Islam Edit Bureau
16 May 2016
Saudis Travel Abroad
Russia, Hezbollah and Israel? Settling Scores In Syria?
Century Later, the Tide Turns on Palestine
Terror The Saudi Way
Mosul Will Not Solve Iraq's Problems
Industry Of Frustration And Discontent
By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
conclusion of the academic year, most families are finalizing their summer
plans while others are waiting to be persuaded by the endless summer vacation
packages, offers and advertisements targeting them.
travellers are the prime target of airlines, hotels, credit cards issuing
banks, tourism commissions in different countries, and travel agencies. This
should not come as a surprise due to the huge number of Saudis leaving the
country in the vacation seasons and the huge amount of money they spend during
their stay abroad. According to the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National
Heritage, Saudis spent around SR96.2 billion in their foreign travels in 2015,
that is an increase by 39 percent (around SR26.9 billion) compared to the SR
69.3 billion they spent in 2014. These Saudi tourists left the country on 21.5
million flights of different airlines compared to 19.8 million flights in 2014.
you look at it, Saudis cannot wait for the summer vacations in order to travel.
The recently formed Entertainment Commission should study this trend very
carefully. It should closely study the reasons Saudis choose to leave the
country whenever they have a vacation.
We all know
that we lack the basic entertainment venues and activities and this was clearly
and boldly admitted in the Saudi Vision 2030.
with the very basics of entertainment venues, public and theme parks. Needless
to say, we have turned our cities into forests of concrete and steal. One can
hardly see greenery in our cities. And please note that when I say a public
park then I am referring to something of the level of Hyde Park in London or
the Central Park in New York, not the 30 by 20 meters grass areas we have
within the residential blocks. I do not want to exaggerate and say let’s build
parks of the magnitude of those I just mentioned, but at least let’s create
spaces in our cities where we can feel that we are away from buildings, cars,
and the kind of pressure the modern life have on all of us.
goes for theme parks, I am not saying let’s create a Disneyland (although it
would be interesting to host the first Disneyland in which Arabic is the first
language), but for a country where half the population is young, it is
unbelievable that we do not have any decent theme park in any of our cities.
places and parks we come to the culturally themed entertainment — cinemas,
theatres, museums, and art galleries. Admittedly, we fall way behind in this
area. A country as big and diverse as Saudi Arabia with its rich Arabic and
Islamic heritage, we lack big museums to showcase our history and the
civilizations that grew on our lands (another point Vision 2030 raised). Our
families find no other options but to pay for air tickets and accommodation for
a couple of days just to watch a movie they were waiting for, or a concert or
play they wanted to attend.
The list of
things we lack in the industry of entertainment goes on and on, and it
certainly goes beyond a mere shopping festival. There is a lot to be done,
there are challenges as well as opportunities, but there is hope that
entertainment will finally make its way back to our country.
Russia, Hezbollah and Israel? Settling Scores in Syria?
15 May 2016
mourn the killing of Hezbollah military wing head in Syria. Many are breathing
easy after his assassination through either a planted bomb or a missile fired
on land by Syrian opposition forces. It could even have been carried out by an
unknown drone or an Israeli jet fighter close to Damascus airport.
the circumstances that led to the targeted killing of Mustafa Badreddine, the
military leader of Hezbollah Lebanese militia, and the author of many a
domestic and foreign terrorist plots across the region and the world, point to
a collision of Russian-Israeli interests in Syria that have neutralized leaders
from Hezbollah over the past few months.
Assad regime condoned the operation or element of its military top brass looked
away goes on to show an interlaced military and intelligence imbroglio that
could damage the already fragile and operationally fractured alliance between
Russian, Iranian, Syrian regime, and Hezbollah’s interests in the internecine
Hezbollah communiqué issued after Badreddine funeral blamed extremist groups in
Syria for his death. His “martyrdom”, the communiqué said, “will make” the
so-called “resistance movement stronger in its fight against the American
imperialists and their allies the Jihadis and Takfiris who are spearheading the
US fight in the region”.
remains that Hezbollah is bleeding his finest soldiers in Syria and this will
leave more bad taste in the mouth of its leader Hassan Nasrallah. He will find
it more difficult to justify his onslaught of Syrians to an ever more doubtful
Lebanese Shiite community that elevated Hezbollah militia to holy ranks and
gave all for its fight against Israel.
has lost in excess of 1,200 of its men in the three years of involvement in
propping up the Assad regime. This is a heavy price to pay and indicates that
many Lebanese Shiites villages across the country have either suffered human
losses or are tending to the thousands wounded while defending the Assad
constantly transforming theater of conflict in Syria, priorities of allies and
foes evolve all the time
of Badreddine also shows that the security breach in Hezbollah has been huge.
It is no secret that lapses and infiltrations abound in the regime heartland
for the once unvanquished party. Israel’s denial of involvement in the killing
is a classic position Tel Aviv generally takes after such operations.
close to the Israeli establishment are trying to point fingers at an inside job
i.e. Syrian regime versus Hezbollah. The suggestion is that the regime is tying
lose ends and closing files for elements like Badreddine who have played
critical covert roles for decades.
Syrian and Iranian patronage he and his predecessor, Imad Moghniah, the former
chief of Hezbollah military wing were accused of bombing embassies, kidnapping
and killing foreigners in Lebanon and hijacking aircraft. As per the Special
Tribunal on Lebanon indictment in The Hague, listed in early 2013, he was also
behind killing of ex prime minister of Lebanon, Rafiq Hariri.
of the security breach indicates that Russian-Iranian covert operations in
Syria are also underway. As they are allied against ISIS and Syrian opposition
forces fighting to remove Assad, the killing of Badreddine also points to
potential Russian-Israeli high level cooperation that both countries have never
tried to hide.
unconvincing communiqué Hezbollah explained the circumstances of his death.
There have been reports also, that the notorious head of Quds Brigade in the
Iranian revolutionary guard, Qassem Sulaimani, was at the Damascus airport site
half an hour before the bombing of the building where Badreddine was killed.
whosoever pulled the trigger waited for Sulaimani to exit prior to launching
the attack. In doing so whoever pulled the trigger wanted to avoid potential
retribution from the Iranians.
fish as big as Moghniah – also in Syria’s heavily protected Damascus district
of Kfar Souse in 2008, in what was said to be a joint CIA and Mossad operation
– led many to also claim that elements within Assad regime might have
encouraged the assassination and turned a blind eye in a bid to remove someone
who worked for three decades for the benefit of Damascus and Tehran.
commanders such as Moghniah, and now his brother-in-law Badreddine, are key
figures and are very well protected by top Iranian and Syrian mandate. A
weakened Assad regime might have exposed Badreddine further though. He was for
decades known as the “ghost” but it seems the increased and wide reaching
Hezbollah operation in Syria exposed gaps in his movements. Moreover, the
protracted nature of the conflict in Syria has exposed many leaders before him
and is likely to expose those who will replace him.
constantly changing theatres of conflict in Syria, allies and foes’ priorities
could evolve all the time. All indications so far point to a correlation of
interests at work between the so-called friends of the Assad front, made not
exclusively of Russia, Iran and Israel. This front aims to keep Assad in power
for a variety of reasons that intersect or diverge in details and perception of
what future Syria should have.
mercenary forces such as Hezbollah from Lebanon, or Iraqi, Afghani and
Pakistani Shiite militia, are expendable and so is their leadership.
In the case
of Badreddine, the “sword” or the “ghost” as his alias and nom de guerre,
direct deployment and involvement of the Russians in Syria since September 2015
meant that the lid is further removed and secretive operatives like top
Hezbollah leaders are exposed. Such open spaces, and the high level
Israel-Russian cooperation, mean that agents from all sides and not exclusively
from Israel are operating more freely in Syria for the first time in decades.
of Badreddine after the less significant killing of Samir Kuntar, and Jihad
Moghniah Junior – both field officers in Hezbollah – goes to show that Israel
with comrade Vladimir of Russia’s help is gaining more visibility and access to
Hezbollah leadership’s whereabouts and could deploy its asset to take them out
as it pleases.
15 May 2016
dual commemoration of the May 1948 Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe of expulsion,
exile, and occupation) and Israel's independence day sees important signs of
change in the balance of political power in this enduring national struggle.
sentiments and incremental political advances around the world may be creating
a global context that is more fair to both sides in the conflict, thus reducing
the modern legacy in favour of the Zionist movement and the state of Israel.
ago, around 1916-1921, the Zionism-Arabism conflict was incubated in the
context of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Sykes-Picot Agreement
(1916), the Balfour Declaration (1917), and other post-WWI big power agreements
on a new state order in the Middle East that favoured Zionists and
Zionist and Israeli expansion into Arab lands have continued unchecked, in the
form of settlements, land expropriations, and evictions and expulsions of
trends this decade, however, indicate some rebalancing in the West. Just this
week, for example, a Pew Research Centre poll of 2,000 Americans revealed that
liberal Democrats sympathise more with Palestinians than with Israel (40
percent versus 33 percent), an almost unprecedented tilt towards Palestinian
small majority of all Americans as always still favours Israel's position, and
a majority of Hillary Clinton's supporters took Israel's side, Bernie Sanders'
supporters backed the Palestinians by a 39-33 margin.
analysis said, "There are good reasons, rooted in American partisan
politics, to believe this may actually be part of a longer-term trend."
follows insights nearly two years ago by the respected political analyst
Shibley Telhami at the University of Maryland, who noted after a national poll
he conducted with PhD student Katayoun Kishi that, "about two-thirds of
Americans tend to want the US government to lean toward neither side of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict … [but] differences across party lines are wide:
51 percent of Republican respondents want the United States to lean toward
Israel, compared to 17 percent of Democrats. While most Democratic and
independent respondents want the United States to lean toward neither side [77
percent and 73 percent, respectively]".
siege, inhabitants running to buy provisions, 1948, Palestine, National
Archives, Washington [Getty]
found that among Democratic and independent respondents, "82 percent and
81 percent, respectively, think that the United States should either abstain
from voting on a proposed Palestinian resolution at the United Nations to
recognise a state of Palestine, or vote in favour of endorsing the
establishment of a Palestinian state, compared with 52 percent of Republicans
who would favour these approaches".
trends defined young and Hispanic voters, who are increasingly pivotal in
national elections, and who want Washington to remain largely neutral in the
level where gains were made recently, the State of Palestine achieved
"non-member observer state" status at the United Nations in 2012, in
a 138-9 vote in the General Assembly.
Western states like Sweden and Iceland have "recognised" Palestine,
and others are likely to follow suit, adding to the 136 countries that have
established diplomatic relations with Palestine.
conflict also continues to shift away from military confrontation in Palestine
to political, legal, and civic engagements around the world anchored in popular
new interest among Western powers, like France, to use the United Nations or
specially designated conferences under UN Security Council auspices to
negotiate a permanent and just resolution of the conflict. The US government is
reportedly considering supporting a resolution in the UN Security Council
laying out the parameters for a permanent Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement,
which Israel vehemently rejects.
Palestinian leadership makes use of opportunities in UN forums to hold Israel
accountable for illegal acts like building settlements or blockading Gaza, and
Western powers do shift the peace-making quest to international councils, this
would mark a major shift in the context of how this century-long conflict is
being managed or resolved.
universal rule of law, rather than the Israeli- and US-dominated military
balance of power on the ground, would then define how a peace agreement was
edge of this is the 10-year-old Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS)
movement of Palestinian civil society that has captured plenty of popular
attention and support around the world, to Israel's great worry.
the non-violent BDS movement has seen Israel increasingly equated around the
world with South African Apartheid, to the point where mainstream churches,
labour unions, investment groups, and academic associations in the US and
Europe are selectively refusing to deal with Israeli institutions based in, or
taking advantage of, the occupied Palestinian territories.
troubling for Israel is the trend of attitudes among young people under the age
of 45 being more even-handed than older people, signalling continuing popular
political pressure on Israel to refrain from its occupation and subjugation of
traditional strength and political leverage in Western states, especially the
US, is increasingly isolated among a few institutions that are out of sync with
their wider societies, like the US Congress.
though, last year some 60 members of Congress stayed away from Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech in Washington to argue against the US
government's negotiations with Iran over the nuclear issue. Israel lost that
battle, which it saw as an existential one.
fragmented and moribund Palestinian leadership cannot take advantage of this
slow worldwide shift towards more balanced positions on Israeli-Palestinian
should expect global political action on Palestine to keep shifting towards
political, civic, public, and law-based activities, especially BDS activity and
Western-driven attempts to replace the US monopoly on diplomacy with a more
equitable and effective negotiating mechanism that respects the rights of all
Terror the Saudi Way
backdrop of the Saudi initiative to up the ante in the war against the Daesh
and Al-Qaeda while calling on the Houthis in Yemen to come to the negotiating
table for the restoration of lasting peace, Riyadh has shown not only intent
but projected with extreme clarity the way forward not just for the region but
for the world at large.
United States and Russia have to see in this move a common purpose and that is
to target the terrorist per se. Whatever the name, whatever breakaway the
faction, terrorists are people one can negotiate with.
approach underscores an upsurge in public sentiment aimed at ending the agony
for millions of people. The average person is tired of war and fear and the
legacy soaked in blood.
want to be left alone and their patience has worn thin. Even the ground support
at the point of a gun or refuge through ambush for terrorist groups is becoming
more difficult and there is a resistance that is swiftly building at the base
level. It is natural corollary to years of anguish and the exhaustion now is
its own defence. At the same time as the military options are being exercised
there is another soft underbelly and that is blocking the financial support.
there are signs that these militants are finding their treasure trove drying
up. Those who backed them secretly or for their own political agendas are
discovering that there are no percentages in this continued destruction and
that is bad for business. Then again, there are now so many factions that it
has become onerous and counterproductive to pay off so many splinter groups and
new rebel entities both of whom increase exponentially.
One can go
as far as to say that the militants are suffering from overcrowding and to an
extent neutralizing each other.
be more gusts of violence and the list of martyrs might grow longer but one can
sense a change in the dynamics and the general resolve that the world needs no
more killing fields.
recently the sense of dismay and shock when the café in Iraq’s town of Balad
was bombed while people watched a soccer match. This was compounded by the
Daesh attack on a Syrian hospital in the eastern region with 20 deaths.
Even as the
United Nations (UN) seeks to disband terrorist groups and the world finally
begins to understand that it is not one nation’s problem but a problem sans
frontiers the sooner will the message of determination from Saudi Arabia echo
round the world.
liberation of Mosul is in the early days of execution, but as the central
government in Baghdad and policymakers in the US will soon find out, liberating
the city and kicking out ISIL (also known as ISIS) will be the easy part.
challenge will be finding a political settlement that allows the local Sunni
inhabitants to address their legitimate political grievances with the central
government in Baghdad.
It is in
this area that the battle for Mosul will be truly won or lost.
Hoshyar Zebari says 'Mosul is key'
there has been much media reporting on the upcoming offensive to retake Mosul
from ISIL, there are many reasons why we should not expect a swift liberation
of the city.
Iraq's second-largest city, and urban warfare is no easy task as the recent
operation to liberate Ramadi has shown.
a population of around 200,000 compared with Mosul's estimated population of
1.8 million (albeit many of them left the city for safer refuge).
still being cleared of booby traps and insurgents even though it was
"liberated" months ago.
being observed next month and the heat of the summer are both guaranteed to
slow down military operations. Also, it remains to be seen if the Iraqi
security forces are truly up to the challenge.
forces can only play a limited role in the campaign and would not be seen as
liberators at all by the locals.
composition of the liberating force is still a matter of debate. Many locals do
not trust the Iraqi security forces.
forces can only play a limited role in the campaign and would not be seen as
liberators at all by the locals. The use of Shia militias by Baghdad to help
retake the city would be a disaster. Using a large-scale US ground force to
liberate the city would be equally bonkers.
underestimate the challenge a city the size of Mosul will be to liberate. With an
operation this size, success is likely to be measured in months if not years -
not days and weeks.
and speed of the operation will largely depend on the mood of the Sunni
terrible life under ISIL might be, the locals will need to see a credible
alternative to the status quo before they openly support the Iraqi security
be easier said than done.
polling carried out by Iraqi polling firm IIACSS conducted sheds light on this.
The results are both eye-opening and alarming. Some findings are:
74 percent of Sunni respondents say they do not want to be liberated by the
Iraqi army on its own.
Of the 120
Sunni respondents in Mosul, 100 percent do not want to be liberated by Shiite militias
or the Kurds.
mean Iraqi Sunnis like ISIL? No. A poll conducted in January 2016 showed that
99 percent of Shiite and 95 percent of Sunnis across Iraq oppose ISIL.
attitudes by Iraq's Sunni population probably explain why even though Fallujah
has been surrounded for more than a year by Iraqi security forces there has not
been a popular uprising by the Sunni inhabitants against ISIL.
larger political and sectarian divisions are addressed in Iraq, it really will
not matter in the bigger picture who has de facto control over Mosul.
were to fall tomorrow it would be a blow - but not a fatal one - for ISIL.
ISIL is removed from Iraq, they will still have a base on which to fall back.
The terror organisation's capital, training centres, arms depots, primary
sources of revenue remain in Syria. Until there is a strategy to deal with ISIL
in its centre of gravity in Syria the terror group will remain a threat to
ISIL needs to be expelled, but simply removing the terror group will not solve
many of Iraq's sectarian divisions - many of which were the reasons why ISIL
was able to capture the city to begin with.
sectarian divisions inside Iraq are addressed, it is hard to see how the
liberation of Mosul will make a significant difference or a lasting impact on
the overall stability of the country.
sectarian divisions and political grievances are not addressed by Baghdad, then
something else will eventually replace ISIL. If the recent evolution of
terrorist groups in the region is any indication, whatever comes after ISIL
will probably be just as bad, if not worse.
know it, in a few years, someone will have to liberate Mosul (or Ramadi or
Fallujah) all over again.
David Petraeus said in 2003, soon after the invasion of Iraq before he became a
household name: "Tell me how this ends."
Saudi authorities busted a terror cell near Makkah recently, spokesman of the
interior minister, Major General Mansur al-Turki, highlighted the “industry of
frustration” among the youth and said it was the instigators’ most successful
means to recruit them.
Qutb, who has been one of the major instigators, lectured about one of his
ideology’s major themes – the industry of discontent.
article – Schools for Discontent – published on September 30, 1946 in
al-Risalah magazine, he said: “I will remain indignant. If it were up to me,
I’d establish double the schools which the government has built in order to
teach people one thing: discontent. If it were up to me, I’d establish a school
to teach discontent over this generation of politicians and over those writers
and journalists whom are said to be opinion leaders in the country ... I’d
establish a school to teach discontent over those ministers.”
in mind that some of the terrorists who carried out operations, or who were
arrested or killed, had the “human rights’ activity” tag attached to them
in mind that some of the terrorists who carried out operations, or who were
arrested or killed, had the “human rights’ activity” tag attached to them, as
was the case with the “Aid the Sufferer” campaign. This latter campaign turned
out to be a gathering for al-Qaeda and ISIS. The alleged human rights’ campaign
led to some the most violent acts in the history of Saudi Arabia.
Al-Tuwaijri, the al-Ahsa suicide bomber, Fahad al-Gabbaa, the bomber of the
Shiite mosque in Kuwait, Saleh al-Qashami, the suicide bomber of al-Qudaih
mosque, Youssef al-Suleiman, the bomber of Abha, Rima al-Jreish, Hisham
al-Khodeir, Hadi al-Shibani, who prepared suicide bombers to carry out their
attacks, and Adel al-Mejmaj were all part of “aid the sufferer” campaign.
So can this
be a coincidence?