New Age Islam Edit Bureau
26 July 2017
Why Iran Remains the World’s Top
By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
Is Turkey Scattered On All Fronts?
By Christian Chesnot
Why Is The OPEC Deal Not Working? A
By Wael Mahdi
Nawaz Sharif Case Should Open Door To
By Harris Khalique
Why Peace Eludes Mideast after
Decades Of Conflict
By Joschka Fischer
Netanyahu’s Failed Game of
By Osama Al-Sharif
Saudi Education Reform Making Real
By Fahad Nazer
Not Necessary To Put War Back On The
Table; Iran Is At War
By Hamid Bahrami
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
25 July 2017
Iran is still the world’s top state sponsor
of terrorism, according to an annual report from the US Department of State.
Justin Siberell, the department’s acting coordinator for counterterrorism,
emphasized in a recent briefing that “Iran is the leading state sponsor of
This is nothing new. Iran has been on the
list of states sponsoring terrorism since 1984. But three major questions need
to be adequately addressed: How has Iran remained the world’s leading state
sponsor of terrorism? Why does the Iranian regime continue to follow policies
that make it the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism? And what policies
should governments implement to halt Iran’s growing influence and support for
Iran plays a critical role in global
terrorism through various platforms. The first strategy is asymmetrical
warfare. Through militias and terrorist groups, the Iranian regime indirectly
destabilizes other nations, creating chaos, violence and wars.
After inflicting shock on foreign societies
and political entities, Iran pushes for its militias to take over or have a
significant say in new political establishments. These efforts by Iranian
leaders are mostly evident in Sunni Arab nations where Tehran attempts to tip
the balance of power in favour of the Shiite, grow its influence, and undermine
The reasons behind the Iranian regime’s
support for terrorism include, but are not limited to, establishing supremacy and
realizing its hegemonic ambitions, achieving its foreign policy objectives, and
exporting Tehran’s revolutionary principles, established in 1979.
Currently, Iran supports more than 120
militia and designated terrorism groups, located solely in the Middle East and
North Africa. The number increases as conflicts escalate. Chaos and instability
grant Tehran the perfect environment in which to form powerful militia groups.
Examples include Hezbollah, Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi, Popular Mobilization Units
(PMU), Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH), Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq (AAH), the Badr Organization
in Iraq, and Shiite militias in Syria, Bahrain and Yemen.
Having established a group, Iran then
creates a complex network in order to facilitate its operation in more than one
country. A recent example is the deployment of Iraqi militias and Hezbollah to
fight in Syria. The assistance that Iran provides to its militias is
multi-faceted, and includes finance, consistently upgraded military hardware,
advice, intelligence and training.
The major institutions that facilitate this
assistance are Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its elite Quds
Force, and its Ministry of Intelligence and Security under the leadership of
the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say in Iran’s
domestic and foreign policy.
Iran has also provided assistance to
non-Shiite terrorist groups, such as Al-Qaeda. Tehran continues to shelter
members of Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, enabling them to continue to
plot attacks across the world. Iran allies itself with any militia and
terrorist group, regardless of its religious nature, as long as that
organization shares Iran’s ideals and foreign policy objectives.
In addition, as Iran’s minister of
intelligence previously admitted in a state TV interview, Tehran funds and uses
foreign nationals, mainly of Iranian background, to act as agents, spies and
lobbyists. This is particularly evident in Washington where major global
policies are implemented.
Iran’s use of asymmetrical warfare means
Tehran can avoid direct war with the US or its allies. Iran’s leaders know that
such a conflict would end in defeat for Tehran.
But Iran has more direct involvement in
terrorism, too. Iran sends troops and undercover agents (sometimes by obtaining
visas under the cover of academic research or tourism) to arm, fight, gather
intelligence for, or otherwise assist militia groups. Several countries
including Kuwait have detained many Iranians trying to infiltrate their
And Tehran also uses its embassies,
cultural centers and diplomats in foreign countries to act as cells to organize
and construct terror groups. A recent Supreme Court ruling in Kuwait revealed
how Iran’s embassy there has played a role in forming terror cells. Iran’s
ambassador and diplomats were expelled.
Finally, Tehran uses cyber-terrorism to
conduct attacks on various governmental, non-governmental and private-sector
Although political and economic sanctions
help counter Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism, sanctions alone are not
sufficient, as history has shown over decades. A military force is needed to
counter Iran’s activities and militias in various countries. Officially
recognizing and supporting Iran’s opposition groups in exile is also a powerful
tool. In addition, governments need to decide whether their policy is to change
the Iranian regime or simply contain it. But we should remember that, nearly
four decades on from the establishment of the Iranian regime, attempts to
contain Tehran have been neither effective nor adequate.
To say that the powers of President Recep
Tayyip Erdogan are upraising both internally and externally is an
understatement. One year after the failed coup in July 2016, Turkey is present
on all diplomatic and military fronts.
Ankara has long stated that it is has a
necessary role in the resolution of the crises that agitate the Middle East.
President Erdogan has even become a mediator between Qatar, which now houses a
Turkish military base, and its Gulf neighbours.
However, this diplomatic activism of Ankara
hides an accumulation of setbacks and missteps to the point that one can ask
the question: does Turkey still pursue a coherent and rational regional and
international strategy? Instead, we have the impression that Turkey is escaping
its problems without actually solving them with a diplomacy that has lost its
It seems that the times of former Prime
Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, a theoretician of the AKP's neo-Ottoman diplomacy who
developed the concept of “zero problem with his neighbours” are dead and gone.
Today, itis rather 100 percent neighbourhood problems!
Meanwhile, Turkey has fallen into the Syrian
trap. Ankara wanted to create a broad security zone on its border with Syria
which proved to be a big failure. Ankara’s ambitions were blocked by a tactical
alliance between Bashar al-Assad’s army and the Kurds of the PPU, of the Syrian
branch of the PKK. The fall of Aleppo in December 2016 buried the last Turkish
illusions. The Syrian Rai is still in power in Damascus while Erdogan wanted
Furthermore, the Kurdish fact in Syria has
become an unavoidable reality. In their three cantons of the Rojava
(Afrin-Kobané-Jezireh), the Kurds, sworn enemies of Ankara, control about
36,000 square kilometres, more than three times the size of Lebanon.
Certainly, they have failed to establish
territorial continuity, but since they are backed by the West and the Russians,
they succeeded in keeping Erdogan and his army up at night!
The Iraq Front
In Iraq, Turkey wanted to take advantage of
the situation. It has the Bachika base in the north-east of Mosul, which is
aimed to protect the Turkmen minority. Again, Ankara’s interventionism is
likely to fail. After the resumption of Mosul, the government of Baghdad will
not tolerate this Turkish base on its soil. Iraqi leaders have yet to digest
this unilateral settlement on their territory.
Decidedly, the Turkish military bases are
giving hives to many people! The Incerlik base in south-eastern Turkey, from
where the coalition planes took off to strike ISIS, is also a source of
problems. The Americans had to wait several months before obtaining permission
to use it. The Pentagon will surely remember this in the future. As for
Germany, it has decided to leave Incerlik and to have its Surveillance aircraft
take off from Azrak (H5) in Jordan.
The most worrying news for Turkey today,
although a member of NATO, is that it is no longer considered a reliable
partner by Westerners. The latest incident consisted of the disclosure of the
positions of the American and French Special Forces in northern Syria by the
Anadolu news agency. Behind the scenes, Washington and Paris are furious.
As for Germany, Ankara’s main European
economic partner, the crisis has now exploded into the open, so much so that
the German Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble compared Turkey to the former
GDR! The Large-scale human rights violations, more than 100 incarcerated
journalists – and the totalitarian abuses of President Erdogan have long
degraded the image of the country abroad.
Fragile on its eastern borders, Turkey must
now mourn its integration into the European Union. The Europeans did not
appreciate Ankara’s blackmail offer in the crisis of the Syrian refugees.
Erdogan continues to play on the strategic position of his country, as a link
between Europe and Asia. He underestimates the massive rejection he provokes in
European public opinion.
In the years of 2000 at the height of his
power, he was considered a “model”. Today, he has become a source of repulsion.
In the nineteenth century, the Ottoman Empire was referred to as the “sick man”
of Europe. At the beginning of the 21st century, History seems to repeat
By Wael Mahdi
The committee to monitor the global
agreement made by 24 nations to curb production held its fourth meeting this
year on July 24 — this time in Russia, the largest oil producer on the planet.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting
Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee, known as
JMMC, had surprised the market in every way.
First, the market was expecting it to
discuss deepening the cuts further in the face of rising supply from OPEC and
elsewhere, and this didn’t happen. Second, the market was expecting JMMC to
discuss putting a cap on Libya and Nigeria, and that didn’t happen either.
Third, the agreement was focusing on monitoring production but the JMMC
discussed ways to monitor exports as well. Finally, many producers hinted at
exiting the deal by March, but the JMMC said that it will leave the option of
going beyond March “open.”
So was this meeting successful? If the outcome of the meeting is measured by
the impact it had on oil prices, then this meeting wasn’t very successful
because oil prices were still fluctuating within the same band, despite the
statement from Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih that his country will
deepen its cuts alone next month.
But this meeting was successful to some
extent on other fronts as it added more clarity to the market on what to expect
and not to expect between now and the next OPEC ministerial meeting in
November. At least the market now knows that Libya and Nigeria will not join
the deal for some time and their output should be factored in. Also, the JMMC
made it clear that Libya and Nigeria combined will not add more than 2.8
million barrels a day of oil until the deal expires next March.
The Saudi energy minister stated publicly
that the deal will face headwinds, and implied that it is not working as
expected because of two reasons. First, many countries are not conforming very
well to their pledged cuts, and second, the deal should include a mechanism to
monitor exports in addition to production from participating countries.
The minister said in his opening remarks:
“Exports have now become the key metric for financial markets, and we need to
find a way to reconcile credible export data with production data and our
Al-Falih also implied that he is concerned
by the rise in Libyan and Nigerian production even though he supports the rise
from these two countries.
“The other major issue that markets are
focused on is the expansion of supplies from Nigeria and Libya, both of which
have been exempted from our agreement, and of course we remain supportive of our
partners in both of those nations as they work on the recovery of their
industries and economies. The committee, however, should monitor the impact of
such growth on global supply-demand balances,” he said in his opening remarks.
Al-Falih’s concern about Libya and Nigeria is valid. These two countries
produce light crude oil similar in quality to that produced by shale oil
producers or to that of Brent. So any increase from Libya and Nigeria puts
pressure on light crude prices, mainly West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and Brent,
while any increase or decrease from other nations like Kuwait, Iraq and Iran
will put pressure on Dubai and Oman oil prices because they are similar in
But OPEC cannot do anything at the moment
because Libya and Nigeria have every right to return to their normal levels
that are defined by OPEC agreements, in this case 1.8 million barrels a day for
Nigeria and 1.25 million barrels a day for Libya.
So what can Saudi Arabia, the largest
producer in OPEC and the group’s de facto leader, do to make this deal more
The Saudi energy minister decided to lead
by example by deepening the Kingdom’s cuts in output and exports in August.
Saudi Arabia will cut its exports by a million barrels a day from a year ago to
6.6 million barrels a day. The majority of these cuts are believed to be
targeting the US market, where stockpiles are more visible than any other place
on earth as they are measured weekly in a very transparent way. In “leading by
example,” Al-Falih is showing again his unhappiness with the level of OPEC’s
exports as he said in his speech that reported compliance is “not matching
Looking at tanker-tracking data from a very
reputable source, it is clear that exports in June were high despite the high
conformity levels. OPEC’s crude exports in June averaged 25.19 million barrels
a day, down by only 200,000 barrels a day from 25.39 million in January, when
the deal started. Al-Falih knows that until OPEC meets again and reigns in
production from Libya and Nigeria, there is no solution but to cut exports. So
unless everyone in OPEC helps and cut exports, the stockpiles will not go down
fast and the deal will need to be extended beyond March, something that many,
including Russian producers, want to avoid.
Nawaz Sharif Case Should Open Door to
July 25, 2017
It's not just a question of
disqualification of the prime minister, what matters is public accountability.
Pakistan does not have a tradition of
political parties that survive for long on the basis of their ideas. Every few
years a new political party, mostly on the right, emerges with encouragement
from the permanent establishment, dominated by the military. A revolving set of
turncoats and some new defectors from other parties promptly join this new
king's party. It is then fiercely pitched against the party with the largest
vote bank at that particular juncture.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan
Muslim League (Nawaz) came to power in 2013 with the largest share of votes.
The cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf
(PTI) party seem to be playing the part of the king's party, trying to unseat
Sharif by using the Panama Papers' revelations of graft and money laundering
against Sharif and his family. A subsequent court-ordered probe, which included
investigators from Pakistan's all-powerful intelligence agencies, has delivered
a scathing report against the Sharifs.
The Election Commission of Pakistan and a
court are also scrutinising the allegations of misappropriation against Khan,
including that of foreign funding for his party, which is illegal under
Pakistani law. Though Khan may be shamefaced for his soft stance on terrorist
groups, he is not in the league of Pakistan's filthy rich and does not have a
reputation for large-scale financial corruption. Yet there are doubts about the
motivation and outcome of his campaign against Sharif and increasing fears that
Khan's PTI is the latest version of the king's party.
These doubts and fears appear because there
are no evident signs of a break from an old, familiar pattern. Khan founded the
PTI in 1996, and it became a club of well-meaning middle-class professionals
inspired by the raw sincerity that Khan exuded. This has changed dramatically
in the past six years, with his adversaries making obvious references to his
party's garnering the support of bureaucracy, military and intelligence
At present, the right-leaning PTI
represents a sizable minority of the affluent urban middle class. It has
welcomed turncoats and defectors from other parties, many with a history of
corruption and wrongdoing. It has been agitating for Sharif's removal through
nonelectoral means for the past few years. Panama Papers leaks have only
intensified its demand.
The despairing history of king's parties in
Pakistan began in 1955 with the formation of the Republican Party. Pakistan was
then divided into two parts, flanking India in the east and the west. The
Republican Party was formed at the behest of the bureaucracy and military in
West Pakistan to demand an unfair parity.
with the more populous East Pakistan, in
terms of representation in legislature and allocations of economic support. The
seeds of injustice sowed by the Republican Party, our first king's party,
culminated in the secession of East Pakistan in 1971. It became Bangladesh.
The Republican Party dissolved in 1958,
three years after its formation, when Gen. Ayub Khan imposed martial law. A few
years later, Ayub Khan formed his own political party to wear the pretense of
democracy while running the country. Ayub Khan's political party disintegrated
soon after he left the office.
A pattern was established. After every
coup, the new ruling general would encourage the formation of a new party,
inviting and accepting mostly conservative politicians. The party would work
hard to bring a facade of legitimacy to the general. It would disintegrate or
disappear as soon as the general left the scene. In July 1977, Gen. Zia-ul-Haq
captured power, then decimated the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party and later
hanged its leader and the prime minister, Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto. The general
formed a party. After falling out with the man he chose to run it, Zia
encouraged Nawaz Sharif, a leader of his party and the chief minister of
Punjab, to lead his own faction. The Sharif faction later became the Pakistan
Muslim League (Nawaz).
A chaotic decade - from the late 1980s to
the late 1990s - followed Zia's mysterious death in a plane crash. Benazir
Bhutto's PPP and Sharif's PMLN were in and out of power. That was the time when
Sharif played into the hands of the military to destabilise Bhutto's popularly
elected government. Sharif did to Bhutto what Khan is doing to him. Sharif
became prime minister a second time in 1997, but his relationship with the
military establishment had turned sour. In 1999 Sharif tried to sack his army
chief, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, but was instead removed in a coup.
Sharif was jailed after being charged with
corruption and treason and was later sent into exile. In 2002, Musharraf
conjured up a new king's party, which disintegrated with his resignation in
2008. Democracy was restored.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan has legally
sanctioned every military coup in the country. The few judges who objected to
such interventions were made to retire. It has endorsed the removal of elected
governments and has sentenced one elected prime minister to death and
disqualified another. Every democratically elected government has been removed
on charges of corruption and incompetence.
The present case against Sharif will be
seen as just if it leads to accountability for all: civil service, military,
judiciary and big business, including those who flank Khan. If it is aimed
solely at disqualifying Sharif, then there will be no rupture from our
checkered past. A few years later Pakistan might see a new carriage for all the
king's horses to pull and all the king's men to jump on.
Why Peace Eludes Mideast after Decades
The continuation of this violent pattern
seems almost certain because the region remains unable to resolve internal
With the retaking of Mosul in northern
Iraq, Daesh could soon be a thing of the past. But the defeat of Daesh and the
demise of its self-proclaimed Iraqi-Syrian caliphate won't bring peace to the
Middle East, or even an end to the Syrian tragedy. Rather, it is likely to open
a new chapter in the region's bloody and chaotic history - one no less
dangerous than the previous chapters since the fall of the Ottoman Empire at
the end of World War I.
The continuation of this violent pattern
seems almost certain because the region remains unable to resolve internal
conflicts on its own, or to create anything like a resilient framework for
peace. Instead, it remains trapped somewhere between the nineteenth and
Western powers are hardly blameless for the
Middle East's woes. Any mention of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, by which Great
Britain and France partitioned the post-Ottoman territories, still incites such
rage in the Arab world that it seems as if the plan, devised in secret in 1916,
had been conceived only yesterday.
Nor should we forget Czarist Russia's role
in the region. Following World War II, its successor, the Soviet Union, and its
Cold War rival, the United States, began their multiple interventions.
Indeed, the US may be the most significant
contributor to today's regional turmoil. America's interest in the Middle East
was originally based on its need for oil. But, with the onset of the Cold War,
economic interest quickly morphed into a strategic interest in preventing the
emergence of anti-Western, Soviet-friendly governments. America's effort to
maintain decisive influence in the region was then supplemented by its close
security partnership with Israel, and finally by the two large military
interventions of the two Gulf Wars against Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
America's involvement in Afghanistan, too,
has had profound repercussions for the Middle East. The success of the first
Gulf War, launched in January 1991 by President George H.W. Bush, was fatally
undermined 12 years later by his son, President George W. Bush, whose own Gulf
War caused a regional catastrophe that continues to this day. Whereas the
senior Bush had pursued the limited objectives of liberating Kuwait and didn't
seek regime change in Iraq, his son's aims were far more ambitious.
The idea was to topple Saddam Hussein and
bring about a democratic Iraq, which would catalyse comprehensive change
throughout the Middle East and transform it into a democratic and pro-Western
region. Within the younger Bush's administration, imperial idealism prevailed
over hard-headed realism, resulting in sustained destabilisation of the Middle
East as a whole and helping to place Iran in a position to expand its
After Daesh's demise, the next chapter in
the history of the Middle East will be determined by open, direct confrontation
between Saudi Arabia and ran for regional predominance. So far, this
long-smouldering conflict has been pursued under cover and mostly by proxies.
The two global powers active in the region have already clearly positioned
themselves in this conflict, with the US siding with Saudi Arabia and Russia
The current "war on terror" will
increasingly be replaced by this hegemonic conflict. And with Saudi Arabia and
four allies imposing isolation on Qatar, in part owing to the Qataris' close
relations with Iran, this conflict has reached its first potential tipping
point at the very centre of the region, the Arabian Gulf. Any direct military
confrontation with Iran would, of course, set the region ablaze, greatly
surpassing all previous Middle East wars. Moreover, with the fires in Syria
still smoldering, and Iraq weakened by the sectarian struggle for power there,
Daesh or some successor incarnation is likely to remain active.
Another destabilising factor is the
reopening of the "Kurdish question." The Kurds - a people without a
state - have proven to be reliable fighters against Daesh and want to use their
new political and military clout to make progress toward autonomy, or even an
independent state. For the countries affected - first and foremost Turkey, but
also Syria, Iraq, and Iran - this question is a potential casus belli, because
it affects their territorial integrity. Given these unresolved questions and
the escalation of the hegemonic conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the
next chapter in the region's history promises to be anything but peaceful. Yes,
the US may have learned from the Iraq disaster that it cannot win a land war in
the Middle East, despite its vastly superior military power. President Barack
Obama sought to withdraw US forces from the region, which proved difficult to
achieve both politically and militarily. That's why he ruled out military
intervention - even from the air - in the Syrian civil war, leaving a vacuum
that Russia quickly filled, with all of the known consequences.
Obama's successor, Donald Trump, also
campaigned on a promise to withdraw from the region. Since the election, he has
launched cruise missiles at Syria, entered into more comprehensive commitments
toward Saudi Arabia and its allies, and escalated America's confrontational
rhetoric vis-à-vis Iran. Trump clearly faces a steep learning curve when it
comes to the Middle East - a region that won't wait for him to master it. There
is no reason to be optimistic.
Netanyahu’s Failed Game of Brinkmanship
It took a diplomatic crisis with Jordan,
following Sunday’s killing of two Jordanians by an Israeli Embassy guard in
Amman, to finally shift Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s position on
Al-Haram Al-Sharif — two weeks after his far-right government took the
controversial decision to install metal detectors at the entrance to the holy
compound. And until he and King Abdallah finally resolved the crisis,
Jerusalem’s Old City had endured two weeks of tensions that began with July
14’s incident in which two Israeli policemen and three Palestinians
(Arab-Israelis) were killed. Israel’s subsequent two-day closure of Al-Aqsa
Mosque enraged Palestinians and drew criticism from around the world, and it
sparked tensions between Jordan — which has a special role over Muslim holy
places in Jerusalem — and Israel.
Against the advice of his own military,
Netanyahu went ahead with what everyone else predicted would become a dangerous
flashpoint. Installing metal detectors at the entrance of the compound sent a
message of defiance to Palestinians, Jordanians and Arab states: That Israel
had the final word when it comes to the sensitive issue of Al-Haram Al-Sharif
and, by extension, the fate of East Jerusalem. It was a stupid gambit that led
to confrontations between Israeli security and the city’s Arab residents,
culminating in last Friday’s violence that resulted in hundreds of injuries and
at least three deaths among Palestinians who were protesting the Israeli
Still Netanyahu refused to budge, even as
he insisted that he was committed to preserving the historical status quo of
Al-Aqsa. Meanwhile, protests in the Old City continued and it was clear that
they would not stop until Israel backed down. Palestinian President Mahmoud
Abbas vowed not to allow Israel to change Al-Aqsa’s status and announced that
the Palestinian Authority (PA) was freezing all contacts with Israel.
The situation was especially sensitive for
Jordan, which has a peace treaty with Israel. Jordanians are known for their
anti-Israel stance and on Friday, July 21, thousands marched in the capital and
elsewhere to show solidarity against Israel’s measures over the previous week. Jordan’s
special role in East Jerusalem’s Muslim sites had been compromised as a result
of Netanyahu’s move. It is not the first time that King Abdallah has had to
intervene to defuse tension in the Old City over Israeli provocations in and
around Al-Haram Al-Sharif. In 2014, Jordan and Israel, with US mediation,
reached an agreement that would put an end to Israeli provocations. As usual,
Netanyahu failed to honor that deal.
It is important to underline that the
conflict is not about installing metal detectors or CCTV cameras. The crux of
the issue has to do with sovereignty over East Jerusalem, which is an occupied
territory under international law. Israel insists that East Jerusalem is an
integral part of its unified capital, while Palestinians see it as the capital
of their future state. Both Jordan and the PA have scored important diplomatic
victories at international forums where Israeli unilateral actions in East
Jerusalem, and in particular the Old City, were deemed illegal.
This was one battle that the Arabs,
especially East Jerusalem’s Arab residents, could not afford to lose. The
timing was important because Netanyahu and his far-right ministers were hoping
to make use of the current regional turmoil to underscore their extremist stand
over East Jerusalem — especially the Old City — and Al-Aqsa Mosque. Anyone who
has visited the Old City knows that it resembles a military garrison,
especially on Fridays, and that stringent security measures already exist at
its ancient gates. The metal detectors at Al-Haram Al-Sharif have less to do
with added security and more with radical Israeli positions.
For the embattled Abbas, whose decades-old
bet on Israel delivering an honorable peace deal has yet to come in,
empathizing with his people and recognizing their anguish was his only choice.
Israel has been altering the character of the Old City for years and its
apartheid-like policies against East Jerusalem’s Arab residents have upset the
existing demographics. In reality, the status quo of the Old City and East
Jerusalem has already been tampered with. Palestinians’ current anger is a
culmination of years of humiliation, economic strangulation and despair.
The crisis with Jordan, especially after
Sunday’s embassy killing, put Netanyahu in a tight spot. He backed down and, in
effect, suffered a resounding defeat. It was a foolish attempt at brinkmanship
on Netanyahu’s part; one that could have unleashed a new Palestinian intifada
and jeopardized Israel’s peace treaty with Jordan.
Arab states should do one crucial thing,
other than keeping diplomatic pressure on Israel, and that is to support the
steadfastness of Jerusalem’s Arab residents.
By Fahad Nazer
On July 17, the US House of Representatives
Committee on Foreign Affairs, Terrorism, Non-Proliferation and Trade
Subcommittee held a hearing to assess the progress that Saudi Arabia is making
toward revising its educational curriculum. The panel focused almost
exclusively on school textbooks. However, to truly appreciate the progress that
has been made toward reforming the Kingdom’s educational system, one must adopt
a much broader view that evaluates the establishment of new institutions, the
performance of students, the effectiveness of teachers and the revisions to the
One would be hard pressed to find an
official at an education ministry anywhere in the world — or educational institution
for that matter — who could honestly proclaim that the education system in his
or her country is operating at an optimum level and needs no improvement or
reform of any sort. That, too, is the case in Saudi Arabia. While the entire
system has been overhauled over the past decade or so, the reform process will
continue for the foreseeable future.
It has become common for Saudi political
leaders to proudly declare that their human capital is their “greatest asset.”
Such pronouncements acknowledge the fact that over 70 percent of Saudi Arabia’s
population is under 30 and is better educated, with more access to information,
than previous generations. At the same time, the quadrupling of the Saudi
population since 1970 has meant that the Saudi government has had to continue
to expand its capacity to provide public services.
Due to these demographic realities and the
continued domination of the private sector by expatriates, the Saudi government
has consistently dedicated the lion’s share of its annual budget to education.
And although basic literacy rates have improved dramatically over the past four
decades, there is a broad consensus in Saudi Arabia that the education system
remains a work in progress.
The Saudi government has launched several
education-reform efforts, the most ambitious of which is the $22 billion
Strategic Education Reform Initiative. The various projects seek to transform
the country’s educational institutions, in an effort to produce graduates who
can meet the demands of the job market and perform the technical jobs currently
performed mostly by non-Saudis. They also aim to introduce new teaching
methods, with an emphasis on changing from the rote-learning methods used for
years to ones that encourage critical thinking. Teacher training, early
childhood education, and state-of-the-art new schools are all part of the plan.
Education officials maintain that the aim
of these reforms is to create “global citizens” who strive to improve the
general human condition. There are at least three different, principal actors
spearheading the effort to reform education, including the Ministry of
Education, Tatweer (a government-owned company overseeing curriculum
revisions), and the Public Evaluation Committee. Perhaps the crown jewel of
efforts thus far is the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology
(KAUST), a coeducational graduate school near Jeddah that aims to be an
educational institution of such renown as to be able to attract promising
graduates students from all over the world.
Arguably, the most challenging aspect of
the reform effort has been revising the educational curriculum itself — a
process now near completion.
The revisions of the textbooks, while
taking longer than had originally been anticipated, suggests that Education Ministry
officials are making a sincere effort to inoculate Saudi youth against
extremist thought. Officials overseeing education reform maintain that
educational institutions have taken steps to socialize Saudi students so that
they value engaging people from other cultures and followers of other religions
in an open dialogue, imbued with a spirit of mutual respect.
A press conference I attended at the
Ministry of Education in Riyadh last May was emblematic of the education reform
underway. The minister of education organized the conference to announce the
inauguration of a program that would send hundreds of Saudi teachers of both
genders to the US and elsewhere, to learn new teaching methods in countries
that are at the forefront of innovative education. Not only did the minister,
Ahmad Al-Issa, speak candidly about the need to “improve the performance” of
Saudi teachers, but the program is an acknowledgment that Saudi Arabia is a
developing country that could — and should — learn from the experience and successes
of more advanced countries. At the same time, education officials are making
sure that any teachers that deviate from government-issued material —
especially if the teacher espouses intolerant or extremist views — will be held accountable.
Outside observers looking to assist Saudi
Arabia with its effort to reform its educational institutions should employ
positive reinforcement to commend the serious progress that has already been
made and to encourage further progress.
Not Necessary to Put War Back On the
Table; Iran Is At War
Two years have passed since the signing of
the ineffective nuclear agreement between world powers and Tehran, officially
known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
For those who are familiar with the
theocracy in Iran, it is a known fact that all foreign policy in Iran are
decided by the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. This is even true in the case of
the highly promoted nuclear deal. It is worth noting that before and during the
negotiations, Khamenei, said that Oman had a key role in breaking the ice
between Iran and the US.
Thus, it is naive to think that the new
president, Hassan Rouhani, was the one who changed the 10-year-long stalemate.
Iran has an abundance of oil, gas and others natural resources, hence, using
nuclear energy is both expensive and controversial.
Independent experts acknowledge that Iran’s
goal of maintaining a nuclear program is to produce nuclear weapon. However,
Iran has consistently refused these views and claims that its program is of a
It is worth pointing out that having a
nuclear warhead will guarantee Iran’s regional hegemony. Therefore, Iran has
consistently tried to achieve it. Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former Iranian
president and one of the pillars of the Islamic Republic who died last year,
said that Iran was trying to make nuclear bomb.
“When we first began, we were at war and we
sought to have that possibility for the day that the enemy might use a nuclear
weapon”, he said in an interview. Consequently, the regime in Tehran sought
nuclear weapons in order to tilt the balance of power in the region in its
The West imposed comprehensive sanctions
against Iran targeting its finance sector and its selling of oil. These
intelligent punitive measures exacerbated the Iranian economy that already
suffered greatly from decades of economic mismanagement and widespread
corruption, to the point of destruction, according to statistics from Iran’s
own Central bank. The inflation was over 30 percent in 2013.
Economic poverty put immense pressure on
the Iranian middle class, the Iranian government even tried to redefine the
base basket of food (government subsidies to the Iranian middle class) to
control the inflation. Rouhani's government even started to distribute especial
food baskets. The regime’s National Security Council warned about hungry
rebellion. Salaries of labours were unpaid and economic deadlock brought the
government to its knees.
Although, Iran’s goal of making nuclear
weapon was in reach and Tehran increased its intervention in the region, the
economic crisis threatened the theocracy's very existence. Consequently, the
Supreme Leader ordered his officials to start the negotiation with the West.
This was president Obama giving artificial respiration to Tehran.
After The Agreement
The sanctions aimed at stopping Iran’s
nuclear program. According to the JCPOA, Iran must redesign and rebuild its
heavy-water reactor in Arak. It means that Iran’s abilities to develop and
produce nuclear weapon is intensively limited for years. Some experts,
diplomats and government officials argue that the sanctions achieved their
But at that time, the JCPOA did not include
the rest of Iran’s threatening and destabilizing activities such as its
ballistic missile program, dispatch of tens of thousands of militias and
paramilitary forces to Syria. The JCPOA did neither addressed the appalling
human rights situation in Iran.
Iran and Violation of Agreement
A conditional approval was published by the
Supreme Leader Khamenei with regard to Tehran agreeing to the JCPOA. The
document contained several conditions.
One of the conditions was about new
sanctions after signing of the agreement, it said that “Any sanctions against
Iran at every level and on any pretext, including terrorism and human rights
violations, by any one of the countries participating in the negotiations will
constitute a violation of the JCPOA, and a reason for Iran to stop executing
Considering that US has imposed several
sanctions on Iran after the deal, one must ask the following question, why has
Iran not stopped executing the agreement?
The Iranian regime is besieged by extensive
social discontent. Over 10 millions are unemployed and many ordinary Iranians
are forced to live a life below poverty-line.
Not a Foreign Enemy
Indeed, Iranian authorities confess that
the greatest threat to theocracy is not a foreign enemy, like the US, but
popular protests and anti-regime demonstrations, especially by the
disenfranchised poor people and youth, breaking the current status quo.
The reality is that the regime has always
been at war with the young generation over individual liberties and social
freedoms, which challenged the foundation of the regime’s theocracy. That is
why Iran’s answer to new US sanctions has been merely rhetoric.
Due to the theocracy’s weak position in the
society and its faltering economy, if Tehran abandons the nuclear agreement,
all sanctions will be re-imposed. That will led to an economic and political
collapse of the ruling theocracy.
Consequently, if president Trump orders to
renegotiate the JCPOA, or impose new effective sanctions such as designation of
the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization, Iran
is not able to play its enrichment card.
These were the reasons sanctions forced the
Iranian regime to come back to the negotiation table, and it will do it again.