Archive for the ‘Arab League’ category

Arab League Opposition to Kurds Only Fuels Iran

September 24, 2017

Arab League Opposition to Kurds Only Fuels Iran, Clarion ProjectZach Huff, September 24, 2017

A rally for Kurdish independence in Erbil ahead of the Sept.25, 2017 referendum (Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Sunni Arab leaders have largely been silent on the September 25 Iraqi Kurdish independence referendum, but Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Abdul Gheit visited the Iraqi Kurdish capital last week to dissuade the Kurds from holding the vote.

In a recent letter to Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani, Ahmed described his fears of “disintegration and fragmentation,” noting in his plea that the Arab League is “strongly keen on ensuring the territorial integrity of the Arab states.”

What seems lost on Ahmed is the strategic pragmatism in allowing the Kurds to further solidify their proven bastion against Iran and successive waves of regional instability.

The Kurdistan region is an effective vanguard against Iran, the chief instigator of regional division. At the same time, it has been the Kurds who have beaten back ISIS from their other borders.

The region has also weathered simultaneously a collapse in oil prices, a total cut of support from Baghdad, the arrival of two million refugees and the onslaught of ISIS. Standing in stark contrast to their surroundings, the Kurds are the model for stability.

Tellingly, who else vehemently opposes Kurdish self-determination in Iraq and Syria? Iran and her shadow proxies.

The regional balance continues to tilt in favor of Iran’s aspirations to create a Shiite crescent from Iran to Syria to counter the Sunni world, the West and Israel, all under a nuclear umbrella and aided by Russia. Kurdish independence would stymie that.

Competing regional designs, whether pan-Arab irredentism or America’s “freedom agenda,” now lay in tatters with Iran picking up the pieces.

With Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Qatar and Lebanon now overrun with Iranian influence, and with Iran’s expansionist sights now set on unprecedented relations with Turkey, it may not be long before the remaining Gulf States meet the full brunt of Iran and her proxies. In just the last year, Iran established a new pathway to the Mediterranean and strongholds on the Red Sea.

The Arab League in 2016 likewise condemned the Syrian Kurdish federalization, again citing fears of “disunity.” What “unity” does Secretary General Ahmed hope to preserve?

In addition to untold civilian casualties, is “Syria” still the Syrian Arab Republic if it requires massive, ongoing intervention by Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah militants to “restore” this “unity”? After all, the Arab League suspended Syria in 2011 on the basis of what the league saw as government suppression of protestors.

If an Arab city such as Aleppo can be leveled, then one cannot imagine what awaits intransigent Kurdish population centers. Indeed, Syrian officials recently warned of the “price” that the Syrian Kurdish democratic administration will pay for refusing to return to the fold.

Yet, it has only been Kurdistan region President Barzani and the Syrian Kurdish forces that have declared they will not allow the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Units to operate in their respective areas — which the Iranian-influenced central governments of Baghdad and Damascus fully welcome, and which Ahmed is intent on defending.

Barzani has received warm welcomes in regional capitals, including Riyadh and Amman. While his desire for independence has been met with measured silence from Sunni Arab leaders, this silence is far from the vocal condemnation by the Arab League chief.

In May, Ahmed made a wise observation when he said, “Iran is enjoying what the Arab world is going through. There are those in Iran who are watching and waiting for us to destroy ourselves.”

Ahmed should consider whether he seeks a self-fulfilling prophecy by playing into Iran’s aspirations. It’s time for the Arab League to reexamine the source of this position on the “unity” of the failed states of Iraq and Syria, and whether this opinion truly reflects the strategic pragmatism and moral clarity that the region.

Egypt scuttles UN vote on Israeli settlement after Trump warning

December 23, 2016

Egypt scuttles UN vote on Israeli settlement after Trump warning, Washington Examiner, Joel Gehrke. December 22, 2016

Trump’s statement might have had the greatest influence on the Egyptian decision, beyond Netanyahu’s lobbying or other American statements. “Diplomats in Tel Aviv speculating that Sisi didn’t cave because of Israel, but rather because he didn’t want to piss off incoming president,” Economist correspondent Gregg Carlstrom tweeted.


Egyptian officials scrapped a plan to proceed with a United Nations Security Council vote condemning the construction of Israeli settlements, following pushback from Israeli officials and President-elect Trump.

“Egypt requested the vote’s delay to permit them to conduct an additional meeting of the Arab League’s foreign ministers to work on the resolution’s wording,” Haaretz reported, citing Western diplomats. But the vote might be postponed “indefinitely,” according to the report.

Israeli settlement construction drew condemnation from the State Department earlier this year, in addition to the rebukes of more customary critics, raising fears in Israel and among congressional Republicans that President Obama might not veto a resolution on the matter in the waning days of his presidency. President-elect Trump stated his opposition to the resolution, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was lobbying Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to drop the resolution.

“The resolution being considered at the United Nations Security Council regarding Israel should be vetoed,” Trump said in a statement. “As the United States has long maintained, peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians will only come through direct negotiations between the parties, and not through the imposition of terms by the United Nations.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., also called on the Obama administration to veto it.

Trump’s statement might have had the greatest influence on the Egyptian decision, beyond Netanyahu’s lobbying or other American statements. “Diplomats in Tel Aviv speculating that Sisi didn’t cave because of Israel, but rather because he didn’t want to piss off incoming president,” Economist correspondent Gregg Carlstrom tweeted.

Egypt is a temporary member of the UN Security Council, which is dominated by five permanent members — the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, China, and France — which have the authority to veto council resolutions. Obama used that authority to block a similar resolution condemning Israeli settlements in 2011, but his administration’s increasingly public frustration with the failure of talks between Israel and the Palestinians raised the possibility that he wouldn’t veto it this time around.

Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged the appeal of a change in policy when asked about a potential resolution to be authored by French diplomats. “If it’s a biased and unfair and a resolution calculated to delegitimize Israel, we’ll oppose it,” he said at the Haim Saban Forum on December 4. “But it’s getting more complicated now because there is a building sense of what I’ve been saying to you today, which some people can shake their heads, say, well, it’s unfair.”

Kerry emphasized that the Israeli settlements in disputed territory are not the cause of violence, but he argued that were nonetheless a “barrier” to an ultimate peace that was being tolerated by the Israeli government. “I’ll tell you why I know that: because the left in Israel is telling everybody they are a barrier to peace, and the right that supports it openly supports it because they don’t want peace,” Kerry said.

Reports In Arab Press: ‘Abbas Resisted Arab League Pressure To Appoint Successor – Despite Threats Of Sanctions Against Him

November 18, 2016

Reports In Arab Press: ‘Abbas Resisted Arab League Pressure To Appoint Successor – Despite Threats Of Sanctions Against Him, MEMRI, November 18, 2016

The Arab Quartet (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the UAE) is continuing its efforts to effect a reconciliation within Fatah and to have a successor to Palestinian President Mahmoud ‘Abbas appointed. Recently, ‘Abbas rejected a Quartet initiative for such an appointment, on the grounds that he would not accept Arab intervention in Palestinian affairs.[1]

Several Arab media reports stated that recently, in order to resolve this issue, a high-level Arab League delegation visited ‘Abbas in Ramallah on November 9, 2016. The delegation, comprising Arab League Secretary-General Ahmad Abu Al-Gheit and his two predecessors, ‘Amr Moussa and Nabil Al-Arabi, came to the city on the pretext of attending the opening of the Arafat Museum. According to the reports, the three attempted to pressure ‘Abbas to choose a successor, and also tried to persuade him to reconcile with Muhammad Dahlan – who previously served as Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) member from Fatah and head of Preventive Security in Gaza, and who is now a proposed successor – as well as to allow him to return to the political scene after his 2011 expulsion from Fatah, and to stop persecuting him and his supporters.

The Arabi21 website, which is close to the Muslim Brotherhood, noted in a November 12 report that the delegation’s visit to Ramallah and its meeting with ‘Abbas had been conducted “far from the eyes of the media” in order to avoid the appearance of normalization with Israel, and also due to the sensitive nature of the meeting’s goal – that is, appointing a successor to ‘Abbas.[2]

On November 16, the independent Egyptian Islamic daily Al-Misriyyoun published a lengthy report on this matter, according to which Abu Al-Gheit presented ‘Abbas with the names of three possible successors: former PA foreign minister and Arafat nephew Nasser Al-Qidwa; senior Fatah member Marwan Al-Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences in Israel for orchestrating terrorist attacks during the second intifada; and Dahlan. The newspaper explained that the Arab countries, and particularly Egypt, were so insistent on lining up a successor to ‘Abbas because if ‘Abbas left the political scene without naming one, the post of PA president could go to PLC Speaker and Hamas official ‘Aziz Dweik, giving Hamas a foothold in the PA leadership.[3]

Both Arabi21 and Al-Misryyoun reported that ‘Abbas had rejected the delegation’s demands, despite its threats that he would face sanctions and would lose his legitimacy in the eyes of the Arab League.

It should be mentioned that in recent weeks there have been articles in the Egyptian press harshly criticizing ‘Abbas for his response to the Arab Quartet’s mediation efforts.[4]

The following are translated excerpts from the Al-Misriyyoun article.[5]

30729‘Abbas and the Arab League delegation at the opening of the Arafat Museum (, November 12, 2016)

Al-Misriyyoun: ‘Abbas Determined To Prevent Dahlan’s Return To Political Scene

The Al-Misriyyoun article stated: “Egypt’s relations with PA President Mahmoud ‘Abbas have entered a dark tunnel, after a visit by a high-level delegation, headed by Arab League Secretary-General Ahmad Abu Al-Gheit and also including two former secretary-generals of the Arab League, ‘Amr Moussa and Nabil Al-Arabi, failed [to achieve the desired results]. The delegation discussed [with ‘Abbas] ways to resolve the crisis within Fatah and pump new blood into the reconciliation between the West Bank and Gaza. Knowledgeable sources reported that Ahmad Abu Al-Gheit demanded that ‘Abbas agree to the return of Fatah official Muhammad Dahlan to the political scene, and that he stop persecuting [Dahlan’s] supporters in the movement and maligning him, after ‘Abbas accused him of involvement in the assassination of the late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat. ‘Abbas did not agree to the demands, and expressed his determination to convene the Fatah General Assembly that will consolidate [his position] as both Fatah chairman and PA president.

“The sources claimed that the high-level Egyptian delegation was surprised by ‘Abbas’s inflexible positions on all issues. Moreover, ‘Abbas also criticized the Arab states’ intervention in a Palestinian matter, while rejecting all the demands, especially the demand to appoint a successor for the role of PA president who will be acceptable to the Arab states, in light of his own failing health.”

Al-Misriyyoun: Three Candidates To Succeed ‘Abbas Were Proposed – Nasser Al-Qidwa, Marwan Al-Barghouti, And Muhammad Dahlan

According to the Al-Misriyyoun report, “Ahmad Abu Al-Gheit proposed three candidates to succeed ‘Abbas: former [PA] foreign minister and Arafat’s nephew Nasser Al-Qidwa, [former] Fatah secretary in the West Bank Marwan Al-Barghouti, and [former] head of Preventive Security in Gaza, Muhammad Dahlan. ‘Abbas refused, and informed [Abu Al-Gheit] of his intention to remove Dahlan from all Fatah institutions so as to prevent him from attaining any political position in the future, and also [of his intention] to gain the support of Fatah’s next [i.e. seventh] General Assembly for his decision. ‘Abbas’s stubbornness on the Dahlan issue enraged the Arab states, headed by Egypt, who are very interested in naming ‘Abbas successor, so as to be prepared for a deterioration in the state of his health or any possibility of his disappearance from the political scene. [The absence of a successor] will enable [Palestinian] Legislative Council Speaker ‘Aziz Al-Dweik, a Hamas leader, to take ‘Abbas’s place, giving Hamas a foothold in Palestinian decision-making, a possibility to which Egypt strongly objects.”

Al-Misroyyoun: Cairo Threatened Sanctions Against ‘Abbas Should He Refuse To Appoint A Successor

The report stated further that “Cairo threatened to take sanctions against ‘Abbas if he rejected its efforts to appoint a successor, and expressed willingness to reach an agreement with Israel in order to release Marwan Barghouti [from prison], should ‘Abbas accept him as the successor – and this as a signal to ‘Abbas that the successor does not necessarily have to be Dahlan, whom he still rejects…

“According to observers, ‘Abbas’s rejection of the Arab states’ mediation in resolving the crisis with Dahlan or appointing a successor will lead to a deep crisis with the Arab Quartet (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the UAE). He will be bereft of Arab support and will be isolated, as [the late] Palestinian president Yasser Arafat was isolated before his death.”

International Relations Expert To Al-Misriyyoun: ‘Abbas Is Irrelevant; Dahlan Is Popular

According to the daily, Sa’id Al-Lawandi, an expert in international relations at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, “believes that ‘Abbas became irrelevant in the eyes of all Arab states after he refused every compromise proposed by the Arab Quartet regarding naming his successor, while Dahlan enjoys overt Arab support, since he is one of the few people able to restrain Hamas and keep it from taking over the [Palestinian] Authority. Al-Lawandi said in exclusive statements to Al-Misriyyounthat Dahlan has good relations with Israel, he is highly popular within Fatah, and he has close ties with the Arab states. In fact, he remains the top candidate to succeed ‘Abbas should [the latter] vanish from the Palestinian scene. He noted that some Arab states were grooming Dahlan as ‘Abbas’s successor, and this was the cause of the crisis between ‘Abbas and the Arab states that have influence in the Palestinian arena and have been long [pushing] Dahlan as an alternative to ‘Abbas.”

Former Arab League Assistant Secretary-General To Al-Misriyyoun: There Are Indications That Dahlan Will Be PA President

The daily also presented statements by Sa’id Kamal, a former Arab League assistant secretary-general, who “revealed that PA President Mahmoud ‘Abbas is expected to quit politics due to a deterioration in his health, and that Dahlan is slated to take his place due to his considerable popularity. In exclusive statements to Al-Misriyyoun, Kamal noted that there have long been indications that Dahlan will be the [next] PA president, but that he will face the same fate [as ‘Abbas], namely the Gaza-West Bank conflict. [Kamal] noted that the next Fatah Assembly, scheduled to take place in a few weeks, will discuss various political issues, including ‘Abbas’s future and the future of Fatah and the PA, due to the Arab [states’] desire to settle matters to the satisfaction of the mother Palestinian movement [i.e. Fatah].”

Former Egyptian Assistant Foreign Minister To Al-Misriyyoun: Barghouti Is Unlikely To Be ‘Abbas’s Successor

“In a different context, former [Egyptian] assistant foreign minister Ahmad Al-Qweisni [also] said that whoever succeeds ‘Abbas as PA president will face the same problems ‘Abbas faced. In exclusive statements to Al-Misriyyoun, Al-Qweisni stressed that, if ‘Abbas dies, Fatah’s policy will change, and many other aspects of the movement could change as well. He noted that there are several candidates for successor to ‘Abbas, one of them Dahlan, despite the rivalry between the two. However, he rejected the possibility of Marwan Barghouti holding public office, [noting] that he will certainly not be [the PA president], unless the Palestinian people insist on this.”

[1] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1270, Tension Between Mahmoud ‘Abbas, Arab Quartet Over Initiative For Internal Reconciliation In Fatah, September 27, 2016.

[2], November 12, 2016.

[3] Al-Misriyyoun (Egypt), November 16, 2016.

[4] See for example Al-Ahram (Egypt), October 27, 2016, November 13, 2016; Al-Yawm Al-Sabi’(Egypt), November 8, 2016.

[5] Al-Misriyyoun (Egypt), November 16, 2016.

What the Arab League Meeting Reveals

August 1, 2016

What the Arab League Meeting Reveals, Gatestone InstituteLawrence A. Franklin, August 1, 2016

♦ The most significant aspect of this year’s Arab League conference was the downgrading in significance of Palestinian issues on the agenda.

♦ The community of Arab states is bereft of the confidence to act collectively in its own interests, and has a fearful inability to meet the challenge of either Iran or radical Islamic terrorism, which threaten the very existence of their regimes.

The Arab League concluded its 27th annual summit on July 28 in Nouakchott, Mauritania. The sessions exposed the deep divisions in the Arab world, the bloc’s decreased influence in regional affairs, and the declining importance of Palestinian issues in the Middle East.

The annual affair apparently failed to make progress on last year’s Saudi proposal to establish an all-Arab, multinational force in response to Iran’s aggressive policies in Yemen, Iraq, and Syria. The Nouakchott-hosted sessions also seem to have made no progress toward developing a unified anti-terrorist agenda. The growth of the Islamic State presence in Libya and elsewhere in North Africa was evidently a prime motivator for the perceived need for an anti-terrorism policy.

1739The Arab League concluded its annual summit on July 28, which was held this year in a tent in Nouakchott, Mauritania. (Image source: CCTV News video screenshot)

The Arab League’s precipitous decline in political clout was symbolically exposed by the failure of many key national leaders to attend the conference. The leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Tunisia did not attend. Only eight national leaders from the 22-member organization attended the conference.

However, the most significant aspect of this year’s conference was the downgrading in significance of Palestinian issues on the agenda. Perhaps aware of this development, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas also decided not to attend. However, PA Minister of Foreign Affairs Riyad al-Maliki explained that Abbas could not attend due to the recent death of his brother. Later, Maliki, somewhat quixotically, called upon the Arab League to help sponsor a UN Resolution to initiate a lawsuit against the United Kingdom for having embraced the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which made it official London policy to support the creation of a national home for the Jewish People.

Nevertheless, when the representative of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) hectored delegates that they no longer seem to treat the depressed state of the Palestinian people as the overriding issue that should unite all Arabs, his pleas seemed to fall on deaf ears. The PFLP gave public evidence of the Palestinian issue’s fall from priority, stating on their website that “this year’s resolutions are no more than a carbon copy of the resolutions of the Arab Summits made in previous years. It reflects the situation too of the Arab League which long ago lost the Arab peoples’ confidence.”

Hamas also ruefully expressed similar frustration with the Arab League delegates, saying the summit “reflects the status of decline which the Arabs are suffering, even at the official level.”

Ironically, the only commentator who assessed that the Palestinian issue remains paramount in Arab minds was the French Consul General in Jerusalem, Herv Magro, who commented that “the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict is the central issue in the Middle East.”

Arab and Islamic states traditionally give lip service to the Palestine issue and Israel’s “occupation” of Arab lands. However, from the substance discussed at the Arab Summit, it seems apparent that Palestinian affairs and the so-called Arab-Israeli peace process are not currently the primary concerns of Arab states. Certainly, there was little evidence at this year’s annual meeting that Palestine was any representative’s principal concern, except that of the PFLP delegate.

The tenor of this year’s conference demonstrates the politically reality of a divided Arab world, a community of Arab states that is bereft of the confidence to act collectively in its own interests, and its fearful inability to meet the challenge of either Iran or radical Islamic terrorism, which threaten the very existence of their regimes.

Muslim Countries Slam Israel—For Protecting them

April 28, 2016

Muslim Countries Slam Israel—For Protecting them, Front Page MagazineP. David Hornik, April 28, 2016


On Tuesday the Organization of Islamic Cooperation held an “emergency,” “extraordinary” meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The OIC includes violence-wracked countries and failed states like Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan, Nigeria, and others, as well as severely poor and dysfunctional countries like Burkina Faso, Somalia, Bangladesh, and others. Not a single one of the organization’s 57 countries is a frontrunner in terms of freedom and prosperity, and most are far below that level.

But the topic of Tuesday’s “emergency meeting” was that on April 17 Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that: “Israel will never withdraw from the Golan Heights.”

The meeting’s final communiquéCondemns strongly Israel, the occupying power, and its macabre acts to change the legal status, demographic composition, and institutional structure of the occupied Syrian Golan.” It also “expresses unconditional support for the legitimate right of the Syrian people to restore their full sovereignty on the occupied Syrian Golan.”

The Arab League—whose 22 member states make up a sizable chunk of the OIC—had already weighed in on Netanyahu’s words on April 21, calling for a special criminal court to be set up and put Israel on trial for the transgression.

The Golan was controlled by Syria from 1948 to 1967, during which time Syrian gunners often fired at the Israeli communities below and forced their residents to sleep in bomb shelters. Israel captured the Golan from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War—and fortunately, since then, has kept it and developed it.

Today, with Syria devolved into Hobbesian war and fragmentation, the Heights are all the more strategically vital to Israel, and the idea of trading them for “peace” has—at least in the Israeli discourse—died a well-deserved death. The Golan, by the way, constitutes less than 1 percent of Syrian territory, and Syria’s loss of it almost 50 years ago is the least of its problems.

But there is further irony in the Arab League’s and the OIC’s reactions to Netanyahu’s words.

At present, Israel is engaged in tight strategic cooperation with two of its neighbors—Egypt and Jordan—against ISIS, one of the two most dangerous of the entities now fighting it out in Syria. More broadly, according to numerous reports, as well as hints dropped by Israeli and some Arab leaders, Israel and Sunni Arab states—led by Saudi Arabia—are also working together against the Iranian axis, the second of the two most threatening forces now operating in Syria.

Not only, then, do the Arab and Muslim countries as corporate bodies denounce Israel as a “macabre” criminal even as it acts as a crucial ally of not a few of these countries. They also react with outrage to the very Israeli policy—retaining the Golan—that keeps Israel strong in the face of the threats emanating from Syrian territory.

The signers of Tuesday’s communiqué in Jeddah know that there no longer exists a “Syrian people” to which sovereignty on the Golan could be restored. Some of the signers also know that a strong Israel is now one of the guarantors of their survival; and more specifically, that Israel’s presence on the Golan helps shield Jordan from imminent peril.

That Netanyahu’s words about keeping the Golan continue to spark fierce denunciations, then, reflects something deeper: an ongoing, profound antipathy to Israeli—that is, Jewish—control of any land in what is seen as, by rights, a Muslim domain. From that standpoint, even for Israel to hold onto a sliver of what used to be Syria, won in a defensive war almost half a century ago, is intolerable.

That same antipathy was on display earlier this month when seven Arab countries—including Egypt—got UNESCO to pass a particularly vicious resolution negating any Jewish connection to Judaism’s most sacred sites in Jerusalem, declaring them exclusively Muslim sites, and going so far as to accuse Israel of “planting Jewish fake graves in…Muslim cemeteries.” (Among the “yea” votes: France, Spain, and Sweden.)

These rhetorical eruptions suggest that, despite the growing behind-the-scenes collaborations, Israel remains very far from being accepted and legitimized in the region. Its best bet is to keep building its power, which gets some of its neighbors to deal with it pragmatically and rationally.

As for the Arab and Muslim countries, their continuing hang-up with the geographically tiny Jewish state, and repeated displays of ganging up on it in righteous fury, are unedifying and linked to their inability to tackle their real problems.