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Middle East Press (19 Jul 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)



Why Tensions between Lebanese and Syrians Are Being Stoked By Diana Moukalled: New Age Islam's Selection, 19 July 2017





New Age Islam Edit Bureau

19 July 2017

Why Tensions between Lebanese and Syrians Are Being Stoked

By Diana Moukalled

Mercenaries in Afghanistan Could Help the US Save Face

By Richard Cohen

Why Qatar-US Deal to Fight Terror Financing Is Not Enough

By Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri

The Tolls of War in Syria

By Chris Doyle

Al-Aqsa Closure Marks A Dangerous Precedent

By Osama Al-Sharif

Will OPEC Deal Work?

By Wael Mahdi

After The Liberation Of Mosul, What Now For Iraq’s Sunnis?

By Struan Stevenson

Radiohead in Israel: A Fig Leaf For Apartheid

By Hilary Aked

Hacking Charade and the Washington Post Claims

By Mamdouh Almuhaini

On The Qatari-Saudi Dispute In Syria

By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau

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Why Tensions between Lebanese And Syrians Are Being Stoked

By Diana Moukalled

18 July 2017

Wars do not just suddenly erupt; massacres do not occur without a prelude; blood is never shed without provocation and incitement. Hence, are we on the brink of a war between Lebanese and Syrians within Lebanon?

The question is a little dramatic, perhaps but understandable given we have been left grappling to understand what is happening and who will benefit from the Syrian-Lebanese agitation. One rumour, a suspicious Facebook page or even a single comment can be enough to spark verbal wars, incitement and counter-incitement.

There are parties that want to exploit the critical political and security status quo in Lebanon.

For example, news went viral on social networking websites stating that a demonstration will be held by Syrian opposition members in Lebanon in solidarity with the refugees and in condemnation of the “racist” practices in the camps, like what happened and is still happening in Arsal.

In response, there was a call for a counter-demonstration to support the army. A heated online dispute broke out between supporters of the two demonstrations, with social networking websites flooded with hatred and violent comments, in which politicians, artists and journalists took part. The outcome was the prohibition of both demonstrations, in addition to a Syrian-Lebanese confrontation that might lead to a disaster.

The hatred this exposed is unprecedented in terms of the harsh words directed toward Syrian refugees. Attempts to shift the debate from what happened in Arsal — the killing of Syrian detainees by the Lebanese army — ended as a reprehensible campaign against Syrians in Lebanon under the guise of supporting the army.

Such hatred campaigns have dismissed demands for accountability of the army, along with any criticism of the army’s role. A false equation has been established, in which one can either be with the army, or with the terrorists.

Counter messages have emerged, the most dangerous of which encourage Syrian hostility against Lebanese and provoke Lebanese against Syrians, both civilians and insurgents. This was mainly promoted by Hezbollah to provide the greatest possible consensus regarding the need for a battle against terrorism.

Another factor is the desire to encourage Lebanese public opinion against the Syrians, and coordinate with the Syrian regime over sending refugees back to their homeland.

There is a danger that such attempts, especially by the Hezbollah-led opposition axis, seek to exploit the current imbalance.

Slogans like “ruling with an iron fist” are in fact mere justifications for internal repression, and the elimination of the remaining public freedoms Lebanese people can enjoy with their neighbours.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1131521

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Mercenaries In Afghanistan Could Help The US Save Face

By Richard Cohen

July 18, 2017

The plan has its virtues, the most obvious one being that nothing else has worked

Shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, I differed with a friend who said I was wrong to support an invasion of Afghanistan to root out Al Qaida and punish the Taleban. I said America had no choice but to make the terrorists and their Afghan host pay for what they had done. I insisted I was right. That amazingly was almost 16 years ago. I never expected to be right for so long.

Afghanistan has become the war without end. The US cannot win it and cannot afford to lose it. The country consumes American wealth and lives. More than 2,300 American soldiers have died there.

Some $828 billion has been spent there. Generals who once commanded there are deep into their retirement and soldiers who fought there as youths are approaching middle age. Kipling's Brits could not control the country, neither could the Russians nor, when you come to think of it, can the Afghans.

The Trump administration, like the several that preceded it -  George W. Bush twice and Barack Obama twice -- are mulling a new approach. This time, there will be no date certain when American involvement will end - a bit of Obama-era silliness that, in effect, told the Taleban to hold on, be patient, and the Yanks will leave.

Trump has reportedly left troop level decisions to Defense Secretary James Mattis, a retired Marine general and a man of such reckless courage that he refused to fawn over President Trump at a Cabinet meeting. Somewhere a medal awaits.

Mattis, however, is reportedly cool to the plan developed by Erik Prince which would entail turning over a substantial part of the Afghanistan effort to "contracted European professional soldiers" - what you and I call mercenaries. The term has an odious connotation, but there is no avoiding it. Prince is referring to British, French, Spanish and other Europeans who are experienced soldiers.

They would not, as is now the case with Americans, be rotated out of the country after a period of time so that, in a sense, the US is always starting anew. These contract soldiers would get about $600 a day to command Afghan troops and be embedded with them - much as US special operations forces now are. Trouble is, the US has a limited number of those forces.

I took the phrase "contracted European professional soldiers" from an op-ed Prince wrote for The Wall Street Journal. The president read it and was intrigued. Good.

The plan has its virtues, the most obvious one being that nothing else has worked - and more of the same is going to produce more of the same.

The plan also has its difficulties, one of them being its provenance. Prince is the founder of Blackwater, the highly controversial security firm which he has since sold. While he owned it, though, its people opened fire in Baghdad's Nisour Square, killing 17 civilians and wounding more than 20.

If Prince remains controversial, he also remains influential. He's a former Navy SEAL who has entry to the White House and the CIA, and his sister is Betsy DeVos, the education secretary.

Like his sister, Prince is rich and indefatigable. He has been peddling his Afghanistan plan for over a year now and while it is frequently described with the pejorative term "for profit," it has, as Prince contends, a pedigree. "Contract Europeans" were used by the British East India Company to rule India for more than a hundred years.

Prince's references to the Raj are admiring. He has even revived the term "viceroy" to describe the person who would direct American policy in Afghanistan. By his count, the US has had 17 different military commanders in the last 15 years -- not counting ambassadors, CIA station chiefs and, of course, the inevitable special representatives such as the late Richard Holbrooke, whose genius and energy was wasted by President Obama. All that would stop. The viceroy would run things.

The war in Afghanistan is the longest in American history. A loss would allow the country to revert to a terrorist safe haven. A win would require a commitment in manpower that the US is not willing to make.

In almost 16 years, the fight in Afghanistan has gone from noble cause to onerous obligation.

I don't know if Prince has the answer, but he has come up with one way to sustain the fight at less cost in American lives and treasure. Will it work? I don't know, but nothing else has.

Source: khaleejtimes.com/editorials-columns/mercenaries-in-afghanistan-could-help-the-us-save-face

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Why Qatar-US Deal to Fight Terror Financing Is Not Enough

By Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri

19 July 2017

The current crisis between the Anti-Terror Quartet (ATQ) and Qatar is still without a solution, despite the very great efforts exerted by the Kuwaiti mediators. In addition, there have been international efforts made by Germany, Britain, the US and France.

The issue is not a complicated one but it is worsened by Doha’s denial and a lack of commitment to a document signed in 2014 by the Qatari ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

The document was designed to stop the funding of terrorism, bolster the stability of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Arab countries and also to end Qatar’s harboring of terrorist organizations. The document also addressed problems seen as coming from Al Jazeera, which is widely believed to have used its power to incite terror and to have become a media platform for Al-Qaeda, Daesh, Hezbollah and other Iranian militias.

Any mediation which fails to tackle these issues will be a waste of time. Our region has suffered from terrorism and it is time to end it by stopping Qatar’s support of extremist groups, as well as in countering Iran and its militias.

Iran is now on the same side as Qatar as a result of the boycott of the tiny state. Qatar has funded Iran and its militias in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon and made them heroes on Al Jazeera. In addition, Qatar has funded terrorist organizations that helped Iran to interfere directly in our region. As a result of Qatari help, Iran’s terrorist militias have caused the disintegration of Arab countries such as Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon.

International diplomatic efforts in the Gulf rift have been centered around the interests of the mediators who have economic stakes in Qatar; a political solution would allow them to contain this crisis and counter terrorism in general. We see too that both Iran and Turkey have their own economic interests in Qatar, which is the reason for their standing with Doha.

The memorandum of understanding (MoU) to fight terrorism funding that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signed with Qatar was the result of pressure applied by the ATQ, and it represents a public admission of guilt on Doha’s part.

The MoU does not ask Qatar to stop its interference in Arab and GCC affairs; it does not ask Doha to stop its support of the Muslim Brotherhood and harboring its members in Qatar. Nor does it ask Qatar to stop funding Iranian actions or to downgrade its diplomatic ties with Tehran.

If we want to counter terrorism, we must starve the beast and also stop Al Jazeera’s incitement against other Arab countries, which undermines their stability.

We must face up to terrorism seriously and as a group because if there is no strategy to stop funding terrorism, curbing Iran and dismantling and eliminating its militias, no solution will be reached — and we will still be faced with the same scourge that has brought the region to the impasse it is in today.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1131536

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The Tolls of War in Syria

By Chris Doyle

19 July 2017

On a hill on the western edge of Berlin lies one of the German capital’s most remarkable monuments to war, nicknamed Teufelsberg, or “Devil’s Mountain.” It is an artificial mound on top of the ruins of a Nazi military college but covered in 75 million cubic meters of war rubble.

Such rubble mountains are found all over Germany, and as one looks across the Middle East’s ever expanding conflict zones, one wonders how many will be needed there? Of course, the devils will need to be buried, and that is some way off.

Investment advice is far from the purpose of this column, but as one grimaces at the endless photographs and video from the Middle East, it is clear that companies specializing in rubble removal will only expand.

One photo caught the eye: Yet another young child seated atop another pancaked high-rise building, possibly his former home. But where was it? Aleppo, Homs, Mosul, Raqqa, a city in Yemen? As it turned out, it was Gaza — but how could you tell?

As Mosul has fallen and Raqqa is all but freed from Daesh control, yet more horrifying vistas emerge. One estimate is that it will cost $1 billion to rebuild Mosul, but many observers see that as frankly preliminary guesswork. The costs of rebuilding Gaza after the 2014 war was around $4-8 billion. Works involve clearing these giant urban jungles of mangled steel, crumbled concrete and wires, not to mention the toxic waste of war.

The World Bank brought out last week its assessment of the toll of the Syrian war. The media largely ignored it because it is a retelling of the same old story, just with bigger numbers. World Bank reports are dusty dry, and barely address the non-physical, non-financial damage to the country and its people.

The study found that by the start of this year, the war and fighting had damaged or destroyed around a third of the housing stock and roughly a half of the medical and education facilities in certain areas. The survey showed that Aleppo has around 14.9 million tons of debris and rubble, and Homs 5.3 million. To clear Aleppo, it would take around six years of continuous work. Many non-Syria-watchers may be surprised that it is Deir El-Zour in the east that has experienced some of the most horrific destruction.

All areas of vital infrastructure have been decimated. Take, for example, water: Almost two-thirds of water treatment plants have been destroyed or partially damaged, along with a sixth of the wells across the country, and — remarkably, perhaps — only a quarter of the sewage treatment plants. Water at times has been used as a weapon of war but also as a means of getting parties to cooperate, as everyone needs it for survival. Plenty of coverage has dealt with the atrocious targeting of medical and education infrastructure. Yet how does one account for the human toll when over half the country’s physicians have left?

A raft of caveats must be attached to this data. Firstly, the survey covered only 10 Syrian cities not including Damascus so it is not comprehensive. Secondly the study relies on satellite imagery to establish the damage but without reporting from the ground. As useful as this is, it needs to be further backed up by detailed on-the-ground studies when possible.

Every aspect of the Syrian economy has been crushed. The study estimates that from 2011 to the end of 2016, Syria lost $226 billion, roughly four times the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010.

Once again this must be a broad-brush estimate and, as the fighting continues, one that will only get worse. A major segment of the pre-war economy was oil and gas production, which accounted for a quarter of government revenue. Today Syria produces just 10,000 barrels of oil — down from 383,000. Daesh destroyed the Shaer gas field; one of Syria’s largest, last year. To restore anything like pre-war production will require massive investment in the whole hydrocarbon infrastructure, including oil refineries and pipes.

The reality is that all these figures and studies are indicative and interim. The full extent of the physical damage due to the conflict will never be fully understood until the rubble is lifted away and the areas still under siege are accessed. One report in April estimated that the bill could reach $1 trillion, whereas this time last year the World Bank put it at a more modest $180 billion. Until then we shall have to make do with World Bank studies like this to spark the debate on just how a country so systematically crushed can rise again.

When it does so, it must be Syrians who lead and drive the process. The story of much of the last six years is one of the losses of Syrian citizens’ agency in their own country, where both the regime and opposition groups are increasingly held hostage to outside powers. Maybe one day the rubble and the devils will be laid to rest and Syria will be resurgent — but right now, this is a distant horizon and involves a bill that nobody can pay.

Source: .arabnews.com/node/1131531

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Al-Aqsa Closure Marks a Dangerous Precedent

By Osama Al-Sharif

19 July 2017

The Israeli occupation authorities’ closure of the Noble Sanctuary, which includes Islam’s third-holiest mosque, to Muslim worshippers this week has become the latest flashpoint in the already tense relations between Jordan and Israel.

The shutdown, the first since 1969, came in the wake of a violent incident on Friday in which three Israeli Arabs allegedly used firearms to attack Israeli soldiers in the compound of Al-Aqsa Mosque. The three assailants were gunned down and two soldiers were killed.

Jordan, which administers the Waqf in the holy city, demanded that Israel reopen the compound immediately. It also warned Israel not to change the status quo in and around the compound. Israel rebuffed Jordanian demands and kept the compound closed until Sunday, when it announced that it will gradually reopen the area. In the meantime, the Waqf authority announced that it had lost complete control over Al-Aqsa. Its employees were prevented from entering the compound for two days, during which time Israel installed CCTV cameras and electronic gates in and around the area.

Palestinians see the closure of the compound and the installation of cameras and electronic gates as dangerous steps that are part of a scheme to enforce sovereignty over Al-Aqsa that could culminate in allowing Jews to perform prayers inside the mosque. Jordan and the Palestinian Authority (PA) have rejected any attempt to change the current status of Al-Aqsa. Israel claims that the mosque was built on the site where Solomon’s Temple once stood, although no archaeological evidence supports these claims.

Since the occupation, Israel — which has declared unilaterally the unification of the city as its eternal capital — has carried out excavation works under the mosque. Experts believe such excavations threaten the foundations of Al-Aqsa. Moreover, in the past few years Israel has allowed Jewish radicals to enter the compound and carry out religious rituals. They often included Israeli officials, some of whom have vowed to bring down the mosque and erect a new Jewish temple on its ruins.

East Jerusalem, which includes the entire old city, is an occupied territory and its future will be determined through negotiations. Palestinians consider East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. There is no doubt that the fate of the city has become one of the thorniest issues in intermittent peace talks. With Israel leaning to the far-right in recent elections, it is doubtful that peace negotiations, if they ever take place, will succeed in resolving the status of the old city.

There are two factors that should deter Israeli designs on the Noble Sanctuary: One is the Jordanian custodianship, which is recognized clearly in the 1994 peace treaty. Israel cannot afford to endanger this treaty, one of two signed with Arab countries. Jordan has used diplomatic channels to underline the Arab character of East Jerusalem and recently its efforts have succeeded in extracting a resolution from UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee that stated that all “legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and in particular, the ‘basic law’ on Jerusalem, are null and void and must be rescinded forthwith.” The decision in effect disavows Israeli sovereignty over occupied East Jerusalem.

Such victories, while largely symbolic, solidify the case against Israeli measures in the old city and underline the fact that it remains an occupied territory.

But Jordanian and Palestinian efforts are not enough. Both need the support of Arab and Muslim states and the international community as a whole. Israel realizes the danger of attempts to isolate it politically and will do its best to overturn such resolutions. It must not succeed.

The second factor concerns the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, and in particular the Old City. Their numbers have been dwindling as Israel prevents those who had left the city from returning by cancelling their residency permits. Dire economic conditions have forced Arab, and especially Christian, families to leave, while Israel rarely gives building permits to Arab residents and has taken measures to destroy entire neighbourhoods close to the Noble Sanctuary.

Supporting Arab residents of East Jerusalem must become a priority for Arab and Muslim countries. Their steadfastness is the only barrier standing between Israel and its designs to change the status of Al-Aqsa Mosque and other holy places.

Unless a real commitment is made to support Jerusalem’s Arab residents, Israel will eventually break through this barrier. Supporting Jordan’s custody of the Noble Sanctuary is a must to prevent Israel from adopting unilateral measures that affect the legal status of the compound.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1131526

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Will OPEC Deal Work?

By Wael Mahdi

18 July 2017

Major oil producers — members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC — are meeting in Russia on July 24 to monitor their compliance to a deal aimed at curtailing production and rebalancing the oil market.

So far the agreement has not given enough assurance to the market that it will bring down global oil stocks by the end of the year, despite assurance from ministers that the deal is working.

The market has been hearing for too long from officials that oil stocks will fall down back to the five- year average “in theory” over the “coming six months,” whereas in reality stocks have been falling slowly and the amount of drawdowns may not lead to a balanced market by the end of the year.

In fact, this “coming six months” has been a moving target since November 2014 when OPEC first started to protect its market share in the face of rising output from non-OPEC producers, by letting oil prices fall and the market correct itself.

Now, will the “coming next six months” be any different than the first six months of 2017? Everyone is still hoping and all the calculations point to a rebalancing — but this was always the case since January.

Before understanding what happens over the next six months, it is important to examine what went wrong in the first six months.

So what really happened? There are many scenarios and explanations.

First, there is still lower conformity by OPEC and non-OPEC countries to their pledged cuts. Countries like Iraq, the UAE and Algeria are still not reaching 100 percent conformity levels since the beginning of the deal, according to estimates from OPEC’s secondary sources.

The data from the countries themselves under “direct communications,” present the same picture and the conformity levels are not evenly distributed among participants.

Second, some argue that high oil prices in the first quarter of this year encouraged more drilling and investments by oil companies and the effect of that was more rigs in the US and production rises here and there.

Third, there is too much light oil in the market and this is because of the increase in output from shale basins in the US and more recently the increased production from Libya and Nigeria. OPEC made the most of its cuts in medium and heavy grades while light crude is still advancing. The result is that the price of medium grades like Dubai is on the rise while the price of lighter crude like Brent and West Texas Intermediate (WTI) is falling.

Fourth, another explanation is that exports from OPEC countries and others are still high even if oil output is curtailed, and at the end of the day exports are what really counts and they are what go into stocks and not production.

Looking at the tanker tracking data from a very reputable source, it is clear that exports in June are no different than when the countries started the agreement in January.

OPEC’s crude exports in June averaged 25.19 million barrels per day (bpd), down by 200,000 bpd from 25.39 million in January. Examining the data further, exports in February and March were 25.82 million and 25.53 million bpd, respectively. These two months were higher than what OPEC exported in October last year when there was no agreement. The agreement does not put a cap on exports so there is nothing wrong if countries shipped more crude. Also, many OPEC countries sell to refiners under term contracts and so are not traded in the spot market.

So some argue that such production goes to final users and not storage. However, high exports mean that consumers do not need to resort to stored oil to meet local demand, therefore, stocks do not reduce quickly.

In fact, the OPEC deal was under pressure in the first quarter of this year because OPEC countries shipped or produced a record amount of crude in last quarter of last year.

It takes around 45-55 days for any crude shipments from the Middle East to reach refiners in Asia or North America, so what was shipped in the final quarter of 2016 must have led to high stocks in the first quarter of 2017.

So in the light of all of this, what would OPEC and non-OPEC allies suggest to fix the situation when they meet in Russia? The best thing to do is to find a way to monitor exports instead of production, and the second best thing to do is for everyone to be honest about fixing the situation in the market and not leaving it to others.

Otherwise, the next six months will be little different to the first.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1131506

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After The Liberation Of Mosul, What Now For Iraq’s Sunnis?

By Struan Stevenson

18 July 2017

Mosul has been liberated from ISIS (ISIS) at last, after three years of brutal occupation by the pitiless so called jihadists; but at what cost? Like Ramadi and Fallujah before it, Mosul has been reduced to ruins. Barely a single building has been left intact. These great, ancient Iraqi cities have been obliterated. 800,000 people have been rendered homeless from Mosul alone, millions when you count the refugees who fled from Ramadi and Fallujah. Thousands of innocent Sunni civilians have been killed, and tens of thousands among them were injured.

Now sprawling refugee camps and flimsy canvas tents provide a home to families who have lost everything. And what do these people have in common… they are Sunnis. It was their cruel mistreatment and repression by the former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki that sparked the uprising in al-Anbar and Nineveh provinces four years ago.

Maliki was a puppet of the Islamic fundamentalist Shiite mullahs in Tehran. The ensuing civil war sucked in ISIS from neighbouring Syria and the jihadists quickly captured around one third of Iraq’s geographical territory. In 2014 the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared the creation of what he described as a caliphate from the pulpit of the 900-year-old al-Nuri mosque with its famous leaning minaret in Mosul. Even that renowned and venerated mosque has now been reduced to rubble.

But as the celebrations at the ousting of ISIS from Mosul have begun, so too has another dilemma in Iraq’s recent tortured history. Rebuilding these ruined cities will cost tens of billions of dollars and take years. But there is no money. Maliki and his government plundered the Iraqi treasury. Their corruption was on an industrial scale. The vast resources of this oil-rich country simply vanished into hidden bank accounts and to paying private militias. Then the global price of oil collapsed and ISIS seized some of the country’s most lucrative fields. Quick to exploit the situation, the Kurdish Peshmerga used the excuse of fighting ISIS to grab the city of Kirkuk and its surrounding oil fields, long a disputed territory between Baghdad and the KRG (Kurdish Regional Government). And now the KRG President, Massoud Barzani, has called for a referendum on independence to be held in September, when it is almost certain a resounding ‘YES’ vote will propel Iraq further towards economic crisis and create a new political flashpoint.

Iran Should Not Be Part of the Solution

Few Western powers are willing to send millions in foreign aid into this black hole of corruption and weak governance, so the dispossessed Sunnis will remain homeless and destitute, their collective grievances against the Shiite government bubbling under the surface. The seeds are being sown once again for the kind of insurgency that kick-started the whole conflict in the first place and the only ultimate winner is Iran. The Iranian Regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and the body responsible for extra-territorial operations - the terrorist-listed Quds Force, are the main vehicles for Iran’s aggressive expansionism in the Middle East. The IRGC has for decades been carrying out terrorist attacks across the zone, including in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon. Iran cannot be part of the solution to the conflicts raging in these countries. It is part of the problem. Iran exports terror and one of its key strategic objectives is to dominate Iraq.

On 10 July 2017, General Qasem Soleimani, hard-line commander of the Quds Force, admitted that Ayatollah Khamenei has always insisted on supporting Iraq. He confirmed that Iran’s Ministry of Defence had produced large quantities of arms and sent them to Iraq. President Hassan Rowhani, a so-called “moderate”, proclaimed that the Iranian economy was used to run the wars in Iraq and Syria and added: “In the hardest economic conditions we helped the nations of Iraq and Syria. Who provides the salaries and arms for these people? Who provided the weapons Iraq needed and the money during the sanctions? It is also the same in Syria.”

Now that ISIS has suffered a series of defeats in Iraq, the Iranian regime, together with the Iraqi government, is trying to move the American forces out of the country, so that no obstacles remain in the way of Iran’s total domination. Such a situation would without doubt lead to the re-emergence of ISIS in the future. The US must remain in Iraq as a fair arbiter and not repeat the mistake made by Obama in 2011 when he ordered the complete withdrawal of US military forces, laying the groundwork for a sectarian civil war.

Against this background President Trump should blacklist the IRGC and its affiliated militias in Iraq. He must also compel the Iraqi government to disband all Iraqi Shiite militia groups who are exploiting the government’s budget, military equipment and weapons and demand the creation of an inclusive Iraqi army that does not discriminate against Sunnis and other minorities. Only after these measures have been successfully concluded should foreign aid be generated for the comprehensive rebuilding of Iraq’s ruined cities.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/07/18/After-the-liberation-of-Mosul-what-now-for-Iraq-s-Sunnis-.html

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Radiohead In Israel: A Fig Leaf For Apartheid

By Hilary Aked

British rock band Radiohead's insistence on playing in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, in violation of the global boycott of Israel, has shocked and disappointed many fans.

In response to an appeal from filmmaker Ken Loach last week, lead singer Thom Yorke put out a statement littered with cliched anti-boycott arguments, which might have come straight out of a Zionist hasbara (propaganda) manual.

But ironically, the group's decision to flout the picket line has inadvertently demonstrated just why the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement makes sense.

In defence of his actions, Yorke claimed that "playing in a country isn't the same as endorsing its government". Generally, this is of course true. But the dynamic changes when an oppressed people, who have lived for 50 years under occupation and been subjected to ethnic cleansing for almost 70 years, ask for international support through boycott.

All Israeli governments - not just the less liberal ones, as the musician's statement implied - have upheld settler colonialism. As such, when an artist consciously chooses to refuse an indigenous people's request for solidarity, they become complicit in normalising the status-quo.

Normalising the Status Quo

By ignoring the views of Palestinians, Radiohead effectively endorsed the Israeli government, mimicking its own attitude of utter disdain. To borrow from the band's lyrics, it's as if Palestinians' opinions "are of no consequence at all".

Indeed, as the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) pointed out, Yorke's repeated failure to even respond to requests for a meeting with those struggling for liberation smacks of classic colonial arrogance.

His case rested on "whataboutery", a common tactic of Israel's apologists, and an attempted analogy with the US. "We don't endorse Netanyahu any more than Trump but we still play in America," Yorke said.

But boycott is a tactic, not a principle. The small matter of the BDS call - which the Radiohead frontman studiously neglected to acknowledge - makes all the difference. Issued by 170 civil society organisations in 2005, this call is supported by an absolute majority of Palestinians; it launched a movement which just marked its 12th year.

In the absence of such a movement holding US state power to account, it would be absurd for Donald Trump to hail a Radiohead gig in New York or Detroit as a slap in the face of his critics. Conversely, the huge transformative potential of the Palestinian-led BDS movement is precisely the reason the Israeli state has hailed Yorke's rejectionism as a great victory.

A Fig Leaf for Apartheid

Last month, the Israeli government's official twitter account triumphantly quoted Yorke's comment that BDS is a "waste of energy". There could be no better illustration than this of the impossibility of remaining neutral in a situation of grave injustice. Like it or not, by breaking the boycott and pressing on with business as usual, Radiohead are providing a fig leaf of legitimacy to the apartheid system imposed by Israel.

Perhaps tellingly though, Yorke even disputed the reality of Israeli apartheid in a June interview with the Rolling Stone magazine. This not only undermines his pretence of detachment but suggests that either ignorance or complete disregard for Palestinian equality - rather than qualms with the tactic of boycott - may lie behind the band's decision (they refused to say whether they would have also broken the boycott of apartheid South Africa).

Faced with such denial, it's tempting to quote the singer's own lyrics back at him yet again: "You have not been paying attention". Talk of Israeli apartheid is "not a scaremongering, this is really happening".

There are numerous examples of formal, institutionalised discrimination in Israel and the territories it occupies: separate roads, separate legal systems, and racial immigration rules, to name just a few.

Palestinians in Israel live as second-class citizens. Millions in Gaza and the West Bank have no vote in the polity that controls virtually every facet of their lives. Refugees in exile are afforded no rights at all. These are the concrete realities that constitute Israel's system of ethnic privilege and subordination, which leading scholars convincingly argue meets the legal definition of apartheid.

This is also a government which uses culture in the service of propaganda, a policy which exposes Yorke's facile claim that "music, art and academia are about crossing borders" for the vacuous platitude that it is. Indeed, a key rationale for the cultural boycott is its instrumentalisation by the state.

Culture as Propaganda

As part of its official "Brand Israel" campaign, the foreign ministry has funded artists' overseas tours on the proviso they sign a contract recognising themselves as "service providers" hired "to promote the policy interests of the State of Israel via culture and art".

Nissim Ben-Sheetrit, deputy director general of the campaign, has explained: "We are seeing culture as a hasbara tool of the first rank, and I do not differentiate between hasbara and culture."

And in 2009, after Israel killed more than 1,300 Palestinians in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, foreign ministry official Arye Mekel spoke explicitly of the need to "show Israel's prettier face" to counteract the global outrage caused by this slaughter. To do this, the government would "send well-known novelists, theatre companies, exhibits and writers overseas". Similarly, international artists who play in Israel - from Mariah Carey to Radiohead - are consciously and systematically exploited for PR.

We should marvel at Thom Yorke's hypocrisy. This is a man who pays lip service to "open minds" and "shared humanity", and complained about "useless politicians" during his set at the Glastonbury festival, yet sticks his middle finger up - literally - at a non-violent, grassroots social movement which emerged precisely because politicians have failed for decades to build a just peace.

But by playing at a Tel Aviv park built on the ruins of a Palestinian village, Radiohead merely diminish themselves. The episode has been constructive in showing that it's no longer tenable for artists to flout the boycott and still present themselves as politically progressive.

Radiohead can "take the money and run". The Palestinians' struggle for freedom, justice and equality goes on.

Source: aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2017/07/radiohead-israel-fig-leaf-apartheid-170717133858533.html

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Hacking Charade and the Washington Post Claims

By Mamdouh Almuhaini

18 July 2017

The Washington Post report alleging that the UAE is behind hacking of Qatari news agency, and publishing statements that were attributed to its Emir, lacks facts. The report seems contradictory and does not rely on clear sources but on anonymous intelligence reports.

The UAE ambassador to the US, Yousef al-Otaiba, commented on the allegations saying they were false. Even if he did not give a statement on the matter, any neutral observer can realize that the report has fragile journalistic basis.

A frank accusation this serious must either be backed with documents that confirm the UAE is behind hacking or it must name one of these anonymous sources. In both the cases, the daily failed to provide documented information. It even contradicted itself when it said that its secret sources do not know if Emirati apparatuses hacked the agency themselves or assigned another party to do so.

It is surprising that a leading daily such as the Washington Post would not deal with this matter so lightly. Actually, the Washington Post was a major daily before it declined and lost its power like other major media outlets, like the New York Times and CNN, which also committed several embarrassing lapses.

The New York Times recently apologized for a report it published about President Trump and suspicious relations with Russia as it had said it depended on information from 14 sources who work in intelligence apparatuses but it turned out they were only 4.

Just the like report on “Emirati hacking,” the New York Times quoted anonymous intelligence sources and randomly made accusations. In such a situation, it is neither possible to prove or deny them. The accused defends himself and the daily does not do anything to prove its claims. What does it do then? Nothing. It just moves on to write a new story.

Fake Reports

CNN recently published a fake reports, fired three of its employees and altered the way it operates as it no longer publishes sensitive material unless after senior editors approve it. It, once again, published a fake report that relied on anonymous sources.

The report was about Trump’s senior advisor Anthony Scaramucci’s ties to Russia and attempts to lift sanctions against it. That’s an entirely fabricated story. The network this time apologized but it did so for a logical reason as Scaramucci called it and hinted that it will file a lawsuit. The network retracted the report and fired those who wrote it.

Recent developments indicate an unfortunate decline in journalistic practices even in respected media outlets as journalists publish reports that include serious accusations without evidence. They do so under pressure to finish work quickly or out of their desire to be distinctive or become famous immediately or even due to ideological grudges. Since the ceiling of professional standards has been lowered, these stories and the number of those selling them and marketing them increased.

Several countries, mainly Saudi Arabia, have been subjected to serious accusations related to supporting terrorism and being involved in September 11 twin tower attacks. Several reports have been written about the 28 classified pages of the report on the September 11, 2001 attacks and it was claimed that these pages exposed Saudi Arabia’s involvement.

Amended Narrative

However, all those turne1d out to be false. Many of these claims relied upon suspicious and even false intelligence reports that were all literally false. Are these accusations over? Did these dailies offer a new, amended narrative? Of course they did not. They did nothing but repeat the same accusations that rely on the same secret reports.

The term “intelligence reports” must be cautiously used for several reasons as the quoted data may be entirely false or the source may be deceitful and he may not have any reliable information as he may simply be a talkative man who only has suspicions or wishes. Another reason is related to complete bias since the anonymous source talks to support his point of view and not to confirm the truth.

I recently watched an interview with Michael Morell, the former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), who hates everything that President Trump does. He attacked the president because he exited the Paris climate accord and said climate change will lead to wars between countries in the future.

Such exaggeration cannot be accepted as he hinted that the future of climate and the eruption of barbaric wars in search of water is the responsibility of a single man. I gave this example about a top CIA official to confirm that even senior figures can make silly statements that are immediately used in media reports.

Let’s go back to the fabricated Qatar news agency story. This hacking not only targeted an official news agency but also included the state television and Qatari English websites.

Doha’s hostile policy, its funding of terrorism and embracing of extremism are all clear facts that Doha itself reveals via live broadcast. The country does not need hackers and conspirators to prove what has been known for years.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/07/18/Hacking-charade-and-the-Washington-Post-claims.html

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On The Qatari-Saudi Dispute in Syria

By Abdulrahman al-Rashed

18 July 2017

The current brokenness in spirit in Syria is sad and its future consequences are dangerous. It comes amid a dispute between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the two countries which were partners in supporting the Syrian people against the massacres of the Syrian regime and its allies.

Truth be told, Syria is one of the reasons behind the dispute. At a time when Saudi Arabia supported Syrian national parties like the Free Syrian Army, Qatar chose to support armed groups that are internationally listed as terrorist. This is an extension of what Qatar is doing in other battlefields like Libya.

Riyadh’s and Doha’s differences in Syria emerged early, ever since the uprising began. However, it was a silent crisis as both countries were convinced that the stability of Syria and the region is not possible in the presence of the eroding Assad regime and after the horrific massacres were committed against civilians. The Syrian regime had also enabled Iran to militarily control the country and threaten the security of regional countries like Iraq, Turkey and Gulf countries.

As the regime destroyed cities, millions were displaced and the world’s fears of Syria turning into a hub for terrorism increased. However, Qatar continued to support ISIS, al-Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham and others. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s primary option was the Free Syrian Army.

Escalating Differences

The dispute between the two Gulf countries escalated in terms of managing the opposition within the national coalition. Meanwhile, on the ground, the “Qatari” ISIS and al-Nusra attacked the “Saudi” free army and deprived it of the lands it liberated from the regime.

The disputes exposed the activities of Qatar, which was hiding behind the coalition after the increase of international espionage devices that monitored the two countries’ options in south Turkey and north Jordan.

There’s more to that dispute than meets the eye. The real reason Saudi Arabia suspects Qatar’s intentions is due to the latter’s keenness to attract and support militants, especially Saudis. Saudi Arabia suspects that ever since the 1990s, i.e. since the coup in Doha, Hamad bin Khalifa’s government worked on targeting the kingdom by supporting those who oppose it financially and providing them with media coverage.

These figures include Osama bin Laden, the then al-Qaeda leader, who called for toppling the Saudi regime via the Qatari television. After the American invasion of Iraq, Qatar played a dangerous role in funding the so-called resistance, particularly foreign fighters who included Saudis.

They gathered in Syria and were later dispatched with other foreign fighters to revolting Iraqi governorates like Anbar. This happened in Lebanon, Iraq and Gaza for around ten years during the phase when the Hamad and Assad regimes were allied. The two regimes then had a row a year before Arab Spring revolutions erupted.

During Syria’s revolution, Saudi Arabia’s suspicions emerged again as Qatar continued to support armed Saudis as part of its plan to adopt terrorist organizations, like al-Nusra, which Saudi Arabia had blacklisted. In response to Qatar, the Saudi interior ministry publicly warned citizens of engaging in the Syrian war and requested Turkey not to let them pass through its territories.

Defying Saudi Ban

One of the major Saudi fugitives is Abdullah al-Muhaysini, and Qatar has looked after him as part of its funding of the terrorist al-Nusra Front. Muhaysini, like Bin Laden, comes from a rich family. He escaped to Syria in 2013 defying the Saudi ban.

It seems contradictory for Saudi Arabia to support the Syrian revolution while opposing foreign fighters’ support of it. However, it actually opposes this support because it fears its repercussions on it.

Saudi Arabia was against foreign fighters in Afghanistan after the Soviets exited it and it was against them in the wars of Bosnia, Somalia and Iraq. Syria’s war marked the terrorist nightmare as it involved Iran and its militias and ISIS and its branches.

To Riyadh, slaughtering the Syrian people was not acceptable. Iran’s domination over Syria was also not acceptable considering the threats it poses on the region. Qatar, however, saw Syria as another arena to tamper with and raise its brutal animals from extremist groups. Doha thinks extremists Islamists are its winning card as it’s under the illusion that it can use them to make gains in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Syria.

Qatar destroyed the region by favoring extremists like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and extremist groups in Libya and Syria, and it implicated the Sunnis in Iraq. Its extremist organizations harmed the Syrian revolution groups a lot more than Assad’s forces and Iran’s militias did.

Qatar also distorted the image and dream of the Syrian people who revolted against violence and it sent them groups that believe in slaughter and slavery, randomly accuse others of apostasy and permit shedding their blood.

At the beginning, we thought there was Saudi paranoia of Qatar and that Saudi Arabia’s suspicions were exaggerated. However, Doha’s frequent practices and its strange insistence to support extremists proved that this is a policy and not just a reaction or an imagined perception.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/07/18/On-the-Qatari-Saudi-dispute-in-Syria.html

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URL: http://www.newageislam.com/middle-east-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/why-tensions-between-lebanese-and-syrians-are-being-stoked-by-diana-moukalled--new-age-islam-s-selection,-19-july-2017/d/111874




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