Age Islam Edit Bureau
03 January 2017
Presidency May Be Better For Palestine
By Ramzy Baroud
Year Of Aleppo?
By Amir Taheri
Occupations through War, Peace and Agreements
By Eyad Abu Shakra
Is Back On Track!
By Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi
Oman’s Participation in the Islamic Coalition
By Turki Aldakhil
By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
3 January 2017
Israel is dizzy. Jan. 20 has been like
another Christmas Day, and Donald Trump is jolly old Santa Claus bearing gifts.
The writing is already on the wall as President-elect Trump has appointed an
extremist, David Friedman, as the next US ambassador to Israel.
Friedman intends to relocate the US Embassy
from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and supports the expansion of illegal colonies that
have already sliced up the envisaged Palestinian state into South Africa-like
Thus, it must be odd, if not altogether
provocative, to suggest that a Trump presidency could be the coup de grace that
Palestinians and the entire Middle East needs to liberate themselves from the
weight of an overbearing, arrogant and futile American foreign policy that has
extended for decades.
A Trump presidency is clearly terrible for
Palestinians in the short term. The man does not even attempt to show a degree
of impartiality or an iota of balance as he approaches the Middle East’s most
protracted and delicate conflict.
According to the seemingly infinite stream
of his tweets, Trump is counting the days to when he can show Israeli leaders
how pro-Israel his administration will be. Shortly after the US abstained from
voting on UN Security Council Resolution 2334 — which condemned Israel’s
illegal settlements — on Dec. 23, he tweeted that “as to the UN, things will be
different” after Jan. 20.
Trump took to Twitter once more shortly
before John Kerry delivered a major policy speech on the Palestinian-Israeli
conflict, where the secretary of state chastized Israel for jeopardizing the
two-state solution, and called the current government of Benjamin Netanyahu the
most right-wing in Israel’s history.
In his retort, Trump called on Israel to
“stay strong” until his inauguration on Jan. 20. Israeli leaders are eying the
date too, with the likes of Naftali Bennett, head of the extremist Jewish Home
Party, expecting a “reset” of Israeli-US relations once Trump is president.
Furthermore, “we have a chance to reset the
structure across the Middle East,” Bennett, who is also Israel’s education
minister, told journalists in November. “We have to seize that opportunity and
act on it.” One of the impending opportunities presented by the Trump
presidency is that, according to Bennett, “the era of the Palestinian state is
Kerry is right; the current Israeli
government is the most right-wing and most extreme, a trend that will not
change any time soon since it is an accurate reflection of the political and
societal mood in the country.
Read how Bennett responded to Kerry’s
speech. “Kerry quoted me three times, anonymously, in his speech in order to
demonstrate that we oppose a Palestinian state,” he said. “So let me state it
explicitly: Yes. If it depends on me, we will not establish another terror
state in the heart of our country.”
As for Kerry’s reiteration that Jerusalem
should be a capital for both Israel and Palestine, Bennett responded:
“Jerusalem has been the Jewish capital for 3,000 years. That is in the Bible.
Open it and read.”
The stranglehold of religious zealotry on
Israeli politics is irreversible, at least not in the foreseeable future. While
in the past secular Israeli politicians used religious notions to appeal to
religious Israelis in exchange for their votes and to populate illegal
settlements, it is the religious groups that now set the tone of mainstream
So how could this benefit Palestinians in
any way? Simply put, clarity. Since mid-level US officials agreed to meet with
a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) delegation in Tunisia in the late
1980s, the US has chosen a most bewildering path of peace-making.
Soon after the US hesitantly “engaged” the
PLO — once the latter had to jump through a thousand political hoops to receive
the American nod of approval — the US was left alone to define what “peace”
between Israel and its Palestinian and Arab neighbors entailed.
The White House set the parameters of the
“peace process,” corralled Arabs on many occasions to have them rubber-stamp
whatever peace “vision” the US found suitable, and divided the Arabs into
“moderate” and “radical” camps, solely based on how a certain country perceived
US diktats of “peace” in the region.
Without any mandate, the US designated
itself as an “honest peace broker,” yet has done everything to jeopardize the
accomplishment of the very parameters that it set to achieve the supposed
While it described Israel’s illegal
settlement construction as an “obstacle to peace,” Washington funded the
settlements and the occupation army entrusted with protecting them; it called
for “confidence-building measures” while bankrolling Israel’s military and
justifying its wars in Gaza and its excessive violence in the occupied West
Bank and Jerusalem. In other words, for decades the US has done the exact
opposite of what it publicly preached.
US political schizophrenia is on full
display at the moment. While President Barack Obama dared to commit the
unspeakable in December — abstaining from a vote on a resolution that demanded
Israel halt its illegal settlements in the West Bank — only a few weeks
earlier, he handed Israel “the largest military aid deal in history.”
Blind US support of Israel throughout the
years has increased the latter’s expectations to the point that it now
anticipates American support to continue even when Israel is ruled by
extremists who are further destabilizing an already fragile and unstable
According to Israeli logic, such
expectations are quite rational. The US has served as an enabler to Israel’s
political and military belligerence, while pacifying the Palestinians and Arabs
with empty promises, threats at times, handouts and mere words.
The so-called “moderate Palestinians” were
duly pacified. They won the trappings of “power,” coupled with US political
validation, while allowing Israel to conquer whatever remained of Palestine.
However, that era is over. While the US
will continue to enable Israel’s intransigence, a Trump presidency is likely to
witness a complete departure from Washingtonian doublespeak.
Bad will no longer be good, wrong is not
right, and warmongering is not peace-making. Trump is set to expose US foreign
policy for what it truly is, and has been for decades. His presidency is likely
to give all parties a stark choice regarding where they stand on peace, justice
and human rights.
The Palestinians, too, will have to make a
choice: Face the decades-long reality with a united front, or side with those
who intend to “reset” the future of the Middle East.
Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an
internationally syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several
books, and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com.
Year of Aleppo?
In classic cultures, each year, instead of
being designated a number, was given a name. It could be the name of a major
battle such as The Elephant, when Abyssinians invaded the Arabian Peninsula; an
exceptional natural disaster such as The Locust, which marked the beginning of
the end for Sumer; or even an obscure river north of Rome, the Rubicon, the
crossing of which by Caesar triggered the civil war that led to the death of
the Roman Republic and the emergence of the Empire.
As various cultures established calendars
and learned how to use them, the practice of baptizing each year with a name
fell into disuse. In 1937, the French writer-cum-politician Andre Malraux revived
the tradition by suggesting that year be named after Guernica, a small Basque
town in northwest Spain that had been subjected to the first instance of
carpet-bombing in the history of war by Nazi Germany’s Luftwaffe and fascist
Italy’s Aviazione Legionnaria.
In the context of the Spanish civil war,
then in its second year, the aerial crucifixion of Guernica was of little
military value. In symbolic terms, however, it marked a turning point in the
struggle, which as subsequent events proved, concerned the whole of Europe
beyond the Spanish backwater.
Some Western intellectuals, among them
Malraux and British writer George Orwell, identified the event as the end of
the tentative peace established in the continent at the end of World War I.
Guernica sealed the fate of the League of
Nations, a precursor of the UN, as the guarantor of some international law.
More importantly, perhaps, Guernica was to morph into the prologue to World War
II as the greatest fight between dictatorship and democracy in the history of
the blood-soaked continent.
The attack introduced a new form of
warfare, in which the aim was no longer to weaken or destroy an armed opponent,
but to kill as many civilian non-combatants as possible. That was a dress
rehearsal, albeit on a small scale, for the carpet-bombing of London, and later
Dresden and Berlin, above and beyond any justification in purely military
Throughout history, war had meant a clash
of two rival armed groups with civilians simply required to submit to the
winner at the conclusion of the conflict. In Guernica, however, the aim was to
terrorize the civilian population even before the end of the conflict.
Western democracies, notably Britain and
France, rubbed their hands and watched as the tragedy unfurled, thus signaling
to the Axis Powers that their dream of world conquest would run into little
With all that in mind, would it be
outrageous to wonder whether 2016 could be named the Year of Aleppo? The Syrian
city, crucified by carpet-bombing by the Russian air force and ceaseless
artillery barrages by the remnants of President Bashar Assad’s army — backed by
the Iranian military and its Lebanese, Afghan and Pakistani mercenaries — is
far bigger and more populous than tiny Guernica. The number of victims is also
larger. However, we live in an age in which everything is bigger, larger, and
often more horrible.
Beyond that, the resemblance between the
two events is staggering. In Guernica, German and Italian bombers deliberately
targeted hospitals, schools, and even markets and bazaars, exactly as Russia
and its allies did in Aleppo.
In both cases, the attackers did not allow
humanitarian aid to reach people trapped in the inferno of the targeted city.
German and Italian planes knocked out a small relief convoy organized by
volunteers from France and Britain. In Aleppo, Russian planes destroyed a
similar convoy despite the fact that it had obtained the approval of the UN and
the International Red Cross.
Before Guernica, the conflict in Spain had
been a civil war with rival factions also enjoying some backing from outside
powers. Guernica transformed that into a broader fight over who would dominate
Europe, indeed the whole world. Aleppo may well signal a similar turn of
events, with a civil war becoming a broader struggle for domination of the
Middle East, the Mediterranean and beyond.
Aleppo looks like the end of the line for
many things. One might wonder whether the UN will share the fate of the League
of Nations. After all, what is the good of an organization that cannot even
allow verbal condemnation of mass killing of civilians by one of its
veto-holding members? Worse still, the other veto-holding members have either
clung to carefully calibrated clichés or kept their mouths shut.
Russia and China vetoed a plan to allow
humanitarian aid to reach Aleppo. Britain and France shed crocodile tears, but
refused to even contemplate air-drops of food and medical supplies to the
besieged population as the Russians went for the kill. The US, under Nobel
peace laureate Barack Obama, did even worse by harping on about “consulting our
Russian partners to find a solution.”
Aleppo debunked the shameless claims of the
so-called Stop the War Coalition, which is always ready to march in London,
Paris and New York against even a threat of action against despotic regimes
such as those in Iran or Cuba, but cares not a farthing about slaughter in
The Syrian city also exposed the true face
of the regime in Tehran as an opportunist and power-hungry mafia that, though
using a pseudo-Islamic lexicon, is more than ready to play second fiddle to an
ambitious “infidel” power in slaughtering defenseless Muslims.
The Moscow-Tehran axis may well be
celebrating “victory” in Aleppo, just as Berlin and Rome did after putting
Guernica to death. However, just as Guernica did not guarantee strategic
victory for the Nazi-fascist axis, the crucifixion of Aleppo is unlikely to
advance Moscow’s and Tehran’s empire-building ambitions.
This does not mean that today, though gone
rogue, Russia and Iran are the same as Germany and Italy in 1937. What is
clear, however, is that they are using similar tactics that should no longer be
tolerated in a post-Communist, post-fascist world. Whatever happens next in
this war, one thing is certain: 2016 will be remembered as the Year of Aleppo,
Syria’s hero-martyr city.
was executive editor in chief of the daily Kayhan in Iran from 1972 to 1979. He
has worked at, or written for, innumerable publications and published 11 books.
Occupations Through War, Peace And Agreements
Eyad Abu Shakra
Those familiar with how Iran’s political
institutions work explain Gen. Qassem Soleimani’s intended appearances in
photos and films shot in Arab battlefields where his militias fight, and the
broadcasting of them on TV and online social networks, as part of the
“psychological warfare” that Tehran has mastered.
Soleimani, commander of Al-Quds Force of
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corp. (IRGC), is himself engaged in a fight for
influence within the country’s security and military establishment, which is
currently the backbone of Iran’s power structure.
“Elected” and selected councils, as well as
religious authorities, the presidency and the prime minister’s posts, are now
of secondary importance compared to the real center of power, which comprises
the interests and networks of the security and military apparatuses — led by
the IRGC — and its financial mafias, albeit under the cloak of Supreme Leader Ali
Thus, Soleimani and his mates in the IRGC
and other security and military apparatuses are the ones who today call the
shots, decide the national political agenda, and plan and execute Iran’s
Furthermore, when recalling that most of
what is being uttered in now-familiar arrogance may not be true but is
primarily reserved for local consumption, and that Iran’s internal situation is
much worse than we are led to believe by Tehran propaganda organs, one has to
accept that the better part of Tehran’s arrogance is helped by very helpful and
accommodating regional and global conditions.
Indeed, it was recently reported that
things are not all well between Iran’s leading players and some of its
influential lobbyists in Washington, who have different approaches and tactics.
However, reliable observers do not see these emerging differences as a critical
problem in dealing with Washington under President-elect Donald Trump, unless
anti-Iran forces and those at the receiving end of Tehran’s aggression and
expansionism succeed in establishing a solid understanding based on common
interests with the incoming Trump administration.
Frankly, one has to regard Tehran’s
achievements in both Iraq and Syria as outright victories. Tehran has also managed
to reach an agreement with Washington, leaving it the freedom to do as it
pleases throughout the Middle East, and tie up its tactical interests with
those of Russia despite historical Russo-Iranian animosities in the southern
Caspian Sea basin. Iran’s de-facto occupation of Iraq began with the 2003
US-led attack and occupation, and gathered pace under the Coalition Provisional
Authority (CPA), which dismantled Iraqi state institutions and gifted the
country to pro-Iran sectarian factions. Now this Pax Iranica is obvious after
the successive governments of Ibrahim Jaafari, Nouri Al-Maliki and Haider
In the meantime, while the Kurdish north is
all but an independent state, the only part of Iraq whose position remains
ambiguous in the atmosphere of Iranian hegemony is the Arab Sunni part,
awaiting the outcome of the battle for Mosul and clarification of the
relationship of the mid-Euphrates (Al-Anbar) with the central government in
The overall picture is not much different
in Syria now that the Russia-Iran alliance is applying the final touches to the
desired demographic change in “useful Syria” through systematic mass population
displacement under full international auspices.
This displacement, or rather “cleansing,”
is being meticulously conducted regionally and internationally via multi-party
talks and meetings that began in Geneva and may not end in Astana, the capital
In other Syrian areas, while the situation
in the militarily-frozen south seems to be controlled by coded messages between
Israel on one side and the Syrian regime, Soleimani’s bunch and Moscow’s
protectorate on the other, Washington continues to bet on Kurdish secessionist
ambitions in northern Syria under the pretext of fighting Daesh. Eastern Syria
— Deir Ez-Zor province — is left to share the same fate as the Iraqi part of
the mid-Euphrates basin.
Last but not least, there is Lebanon. Here,
the majority in both the Christian and Sunni Muslim communities thought they
finally managed to “save” independent Lebanon by electing a “strong” Maronite
Christian with majority support as president, and appointing a “strong” Sunni
with majority support as prime minister.
They felt that the two men (Michel Aoun and
Saad Hariri, respectively) would be able to end Lebanon’s political vacuum,
which lasted around two and a half years. However, while most level-headed
Lebanese knew deep inside that the vacuum was only the tip of the iceberg, and
that the reality was much more serious, they gave this development the benefit of
the doubt, and trusted yet again promises that have been proven to be
The grantor of these promises was the
“force of the status quo” — Hezbollah — which receives its orders from abroad
while exercising its occupation of the country, permeating all government
institutions and unilaterally fighting regional wars that serve the interests
of its regional master Iran.
This occupation is now about to be
legitimized by an electoral law demanded by Hezbollah, and would contribute to
the ongoing process of the IRGC’s occupation of Syria. The latter is taking
shape through sectarian cleansing of regions, towns and cities such as Qusair,
Homs and Aleppo, as well as that in the greater Damascus region, with the
intention of bolstering its defenses and linking it with the Shiite human
reservoir in neighboring Lebanon.
Hezbollah — an organ of the IRGC — has done
its share in changing the demographic map of Lebanon through its military
adventures that damaged the country’s economy, driving hundreds of thousands of
Lebanese to emigrate.
Thus one needs to reflect when seeing
Soleimani’s photos in front of Aleppo’s historic citadel, the weeping displaced
being driven away in the Syrian regime’s green buses in a journey of sectarian
population exchange, and hearing of forced “conciliations” under threat of
famine and murder.
One must reflect and think as the
international community chatters about fighting terrorism and extremism, and
supporting “legitimacy” through conferences and deals designed — in reality —
to facilitate the redrawing of the Middle East map.
We are at a threshold of a regional
situation totally different from the one in place around 100 years ago. In this
new situation, there will surely be winners, losers and the departed — it is
our duty to realize the magnitude of its critical challenges.
Shakra is managing editor of Asharq Al-Awsat, where this article was originally
Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi
Jan 3, 2017
ABDULLAH Al-Athba, editor-in-chief of the
Qatari daily, Al-Arab, was both happy and sad. He was excited that King Salman
was visiting Qatar and other Gulf state, early last month. “You may have
noticed the public mode in the Emirates, (the King first stop). Saudi Arabia
for us is our elder brother. We feel safer when he is around. We feel united
when he is leading. And we feel stronger when he projects strength to the
outside world,” he explains.
“In Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait, we will be
competing to show our love for our father figure, and appreciation of his
visit. Saudi Arabia is not just a family, it is “the family.” With its care and
support we stand up as one tribe, in a world surrounding us with threats and
“I am also sad, my Saudi brother, because
our people in Oman are not celebrating with us. I wish they had the same
opportunity to show our father how much he is loved and appreciated. Maybe not
in this tour, but I really hope that Oman will have the honor of a royal visit
… soon,” Al-Athba, concludes.
I remembered his thoughts and hopes as I
composed my New Year wish list. I also recalled my meeting with an Omani
businessman in Doha, during (the Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Studies Forum),
early December. He relayed how anxious and confused Omanis are about their
government’s relations with Saudi Arabia. “Please visit us and I’ll introduce
you to people from all walks of life. You will be able then to communicate back
how much Saudi Arabia is important to us, and how King Salman is regarded in the
highest esteem,” says Hudhifa Al-Ghazali.
It seems our wishes are about to be
realized. Oman is joining the Islamic Military Alliance, with a “subtle
message,” to Iran that we are Arabs first, and our allegiance is to the Gulf
Cooperation Council (GCC), and the interests of its members. What a good start
As my Qatari brother puts it: “We need
Oman. We cannot afford to let go, no matter what reservations we have had on
its mixed messages. Families are bound by blood. A brother may practice his freedom,
look for a different experience and explore interests that may differ with
yours. But still, he is part of you, and when it comes to the moment of truth,
he shall side with the family.”
And as my Omani brother explains:
“Regardless of our political stands, whether in Yemen or with Iran, we end up
where we started. We stand by our brothers and sisters in the Gulf. This is not
an option. It is fate … it is destiny. You may choose your partners and
friends, but your family is chosen for you. And we are happy and proud of it.”
True, Oman has always had its independent
stands. Sometimes they were right, like when they chose not to boycott Egypt,
as the Arab League’s punishment for President Anwar Sadat for Camp David
Accords with Israel in 1978. Today, Arabs are looking for a similar deal with
Israel, and can’t get it.
We also should appreciate that Omani
Constitution forbids any military alliance, except with the GCC. Oman is a
founding member of the Saudi-led Al-Jazira Shield since 1982. They joined Gulf forces
in Desert Storm to defend Saudi Arabia and liberate Kuwait (1990-1991), and in
defending Gulf states during Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988).
Even though Oman did not join the Islamic
Military Alliance at its birth, it did participate in its maneuvers (the North
Thunder), last year. And while it abstained from the Arab Alliance to liberate
Yemen, it helped a great deal to resolve its political crisis with the Gulf
Oman has also signed on all GCC, Arab
League, Islamic Cooperation Council and UN resolutions condemning Iran’s
sponsorship of terrorism, interference in Arab affairs, occupation of Emirates’
islands, and attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions. It classified Hezbollah as a
terrorist organization in line with Gulf and Arab resolutions.
Hopefully, Oman is now taking more steps on
the road of cooperation with the GCC and the Islamic Alliance. Fighting
terrorism is not an option — it is a must. The common enemy is not sparing any
one. Besides, Daesh and Al-Qaeda are Oman’s new neighbors, as they took
residence in Yemen.
I hope and pray, that the next good news is
a visit by King Salman, preceded by through preparations and consultations that
would resolve differences and strengthen cooperation. Thanks Prince Muhammad
Bin Salman, you are doing a great job in that department.
M. Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah.
Oman’s Participation In The Islamic Coalition
2 January 2017
Oman’s decision to join the coalition of
Muslim countries is a significant one for the region. Oman has become the 41st
country to join the coalition.
By doing so, it also joined the Gulf
Cooperation Council countries’ (GCC) consensus in this field. This sets a
precedence for Oman to participate in military alliances – that is if we
exclude the Peninsula Shield Force.
However, there was more joy when Oman
announced that it will participate in the Islamic coalition as Oman’s isolation
from the Gulf’s common challenges may raise societies’ worries.
In the statement announcing its
participation, Oman emphasized Saudi Arabia’s leading role in the region and
which aims to fight terrorism, protect countries’ independence and support
It is normal for the people in the Gulf
countries to rejoice over Oman’s participation in the coalition as Oman is a
brotherly country and the good Omani people are our brothers.
Working together is better than working
alone and fighting terrorism must be a priority for Muslim countries
considering the rising Islamophobia and hostility toward Islam.
Muslims and terrorists are often considered
synonymous despite the fact that it is the miniscule number of Muslims who get
swayed by biased interpretations of faith and resort to violence spreading
hatred among people.
The world is raging and terrorism is
escalating all over the globe. Unfortunately, all this is being done in the
name of Islam. However, Islam is innocent from all this violence.
Aldakhil is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. He began his career
as a print journalist, covering politics and culture for the Saudi newspapers
Okaz, Al-Riyadh and Al-Watan. He then moved to pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat and
pan-Arab news magazine Al-Majalla. Turki later became a radio
correspondent for the French-owned pan-Arab Radio Monte Carlo and MBC FM. He
proceeded to Elaph, an online news magazine and Alarabiya.net, the news
channel’s online platform. Over a ten-year period, Dakhil’s weekly Al Arabiya
talk show “Edaat” (Spotlights) provided an opportunity for proponents of Arab
and Islamic social reform to make their case to a mass audience. Turki also
owns Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre and Madarek Publishing House in
Dubai. He has received several awards and honors, including the America Abroad
Media annual award for his role in supporting civil society, human rights and
advancing women’s roles in Gulf societies. He tweets @TurkiAldakhil.