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Middle East Press (16 Jun 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Why Some Iranian Kurds Have Joined Daesh against Iran By Marc Martinez: New Age Islam's Selection, 16 June 2017

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

16 June 2017

Why Some Iranian Kurds Have Joined Daesh Against Iran

By Marc Martinez

The Debate over US-Saudi Arms Sales

By Fahad Nazer

A Magic Wand for France?

By Anders Aslund

Truth behind Political Campaign against Civilians in Iraq

By Adnan Hussein

How Qatar Prolonged the Syrian Crisis

By Hassan Al Mustafa

Why Iraq-Syria Highway Is Vital To Daesh

By Mohamed Hineidi

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Why Some Iranian Kurds Have Joined Daesh against Iran

By Marc Martinez

15 June 2017

A few days after the first successful terrorist operation in Iran by Daesh, authorities revealed the identities of the five gunmen involved. To the surprise of many, at least four of them were Iranian Kurds.

Officials admitted that fellow Iranians had targeted two potent symbols of the Islamic Republic: The Imam Khomeini mausoleum, the final resting place of its founder; and Parliament, the symbol of Iran’s vibrant yet imperfect democracy. The attack left at least 17 people dead, some 53 wounded and the country traumatized.

Soon after, Intelligence Minister Syed Mahmoud Alavi announced the killing of the alleged mastermind of the operation, who was tracked down in Iraq, where the five attackers had fought alongside Daesh in its Mosul stronghold. He also announced the arrest of 50 suspects in an attempt to crush “terrorist cells” across Iran. But security and intelligence services have understandably focused their efforts on Iranian Kurdistan, where operations continue.

The region, called Rojhalat by some Kurds, is spread over Iran’s western provinces of Kordistan, Kermanshah and parts of West Azerbaijan and Ilam. It is an underdeveloped mountainous region that has been a hotbed of separatist tendencies for decades.

The long history of distrust between Kurds and the central government in Tehran stems from the short-lived Republic of Mahabad. On Jan. 1, 1946, Kurdish leader Qazi Mohamed sided with the Soviet Union, which had occupied northern Iran since 1941, to declare an independent Kurdish state. But a few months later, under US pressure, the Soviet Union withdrew its troops from Iran and abandoned Mahabad to the shah’s ruthless repression.

Several Marxist and agnostic political parties, such as the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) and the Komala, continued the fight for the region’s independence. Iran’s repression of the Kurds was supported by the US as part of a global fight against the spread of communist ideology.

The 1979 Islamic Revolution did not stop the oppression; it added the sectarian factor as the mullahs despised and distrusted the majority-Sunni Kurds. Iran has since imposed severe restrictions on Kurdish expression of their religion, language and tradition. The intelligence service forced Komala and the KDPI into submission by assassinating several of their leaders in Europe.

But the discrimination against the Kurds, and the lack of economic development in the region, led to the emergence of a more radical leftist organization, PEJAK, which launched indiscriminate attacks against civilians. This led to waves of repression that proved successful from the government’s point of view.

While Komala, the KDPI and PEJAK continue to support a degree of autonomy and engage in regular low-level skirmishes with local forces, they have failed to mobilize support for the communist ideology.

Even in Iranian Kurdistan, there exists a sense of belonging to Persian culture, and an increasing number of Iranians see the region as integral to the country’s history. The city of Kermanshah, for example, holds many pre-Islamic historical sites, such as the multilingual Behistun inscription dated circa 500 BC and the Taq-e-Bostan, a series of large rock reliefs commissioned by the Sassanid kings who ruled part of West Asia between 226 and 650 AD, before the Islamic conquests.

The emergence of a nationalist movement that sees pre-Islamic Zoroastrian Persia as the glue binding Iranians has prevented centrifugal forces opposed to the religious revolution imposed in 1979 from destroying the country.

Far from being politically disengaged, Kurds rejected Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s 2009 re-election as president, and participated in the Green Revolution that followed. The vast majority of Kurds backed Hassan Rouhani in the 2013 presidential race. And despite a growing sense of frustration shared by many Iranians regarding Iran’s slow economic revival, more than 60 percent of Kurds voted for him again in 2017.

However, Iranian authorities have observed with great concern increasing signs of religious radicalization in the Kurdish provinces, which were previously marked by Marxism, feminism and agnosticism. The recent terrorist attacks gave substance to this fear, and while authorities will continue to blame Saudi Arabia for allegedly providing financial support to Sunni extremists, they will need to find a local solution.

Most of the estimated 8 million Kurds seek cultural, linguistic and religious rights, as well as a degree of political autonomy within Iran. Separatist movements have failed and are no longer perceived as a viable option. Iranian Kurds feel they enjoy relative security compared to Kurds in Turkey, Syria and Iraq. But the ongoing absence of economic perspective, as well as the porous border with Iraq, constitute the perfect substrate for extremism.

The government and even the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have been engaged in a new policy to win Kurdish hearts and minds through the creation of jobs and social welfare. Yet the recent attacks, as well as security forces’ reaction, could disturb the fragile equilibrium in Iranian Kurdistan. The end of a moderate policy and the start of indiscriminate repression could push many Kurds into the arms of terrorist organizations such as Daesh.

To stop Iranian Kurdistan and its Iraqi rear base from turning into terrorist havens, Tehran needs to continue implementing Rouhani’s policies, use the region’s proximity to Iraq to ensure its transformation into a logistics hub, and support local socio-economic leaders.

But while Kurds are the third-largest ethnic group in Iran, they are only one minority among many. The challenges Iran faces today with the Kurds could metastasize to other groups such as the Baluchs, Arabs and Azeris, endangering the country’s national fabric.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1115771


The Debate over US-Saudi Arms Sales

By Fahad Nazer

15 June 2017

Saudi Arabia lives in a dangerous neighbourhood. To its north, Iraq is in the midst of a military campaign to wrest control of territory that was lost to the terrorist group Daesh over the past two years. To its south, the internationally recognized government of Yemen is trying to regain control of its capital Sanaa, which was seized by force by Houthi rebels in late 2014.

On the domestic front, Daesh has vowed to create division and instability by targeting Saudi and foreign citizens and institutions. In addition, militants in the Eastern Province have attacked police stations and patrols over the last few years. Across the Arabian Gulf, Iran has done all it can to heighten these threats to Saudi security by supporting a diverse list of terrorist groups and militants.

No wonder the Kingdom spends a significant percentage of its budget annually on defending its borders and waters, and on securing its critical installations. To meet their security needs, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states have often looked to the US as the military partner of first resort. The US has provided Saudi Arabia with advanced weapons and training programs going back to the 1940s.

According to some accounts, the Kingdom bought more American weapons than any other developing nation between 2008 and 2015 — $93.5 billion worth. This happened at a time when its relations with the US under President Barak Obama were not as close as it had been under previous administrations.

During his visit to the Kingdom last month, President Donald Trump announced that the two countries had concluded military deals worth $110 billion. While some of the agreement had been in the pipeline for a long time and some are in their early stages, there is little doubt that the Trump administration appreciates the importance of this aspect of the relationship for more than one reason.

For starters, Trump and previous US administrations have repeatedly urged their allies and partners in the region and elsewhere to share more of the burden in terms of maintaining peace and stability. Saudi Arabia has demonstrated in word and deed that it is fully committed to playing a leading role in helping bring stability back to a region that has been ravaged by political violence and terrorist activities since 2011.

To that end, the Kingdom is supporting the internationally recognized Yemeni government as it tries to regain control of Sanaa and other territories captured by Iran-backed Houthi rebels and their allies, including supporters of ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Saudi Arabia also established an Islamic Military Coalition Against Terrorism in late 2015, which seeks to defeat terrorist groups such as Daesh by utilizing the varied capabilities of those who have suffered the most from terrorism: Muslim-majority countries.

Since his inauguration in January, Trump and his administration have lauded Saudi leadership in the Arab and Muslim worlds. The White House has also praised the multidimensional bilateral relationship, including economic cooperation, trade and investment. In that regard, Trump in Riyadh reminded Americans that the arms sales agreed to in the Saudi capital will create “thousands” of jobs in the defence industry in the US.

Saudi officials ensured that many of the agreements will also create jobs in the Kingdom, and that they will advance the transfer of technological knowhow. As far as the US and Saudi political leaderships are concerned, the weapons sales are a win-win for both sides.

But not everyone in the US Congress agrees with this assessment. Earlier this week, a measure introduced by Republican Sen. Rand Paul opposing the sale of over $500 million worth of precision-guided munition kits to the Kingdom was narrowly defeated by a vote of 47-53. Members against the sale said their opposition stems from concerns over how the Saudi military campaign in support of the Yemeni government has been conducted.

On the morning of the vote, a hearing in front of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs titled “Challenges and Opportunities for the US Saudi Relationship” ended with a heated exchange between committee member Ted Lieu and former US Ambassador to Yemen Gerald Feirstein over the Saudi war effort.

The exchange highlighted the wide disconnect between the impressions of some observers who mischaracterize the conflict as a Saudi war against Yemen, and those who understand that it is a Yemeni civil war with regional actors involved and no easy answers.

Saudi and US officials, and all interested parties who believe that US-Saudi relations have been mutually beneficial, must continue to correct misperceptions of casual observers, and to remind them that bilateral ties have not continued to strengthen and broaden over the past eight decades by happenstance.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1115766


A Magic Wand For France?

By Anders Aslund

15 June 2017

Last month, Emmanuel Macron pulled the proverbial rabbit from the electoral hat. Against the odds, the independent centrist won the French presidency by a decisive margin, beating the far-right populist Marine Le Pen — and vanquishing the old guard of the French establishment along the way. Now, for his latest trick, Macron looks set to secure a huge majority in the French National Assembly.

But whether Macron, a political newcomer, is more than an electoral wizard will depend on the success, or failure, of the economic program that his government enacts.

Friends of France, and of a united Europe, were no doubt relieved by Macron’s victory. And in the early days of his presidency, the French public is behind him, too; recent polling puts his approval rating at 62 percent. Yet goodwill can dissipate quickly, which is why Macron must move to capitalize on his early mandate by implementing reforms of fiscal policy, taxation, the labor market and education, to name but a few areas where change is long overdue.

France’s most immediate problems are anemic growth and inadequate job creation. For the last 12 years, France’s gross domestic product (GDP) has increased by barely 1 percent a year, less than the mediocre uptick in the EU as a whole, while unemployment currently hovers just above 10 percent. Only five EU countries — Croatia, Italy, Cyprus, Spain and Greece — have higher unemployment rates.

During Macron’s first five-year term, therefore, he should focus on raising France’s GDP growth to an average of at least 2 percent a year, and reducing unemployment to below 6 percent. The easiest way to achieve both goals would be to focus on where France is underperforming relative to other EU countries.

Part of the unemployment challenge is tied to hidden costs. France has some of the highest labour costs for hourly employees in the EU, and a natural consequence is tepid hiring. With inequality also growing, many French are rightly upset that labour is taxed much more than capital gains. Indeed, France’s payroll taxes amount to 19 percent of GDP — far exceeding the EU average of 13 percent. This is a particularly pernicious tax, because only employers are affected by it. It should therefore be the first tax Macron moves to cut.

Likewise, government spending, at 57 percent of GDP, is the highest in the EU, where the average is 47 percent. This burden is excessive, and significantly hinders economic growth. The government should work to reduce these expenditures (its bloated social-protection programs in particular) by at least one percentage point a year.

Corporate taxes are another area ripe for reform. With its rate of 33 percent, France has one of the highest profit taxes on corporations in Europe. But its revenues from these taxes, 2.6 percent of GDP, are in line with the EU average. France could afford to reduce its profit tax rate to 25 percent, as Macron has proposed, without losing significant tax revenues.

On nearly every fiscal metric, France is an outlier (along with Finland and Belgium, which have also underperformed in recent years). And given that France, it now seems clear, has not benefited from loose policy, Macron should be able to forge a consensus on cutting taxes and expenditures. Indeed, reducing the fiscal burden on the economy will be the key to turning things around.

But France also needs more complex structural reforms, the most urgent one being liberalization and simplification of the country’s complex labor code, which makes it too difficult to hire and lay off workers. The most vulnerable are often those who are the least integrated into the economy, especially the young and immigrants. Most European countries suffer from this problem, but France’s youth unemployment rate, at 26 percent, is significantly higher than the EU average of 19.6 percent. The simplification of the labor code should be negotiated with social partners to mitigate or even avoid strikes and protests.

Finally, France’s education system needs major attention. The Organization of Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD) rates French high school students as just about average among the world’s developed economies. France, like many other European countries, has much room for improvement in preparing its young people for the job market.

The situation appears even worse for French universities. According to the Times Higher Education Supplement, which ranks universities worldwide, France’s top university, the Ecole Normale Superieure, ranks just 66th in the world. Without reform of higher education, France cannot be remotely competitive with British and American institutions.

The French government can carry out all of these reforms unilaterally, without the EU. But the EU could help France’s economy by promoting various markets. Free trade in services is one of the original four EU freedoms; today, however, the single market for services works poorly. France has much to gain from further liberalization in its domestic services market. And the EU’s digital market is a bonanza waiting to be won, though France’s participation is surprisingly limited. Improved access to venture capital, which liberalization of financial services would facilitate, could help.

Macron’s victory — and the likely parliamentary landslide for his La Republique En Marche! (LREM) — has presented France with a great opportunity. But, given the scope and scale of the needed reforms, the president’s political honeymoon will be short. He must deliver results quickly, or his magic will soon fail him — and French voters will make him disappear.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1115761


Truth behind Political Campaign against Civilians in Iraq

By Adnan Hussein

15 June 2017

Influential political Islamist parties who are part of the authority in Iraq are under greater pressure these days particularly those emanating from the civil movement. They have been pressured since protests erupted in February 2011 demanding reform and calling for fighting corruption and providing better services.

This pressure has increased since the end of August 2015 as the second wave of protests erupted and it has now increased as we begin the countdown for elections next year. These groups do not hesitate to fabricate accusations against civilians and the civil movement. They accuse them of “executing American and Zionist agendas” and of being “atheists.”

The situation seemed to have worsened for Islamists when Faiq Al Sheikh Ali, a Member of Parliament who represents the civil movement, spoke about Islamist parties’ role – particularly Shiite ones – in imposing illegal tax on gambling halls, pubs, night clubs and liquor stores in Baghdad.

Ali made this statement in October last year after the Parliament passed a municipal fee law in which Islamist Members of Parliament slipped an article in it. The article was not present in the draft law and was not read or discussed during the first and second meetings. The added article banned selling of alcohol.

Illegal Tax

He also said that as Islamist MPs were busy in secretly adding this article, some armed Shiite Islamic parties have been providing protection to gambling halls, nightclubs, pubs and liquor stores in the capital, adding that most of these places are not licensed. According to Ali, these groups provided protection in exchange for illegal tax.

Ali did not alter the facts and he did not defame anyone. What he said is the truth. Many people know that very well. Those who doubt his statements can go ahead and ask the ministries of culture and tourism. Those with suspicions can request for information from the national intelligence apparatus or the national security apparatus as they must know the truth well.

There are more than 1,500 night clubs, pubs, gambling halls and liquor stores in Baghdad and most of them are not licensed. Therefore, they do not pay taxes to the state. The Islamist groups, which Ali referred to, had taken matters into their own hands and provided protection to these shops in exchange of huge sums of money. Ali said that one party alone received $0.5 million in one month.

When people asked how come these shops were allowed to operate without licenses, the former minister of tourism, who is from the Sadrist Movement, reportedly said that it was prohibited to issue licenses to these places. Public managers and the ministry’s officials have also echoed this response. Political armed parties thus filled the vacuum and began to collect illegal taxes.

Have you now realized the secret behind the escalating Islamic-political campaign against civilians? This is part of the secret.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/06/15/Truth-behind-political-campaign-against-civilians-in-Iraq.html


How Qatar Prolonged the Syrian Crisis

By Hassan Al Mustafa

15 June 2017

Less than a year after the first spark of the Arab Spring developments, I was in a closed door meeting with a Gulf minister. He resentfully talked about Qatar’s foreign policy and described how they were involved in what he called “Qatari loitering”.

According to him, they do not only pose a threat to his country but also to the entire region because they support “political Islamist” groups and negatively play on contradictions.

This opinion and other similar statements were a result of Doha’s violation of the policy agreed upon among the parties, which support the opposition in Syria. These parties had agreed on a specific and official channel that is internationally supervised to train and support fighters from among “the moderate opposition” and whom the Free Syrian Army is its backbone.

The “joint operations’ room” in the Jordanian capital Amman, and its other branch in Turkey, were a small cell that included military and intelligence officers and political representatives from the US, Britain, France and Arab countries that included Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Jordan in addition to Turkey. These representatives met periodically while officers continuously worked in rotation.

Coordinating Operations

This room’s major tasks were training on martial arts and special operations and supplying the opposition with military equipment, gathering information and coordinating among fighters.

The room operated based on a specific agenda, which hoped that the moderate opposition controls areas which the Syrian regime troops withdraw from so they do not fall in the hands of fundamental groups like ISIS and al-Nusra Front.

A Saudi official who follows up on Syrian developments once told me: “We’ve seen the repercussions of the September 11, 2001 twin attacks and how they led to a crisis with the US due to a bunch of extremist terrorists. We do not want this crisis to happen again.”

He added that Saudi Arabia made a clear and frank decision not to support “extremist Islamic groups” in Syria. But was Riyadh’s anger over Doha the result of what happened next?

This same Saudi official said that instead of committing to the agreement reached between countries that support the Syrian opposition, Qatar began to fund, arm and support groups outside the context of “the operations’ room.” Certain parties coordinated this support sometimes while at other times they simply overlooked it.

Evading Questions

The Qatari representative used to evade questions or “work on his phone” or just “keep silent” when he was confronted with truth or with proof that his government armed “fundamentalist” groups in Syria.

This is not limited to one or two incidents but happened frequently. This made Riyadh take a clear position, suspending its participation in the operations’ room back then.

This was one of the reasons behind the problem between Saudi Arabia and Qatar in Syria. The Saudis believe that Doha is playing a “destructive” role that has prolonged the conflict in Syria, which is helping fundamentalist, making them stronger than other moderate factions. This poses threat to the entire Middle East region.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/06/15/How-Qatar-prolonged-the-Syrian-crisis.html


Why Iraq-Syria Highway Is Vital To Daesh

By Mohamed Hineidi

June 15, 2017

Much has been made recently of the events unfolding in southern Syria, near the border with Iraq and Jordan, and also further north, in the area straddling the Syrian-Iraqi frontier where Daesh still operates. Much of the hype is a result of the US airstrikes on May 18, June 5 and June 8 against "Iranian-directed" forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, which were closing in on Syrian rebel positions near Al Tanf.

Al Tanf is a southern town on the highway connecting Syria and Iraq, a route that until recently was not used by Iraqis, as it was under the control of Daesh on the Iraqi side. The highway, which goes all the way to Damascus, is essential for Iran to maintain a contiguous land corridor from Baghdad to Damascus, and from there on to southern Lebanon. In fact, this has been one of the fundamental reasons behind Iran's support for the Syrian government.

The US airstrikes on the pro-Assad forces approaching Al Tanf, therefore, were aimed at preventing Iran, and its Syrian and Iraqi allies, from controlling those areas in southern Syria, from where land route can be established and consolidated. The Syrian government, despite having won a strategic victory along the central spine connecting Damascus, Homs, Hama, and Aleppo, still does not control any of the border points with Iraq. This explains the recent military movements east of Sweida and south of Palmyra.

There are four highways connecting Iraq to Syria: The aforementioned highway bypassing Al Tanf, dubbed Highway 11; the highway near the Iraqi border town of Al Qaim further north, which is controlled by Daesh on both sides of the border; the northern highway passing through the Rabia border crossing just south of Turkey, controlled by Syrian and Iraqi Kurds on both sides; and the strategic Highway 47, used by Daesh to storm Mosul in 2014.

This is where the Iraqi Popular Mobilisation Units (PMUs) enter the fray. With three of the four crossings controlled by either the Syrian rebels, Kurdish groups, or Daesh, recent offensives by Iraqi militias on Highway 47 succeeded where their fellow militias failed on the Syrian side of the border further south in Al Tanf.

The PMU successes potentially open up one of the four routes for Iranian supplies to reach Assad, and its other allies in Syria. The highway passing through the Rabia border crossing is controlled by well equipped, albeit different, Kurdish forces on both sides of the border, with whom the Iranian and Syrian governments have no quarrel. It is expected, therefore, that Iran and the Syrian government will manoeuvre to control the three remaining land corridors linking the two countries. If one fails, the other two remain. So far, it seems the US is preventing this plan from being realised on the highway bypassing Al Tanf, Washington's pretext of "defending local allies" from pro-government forces notwithstanding.

The battle for Syria's western and central heartland, often referred to as "useful" Syria, is practically over. And with the recent agreement on de-escalation zones signed by Russia, Turkey, and Iran having freed up Syrian army forces to be redeployed across frontlines in the Homs desert and Euphrates valley, clashes between the Syrian government and opposition forces in areas across southern Syria, where Daesh was recently defeated, are expected to increase. Even the Syrian government and rebel patrons, Moscow and Washington, respectively, recently signed an agreement to boost co-ordination in order to avoid incidents - a testament to the increasingly crowded battleground in the eastern Syrian desert.

What does this mean for a final peace agreement? The next phase of the Syrian war has already begun, where regional nations that have invested people, money, arms, or all three, will seek to consolidate their gains in order to secure their strategic objectives. An enduring peace agreement will likely not materialise until Turkey achieves an acceptable outcome regarding the Kurds, Russia cements its hold on Syria, and Iran secures its land corridor to the Mediterranean coast.

Washington understands that even if it opposes Assad the way it says it does, it can do nothing now to unseat him, unless it is prepared to face the Syrian president's Russian patron. Instead, the US may attempt to take measures to thwart Iran's long-term ambitions, such as blocking access to the highways mentioned above, and limiting the transfer of strategic weapons to Hezbollah. In post-Daesh Iraq and Syria, the regional and international chess game that characterised the Syrian crisis will look clearer, with the players making their final moves for a checkmate.

Source: khaleejtimes.com/editorials-columns/why-iraq-syria-highway-is-vital-to-daesh


URL: http://www.newageislam.com/middle-east-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/why-some-iranian-kurds-have-joined-daesh-against-iran-by-marc-martinez--new-age-islam-s-selection,-16-june-2017/d/111557


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