New Age Islam Edit Bureau
12 March 2018
Saudi Shiites and Their Role in the ‘New Saudi Arabia’
By Hassan Al Mustafa
Social Media and Boycotting Relatives
By Mahmoud Ahmad
Arab Globalization through ‘Saudilization’
By Ms. Areej Al-Jahani
Beating down Netanyahu to Save Israel: How Media Continues to Distort Facts
By Ramzy Baroud
Mohammed Bin Salman Is the Agent of Saudi Arabia’s Change, Not Custodian of Its Past
By Najah Alotaibi
Machiavellian Tactics Undermining Hopes Of Peace In Syria
By Maria Dubovikova
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
In April 2015, the Saudi public was shocked by the news that a Saudi soldier had posted a message on Twitter, wherein he had threatened Saudi Shiite citizens in Qatif with “slaughter”. Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who was then the country’s defense minister and had not yet acceded to the position of the Crown Prince, directly intervened in the matter. He ordered the interrogation of the soldier and moved the case to a military court.
Saudi Record In Protecting Shiite Citizens
Mohammed Reda Nasrallah, a former member of the Saudi Shura Council, has narrated some details of this incident on the website ‘Sobra’. He states: “At that time, I was able to establish contact with His Highness Prince Mohammed and expressed gratitude on behalf of Shiite citizens in Qatif and Ahsa in regards to this matter. I was surprised by his reply, in which he stated: ‘This act was not meant to seek the gratefulness of Shiite citizens, as it is the state’s responsibility to ensure their safety and security and to uphold their rights.”
In May 2015, an ISIS suicide bomber blew himself up while people were praying at the Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib Mosque in the Qudeih village of Qatif city, which killed and injured dozens of worshippers. This was the first time a terrorist attack had targeted a Shiite mosque in Saudi Arabia. The authorities quickly and decisively dealt with the matter. In an immediate address to the people, King Salman said: “We are all aggrieved by the heinous crime which has targeted innocent (people) in a mosque in Qudeih. The gravity of this terror attack which contravenes Muslim and humanitarian values has caused us great pain. Anyone who has participated, planned, supported, cooperated or sympathized with this atrocious crime will be held accountable and tried and shall receive the punishment he deserves.”
Prince Mohammed bin Salman appointed Mohammed Reda Nasrallah to visit the families of the victims to convey the King’s condolences. Nasrallah states: “(The prince told me) to tell people in Qudeih that those martyred in the attack will be treated like soldiers martyred in battles. The same applies to those injured in this painful incident. The state will pay 1 million riyals to each martyr’s family and 0.5 million riyals to those injured.”
In the same month, King Salman ordered the rebuilding of the mosque. The Saudi government has shown great seriousness, dedication and efficiency in tackling all cases of terrorist attacks that targeted Shiite mosques and congregation halls in recent years. It has substantially increased its security and intelligence efforts to prevent future attacks. It has also enhanced levels of cooperation between security forces and the people in providing protection to Qatif region, which has endured the threat of terrorism from ISIS, ‘Takfiri’ groups and criminal gangs in Al-Awamiyah. Security forces have acted judiciously by applying both caution as well as decisive and quick action.
Shiite Role in Strengthening the Nation
Historically speaking, Shiite citizens joined the third Saudi state early in 1913, when Hasa and Qatif voluntarily came under the authority of King Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman. There was no resistance or fighting involved. King Abdulaziz guaranteed the people of these regions right to worship and to practice their religious rituals according to the rulings of the Shiite Jaafari sect.
The trust established between Shiite citizens and the King has lasted over the decades. Majority of citizens in the eastern province, which is rich in oil resources, are Shiite. Many of them work in Aramco which was earlier called the Arabian-American Oil Company. They helped build the company’s factories, extract oil from wells, manage facilities and train employees.
Therefore, they have directly participated in developing the kingdom’s economy. They also have also contributed in fields of business, education, banking and several government sectors and played an important role in the establishment of the Jubail Industrial City. One of the most prominent figures that helped develop this city was Engineer Jamil al-Jishi, who later served as Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Tehran.
This efficient participation in establishing the economy was appreciated by the political command but it angered extremists who belonged to the “takfiri” movement which had its own political and jurisprudential vision towards the followers of other sects. This movement is an extension of the Ikhwan (the Brotherhood of those who obeyed Allah) whom King Abdulaziz confronted in the famous battle of Sabilla in 1929. The battle was sparked by the movement’s radical position which the king believed was detrimental to the functioning of the government and contradicted the concepts of the modern state.
The Bane of ‘Political Islam’
The extremists’ “sectarian” stance worsened after the Islamic Revolution broke out in Iran in 1979, followed by the occupation of the Grand Mosque of Mecca by Juhayman al-Otaybi and his group of extremists in November 1979. These events caused ‘sectarian polarization’ and gave impetus to movements of ‘political Islam’ in both Sunni and Shiite communities.
The Islamic Sahwa (awakening) which emerged out of a mishmash of Salafism, Sururism and the Muslim Brotherhood was the Sunni counterpart to the Iranian Revolution, while the latter produced its own political movements like Hezbollah, Khat al-Imam Movement and the Islamic Dawa Party. This political and jurisprudential legacy had a negative impact on the Saudi-Shiite community, who found themselves in the middle of a region witnessing a war between Iran and Iraq and a conflict between Sunni and Shiite Islamists. At the same time, some international political powers were trying to exploit their cause to pressure and blackmail the Saudi government in international arenas.
In 1993, the Saudi Shiite opposition was allowed in the Kingdom as part of King Fahd’s initiative that was based on his belief that they are citizens who must remain in their country and that issues can be resolved through dialogue. King Fahd’s belief was the result of the Reform Movement (the main faction of the Saudi Shiite opposition outside the kingdom) which had said it opposed Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Back then, Sheikh Hassan al-Saffar, the movement’s leader, called on Saudi Shiite youths to confront the invasion and stand with the government against Iraqi troops. The Reform Movement also rejected carrying out any security and military tasks that served Iran. The dispute between the Movement and Tehran thus escalated and many of its leaders left for Damascus, London and other cities. This developed a positive ‘patriotic’ image about them and showed they were not the proverbial ‘fifth column’ that was conspiring against the kingdom and its interests.
In September 2004, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported what Sheikh Saffar had said about the US State Department’s report on religious freedoms. Saffar said: “How do the Americans talk about the violation of religious freedoms and human rights in this or that country when they sponsor and support the most hideous crimes which authorities of the Israeli occupation practice against the Palestinian people who hold on to their legitimate right to attain freedom and independence?” Saffar also condemned “the false slogans and reports issued by American parties about human rights and the violation of religious freedoms.” He clearly voiced his rejection of exploiting the Shiite to pressure Saudi Arabia in international arenas. I was visiting Saffar’s office when he came to see me after talking on the phone with late Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal who thanked him for his patriotic position.
Shiite presence in Saudi Arabia is based on a conviction that strengthens by the day – a conviction that is based on loyalty to the country and its political leaders, the rejection of foreign interference and violence and the taking up of arms, maintenance of civil peace, not adopting sectarian and racist rhetoric, confirming principles of Islamic unity, adoption of dialogue and communication to resolve problems and faith in law as a reference to guaranteed equal opportunities among citizens without any sectarian discrimination.
Equal Opportunities, Common Vision
This orientation harmonizes with Vision 2030 which hopes to establish a productive society that leads to a modern civil state where the law dominates apart from quotas or favouritism. During his recent meeting with Egyptian reporters in Cairo, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman positively talked about Saudi Shiite citizens and about their role in building the country. “Saudi Shiites contribute to the country’s renaissance and hold leadership positions,” he said. His statement has drawn adulation from among Shiite communities in the kingdom.
Shiite citizens are living their lives in the same manner as the rest of citizens. They’re going through a transitional phase in which the Crown Prince is taking a heavy burden off their shoulders –a burden which they have borne for a long time, which is the “extremist fundamentalist rhetoric”. The Crown Prince has promised to “destroy extremists today and immediately”. Therefore Shiite citizens, as well as moderates, will no longer be under the pressure and dominance of extremism which had infiltrated their society in previous years and prevented many of them from carrying out their national duties as they wanted to.
Shiites in Saudi Arabia – and all the Saudi people – now have a chance to truly participate in establishing ‘the new Saudi Arabia’ and to efficiently contribute, alongside the political leadership, to build their future without any fear of ‘Takfiri’ Fatwas (religious edicts) or sectarian discrimination. These Fatwas and practices are over now and will never return again as is confirmed by the royal will.
BOYCOTTING relatives and sometimes parents is a major sin in Islam. When I say ‘boycotting’, I mean, it is a time when relatives do not call or visit each other or even ask about each other. They do not share good moments with them or even condole one another in the event of deaths in the family. In addition, the ostracizing, in nearly every case, comes with the harbouring of great hatred against the other and his family with some even going as far as intending or just wishing harm on the other relatives.
The reasons that could lead to this great sin vary. There are those who simply envy their relatives, there are those who are so gullible that they are easily poisoned by rumours to hate other relatives, there are also inheritance or business problems between relatives and then there are those who make a mountain out of a molehill over trivial matters that leads to the boycott, in addition to many other reasons. While there were many reasons in the olden times for enmity and hatred, but, ironically, the one that is causing a host of issues in recent times is the smartphone. Recently, the social media applications that pervade the smartphone have played an important role in fuelling hatred between relatives and even friends.
I am not making this assertion lightly. For only after observing the tendency to overuse our Smartphones and hearing stories of how the Smartphone had triggered spats between dumb people, who take everything at face value, I have come to the conclusion that it needs personal smarts to deal with this device that can prove a boon and a bane at the same time.
I was at a group gathering with friends of mine recently, and as usual it proved to be a platform for discussing various issues that bordered on the serious and to the trivial. As usual, during a brief lull, the discussion veered to the personal issue of a friend that was aired with suddenness and vehemence that caught most of us by surprise. One of my friends angrily shouted that he was done with his cousin, whom some of us knew in passing. When queried what happened our friend kept shouting that he would never greet him or ask about him or even sit with him in any gathering until he apologizes first.
We all thought that his cousin must have done something awful to him to deserve this much angst and hatred, even to the extent that our friend was ready to bring the issue out in the open, away from the family arena. When I asked him what he (the cousin) had done to him he said that he (the cousin) had kicked him out of a WhatsApp group. I could not believe how silly this reason was and how a petty issue could lead to this boycott and hatred between relatives. I learned later that this was not the only case but there are many and it is a growing phenomenon.
When I spoke about this to another friend, he too agreed that social media is slowly turning people anti-social, and relayed another example that, when thought about, would make everybody scratch their heads and wonder whether people are plain bonkers. The issue happened between two brothers, with the elder, after seeing an Instagram posted by his sibling about the food laid out at a party for friends, commenting that he was never treated to such lovely sight and food whenever he visited. This innocuous comment (without the smiley) was not taken as a joke, and the younger brother then broke out into a litany of complaints against the elder. That was the spark that lit a family fight that’s still raging, with relatives and friends taking sides. Food for thought, isn’t it guys.
But jokes aside, there are many a slip ups in these messaging services with wrong clips and messages going to wrong people, all because of similar names and pressing of wrong groups. Our instant gratification of sending these messages to many people could end up in the wrong place or viewed wrongly leading to major ramifications.
It has become common that in social application discussions rooms, such as in WhatsApp, or a message that was sent on Twitter could lead to close relatives or friends not talking to each other. I have witnessed and have seen and heard from my friends many times over the years on how relationships end because of silly issues, and lately add to the reasons — social applications. Instead of reconnecting people with each other, it is separating them.
Regardless of the reasons close relatives and friends not talking to each other — be it because of social media or any other real problem — there is no purity in the heart of people. It seems as if people are waiting for an excuse to distance themselves from close relatives and in extreme cases, even parents. Although in the past, there were mostly selfish people who distanced themselves from family ties, people were pure and asked about one another.
Whenever there was a misunderstanding, in olden times, the first thing they would look at is whether the statement is with good intention. Even if ill intention was meant with a comment or a behavior, they tended to ignore it, to prevent any cracks in the wall of relationships with relatives and, of course, seeking reward from Allah.
The Holy Qur’an states, “Would you then, if you were given the authority, do mischief in the land, and sever your ties of kinship?” The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “He who believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him show hospitality to his guest; and he who believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him maintain good relation with kins; and he who believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him speak good or remain silent.”
My father always reminds me to connect with relatives even if they are boycotting me, and reminding me with the prophet’s saying, Uqbah ibn Amr reported: I met the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, and he said to me, “O Uqbah ibn Amr, maintain relations with those who cut you off, give to those who deprive you, and pardon those who wrong you.”
As for my friend who had an issue with his cousin, I simply advised him to get a simple Nokia, if his mind was so narrow, so he would use the phone for what it was meant for — talking. Even with his cousin.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
IN September 2017, after decades of multitude of efforts to develop the generation and put the best foot forward as Saudis in globalization, two pools of the population — the young and the women have succeeded. The government of Saudi Arabia equally supported by coming up with sustainable development program — The Saudi Vision 2030. The Saudisation strategy was the first step to start this long-planned journey wherein we have now reached to a state, which we can proudly say “Saudilization”.
In terms of competing with globalization, the government of Saudi Arabia under the rule of late King Abdullah and his successor King Salman have forwarded and developed the nation with five-fold strategy which has become so much successful in the last two decades that third world countries and countries in the Middle Eastern Arab world should consider following in the footsteps of “Saudilization” as a way of development.
The younger generation is supported by the international scholarship to study abroad and locally as well as new universities, technology, business and research parks are being set up around the country. The women population has been given leadership opportunities enabling their identity creation and empowerment wherein women entrepreneurship and leadership are utilized now.
The examples are now there are 30 women members in our parliament (Shoura Council). The other notable and major change is Saudi women are now allowed to drive which is just a start for more changes.
The country overall has grown on a massive scale, which is evident from the market capitalization of companies listed on the local stock exchange Tadawul and has increased from SR274.53bn in 2001 to SR1681.95bn in 2016. Total 27.27 million transactions were executed during 2016. The government initiatives and policies for reporting and control have prompted all government and private establishment top executives to rewrite the rule books of their rights and discretion.
The culture has transformed all over the country the last years, and mainly the thinking ways have drastically improved by increasing the freedom and supporting journalism. As highlighted by King Salman’s speech in the parliament “we have modernized ourselves and moved from traditional ways and oil-dependent economy to competitive ways”.
Why I need to mention this point of “Saudilisation” at this juncture when the country is already progressing and a lot of business-politico upheavals is going on in Saudi Arabia. This is because as a Saudi woman we are getting a voice and on way to become more empowered, which will increase our contribution from traditionally being out of the frame to all spheres of life.
11 March 2018
This is what US and Israeli mainstream media are essentially telling us: The problem is not Israel and its occupation of Palestinian land – it is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Israeli leader, who has galvanized American elites in favor of Israel for decades, is being thrown under the bus by the very media that once idealized him and validated his numerous mischief and under-handed showmanship.
But the media, Israeli and American alike, are only defaming Netanyahu’s image to save Israel’s. Nothing personal. For them, Israel comes first. It always does. This means the truth must be twisted: facts must be bent, and reality misrepresented.
In a recent New Yorker article, Ruth Margalit, held no punches as she listed all of Netanyahu’s alleged crimes, his massive corruption racket, four open investigations and requests for indictments. More are likely to follow: bribery, quid-for-quo dirty dealings, nepotism, favoritism, cliquism – the list is endless.
Yet, somehow, she spared Israel. Her information, views and conclusions were all the outcome of her interviews with Israelis and based on Israeli media reports. Palestinians, Netanyahu’s prime victims, were rarely a factor.
“It is an irony of no small proportions that Netanyahu may, in time, be viewed as the instigator of his own undoing: by neutering political debate in Israel, he has made the focus personal, drawing attention to the murky underside of his governing,” she concludes.
Degree Of Corruption
But how personal is this affair really? How could this degree of corruption, so involved and convoluted, reaching many individuals, media companies, commercial interests, politicians, judges, lackeys and advisors, be discussed in isolation from Israel’s own corrupt political system, predicated on ruthless neoliberal economics, rich oligarchs, powerful lobbyists and more?
In the Washington Post, Ishaan Tharoor discussed Netanyahu’s corruption within the context of US foreign policy, the Israeli prime minister’s close ties with US President Donald Trump, and Netanyahu’s recent speech at the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC’s) annual policy conference in Washington.
Yet again, the issue is Netanyahu only. AIPAC, a group so powerful it largely determines US foreign policy on Palestine, and the rest of the Middle East, is mentioned as background fodder for the story.
There is no intimation whatsoever that perhaps Netanyahu, a favorite among AIPAC’s rightwing constituency, is but a natural outcome of this vastly corrupt system split between two entities, one that rules Israel (and subjugates Palestinians) at home, and another that relentlessly advocates the Israeli agenda abroad.
It is this two-headed creature that produced Netanyahu and will continue producing others, as it did in the past. Yes, corruption in Israel is endemic, and Netanyahu seems to have utilized the crooked system to his advantage better than any previous leader.
It is quite telling that the first police recommendation to charge Netanyahu with corruption was back in March 2000 but went unheeded – the then-attorney general ordered the case shut and Netanyahu returned a few years later to the helm of Israeli politics to serve as Prime Minister of Israel for three more terms.
Despite his corruption in the last decade being common knowledge, he still managed to secure Israeli votes. In fact, if elections take place today, Netanyahu’s rightwing Likud Party will win even more seats, despite all that has been divulged about him.
Netanyahu’s enablers are an army of corrupt officials, businessmen, media moguls and the likes. Their degenerate apparatus is like an octopus whose outreach can be felt in every aspect of life.
But there should be no denying that the corruption racket is, in fact, a microcosm of the larger phenomenon that has afflicted Israel as a whole, as articulated by columnist Brant Roberts in a recent article. “That he is being charged is far from surprising,” he wrote.
“What is surprising is that his tenure has included indiscriminate bombing raids and a decade-long blockade of Gaza, violations of international law, massive deportations of African refugees, imprisonment of Palestinian children and countless human-rights violations against Palestinians.”
None of that is the work of Netanyahu alone, but also the by-product of the collective moral corruption of a highly militarized society held unaccountable for its own destructive ideas about racial and religious supremacy.
But only a few are making this obvious connection. Worse, some journalists are erecting pseudo-journalistic smokescreens to divert from the discussion altogether. In an article published in Al-Monitor, Israeli journalist, Shlomi Eldar, went to unprecedented lengths to divert attention from the corruption in his country.
He spoke of Palestinian journalists – all speaking on condition of anonymity – who “applauded” and “admired” Israeli media coverage of Netanyahu’s corruption scandals.
This same “admired” Israeli media has largely supported Netanyahu’s devastating wars on Gaza, relentlessly defending the illegal occupation of Palestine and serving as a shield for Israel’s stained reputation on the international stage.
This is hardly praiseworthy even if it arguably provides decent coverage for the Netanyahu investigations. But Eldar’s journalism aside, one would think that seeking Palestinian admiration for Israeli media should be the least urgent question to address at this time.
What Israelis are trying to tell us is that, despite all of its problems, Israel is an admirable, transparent, law-abiding and democratic society. This is precisely the motivation behind Eldar’s article. The outcome was a familiar act of intellectual hubris that we have grown familiar with.
Many of Israel’s friends in western governments and corporate media have also contributed to this opportunistic style of journalism; they come to the rescue during trying times to find ways to praise Israel and chastise Palestinians and Arabs, even if the latter are completely irrelevant to the discussion.
Diverting from the argument
This Israeli obsession with diverting from the argument is an old tactic as Israel fashions an Arab enemy to beat down, chastise and blame whenever it is in the dock for whatever problem. In the final analysis, Israel somehow maintains the upper hand and self-granted moral ascendency.
For this reason, Israelis refer to their country as “the only democracy in the Middle East” – a defence mechanism used to divert from the fact that apartheid, racially-structured political systems, are inherently undemocratic.
In some strange way, corruption is one of few things that is truly normal about Israel, for it is a shared quality with every country in the world. What is not normal, and should never be normalized, is that Israel is the only country in the world that continues to practice Apartheid, many years after it was disbanded in South Africa.
Israeli, and US media would rather delay that discussion indefinitely – a gutless act that is neither admirable nor praiseworthy.
As a young Saudi woman living in London, I desperately want Saudi Arabia to adapt to the modern world. That’s why I’ve found much to support in the agenda of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – and wanted his visit to Britain which has ended Friday to succeed.
That may sound odd: wanting modernity and backing a future absolute monarch. But Mohammad bin Salman is the agent of Saudi Arabia’s change, not the custodian of its past.
As a reformer, he is tackling what is least good about Saudi Arabia – and is taking criticism for it from ultra-conservatives. If people want Saudi Arabia to reform, I believe that they should look to bolster and encourage its top reformer.
I came to Britain in 2009 to pursue my higher education. My studies and those of thousands like me were paid for by the Saudi Government as part of modernizing the Kingdom. Mohammed bin Salman is in that tradition and the most ambitious modernizer we have had. In 2016, he established a reform plan – Vision 2030 – so ambitious that many wrote it off as a fantasy. Yet so far, it is coming to pass.
Take women’s rights. Just last week, the military opened its doors to women recruits. We no longer require a “guardian” for government services; from June we will be allowed to drive; and a fifth of our legislature is made up of women.
More women graduate from university than men. The head of the Saudi stock exchange, the official spokesperson of the Saudi Embassy in Washington and the CEO of one of our largest financial companies are all women. This change is not over – in fact, it is speeding up.
Vision 2030 is not all about women. It covers everything from government services to cinemas (opening this month for the first time in nearly 40 years). But take another area for which Saudi Arabia has long been criticized: extremism, a subject on which I recently wrote a report for the Henry Jackson Society.
Saudi citizens’ involvement in 9/11 was a shock to Saudi Arabia and to its leaders and prompted major change. Riyadh was targeted too: in waves of terror attacks throughout the early 2000s at the hands of al-Qaeda and again in recent years at the hands of ISIS. From 2012 to 2016, Saudi Arabia suffered 253 individual attacks.
The Kingdom has expended vast quantities of blood and treasure in defeating terrorism and has worked with UK and US intelligence agencies to foil plots in the West. But under Mohammed bin Salman, the story of counter-terrorism is changing from one solely focused on immediate security to one focused on long-term ideology.
Religion has not escaped his modernizing agenda, and he has promised to return Islam in the Kingdom to “a moderate Islam open to the world and all religions … We won’t waste 30 years of our life combating extremist thoughts, we will destroy them now and immediately.” Efforts are already being made to achieve this.
The power of the religious police has been substantially curtailed; 10,000 unsuitable imams have been sacked; and the Council of Senior Scholars – the leading religious body in the Kingdom –has been reshuffled to include moderate voices. In 2016, Mohammad bin Abdul Karim al-Issa, a former Minister of Justice, was appointed Head of the Muslim World League, a body that has in the past been accused of spreading extremist literature around the world.
Al-Issa is himself a reformer, as he demonstrated in recent statements on women not needing to wear the Abayah, or condemning Holocaust denial. There is still some way for Saudi Arabia to go. There are legitimate concerns about human rights in the Kingdom.
But no country can change overnight. If the UK wants a moderate, modern Saudi Arabia open to the world, then Mohammed bin Salman is the man who can make that happen. He has the vision, the drive and the work ethic.
Ministers are being held to account for what they achieve, and those who underperform are fired. The recent crackdown on corruption – reaching senior levels of the Royal Family – was intended to signal that no-one is above the law.
A reformed Saudi Arabia is in the West’s interests too. Mohammad bin Salman’s efforts will bolster the Kingdom’s security. Reforming the dominant narratives within the home of Islam will have a knock-on effect around the world. Britain has expertise that Saudi Arabia can use in its efforts. She should continue to provide that expertise – not least because Saudi Arabia’s security is the UK’s security too.
The situation in Syria is heating up, as the international powers play an expanding geopolitical game on the Syrian chessboard. The sequence and timings of recent events raise many questions. The situation in Eastern Ghouta is developing in the same way it has for the past several months without attracting much attention from the international community. However, following continuous violations of the de-escalation zone by militants, targeting residential neighborhoods in Damascus, both Russia and Syria have intensified operations in the area.
The situation is aggravated by the presence of Al-Qaeda-linked groups and militants using civilians as human shields; a common tactic in civil wars.
The media reaction was started by activists on the ground, reporting through text messages and WhatsApp about the calamitous situation in Eastern Ghouta. However, it seems nobody was paying attention to the fact that Damascus is also populated by civilians, and the constant shelling of the city is causing death and destruction. It seems as if not all lives matter to the international community.
The international coverage of Eastern Ghouta shows how biased and subjective media coverage is compared to what Afrin is undergoing at present; just because Turkey, a Western ally and a NATO member, is acting against the Kurds, whom Ankara labels as terrorists. Thus, it is apparent that the West needs Ankara right now more than Turkey needs the West. This justifies why the latter does not denounce what the Turkish army is doing in Afrin, while blaming the Russian and Syrian armies for their role in Ghouta. Turkey looks the potential winner in the tug-of-war between Russia and the West, as both need Ankara in the war against terrorism. The losers here are the Kurdish people, as they appear to be mere pawns in the geopolitical game.
After long debates at the United Nations Security Council, the members unanimously voted for a resolution requesting a one-month armistice in Syria. As expected, the armistice is not working. The international media reported a probable chemical attack in the suburbs, after which the UK threatened to strike Damascus, as if Western powers have the right to strike any country they want. When the British and Americans invaded Iraq in 2003 after suspecting that Iraqis were producing biological and chemical weapons and long-range missiles, the reports were proven to be false. Launching such strikes on Syria now could bring about the same result.
The UK and the US are picky in their reporting. They forget how many people have been killed in Iraq or how many were killed recently in Deir Ezzor. They channel their news coverage to serve their own interests by distorting the image of other nations.
Attempts to ease the humanitarian status have been disrupted by militants. It is common knowledge that Ghouta is suffering from starvation and illnesses, and civilians, spending most of their time in basements, want to get out from the suburb. However, the militants do not let them out, forcing families (who reach the checkpoints, seeking to leave Ghouta for safety) to return. The rebels are using the civilians in their own media game and abuse them as human shields.
British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson laid responsibility for the disastrous situation in Syria on Russia. His tone was clear, and the direction everything is now moving is becoming clear as well. It seems that American procrastination over a political settlement in Syria is aimed at partitioning the country. This violates the US-Russian agreement and thus Moscow will be forced to counter US efforts to divide Syria and will play the game until the end, including not allowing the Americans to have a base there.
Meanwhile, the risk of a clash between the US and Russia over Syria is on the rise. The consequences of such a scenario are hard to calculate, but Russia is undertaking diplomatic measures to avoid such risky developments. Moscow is calling on the Western powers to use their influence on the rebel groups. Russian demands are simple: Once the rebels stop shelling the city, the strikes will be stopped. The terrorist groups should also leave the area, as there is no way they will be accepted as a part of cease-fire talks or any agreement. Had this been achieved already, humanitarian missions could have gained access to the affected areas sooner. All of this can be achieved through international cooperation and the proper exercise of pressure on the militants on the ground.
The entire international community bears responsibility for the Syrian war, as all countries prefer to play geopolitical games instead of solving the crisis, using their pawns on the ground regardless of how many people are killed. All countries should stop being Machiavellian in their deeds and decline the motto “the end justifies the means.”