New Age Islam Edit Bureau
11 May 2018
The Uprising of Arab Dignity
By Sawsan Al Shaer
Is War An Alternative To The Deal?
By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Iran And Israel On The Brink: What
Will Stop Them?
By Yossi Mekelberg
Who Are The Winners And Losers From
US Oil Sanctions On Iran?
By Wael Mahdi
Trump Decision to Nix Not Fix Iran
Deal Ads to Transatlantic Tensions
By Andrew Hammond
Ballots, Bullets And Elections In
By Makram Rabah
For Malaysia's Comeback 'Kid'
Mahathir, Age Is Only A Number
By Praveen Menon
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
10 May 2018
Just like what happened in Lebanon, the
candidates of pro-Iranian parties in Iraq have begun to pay huge prices for
keeping their positions of influence in their electoral seats after there
haven’t been any rivals for years.
The candidates who presented the
constituencies which Hezbollah controlled in Lebanon and current Iraqi candidates
in constituencies controlled by parties that are loyal to Iran have complained
of the violence facing them, like assaults and threats against them and their
Threats have even been publically made
against the people of the entire constituency. This intimidation from pro-Iran
parties is expected to continue in the upcoming elections in Bahrain as well.
Violence in Elections
In the past, some Bahraini constituencies
were controlled by pro-Iran parties and it was unlikely that anyone would dare
compete against them. It is likely that voters who oppose them will be
terrorized if these parties call for boycotting the entire elections.
Candidates who are running against these
parties may also be subject to violence if the latter decides to push its own
candidates to participate in the elections. It is clear that violence has
become inescapable within the constituencies that were once calm with only
pro-Iran candidates presented in the previous legislative season.
Parties loyal to Iran used to boast and
flaunt in the Arab world of their Iranian affiliations, raising the image of
Khomeini and his entourage in public and in the street, defying the Arab people
and authorities. However, they are now facing a reaction from the people even
before that of the authorities, and the confrontation with the Shiite public
even before the Sunnis, who are striking back twice as hard for their lies,
hypocrisy and corruption.
Today, in those constituencies, an Arab
popular uprising is occurring for the sake of Arab dignity. The Arab people are
taking these treacherous people back to their dens from where they used to
openly flaunt their treason.
Iran knows well that enabling its stooges
in the Arab world has become an expensive exercise for the state and these
parties. The honeymoon period with the United States, which facilitated free
expansion, so to say, whether by arming groups to threaten the people of the
region or through ideological intimidation, has ended.
The uprising against them and taking them
back to their places of origin in is what ended their presence in Bahrain and
Saudi Arabia. In Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, resistance is in full swing to
purge the region of the treason that has violated Arab countries in recent
Iran, which is drowning into its failing
economy and into the general revolt within its territories, is forced to sink
even further into the swamp of its expansion in the Arab region.
It must now provide its servants with more
financial support and more weapons and assign them more experts to assist them
in controlling their areas of influence in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq. Now,
it must confront the Bahraini, Saudi and Kuwaiti people, where these groups are
trying to impose themselves on the political scene.
The Arab uprising against the stooges of
Iran and its agents has expanded and now covers the Arab Maghreb. Contempt has
started to spread against every agent of this Persian state, whether he be
Sunni or Shiite as Iran supports the different facets of terrorism and the
rebel militias; it supports al-Qaeda, the Polisario and Hamas.
The most important thing for Iran is to
break national unity and weaken the state from within. Iran couldn’t care less
about the doctrine, the religion or the belief of its militias as long as it
threatens stability. The exposure of the Iranian project to the Arab people has
revealed the motive all double agents and exposed the faces they’ve hidden
behind for years and perhaps even decades.
Remaining silent over the nuclear deal with
Iran was the worst choice that resembled swallowing a blade.
Cancelling it was the least painful option,
and it will not mean a rapid breakthrough and peace but it will diminish the
Iranian regime that will try to rebel and threaten and intimidate the region’s
countries by spreading more chaos and wars. We must realize that what is next
will neither pass easily nor quickly.
So what’s to gain from scrapping the deal
if it has consequences that will open more of the gates of hell? Withdrawing
from the deal and reviving economic sanctions aim to put back the evil genie in
the bottle and locking him up. It needs time and effort before we see any
change in its behaviour.
Due to the danger which everyone sensed,
and before the sanctions were even imposed, the toman lost one third of its
value, Total withdrew from developing Iranian oil fields and the European
Airbus company is talking about cancelling deals to sell airplanes which the
Rouhani government were thrilled about and marketed as victory against its
Do not underestimate the crisis which
Tehran’s government faces and the regime’s fears. The crisis may relapse on the
domestic level and lead to domestic conflict among the regime powers and it may
encourage the Iranian people to protest more. In the end, the result may be the
collapse of the regime somehow!
A policy is required for the region’s
countries to confront this wounded regime which will try to export its crisis
and ignite more wars. Countries in the region did not seek to transfer war to
make it within the regime and they did not fund foreign fronts against it.
Right to Defend
They also have no hand in the popular
protests that are happening every week in more than one city. However, they
have the right to defend their security and the region’s security by
confronting the Iranian regime in Syria and Yemen and thwarting its project in
Iraq and Lebanon.
The recent parliamentary elections’ results
in Lebanon confirm that Tehran is progressing quickly to confront the region in
every possible way. Liberating Lebanon, Syria and Iraq from Iranian domination
and getting the Iranian regime out of Yemen are linked to besieging the regime
economically and restraining it.
Confronting the Iranian regime revolves
around several fronts such as thwarting its activities in war zones, making it
pay a high price and standing with the Iranian people, who are fighting a
peaceful war, and morally supporting them.
European countries, which want the nuclear
deal but do not care about the price the region’s countries are paying must be
pressured as they must take a stance to either be with us or with Iran since
what the latter is doing targets the region’s regimes and stability.
The aim of confronting Europe is to send a
clear message to Tehran and to further pressure the Iranian regime to know it
must halt its activities if it wants to survive. Firing missiles on Riyadh,
destroying border cities, killing 600,000 Syrians and inciting against the
Palestinian Authority are tantamount to war that must be confronted.
Is there hope of peace after this dangerous
escalation with Iran? The aim of escalation, pressure and boycott is to amend
the regime’s behavior as changing it is up to the Iranian people who are better
at judging it and confronting it if they decide to do so. We do not want to
criticize the Iranian regime for its practices and follow suit by planting
chaos and changing regimes.
Iran And Israel On The Brink: What Will
May 10, 2018
In the early hours of Thursday morning, the
much-anticipated Iranian missile launch on the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights
took place. Ever since Israel increased its frequency of attacks on military
bases in Syria — in particular those manned by Iranian forces and their
Hezbollah allies — a few weeks ago, the clock counting down to an Iranian
retaliation had been ticking.
Israeli security forces braced themselves
for an attack, though the place, time and magnitude was unknown. When it
eventually happened, 20 rockets were fired by Iran’s Quds Force — a special
unit affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — at frontline
Israeli posts in the Golan Heights. The rockets were all either intercepted or
failed to cross the border between Israel and Syria. This represents a major
failure for Iran in its ability to respond to Israel’s military operations
against its installations in Syria.
Israel’s instant military response,
striking from the air dozens of Iranian targets in Syria, leaves both countries
on the brink of open hostilities. It remains to be seen whether they are
capable of withdrawing from the brink of war, bearing in mind that Wednesday
night was the first time that Iran had directly attacked Israel militarily, and
that Israel openly admitted it targeted Iranian forces in its northeastern
neighbor. This is a patent escalation that, without diplomatic intervention
from the outside, might spiral out of control, especially in the extremely
volatile Syrian context.
For the more than seven years since the
conflict in Syria broke out, Tel Aviv had maintained a restrained approach
toward developments there, limiting its intervention in the hostilities to
situations only when it felt threatened. It was a conscientious decision, based
on intelligence assessment, that Israel had nothing to gain from such an
intervention and, even if it wanted to influence the situation there to serve
its interests, it had no capacity to do so. It made a clear decision, which was
relayed to its enemies across the border, that it would not tolerate the arming
of Hezbollah by Iran with weapons that might endanger it, and it would respond
militarily to any firing inside Israel from across the Syrian border. For most
of the period since March 2011, the border was relatively calm and Israel could
adhere to these red lines.
However, as the war in Syria raged on, the
presence of Iranian military personnel in the country consistently increased.
Toward the end of last year, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
explicitly asserted: “We will not allow (Iran) to entrench itself militarily in
Syria, as it seeks to do, for the express purpose of eradicating our state.”
The writing was on the wall for months, as Israel has increasingly become
unnerved by the Iranian presence in Syria; the growing military capabilities of
Hezbollah in Lebanon, enabled by their patrons in Tehran; and by Iranian
support for the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas. Israel under Netanyahu is a
country with a siege mentality, even without seeing Iran in almost every
direction it looks. With it, its sense of strategic claustrophobia multiplied.
It is impossible to separate the
confrontation between Iran and Israel in Syria, and potentially in Lebanon,
from the broader strategic picture, especially the Iran nuclear deal and US
President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement earlier this
week. In the mind of Israeli strategists, and especially the current Israeli
government, Iran is an existential threat that has to be contained. From their
perspective, the only way to do so was to abolish the Joint Comprehensive Plan
of Action and, in the longer term, bring regime change to Tehran. Netanyahu has
been advocating for this objective for years. For him, Trump’s decision was an
exoneration of his long-held position.
Moreover, from the magnitude of the air
force attack on Iranian forces and dozens of Iranian installations — including
intelligence and logistics sites around Damascus, munitions warehouses, and
observation and military posts — it is clear Israel had prepared for this
operation for quite some time and was just waiting for the opportunity to
present itself. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman asserted that the Israeli
army had hit “nearly all the Iranian infrastructure in Syria” and that “they
must remember that if it rains here (in Israel), it will pour there.”
Lieberman further stated: “I hope that we
have finished this chapter and that everyone got the message.” Similarly,
Netanyahu, who this week visited Moscow for meetings with President Vladimir
Putin, insisted on the right of Israel to take any necessary steps to stop Iran
from “attacking the state of Israel as part of their strategy to destroy the
state of Israel.” One suspects that Putin gave the green light to Israel’s
comprehensive attacks; otherwise it would have been a massive diplomatic insult
and embarrassment had this happened behind his back, especially in a place
where Russia has vital interests, a substantial military presence and
involvement in the conflict.
Support for Israel also came from Washington,
underlining Iran’s isolation. However, there must be a call for calm and
Iran’s leaders suffered a double blow this
week, with the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal and Israel’s military
operation in Syria, which exposed its vulnerability. It might be the case that,
in recent years, while the focus was on Iran’s pursuit of nuclear capability,
the international community neglected to notice its pursuit of regional
hegemony through more conventional means.
Events this week injured Iran economically,
military and its pride suffered a major blow, but this could spell danger too,
as it still has the military capabilities to respond. Moreover, it might
embolden those more radical voices in the regime over the pragmatic ones,
represented by President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad
The way forward should involve a concerted
effort by the international community, including the UN Security Council, aimed
at preventing further escalation. In the long run, it is imperative to explore
peaceful means to reduce tensions between Iran and the region, otherwise what
we witnessed on Thursday could be the prologue to another protracted and bloody
conflict in the Middle East — and maybe beyond.
Who Are The Winners And Losers From US
Oil Sanctions On Iran?
It seems clear that all producers will
benefit from rising prices following the decision of US President Donald Trump
this week to impose sanctions on Iranian oil exports within 180 days.
Conversely, it would be reasonable to expect that consuming nations will suffer
from high oil prices.
But in reality things could be different
depending on the development of events. Not all oil producers will benefit in
the same way and not all consumers will be affected in the same way. Similarly,
not all international oil companies will benefit or lose in the same way.
So who are the real winners from the
renewed sanctions on Iranian oil and who are the losers? And why are the
sanctions this time different from the last round of sanctions that were
imposed in the summer of 2012?
Starting with the second question, the
dynamics in the market differ greatly from the previous situation. In 2012,
demand was not very strong and there was no excess supply in the market to
replace Iranian crude.
Iran mainly produces medium and
heavy-density crude oil with a high sulfur content, otherwise known as sour
crude. Not all producers can supply this type of crude, and most of the medium
and heavy excess capacity is in the Gulf region, in countries such as Saudi
Arabia and Iraq.
The growth in world oil demand in 2012 was
about 800,000 barrels per day (bpd), largely unchanged on the previous year, as
US oil demand moved from deep contraction to minor growth, according to OPEC
estimates at the time.
The supply picture was different, with
output from outside the group not growing greatly, despite oil prices trading
at above $100 that year. Non-OPEC’s supply growth was projected at 500,000 bpd
in 2012 with gains from US and Canada, according to the organization’s
estimates. OPEC at that time had a production ceiling of 30 million bpd.
The supply and demand situation in 2012 was
reflected in pricing dynamics. Due to the lack of enough medium and heavy spare
capacity, the gap in prices between Dubai crude oil, which represents Gulf
heavy sour grades, and Brent oil, which represents medium-sweet grades,
narrowed to record lows in that year following the embargo on Iranian
shipments. This was because the value of medium and heavy grades went up due to
The price spread between Brent and WTI
widened greatly, as the US was not exporting crude oil and most shipments to
Asia came from Brent-linked crude grades or Brent itself. By the end of 2012,
the Brent-WTI spread reached $24.
Today, the dynamics of the market are
totally different. Fundamentals are healthy and there is abundant crude in the
market — mainly sweet and light oil. This time around, it is not hard to
replace an Iranian shipment, even from within OPEC, as many countries —
including Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE — have invested in adding
According to OPEC’s latest monthly report,
oil demand in 2018 might grow by 1.63 million bpd, twice the amount in 2012.
Growth in supply from outside OPEC this year is around 1.71 million bpd, more
than three times that in 2012.
Meanwhile the Dubai-Brent spread, which now
stands at $4 per barrel, is expected to narrow later in the year and early in
2019, as the value of Dubai might rise. As for the Brent-WTI spread, the former
is trading now at a premium of $6 to WTI.
The only significant difference is that
OPEC and some non-OPEC producers have an agreement to cut production as oil
prices now trade at little more than half their levels in 2012. If the
sanctions on Iranian crude result in the end of that agreement, there will be a
flood of medium and heavy grades in the market and any sanctions on Iranian
crude will not affect the balance of the market.
Saudi Arabia alone can increase production
by another 500,000 to 1 million bpd in a short period. But this is unlikely,
given the Kingdom’s close coordinations since last year with Russia and others
to balance the market; therefore the responsibility for increasing supply is
likely to be shared by a wide group of producers.
It is hard to tell whether the new
sanctions will spell the end of the OPEC plus agreement. Oil prices are not yet
at the level where producers in the agreement want them to be, as they are not
yet high enough to bring back lost investments in the industry. So the deal
might continue but with a new distribution of the quotas of producers.
Another important difference with the
situation in 2012 is that the US now has enough capacity to replace Iranian
condensates to Asia due to the increased production of shale oil and gas from
areas such as the Permian and Eagle Ford. Back in 2012, it was hard to replace
Iranian condensates — a form of a very light oil.
With all of this in mind, who will be the
winners and losers from the new sanctions on Iran? US oil companies are in a
better position to benefit more than OPEC countries, while refiners in Asia and
Europe will suffer when they look for new sources of supply. This is for two
First, such refiners will need to get some
oil that is priced based on Brent. Second, some refiners will lose the
discounts and the long billing cycles that Iran usually offers to its customers
to compete with other Gulf producers.
Another source of concern for refiners is
the refining margin. The shift in use of other type of crudes that are not
configured by the refineries will change the economics, and may shrink the
profits made from refining each barrel. For the US refiners, there is not much
to fear. But for EU and Asian refiners the margins will be a big concern next
OPEC will no doubt think about these issues
in its next ministerial meeting in June but there are many challenges. First,
distributing Iranian market share is not going to be easy, and selling crude at
reasonable discounts and pricing to Iran’s customers is a delicate marketing
Second, whenever there is a void in the
market, everyone will try to sell more crude. This may result in cheating by
some members of the agreement.
What is almost certain is that OPEC and
non-OPEC allies are interested in keeping the agreement because it results in
higher oil prices. And as oil prices are expected to increase next year,
although not greatly, producers will need to balance the market and make sure
they do not jeopardize the balance of the market.
But will the sanctions work this time? This
really depends on the role that the EU plays. Last time it was not the embargo
that hurt Iranian oil exports but the withdrawal of EU insurers from insuring
Iranian tankers that made customers unwilling to buy Iranian oil.
Trump Decision to Nix Not Fix Iran Deal
Ads to Transatlantic Tensions
In a landmark foreign policy decision,
Donald Trump announced on Tuesday that he will not recertify the Iran nuclear
deal. However, he was immediately contradicted by Emmanuel Macron, Theresa May
and Angela Merkel, who declared their nations would not merely remain
signatories to the agreement, but would also work “collectively on a broader
framework” with Tehran in 2018 and beyond.
Indeed, it is the clash between the United
States and the EU on this issue that is most striking, setting the scene for
significant transatlantic tensions in the coming weeks, not least with separate
bilateral battles over trade issues also in the offing.
Of course, deep US-European discord over
Tehran is not unprecedented as, in the 1990s, significant disagreements
surfaced when Washington adopted legislation — including the Iran and Libya
Sanctions Act — which punished European firms for doing business in those
countries. In response, Brussels agreed reciprocal steps to protect European
businesses and adopt counter-measures against the US where restrictions were
imposed by Washington.
A similar pattern may now play out
following Trump’s decision. It is clear the US president feels strongly about
the Iran issue, saying that the agreement is “a great embarrassment” and “a
giant fiction,” given that “we cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the
decaying, rotten structure of the current agreement.”
Aside from Trump’s concern that Tehran
could still get an atomic weapon under the deal, he has also repeatedly flagged
Tehran’s misbehavior that is not addressed by the 2015 deal, including the
ongoing development of ballistic missiles and interventions in Arab countries
like Iraq, Syria and Yemen. On all these points, the president has the strong
support of several Middle Eastern countries, including Israel and Saudi Arabia,
who welcomed Tuesday’s announcement.
Even in the two days since Trump's
announcement, the list of grievances the White House has asserted against Iran
has been added to by the latter's rocket attacks from Syria on Israeli army
bases in the Golan Heights, and Washington has issued a strong statement of
support for Israel's right to act in self-defence. The latest Iranian offensive
and Israeli retaliation has raised fears of further Middle Eastern
destabilization and possible conflict. Syrian President Bashar Assad has said
the current situation is "something more than a Cold War" but not yet
a "full-blown war."
Given Trump’s rhetoric, it appears unlikely
he will row back from his decision, although Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin
said on Tuesday that Washington “will continue to work with our allies to build
an agreement that is truly in the best interest of our long-term national
security.” The practical import of Trump’s announcement is that he will no
longer renew the waiver on sanctions, which will now be re-imposed on key
sectors, including energy and petrochemicals. This will not immediately lead to
the imposition of sanctions. Instead, those companies doing business in Iran
have a period of time to, potentially, wind down operations there.
Following Trump’s decision, the ball is now
in Europe’s court and the indications are that the continent’s leaders want to
try and preserve the deal. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also said on
Tuesday that Tehran might not pull out of the agreement if the other
signatories (not just France, the UK and Germany but also China and Russia)
remain committed to its terms. At the same time, however, he warned that he has
instructed the country’s atomic energy agency to prepare to restart the enrichment
of uranium in a few weeks’ time should the deal collapse entirely.
Not only does Europe want to make the deal
work, but Macron again indicated that France, Germany and the UK “will work
collectively on a broader framework, covering nuclear activity, the post-2025
period, ballistic activity, and stability in the Middle-East, notably Syria,
Yemen, and Iraq” to try to address what many European leaders regard as Trump’s
legitimate concerns in these areas — but by building on the 2015 accord, rather
than ditching it.
Yet there is no doubting that European
leaders are disheartened over Trump’s decision, which comes after high-level
lobbying in Washington from Macron, Merkel and UK Foreign Secretary Boris
Johnson in recent weeks. While Merkel and Johnson made no apparent headway,
there were signs when Macron met Trump of potential compromise.
While EU decision-makers have been
reluctant to be too explicit in public on this issue, many have been scenario
planning for weeks. Former UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has argued that it
will be possible for the continent to continue to trade with Iran by blocking
any US sanctions on European firms that do business with Tehran.
Despite this precedent, the re-imposed US
sanctions could yet critically undermine European attempts to preserve the Iran
agreement. For instance, it may only be European firms with little or no
economic interest in the US that prove likely to want to trade with Iran given
the potential risks of doing so, including fines from the US Treasury.
Taken overall, transatlantic tensions will
now jump again following Trump’s decision over Tehran and this could make for a
tricky G7 summit next month. While Europe will seek to preserve the agreement
with Tehran, its future is precarious.
Ballots, Bullets and Elections in
The spring season is commonly celebrated by
most people as a time for prosperity and glee. However, for the people of
Lebanon, particularly the natives of the capital Beirut, the month of May has
often been calamitous.
On May 7 2008, Hezbollah and its allies
launched a full-scale military attack to topple the government of PM Fouad
Siniora and occupy Beirut, a failed coup that paved the way for the Doha Accord
and the political settlement that ensued.
Ironically, Ten years after their failed
military venture, Hezbollah and their allies were able to subjugate the
Lebanese state by sweeping the parliamentary elections that took place over the
Yet to many heedless observers these recent
election, which came after nine years of hiatus, is merely a reaffirmation of
Hezbollah’s natural standing within its Shiite setting as well a natural
progression of his Christian allies, President Michel Aoun and the Free Patriotic
However, followers of this school
deliberately elect to disregard that this supposed democratic showing of
Hezbollah and its allies at the polls was mainly due to two essential factors.
First the proportional electoral law and
the gerrymandering of districts which Hezbollah itself sanctioned was crafted
to specifically undercut their opponents and to ultimately weaken and enclose
PM Saad Hariri their main Sunni opponent.
Second, despite Hezbollah’s claims that the
electoral process within their areas was democratic and exemplary, their
highhanded and bullish dealings with their electoral opponents and accusations
of electoral fraud were key for their landslide victory.
Transcending The Obvious
Be that as it may, this simple election transcend
the obvious, as it not only gave Hezbollah a firm hold over the Lebanese state,
but also brought many of Syria’s allies back to parliament. Accordingly this
will allow Hezbollah to step back and allow their their Syrian cronies to
advance the forefront to bully a politically feeble Saad Hariri as well as any
factions who wishes to opposes their supposed axis of resistance.
Rather than admit to this bleak reality,
Saad Hariri instead opted to spin his electoral blunder as a victory for his
faction, whose seats went down from 35 to 21 seats. Yet Hariri declared that
his adversaries had failed to dethrone him as head of the Sunni community, a
fact reflected through the polls.
While this deduction might be essentially
true, Hezbollah’s main objective was indeed to check Hariri’s cross national
representation to the Sunni’s or more accurately to a portion of them, forcing
him to concede a seat or two in his next cabinet to his Sunni opponents, most
of whom are within Iran and Syria’s sphere of influence.
This aforementioned scenario is highly
likely given that Hariri seems adamant on continuing to honour the Faustian
deal he had concluded with President Aoun and his son-in-law the over-ambitious
Gibran Basil, the current; leader of the FPM.
Antagonizing International Community
Consequently, by agreeing to form a
national unity government, which will house Hezbollah and its Syrian allies,
Hariri would further antagonize the international community as well as the Arab
world, who are already weary of Lebanon’s inability to honour its
disassociation pledge and prevent Hezbollah from using the country to pursue
Iran’s regional goals.
Over the last three months, Hariri and his
government have approached the international community, both at the Rome and
the Paris conference, to demand financial and security assistance, a request
that many of Lebanon’s friends happily obliged.
Yet many of these pledges rested on a firm
commitment from both Hariri and Aoun to see through a number of structural
economic reform and more importantly reach a clear national defence strategy,
which will ultimately seal the controversial issue of Hezbollah’s weapons.
While Hezbollah at the time refrained from
responding to Hariri’s wishful pledges, Nasrallah victory speech soon nipped
them in the bud as he arrogantly declared that this is a major political,
parliamentarian and moral victory for the choice of the resistance," thus
placing both Hezbollah and its arsenal outside the realm of discussion, now and
in the future.
Trump’s withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear
deal, and the possible backlash it will create with Israel, can only plunge
Lebanon further into chaos, especially if Nasrallah chooses to use his weapons
The Lebanese parliamentary elections and
its subsequent result must not be taken lightly, not merely because of
Hezbollah victory but rather because it offers a perfect model of how Iran and
its agents across the region, continue to use both bullets and ballots to
expand and secure the Tehran-Beirut corridor.
A corridor that Saad Hariri, if he does
chose to form the next cabinet would be only guarding Iran’s access to the
Mediterranean , placing Lebanon’s political and economic future in peril.
For Malaysia's Comeback 'Kid' Mahathir,
Age Is Only A Number
May 10, 2018
The right timing and the right alliance
against a corrupt government helped pull off a surprise victory
Malaysia's Mahathir Mohamad has neverlost
an election campaign. He maintained that record and created another one on
Thursday when, at 92, he was sworn in as the world's oldest elected leader.
"Yes, yes, I am still alive," a
sprightly looking Mahathir said at a 3am news conference in which he claimed
victory over the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition that has ruled the Southeast
Asian nation since independence six decades ago.
Mahathir led the coalition as Malaysia's
prime minister for 22 years, starting in 1981. As one of the country's most
eminent leaders, he was pugnacious, uncompromising and intolerant of dissent,
Malaysia from a sleepy backwater into one
of the world's modern industrialised nations.
He was never far from the headlines in
retirement, and two years ago he came back to active politics, this time in the
ranks of the opposition, vowing to oust his protege Najib Razak from the prime
minister's chair over a financial scandal at the state investment fund
1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
In his crusade, Mahathir eventually quit
the ruling United Malay National Organisation (UMNO) party, which he had helped
build, and ceded all his government advisory roles.
"During his time, I was a strong
opponent of Mahathir," said Joseph Paul, 70, a retired social worker who
joined thousands of people in the capital Kuala Lumpur to celebrate Mahathir's
"Well, politics they say is the art of
the possible, so if he comes in to get rid of another evil, why not?"
Official results early on Thursday showed
that Mahathir's Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) had won 113 of parliament's
222 seats, clinching the simple majority required to rule in the country's most
stunning election result.
In his earlier stint as prime minister,
Mahathir's aggressive diplomacy needled countries like Britain and the United
States, with comments such as one, on the eve of his retirement, that Jews
ruled the world by proxy.
He was once described as a "menace to
his country" by financier George
Soros, whom Mahathir famously derided as a
"moron" in an attack on foreign currency traders during the Asian
financial crisis of 1998.
He also spent years squabbling with his old
rival and another towering figure in Asian politics, the late Singapore leader
Lee Kuan Yew. Mahathir grew up in the rural heartland of Malaysia, then a
British colony, witnessing severe food shortages during the 1930s Great
Mahathir was a medical doctor before
becoming Malaysia's fourth prime minister in 1981 and kicking off a mission of
Bridges and six-lane highways crisscrossed
Malaysia in his development blitz, capped off with a lavish new administrative
capital, and the world's tallest structure when it was built, the 88-storey
Petronas twin towers in the capital, Kuala Lumpur.
The activity helped win Mahathir the title
"Father of Modern Malaysia," but he was known for his strong-arm
rule, although he fell short of some southeast Asian peers in ruthlessness.
Mahathir used security laws to put his
political opponents behind bars. His critics say he restricted free speech and
persecuted political opponents - none more so than his former deputy, Anwar
Ibrahim, who remains in jail on charges of
sodomy and corruption.
Mahathir has joined hands with Anwar in
this campaign and has promised to seek a royal pardon for him. He has vowed to
then step aside and let Anwar be prime minister.
Mahathir was masterly in playing to the
feelings of the mainly Muslim ethnic Malay majority. His 1970 book, "The
Malay Dilemma", argued that ethnic Malays, whom he called the nation's
rightful owners, were being eclipsed economically by ethnic Chinese.
Faced with a leadership challenge after
just five years in office, Mahathir detained more than 100 opposition
politicians, academics and social activists without trial, under internal
During the 1998 Asian financial crisis, he
took a huge gamble in tackling twin economic and political crises by sacking
Anwar and then going against the advice of the International Monetary Fund to
impose capital and currency controls that saved the economy.
Anwar took on Mahathir, turning overnight
into an opposition politician, bringing tens of thousands of people onto the
streets, shouting "Reformasi".
Anwar was later charged with sodomy and
corruption, but Mahathir denied orchestrating the charges. After his release,
he was jailed again during Najib's rule on the same charges.
Mahathir continued to wield power in UMNO
even after he handed over in 2003. He backed Najib, the son of Malaysia's
second prime minister, as the premier in 2009.
But in 2015 he urged Najib to step down
over the corruption scandal at state fund 1MDB.
In an interview in March, he said he would
keep up the battle against Najib even if he lost this election.
"I will be in my late 90s and
physically not as strong," he said. "But if I am well enough, I will
continue the struggle." He also seems to have accepted he made mistakes in
rule, writing in a blog post in January that people and the media never failed
to point out he presided over an authoritarian government for 22 years.
"Looking back now, I realise why, as
Prime Minister of Malaysia I was described as a dictator," Mahathir wrote.
"There were many things I did which were typically dictatorial."