Archive for the ‘Arab nations’ category

Editor Of ‘Al-Sharq Al-Awsat’: The Indian Prime Minister’s Visit To Israel – Cause For Arab Envy

July 24, 2017

Editor Of ‘Al-Sharq Al-Awsat’: The Indian Prime Minister’s Visit To Israel – Cause For Arab Envy, MEMRI,July 24, 2017

Following the recent visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Israel and his failure to visit Ramallah, Ghassan Charbel, editor of the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, published an article about the economic and cultural gaps between the West and the Arab world and about the contrast between Israel’s successes in science and technology and the weaknesses of its Arab neighbors, as reflected in Modi’s Israel visit. Charbel noted that the West pays close attention to issues such as human rights, protection of the environment, and public health, while the Arab world neglects them, which is why Arabs feel envious of the West. As for Israel, Charbel notes its scientific and technological capabilities and what it has to offer to a giant world power such as India, contrasting it with Israel’s neighbors, mired in extremism and internal wars. Charbel notes that in the past India was the first country to support the Palestinians in every way, while today its Prime Minister, upon visiting the region, ignored them completely. According to Charbel, this causes Arabs to feel not only envious but completely defeated.

The following are excerpts from his article:[1]

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (image: watanserb.com)

“The Arab feels envy when he comes into contact with the developed world. A friend of mine fled his country, which is sinking into darkness and despair, and settled in London. He bought a house [there] and waited for the war [in his country] to end. One day, a tree in his small garden bothered him and he decided to ‘execute’ it. He asked his British neighbor if he knew someone who could do the job, and the neighbor laughed [and said], ‘you have no right to kill the tree, even if it belongs to you. First, you have to submit a request to the local council and convince it of the reasons [for your wish to cut down the tree]. The law here protects trees. You have to obtain a permit, and only after that comes the job of the murderer.’

“My friend was astonished. He comes from a world in which an [entire] city can be razed and no one would bat an eyelash. A citizen can be killed, and neither his wife nor his mother will have the right to ask why… A tree here [in Britain] has more rights than a citizen of the [Arab] countries of torture and suffering.

“Envy is neither a useful nor a noble emotion and it usually opens the gates of bitterness and hatred, [yet] it is not unusual for an Arab to suffer from this malady [of envy]. If an Arab visits a museum in a developed country he immediately thinks about what happened to the antiquities in Iraq and in Syria… If he notices the attention paid in Oslo to public health he remembers where the sewage flows in some Arab capital or another.

“Trying to minimize his disappointment, the Arab sometimes searches for excuses for the yawning chasm between him and the developed world. We are in a completely different historical phase. Those countries [in Europe] are reaping the fruits of great events that occurred there and changed the face of the world: the French Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, the ideas of the Renaissance, the separation of church and state, German philosophy, and the huge change in the status of women.

“The Arab feels envy again, [because] the Europeans experienced wars between nationalities and sects, border disputes and plans for conquering and wiping out [the other]. They painted the continent and the whole world with blood – but they emerged in the end with conclusions. The empires became [exhibits on] museum shelves and sentences in history books; borders were transformed into bridges, not walls; [the European] societies accepted the right to be different. Minorities are no longer thought of as mines that must be defused. The constitutions [in Europe] prevent the majority from erasing the characteristics of those who disagree with it. These countries no longer seek historic leaders whose biographies are soaked in blood; they seek governments that devote [themselves] to fighting unemployment, developing the economy, encouraging investments, protecting the environment, and [combatting] the problem of climate change. The visiting Arab is consumed with envy.

“Let us set aside talk of trees and antiquities, since there is worse to come. The Arab notes that [Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled all his plans so he could graciously receive his guest, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This was the first visit by an Indian prime minister to Israel. Another thing that attracted attention was that the guest felt no need to visit Ramallah, which gladdened his hosts. We are talking about India, which was the first to express understanding for the aspirations of the Palestinians and did not hesitate to stand alongside them in international forums…

“Modi evidently sees Israel as a technological lighthouse, and spoke about the need for his gigantic country to benefit from Israel’s capabilities in this sphere. The result was that Modi and Netanyahu signed an agreement worth $2 billion, according to which India will receive the Israeli Iron Dome System to [detect and intercept] rockets and artillery. In addition, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed to establish an India-Israel Industrial R&D and Innovation Fund. Other agreements included areas such as water, agricultural development in India, and partnership in economic projects in Africa and the developing world.

“It is not enough to explain what happened by saying that Modi belongs to an extremist nationalist Hindu stream and that ‘jihadist’ terrorism increased his conviction that ties with Israel should be strengthened. The important point is that a country the size of Israel has something to offer the Indian army, beyond the role it [already] played in the past in developing the Soviet and Russian weapons that were owned by India; that it also has something to offer [in the spheres of] agricultural development and treatment of water problems, and [can maintain] a strategic military, security, and economic relationship with a country of the size and stature of India.

“The Arab was disturbed by the arrogance of Netanyahu’s speeches during Modi’s visit, but when he opened the map of the terrifying Middle East, he discovered that Israel had achieved a series of victories in recent years without firing a single bullet. Maps, countries, armies and economies around it have crumbled. Waves of extremism caused catastrophes in some parts of the Arab world compared to which the Palestinian Nakba is but one clause among many.

“This time the Arab felt not only envy, but felt the total defeat of the one who cannot join the [modern] era.”

 

[1]Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), July 10, 2017.

Egypt’s Sisi opens biggest military base in Middle East and Africa

July 23, 2017

Egypt’s Sisi opens biggest military base in Middle East and Africa, al-Arabiya,The Associated Press, July 22, 2017

“We can never forgive those who spend billions of dollars in support of terrorism to kill our people and then speak about brotherhood and neighborhood”.

Addressing terror sponsors, he said “killing innocent people will never go scot-free.”

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Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi launched Mohammed Naguib military base in a huge ceremony in El Hammam city west of Alexandria on Saturday.

Mohammed Naguib military base is the biggest in the Middle East and Africa, reported Egyptian media.

President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi underlined that the Arab participation in the inauguration ceremony of Mohammed Naguib military base is a cogent proof of Arab unity.

The president welcomed Arab guests who participated in the ceremony that also celebrated the graduates of colleges and military institutes.

Arab princes and ambassadors headed by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Bahrain, Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Prince Khalid Al Faisal, Emir of Mecca and Sheikh Mohammad Al-Khalid Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, Kuwaiti Minister of Defense and Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar the Libyan National Army commander attended the ceremony of opening the base which is named after late president Mohamed Naguib.

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi launched Mohammed Naguib military base in a huge ceremony in El Hammam city west of Alexandria. (Screengrab)

Sisi stressed the importance of constructive cooperation to confront the challenges besetting the Arab nation.

President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi graduated new batches of the Armed Forces propped up by modern science and high-level training to be in charge of defending the nation.

He said the base was named after late Egyptian president Mohammed Naguib in honor of his patriotic efforts.

Sisi urged new graduates to be highly vigilant and ready for fighting in view of the watershed stage through which the region and whole world are passing.

Sisi said sacrificing for the nation’s security, stability and dignity is the duty of staunch sons of the nation.

He told the graduates that they are joining an ancient patriotic institution in charge of defending the nation, noting that Egyptians have always fully trusted their army.

The president paid tribute to Egypt’s martyrs of the Armed Forces and police who sacrificed their souls for their country.

He told the families of the martyrs that they sacrificed their sons to protect Egypt and confront terrorism and extremism, cautioning that terrorists are trying to affect the morale of the Egyptians.

As for states who interfere in the Egyptian affairs, President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi said these countries will never be able to harm Egypt or regional countries, adding that no country has the right to interfere in other countries’ affairs.

He highlighted that there are billions being spent to destroy countries, including Egypt.

Addressing Arab military graduates, he said we send a message to the world that Arabs join hands to build not to destroy, connive or foment sedition.

He said Egypt is now fighting in two battles; one for countering terrorism and the other for realizing socio-economic development.

Sisi said war tactics have changed and enemies resort to panicking people and spreading desperation in lieu of direct confrontations.

President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi expounded that terrorism is a multi-facet and complicated phenomenon, underlining the role of states and organizations that nurture and bankroll terrorism.

Mohammed Naguib military base is the biggest in the Middle East and Africa. (Screengrab)

Egypt will never forgive terror-funding countries

He added: “We can never forgive those who spend billions of dollars in support of terrorism to kill our people and then speak about brotherhood and neighborhood”.

Addressing terror sponsors, he said “killing innocent people will never go scot-free.”

He said, “Egypt will remain a peace-loving nation and will never kowtow to terrorist threats and those behind them.”

Sisi added that terrorism will never be a pretext to suspend economic reform and development as well as efforts to realize sustainable development.

“Terrorism, however, will be a catalyst for exerting more efforts at all levels” added the president of Egypt.

President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi urged people to bear the burdens of comprehensive economic development to reap its fruits which is a modern state and a dignified life.

For decades, the Egyptian economy failed to realize the optimal use of resources and economic crises piled up, but now the current generation has laid down strong foundations for a new modern Egypt whose people would enjoy prosperity and welfare.

The opening ceremony of Mohammed Naguib military base in Alexandria. (Screengrab)

He said the economic reform program is well examined, noting that Egypt is opening the door for all serious investors of Egypt, Arab or foreign states, creating jobs for youths and upping state revenues to realize a quantum leap in all services offered to people, especially health and education.

Sisi said he is sure that the Egyptians are aware of their high interests and they are adamant to proceed with economic reforms.

He voiced appreciation for the Egyptian people who understand the requirements of the economic reform program.

Temple Mt. opens in stages amid terror probe

July 15, 2017

Temple Mt. opens in stages amid terror probe, DEBKAfile, July 15, 2017

Pressure on Israel from the Arab world to reopen Temple Mount and its mosques for Muslim prayer without delay has been strongly countered by the Israeli police and security authorities. They need more time to complete their investigation of the scene of the terror attack, Friday, July 14, in which two Israeli officers on guard were shot dead and a third injured. The three Israeli Arabs who committed the murders were shot dead in the subsequent firefight outside the Dome of the Rock.

The Israeli government also decided that the shrine, which is sacred to three monotheistic faiths, needs better security installed before it is judged safe for worship and visits.

On Saturday, Washington came to the aid of the investigation. Strongly condemning the “heartbreaking act of terror on Temple Mount,” the White House press secretary added: “The attack forced the government of Israel to temporarily close the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif to conduct its investigation,” said the statement. “Israel has assured the world that it has no intention to alter the status of this holy site, a decision which the United States applauds and welcomes.”

Saturday night, the Netanyahu government Saturday nevertheless ordered Temple Mount opened Sunday “in stages” –  which gives the police and security authorities a little breathing space.

The police have been combing through the “scene of terror,” to reconstruct the crime and discover the secret arms caches hidden there. This undertaking is vast, complex and exceptionally sensitive.

The Temple Mount surface platform is 150,000 sq. meters in area with nine ancient open gates. It stands atop 13 historic periods of construction and destruction, each of which has left layer upon layer of mostly unexplored tunnels, pipes, caves, pits, shafts and debris. Even archeologists working there for decades and the clerical staff of the Waqf authority in charge of Muslim rites there can’t claim to have explored all the warrens hidden under the paved surface.

It is also suspected that there may be secret underground channels running under the Temple Mount wall and leading outside the compound.

The police are meanwhile keeping their cards very close to their vests. They have detained some Waqf officials on suspicion of a connection with the terrorists, without releasing figures, and discovered a quantity of firearms. But the cops, unfamiliar with this unique ancient site, don’t know what they will find. They are after information about the identities of the party which instructed them to hide the two rifles and pistols used by the terrorists and said when they should be handed over. In short, whether a terrorist network exists on Temple Mount.

Relatives of the three terrorists, who belonged to the same clan in the Israeli Arab town of Umm al-Fahm, have been detained in search of information about how they came to perform the first act of terror by Moslems on Temple Mount. Most of the town and other parts of the Arab population are hostile to the investigation.

Israeli Arab community leaders, including their 13 parliamentarians, have refused to condemn the attack, willing only to voice regret for all the deaths inflicted Friday, including the three assailants.

This was resented not only by Israelis at large, but most bitterly by the Druze community, which buried two of its sons, Hail Stawi, 30, from Maghar and Kamil Shanan, 22, from Hurfeish both in northern Israel. They were shot to death while guarding the holy site.

The Temple terror investigation has exposed troubling animosities in Israeli Arab society.

OPINION: Is the US Secretary of State on Qatar’s side?

July 12, 2017

OPINION: Is the US Secretary of State on Qatar’s side? Al ArabiyaAbdulrahman al-Rashed, July 12, 2017

(Al Arabiya is a Saudi site, but I too have occasionally wondered whose side Secretary Tillerson is on. — DM)

Qatar’s foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani (R) shakes hands with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson following a joint news conference in Doha, Qatar, July 11, 2017. REUTERS/Naseem Zeitoon TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY – RTX3B2A2

The four boycotting countries are not the only ones that want to deter Qatar as most of the region’s countries and other countries support this goal and believe Doha is responsible for chaos, extremism and terrorism. The US secretary of state can save Qatar from itself before it suffers the consequences of its malicious actions.

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US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will meet the angry foreign ministers of the four countries which boycotted Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, in Jeddah on Wednesday. He will be confronting governments that made up their minds as they believe Doha is behind the dangerous unrest. We do not expect these countries to retreat after they made promises and took public measures to hold Doha’s authorities accountable by boycotting them.

Statements and hints made by Tillerson at the press conference in Doha do not reflect optimism as he rather simplified the problem by summing up the solution with signing an agreement in which Doha’s government pledges to fight terrorism. What an accomplishment!

Manipulation

The Qataris tried to manipulate him by confusing the real reasons behind the dispute and protesting over formal points such as revealing the secrets of their commitments in the Riyadh agreement and its annexes. They were embarrassed after they were leaked to CNN because this exposed that everything Qatar said in the international media contradicted its secret commitments. Qatar is of course to blame because it’s the one which began this war of leaks when it revealed the secrets of the four governments’ message pertaining to the Kuwaiti mediation that included 13 demands. Qatar revealed these secrets out of its desire to embarrass these four governments.

What makes Jeddah’s meeting difficult today is that Tillerson seemed inclined to Qatar. What increased suspicions is how he rushed to concluding that Qatar’s demands are reasonable before he even listened to the other involved parties. This raised eyebrows! The secretary of state can be inclined to the Qatari position, if he wants to, but he must realize that this complicates the problem, which is already complicated, and prolongs the crisis. The four boycotting countries have been harmed on the financial, political, media and security levels due to Qatar’s activities and practices, and they have made up their minds especially after recent developments that they think directly target their regimes.

Tillerson cannot impose a reconciliation. However he can narrow distances among the different parties as they are all his allies instead of being biased to one party against another, especially that Qatar is the one which made pledges several times but violated them.

Refusing to change

Tensions will rise as long as Doha’s authorities refuse to change. We know how Doha thinks and deceives others and we’re aware that it does not intend to change amid ordinary circumstances. The four boycotting countries will not back down because they believe they’re defending their existence in a region dominated by chaos, and it does not make sense to fight Iran while letting Qatar’s government threatens their existence and backstabs them. The crisis has clear goals which are deterring Qatar and eliminating its project of change. These four countries will jeopardize their existence and stability if they do not meet these goals. Egypt is launching the biggest war against terrorism in its modern history and it views Qatar as an efficient party which through its secret funding and propaganda via its media channels justifies these terrorist groups’ actions and incites people to rebel against the regime. Saudi Arabia is confronting similar threats and Qatar’s involvement has been proven. The UAE shares the same stance and it addressed this at early stages when it adopted policies that have zero tolerance with extremist groups and their ideology. Bahrain suffered more and it was all due to Qatar. How can Tillerson convince the four countries which are fighting survival wars to reconcile with the responsible party? How long will intentions be tested after Qatar failed so many times?

The four boycotting countries are not the only ones that want to deter Qatar as most of the region’s countries and other countries support this goal and believe Doha is responsible for chaos, extremism and terrorism. The US secretary of state can save Qatar from itself before it suffers the consequences of its malicious actions.

The Former Anchor Who Says Al-Jazeera Aids Terrorists

June 23, 2017

The Former Anchor Who Says Al-Jazeera Aids Terrorists, Bloomberg, Eli Lake, June 23, 2017

(Please see also Qatar’s neighbors issue steep list of demands to end crisis. — DM)

Mohamed Fahmy in the defendants’ cage during his trial in Egypt. Photographer: Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images

“The more the network coordinates and takes directions from the government, the more it becomes a mouthpiece for Qatari intelligence,” he told me in an interview Thursday. “There are many channels who are biased, but this is past bias. Now al-Jazeera is a voice for terrorists.” 

Fahmy’s testimony is particularly important now. Al-Jazeera is at the center of a crisis ripping apart the Arab Gulf states. Earlier this month Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain imposed a political and diplomatic blockade on Qatar. As part of that blockade, al-Jazeera has been kicked out of those countries.

Fahmy’s case is one more piece of evidence that the al-Jazeera seen by English-speaking audiences is not the al-Jazeera seen throughout the Muslim world. It’s one more piece of evidence that Qatar’s foreign policy is a double game: It hosts a military base the U.S. uses to fight terror, while funding a media platform for extremists.

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Mohamed Fahmy is the last person one would expect to make the case against al-Jazeera.

In 2014, the former Cairo bureau chief for the Qatar-funded television network began a 438-day sentence in an Egyptian prison on terrorism charges and practicing unlicensed journalism. His incarceration made al-Jazeera a powerful symbol of resistance to Egypt’s military dictatorship.

Today Fahmy is preparing a lawsuit against his former employers. And while he is still highly critical of the regime that imprisoned him, he also says the Egyptian government is correct when it says al-Jazeera is really a propaganda channel for Islamists and an arm of Qatari foreign policy.

“The more the network coordinates and takes directions from the government, the more it becomes a mouthpiece for Qatari intelligence,” he told me in an interview Thursday. “There are many channels who are biased, but this is past bias. Now al-Jazeera is a voice for terrorists.”

Fahmy’s testimony is particularly important now. Al-Jazeera is at the center of a crisis ripping apart the Arab Gulf states. Earlier this month Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain imposed a political and diplomatic blockade on Qatar. As part of that blockade, al-Jazeera has been kicked out of those countries.

The treatment of al-Jazeera as an arm of the Qatari state as opposed to a news organization does not sit well with many in the West. This week a New York Times editorial accused Qatar’s foes of “muzzling” a news outlet “that could lead citizens to question their rulers” in the Arab world.

In some ways it’s understandable for English-speaking audiences to take this view. Al-Jazeera’s English-language broadcasts certainly veer politically to the left. At times the channel has sucked up to police states. The channel embarrassed itself with such fluff as a recent sycophantic feature on female traffic cops in North Korea. But al-Jazeera English has also broken some important stories. It worked with Human Rights Watch to uncover documents mapping out the links between Libyan intelligence under Muammar Qaddafi and the British and U.S. governments.

Al-Jazeera’s Arabic broadcasts however have not met these same standards in recent years. To start, the network still airs a weekly talk show from Muslim Brotherhood theologian Yusuf al-Qaradawi. He has used his platform to argue that Islamic law justifies terrorist attacks against Israelis and U.S. soldiers. U.S. military leaders, such as retired Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez, who commanded forces in the initial campaign to stabilize Iraq, have said publicly that al-Jazeera reporters appeared to have advance knowledge of terrorist attacks. Fahmy told me that in his research he has learned that instructions were given to journalists not to refer to al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, al-Nusra, as a terrorist organization.

He said Qatar’s neighbors were justified in banning al-Jazeera. “Al-Jazeera has breached the true meaning of press freedom that I advocate and respect by sponsoring these voices of terror like Yusuf al Qaradawi,” he said. “If al-Jazeera continues to do that, they are directly responsible for many of these lone wolves, many of these youth that are brain washed.”

Fahmy didn’t always have this opinion of his former employer. He began to change his views while serving time. It started in the “scorpion block” of Egypt’s notorious Tora prison. During his stay, he came to know some of Egypt’s most notorious Islamists.

“When I started meeting and interviewing members of the Muslim Brotherhood and their sympathizers, they specifically told me they had been filming protests and selling it to al-Jazeera and dealing fluidly with the network and production companies in Egypt associated with the network,” he said.

One example of al-Jazeera’s coordination with the Muslim Brotherhood revolves around Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins in the summer of 2013, following the military coup that unseated Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated president. As part of Fahmy’s case against al-Jazeera, he took testimony from a former security guard for the network and the head of the board of trustees for Egyptian state television. Both testified that members of the Muslim Brotherhood seized the broadcast truck al-Jazeera used to air the sit-ins that summer. In other words, al-Jazeera allowed the Muslim Brotherhood to broadcast its own protests.

That incident happened in the weeks before Fahmy was hired to be the network’s Cairo bureau chief. He says he was unaware of these ties to the Muslim Brotherhood until he began doing his own research and reporting from an Egyptian prison.

When Fahmy learned of these arrangements, he became angry. It undermined his case before the Egyptian courts that he was unaffiliated with any political party or terrorist groups inside Egypt. “To me this is a big deal, this is not acceptable,” he said. “It put me in danger because it’s up to me to convince the judge that I was just doing journalism.”

Ultimately Fahmy was released from prison in 2015. But this was not because al-Jazeera’s lawyers made a good case for him. Rather it was the work of human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who eventually got him safely out of the country to Canada.

Now Fahmy is turning his attention to al-Jazeera. He is pressing a court in British Columbia to hear his case in January against the network, from whom he is seeking $100 million in damages for breach of contract, misrepresentation and negligence.

Fahmy’s case is one more piece of evidence that the al-Jazeera seen by English-speaking audiences is not the al-Jazeera seen throughout the Muslim world. It’s one more piece of evidence that Qatar’s foreign policy is a double game: It hosts a military base the U.S. uses to fight terror, while funding a media platform for extremists.

Qatar’s neighbors issue steep list of demands to end crisis

June 23, 2017

Qatar’s neighbors issue steep list of demands to end crisis, Israel Hayom, Associated Press and Israel Hayom Staff, June 23, 2017

(Please see also, BREAKING: Gulf States Give Qatar List of Demands To Restore Diplomatic Relationships – All Demands Target The Muslim Brotherhood. — DM)

Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani | Photo credit: Reuters

Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries that have cut ties to Qatar issued a steep list of demands Thursday to end the crisis, insisting that their Persian Gulf neighbor shutter Al Jazeera, cut back diplomatic ties to Iran and close down a Turkish military base in Qatar.

In a 13-point list — presented to the Qataris by Kuwait, which is helping mediate the crisis — the countries also demand that Qatar sever all ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and with other groups including Hezbollah, al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain cut ties to Qatar this month over allegations the Persian Gulf country funds terrorism — an accusation that U.S. President Donald Trump has echoed. Those countries have now given Qatar 10 days to comply with all of the demands, which include paying an unspecified sum in compensation.

According to the list, Qatar must refuse to naturalize citizens from the four countries and expel those currently in Qatar, in what the countries describe as an effort to keep Qatar from meddling in their internal affairs.

They are also demanding that Qatar hand over all individuals who are wanted by those four countries for terrorism; stop funding any extremist entities that are designated as terrorist groups by the U.S.; and provide detailed information about opposition figures that Qatar has funded, ostensibly in Saudi Arabia and the other nations.

Qatar’s government did not have any immediate reaction to the list. Nor did the United States. Earlier this week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had insisted that Qatar’s neighbors provide a list of demands that was “reasonable and actionable.”

Though Qatar’s neighbors have focused their grievances on alleged Qatari support for extremism, they have also voiced loud concerns about Qatar’s relationship with Iran, the Shiite-led country that is a regional foe for Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-led nations.

The Iran provisions in the document say Qatar must shut down diplomatic posts in Iran, kick out from Qatar any members of the Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard, and only conduct trade and commerce with Iran that complies with U.S. sanctions. Under the 2015 nuclear deal, nuclear-related sanctions on Iran were eased but other sanctions remain in place.

The demands regarding Al Jazeera, the Doha-based satellite broadcaster, state that Qatar must also shut down all affiliates. That presumably would mean Qatar would have to close down Al Jazeera’s English-language affiliate. Qatar’s neighbors accuse Al Jazeera of fomenting unrest in the region and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.

If Qatar agrees to comply, the list asserts that it will be audited once a month for the first year, and then once per quarter in the second year after it takes effect. For the following 10 years, Qatar would be monitored annually for compliance.

U.S.: Strategic Objectives in the Middle East

June 22, 2017

U.S.: Strategic Objectives in the Middle East, Gatestone InstitutePeter Huessy, June 22, 2017

On relations with the Palestinian Authority, the administration has moved to improve matters but has not moved to advocate a two-state solution — for which there is no contemplated security framework sufficient to protect Israel.

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The new “test” of our alliance will be whether the assembled nations will join in removing the hateful parts of such a doctrine from their communities.

What still has to be considered is the U.S. approach to stopping Iran from filling the vacuum created by ridding the region of the Islamic State (ISIS), as well as Iran’s push for extending its path straight through to the Mediterranean.

The tectonic plates in the Middle East have shifted markedly with President Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia and Israel, and his announced new regional policy.

The trip represented the beginning of a major but necessary shift in US security policy.

For much of the last nearly half-century, American Middle East policy has been centered on the “peace process” and how to bring Israel and the Palestinians to agreement on a “two-state” solution for two peoples — a phrase that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas refuses to say.

First was shuttle diplomacy during 1973-74 in the Nixon administration; then second, in 1978, the Camp David agreement and the recognition of Israel by Egypt, made palatable by $7 billion in new annual US assistance to the two nations; third, the anti-Hizballah doctrine, recently accurately described by National Security Advisor General H.R. McMaster, as Iran, since 1983, started spreading its terror to Lebanon and elsewhere in the region. This last effort was often excused by many American and European analysts as a result somehow, of supposed American bad faith. Fourth, came the birth, in 1992, of the “Oslo Accords” where some Israelis and Palestinians imagined that a two-state solution was just another round of negotiations away.

Ironically, during the decade after Oslo, little peace was achieved; instead, terror expanded dramatically. The Palestinians launched three wars, “Intifadas,” against Israel; Al Qaeda launched its terror attacks on U.S. Embassies in Africa; and Iran, Hizballah, and Al Qaeda together carried out the forerunner attacks against America of 9/11/2001.

Since 9/11, despite wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, terrorism has not only failed to recede; on the contrary, it has expanded. Iran has become the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism, and the Islamic State (ISIS) has tried to establish a transnational “Islamic caliphate.” Literally tens of thousands of terror attacks have been carried out since 9/11 by those claiming an Islamic duty to do so. These assaults on Western civilization have taken place on bridges, cafes, night clubs, offices, military recruitment centers, theaters, markets, and sporting events — not only across the West but also in countries where Muslims have often been the primary victims.

Particularly condemnable have been the improvised explosive device (IED) attacks against U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, perpetrated to a great extent by Iran, according to U.S. military testimony before Congress.

All the while, we in the West keep trying to convince ourselves that, as a former American president thought, if there were a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, most of the terrorist attacks we see in Europe and the United States “would disappear.”

No matter how hard we may rhetorically push the “peace process”, there is no arc of history that bends naturally in that direction. Rather, nations such as the United States together with its allies must create those alliances best able to meet the challenges to peace and especially defeat the totalitarian elements at the core of Islamist ideology.

If anything, the so-called Middle East “peace process” has undercut chances of achieving a sound U.S. security policy. While the search for a solution to the Israel-Palestinian “problem” dominated American thinking about Middle East peace for so many decades, other far more serious threats materialized but were often ignored, not the least of which was the rise of Iran as the world’s most aggressive terrorist.

The United States has now moved in a markedly more promising and thoughtful direction.

The new American administration has put together an emerging coalition of nations led by the United States that seeks five objectives:

(1) the defeat of Islamic State;

(2) the formation of a coalition of the major Arab nations, especially Egypt and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to clean up in their own back yards financing terrorism and providing terrorists with sanctuary. As Elliott Abrams, an adviser to former U.S. President George W. Bush, cautions us, however, this will not be an easy effort: “Partnerships with repressive regimes may in some cases exacerbate rather than solve the problem for us” but, Abrams says, “gradual reform is exactly the right approach…”;

3) “driving out” sharia-inspired violence and human rights abuses from the region’s mosques and madrassas;

(4) a joint partnership with Israel as part of an emerging anti-Iran coalition — without letting relations with the Palestinian authority derail United States and Israeli security interests; and

(5) the adoption of a strategy directly to challenge Iran’s quest for regional and Islamic hegemony, while ending its role in terrorism.

Defeating Islamic State

Defeating ISIS began with an accelerated military campaign and a new American-led strategy to destroy the organization rather than to seek its containment. According to the new U.S. Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, “Our intention is that the foreign fighters do not survive the fight to return home to North Africa, to Europe, to America, to Asia. We’re going to stop them there and take apart the caliphate.”

Secretary of Defense James Mattis. (Dept. of Defense/Brigitte N. Brantley)

So far, the United States coalition has driven ISIS from 55,000 square kilometers of territory in Iraq and Syria.

A New Coalition

Apart from a strategy to counter ISIS, the Trump administration also called on our allies in the Middle East to put together a new joint multi-state effort to stop financing terrorism. Leading the multi-state effort will be the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States, which together will supposedly open a new center dedicated to the elimination of terrorist financing. Positive results are not guaranteed, but it is a step in the right direction.

According to Abdul Hadi Habtoor, the center will exchange information about financing networks, adopt means to cut off funding from terrorist groups, and hopefully blacklist Iran’s jihadist army, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). These measures in turn will help eliminate the sanctuaries from which terrorists plot and plan.

This move also places emphasis on the responsibility of states to eliminate terrorism. As President Trump said, each country — where it is sovereign — has to “carry the weight of their own self-defense“, be “pro-active” and responsible for “eradicating terrorism”, and “to deny all territory to the foot soldiers of evil”.

This determination was underscored by many Arab countries breaking diplomatic relations with Qatar for its support of Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS. Most of Qatar’s Arab neighbors, including the Saudis, Egypt, and the UAE did so, while the US, although denouncing Qatar’s support of terrorism, continues to maintain access to, and use of, its critical military base there.

In short, the U.S. is playing good-cop, bad-cop in the region, while U.S. allies are putting together what Josh Rogin of the Washington Post described as “a regional security architecture encompassing countries on the periphery of Iran.”

Such an approach is not without risk: Turkey, allied with Iran and Qatar, has already has pledged to help Qatar defy the Gulf States’ trade cut-off. If Turkey, for example, seeks to move its promised aid shipments to Qatar through the Suez Canal, the ships could possibly be blocked by Egypt or attacked on the high seas. Does the U.S. then come to the assistance of a NATO member — Turkey — against an ally in the strategic coalition?

Drive Hateful Ideology Out

A companion challenge by the new American President underscored this new security effort. President Trump said to the assembled nations of the Islamic conference that they have to expel the ugly Islamist ideology from the mosques and madrassas that recruit terrorists and justify their actions.

Trump said: “Drive them out of your places of worship”. Such words had never been spoken so clearly by an American president, especially to the collection of nearly all the Islamic-majority countries (minus the Shi’ite bloc) gathered together.

The president’s audience doubtless understood that he was speaking of the doctrine of sharia (Islamic law). The new “test” of our alliance will be whether the assembled nations will join in removing the hateful parts of the doctrine from their communities. It was a sharp but critical departure from the previous American administration’s message in Cairo in 2009, and placed the Islamic doctrine that seeks to establish the sharia throughout the world in a contained context.

New Israeli Partnership

With Israel, the administration has cemented the next part of its strategy. Here the Trump administration successfully improved our political and military relations with Israel. Markedly so. One part of that effort was enhanced missile-defense cooperation called for in the FY18 United States defense budget, specifically to deal with Iranian and Iranian-allied missile threats.

On relations with the Palestinian Authority, the administration has moved to improve matters but has not moved to advocate a two-state solution — for which there is no contemplated security framework sufficient to protect Israel.

Challenge and Roll Back Iran

The final part of the administration’s strategy starts with a thorough review of our Iran strategy and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or “nuclear deal”, with Iran. As Max Singer recently wrote, even if we discount what secretive nuclear capability Iran may now have, the Iranian regime will at the very least be much closer to producing nuclear weapons down the road than when the JCPOA was agreed to.

As Ambassador John Bolton has warned the nuclear deal with Iran did nothing to restrain Iranian harmful behavior: “Defiant missile launches… support for the genocidal Assad regime… backing of then Houthi insurgency in Yemen… worldwide support for terrorism… and commitment to the annihilation of Israel” continue.

In addition, uranium enrichment, heavy water production, the concealed military dimensions of warhead development and joint missile and nuclear work with North Korea all lend a critical urgency to countering Iran’s lethal efforts. The United States did not make these counter-efforts any easier by providing to Tehran $100 billion in escrowed Iranian funds, equivalent to nearly one quarter of the Islamic Republic’s annual GDP.

The United States’ and Europe’s easing of sanctions on Iran has helped reintegrate Iran into global markets via mechanisms such as the electronic payment system run by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT). That, in turn, has helped Iran expand dramatically its military modernization budget by 33%, including deals worth tens of billions of dollars in military hardware with China and Russia.

Added to that is Iranian financial- and weapons-support for foreign fighters in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and Afghanistan. Iran’s significant support to the Houthi rebels in Yemen includes weaponry, financing and logistical support, including advanced offensive missiles. The Houthis regularly attempt to carry out missile attacks against Saudi oil facilities.

Such Iran activity is described by the Commander of U.S. Central Command, General Joseph Votel, as “the most significant threat to the Central Region and to our national interests and the interest of our partners and allies”.

As such, it can only be challenged through exactly the kind of military, political, and economic coalition the Trump administration is seeking to band together, which would include the Gulf Arab nations, especially Saudi Arabia, as well as Egypt, Jordan, and Israel.

The administration’s five-step strategy has a chance to work. It creates a policy to destroy ISIS; oppose Islamic terrorism and specifically the imposition of sharia; adopt measures to go after the financing of such terrorism; implement improvements in Gulf allies’ military capabilities — including missile defenses — parallel with pushing NATO members to meet their military spending obligations; put back into place a sound and cooperative relationship with Israel; and specifically contain and roll back Iranian hegemonic ambitions and its terror-master ways.

What still has to be considered, however, is the U.S. approach to stopping Iran from filling the vacuum created by ridding the region of ISIS, as well as Iran’s push for extending its path straight through to the Mediterranean.

If successful, some modicum of peace may be brought to the Middle East. And the arc of history will have finally been shaped toward America’s interests and those of its allies, rather than — however inadvertently — toward its mortal enemies.

Dr. Peter Huessy is President of GeoStrategic Analysis, a defense consulting firm he founded in 1981, and was the senior defense consultant at the National Defense University Foundation for more than 20 years.