New Age Islam Edit Bureau
03 January 2018
Why Did Protests Erupt In Iran?
By Ahmad Sadri
Palestinians Are Watching Saudi Arabia Closely
By Adnan Abu Amer
Is It Time To Concede In Libya?
By Dr. Azeem Ibrahim
EU Is Fighting For Its Life, Soul and Long-Term Survival
By Yossi Mekelberg
Egypt and Sudan — From Brothers to Adversaries
By Mohammed Nosseir
A British Spy among Kurds in Iraq
By Murat Yetkin
Trajectories Of The 2018 US Policy In The Middle East
By Shehab Al-Makahleh
Happy New Year To Iran And Western Media
By Mashari Althaydi
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
1 Jan 2018
The Islamic Republic of Iran is the platypus of humanity's political evolution.
Episodic Iranian unrest, from the focused, reformist uprising of 2009 (led by middle-class protesters of Tehran) to the current, wildly rejectionist riots (spearheaded by the underclass and the unemployed in the poor neighbourhoods of provincial towns) cannot be understood in isolation from that melange of procedural democracy and obscurantist theocracy that was crammed into the constitution of revolutionary Iran, four decades ago.
Deep within Iran's authoritarian system there is a tiny democratic heart, complete with elective, presidential and parliamentary chambers, desperately beating against an unyielding, theocratic exoskeleton. That palpitating democratic heart has prolonged the life of the system - despite massive mismanagement of the domestic and international affairs by the revolutionary elites.
But it has failed to soften the authoritarian carapace. The reform movement has failed in its mission because the constitution grants three quarters of the political power to the office of the "Supreme Leader": an unelected, permanent appointment whereby a "religious jurist" gains enormous powers, including command of the armed forces and foreign policy, veto power over presidential cabinets and parliamentary initiatives, and the world's most formidable Pretorian Guard (IRGC), with military, paramilitary, intelligence, judicial and extrajudicial powers to enforce the will of its master.
The democratically-elected president and parliament (let alone the media and ordinary citizens) have no prayer of checking the powers of the Supreme Leader. As a result, the system has remained opaque, blind to its own flaws, resistant to growth and incapable of adaptation to its evolving internal and external environments.
These uprisings express the frustration of the people with that obdurate rigidity.
It took a decade after the revolution of 1978 for the democracy movement to gain self-consciousness, in the mind of a segment of the cadre elite of the revolution, at the disappointing end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988.
It took another decade for this sentiment to gestate before it took political shape in the wave that carried President Mohammed Khatami to power in 1997. The empowered reformists aimed to strengthen the democratic component of the Republic while softening its theocratic and authoritarian casing.
They failed in this mission because the ruling theocrats would not brook the slightest diminishment of their power. They fought Khatami tooth and nail and sabotaged his plans. They created, in the words of the first reformist president, a "crisis every nine days" to break him.
The failure of the reformers resulted in a popular malaise. As hopes of reforming the Islamic Republic were frustrated, many stayed away from the polls in 2005 elections. This allowed the rise of a neo-conservative counter elite headed by the firebrand, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The ensuing international isolation and precipitous devaluation of the currency sobered the people enough to send them back to the polls in 2009, to depose the dangerous lunatic who had climbed to the office of presidency. When Ahmadinejad was declared the winner, the perception of a stolen election led to immense street demonstrations that came to be known as the Green Uprising.
Unlike the present riots, the 2009 movement had a well-defined political vision and a seasoned leadership which was quickly arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned. Street demonstrations were brutally suppressed.
Ahmadinejad's second term was even more disastrous than his first. The near economic collapse under the UN-imposed sanctions, and rampant profiteering due to the ubiquitous black market in everything from cancer drugs to selling oil in international markets, persuaded people to once again return to the polls.
In the 2013 elections, people elected Hassan Rouhani, a moderate cleric who promised international normalisation and economic prosperity, but not hardcore reform or liberalisation. The reformers extended an olive branch to the autocratic right-wing establishment to let the bygones of 2009 be bygones.
But the Supreme Leader arrogantly rejected the gesture. Far from being ashamed of what they had done, the ruling theocrats had decided to transform the suppression of the Green Uprising into a foundational myth for their neo-fundamentalist cult. Not even the emerging regional threats by a new Arab/Israeli alliance and the election of a blatantly anti-Iran president in the United States persuaded the right wing to put aside their "anti-reformist" sentiments.
In his first term, Rouhani managed to check the hyperinflation and the runaway unemployment while concluding a historic agreement with Iran's iconic adversary, the US. But his second term did not start auspiciously.
First, Rouhani appeared to buckle under right-wing pressures when he appointed a relatively conservative cabinet: A disappointing pattern people had already seen in President Khatami's second term. To make matters worse, the Americans under Trump (or, as he is known in Iran, the American Ahmadinejad) started to renege on the promises of the nuclear deal. Hopes for a quick recovery had now been dashed.
Further fuel was added to the volatile mix as a series of mammoth corruption schemes came to the light. Then, under pressure from the right wing, President Rouhani decided to justify raising taxes on gasoline by revealing the massive, entitlement budget for religious foundations that was imposed on him by powers that be. It is hard to overestimate the anger this profligacy inspired in people.
The straw that broke the proverbial camel's back was a mere rise in the price of eggs. The right-wing powerful duo of the city of Mashad, Ebrahim Raisi (the embittered rival of Rouhani in the recent elections) and his famously simple-minded father-in-law, Ahmad Alamolhoda, struck the first match by staging a small anti-Rouhani demonstration, blaming the high price of consumer goods on the Rouhani government.
This was the proximate cause of the current unrest, which must be seen only as a trigger, rather than its driving force. The sudden spread of these riots has led to the speculation that they are instigated by extraterritorial enemies such as the Saudi-Israeli-US alliance. But, as there is nothing new about that sort of anti-regime agitation, it is unlikely that they were causally significant.
As long as Iran does not radically modify its institution of the office of the Supreme Leader, and as long as the democratic element of that system remains marginalised and powerless to express the wishes of the people and reduce tensions through legal representation, riots and uprisings will be an imminent and permanent feature of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Maybe, under a benevolent despot, all these powers would be put to effective use. But Iran and its neighbours on all sides are no exception to British historian Lord Acton's rule: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."
Palestinians have been carefully watching Saudi Arabia drawing closer to Israel.
The past few months have seen not only a flood of Saudi statements on social media supporting normalisation with Israel (some saying that Saudi is "more important" than Palestine and others apparently dreaming of Israel becoming Saudi's top vacationing spot), but also a flurry of diplomatic activity between Riyadh and Tel Aviv.
Saudi and Israeli political leadership agree on a number of issues, the most important of which is the need to curb Iran's growing influence and to keep the US engaged in the Middle East. Pursuing these common interests, the Saudis and the Israelis have intensified their efforts for a formal normalisation of relations.
In June 2017, Anwar Eshki, former Saudi general and current head of the Middle East Centre for Strategic and Legal Studies, said that Saudi Arabia would accept normalisation with Israel if it, in turn, accepted the Arab peace initiative. He also said that if Saudi Arabia did so, the rest of the Islamic world would follow suit.
In October, former head of Saudi intelligence Prince Turki al-Faisal took part in a forum in New York with the former head of Mossad, Efraim Halevy.
In November, Israeli Chief of Staff General Gadi Eizenkot had an interview with Saudi website Elaph. The same month, the Israeli minister of communications, Ayoub Kara, invited Saudi Mufti Abdulaziz Al Sheikh to visit Tel Aviv.
In early December, the New York Times published details of an alleged Saudi proposal for a Palestinian state on parts of the West Bank and the Jerusalem village of Abu Dees as its capital. Just a few days later, US President Donald Trump declared officially that the US is recognising Jerusalem as the capital of the Israeli state. At the time of the declaration, a delegation from a Washington pro-Israeli think-tank was in Riyadh meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who demonstrated that he didn't "want to talk about Jerusalem".
And while Riyadh and Tel Aviv have been engaged in public and secret overtures, they have also been pushing the Palestinian political leadership into a corner.
In November, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made a sudden visit to Riyadh and returned visibly perturbed. Rumours in Ramallah had it that the Saudis had pressed him to accept their plan for Palestine, and that this was likely tied to an agreement between US presidential envoys Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt and the Saudi crown prince, reached during their unannounced meeting at the end of October.
Then, in December, after Trump's announcement on Jerusalem, Mohamed Ashtieh, member of the Fatah Central Committee, said that unnamed Arab countries had refused to hold an Arab summit about Jerusalem. It was also rumoured that Saudi Arabia and Egypt were pressuring Abbas not to attend the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation summit in Turkey.
Abbas resisted this pressure and attended the summit and followed it with a visit to Qatar, which Saudi Arabia is currently imposing a blockade on.
By now, Palestinians have no illusions about what Saudi Arabia is pushing for. It is clear to all of us that Riyadh is not working for a just peace solution and an end to Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.
Unsurprisingly, Palestinian social media has exploded in anger at Saudi actions; Twitter, for example, has seen a popular Hashtag "Normalisation is betrayal" emerge. Some have called for burning pictures of the Saudi king; others have said Saudis calling for normalisation are "Zionists in Arab clothes".
The anger also spread beyond social media, with portraits of Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman being torn at a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine rally, amid chants like "King Salman sold Jerusalem!"
The image of Saudi Arabia and its allies has suffered immensely within Palestine. A survey conducted by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research in Gaza and the West Bank showed that 82 percent of Palestinians do not trust the Saudis would defend their rights, and 75 percent and 70 percent do not trust, respectively, the UAE and Egypt - both major Saudi allies.
What the Saudis are not factoring in, in their foreign policy calculations, is that Palestinians will resist any attempt for an unjust settlement. There is enough mistrust towards Riyadh already and whatever peace initiative comes out of its negotiations with the US and Israel will be outright rejected.
Even if the Palestinian leadership is pressed into concessions, people on the ground will continue their resistance. The Saudi plan will eventually crumble, as will Saudi Arabia's reputation in the Middle East and beyond.
The region has already been through two intifadas and an Arab Spring. Arab youth have proven that they can face off with local regimes and superpowers. They will not accept more injustice, and heavy-handed repression would only inflame their anger.
An unjust settlement will not bring peace.
2 January 2018
Though it continues to be overshadowed by the conflicts in other parts of the world, the civil war in Libya is still going strong. And like many such conflicts in marginal countries since WW2, the conflict is sustained in no small part by the power exerted by outside forces.
The conflict is a multi-faceted, multi-front affair between a range of actors ranging from tribal militias, sectarian militias, the local ISIS chapter, militias associated with the former Qaddafi armed forces and intelligence services, and so on. But the two leading parties are the Tobruk faction in the east, dominated by the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by General Khalifa Haftar, a former Qaddafi army officer, and the Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli in the West.
Roughly speaking, the GNA has UN and Western backing, but its authority and military power in the country are rather lacking, while Haftar’s LNA has the backing of Moscow, is in control of the majority of the country’s oil resources and is militarily the strongest faction in the civil war.
Unlike the situation in Syria, however, there is a way to resolve the conflict if the international community, and particularly Europe, are willing to make certain difficult compromises. The GNA has had something no other faction in the conflict has enjoyed: international legal legitimacy.
But this month, that legitimacy is coming into question. The GNA has been established through the auspices of the UN with a mandate to bring the warring parties in the Libyan conflict together. Crucially, that mandate was originally stipulated to last one year, and could only be extended by one more year. This month, the two years have elapsed.
General Haftar has already pointed out that the GNA mandate has elapsed, and therefore it has no better legal standing than any other warring party in the civil war. He is thus urging the supporters of the GNA to rally around him and the Tobruk parallel state he has been building over the last few years, as the authority most likely to be able to reunite the country, pacify the tribal and sectarian militias, and drive ISIS out of Libya.
Problem is, he has a point. All the facts on the ground seem to confirm that if anyone can impose order and peace in Libya, it is him. Regardless of the fact that there is every chance he will become a military dictator in the mould of Egypt’s al-Sisi, if not quite as extreme as Qaddafi, and regardless of the fact that he is aligned with Putin, the fact of the matter remains that he is the best chance there is for peace in Libya.
So the West now has a dilemma: do they continue to support the GNA beyond its UN mandate and prolong the civil war, and with it, the refugee flows through Libya? Or do they concede and grant Libya to Haftar at the risk of giving Putin another strong ally on Europe’s border?
Haftar, for his own part, has already proposed that he will stop the refugee flows to Europe if he gains control of Libya’s western sea coast. That should appeal to Europe at least. The US is unlikely to change their position, but Europe could easily flip to back Haftar.
The Moral Question
The moral questions about such a decision are hard enough. We do not know quite what kind of leader Haftar will turn out to be if he is let loose on Libya. But would a Qaddafi or Qaddafi-style military dictatorship not be preferable to the ongoing civil war, as far as the people of Libya are concerned? To say nothing of the fact that it would ultimately be us in the West who end up answering that question, and not the Libyans themselves.
But as far as Europe is concerned, the geopolitics of this might be significantly more straightforward. Moving swiftly and decisively behind Haftar could help end the civil war and secure the Libyan sea border from the refugee flows.
And if done well, it might even attract Haftar out of Putin’s sphere of influence, if Haftar’s new Libyan administration is given due support and access to Europe’s energy markets. Whether Europe’s leaders will be as quick to pursue this window of opportunity as they were to bomb Libya during its Arab Spring uprising against Qaddafi remains to be seen.
3 January 2018
It was not that long ago that Europe was full of confidence, believing it had all the answers to the challenges that humanity faces. The continent has always been a case of mixed fortunes. It endured hundreds of turbulent years of wars, bloodshed and widespread destruction. However, Europe has also been the birthplace of great scientific innovations, cultural richness and political and social progress.
Two world wars in the space of 20 years left the post-1945 generation disillusioned, yet not in despair. It was a generation of practical and pragmatic idealists, with a vision of a continent rising from the ashes, eager to sharply change course. In the new Europe, economics and a mixture of liberal and social democratic values replaced power politics, domestically and internationally. Yet in recent years, and in 2017 particularly, this vision has come to be hanging by a thread. What began in the previous year with the Brexit referendum has continued with the unabated rise of an extreme version of far-right nationalism that has been successful at the ballot box in most elections across the continent. In the case of Austria, of all places, the ultra-right ended up running the country.
In the aftermath of World War II, gradually and methodically, what began as a few modest trade agreements turned into one massive free trade zone founded on four pillars: The free movement of goods, services, capital, and labor. With the collapse of the communist bloc toward the end of the 20th century, an opportunity presented itself to extend the united European dream all the way from the Mediterranean Sea to the borders of Russia. It looked like an open road toward the United States of Europe. Not quite. Cracks started to show as the EU expanded — too quickly, without ensuring that its fundamental values were shared by the critical mass of its population, that its political institutions were robust enough to cope with competing ideas, or that its economy was growing at a steady pace in line with demands for job creation and standard of living expectations.
The European project of a diverse social, economic and political union seemed to have reached completion, until it dared to move into writing a constitution, and suggested a single political institution that would have more power than the member states’ governments. When that constitution was rejected and replaced by the Lisbon Treaty, coinciding with the economic crisis of 2008, the journey to “an ever-closer union” became considerably bumpier. It became apparent that the vision of those at the heart of the EU and its founders, especially Germany and France, of removing all barriers between member states, was not shared by many of the others. With the introduction of a common currency, the euro, it became clear that the continent was divided, between those who were willing to share their monetary policies in the belief that the sum would be greater than its parts, those who didn’t meet the criteria to join the eurozone, and those who were reluctant to accept a move that they perceived as compromising their sovereignty.
As Europe enters 2018, it waves goodbye to one of its most turbulent years. Brexit was without a shadow of a doubt a body blow for the entire EU concept. The UK’s decision to leave, taken for all the wrong reasons by one of the most powerful countries in the Union, consumed much of the time and energy not only of the UK but also of the EU, which must now contend with a double crisis — one in the domestic arena within several member states, and the other impacting the union as whole — each with similar origins and feeding into one another. Consequently, the EU is fighting for its life, soul and long-term survival.
Three competing views on Europe can be identified. There is the German-French view, which is determined that the EU should press on, full steam ahead, with reinforcing the foundations of the European project. In September, the newly elected president of France, Emmanuel Macron, set out in a courageous speech his vision of common EU policies on defense, tax and immigration, and for the establishment of European universities, among other initiatives to bring Europe closer together. And, in a symbolic act, he promised to have “Ode to Joy,” the EU anthem, played at the Paris Olympics in 2024.
The diametrically opposite approach, as represented by Brexit, suggests abandoning the EU, but thus far with hardly any idea of the alternative arrangements and the nature of relations with the remaining 27 member states. Then there is the view held mainly by those countries that have joined since 1995, which perceives the EU almost solely as an economic tool, with integration coming a distant second. These latter states don’t necessarily share common values on issues such as human rights or good governance.
Europe’s economies have shown healthy signs of recovery in 2017, although unemployment, despite being slightly below its 2013 peak, still remains high and hasn’t recovered from the worldwide recession that started nearly a decade ago. This hits young jobseekers particularly hard: They are twice as likely to face unemployment in competition with more experienced workers. And this is one explanation for the increase in support of far-right ideologies and their worrying success at the ballot box. This resurfacing of repulsive xenophobic attitudes is being exploited, and at times encouraged, by unscrupulous politicians.
While the EU has been a phenomenal success in bringing economic prosperity and peace to most of its citizens, at the same time it has failed to instil in them a shared identity, a sense of mutual responsibility and a commonality of values. In 2018, it will be the unquestionable task of all decent politicians and European citizens to unwaveringly promote these ideals before it is too late.
By Mohammed Nosseir
For many generations, Egyptians were taught that Egypt and Sudan are joined by permanent blood ties of brotherhood. Although the relationship between the two countries has had its ups and downs, they worked to solve their disputes through a series of dialogues. However, the expansion of political Islam in Sudan is a definite no-no for the Egyptian state, which is clearly threatening the relationship between the countries.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent trip to Sudan concluded in the signing of a number of agreements between the two states and the handing over of the Sudanese port of Suakin to Turkey, who will rebuild the ruined Ottoman port on Sudan’s Red Sea coast, constructing a naval dock to maintain civilian and military vessels. This announcement was sharply criticized in the Egyptian media, clearly signaling the Egyptian state’s displeasure with the ties between Sudan and Turkey, especially the Suakin project.
As a leading nation in the region, Egypt should have a clear responsibility for driving the relationship between the two countries. The definition of a leading nation is portrayed in our ability to smoothly influence the decisions of other nations in line with our goals, while maintaining good relations with them. However, Egypt often wants to shape its bond with Sudan in the form of a north-south relationship, whereby the southern country blindly follows the northern one — a proposition that Sudanese governments have repeatedly declined.
Egypt’s leverage in Africa and the Middle East has been diminishing for decades, probably without our noticing and obviously without our working to regain what we have lost. The Egyptian state often expends efforts strengthening its ties with northern nations (Europe and the United States) in the belief that solid partnerships with them will, consequently, consolidate our relations with southern nations — a theory that was proven wrong a long time ago, because other southern nations have been doing the same with even better results.
The Sudanese government stated that leasing Suakin to the Turkish government is a legitimate agreement that neither violates Sudan’s territorial integrity nor poses a threat to the security of Arab nations. Could Egypt have replaced Turkey in this agreement? Certainly. If the Egyptian state broadened its outlook to consider the political and economic needs of other nations, it could easily have initiated the development of this project or of others, in addition to engaging the support of international institutions in this development project, as Egypt has the advantage of long experience with these institutions.
Many Egyptian businessmen have both the will and the capabilities to expand their businesses in African and Arab nations, but they need our government’s support. While Turkey has been supporting its businessmen, Egypt’s lack this support both locally and, obviously, regionally. Before accusing Turkey of expanding its presence in what we tend to define as our backyard, we need to assess whether we have done our homework effectively or not.
The continuous empowerment of the Egyptian state at the expense of its citizens, along with the state’s domination of politics and economics, has limited our nation’s capacity to resolve many internal problems and to expand our regional role. The rebuilding of the port of Suakin by the Turkish government is certainly an unpleasant development for Egypt. Regardless of whether or not this decision is reversible, Egypt should view it as an indication of the need to apply a different policy vis-a-vis the Sudanese government and other nations.
The Egyptian state will not be able to issue a “forbidden list” for other nations to apply unquestioningly. Even the United States, a superpower, is unable to apply such a policy. The Egyptian state needs to make available a number of economic incentives designed to prompt our private sector to expand its investments in the region with clear backup from our government. Other nations have been applying this strategy successfully and it has helped them to expand their international role — yet we continue to resist even considering it.
January 03 2018
A British spy in communication with influential Kurds in Iraq was reported to Ankara by Turkish field agents in Iraq. The spy was observed in local Kurdish dress near Hanekin and Halabja, talking in secret to Kurdish leaders about their next move in the region.
According to an official Turkish intelligence report dated April 1, 1930, this spy in diguise was suspected to be Thomas Edward Lawrence – the famous Lawrence of Arabia. TE Lawrence’s efforts in the Arab Revolt contributed to the disintegration of the Turkish empire under the Ottoman dynasty, and were never forgotten by the rulers of the young Republic of Turkey. The 1925 Kurdish revolt resulted in Mosul being left by Turkey to Iraqi rule under a British mandate the following year, and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in Ankara continued to suspect that Kurdish tribes in Iraq could still be used by the British for another rebellion.
That intelligence report - which was declassified and released by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) in a booklet to mark the 90th anniversary of the agency as a 2018 “New Year present” - reflects suspicions at the time that the notorious British agent was still working against the Turks in the 1930s.
At the time Lawrence was working for the Cairo-based Arab Bureau of British military intelligence. Turkish agents were monitoring him in Cairo as well, according to another report that was declassified and released for the first time in the same booklet with title “90 Years, 90 Objects.” An intelligence report filed from Cairo to Ankara and dated June 15, 1930 stated that Lawrence was spotted in Cairo – this time in Egyptian garb - talking to influential names in Cairo society and “probably” in order to organize an uprising against the Egyptian authorities.
In 1991, following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and after the moving in of U.S.-led military forces from Turkey north of Iraq’s 36th parallel, I met a British spy in the Kurdish town of Amediya in northern Iraq. He was busy trying to fix a satellite dish on the roof of a deserted house, dressed in an Oxford shirt with paratrooper cufflinks, a tie, ray ban sunglasses, and camouflage trousers. He introduced himself to me as “Stephen Crouch, in Her Majesty’s Service,” and said his mission was to try to prevent clashes between Masoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Jalal Talabani’s Kurdistan Patriotic Union (PUK).
Of course it’s not only the Brits who have plenty of spies around. After all, it was Turkish agents who reported about the presence of Lawrence both in Halabja and in Cairo back in 1930.
Recently the Syria civil war has provided a stage for agents from almost all countries – as well as illegal groups and terrorist groups - not only as a training ground but also for various intelligence operations. Now with protests taking place in towns across the country, eyes have turned to Iran.
Thanks to the not-so-smart move of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has voiced high-profile public support for the demonstrators, Iranian religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has been able to accuse protesters of being “enemy agents” – the “enemies” being named as the U.S., the U.K., Saudi Arabia and Israel by the Iranian authorities.
Such accusations are certainly not fair for those who took the streets demanding more democratic and economic rights in Iran. But at the same time we should never forget that memories in this part of the world are long. Recently released official documents confirm that back in 1953 the CIA and MI6 managed to topple Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh through a coup d’etat following a well-planned conspiracy.
Indeed, many baseless conspiracy theories circulate in Turkey and elsewhere. But there are also genuine conspiracies that nobody with an interest in politics should ignore.
Trajectories of the 2018 US Policy in the Middle East
The importance of the Middle East region for the US stems from the fact that it is part of a wider geography which includes Europe and Asia, whose security has been one of the main American concerns since the 1900s.
The Middle East has been considered a source of conflict since the 1948 war between Arabs and Israelis, affecting not only neighbouring countries in Asia, Africa and Europe but also countries distant from it, such as the US and Australia. Thus, the importance of the Middle East to the US is an essential element of its global security system.
Washington perceives that failure to resolve conflicts in the region affects its national security as well as the security of its allies. This has been clear when a violent wave of attacks struck the United States and Western Europe in 2017 because the Middle East, though distant from the US in geography, is very influential in its domestic security and stability as well as prosperity.
Many other Middle East crises badly affect American stability and security, ranging from the influx of refugees from Syria, threats of weapons of mass destruction including chemical weapons. The other issue that Mideast countries cause to the US is energy and oil as the Middle East oil producers either aggravate the performance of the American economy or improve it based on the prices of oil in the global market.
However, Americans believe that Russians won the first round of 2017 in the Middle East by winning the war in Syria, which has strengthened the position of the Kremlin internationally. This could be a very positive justification for the Americans to reconsider their status in the Mideast and how to counter Russia and China which are expanding their influence in the Middle East and Africa.
American concerns are linked to major developments in Syria that took place last year. These developments are also significant for the Kremlin, particularly in view of the forthcoming presidential elections in spring as they are not only linked to the strengthening of Russia’s regional and international influence but also in calming domestic fears that Russia is not slipping into a new Afghanistan or facing a wide and heated confrontation with the United States.
US in the Middle East in 2018
Washington now has a great opportunity to benefit from its security partners in the Middle East region. What is happening in Iran at present is a new development that is not only triggered by burgeoning inflation in the country but more deep-seated resentment among most Iranians towards the country’s domestic and foreign policies. The Americans believe that ‘ordo ab chao’ (out of chaos comes order) should start in Iran so that peace prevails.
US President Donald Trump tweeted a warning against Iranian government regarding its crackdown on protests and demonstrations saying: “The world is watching”. Iran from Trump’s viewpoint can be drawn away from its Russian orbit if it stops sectarian and proxy wars and gives up its plans of having a nuclear weapon.
Thus, the US administration would cement its relations with its traditional allies in the region to enable them to thwart any Iranian misadventures. Trump considers North Korea as the US’ first major threat and Iran as the biggest threat to the stability of the Mideast region, given Tehran’s ambitions to dominate the Middle East as a revolutionary theocracy.
The American strategic plan for the Middle East in 2018 is expected to first scrutinize Iran’s strategy in the region and analyse its capabilities politically, economically, and militarily in order to avoid direct confrontation with Tehran because it is active in many countries in the region unequivocally as in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Bahrain and clandestinely in some countries in Africa and in Asia.
As Iran advances its influence in many Mideast countries which have very weak governments, Washington would seek indirect intervention in Iranian affairs. Therefore, Trump’s administration is expected to address its 2017 failure of strategies in the Middle East to neutralise Iranian presence in the Arab states. This will start with enhancing ties with Iraqi government to freeze Iranian influence.
Since US-Iraq relations appear more stable at present, mainly in light of the camaraderie of Trump with Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, the commonality of their perspectives along with those of some other Shiite clerics in Iraq who oppose Iranian influence as they favour Iraq regaining its Arab identity, it can be speculated that the Americans would use their utmost to ensure that Abadi wins the coming elections in order to neutralise Iran from intervening in Iraqi affairs.
In 2018, the United States is expected to reinforce ties with Abadi administration and would seek to incorporate Iraq into the regional and international community, mainly with talks about the reconstruction of Iraq. Washington will also push for continuous US military training for Iraqi soldiers to thwart the return of any terrorist group including ISIS to free Iraq from Iranian dependence.
The US Policy in Syria
On 5 December 2017 the US Defense Department announced that the American forces in Syria would remain as long as necessary to ensure that ISIS will not return to Iraq and Syria. It is expected that the American presence in Syria would hinge upon the situation in eastern parts of the country as it seeks to stop terrorist factions and to stabilise the liberated areas with no clear timetable for pulling out US troops from Syria. The United States has nearly 2,000 soldiers on the ground in Syria.
The growing involvement of Russia in the Middle East and the American presence in the Mideast would lead to the rise of extremist activities in Central Asia and Afghanistan. Thus, Moscow and Washington will be competing not only in the Middle East region but also in Central Asia.
The Palestinian issue returned to the top of regional issues in past few weeks and it will be so in 2018 after Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The Jerusalem issue will be a key factor in reshaping American ties in the Middle East in 2018. Turkish President, RecepTayyip Erdogan, countered Trump’s decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem by hosting a meeting for the Organisation of Islamic Conference in Istanbul December 12, 2017.
It is expected that Americans would try to mend fences with the Turkish government, especially after news of a meeting between Syrian opposition and pro- government representatives will be held in Sochi in January 29-30 after Russians have mediated talks between Syrian Kurds and the Turkish government for Kurdish representatives to attend the upcoming Sochi conference.
Thus, American involvement in the Middle East in 2018 is likely to be much more active than it was in 2017 and Washington will try hard to find a new balance of power and more countries will join its alliances in order to neutralize Iranian presence in Arab countries and to defuse any wars by focusing on Central Asia and Afghanistan which are closer to China and Russia, the arch rivals of the USA, to keep them away from the Mideast region.
Happy New Year to Iran and Western Media
1 January 2018
Happy New Year to all, and we say this especially to the Iranian people who have given the Khameini regime a run for their money recently.
As 2017 came to a close, the Iranian regime was not boasting about taking down the Syrians. Its fighters in Syria under its flag were not celebrating their victories and were not expressing happiness over putting an end to the late Yemeni President, Ali Abdullah Saleh.
They deterred those who rejected their divine authority until someone from within decided to put matters into perspective. How will this big revolution come to an end? Will the Khameini regime, shielded by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Cops (IRGC) funds and weapons, collapse?
We do not yet know answers to these questions as the protests are still in its early stages. The Khameini guards may be able to put an end to it, temporarily that is, however the purpose is clear. The incident has so far caused major damage to the image, presence, propaganda and the future of the republic.
It has also spread terrorism and chaos in the region with the help of comrades Mohammed Ali Jafari and Qasem Soleimani.
Speaking of those protecting the Khameini regime, it is interesting to see western media’s politeness, leniency and delicacy while dealing with the Iranian uprising. This is something journalists, researchers and politicians have picked up on.
We found Republican Senator, Ted Cruz, the former US presidential candidate, attacking the US network CNN because of its marginalization and misinformation regarding the Iranian people’s uprising.
We also found American researcher and politician Elliot Abrams criticizing The New York Times’ coverage in an article of his in New York magazine. Abrams described the American newspaper’s coverage as “suspicious,” which belittles the value of the protests.
Even the British BBC, which initially focused on demonstrations supporting the regime, spoke about the uprising against the regime. “It does not seem to be operating on a large scale,” it said. The Iranian regime’s behavior toward this uprising has so far led to the deal of 10 people, with dozens wounded or in jails.
Social media platforms such as Telegram and Instagram were shut down in the country and according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency, one of the IRGC brigades, Ismail Kuthari, threatened saying that the regime will fight “with an iron fist.”
If this would have happened in Egypt, for example, how would have BBC, New York Times, CNN or German Deutchwelle covered this incident? Would they cover it extensively and pursued which angle?
What does all this mean? How is it expected that the Saudi, Khaleeji and Arab recipients understand? Of course, this exempts Iranian Arabs and those who admire Qassem Soleimani’s heroism and his conquests.
As Shakespeare’s immortal play Hamlet says: “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”. On that note, here’s wishing a happy new year for the Iranian people.