New Age Islam Edit Bureau
12 January 2018
Why Are Saudi Women Against Their Husbands Taking A Second Wife?
By Nefeen Abbas
Khomeini Regime and Its American Connections
By Mashari Althaydi
The Fight against Terrorism Enters a New Phase
By Dr. Ibrahim Al-Othaimin
The Iranian Regime Is Heading For Collapse
By Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed
Turkey’s Contentious Move in Arab States’ Backyard
By Dr. Manuel Almeida
Iran And The Egression From The Religious Revolution
By Seyid Ould Abah
Iranian Protests Underscore the Suffering of the Citizenry
By Amal Abdulaziz Al–Hazani
What Is Going On Between Egypt And Sudan?
By Ahmed H Adam
Trump Wants War, Moon Wants Peace
By Se-Woong Koo
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
Experts say a man who marries a second wife will live a longer and happier life. However, it is very rare for a wife to agree to her husband marrying a second time. Women believe that their husbands should not be shared with other women.
Men generally get bored with their wives after a while because of the monotony of married life. Women, on the other hand, do not care about that. The most important thing for any woman is stability and being in a marriage in which her husband is able to provide for her and give her what she needs. Some men do not like these situations; they feel desperate and indulge in extramarital relationships.
Many women can live with their husbands cheating on them but are unable to live with a second wife. This would be out of the question for most women. I do not understand how these women prefer that their husbands commit sins rather than marrying second wives since they know that an extramarital relationship is sinful while marriage to a second wife is legal as per Shariah law.
I have asked many women about this and most of them agree that they could live with adultery. On the other hand, many men prefer to get married legally rather than commit a sin. They, therefore, get married secretly and try their best to keep their marriages hidden when they should not be doing so. They do this because of their first wives’ selfishness and ignorance of Shariah.
I advise women to always remember that love does not come easily and no one can buy love or feelings. A woman who does not take care of her husband and does not satisfy his needs should not be upset if he decides to get married again. He will search for love and care somewhere else.
What I do not understand is that many wives accuse their husbands of cheating on them if the husbands get married again when in fact the husbands have done something legal that is according to Shariah.
11 January 2018
One of the slogans which the Khomeini regime deceptively raised is “Death to America.” It made political gains via this propaganda which also included slogans about Jerusalem and Palestine. Observers can tell that Iran’s involvement in the Palestinian cause is recent and sudden.
The guardians of the Khomeini regime have always worked to serve the interests of the regime which has nothing to do with the propaganda it sells to its supporters and to some sick elites.
The Khomeinis’ ties with Uncle Sam, the “Great Satan,” are well-known.
There is the 1985-1986 Iran–Contra scandal and the major secret deal, the details of which were accurately planned by Hassan Rouhani’s team and John Kerry, US Secretary of State, during Obama’s term. The Obama-Khamenei flirtation began in the first year after Obama assumed the presidency.
However, these ties have an older history. I’ve recently read an extensive article by Saudi researcher Kamel al-Khatti which was published in the Okaz daily. Khatti traced the contacts and agreements which the Khomeini regime’s founder reached with the Americans while he was exiled in France.
His article highlighted a BBC Persian Service report by Iranian Journalist Kambiz Fattahi and investigative reporters Taylor Kate Brown, Jessica Lussenhop, Bill McKenna and Mat Morrison.
The report, which was published on June 3, 2016, included contacts which Khomeini made with Carter’s administration for two weeks before Khomeini returned to Tehran. The contacts included agreements which Doctor Ebrahim Yazdi made from exile in Neauphle-le-Château in Paris with Warren Zimmermann, a political advisor of the American embassy in Paris.
The BBC report also revealed that Khomeini confirmed to the Americans that he will work on protecting their interests and make sure that Americans in Iran will be safe. He pledged to the Americans that he will not work on exporting the revolution and will not be hostile to neighboring Arab regimes like Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Kuwait. Khomeini also reassured the Americans in terms of oil supplies’ flow and played an extremely significant political card at the right time as he convinced Washington of the importance of maintaining its influence in Iran in order to protect it from Soviet influence or possible British influence.
This is the beginning of the Khomeini story. Khomeini and his men did not find anything wrong in communicating and reaching agreements with Washington. This was the case until developments took another turn.
It all happened due to the naivety of American President Carter. Decades later, Obama became president and followed suit but with less naivety and more guile.
In response to the Saudi initiative in pursuit of the unification of efforts of Muslim countries in the face of terrorism, the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition has been established. “Allied against Terrorism” was the slogan of the first meeting of the coalition hosted by Riyadh on November 26, 2017.
The keynote speech by Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman was clear and comprehensive as he relied on facts, not slogans. He reaffirmed the strong message of the coalition of over 40 countries, of their cooperation against terrorism. He said: “Extremist terrorism distorts the image of our religion and faith,” adding that: “Distortion of the image of our religion and terrorizing civilians will not be allowed in Muslim countries after today”.
The final communiqué of the meeting reaffirmed ministers’ determination to coordinate counter-terrorism efforts through concerted collective action to put an end to those who fuel extremism and sectarianism. The ministers also approved clear and specific mechanisms to confront terrorism at the ideological, media, financial and military levels.
Firstly, ideology: “Disclosure of the ideas and methods of extremism and limiting its spread and impact on individuals and communities, while highlighting the values of moderate Islam and its ability to coexist with the other.”
There is an urgent need to address the misconception of establishing the Islamic caliphate in its utopian form and to strengthen national belonging and identity. The misconception of so-called end-time prophesies, which are used by terrorist organizations to legitimize their operations, also needs to be addressed. Hence, the ideological aspect is one of the fundamentals of our combat against terrorism.
Propaganda through the media
Secondly, media: “Using media to confront terrorist propaganda, clarify the evil of its actions, expose the advertising methods of terrorists, disclose their beliefs, and to erode their perceptions.” Modern media is a key tool used by terrorist organizations, including ISIS, in advertising their ideology and recruiting youth.
Eighty percent of the information stock of ISIS comes from publicly available websites without any violation of network rules and protocols. Moreover, ISIS has over 90,000 pages on Facebook and Twitter in Arabic, and 40,000 pages in other languages. Therefore, media is one of the most powerful tools in advertising ideology and recruiting teenagers.
Thirdly, combating the financing of terrorism: “Work on curbing the sources of financing terrorism while increasing coordination and information exchange between the countries in this area besides developing systems and procedures for the prevention of terrorism from any financial sources.”
Terrorist organizations forefronted by ISIS have a strategy that prioritizes money over fighting. Therefore, after the chaos and instability in Syria, Iraq, Libya and other countries of the Arab Spring, terrorist organizations strived to seize control over oil or central banks. Such resources are essential to terrorist organizations for self-financing with a view to expanding their operations without reliance on any external financing.
Fourthly, military coordination against terrorists: “Significance of the military confrontation of terrorism in maintaining regional and international peace and security. Commitment to secure the required military capabilities and resources to weaken and eliminate terrorist organizations.”
The essence of military coordination lies in reducing the legitimacy and ideological attractiveness of terrorist organizations. A weak, fragile and failing state cannot be a convincing caliphate for the youth. Therefore, the cooperation of the different countries working within the above-described four fields will undoubtedly lead to a significant decline in the attractiveness of such organizations and their recruitment capabilities.
“When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions.”
This quote, from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” sums up the Iranian regime’s current situation. The country has endured earthquakes and was shaken by widespread riots; a fire raged on one of its biggest oil tankers close to China’s coast after a collision; the exchange rate of the rial has deteriorated, and the majority of the US Congress voted to punish Iran.
Even though the street riots have subsided, protests increased through other means.
Demonstrations are not enough to overthrow a regime established on satanic foundations of the Basij paramilitary forces, the Revolutionary Guard Corps, intelligence services, and religious powers. The Iranian regime has censored most internet services, banned many means of communication, and sentenced 5,000 prisoners to death without giving any attention to international public opinion.
However, when a regime gets burdened with popular, international, and economic pressures, it will falter and undergo partial change.
Take the case of China, the dramatic historical events seen in Russia, or the more gradual change in Egypt. There are also examples of governments peacefully collapsing, as seen in eastern Europe, or completely collapsing as with the Libyan regime.
It is not difficult for the regime of the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist (Wilayat Al-Faqih) to suppress rebellion and fight demonstrations — as it did recently and eight years ago. Yet the Iranian regime suffers several serious illnesses, the first of which is that it has aged after 40 years of absolute power, lacks development, and does not respond to the new generation’s needs.
The regime also suffers from internal splits, among which are conflicts between clerics that have surfaced to threaten its unity. It is now paying for the ambitions of its religious and military leaders, who got it involved in hazardous and costly regional wars. It is impossible for Iran to achieve permanent influence due to regional rejection of its expansion.
Finally, there is Iran’s enmity with great powers, especially the US, under President Donald Trump, which has decided to monitor Tehran’s institutions with the intention of targeting them. The US has started suffocating the Iranian regime technologically, commercially and politically.
Together, these factors are capable of destroying this extremist theocracy, which rejects development, change and coexistence, and insists on waging wars and spreading terrorism.
The recent demonstrations are a very important indicator that the regime has lost what remains of its popularity — even in rural areas, which were once among its greatest supporters. It was previously said that the people of Tehran and the middle class who revolted in 2009 cannot decide the fate of Iran, but the regime’s power in its belt outside the capital.
This regime, founded by the late leader Ruhollah Khomeini, is wearing down and will collapse either gradually or rapidly in the not too distant future.
This is not only because it is the wish of regional and international powers, but because most of the internal powers are now opposing it and uniting against the regime.
Since the state of the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist is concerned about its image inside and outside Iran, we must not be surprised if we saw it over-extending its military operations, seeking victories abroad to heal its internal wounds.
Iran does not have enough financial resources to fix its economy, which has deteriorated with the widespread rioting — and if it goes too far with its military activities abroad, the situation will worsen.
Last June, when Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE cut relations with Qatar and imposed various punitive measures, Turkey’s parliament fast-tracked a bill allowing the stationing of troops in Qatar. This mutual deployment of troops had been agreed a couple of years before the latest diplomatic row in the GCC, but that did little to downplay the awkwardness of the moment for Turkey’s relations with the other Arab Gulf states.
Against this background, the recent Turkish-Qatari overtures in Sudan have opened a new chapter in an increasingly uncertain relationship between Turkey and various regional powers.
Over the last few years, defense and military ties between Turkey and Qatar have deepened to a level unseen since the late 19th century, when the Ottoman Basra Vilayet imposed its rule over the Al-Thani tribe, lasting until 1915.
The two like-minded pro-Islamist leaderships have long seen eye-to-eye on critical regional issues, including the conflict in Syria, the mishaps of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and various post-Arab uprising crises. Sheikh Hamad’s visits in 2014 and 2015 sped up the military cooperation agreement between the two countries, which most conspicuously approved the deployment of an overall 3,000 Turkish troops, including special forces and air and naval units (although only a few hundred have been deployed so far), in Qatar.
At the time, among the main motivations advanced by commentators to explain this agreement — beyond evident economic and energy interests from Turkey’s side in the context of a deep crisis in its relationship with Russia — were fears on both sides about growing Iranian reach in the region. It was also assumed to be a positive move in the perspective of other members of the GCC and a step that would consolidate the High Level Strategic Dialogue between Turkey and the Gulf bloc.
In retrospect, however, the most relevant advances in Turkish-Qatari military ties prior to last year’s troop deployment coincided with the previous diplomatic crisis in the Gulf. It was in 2014 that Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain first cut relations with the small sheikhdom over its populist and irresponsible policies, support for extremists of all stripes, and interference in the internal affairs of its neighbours. The Qatari leadership had pledged to mend its ways, through various secret agreements signed throughout 2013 and 2014, but to no avail. A supplementary agreement that settled the 2014 crisis was also unfulfilled, leading to the current crisis.
Fast-forward to last December and Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Sudan. Turkey’s president signed various agreements with his Sudanese counterpart, Omar Al-Bashir. While much of this is regular economic diplomacy and fits within the larger picture of long-standing Turkish investment in East Africa under the Justice and Development Party (AKP), the agreement over Suakin Island’s lease is inevitably raising some eyebrows.
For $650 million, Turkey has purchased the right to rebuild the former Red Sea Ottoman port city and will construct a naval dock that will allow it to operate both military and civilian ships. Qatar’s Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Ghanim Bin Shaheen Al-Ghanim was in Sudan at the same time — an indication that the project is at least partially funded by Qatar.
President Erdogan denies Turkey is looking to build a military base in Suakin. But, given Turkey’s military deployment in Qatar, the opening of a military base in Somalia last September and reported ongoing discussions for the establishment of another military base in Djibouti, it is no surprise the denials ring hollow.
Considering the Red Sea’s strategic and symbolic importance, Turkey’s unconditional tilt toward Qatar, the AKP’s distaste for the current Egyptian government and determined support for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, this makes for yet another contentious move from Turkey, this time in Egypt and Saudi Arabia’s backyard.
This development also comes at a time when tensions in the Red Sea are high, especially with the territorial dispute between Egypt and Sudan over Halayeb and Sudan’s backing of Ethiopia in its dispute with Egypt over the Nile’s Renaissance Dam.
Under President Erdogan, Turkey’s relations with the GCC states — increasingly institutionalized via mechanisms such as the Turkey-GCC High Level Strategic Dialogue — have grown in depth and importance. But, as Ankara moves ever closer to Doha on every regional issue, the much-vaunted pragmatic turn in Turkey’s foreign policy following the dismissal of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in 2016 seems increasingly short-lived.
Iran and the Egression from the Religious Revolution
This is perhaps the first time since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, in which the protesters razed the image of the head of state like that of the former King Reza Shah, the founder of modern Iran.
Although the demands of the demonstrators focused on social and economic issues, the current uprising in Iranian cities and villages is in fact an uprising against the political and societal system developed by the Khomeinist experience about 40 years ago.
The fundamental difference between the Green movement that erupted in 2009 and the current uprising is that it is not a situational crisis related to electoral events and the political entitlements that have centred on the conflict between the conservative and reformist wings of the same authority, despite their differences in rhetoric and strategies.
What is to be seen here is that the regime of the Vilayat al-Faqih, which was established by the Khomeinist regime after the fall of the Shah, was the result of a sharp struggle against legitimacy and authority among the wings that participated in the revolution.
The most important of these were the liberal currents that took over the transition (Mahdi Bazargan and Bani Sadr), the Leftists (Touda and Mujahideen Khalq), who was executed and the traditional religious Hawza whose leadership rejected the current of political Islam (Montazeri's trend).
Iran’s ‘Islamisation’ Losing Steam
With the beginning of the 1990s, after the departure of Khomeini and the end of the long war with Iraq, the political conflict focused on the religious field itself, which became the centre of social mobility, so that the strategy of ‘Islamisation’ of the public sphere, rather than leading to the formation of a comprehensive society, led to the transformation of various social stakes into the religious sphere.
As the Iranian anthropologist Friba Abdul Khaleq has pointed out, the system of the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists ought to give utilitarian, bureaucratic and rational characteristics to the religious field to control and dominate society. The result was counterproductive, since this approach removed its transcendent sacred character, making it symbolic capitalism employed in political and class conflicts.
Hence, we understand how the opposition of the political system was carried out within the framework of religious legitimacy, with the emergence of a large protest movement that stems from the idea of ‘Islamic civil society’ in exchange for the authoritarian and oppressive state.
Since the mid-nineties it has become clear that the revolutionary movement has lost its momentum in the Iranian street, and a growing trend has emerged within the same decision-making center by adopting a realistic pragmatic line to adapt to the pressures of the internal situation and the international situation.
This trend is represented by former president Hashemi Rafsanjani and is represented today by current president, Rouhani. It is not about a real reform process, but rather a process that calls for the synthesis of the great national constants on which modern Iran (the central state, the Persian identity, the regional role based on the sectarian factor) and the "Islamic Republic" is modelled.
It is in this context that Rouhani was elected in 2013 and once again in the past year in anticipation of positive gains in living standards to emerge from an escalating social crisis.
Failure of Rouhani’s policies
However, Rouhani's limited internal and external opening policies failed to bring the desired transformation. It was clear that the composition of the political system was untenable to reform and change, as a result of two fundamental obstacles: the dualism of the political system itself between the absolute authority of the Guardianship and the growing schism between the state and civil society, on which the reformist movement no longer has much influence.
The first factor is the enlargement of the organizational apparatus of the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist in that it includes the most powerful military arm of the state (the Revolutionary Guard) and the religious associations that control half of the country's economy and the public media, while the performance and efficiency of the administrative apparatus is incapable of solving problems and fighting rampant corruption in the country.
The second factor is expressed by the sociologist Farhad Khosrokhavar as a break up from the “Islamic state”, the ruling regime in the name of religious legitimacy and “post-Islamic society” , which is driven by the values of individualism, independence and recreational consumption instead of the values of austerity, altruism and sacrifice on which the political system built its tactical strategy in the years of the first revolution and in the period of its long regional wars that continue today in its crazy adventures in the Arab countries.
The next protests are unlikely to lead to the destruction of Iran’s political system, but they undoubtedly reflect a moment of violent crackdown on its existing structures and foundations.
Is the regime of the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist in Iran feeling the popular pressure, and will it respond to the demands by seizing support to foreign operations in the Arab region by dedicating the country’s wealth to the welfare of the citizens?
Most likely, it will not. Iran will keep funding Hezbollah, continue hiring Afghans, Pakistanis and Arabs mercenaries in battles, keep giving missiles and weapons to the Houthi militias, and carry on smuggling laundered money to Bahrain's armed opposition.
The popular protests cannot turn the clock back to pre-Khomeini Iran, or reverse its doctrines based on geographical and cultural hegemony and a highly parochial and divisive understanding of Shiism.
Why these protests stand out
Unlike previous instances of unrest, there is no particular social strata from which the protests have emerged this time. There has been no student uprising calling for media freedoms, nor a political revolt in favor of political symbols. These protests are the result of accumulated anger based on very genuine, objective reasons, some of which I have listed below.
The whole world is certain that Iran’s activities outside its borders come at the expense of the state budget, which is supposed to be strong because the country possesses vast natural and human resources. Still Iranians suffer poverty due to the drain of their wealth to external fronts and the activities of its regime that runs counter to international laws that have resulted in economic sanctions.
The ordinary Iranian who seeks to live a dignified life doesn’t care about any of the policies of the government. For the average Iranian, there is no real enemy of his country which might justify the massive arms race for building qualitative missile silos as well as research and development in defense, especially after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime.
Even Israel poses no threat to the regime, and the United States is only reacting to the actions of the Tehran government against international peace. Saudi Arabia, which is seen as a protector of Sunni Islam, is not engaged in interfering with any other country.
It is be the last country in the world that would choose a military clash with any country, no matter how important it may be unless it threatens internal security, as in the case of Yemen. Iran has no real enemies, and this is why the Iranian citizen refuses to be a victim of the need for defending the land.
After decades of the rule of the clergy, the average Iranian finds himself facing the bitter reality that he is the victim of the regime’s dream to dominate and expand its borders.
These protests have expressed popular views that insult their religious and political leaders, calling them dictators and seek their fall. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s arguments in the Friday sermon no longer convince or resonate in the streets. He claimed that his country is in danger of being threatened by Israel and the United States.
In fact, these two countries do not pose a threat to Iran since Khomeini’s revolution of 1979. His popular power over the past decades was derived from fear, which is now replaced on the streets by humiliating slogans and bold rejection.
Saudi example inspires protestors
The other thing is that the Iranian people are watching changes in the countries around it, the most important of which is Saudi Arabia - a country they were told had closed itself socially and culturally due to religious reasons and was totally dependent on oil revenues.
Iranians claimed that Saudi Arabia is backward and its leadership is not worthy of leading from the two Holy Mosques. However, Iranians now see how Saudi Arabia has taken unprecedented steps in human rights, social and religious moderation and economic reform in a short time, in spite of war on its southern border that it is fighting to repel real aggression into its territory.
These developments have had a negative impact on the Iranian citizen, who wishes to find the same interest from his government, such as the attention it gives to the Lebanese and the Syrians. It is very painful for Iranians to watch the bold steps taken by the Saudi leadership to fight corruption even in the highest strata of its society.
These are the simple dreams of the Iranian citizen; that his government will turn to social justice and purge it from the corrupt, develop a sound economic system and work in the best interest of the Iranians. As we watch popular protests break out in Iran, we understand their causes and justifications. They are purely internal and not part of an external conspiracy, as President Hassan Rouhani has claimed.
Even the position of US President Donald Trump and his statement to stand with the demonstrators will not affect their will because the reason of their anger is not political or derived from America’s position, which the regime calls the Great Satan. Actually, Trump said that autocratic regimes do not last. This is true, and history is witness to this fact.
No one can predict the impact of these protests on the regime but it is certain that December 28, 2017 will be known as a turning point in Iran. The entire world has witnessed extreme public anger pervading all the regions of Iran.
The demands for a civic state instead of a religious one, calling for the death of Khamenei and other slogans will always haunt the ruling authority, because these slogans have touched those sanctities that no one had ever dared to violate earlier.
Ongoing tensions in the Red Sea region came to the fore in late December, when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Sudan as part of his Africa tour. During the visit, Erdogan and his Sudanese counterpart, Omar al-Bashir, signed more than a dozen agreements to boost the economic partnership between the two nations.
Among these agreements was a deal to temporarily hand over the Red Sea island of Suakin to Turkey. Ankara and Khartoum said Turkish investors would rebuild the ruined, sparsely populated island to increase tourism and create a transit point for Muslim pilgrims crossing the Red Sea to reach the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
The agreement over Suakin has triggered a heated debate in the region, as many saw Erdogan's move as an attempt to establish a third military base - after the ones in Qatar and Somalia - outside Turkey's borders.
Egyptian and Saudi media have harshly criticised the agreement, categorising Erdogan's move as yet another attempt by what they call the "Turkey-Iran-Qatar axis" to undermine the stability and security of the so-called "Sunni moderate alliance", which includes Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE.
In a joint press conference with his Sudanese counterpart in Khartoum, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu strongly denied the existence of such an "axis", but he was unable to ease the tensions and convince the Egyptian leadership that the agreement over Suakin does not pose a threat for Cairo.
But Erdogan's visit to Sudan was in no way the beginning of the dispute between Sudan and Egypt. Relations between Cairo and Khartoum have long been strained, with ongoing disagreements over issues such as the Hala'ib Triangle border dispute and the Renaissance Dam project in Ethiopia.
Hala'ib Triangle Border Dispute
The Hala'ib Triangle is an area of land of just under 20,500 square kilometres on the Egyptian-Sudanese border, which both countries have claim over since Sudan gained independence from Egypt in 1956. In the 1990s, Egypt deployed its military in the territory, but, in the following two decades, the dispute was somewhat frozen.
In 2016, it flared up again. That year, Cairo signed a controversial agreement with Riyadh to hand over two strategically important Red Sea islands - Tiran and Sanafir - to Saudi Arabia. The agreement, which redrew the maritime border between the two countries, also unilaterally recognised Egypt's sovereignty over the Hala'ib Triangle.
In December last year, Sudan sent a letter to the UN declaring its total rejection of the deal. Egyptian officials swiftly condemned the letter and reiterated that the triangle is "Egyptian territory".
In response, Sudan recalled its ambassador from Cairo for consultations on January 4.
Meanwhile, in what may have been a response to Sudan's renewed claims over the Hala'ib Triangle, as well as fears that Turkey is expanding its influence in the region, Egypt sent hundreds of its troops to a UAE base in Eritrea, on the border with Sudan.
Egypt denied any military presence in Eritrea, but the damage was done. Days later, Sudan shut its border with Eritrea and deployed thousands of troops there.
There are indications that Khartoum is actually trying to escalate the ongoing confrontation with Egypt, in order to exploit the nationalist sentiments of the Sudanese people and divert attention from the country's grave internal problems - particularly the current protests over the new austerity budget and the increase of the price of bread and other basic goods. However, Egypt may be inclined to de-escalate until after its presidential elections later this year.
The Renaissance Dam Project
Another reason behind the current tensions between Egypt and Sudan is the ongoing construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). The dam, which will be the seventh-largest hydroelectric power plant in the world when completed, is located in the Benishangul-Gumuz Region of Ethiopia, only 40km east of the country's border with Sudan.
Cairo fears the dam may affect its access to water from the Nile River basin. The Egyptian government believes Sudan to be on Ethiopia's side regarding the future of the dam, and recently proposed excluding it from contentious negotiations over the future of the project, angering the Sudanese government.
Sudan argues that its responsibility is to protect its own interests in the dispute, and not Egypt's. Khartoum wants to stay part of the negotiations on an issue which will undoubtedly affect the lives of the Sudanese people, and the future of the country.
Sudan stands to benefit a lot from the project. Ethiopia will be selling electricity to its northern neighbour; a planned transmission line will connect the Ethiopian electrical grid to Khartoum.
The dam project will also limit flooding of the Blue Nile in Sudan, allowing farmers to have to crop cycles per year.
The Muslim Brotherhood Factor
But even the disputes over the Hala'ib Triangle and the Renaissance Dam project cannot be seen as the root causes of the current confrontation between Egypt and Sudan. The conflict between the two countries is deeper and more complicated, with historical, political and, most importantly, ideological dimensions.
Cairo accuses Khartoum of supporting Muslim Brotherhood plans to overthrow the regime of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Sudan views Sisi and his government as "putschists", who illegally overthrew Egypt's first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Bashir himself came to power in a military coup in 1989; he allied himself with Hassan al-Turabi, the leader of a Sudanese offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. About a decade later, the two fell out and al-Turabi was subsequently imprisoned.
The GCC Crisis
When the GCC crisis erupted in June 2017, Sudan was in an uncomfortable situation. For the previous few years, it had tried to stay neutral during intra-GCC disputes, maintaining a close relationship with Qatar, but also sending troops to back the UAE and Saudi war effort in Yemen.
Last year, Khartoum refused to cut relations with Doha and was pushed out of the UAE-Saudi camp. Bashir’s overarching objective out of this game of alliances is to survive in power and secure his chance to run in the 2020 elections.
He realised that even though the US removed sanctions against Sudan, it is not interested in pushing for the International Criminal Court to drop the charges against him, nor does it support him to run in the 2020 elections. Hence, Bashir shifted towards Russia and Turkey.
Sudan's neighbours, Eritrea and Ethiopia, have also become party to the GCC crisis.
Ethiopia, just like Sudan, has become closer to Qatar in its struggle to navigate the ongoing tensions in the Gulf. The Ethiopian government, which previously accused Egypt of supporting separatist movements on Ethiopian territory, understandably chose to place itself against Egypt in this conflict.
Meanwhile, Eritrea, which is in the midst of a long-standing conflict with Ethiopia, has taken the side of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and UAE, the latter having a military base on Eritrean territory.
If Turkey actually establishes a military base on Sudan's Suakin Island in the near future, it is reasonable to expect Eritrea to play a pivotal role on behalf of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE in counter-balancing Turkish military presence in the region. President Isaias Afwerki may exploit Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE's dependence on Eritrea on this issue to carry out hostile actions against both Ethiopia and Sudan.
Whatever happens between Egypt and Sudan in the coming days, it is evident that the GCC crisis has already spread to the Nile basin and the Horn of Africa. Consequently, the region may be pushed into new proxy conflicts in the near future. Regional and sub-regional organisations such as the African Union and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) should intervene to de-escalate these tensions and negative developments.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in held a very polished press conference on January 10. He confidently laid out his domestic and foreign policy priorities for some 30 minutes. That address was followed by an hour-long exchange with the flock of journalists in attendance.
Yet the ease with which the event unfolded belied the difficulty Moon had in addressing questions about what may be the most important challenge for his administration: North Korea's fast-progressing weapons programme.
Just 10 days earlier, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's made an important New Year's speech. He reiterated his country's nuclear capabilities: "our Republic has, at last, come to possess a powerful and reliable war deterrent, which no force and nothing can reverse."
It was in that same speech that Kim hinted at the possibility of a return to peaceful engagement, floating possible North Korean participation in the Pyeongchang Olympics, to be held in South Korea next month. Seoul eagerly seized the olive branch and countered with an offer of dialogue the very next day. And on Tuesday, January 9, the two sides finally met for the first time in more than two years and agreed that the North would indeed send a delegation to attend the games.
Fortunately, it just might be enough to ease tensions and prevent war in the immediate future, Washington's wishes notwithstanding.
Defying sanctions after sanctions, North Korea has made major progress toward becoming a nuclear power. In summer 2017, tensions flared up as Pyongyang and Washington traded barbed words. North Korea threatened to attack the US territory of Guam, and US President Trump promised "fire and fury" should Pyongyang issue any more threats against his country. Washington increased pressure on the North with military exercises and condemnations at the United Nations, and there were reports of some South Koreans preparing for war by buying up emergency supplies and gas masks. Pyongyang even tested in November what most experts believe is an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching continental US - a prospect many had feared.
Things have calmed down considerably since then, but the North still expresses no interest in giving up its nuclear weapons, and talks of a preemptive attack by the US are growing. Even the latest strict sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council on December 22 - banning the export of nearly 90 percent of refined petroleum products to the North - doesn't seem to be changing anything, as reports emerged that the Chinese were supplying North Korea with oil via ship-to-ship transfers.
Trump, in his usual self-aggrandising fashion, claimed credit for the current inter-Korean dialogue, tweeting on January 4, "does anyone really believe that talks and dialogue would be going on between North and South Korea right now if I wasn't firm, strong and willing to commit our total 'might' against the North." But the fact is that Washington knows its hardline policy of sanctions and threats has failed. And that is why it is surreptitiously contemplating a so-called "bloody nose" strategy of targeted attacks against North Korea - if a report in the Wall Street Journal is accurate - at the risk of causing a full-blown war on the peninsula.
At a conference on international security last month in the US, I was privately told by a number of US experts with links to Washington that the Trump administration is determined to attack North Korea. The question was of when, not if. Those views have been echoed in US media, which have taken to predicting the likelihood of war in terms of percentage.
Moon's chief task as South Korean president is to make sure "there is never again a war on the Korean Peninsula," as he emphasised on Wednesday. He cannot completely alienate the US, South Korea's most important military ally. That is why Moon went so far as to thank Trump by saying, "I think President Trump deserves big credit for bringing about the inter-Korean talks".
He also cannot completely kowtow to warmongers in Washington and push only for sanctions or worse, endorse an attack. Moon has always maintained that sanctions are not for the sake of sanctions but a means to bring North Korea to join peaceful negotiation.
It was Moon who extended a dozen public invitations to Pyongyang to participate in the Pyeongchang Olympics, including in his speech at the UN General Assembly in September. And Kim Jong-un has responded to this overture.
North Korea is known never to yield to force; historically, only sustained diplomacy has brought the regime to the table for dialogue, as was the case in the 2000s when the Six-Party Talks took place and Pyongyang came very close to giving up its nuclear programme in exchange for concessions. That was until the Bush administration sabotaged the process by suddenly imposing sanctions against a Macau-based bank suspected of helping North Korea with money-laundering.
It would be naive to suggest that North Korea is suddenly entering talks simply out of genuine interest in peace. By agreeing to attend a high-profile international sporting event, Pyongyang has made it that much more difficult for Washington to opt for a military manoeuvre.
The regime traditionally extracts financial concessions from the South each time it performs a gesture aimed at engagement, and Pyongyang might just get the same this time around, too. Seoul wants to hold a reunion for divided families next month, and payment in the form of humanitarian aid to the North is not off the table.
But if you are living on the Korean Peninsula, peace is preferable to war at any cost. Even the US Congress' own research arm has estimated that a military conflict on the Korean Peninsula is likely to kill 300,000 people just in the first few days. And yet a majority of Americans seem to back military action.
While Trump reportedly responded positively to inter-Korean dialogue and said he would send his own family members to the Pyeongchang Olympics, war is a possibility that Washington hasn't ruled out completely. And it is up to Moon to manage both North Korea, a belligerent neighbour, and the US, an ally that seems increasingly bent on a fight, in order to protect his own people. To that end, the resumption of dialogue can only be a good thing.
Se-Woong Koo is co-founder and publisher of Korea Expose, an online magazine.