Age Islam Edit Bureau
29 May 2017
and The ‘As-If’ System
By Amir Taheri
Visit to Israel: How US Media Ignored Palestinians’ Plight
By Ramzy Baroud
the Regime’s Nature and Its Calculations
By Eyad Abu Shakra
Riyadh Partnership Affects Tehran’s Influence In The Region
By Huda Al Husseini
Deal with the Devil
By Oubai Shahbandar
Iran Be Permitted To Complete Its Corridor To The Mediterranean?
By Baria Alamuddin
United States Of Insanity
By Belen Fernandez
Must Invest In Education to Secure Its Future
By Peter Hawkins
International Pursuit of Inciters in Egypt Must Begin Now
By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Visit to Israel: How US Media Ignored Palestinians ’ Plight
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
“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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
Eyad Abu Shakra
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
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.
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.
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’!
Riyadh Partnership Affects Tehran’s Influence in the Region
Huda al Husseini
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
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.
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’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.
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
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.
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
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
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
That’s the moderate Iran, while the
innocent mask has started to fall off.
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 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
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.
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?
United States of Insanity
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
Because to ignore the bigger picture would
be downright crazy.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.