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
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
By Hilary Aked
Hacking Charade and the Washington
By Mamdouh Almuhaini
On The Qatari-Saudi Dispute In Syria
By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
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
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
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.
Mercenaries In Afghanistan Could Help
The US Save Face
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Al-Aqsa Closure Marks a Dangerous
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
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.
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
Before understanding what happens over the
next six months, it is important to examine what went wrong in the first six
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
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.
After The Liberation Of Mosul, What Now
For Iraq’s Sunnis?
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
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
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.
Radiohead In Israel: A Fig Leaf For
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
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
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
Radiohead can "take the money and
run". The Palestinians' struggle for freedom, justice and equality goes
Hacking Charade and the Washington Post
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.
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.
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.
On The Qatari-Saudi Dispute in Syria
By Abdulrahman al-Rashed
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
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
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
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
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