Posted tagged ‘Arab nations’

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.

Will Trump make a peace breakthrough in 2018?

June 15, 2017

Will Trump make a peace breakthrough in 2018? DEBKAfile, June 15, 2017

(Lots of speculation about future events, but an interesting piece nevertheless. — DM)

US President Donald Trump’s goal of generating a rapid improvement of Israel’s ties with the Arab world, including the Palestinians in 2018, is not just up to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, but depends largely on how the Trump administration handles the continuing conflict between Qatar and its powerful Arab opponents, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Up until the end of this week, Trump had turned down the efforts of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis to resolve the Gulf conflict by diplomacy. Instead of heeding them, the president took the advice of the Saudi defense minister, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir, who visited Washington this week. Tillerson and Mattis tried to arrange a conference between Saudi Arabia and Qatar so as to gradually ease the tensions, but Trump torpedoed the initiative by adopting Riyadh’s tough line.

A complex situation has arisen in the last few days regarding the US diplomacy for bringing Israel and the Palestinians aboard a peace process. The signs of movement on this score fluctuate between crises and some progress:

1. The Gaza electricity row falls under the first heading. Some circles contend that the crisis is artificial, since the Palestinian enclave is receiving as much power now as before. What is different is the new, intensified pressure by Egypt on the one hand and the Palestinian Authority on the other in the hope of toppling Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip or squeezing its leaders into toeing their lines. Neither Egyptian President Abel Fatteh El-Sisi nor the Palestinian Authority chairman has made headway. Hamas stubbornly refuses Cairo’s demand to sever ties with Qatar, while launching a counteroffensive to draw Israel into the dispute by making an empty threat of an “explosion.”

Israel responded with a counter-threat on Thursday, June 15: a proposal to transfer one hour’s worth of power from West Bank Palestinian towns to boost the supply to Gaza.

This maneuver kept the entire electricity issue in the court from it was tossed, Ramallah.

2. A shower of Israeli concessions is landing on the Palestinians judging by almost daily reports. Some are true and others false. But in sum, they are designed to impress President Trump with the Netanyahu government’s good will towards his peace initiative and readiness to take steps in its support. In fact, the prime minister is preparing the ground for the forthcoming arrival of Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s envoy on the Israel-Palestinian issue.

3. US Secretary of State Tillerson this week informed the Senate that the Palestinian Authority had agreed to  halt its payments to the families of Palestinian terrorists who were killed while carrying out attacks against Israelis. Palestinian officials no doubt let this be understood to demonstrate their willingness to go along with Trump’s peace initiative, without, however, have any real intention of following through.

4. Media reports and the findings of Arab research institutes add up to the following predictions on the fate of the negotiations generated by the Trump administration between Israel and the Arab world:

A. Some time during 2018, a showcase summit will be staged for Trump, Netanyahu and leading Arab rulers like Saudi King Salman, Egyptian President El-Sisi and the UAE’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

They will publish a joint declaration signaling the phased normalization of relations with Israel by such preliminary steps as the exchange of economic and business delegations, the opening of trade offices and of Arab skies to Israeli commecial flights. None of these researchers is clear about the Palestinian role in this event.

B. Meanwhile, Israel will make concessions towards improving the lives of ordinary Palestinians, such as removing checkpoints, issuing building permits for Palestinian towns and more jobs in Israel.

C. Israel and the Palestinian Authority will expand their security cooperation. The Palestinians will be persuaded to cease their incitement against the Jewish State and stop payouts to the families of convicted Palestinian terrorists and other security offenders.

D. Direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations will ensue, without preconditions on either side, and expand. with Arab governments sitting in.

E. At the end of a period of some years, this process will mature into a discussion of the core issues of the dispute, Palestinian statehood, future borders, settlements, Jerusalem and refugees.

In other words, the year 2018 will see the building of normal relations between Israel and Arab countries to be followed at a later date by the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. President Trump has clearly seized on relations with Riyadh, Cairo and Abu Dhabi as a lever for pushing Israel and the Palestinians into peace talks.

The idea is simple. Israel’s improved ties with the Arab world will resonate positively on Israeli-Palestinian relations. That appears to be Trump’s formula for peace. But there is a catch. It depends heavily on the US President maintaining good relations with the Arab world in the long term.

Military crisis in Qatar may spark Gaza outbreak

June 13, 2017

Military crisis in Qatar may spark Gaza outbreak, DEBKAfile, June 13, 2017

A military crisis centering on Qatar would be a catalyst for an outbreak of violence from the Gaza Strip. And indeed, after the failed Sanwar mission to Cairo and the reduction of electric power to the Gaza Strip, Hamas spokesmen warned that an “explosion” was imminent.

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The electricity cutback in the Gaza Strip, engineered by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to flex muscle against Hamas rule, was just one piece on the checkerboard created by the crackdown Egypt, Saudi Arabia Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have imposed on Qatar for supporting terrorist groups like the Palestinian extremist Hamas. Therefore, Hamas leader Yahya Sanwar had little to expect from his mission to Cairo last weekend to persuade the El-Sisi government to ease its restrictions on the Gaza Strip.

He arrived at the head of a large mission, in which the group’s military arm, Ezz e-Din El-Qassam was heavily represented. Their appeals to Maj.-Gen Khaled Fawzy, director of Egyptian General Intelligence, met with a list of tough conditions. When the Palestinian delegation balked, Cairo acted to tighten its blockade on the Palestinian enclave.

The Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip found themselves in the same boat as their old friend, Qatar, in the week that their internal rival, Mahmoud Abba, docked payment for the electricity Israeli supplies the Gaza Strip. The power supply was cut by 40 percent.

From 2015, the emir of Qatar remained the only Arab ruler backing the Palestinian extremist Hamas with occasional cash donations to Gaza City and permission for its top officials to set up shop in Doha.

This flow of aid was abruptly cut off by the land, sea and air blockade Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt clamped down on Qatar last week over its support for terrorist groups and ties with Tehran. Sheikh Tamim bin-Hamad Al-Khalifa defied the ultimatum they presented him, and so Qatar’s banks and international assets have been losing dollars, its currency has plummeted and there is no money to spare for the Gaza Strip.

Qatar and Hamas are being pushed into the same corner.

The small Gulf island, which is the world’s largest supplier of natural gas, was been told by the four leading Arab governments to expel Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas officials from its soil, after years of providing them with hospitality plus pensions generous enough for them to live a life of ease and plenty, while also running their terrorist networks across the region and beyond.

Qatar was also told to discontinue its propaganda campaigns against Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and shut down its main platform, the Al Jazeera TV channel; and hundreds of Egyptian and Saudi dissidents granted political asylum deported forthwith.

With nowhere else to go, these dissidents could potentially head for sanctuary in the Gaza Strip, making it a “little Qatar,” which is why Cairo further tightened the Palestinian enclave’s isolation by blocking all routes of access.

The Hamas delegation was likewise confronted in Cairo with tough demands by the Egyptian intelligence chief:

1. To turn in the Muslim Brotherhood fugitives they were sheltering in the Gaza Strip.

2.  Not just to sever cooperation between the Hamas military arm and the Islamic State networks in the Sinai Peninsula, but to surrender to Egypt all the intelligence they possessed about the jihadists and their activities.

3.  To discontinue weapons smuggling operations through Sinai.

After balking at the Egyptian demands, Yahya Sanwar was forced to leave Cairo empty-handed with regard to eased restrictions and humanitarian aid – only to find on his return home that the Egyptians had raised their biggest gun against the Gaza Strip: They had cut off power.

A humanitarian catastrophe now hangs over the two million inhabitants of the tiny Mediterranean enclave. Hospitals are cutting back operations, refrigerators are switched off, clean water supplies are dwindling because desalination plants are without power, raw sewage is dumped into the sea and sanitary conditions deteriorating.

Cairo asked the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and the Israeli government not to relent, but to keep the pressure on the Hamas regime high. Ramallah must continue to hold back payment to cover Israel’s electricity bills, which suits Mahmoud Abbas’ campaign for bringing Hamas to heel.

But for Israel, there is a dilemma. Nonetheless, the Netanyahu government is extremely wary of breaking away from the anti-terror line taken by Arab governments, because this could put paid to the delicate ties established with them – especially in the military domain – through long and laborious effort.

In Jerusalem, it is therefore ardently hoped that the Qatar crisis is quickly resolved and Hamas and Cairo can reach terms exponentially for easing the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

For the time being, there is no sign of this happening. On the contrary, there are indications of the crisis moving onto a military plane. Sources in the Middle East are not ruling out possible military action by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE against Qatar.

Read more about this looming potential in the coming DEBKA Weekly issue (for subscribers) out next Friday, June 16. 

A military crisis centering on Qatar would be a catalyst for an outbreak of violence from the Gaza Strip. And indeed, after the failed Sanwar mission to Cairo and the reduction of electric power to the Gaza Strip, Hamas spokesmen warned that an “explosion” was imminent.

Qatar – the end of the road?

June 9, 2017

Qatar – the end of the road? Israel National News, Dr. Mordechai Kedar, June 9, 2017

(Please see also, Qatar, Trump and Double Games. — DM)

The Emirate of Qatar is a peninsula that juts out from Saudi Arabia into the Persian Gulf. The only overland route out of Qatar is by way of Saudi Arabia and if that route is blocked, the only way to reach Qatar or leave it is by air or sea. However, flights to and from Qatar pass over Saudi air space part of the time and ships from or to Qatar have to pass through Saudi territorial waters. This means that Saudi Arabia can in effect declare a total blockade on Qatar if it so desires. It has never done so before, but it began the process on June 5th.

In addition to a blockade, the Saudis, joined by the United Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Mauritius, the Philippines and the Maldives, cut off diplomatic and consular relations with Qatar.  Egypt, Libya and the Emirates declared that they would ban Qatari plans and ships from their air space and territorial waters. In 2014, these countries took much milder steps in order to punish Qatar, cancelling them once Qatar agreed to accept the dictates of the Umma and signed the Riyadh agreement along with the rest of the Arab nations.

The reasons provided by the countries involved for the unprecedented severity of the current steps against Qatar included: “Qatar aids the Muslim Brotherhood and other terror organizations such as Hezbollah, Hamas, ISIS and Jebhat al-Nusrah” and “The Emir of  Qatar has declared that Iran is a good nation” as well as “Qatar destabilizes our regime,” as well  as ” Qatar provides hiding places and shelter to Muslim Brotherhood leaders who fled there from Egypt,” and “Qatar is giving aid to  the Houthi rebels (read Shiites) in Yemen.”

Another and most subtle reason, whose source is a Kuwaiti commentator, appears on al Jazeera‘s site: “Qatar refused to meet Trump’s financial demands.” This odd remark relates to a rumor on Facebook and other social network sites claiming that before Trump agreed to come to the Riyadh Arab League Conference, he demanded the Gulf Emirates purchase US arms in the legendary sum of one and a half trillion dollars, to be divided among Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Emirates. The three agreed, but Qatar pulled out at the last minute, causing the Emirates to follow suit, and leaving the Saudis holding the bill demanded by Trump.   The falling through of this deal, the largest in history, may have been the reason for Trump’s noticeably grim face in Riyadh.

Claiming that Qatar causes the destabilization of regimes is a veiled hint referring to al Jazeera which broadcasts from Qatar. Every since it began broadcasting in 1996 from the capital city of Qatar, Doha, al Jazeera has infuriated Arab rulers because it constantly carries out a media Jihad against them also aimed at others such as  Israel, the US, the West and Western culture. The channel also promotes and supports the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots such as Hamas, al Qaeda and the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel headed by Sheikh Raad Salah. Al Jazeera‘s media strategy is determined by Qatar’s Emir and is carried out down to the last detail by its very professional leading broadcaster and editorial policy setter, Jamal Rian, a Palestinian born in Tul Karem in 1953, who moved to Jordan where he was active in the Muslim Brotherhood until expelled by King Hussein.

Every so often other Arab regimes, chief among them Egypt under Mubarak, attempted to close down al Jazeera‘s offices in their countries after overly harsh criticism was aimed at the ruling government, only to reopen them when al Jazeera simply stepped up its attacks

The general feeling is that any government official – or anyone at all – who opposes a ruling regime (and there is no shortage of these people in any Arab country) leaks embarrassing information to  al Jazeera all the time, so that the channel is always poised to expose the information when the time is ripe and especially if the now-cornered victim has been unfriendly to it and to Islamists. The thought of this happening is enough to paralyze every Arab leader who would like to clamp down on al Jazeera in his country.

Every time a conflict erupts between Israel and Hamas, al Jazeera comes out in favor of the terrorist organization because of Qatar’s support of it. Hamas leader Haled Mashaal, makes his home in Qatar and the Qatari Emir is the only Arab leader so far to visit Hamas-ruled Gaza. The Emir has give billions to Hamas, enabling the organization to develop its  terror infrastructure.

Qatar has budgeted half a billion dollars to “buy” organizations such as UNESCO (whose next head will, unsurprisingly, be from Qatar), as well as media, academic and government figures to advance the goal of removing Jerusalem from Israeli hands. Al Jazeera runs a well publicized and organized campaign in order to ensure this outcome. This is the face of media jihad.

Saudi Arabia has never allowed al Jazeera‘s reporters to work from within the country, but does allow them to cover special events once in a while, mainly the Hajj. The Saudis know exactly what the Emir had up his sleeve when he founded a media network that would rule over Arab monarchs by means of recording their slip-ups, taking advantage of the Arab obsession with avoiding public humiliation by broadcasting from a satellite that can reach every house in the Arab world with no way of blocking it.

The last reports are that the Saudis blocked access to the al Jazeera internet site from their territory.  It is harder to block al Jazeera‘s satellite channel reception legally and it can still be accessed throughout the monarchy. Arab media attribute the blockage to declarations supportive of Hamas and Hezbollah made by the Emir of Qatar after Trump’s speech in Riyadh in which the US president included Hamas and Hezbollah in his list of terror organization, equating them with al Qaeda and ISIS.

Sorry, but I do not buy that story. Declarations about third parties (Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah) are ordinarily not the reason a public dispute erupts between Iranian monarchs. In my opinion, the reason for blocking the al Jazeera site in Saudi Arabia is a photograph posted on the al Jazeera site while Trump was in Riyadh.

This photo shows King Suleiman of Saudi Arabia awarding the Gold Decoration, the highest honor of the Saudi monarchy, to Donald Trump, but that is not the reason it was posted on al Jazeera. The reason has to do with the woman appearing in it and standing between Suleiman and Trump. I do not know what her name is, but she accompanied Trump during his entire stay in Riyadh standing just behind him and carrying a briefcase. Perhaps she is an interpreter. She is carrying a briefcase filled with important documents that have to be with Trump all the time in one picture as he, of course, would not be seen carrying a briefcase and standing be[hind her].

What is interesting about this woman is that she spent the entire time in the royal palace with her hair uncovered, like Melania Trump, the First Lady, did, even though women with uncovered hair are not to be seen in Saudi Arabia. In the palace, women are also not allowed to b e seen in the company of men. Al Jazeera posted this photo intentionally, in order to embarrass the king who granted Trump an award even though he was accompanied by women who, like those in the picture, who do not cover their hair. That photo of the king was the last straw and the Saudis blocked al Jazeera.

Qatar is now under great pressure. The nations that broke off relations with Qatar have stopped recognizing the Qatari Rial as a viable currency and have confiscated all the Qatari Rials in their banks. As a result, Qatar cannot purchase goods with its own currency and must use its foreign currency reserves. The supermarket shelves in Qatar have been emptied by residents hoarding food for fear that the blockade will not allow food to be imported. Long lines of cars can be seen trying to leave for Saudi Arabia to escape being shut up in the besieged, wayward country.

Qatar is trying to get the US to help improve the situation. The largest American air force base in the Gulf is located in  Qatar and it is from there that the attacks on ISIS are generated. Qatar also hosts the US Navy Fifth Fleet as well as the Central Command and Control of US forces in that part of the world. Qatari media stress the US concern about the siege that the Saudis have put on Qatar.

As part of its efforts to enlist US aid, Qatar has begun a counterattack: Qatar media have publicized that the U.A.E. ambassador, Yousef Al Otaiba , said on US election eve: “What star could make Donald Trump the president?” This is intended to cause a rift between the US and the Gulf Emirates, but will certainly not improve Qatar’s own relations with the Emirates.

Meanwhile, the Saudis and the Emirates have ejected Qatar from the coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen, and there are rumors that they will also remove Qatar from the Council for Cooperation in the Gulf. The Saudis could suspend Qatar’s membership in the Arab League and other organizations if this dispute continues, raising the pressure on the Emir’s al-Thani clan.

The next few days will decide Qatar’s future. There  is a distinct possibility that the foreign ministers of Qatar and the Arab nations taking part in the boycott against it will meet in some neutral spot, perhaps Kuwait, Qatar will give in and new rules will be set by Arab leaders, that is by King Suleiman, to keep Qatar in line. They would include: toning down al Jazeera and perhaps even switching its managerial staff, ending the support for the Muslim Brotherhood and other terror organizations, ending cooperation with Iran and above all, listening to what the Saudi “Big Brother” says about issues, especially those having to do with financial dealings with the US. Once the conditions for Qatari surrender are agreed upon, we can expect the ministers to meet the press, publicize a declaration on the end of the intra-family dispute, shake hands before the cameras and smile – until the next crisis.

There is, however, another scenario: Qatar does not give in, the Saudis and its allies invade, their armies eject the Emir and Mufti of Qatar, and also Jamal Rian, the guiding brain behind Al Jazeera’s  policies. They would then appoint a new Emir from the ruling family, one who knows how to behave, one who listens to the Saudis.  No one except for Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas would oppose this solution, and the soft-spoken condemnations will not succeed in hiding the world’s joy and sighs of relief if the Saudis actually carry out that plan.

Time for a Terrorism Accord, Not a Climate Accord

June 4, 2017

Time for a Terrorism Accord, Not a Climate Accord, PJ MediaRoger L Simon, June 3, 2017

(Another pleasing idea that won’t likely be tried and, if tried, won’t work. “America First” can work and, if given a chance, should. The Supreme Court is about to consider President Trump’s “Muslim ban” executive order. Perhaps recent events in Europe and England will push enough justices to reinstate it.That will at least be a step in the right direction. Please see also, Supreme Court Expedites Trump’s Petition on Executive Order Case. — DM)

[T]he recent Paris climate accord is not only based on bad or “cooked” Climategate science, it is a deliberate conscious/unconscious deflection from the genuine “present danger” in front of us.  It is no more than obfuscation allowing moral narcissists to feel good about themselves, virtue signaling about an environmental armageddon that hasn’t happened and may never happen while, in real life, people are actually murdered on London bridges and in Cairo churches.

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Yes, there’s a threat to civilization and it’s not global warming, manmade or otherwise.  And anyone who isn’t comatose should know what it is.

Islam, like cancer, needs a cure. And we all have to participate in the search for one before it’s too late.

Yes, this is about Islam, not “radical” Islam or some other off-shoot, real or imagined, because the tenets that have inspired the non-stop spate of terrorism across the world in recent years are spelled out clearly in sections of the Koran and the Hadith and other holy works of Islam. They provide justification for ISIS and a hundred other groups that may or may not replace them, now and in the future. This cannot continue — unless we really do want to destroy ourselves.

To be clear, this is not about bad people (many Muslims are fine human beings), but about a malignant ideology from the seventh century that must be expunged for the survival of all.

But the majority of Western leaders don’t want to know that.  In fact, I’d wager that most have not even bothered to educate themselves in any serious way about Islam nearly sixteen years after 9/11 and with all the constant carnage that has gone on since and has been increasing significantly, not just in London and Manchester but virtually everywhere.

These Westerners are not only willfully blind, they are suicidal.  But we cannot let them commit suicide for the rest of us.  They have to go.

Similarly, the recent Paris climate accord is not only based on bad or “cooked” Climategate science, it is a deliberate conscious/unconscious deflection from the genuine “present danger” in front of us.  It is no more than obfuscation allowing moral narcissists to feel good about themselves, virtue signaling about an environmental armageddon that hasn’t happened and may never happen while, in real life, people are actually murdered on London bridges and in Cairo churches.

What we need now is an international terrorism accord — and, unlike the climate accord, a binding one — that would commit the world, including the Muslim nations themselves, to the complete reformation of Islam that is the necessary basis for an end to this terrorism.

President Trump made a good start in Riyadh in his address to the Sunni leaders, but we must go much further.  It is correct that the Islamic world should be the ones to change their religion, but the rest of us on the planet are too affected by the results to stand by and wait.  From the horrifying (London this weekend) to the daily (the constant of indignity of being scanned at airports, concerts, museums, etc.), we are all victims of Islamic ideology.  We have a right, indeed an obligation, to participate in and demand its change. Otherwise, it will only get worse.

Since Trump had the courage to open the discussion in Saudi Arabia, he should attempt to expand the dialogue and create this global accord. Egypt’s el-Sisi would be a good partner because he already had the guts to criticize his own religion.  All should be invited, even those who would never come (like the mullahs).  All must confront the question of why Islam, unique among the world’s religions today, has so much violence committed in its name. What is it about Islam that attracts this?  What therefore has to be changed, both in behavior and ideology?

The event should be public, with Islam ultimately made to pledge itself to human rights as accepted by the West — equal rights for women and homosexuals, separation of church (mosque) and state, no discrimination based on race or religion (why no churches allowed in Saudi Arabia?), etc. — not the absurd Orwellian version of human rights promulgated the UN Human Rights Council.

This demand should be made to all quarters of the Islamic world with economic punishment applied if necessary.  The time for diplomatic politesse is long over. Islam must be forced to join modernity. Reactionary multiculturalists among us must be ignored, along with their hypocritical (and nonsensical) belief that all religions are equal.  To do otherwise would be to treat Muslim people like children.  And that is what the West has been doing for some time — with atrocious results for all.