seen young children, girls holding hands, step their way through the debris of war to reach their school. And even if there's no electricity and it's dark in the classrooms, or there is not enough space, Iraqi children and their teachers go to school every morning.

Children tell us that they see their school like a second home, a place where they can not only study but also play with their friends. Teachers have told us how happy they are to be back in their classrooms, and they have asked for more books, more materials, more training.

Just like teachers, Iraqi families are also committed to providing a good education to their children. They know that without education, their children will not be able to achieve their potential, their hopes, their dreams and aspirations.

But a report on "The Costs and Benefits of Education" recently released by the Iraqi Ministry of Education with the support of UNICEF, notes that Iraq spent only 5.7 per cent of its government expenditure on education in the 2015-16 school year, which puts the country on the bottom rank of Middle East countries in any given year.

The report states that a relatively large gender gap remains in Iraq's education system and adds that children from poor families are more likely to be out of school compared with children from well-off families.

According to the report, only half of Iraq's internally displaced children have access to school and the cost to Iraq's economy of having so many children out of school is roughly $1bn in unrealised potential wages.

There is an urgent need to increase investment in the country's education sector if we do not want to lose one of Iraq's key accomplishments, namely being a leading country on education in the Middle East.  

This can be achieved through a number of concrete steps: improving the efficiency of the educational system; providing more equitable access to educational opportunities; investing more in teachers' training; rewriting the curricula; and elevating the quality of children's overall learning outcomes. The economic cost of dropouts and grade repetitions that largely result from academic failure, accounts for almost 20 per cent of the country's education budget.

While we see Iraqi children lining up to go back to their classrooms, it is a fact that half of the nation's schools are in need of repair. Many schools in Iraq are currently running on a multiple system - we sometimes see triple or even quadruple shifts in schools.

Iraqi students, who have very limited learning opportunities outside school, are having as little as 10 contact hours of interaction with their teachers on average a week, and this lack of contact is depriving them of quality education. Only 70 per cent of the children who attend the evening shift in their school can pass the national assessment.

Quality education is not entirely about teaching children technical skills; it's also about making sure that they learn life skills and values. It serves the social function of cultivating a generation that is ready to rebuild a peaceful Iraq. Education has been identified as one of the key conditions for sustainable peace and reconciliation within societies. Just one extra year of schooling can significantly reduce the probability of a young person engaging in violent crimes.

Iraq needs decentralised and community-based management. This needs to be facilitated by school-based grants and a curriculum that encourages personal empowerment and active citizenship as well as facilitating quality learning and employability.

The cost of investing in Iraq's education will be high, but the return of this investment will be immense.

Source: aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2017/05/iraq-invest-education-secure-future-170527103925684.html

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The International Pursuit of Inciters in Egypt Must Begin Now

By Abdulrahman al-Rashed

27 May 2017

The repeated crimes targeting Egypt are an evil act that requires regional and international actions. With its causes and consequences, it is no longer an Egyptian matter.

What happened yesterday in Minya is part of a series of terrorist attacks linked to the Egyptian armed opposition, as well as opposition factions that are openly inciting violent attacks.

It is imperative to demand that all the incitement and actions against Egypt, be considered as international crimes, as is the case today with terrorist organizations like ISIS, al-Qaeda, Ansar al-Sharia and others.

Governments and media outlets allowing the incitement in Egypt must be held accountable, because they are directly responsible for what is happening in the country. We must accuse these governments and media outlets that they are taking part in what is happening in Egypt, because the government apparatuses are no longer targeted as they used to justify themselves earlier - a war between the regime and the opposition. The majority of the crimes now are directed against civilian facilities, engendering civilian victims and inciting religious sectarianism between Copts and Muslims.

We support the Egyptian people and we cannot stand idly in the face of these repeated crimes. Keeping mum on the incitements justifying such hideous terrorism attacks, coordinated with opposing political forces, cannot be tolerated anymore.

The Muslim Brotherhood, and the governments supporting the group, must be aware of the gravity of what they are doing because they are responsible for these terrorist operations that are the outcome of their irrational political actions. These groups and their supporting governments will be targeted through international curbs, prosecution and isolation, holding them accountable for the crimes committed in Egypt.

A Conflict Gone Too Far

The conflict with the Egyptian government has gone too far. The political, organizational, media, and financing campaign against the Egyptian government has gone too far, after failing to create a peaceful civil opposition movement.

After the failure in repeating the Egyptian Spring scenario, they started advocating and justifying attacks against the government.

As the world is fighting together against ISIS in Iraq and Damascus, it will be angered by what is happening in Egypt. It will not be difficult to hold accountable the governments that support the Egyptian terrorist groups, whether in terms of funds or media exposure.

More than 90 persons were killed in four terrorist sectarian attacks in Cairo, Alexandria, Tanta, and yesterday in Minya.

The new international approach does not only pursue terrorist organizations, but it will also point the finger at the governments that allow extremist ideologies or accept their political discourse, as well as the governments that promote extremism, both in the media and political levels.

There is no doubt that there is an interrelation between these groups claiming to be peaceful but at the same time, agree on terror ideologies. They are now considered as a political entities. This applies to the Muslim Brotherhood, with its Egyptian branch in particular.

The attack in Minya yesterday, similarly to the crime in Manchester a few days ago, is part of the cycle of violence, following justification of terrorism, media propaganda and indirect funding. Terrorism has become an international crime, and it is no longer an internal problem that can be limited to solidarity and acts of consolation.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/05/27/The-international-pursuit-of-inciters-in-Egypt-must-begin-now.html

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URL: http://www.newageislam.com/middle-east-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/rouhani-and-the-‘as-if’-system--new-age-islam-s-selection,-29-may-2017/d/111319




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