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Middle East Press (03 Jan 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Trump Presidency May Be Better For Palestine: New Age Islam's Selection, 03 January 2017

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

03 January 2017

Trump Presidency May Be Better For Palestine

By Ramzy Baroud

The Year Of Aleppo?

By Amir Taheri

Soleimani’s Occupations through War, Peace and Agreements

By Eyad Abu Shakra

Oman Is Back On Track!

By Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi

Welcoming Oman’s Participation in the Islamic Coalition

By Turki Aldakhil

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Trump Presidency May Be Better For Palestine

By Ramzy Baroud

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 Bantustans.

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 over.”

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 Israeli politics.

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 peace.

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 region.

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.

Ramzy 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.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1033126/columns


The Year of Aleppo?

By Amir Taheri

3 January 2017

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 terms.

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 resistance.

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 Aleppo.

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.

Amir Taheri 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.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1033166/columns


Soleimani’s Occupations Through War, Peace And Agreements

By Eyad Abu Shakra

3 January 2017

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 Khamenei.

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 adventures abroad.

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 Al-Abadi.

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 Baghdad.

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 of Kazakhstan.

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 worthless.

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.

Eyad Abu Shakra is managing editor of Asharq Al-Awsat, where this article was originally published.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1033161/columns


Oman Is Back On Track!

By 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 dangers.

“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 for 2017!

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 Initiative.

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.

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah.

Source: saudigazette.com.sa/opinion/oman-back-track/


Welcoming Oman’s Participation In The Islamic Coalition

By Turki Aldakhil

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 sovereignty.

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.

In Solidarity

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.

Turki 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.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/01/02/Welcoming-Oman-s-participation-in-the-Islamic-coalition.html

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/middle-east-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/trump-presidency-may-be-better-for-palestine--new-age-islam-s-selection,-03-january-2017/d/109577


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