New Age Islam Edit Bureau
04 July 2017
Terrorism in the Grand Mosque
By Hussein Shobokshi
The Battle For Mosul Is Almost Over.
By Ibrahim Al-Marashi
Gulf Demands Fulfilled Even Before
Qatar Accepted Them
By Sawsan Al Shaer
Court: Iran to Pay for 9/11 and
By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
Resumption of Cyprus Talks
By Yasar Yakis
Toxic Debate over Use of Chemical
Weapons in Syria
By Chris Doyle
Gamal Abdelnasser and the Al-Gama’a
By Mashari Althaydi
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
3 July 2017
Every time the world believes that
terrorist groups have reached the bottom point of criminality, a new incident
comes up to prove that they are capable of falling to unprecedented low levels.
This is exactly what happened when a
terrorist suicide attack was thwarted near the Al-Haram Al-Sharif (the Grand
Mosque) in Makkah on the eve of the last nights of the holy month of Ramadan.
The attack took place at the holiest place and at the holiest time, yet, all
this did not deter the terrorists from carrying out their dirty and criminal
To continue to treat such groups as “stray”
groups that have lost their way or that these groups have “good intentions” but
are “brain-washed,” is an essential part of the problem because the subject is
not a single individual case.
The continued acceptance of the armed
groups brandishing their weapons and carrying out assaults against others while
raising religious slogans in the presence of the state and its institutions is
bewildering. In fact these groups must be treated as religious outcast for
causing agony to the society and disturbing social peace and tranquillity.
And what applies to the organizations like
ISIS and Al-Qaeda, should also apply to the likes of Hezbollah, which brandish
their weapons under the eyes of the government they are opposing and the latter
is unable to do anything.
The same applies to the organization of the
Popular Mobilization Forces and the organization of the Houthis in Iraq and
Slogan and Application
“Terrorism has no religion” is a beautiful
and catchy slogan presented by various media groups in the Arab world, but
unfortunately, this slogan has not translated into a real and practical
The terrorist groups emerging from the
framework of the states revolted and raised false religious slogans from all
directions have still been dealt with patience for a long time. This patience
is not natural and it is puzzling and then we wonder why the world points its
finger to our world and claims that we are lacking in our efforts to carry out
These monsters must be eliminated. The
problem is that the Arab world has not realized that these groups have long been
present among us. They do not threaten the West but they threaten the people of
They will continue to recruit young people
and obtain financial resources as long as some Fatwas supporting them exist.
They are sometimes defended as a part of the heritage, the wretched heritage
that kills innocent lives again and again without any deterrent or punishment.
Leniency and hesitation in dealing with
these groups is still dominating the situation in various forms. This is one of
the main reasons for their wildness and madness, which is strengthening these
groups. If the language of confrontation is not changed into real actions,
determining the relationship of all these groups with the religion, it will not
change anything and will remain the same.
On June 29, 2014 Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,
standing on the pulpit of the al-Nuri mosque in Mosul, declared his caliphate.
On the same day three years later, that
mosque was captured by Iraqi military forces. Iraqi prime minister Haider
al-Abadi used an electronic pulpit, Twitter, to celebrate the victory over the
Islamic State of the Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).
While the date of the mosque's capture is
redolent with symbolism, the theatrics of the event cannot hide the anxieties
and fear of the Iraqis and the international community that Abadi's declaration
is premature, as ISIL has not been completely eliminated in Mosul, or worse,
might make a coordinated comeback in the city.
The Iraqi government's military victory has
now opened up a space for a political solution to reintegrate the city. How the
Iraqi state manages this delicate process will ultimately determine ISIL's
ability to threaten the nation in the future.
Securing Urban Centres
After ISIL was expelled from Iraqi towns
such as Tikrit, Falluja, and Ramadi over 2015 and 2016, the central government's
management of both reconstruction and resettlement of these urban centres has
been ad hoc and lethargic, owing to a lack of funds and political will. The
same can be said for the districts of Mosul freed from ISIL over the past
couple of months. As Mosul reverts back to the central government's control, it
must be remembered that it was Baghdad's governance of Mosul that led to the
conditions that allowed ISIL to find fertile ground in this city in the first
place. Reconstruction and resettlement will be the key factors for the citizens
of Mosul in reconciling with the central government.
This issue is paramount as ISIL fighters
are still holding out in Mosul districts and are likely to have sleeper cells
in liberated areas of the city. Local cooperation will be needed in the face of
these looming threats. Nonetheless, a lot has changed since 2014, when Mosul's
inhabitants either actively enabled or passively resigned themselves to ISIL's
Not only was ISIL's rule brutal over the
past three years, but its destruction of the al-Nuri mosque and its iconic
curved minaret, which gave Mosul its nickname "al-Hadba" (the
hunchback), symbolically severed any chance of the group reasserting control
over the city. With this act, ISIL tried to deprive the Iraqi government of the
symbolic victory of capturing the mosque intact.
It also tried to send a message to Mosul
residents. ISIL had destroyed Mosul's pre-Islamic heritage in its museum and
sites such as Nimrud before, but by destroying that mosque it signalled that
Mosul inhabitants were not "true Muslims". As a BBC reporter
documented, when ISIL fighters withdrew from one Mosul neighbourhood, they told
the local people, "You did not take care of the caliphate, so you do not
Mosul's population has endured physical and
emotional deprivation under ISIL's rule and there is little chance that they
will allow it to re-establish its authority over the city. However, Mosul's
traumatic past under ISIL does not translate into de facto support for the government
in Baghdad. The question for Iraq's future remains: how to establish its
legitimacy among the alienated Arab Sunnis in this city, in addition to the
greater Ninawa, Anbar and Salah al-Din provinces. The pace of reconstruction,
resettlement, and political inclusion, on the municipal and national level will
ultimately determine the peace.
On the national level the Iraqi government
has yet to develop a compelling strategic narrative of how a political process
can address the underlying conditions which led to the emergence of ISIL in the
What the Iraqi Government Needs To Do
At this juncture in Iraq's post-2003
political development, it may be useful to see what lessons from other conflict
zones can be applied to Mosul and other Iraqi areas formerly held by ISIL.
First, the Iraqi state has to articulate a
plan that will guarantee the meaningful inclusion of marginalised groups, which
include the Arab Sunnis in Mosul and Ninawa province, as well as its
minorities, Christians and Yezidis.
Second, the state has to demonstrate beyond
mere rhetoric how it will tackle structural inequalities, including corruption
and the abuse of power of state security forces and paramilitary actors, in
addition to the justice sector institutions. The potential for corruption among
these sectors will only increase as reconstruction aid, both Iraqi and
international, pours in.
Third, international aid can be made
contingent on trust-building measures that foster social cohesion in Mosul and
other formerly ISIL-held territories. Such measures include the establishment
of grievance mechanisms that create spaces for dialogue between the communities
in Mosul and the security sector. Given that it was the behaviour of the Iraqi
security forces that alienated many of Mosul's inhabitants before 2014,
community policing programmes between locals of Mosul and security forces would
foster social cohesion.
Alas, Iraqi national and regional politics
are complicated and involve numerous actors, both foreign and domestic, that will
only complicate achieving such an agenda. However, true victory in Mosul will
not be measured in capturing a destroyed mosque, but long-term, sustainable
strategies that might not be captured in a single tweet.
Gulf Demands Fulfilled Even Before Qatar
What if Qatar does not meet Gulf demands
and insists on continuing the Hamad bin Khalifa project that aims to topple
Arab countries and divide them?
The current situation shows that the
countries, which boycotted Qatar, have had a large chunk of their demands met
without Qatar responding to them as Doha before the boycott is not like Doha
after the boycott.
The boycotting countries’ shifted media
coverage of Qatar for the first time and revealed its links to terrorism. This
limited Doha’s activities as they have restrained the tools Qatar used to
implement its project.
Qatar has succeeded in keeping its project
secret as it has a spotlight, such as Al-Jazeera channel, that obscures vision
in its surrounding and sheds light outside it. However, for the first time
ever, anyone who even sneezes in Qatar finds himself before a fierce campaign
launched by media outlets in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and by
the latter’s citizens via social media networks.
This is something that Al Jazeera and its
affiliates are not used to as they were the only ones which adopted a populist
rhetoric. Al Jazeera and all the television channels, which Qatar spent
billions on thus lost their popularity and strong influence without Qatar even
shutting them down, and they’ve now shifted to defending themselves after they
served as a tool for attacking others.
The International Community
The boycotting countries succeeded in
highlighting the situation to the international community and not just to the
Gulf community. They revealed how Qatar supports terrorist organizations and
figures either inside Qatar or in other countries such as Turkey and Britain.
Exposing Qatar’s ties with these organizations fell within the context of
The boycotting countries have utilized
their network of international relations to monitor these organizations’ and
figures’ activity and broadcast it to the entire world shall they make a move
or issue a statement. This limited their activity and also infiltrated their
bank accounts and exposed the ties between them and Qatar. All this will make
their work difficult as they will have to make unprecedented efforts to
The boycotting countries also brought up an
issue, which the Qatari people have been kept away from for years. Who hijacked
the decision making process from them and who benefits from isolating them from
their surrounding and threatening their security and stability while they enjoy
security and use their money?
How do Qataris benefit from funding
fighting militias in Libya and Tunisia? How do they benefit from fuelling the
conflict in Egypt? What do Qataris get from its leaders’ relations with
terrorists in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia? Everyone now knows who prevents ending
the boycott. It is the same people who prevent the Qatari people from returning
to their brothers in the Gulf and prevent opening borders.
They are the decision makers in Qatar,
which has been exposed by the recent boycott as it shed light on them for the
first time inside Qatar. The boycott has revealed they are enemies of the
Qatari people sucking their blood and exploiting their riches, while not one of
them is Qatari.
More importantly, the boycotting countries
succeeded in bringing Qatar back to its normal geographical, historical and
political size. It would not have shamed Qatar if it had realized its worth. On
the contrary, Qatar’s modesty would have increased its worth but punching above
its weight harmed others and it has now backfired on Qatar, which is back to
its normal political size. For the first time ever, the Qatari command is going
through what it put Arab leaders through in the past 20 years.
It is being mocked and ridiculed while
everyone is on the lookout for any mistake. It got a taste of its own medicine
in less than a month. It finally realized that silence over its practices was
not due to weakness but out of sense of superiority. Qatar has realized that
political weight does not improve by insulting others but improves when leaders
play honest roles of kindness and love to achieve peace.
Qatar learnt what its real geographic size
is and realized it would not have shamed it either as there are smaller
countries which, thanks to their relations with their surroundings, provided
themselves with a geographic extension that helped them be more efficient and
These were the tools used to execute the
Hamad bin Khalifa project but the boycotting countries have negated their
effects even before Qatar announced abandoning them. Not ending the boycott and
escalating it in case Qatar insists to resume these policies will eliminate
these tools once and for all especially after the deception that Qatar resorted
to during negotiations have been exposed as it never upheld its commitments.
Qatar must keep in mind that the boycotting
countries will not lose with time as time is on their side. If Doha listens to
the voice of reason and returns to the Gulf fold, it will do so in dignity but
if it refuses, nothing will change for us.
By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
A jury has concluded that federal
prosecutors can confiscate a skyscraper in Manhattan to pay the families of
victims of terrorism linked to Iran’s government. This includes the 9/11
terrorist attacks, the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia in 1996, and the
bombing of a US Marine Corps barracks in Lebanon in 1983.
The confiscation is estimated to bring
nearly $1 billion to the victims’ families. Sixty percent of the skyscraper is
owned by the Alavi Foundation and 40 percent by Assa Corp., which is controlled
by and operates on behalf of Iran’s Bank Melli, according to the US government.
After going through a “massive amount of
evidence,” the judge said she was “firmly convinced” that the Alavi Foundation “takes
directives from Iranian government officials, and its day-to-day operators have
been appointed by Iranian officials to ensure conformity with the interests of
the government of Iran.” The foundation has made donations to various
institutions in the US, including Iranian programs and universities such as
Joon H. Kim, the acting US attorney in
Manhattan, said the jury’s finding “represents the largest civil forfeiture
jury verdict and the largest terrorism-related civil forfeiture in US history.”
Iran was previously found to have played a significant role in 9/11. Released
documents from a US federal court revealed that Iran and its proxy, the Shiite
radical group Hezbollah, had a “firsthand” role in perpetrating 9/11.
US District Judge George Daniels in New
York ordered Iran to pay more than $10.5 billion in damages to the estates and
families of people who died at the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon?
According to the US District Court in the
Southern District of New York: “In the Havlish (previous) proceeding, this
Court held that ‘Iran furnished material and direct support for the 9/11
terrorists’ specific terrorist travel operation’ and (that) facilitation of
Al-Qaeda’s operatives’ travel to training in camps in Afghanistan was ‘essential
for the success of the 9/11 operation… The second way in which Iran furnished
material and direct support for the 9/11 attacks was that a terrorist agent of
Iran and Hezbollah helped coordinate travel by future Saudi hijackers.”
The finding that Iran and Al-Qaeda are
interconnected is significant because it cracks the binary and superficial
theory that Shiite Iran only aligns itself with radical Shiite groups, not
Through it partnership with Assa Corp., the
Alavi Foundation was helping Tehran via various means, the jury found, such as
money-laundering. Financial donations to various programs in the US were more
likely aimed at spreading Tehran’s narrative, preserving its interests and
empowering its agents in the US to lobby and advocate for it.
As Kim said: “In this trial, 650 Fifth
Avenue’s (the skyscraper’s) secret was laid bare for all to see.” He added:
“The owners of 650 Fifth Avenue gave the Iranian government a critical foothold
in the very heart of Manhattan through which Iran successfully circumvented US
economic sanctions.” Iran should be forced to pay victims’ families, and every
government must detect and closely monitor domestic organizations and
individuals operating on behalf of Tehran.
The US State Department’s latest report
found that Iran is a top state sponsor of terrorism. Tehran is engaged in
financial, political and military support for militias and designated terrorist
groups across the Middle East and in the West, with the aim of exporting its
extremist ideals, expanding its influence and achieving its hegemonic
Talks resumed on June 28 in the Swiss
Alpine resort of Crans-Montana to try to solve the Cyprus problem. Attendants
include the Turkish- and Greek-Cypriot leaders, and the foreign ministers of
three guarantor powers: Turkey, the UK and Greece. There have been countless
similar talks for more than 40 years without concrete results.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel confessed
after the fifth EU enlargement that it was a mistake to admit the Greek
Cypriots to the bloc before the Cyprus question was resolved. The Greek side
has little incentive to make concessions now that it has joined the EU.
So will Greek-Cypriot negotiators try to
accommodate Turkish Cypriots’ legitimate demands eight months before
presidential elections? More importantly, if a deal is agreed; will Greek
Cypriots vote in favour of it when it is submitted to a referendum?
There are two outstanding issues in the
negotiations: Reducing the Turkish military presence on the island and
cancelling the Treaty of Guarantee, signed in 1960 to secure the independence,
territorial integrity and security of Cyprus.
The island is divided because the ruling
military junta in Greece in 1974 tried to oust then-President of Cyprus
Archbishop Makarios and annex it to Greece. Turkey used its rights as a
guarantor power and prevented the annexation.
Greek Cypriots now insist on the withdrawal
of Turkish troops because they claim they do not pose a threat to Turkish
Cypriots. Ankara had hoped at one stage that the idea of annexing the island to
Greece was abandoned, but this hope turned out to be unrealistic.
A law adopted on Feb. 10, 2017, by the
Greek-Cypriot Parliament provides that festivities should be organized at
schools to commemorate the anniversary of a referendum held in 1950 to annex
Cyprus to Greece. Greek-Cypriot media tried to trivialize the initiative by claiming
it was the work of a small far-right political party, ELAM, but did not explain
why the ruling party DISI abstained during the vote rather than oppose the
adoption of the law.
After noticing the negative effects of the
law on ongoing negotiations, the Greek-Cypriot Parliament tried to revoke it
but stopped short of doing so. It referred the question to the Supreme Court on
the grounds of unconstitutionality. Soteris Drakos, a member of the political
bureau of the ruling party, was so angry at its initiative to revoke the law
that he announced his resignation from the party.
It is difficult to tell what this referral
to the Supreme Court means. Is it a palliative to gain time until presidential
elections in the Greek part of the island or until the conclusion of
negotiations with the Turkish part?
Worse will be if the court decides that the
law is constitutional. Then future Greek-Cypriot generations will be educated
with the ideology of annexing the island to Greece. Bearing this in mind, the
Turkish side does not want give up its rights stemming from the Treaty of
Guarantee and withdraw all its soldiers from the island until the Greek-Cypriot
side demonstrates persuasively that annexing it to Greece is out of question.
What we see now is the opposite:
Greek-Cypriot politicians working relentlessly to maintain the idea of
annexation. Despite this, Turkey showed flexibility in Crans-Montana on the
number of its troops to be kept on the island.
The first reports from the meeting said
Turkey could agree to withdraw a token number of soldiers initially, and leave
subsequent stages to a decision by a five-party committee composed of the
Turkish and Greek parts of Cyprus and the three guarantor states, which will
decide according to the evolution of the reconciliation process between Cypriot
Turks and Greeks.
Greek Cypriots insist on the withdrawal of
Turkish troops and the cancelation of the Treaty of Guarantee. When this is
considered along with passing a law to commemorate the annexation referendum,
it will not be easy to persuade Turkish Cypriots to agree to the departure of
Turkish troops and the cancelation of the treaty.
Syria has fomented a multitude of fearsome
debates, but none more toxic than on the use of chemical weapons. The 78-page
report of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)
fact-finding mission is likely to further stir up the debate around the April
attacks on Khan Sheikhun, but as ever, Syria will burn as others argue
Only one debate has been properly resolved.
Prior to 2013, many people — typically those on the far left — were in denial
that Syria had chemical weapons at all. So far, all declared stocks of Syria’s
chemical weapons and precursor chemicals — some 1,300 tons — were removed by
2014 and have now been destroyed, one of the only positives to the entire
Who has used such weapons and when is
another argument that will go on and on. The OPCW report should lay to rest
many doubts as to whether sarin was deployed in Khan Sheikhun, killing more
than 80 people. The OPCW is the international community’s chemical weapons
watchdog, the gold-standard body for such matters.
It certainly upends the unsourced,
anonymous and unverified claims made by journalist Seymour Hersh in German
newspaper Die Welt on June 25 that there was no sarin — claims that many
pro-Syrian regime stalwarts were so desperate to believe.
Hersh’s narrative clashes even with the
Russian and Syrian regime’s attempts to explain away events. Moreover, the full
OPCW report, to be published on July 5, apparently states that the regime’s own
tests proved sarin was used in Khan Sheikhun.
Some critics challenge the mission because
it was unable for security reasons to go to the site of the attack. But it did
test bodies, interviewed multiple witnesses, and above all tested survivors.
The scale of the false-flag conspiracy would have had to be huge, including
people voluntarily being exposed to sarin to provide the telling test results.
What the report did not do was clear up the issue of responsibility, which is
not part of the mission’s mandate.
Another debate focuses on whether the
international community over- or under-reacted to the use of chemical weapons.
Alleged use of chemical weapons by regime forces in 2013 did what
non-conventional mass killings and destruction could not: Open up the real
possibility of a US-led intervention in Syria. That threat led to the brokering
of the only truly significant US-Russia deal in the last six years of this
crisis, to remove all chemical weapons from Syria.
Chemical weapons use was the spur for a
non-interventionist US President Donald Trump to lob 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian
air base in April, but like his predecessor, he has not been roused into action
over non-chemical war crimes.
Around 1,500 people have reportedly been
killed by chemical weapons in this conflict. More than 500,000 have died
through other forms. The two infamous chemical atrocities were the one in April
and the August 2013 attack in Ghouta, eastern Damascus, but many other attacks
using sarin, chlorine and mustard gas have been reported.
Many ask why the regime would use such
weapons when it hardly needs to. Even if poisonous gases are not the biggest
killers, they have perhaps been one of the greatest weapons of fear.
It serves the regime’s purpose that its
opponents believe it still possesses sarin and mustard gas as well as chlorine,
and that it is prepared to use them. Moreover, the use of gases facilitates the
regime’s desire to alter the demographics of Syria by encouraging the mass
shifting of its opponents to other areas.
Yet one issue of real substance is rarely
raised, at least in the media. Trump, backed by European leaders, was adamant
that the regime used sarin in Khan Sheikhun, flying it from Shayrat air base.
If so, why is there no huge outcry that the regime has hidden chemical weapons
from the international community in violation of the 2013 agreement, and
perhaps more importantly, how much more material does it still possess?
I may have missed it, but I have yet to
hear Trump demand that such stocks are destroyed, merely that they not be used.
The OPCW has verified the destruction of 24 out of 27 chemical weapons
facilities in Syria; the last three lie in areas too dangerous to operate.
The OPCW has also driven a horse and
carriages through Russia’s version of events, and all the Kremlin’s false
posturing after the attack. The Russian military would have known that sarin
Will such weapons be used again? Trump
issued an unequivocal warning to the regime on June 26 of a “heavy price” to
pay if there was a further attack. The US claims preparations were underway for
this but have now been stalled, and the regime had got the message.
Who knows if this true or if it is another
piece of Trump grandstanding? In any case, the regime will once again take
comfort from the other message he delivered. As long as regime forces kill
civilians by other means, the US is not bothered as it focuses solely on the
fight against Daesh.
The second season of the Al-Gama’a series,
written by Egyptian scriptwriter and researcher Waheed Hamed, was aired during
the holy month of Ramadan. Like the first season, it stirred a lot of
The first season was aired in 2010 when the
Brotherhood had heavy political weight and shortly before they ruled the
country. The first season and its writer Hamed angered the Brotherhood.
Meanwhile, the second one angered the Nasserites and the Brotherhood continued
to have its grudges.
Many Nasserites who view late Egyptian
President Gamal Abdelnasser as the first “symbol of right” were angry that the
series frankly mentioned that revolutionary “officer” Abdelnasser was a member
of the Muslim Brotherhood while he was forming the "Association of Free
Officers” and that he worked under the name “Zaghloul” before he exited the
Brotherhood’s ranks and other political parties.
Sami Sharaf, who served as minister of
state for presidential affairs during Abdelnasser’s term, said the latter was
never a Brotherhood member. However, he quoted Abdelnasser as saying that he
“passed” or “went” through all political parties at the time, including The
Wafd Party, The Young Egypt Party, The Communist Party and of course the
Brotherhood, but he did not find himself in any of them.
Hamed who in all fairness clearly made huge
efforts doing his research said during the television talk show Kol Youm
(Everyday) hosted by Amr Adeeb on ONTV that “many memoirs and books, such as
the memoirs of Kamal Eddine Hussein and Wahid Ramadan, and a book by a member
of the Association of Free Officers, Gamal Hammad, confirm Abdelnasser belonged
to the Brotherhood in 1944.”
In all cases, political historical drama is
about “perspective” in some parts and there’s nothing wrong with that as long
as the writer has done his work researching and gathering information from
“Inspiring” figures like Abdelnasser are
always controversial. Such figures have their own admirers who somehow glorify
them and exalt them beyond any objective perspective.
However, the controversy stirred by the
series leads us to a more important question not just in Egypt but in the
entire Arab world and it is about the weakness of historical drama productions
when analyzing events and characters that formed our awareness and whose
practical effects greatly influenced our reality. There are many examples to
The only movie about modern Arab history
that later became a “classic” is Lawrence of Arabia and it is written and
directed from a western perspective.
Events and characters can be analyzed
differently and can thus be portrayed in many ways. In the end though, viewers
are the ones who benefit as these works either entertain them or empower them
with more knowledge.