New Age Islam Edit Bureau
05 July 2017
Troubled Countries and Post-ISIS
By Radwan Al-Sayed
Time to Double Down On Iranian
Resistance against Khamenei
By Oubai Shahbandar
Turkey’s Regional Gambits Have Come
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
Time To Double Down On Iranian
Resistance Against Khamenei
By Oubai Shahbandar
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
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
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
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?
Turkey’s Regional Gambits Have Come Up
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
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
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
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
Hezbollah Threatens To Bring Insurgents
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,
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.
Egypt Is Moving From Controlling Rule to
the Rule of Chaos
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
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.
Israel, Syria Exchange Menacing Messages
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
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
What Happens To Qatar If It Rejects Gulf
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
Gulf Crisis: A Difficult Situation for
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.
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
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.
End Of ISIS Control? Now Is the Time to
By Dina al-Shibeeb
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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