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Middle East Press (05 Jul 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)



Troubled Countries and Post-ISIS Scenarios By Radwan Al-Sayed: New Age Islam's Selection, 05 July 2017





New Age Islam Edit Bureau

05 July 2017

Troubled Countries and Post-ISIS Scenarios

By Radwan Al-Sayed

Time to Double Down On Iranian Resistance against Khamenei

By Oubai Shahbandar

Turkey’s Regional Gambits Have Come up Short

By Osama Al-Sharif

Israel, Syria Exchange Menacing Messages across Golan

By Yossi Mekelberg

Hezbollah Threatens To Bring Insurgents to Lebanon

By Diana Moukalled

Egypt Is Moving From Controlling Rule to the Rule of Chaos

By Mohammed Nosseir

What Happens To Qatar If It Rejects Gulf Demands?

By Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran

Gulf Crisis: A Difficult Situation for French Diplomacy

By Christian Chesnot

End of ISIS Control? Now Is the Time to Liberate Minds

By Dina Al-Shibeeb

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau

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Troubled Countries and Post-ISIS Scenarios

By Radwan al-Sayed

4 July 2017

President Barack Obama used to think that problems related to ISIS and al-Qaeda in Syria and Iraq will last for 30 years and more. This was a serious misjudgement by a superpower, which possesses highly developed and accurate tools. America’s superior apparatuses have not been able to secure presidential elections against Russian hacking and they could not stop WikiLeaks and other similar leaks.

Before both these incidents happened, the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq failed in terms of providing security and re-establishing the state. Taliban is now communicating with Iran and Russia to increase its chances of controlling the country again. In Iraq, “the Sunni rebellion” – as the US coined it – that began in 2004 is still escalating amid the three challenges posed by the Americans, the Iranians and the Shiites ruling Iraq.

In all cases, American failure does not console us at all because our countries are the arenas of America’s success or failure. ISIS will be eliminated in Iraq and Syria before the year 2017 ends and not after 30 years. Some terrorist operations will still happen; however, the legend of the “state” is over or about to be over.

Even if we say that the US has played a major part in eliminating ISIS and al-Qaeda, we must note that these group’s accomplices on ground were never the people who suffered due to them but they were the Russians, the Iranians, the Turks and the Israelis.

Arabs as states and communities were never these groups’ accomplices especially that many Arabs were displaced and their communities destroyed by Iranian militias, Iranian revolutionary guards and sectarian governments in Iraq and Syria.

So what’s happening now to think about the future post-ISIS and al-Qaeda? What’s funny is that when it comes to Syria, there is nothing worth mentioning. The Syrian constitution is even being discussed in Astana while it was supposed to be discussed during the political negotiations in Geneva as the Astana talks were meant to discuss military and security matters and gradual ceasefire.

Post-War Scenarios

How will the country be managed after the war ends this year? In Iraq, they say they have a constitution, a parliament, an independent judiciary and a recognized government. However one third of the country is destroyed and there are 5 million displaced people. So who will vote in Iraq in 2018?

Before we even discuss this, what will happen after the Kurdish referendum? ISIS and Iran made gains in favor of neutralizing the nationalistic role of Sunni Arabs. It seems the balance of terror between Turkey, Iran and American protection encourages the Kurds to separate and have their independent state.

In this case, the Kurdish state and the tension on borders with Turkey will make a “national solution” weak or impossible. Nouri al-Maliki is about to make a statement similar to Benjamin Netanyahu’s on Palestine: “We do not have a partner we can negotiate with!”

The situation in Syria is more difficult as more parties are involved. Despite the latter’s diversity, there is no strong party that represents a wide category of Sunni Arabs who are the majority of the Syrian people. In Iraq, there’s a weak and fragmented party but it’s represented in the parliament, government and institutions. Meanwhile in Syria it’s like they’re completely eliminated.

The Russians are heading in the direction of withdrawing recognition of the High Negotiations Committee, which represents the Syrian political opposition. The vision of the Syrian regime, Iran and Russia is to restore the situation to how it was in 2010 and to keep Assad as president. Proof to that is that Russia and Iranian militias are in control of the situation on the ground.

Elections in 2019?

Even if there are plans to hold elections in Syria in 2019, half of the Syrian people will not be in Syria to vote as they have no rights, and this is similar to Israel’s case with the Palestinians.

The situation in Libya is better because there are two legitimate bodies, and they are an international body as represented by the presidential council and another in the East as represented by the elected parliament.

It is thus possible to think of a solution if Arabs who support both legitimate bodies or who support only one cooperate to reach a consensus. Perhaps assigning Ghassan Salame, who is well-known for his experience in crises and negotiations, as the UN envoy to Libya will pave the way towards a solution.

The situation in Yemen may be even better than the situation in Libya as there is a stable map for a solution and restoring legitimacy. Those behind the coup is running out of luck and if supplies through the Hodeidah Port is closed, it will weaken due to drop in aid.

However, the fear is from southern separatists who do not want to wait until the militias are toppled. What they are doing is tantamount to fragmentation amid famine, cholera, and destruction of the state.

Difficulties in troubled countries are many and they may lead to frustration. However, those who survived the wars of Iran, Turkey, Russia and the US can help the brotherly countries that are suffering. They should think with them about the phase after this unrest ends.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/07/04/Troubled-countries-and-post-ISIS-scenarios.html

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Time To Double Down On Iranian Resistance Against Khamenei

By Oubai Shahbandar

4 July 2017

I had the opportunity to sit down with the National Council for Resistance in Iran (NCRI) this week during its annual conference in Paris, which attracts thousands of participants every year. Diplomats and dignitaries from all over the world attended, including US politicians such as Sen. Joe Lieberman and American military notables such as retired Gen. Jack Keane, who are major supporters of regime-change in Tehran.

It was my first time directly interacting with senior NCRI leaders, despite the many years I have spent following and writing about their activities. The council is by far the largest network of anti-regime activists, and is widely feared by Tehran.

There have been numerous documented instances in which Tehran has insisted that any Western diplomatic effort to normalize relations with it would necessitate declaring the NCRI a terrorist entity.

The fact that the NCRI has consistently publicized detailed intelligence on Iran’s nefarious weapons-smuggling and inside information on its covert nuclear weaponization program has made the council the most potent and active threat to the regime’s ambitions.

NCRI leader Maryam Rajavi told the thousands who showed up to hear her speak on Saturday: “(Supreme Leader Ali) Khamenei’s representatives were saying the resistance has resurfaced in the country.

Intelligence and security officials repeatedly boast of the arrest of resistance members… The conclusion is what the Iranian resistance has emphasized since the outset and what many in the world have reached today: The only solution is regime-change.”

The conclusion is simple: If Tehran remains committed to destabilizing the region by funding, arming and indoctrinating terror groups, the only real inoculation to its radical designs is regime-change.

What made the gathering of Iranian resistance so unique was its ethnic and ideological diversity. Persians and Arabs, Sunnis and Shiites, secular and religious people were all present, united on behalf of a common goal.

Shahin Gobadi, a member of the NCRI foreign affairs committee, told me: “The issue is not Arabs versus Persians or Sunnis against Shiites; this is what the mullahs in Tehran want to depict. The Iranian resistance meeting showed that there’s a growing understanding that the regime and its proxies are on one side, and the Iranian people and the nations of the region are on the other.”

Much like the Syrian regime, Khamenei tries to normalize his regime to the international community by attempting to convince it that there is no credible alternative, so his regime and its radical Islamist ideology must be accepted by all.

No international effort to date has had any meaningful impact in moderating Tehran’s external aggressions and horrific domestic repression. If anything, the more Iran has sought recognition by the EU and US as a legitimate power, the further its terror proxies have spread throughout the Middle East.

Neither “elections,” nor the millions of dollars that have resulted from the nuclear deal, have had any tangible moderating influence on Tehran. Dialogue with it has come to its inevitable conclusion: A stubborn impasse.

So perhaps now is the time to invest real resources, time and diplomatic capital to helping the Iranian resistance grow and push back against Khamenei’s maximalist designs.

What better way to respond to Tehran’s malign meddling than with a dose of its own medicine?

Source: arabnews.com/node/1124491

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Turkey’s Regional Gambits Have Come Up Short

By Osama Al-Sharif

4 July 2017

Not much is going Turkey’s way nowadays. As a key regional player, its objectives seem vague and untenable, while its methods have been backfiring and challenged. In many cases, Ankara was forced to walk back on certain policies without securing its goals. It has to do with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s overreaching ambitions, which have subdued efforts to chart a steady course for Turkey in a turbulent region.

The most recent miscalculation is Turkey’s decision to side with Qatar in the current Gulf crisis, at the cost of dismantling its carefully constructed relations with other Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia. Ankara’s objectives are ambiguous. Setting up a military base in Qatar serves no clear strategic purpose, but it is a provocative move that contributes to destabilizing the region and raising the stakes on reaching a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

It is difficult to ascertain what Ankara hopes to achieve by taking sides in the conflict, when it could have used its ties with Gulf countries to defuse tensions and remove obstacles. Ironically, it now finds itself in the same camp as Iran, with which it differs on other conflicts such as Iraq and Syria.

Turkey’s irrational involvement has made it part of the problem, and added one more condition to the list of demands that Doha is expected to comply with to end its political isolation. But Turkey’s regional miscalculations are not new. Its hard-line policy on Syria has backfired on a number of occasions.

A potential confrontation with Russia, following the downing of a Russian jet by Turkey’s air force in 2015, ended with a sudden pivot toward the Kremlin at the expense of Ankara’s US and European allies.

The Turkish-Russian entente on Syria is yet to bear fruit. The Astana technical talks — of which Turkey, Russia and Iran are key sponsors — have failed to achieve a sustainable cease-fire arrangement in Syria or benefit the political process. The recent agreement to create de-escalation zones in the war-torn country has not seen the light of day.

Erdogan’s main goal of stemming Syrian-Kurdish expansion in northern Syria stumbled when the advance of Turkish-backed Syrian rebel forces was halted near Azaz last year, mainly by the US and Russia. Now, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have pledged to confront Turkey and its allies in northwest Syria. Ankara wants to control a corridor from Jarablus to Idlib to undercut Kurdish territorial and political ambitions.

Erdogan had asked the Trump administration to choose between Turkey and Syrian Kurds in the campaign to liberate Raqqa from Daesh. Washington has snubbed Ankara. Even more worrying for Turkey is the fate of US weapons given to the SDF once Raqqa is captured. When it comes to what Turkey sees as an existential Kurdish threat coming from either Syria or Iraq, the strategic evaluation is not good.

Since the Syrian crisis erupted more than six years ago, Erdogan has played a number of cards to guarantee himself a decisive vote in any future settlement. He was accused of facilitating the passage of thousands of mainly foreign jihadists into Syria, most of whom ended up joining Daesh or Al-Nusra Front.

Later, Ankara looked the other way as tens of thousands of Syrian refugees risked their lives crossing the sea between Turkey and Greece in a bid to reach European countries. Erdogan used this humanitarian tragedy to secure an aid package and other concessions from the EU.

Turkey got little from its spar with Israel over the Gaza blockade. A diplomatic dispute with Tel Aviv ended in restoring ties and high-level cooperation, but changed nothing in the lives of millions of besieged Gazans.

Ankara’s deep-seated hostility to the new order in Egypt proved futile as the rest of the world, especially most Gulf countries and the US, recognized President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s regime.

Besides Turkey’s uneasy relations with Washington and European capitals, it has struggled to normalize ties with the region, in an ironic reversal of the much-publicized “zero problems with neighbors” mantra. Turkey is yet to tidy up its affairs with Iraqi Kurdistan, Baghdad and Tehran.

Erdogan has given the appearance of following an independent course on regional issues, but in fact he has been reacting to unfolding events rather than sticking to a clear plan.

One thing Turkey’s foreign policy has failed to adhere to is pragmatism in a fast-changing geopolitical environment. Today, Ankara’s influence over Syria is limited to its own physical presence in the northwest. The Syrian political opposition, based in Istanbul, is divided and may have become irrelevant.

Russia and the US, while vying for control in what remains of Syria, will eventually reach an understanding that serves their immediate interests at the expense of other players. The rapport between Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin will be tested in the near future.

Putin’s high-stakes game in Syria will be used as a bargaining chip to ease US-EU economic sanctions on Moscow. Russian long-term interests with both go far beyond Syria and the region.

For Erdogan, who runs a politically divided country that is struggling economically, domestic challenges will only increase following the post-failed-coup purge. His attempt to demonize Syrian Kurds will do little to offset his problems with Turkey’s Kurdish minority. Most of Turkey’s regional gambits have come up short. The course now looks intractable at best.

Source: .arabnews.com/node/1124506

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Hezbollah Threatens To Bring Insurgents to Lebanon

By Diana Moukalled

4 July 2017

Will we soon see on the streets and borders of Lebanon tens of thousands of fighters from Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan? This is what Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah promised in his latest speech in the context of a confrontation with Israel.

Israel does not underestimate his words, but a number of its generals have rightfully noted that the Lebanese-Israeli border has been calm for 11 years, which is unprecedented. This does not mean Israel does not take Nasrallah’s words seriously, but referencing the calm border despite regional chaos suggests this threat targets Lebanon primarily, not Israel.

Lebanon’s government acted as if Nasrallah had never uttered those words, but commentators responded angrily on Twitter and Facebook. But in reality, what can the government’s position be when Hezbollah is part of it? Is the government able to reject the arrival of thousands of insurgents?

There is a bitter awareness and acknowledgement that the state has been stripped of its sovereignty. Nasrallah’s words may be purely rhetorical as usual, and may be in line with the path Hezbollah initiated in Syria, where it prepared numerous militias. Perhaps his threat to transfer to Lebanon Shiite militias of various nationalities that are fighting in Syria comes in the context of Iran’s agenda and its assessment of the post-Daesh period.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1124501

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Egypt Is Moving From Controlling Rule to the Rule of Chaos

By Mohammed Nosseir

4 July 2017

Whether a ruler is authoritarian or democratic is not as crucial for a nation’s development as having an effective and efficient ruler who is able to meet citizens’ needs. After almost three decades of former President Hosni Mubarak’s iron-fisted rule, Egyptians were unleashed in the Jan. 25, 2011 revolution. Since then, Egypt has been steadily moving from a determined authoritarian ruling mechanism to a disorderly one that falls under the umbrella of authoritarianism but is not driven by it.

Ruling a country with a high illiteracy rate like Egypt requires a clear mechanism to shape and channel citizens’ thinking and behaviours. The failure of the Jan. 25 revolution has not only distanced Egypt from a just rule of law within a democratic system, it has also undermined the role of Egyptian rulers, depriving them of the full-fledged authoritarian mechanism that their predecessors possessed.

In the absence of true rule of law, statesmen able to make solid decisions and Mubarak’s iron grip, Egypt is currently manipulated by many powerful interest groups. Our country is facing a very serious challenge: The absence of a functioning ruling mechanism. Mubarak did not apply the rule of law properly, but his authoritarian grip maintained a degree of order.

Today, the rule of law is not enforced in Egypt and, fearing eventual prosecution, many in positions of authority are reluctant to apply the old ruthless mechanism. President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi is not as in control as Mubarak used to be. El-Sisi drives politics in Egypt exclusively, but this is not enough.

The country has long been ruled by a combination of the president’s explicit decisions and his implicit ability to influence and mobilize others to better serve his mission. El-Sisi does not have Mubarak’s aptitude to lead from behind by indirectly mobilizing state authorities and institutions. The result is that Egypt may be moving, but it does not know where it is heading. Implementing a policy of harassing political Islamists, without having clear and functional alternative political forces in place that citizens can join, is temporarily privileging state authorities at the expense of empowering citizens who could better deal with extremists. The same applies to government expenditure that comes at the cost of shrinking the private sector.

Contrary to what the authorities may assume, such policies do not strengthen the state; they create a temporary, unsustainable artificial structure and leave a bitter feeling among left-out entities and citizens.

Many Egyptians blame the Jan. 25 revolution for the current inability to maintain order. The revolution was a genuine attempt to establish true democracy, but it was lost in translation, so we ended up living in chaos and with confused mentalities. Because most Egyptians are not sophisticated enough to understand the technicality of democracy, they tend to immaturely compare between two unpleasant scenarios — authoritarianism and chaos — favouring the former.

The ruling style of El-Sisi, who has been in power for almost three years, is to allow state entities to function independently, working to empower him rather than provide guidelines to state authorities and entities.

Without true democratic pillars and a functioning ruling mechanism, Egypt is behaving like an out-of-control vehicle that is trying to speed up but has no predetermined destination. A ruling mechanism is what matters; its absence may well explain many of the ambiguities in the decisions adopted by the Egyptian state.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1124496

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Israel, Syria Exchange Menacing Messages Across Golan

By Yossi Mekelberg

4 July 2017

Since the start of the Syrian civil war more than six years ago, Israel and its north-eastern neighbor have been at pains to avoid a spill-over that would end in full-blown hostilities between the two historic enemies. In recent weeks, this status quo has been rattled to a point that has created a heightened risk of both sides miscalculating themselves into conflict, at least a limited one.

Neither of them has an interest in this happening, or has much to gain from it, but a dangerous dynamic is developing. The proximity of Iran and its proxy Hezbollah to Israel’s borders add a further ingredient that makes Israel’s security establishment very uncomfortable. Throughout the Syrian conflict, Israeli involvement has been painstakingly limited, aimed at avoiding being dragged into an unpredictable and unwinnable situation.

More recently, battles between the Syrian military and rebel groups have moved much closer to Syria’s border with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. This has led to at least 17 cases of errant fire landing on Israel’s side of the Golan. Israel’s instant and more forceful retaliation than usual, by its air force and artillery, was a clear signal to the regime in Damascus that it will not tolerate such crossfire even if it is obvious that Israel is not the intended target.

Since day one of the Syrian conflict, the Netanyahu government has adhered to its policy of responding to any firing on what Israel considers its own territory, or the transfer from or through Syria of weapons, especially sophisticated ones, to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Whereas the logic of both red lines, and rarely diverting from them, served Israeli security interests, they each represent very different challenges for Israel.

The growing presence of Iran and Hezbollah is a strategic and long-term threat, while the cross-border firing is a more specific and contained challenge. Barring the possibility that Syria, deep in the quagmire of its own tragedy, is interested in opening a new front, this cross-border military spillage is due to intense fighting in the Quneitra area, especially its eastern part.

This area includes a highly strategic road between Damascus, the Jordanian border and the city of Daraa. Losing this area would be detrimental to the Assad regime, as it provides easy access to the Syrian capital. Military assaults by the Salafi Islamist organization Tahrir Al-Sham, formerly Al-Nusra, in cooperation with other Islamist rebel groups, unnerves regime troops by threatening to reduce the area they control near this strategic route to Damascus.

The danger arises not with the intentions of both sides, but with the circumstances that might lead to a miscalculated and misjudged sequence of military provocations that might escalate into wider acts of aggression.

The customary incendiary rhetoric is exacerbating an already very sensitive situation. It does not help calm the situation when Israel’s leadership is adamant that it will retaliate militarily to any cross-border fire, and that Syria’s top echelon blames Israel for supporting Islamists in Syria. Israel does provide some material and humanitarian assistance to certain groups close to the border, but this is far from changing the balance of power.

Restraints in military terms and verbal provocation are paramount to preventing deterioration in relations between the two countries, which are officially still in a state of war. Last week’s events were something of a watershed in these sensitive and uneasy relations.

In the past, no more than one or two mortars landed on the Israeli side in each incident; this time it was considerably more. Though they landed in open areas, it was in some cases during the weekend, when many thousands of Israelis visit the Golan; this could have resulted in Israeli civilian casualties. This to an extent can explain the severity of Israeli retaliation, but is nevertheless a matter of grave concern.

Israel maintains its red lines in Syria, but strategically it is as confused today as it was more than six years ago over what outcome to the Syrian conflict would best serve its interests. The temptation for Israeli strategists is to welcome the total chaos and disintegration of Syria and of other countries in the region. This keeps Syria weak and without serious military capabilities to challenge Israel.

But this is a short-term view as it opens the space for extreme elements that in the long term are considerably more hostile to Israel. By its own account, Israel sees Iran and Hezbollah as posing the main strategic threat to its existence. At a recent conference, the head of Israeli military intelligence Herzl Levy said the Iran-Hezbollah axis is the main existential threat.

One may or may not agree with him, but it is obvious that the lack of regional stability and the disintegration of Syria are contributing to their power. Hence Israeli interests lie with a solution to the Syrian tragedy that will bring about stability and reduce Iranian-Hezbollah influence there.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1124486#

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What Happens To Qatar If It Rejects Gulf Demands?

By Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran

4 July 2017

As the deadline for Qatar to meet Gulf demands nears, the country puts itself in fierce conflict which does not end with the demands made by the four Arab countries. This dispute extends to other countries that support moderation, tolerance and combat terrorism.

In recent days, Qatar only viewed these demands via a narrow perspective. It did not look at them as serious demands by countries that suffered from terrorism and witnessed bloodshed. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt are countries targeted by terrorists.

All the busted cells were nurtured by media platforms in Qatar, and they received direct support from them, like the case is in Syria, or indirect support such as the hefty ransom, which Qatar unhesitatingly paid. Qatar is not convinced it is embroiled in this global terrorist situation and this poses a problem for Doha as it will worsen the regime’s crises and put it thrust it into an unprecedented phase.

Qatar’s foreign minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani was hesitant the entire time as he made contradictory statements. His statements were not suited to a major diplomatic crisis which struck the country. In his recent statements, he even admitted Qatar’s support of terrorism.

He literally said: “Qatar is not the only country confronting this accusation and it’s rather at the bottom of the list of countries involved in such crimes.” He acknowledges Qatar is on the list of countries supporting terrorism and when he realizes what he said he adds that Doha is at the bottom of the list.

Diplomatic Efficiency

He also lessens the burden of responsibility. If Qatar demonstrated diplomatic efficiency during this crisis, it would have managed to delay the negative repercussions, contain the crisis and adopt a proper approach by responding to demands and discussing what is impossible or difficult to meet. However, it chose to remain stubborn as it viewed the crisis as “insulting” as former foreign minister Hamad bin Jassem put it.

No one objected to the mediation efforts, which sought to contain the crisis and bring Qatar back to the Gulf fold. As colleague Mohammad Romaihi said on Twitter the crisis with its repercussions may extend to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) which has been the most successful Arab entity. However, Qatar’s unjustified stubbornness may push the countries toward other options and alliances.

This is going to be the most dangerous consequence if Qatar chooses to reject the demands. Doha’s rejection may destroy the successes achieved by the GCC, which it hasn’t been harmonious to since the mid-1990s. It did not adhere to its principles and goals of the GCC, especially in areas such as resisting Iranian expansion in the Gulf and working to curb it.

Qatar can learn lessons from the exceptional cooperation that exists between Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain as these countries operate as a complete unit and almost completely agree on all thorny issues, such as their recent decision to cut diplomatic ties with Qatar. What these countries have in common is Qatar’s intense campaigns against them.

Gulf Unity

When the UAE exercised its sovereign right to stamp out terrorists and Muslim Brotherhood’s criminal activities, Qatari media platforms claimed that the UAE was being suppressive. When Bahrain fought against terrorism, it was dubbed as an act of aggression against people seeking peace. When Saudi Arabia curbed expansion of terrorist activities in Qatif and Al-Awamiyah, Qatari media outlets sided with Hezbollah’s media.

And now, after rejecting the demands, Qatar will create a wedge in Gulf unity. This would mean the situation will become even more complicated and will last longer. It is no secret that the crisis has been difficult for Qatar as the reasons behind it are clear after decades of conspiracies. This is backed by records – some of which broadcast – and by documents that reveal the extent of Qatar’s rogue behavior in and outside the GCC.

The ball is now in the Qatar’s court and time is not on its side. The boycotting countries are the winning party as it is necessary for them to address Qatar after it went too far. The least they can do is protect the security of their countries from those who conspired against them during the past two decades.

Rejecting the demands means refusing to acknowledge the new international reality. The repercussions will not be easy on the small country, which is arrogantly stubborn for no good reason.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/07/04/What-happens-to-Qatar-if-it-rejects-Gulf-demands-.html

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Gulf Crisis: A Difficult Situation for French Diplomacy

By Christian Chesnot

4 July 2017

As soon as he arrived at the Elysée, President Emmanuel Macron faced a crisis as serious as the Middle East issue. The tension between Qatar and other Gulf countries (Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain) and Egypt has proved to be a challenge for him.

Why? Because France cannot openly take sides with one side or the other. For a long time, Paris has maintained relations of friendship and cooperation with all the main protagonists. The dilemma is therefore great for French diplomacy.

France has signed defense agreements with Doha that bought 24 Rafale fighter planes, whose pilots are currently being trained in France. Over the past decade, Qatar has increased investment in France, notably by taking minority interests in large companies such as Total, Vivendi, Veolia Environment, Vinci, Lagardère and LVMH. The cherry on the top of the Qatari presence in France: Sheikh Tamim is the owner of the Paris St Germain football club.

As French military-economic interests are high, in addition to a defense agreement, France has a permanent naval base in Abu Dhabi. The UAE is among the first investors, among Gulf countries, in France. As for Saudi Arabia, it was promoted to the rank of “strategic partner” of Paris, which echoes the diplomatic convergences with Riyadh.

Beyond the appeals of maintaining calm, what can France do to help resolve this acute crisis in the Gulf, the most serious one since the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq in August 1990?

Actually, not much. In the early days of the crisis, President Emmanuel Macron called on the main protagonists, to dissolve the situation. But it is hard for the Elysee to do more.

Diplomatic Interest

Basically, the new French president is less “attached” to the region than his predecessors Nicolas Sarkozy, especially with Qatar, and François Hollande with Saudi Arabia.

His diplomatic interest is more oriented toward Africa and the Maghreb, as evidenced by his first trips abroad to Mali and Morocco. During the election campaign, candidate Macron promised to build a more “transparent and frank” relationship with the Gulf.

As for Doha, Emmanuel Macron wants to challenge the tax exemption granted to Qatari investors by Nicolas Sarkozy in 2009. However, the French president, who made realism and pragmatism the alpha and omega of his diplomacy, will not be able to distance himself for very long from this major crisis in the Gulf.

“It is a strategic region for France and we have very long rooted strategic partnerships with several countries,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian stated recently that he can only call on the protagonists of the crisis to “decrease the tension” since “division does not serve them.”

Clearly, Paris cannot afford to cut its ties with one or the other. Moreover, in his desire to talk to everyone, Emmanuel Macron sent an invitation to the Emir of Qatar to meet him at the Elysée Palace on July 6th.

The invitation is no longer on the table as Paris announced yesterday that Sheikh Tamim was indeed invited to visit France and that the visit will take place by the end of the summer.

He knows fully well that the key to the solution is not in Paris but in Washington. And most importantly, he probably considers it is better for him not to leave his country because the crisis is still in its incandescent phase.

Source: /english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/07/04/Gulf-crisis-A-difficult-situation-for-French-diplomacy.html

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End Of ISIS Control? Now Is the Time to Liberate Minds

By Dina al-Shibeeb

4 July 2017

Karrar Noshi, an aspiring young actor and a visual arts student, was recently stabbed to death in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, apparently because his style was very flamboyant and he wore “tight clothes.”

This kind of violence – perpetrated to suppress a human being’s choice of wardrobe – is not new. They have happened way before the rise of the malicious and immoral ISIS and its so-called Caliphate in 2014.

Way back in March 2012, I remember reporting about the stoning to death of dozens of Iraqi teenagers with “emo appearance.” They were reportedly killed by some form of moral police in a violent crackdown soon after the Iraqi interior ministry at the time declared them as “devil worshippers.”

And even before the brutal killing of those “emo” teenagers in Iraq, the Iraqi Ministry of Education in 2010 tried to ban theatre and music classes in Baghdad’s Fine Arts Institute, and ordered the removal of statues showcased at the entrance of the institute.

However, this didn’t materialize due to Baghdad’s somehow vibrant civil society movement, which had people protesting: “We are not Qandahar,” in reference to Baghdad’s more progressive culture.

Rise of Extremism

Several reasons could be attributed to the rise of extremism in Iraq – be it Shiite or Sunni – following the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. It began with the intention to localize the global “war on terror” in Iraq.

Iraq’s borders were kept porous with no protection against the region’s radical and frustrated people who entered a country plagued by virtual absence of institutions such as the Iraqi Army. Special mention should be made about Paul Bremer, the head of Coalition Provisional Authority, who dismantled the army amid simmering anger against occupation.

This region definitely has some conservative hues but the constant instability it has experienced has heightened these tendencies. Iraq is a prime example of this phenomenon despite the efforts made by the US to bring democracy to the country.

Picking up the Pieces

Stifled by the regular occurrence of deadly bombing incidents, Iraqis have tried hard to pick up whatever pieces they could find to make their country feel normal again.

They held beauty pageants to celebrate life. They launched an “I am Iraqi, I read” campaign to further enrich themselves or took to the streets to rejoice the Iraqi National Football team winning a match.

Most importantly, they continued their protests against electricity cuts and corruption in a country that saw its budget deficit worsen despite oil sales ballooning post-2003. However, the country has always tried to hit back collectively.

There were some MPs who hold conservative views and try to re-introduce an already rejected bill, to reduce marriage age for girls from 18 to 9. As the Iraqi government is getting ready to announce officially the liberation of the country’s second largest city of Mosul from ISIS control, the plague of this group’s ideology lurk in the background.

In a recent interview with the Turkish-owned TRT World, actual imam of the Great Al-Nuri Mosque – where ISIS Chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced his Caliphate in 2014 – said he was initially “optimistic” when ISIS took over as he was looking forward for an Islamic rule.

But Imam Hamoud Omar soon felt disillusioned when he saw the bloodshed. However, during the interview the imam reiterated his support for Shariah rulings such as cutting fingers of thieves and stoning of adulterers.

Killing Innocents

Is it possible that following this war against ISIS, and the imminent liberation of Mosul, we witness killings of an innocent person such as Noshi and find an imam still romanticizing about a “Caliphate”?

Iraqi parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri is right when he said last week that “liberating minds from extremist ideology” is far more important than just freeing territories seized by ISIS.

We can always liberate a place but liberating minds isn’t as simple. There needs to be a full economic vision to employ the youth and put a plan in place to prevent ideology of extremism from taking roots.

In a region so complex in sectarian, religious, ethnic and tribal identities transcending borders and governments, there is a dire need to strengthen trust and egalitarianism.

Let those who love beauty and art like Noshi live.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/07/04/End-of-ISIS-control-Now-is-the-time-to-liberate-minds.html

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URL: http://www.newageislam.com/middle-east-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/troubled-countries-and-post-isis-scenarios-by-radwan-al-sayed--new-age-islam-s-selection,-05-july-2017/d/111777




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