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Middle East Press (16 May 2016 NewAgeIslam.Com)



Why Saudis Travel Abroad: New Age Islam's Selection, 16 May 2016




New Age Islam Edit Bureau

16 May 2016

Why Saudis Travel Abroad

By Saad Dosari

Iran, Russia, Hezbollah and Israel? Settling Scores In Syria?

By Mohamed Chebarro

A Century Later, the Tide Turns on Palestine

By Rami G Khouri

Fighting Terror The Saudi Way

By Bikram Vohra

Liberating Mosul Will Not Solve Iraq's Problems

By Luke Coffey

The Industry Of Frustration And Discontent

By Turki Al-Dakhil

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau

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Why Saudis Travel Abroad

By Saad Dosari

16 May 2016

With the 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.

Saudi 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.

Every way 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.

Let’s start 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.

The same 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.

From public 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.

Source: arabnews.com/news/why-saudis-travel-abroad

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Iran, Russia, Hezbollah and Israel? Settling Scores in Syria?

By Mohamed Chebarro

15 May 2016

Few will 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.

Whatever 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.

Whether the 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 Syrian battlefield.

The 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”.

The fact 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.

The militia 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 regime.

In the constantly transforming theater of conflict in Syria, priorities of allies and foes evolve all the time

The killing 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.

Sources 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.

Under 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.

Covert Operations

The scale 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.

In an 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.

Clearly 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.

Nailing a 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.

But terror 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.

In the 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.

Therefore, 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.

The killing 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.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/2016/05/15/Killing-of-Hezbollah-s-Badreddine-points-to-open-score-settling-in-Syria-.html

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A Century Later, the Tide Turns on Palestine

By Rami G Khouri

15 May 2016

This week's 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.

Public 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.

A century 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 disenfranchised Palestinians.

Ever since, Zionist and Israeli expansion into Arab lands have continued unchecked, in the form of settlements, land expropriations, and evictions and expulsions of Palestinians.

Recent 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 rights.

US Partisan Politics

Though a 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.

The Pew analysis said, "There are good reasons, rooted in American partisan politics, to believe this may actually be part of a longer-term trend."

This 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]".

State of siege, inhabitants running to buy provisions, 1948, Palestine, National Archives, Washington [Getty]

They also 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".

Similar trends defined young and Hispanic voters, who are increasingly pivotal in national elections, and who want Washington to remain largely neutral in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

On another 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.

Some 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.

The conflict also continues to shift away from military confrontation in Palestine to political, legal, and civic engagements around the world anchored in popular action.

There is 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.

If the 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.

The 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 achieved.

BDS Movement

The conflict also continues to shift away from military confrontation in Palestine to political, legal, and civic engagements around the world anchored in popular action.

The cutting 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.

Support for 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.

Even more 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 Palestinians.

Israel's 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.

Even here, 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.

The fragmented and moribund Palestinian leadership cannot take advantage of this slow worldwide shift towards more balanced positions on Israeli-Palestinian national rights.

So we 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 concerned.

Source: aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/05/century-tide-turns-palestine-160515064902532.html

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Fighting Terror the Saudi Way

By Bikram Vohra

16 May 2016

Against the 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.

Both the 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.

The Saudi 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.

People just 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.

Already 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.

There may 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.

We saw 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.

Source: arabnews.com/news/fighting-terror-saudi-way

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Liberating Mosul Will Not Solve Iraq's Problems

By Luke Coffey

15 May 2016

The 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.

The real 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.

Iraq's Hoshyar Zebari says 'Mosul is key'

Even though 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.

Mosul is Iraq's second-largest city, and urban warfare is no easy task as the recent operation to liberate Ramadi has shown.

A Slow Long Fight

Ramadi has 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).

Ramadi is still being cleared of booby traps and insurgents even though it was "liberated" months ago.

Ramadan 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.

Kurdish forces can only play a limited role in the campaign and would not be seen as liberators at all by the locals.

The composition of the liberating force is still a matter of debate. Many locals do not trust the Iraqi security forces.

Kurdish 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.

Do not 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.

Local Attitudes

The success and speed of the operation will largely depend on the mood of the Sunni inhabitants.

However 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 forces.

This will be easier said than done.

Recent polling carried out by Iraqi polling firm IIACSS conducted sheds light on this. The results are both eye-opening and alarming. Some findings are:

In Mosul, 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.

Does this 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.

These 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.

Until these 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.

Not A Fatal Blow

If Mosul were to fall tomorrow it would be a blow - but not a fatal one - for ISIL.

Even if 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 regional security.

Of course, 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.

Until the 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.

If 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.

Before we know it, in a few years, someone will have to liberate Mosul (or Ramadi or Fallujah) all over again.

As General David Petraeus said in 2003, soon after the invasion of Iraq before he became a household name: "Tell me how this ends."

Source: aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/05/liberating-mosul-solve-iraq-problems-160515065236609.html

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The Industry Of Frustration And Discontent

By Turki Al-Dakhil

15 May 2016

After the 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.

Sayyid Qutb, who has been one of the major instigators, lectured about one of his ideology’s major themes – the industry of discontent.

In an 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.”

Let’s keep 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

Let’s keep 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.

Abdulrahman 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?

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/2016/05/15/The-industry-of-frustration-and-discontent.html

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/middle-east-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/why-saudis-travel-abroad--new-age-islam-s-selection,-16-may-2016/d/107308





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