The Jihadi Connection between Sinai, Gaza and Islamic State.
by Jonathan Spyer
What kind of relations do the jihadists of northern Sinai and Gaza have with Islamic State, and with Hamas? Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared a three-month national emergency this week, following the killing of over 31 Egyptian soldiers in a suicide car bombing carried out by jihadists in northern Sinai.
No organization has issued an authoritative claim of responsibility for the bombing, but it comes amid a state of open insurgency in northern Sinai, as Egyptian security forces battle a number of jihadist organizations. Most prominent among these groups are Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis and Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen; the attack on the Sinai military base came a few days after an Egyptian court sentenced seven members of Ansar Beit al-Maqdis to death for carrying out previous attacks on the army.
In subsequent days, Egyptian officials pointed an accusing finger at the Hamas rulers of Gaza, asserting there is “no doubt that elements belonging to Palestinian factions were directly involved in the attack.” Cairo is now set to build a new barrier separating the Strip from northern Sinai.
In a number of Arabic media outlets, unnamed Egyptian government sources openly accused Hamas members of aiding the assault, assisting with planning, funding and weapons supply.
Are the Egyptian claims credible? Are there links between Hamas or smaller jihadist movements in the Gaza Strip and the insurgents in northern Sinai? And no less importantly, is the armed campaign in northern Sinai linked to Islamic State? First, it is important to understand that jihadist activity in northern Sinai is not a new development. Long before the military coup of July 3, 2013, and indeed before the downfall of president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, this area had become a lawless zone in which jihadists and Beduin smugglers of people and goods carried out their activities.
Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis emerged from this already existing jihadist milieu in the period following Mubarak’s ouster.
At this time, Egyptian security measures in the area sharply declined.
Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has not confined its activities to the Sinai area; rather, it has directly engaged in attacks on Israeli targets. Recently, the group beheaded four Sinai locals who it accused of being “spies for the Mossad,” also carrying out two rocket attacks on Eilat this past January.
The claim of links between Hamas and Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has been raised in the past. In September, Egyptian security forces claimed to have found uniforms and weaponry identifiable as belonging to Hamas’s Izzadin Kassam brigades.
It is worth remembering that the current Egyptian government has, since its inception, sought to link salafi jihadist terrorism with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, as part of its strategy of marginalizing and criminalizing the Brotherhood.
The current statements seeking to link Hamas directly to Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis may form part of this larger strategy.
For its part, Hamas indignantly denies any link to this week’s bombing.
But what can be said with greater confidence is there is, without doubt, a burgeoning and violent salafi jihadist subculture that encompasses northern Sinai and southern Gaza – with various organizations possessing members and infrastructure on both sides of the border.
Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis itself and Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen both have members in Sinai and Gaza. Working tunnels smuggling goods and weapons exist between Gaza and northern Sinai, despite Egyptian attempts to destroy them.
It is also a fact that Hamas is aware of these tunnels and makes no attempt to act against them, benefiting economically from their presence.
From this standpoint, Hamas authorities in Gaza are guilty by omission of failing to act against the infrastructure supplying and supporting salafi guerrillas in northern Sinai, whether or not the less verifiable claims of direct Hamas links with them have a basis.
Given this reality, it is also not hard to understand the Egyptian determination to build an effective physical barrier between the Strip and Egyptian territory.
What of the issue of support for Islamic State? Should these jihadist groups be seen as a southern manifestation of the Sunni jihadist wave now sweeping across Iraq, Syria and increasingly, Lebanon? From an ideological point of view, certainly yes.
From an organizational point of view, the situation is more complex.
According to Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, an expert on jihadist groups currently based at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya and the Middle East Forum, neither Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis nor Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen have formally pledged their allegiance to the caliphate established by Islamic State in parts of Iraq and Syria.
Nevertheless, Tamimi confirmed, both organizations have expressed “support” for Islamic State and its objectives, while not subordinating themselves to it through a pledge of allegiance.
Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis is known to maintain contacts with Islamic State, which has advised it on the mechanics of carrying out operations. Islamic State, meanwhile, has publicly declared its support for the jihadists in northern Sinai, without singling out any specific group for public support.
Tamimi further notes the existence of two smaller and more obscure groups in Gaza with more direct links to Islamic State.
These are Jamaat Ansar al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi Bayt al-Maqdis (The Group of Helpers/ Supporters of the Islamic State in Bayt al-Maqdis), which carries out propaganda activities from Gaza and helps funnel volunteers to Syria and Iraq, and the Sheikh Abu al-Nur al-Maqdisi Battalion, a Gazan contingent fighting with Islamic State in these countries.
So, a number of conclusions can be drawn: Firstly, Hamas, in its tolerance of and engagement with smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Sinai, at least indirectly permits the jihadists networks operating these tunnels to wage their insurgency against Egypt – even if the claims of a direct Hamas link to violent activities in Sinai have not yet been conclusively proven.
Secondly, the most important organizations engaged in this insurgency support Islamic State, and are supported by them, though the former have not yet pledged allegiance and become directly subordinate to the latter.
Islamic State is not yet in northern Sinai, but its close allies are. Their activities are tolerated by the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip – as long as they are directed outward, against Egypt and Israel.
In Qatar, this year, there will be a full five days observance of the Eid Al Adha – Sunday to Thursday October 5 to 9. Will there be a lull in the aggresiveness by the fighters that say they fight for Islam? In the US religious extremism seems now to be related to consumerism.
(MENAFN – QNA – October 2, 2014) Qatar Stock Exchange (QSE) – according to Qatar News Agency – will remain closed from Sunday, October 5th to Thursday October 9th to observe Eid Al Adha, a bourse notification said Thursday.
The bourse cited Qatar Central Bank and Qatar Financial Markets Authority circular which said, “It’s decided the QSE holidays for Eid Al-Adha will be five working days”.
QSE management wished Eid Mubarak to investors, citizens and residents.
But then see also:
from The Huffington Post / By Charity R. Carney
(A Hobby Lobby store is Pantation, Florida is shown seen on June 30, 2014 in Plantation, Florida)
It was the most difficult job I’ve ever had. I’ve been a history professor for years, toiled as a graduate assistant before that, and even did a stint as an IT technician. But the three months I worked at Hobby Lobby stocking googly eyes and framing baseball cards takes the cake. I wanted a break from academia but it ended up not being a break at all. I found myself deconstructing and analyzing all aspects of my job — from the Bible in the break room to the prayers before employee meetings and the strange refusal of the company to use bar codes in its stores. (The rumor amongst employees was that bar codes were the Mark of the Beast, but that rumor remains unsubstantiated.)
Three months was enough to convince me that there is something larger at work and the SCOTUS decision only confirms my belief that corporate Christianity (and Christianity that is corporate) has made it difficult for Americans to discern religion from consumption.
As a scholar of religious history, I observe the way that faith intersects with culture. I study and publish on megachurches and my interpretation of this week’s events is informed not only by my experiences as an employee at Hobby Lobby but also my knowledge of recent religious trends. My biggest question after hearing the decision was not about the particular opinions or practical repercussions (which are significant and have far-reaching and dangerous consequences). Instead, my first thought was: “What is it about our cultural fabric that enables us to attribute religious rights to a corporate entity?” In the United States we have increasingly associated Christianity with capitalism and the consequences affect both corporations and churches. It’s a comfortable relationship and seemingly natural since so much of our history is built on those two forces. But it’s also scary.
Hobby Lobby is a for-profit craft chain, not a church. I’m stating the obvious just in case there was any confusion because — let’s face it — it’s confusing. It’s as confusing as those googly eyes (do you really need three different sizes, Hobby Lobby, really?). Today, we see giant churches that operate like corporations and now corporations have some of the same rights as churches. Many megachurches adopt “seeker-sensitive” approaches to attract members, relying on entertainment and conspicuous consumption to promote their services. After a while, the spiritual and secular lines start to blur and the Christian and corporate blend. Ed Young, Jr.’s Fellowship Church, for instance, started a “90-Day Challenge” for members. The church asks congregants to pledge 10 percent of their income and promises “that if you tithe for 90 days and God doesn’t hold true to his promise of blessings, we will refund 100 percent of your tithe.”
Megachurches advertise on television, billboards, the Internet. They have coffee shops and gift stores. Some feature go-cart tracks, game centers, even oil changes. Many are run by pastors that also serve as CEOs. So when Hobby Lobby seeks similar religious rights as these very corporate churches, we have to reconsider our definition of religious organizations and maybe even say “why not?” We have normalized corporate Christianity to the point that the Supreme Court deems it natural for businesses to hold “sincere” religious beliefs. The religious landscape in the United States, including our familiarity with megachurches and celebrity pastors, certainly contributes to the acceptance of the church/company conundrum.
The “why not” can be answered, however, with the real costs of the decision. Women’s reproductive rights are compromised. The religious freedom of employees for these corporations is compromised. The sanctity of our religious institutions is also compromised. To protect religious pluralism and freedom of the individual we need clear demarcations between what is spiritual and what is economical. Otherwise, we sacrifice the soul of American religion and all that makes it good and why I study it on the altar of industry. I can’t get those three months at Hobby Lobby back (or the praise muzak out of my head) but I can see more clearly the dangers of allowing corporate Christianity to become the norm. Without clear boundaries, we risk distorting the very idea of religious freedom and the rich, diverse religious culture that makes us who we are. And that’s tragic — maybe not as tragic as praise muzak, but tragic nonetheless.
Carney is a historian of religion, gender, and the South.
Re-Post of a 2011 article: MENAFN Arab News says “Abas makes big gamble – Obama plunged his knife into the back of helpless Palestinians.” You know there is something fishy here – we cannot copy it for you but only give you the link – but we know that they actually stole the article from an Israeli – Uri Avnery – and did not mention it seemingly because he is Israeli. So much for Arab honesty and courage?
Our original posting date was September 25, 2011, and we do this re-posting because we were just reminded of the article by a comment I received from India from seemingly a non-political person. We wonder ourselves if that article is still relevant after this week’s events at the UN, and on the eve of a new meeting today in Washington between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu.
THE LINK IS HERE AND YOU CAN READ IT BUT NOT COPY IT:
of September 25, 2011.
MENAFN – stands for Middle East North Africa – read ARAB Financial Network – it is a Delaware-based corporation with a wholly owned subsidiary in Amman, Jordan.
So, it must be an American Oil Industry enterprise, probably close to the Republican party, with a Jordanian address as well.
The site [www.menafn.com] offers regional and global business content in both Arabic and English. It attracts over 340,000 highly targeted visitors on a regular basis.
It has a weekly e-Newsletter that reaches 55,000 subscribers. It summarizes major business news and events, market data and research for the Middle East region and the globe.
We hope that our readers in the Arab world see this posting of ours on www.SustainabiliTank.info so they understand the depth of the hole their leaders have dug for the Arab world. There is no way to bitch about Israel – if you are not ready to acknowledge the Israelis that try to find a way to peace. You will not have peace if you do not recognize Israel.
BUT THE ARTICLE IS AS FOLLOWS – AND WE GOT IT FROM URI AVNERY HIMSELF.
WHY DID MENAFN NOT POST THAT ARTICLE AS ORIGINALLY POSTED? - THEY TOOK IT VERBATIM FROM AVNERY AND DID NOT MENTION HIM – NEITHER DID THEY SAY THAT AVNERY, – OR AT LEAST “THE WRITER” – IS AN ISRAELI. THIS SHORTCOMING POSES BIG QUESTION ON THE CREDIBILITY OF THIS MENA – MIDDLE EAST NORTH AFRICA – READ ARAB – FINANCIAL REPORT.
THIS REMINDS US OF THE ARAB SPRING, TAHRIR SQUARE, LEADER WHOM I ASKED IN VIENNA, BEFORE AN AUDIENCE - IF AN ISRAELI LIKE URI AVNERY APPROACHES YOU WOULD YOU OUTSTRETCH YOUR HAND IN PEACE? SHE ANSWERED FLATLY – “NO! HE IS A ZIONIST.”
THIS IS THE REAL DOWNFALL OF THE ARAB WORLD – AND IN NO WAY CAN I HAVE SYMPATHY FOR SUCH HYPOCRASY.
WHY DID NOT THIS MENAFN ACKNOWLEDGE URI AVNERY? WHY DID THEY NOT HAVE THE GUTS TO SAY – WELCOME ABOARD – HERE YOU ARE THE ISRAELI WE WANT TO TALK TO. IN THE LIGHT OF THIS LACK OF HONESTY AND LACK OF COURAGE - I THINJK NOW THAT URI AVNERY HAS INDEED GOOD REASON TO RETHINK HIS NOBLE VIEWS.
September 24, 2011
Abu Mazen’s Gamble
A WONDERFUL SPEECH. A beautiful speech.
The language expressive and elegant. The arguments clear and convincing. The delivery flawless.
A work of art. The art of hypocrisy. Almost every statement in the passage concerning the Israeli-Palestinian issue was a lie. A blatant lie: the speaker knew it was a lie, and so did the audience.
It was Obama at his best, Obama at his worst.
Being a moral person, he must have felt the urge to vomit. Being a pragmatic person, he knew that he had to do it, if he wanted to be re-elected.
In essence, he sold the fundamental national interests of the United States of America for the chance of a second term.
Not very nice, but that’s politics, OK?
IT MAY be superfluous – almost insulting to the reader – to point out the mendacious details of this rhetorical edifice.
Obama treated the two sides as if they were equal in strength – Israelis and Palestinians, Palestinians and Israelis.
But of the two, it is the Israelis – only they – who suffer and have suffered. Persecution. Exile. Holocaust. An Israeli child threatened by rockets. Surrounded by the hatred of Arab children. So sad.
No Occupation. No settlements. No June 1967 borders. No Naqba. No Palestinian children killed or frightened. It’s the straight right-wing Israeli propaganda line, pure and simple – the terminology, the historical narrative, the argumentation. The music.
The Palestinians, of course, should have a state of their own. Sure, sure. But they must not be pushy. They must not embarrass the US. They must not come to the UN. They must sit with the Israelis, like reasonable people, and work it out with them. The reasonable sheep must sit down with the reasonable wolf and decide what to have for dinner. Foreigners should not interfere.
Obama gave full service. A lady who provides this kind of service generally gets paid in advance. Obama got paid immediately afterwards, within the hour. Netanyahu sat down with him in front of the cameras and gave him enough quotable professions of love and gratitude to last for several election campaigns.
THE TRAGIC hero of this affair is Mahmoud Abbas. A tragic hero, but a hero nonetheless.
Many people may be surprised by this sudden emergence of Abbas as a daring player for high stakes, ready to confront the mighty US.
If Ariel Sharon were to wake up for a moment from his years-long coma, he would faint with amazement. It was he who called Mahmoud Abbas “a plucked chicken”.
Yet for the last few days, Abbas was the center of global attention. World leaders conferred about how to handle him, senior diplomats were eager to convince him of this or that course of action, commentators were guessing what he would do next. His speech before the UN General Assembly was treated as an event of consequence.
Not bad for a chicken, even for one with a full set of feathers.
His emergence as a leader on the world stage is somewhat reminiscent of Anwar Sadat.
When Gamal Abd-al-Nasser unexpectedly died at the age of 52 in 1970 and his official deputy, Sadat, assumed his mantle, all political experts shrugged.
Sadat? Who the hell is that? He was considered a nonentity, an eternal No. 2, one of the least important members of the group of “free officers” that was ruling Egypt.
In Egypt, a land of jokes and jokers, witticisms about him abounded. One concerned the prominent brown mark on his forehead. The official version was that it was the result of much praying, hitting the ground with his forehead. But the real reason, it was told, was that at meetings, after everyone else had spoken, Sadat would get up and try to say something. Nasser would good-naturedly put his finger to his forehead, push him gently down and say: “Sit, Anwar!”
To the utter amazement of the experts – and especially the Israeli ones – this “nonentity” took a huge gamble by starting the 1973 October War, and proceeded to do something unprecedented in history: going to the capital of an enemy country still officially in a state of war and making peace.
Abbas’ status under Yasser Arafat was not unlike Sadat’s under Nasser. However, Arafat never appointed a deputy. Abbas was one of a group of four or five likely successors. The heir would surely have been Abu Jihad, had he not been killed by Israeli commandoes in front of his wife and children. Another likely candidate, Abu Iyad, was killed by Palestinian terrorists. Abu Mazen (Abbas) was in a way the choice by default.
Such politicians, emerging suddenly from under the shadow of a great leader, generally fall into one of two categories: the eternal frustrated No. 2 or the surprising new leader.
The Bible gives us examples of both kinds. The first was Rehoboam, the son and heir of the great King Solomon, who told his people: “my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions”. The other kind was represented by Joshua, the heir of Moses. He was no second Moses, but according to the story a great conqueror in his own right.
Modern history tells the sad story of Anthony Eden, the long-suffering No. 2 of Winston Churchill, who commanded little respect. (Mussolini called him, after their first meeting, “a well-tailored idiot.”). Upon assuming power, he tried desperately to equal Churchill and soon embroiled Britain in the 1956 Suez disaster. To the second category belonged Harry Truman, the nobody who succeeded the great Franklin Delano Roosevelt and surprised everybody as a resolute leader.
Abbas looked like belonging to the first kind. Now, suddenly, he is revealed as belonging to the second. The world is treating him with newfound respect. Nearing the end of his career, he made the big gamble.
BUT WAS it wise? Courageous, yes. Daring, yes. But wise?
My answer is: Yes, it was.
Abbas has placed the quest for Palestinian freedom squarely on the international table. For more than a week, Palestine has been the center of international attention. Scores of international statesmen and -women, including the leader of the world’s only superpower, have been busy with Palestine.
For a national movement, that is of the utmost importance. Cynics may ask: “So what did they gain from it?” But cynics are fools. A liberation movement gains from the very fact that the world pays attention, that the media grapple with the problem, that people of conscience all over the world are aroused. It strengthens morale at home and brings the struggle a step nearer its goal.
Oppression shuns the limelight. Occupation, settlements, ethnic cleansing thrive in the shadows. It is the oppressed who need the light of day. Abbas’ move provided it, at least for the time being.
BARACK OBAMA’s miserable performance was a nail in the coffin of America’s status as a superpower. In a way, it was a crime against the United States.
The Arab Spring may have been a last chance for the US to recover its standing in the Middle East. After some hesitation, Obama realized that. He called on Mubarak to go, helped the Libyans against their tyrant, made some noises about Bashar al-Assad. He knows that he has to regain the respect of the Arab masses if he wants to recover some stature in the region, and by extension throughout the world.
Now he has blown it, perhaps forever. No self-respecting Arab will forgive him for plunging his knife into the back of the helpless Palestinians. All the credit the US has tried to gain in the last months in the Arab and the wider Muslim world has been blown away with one puff.
All for reelection.
IT WAS also a crime against Israel.
Israel needs peace. Israel needs to live side by side with the Palestinian people, within the Arab world. Israel cannot rely forever on the unconditional support of the declining United States.
Obama knows this full well. He knows what is good for Israel, even if Netanyahu doesn’t. Yet he has handed the keys of the car to the drunken driver.
The State of Palestine will come into being. This week it was already clear that this is unavoidable. Obama will be forgotten, as will Netanyahu, Lieberman and the whole bunch.
Mahmoud Abbas – Abu Mazen, as the Palestinians call him – will be remembered. The “plucked chicken” is soaring into the sky.
A Meeting in Salzburg Makes it Clear that What is Needed for The Middle East is the Equivalent Of The Congress of Vienna (1814) – a Post-Arab-Spring Equivalent to the Post-Europe-Spring: Can The Arab League that Excludes the Non-Arab Players Be of Any Use?
Amre Moussa, the former Arab League head from Egypt, is calling for a Middle Eastern equivalent of the 1814 Congress of Vienna, in which Europe’s great powers established a new order to prevent wars between empires following the defeat of Napoleon. Admittedly, Moussa quickly backtracked to say the plan couldn’t initially include Iran, Turkey or Israel, making it really just another Arab League meeting. Still, I think he’s onto something.
For years, the people of the Middle East have complained that the U.S. and Europe treat it as a kind of colonial playground, while the West has moaned the region must take more responsibility to regulate and provide security for itself. This week, reports of United Arab Emirates airstrikes in Libya, launched from airstrips in Egypt, suggest that is beginning to happen — but in precisely the wrong way. The airstrikes pit the more secular client of one Persian Gulf state, UAE, against Islamists supported by another, Qatar.
This is a recipe for a long and bloody civil war in Libya, at a time when the Middle East is imploding and the U.S. is no longer willing or able to police it alone. Divisions among the Sunni states and an expanding proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia have already resulted in a vortex of human suffering and instability in Syria that has spawned the Islamic State.
So Moussa’s idea of a congress “emanating from the Middle East” itself, rather than from the U.S. or Europe, and focused on how to ensure stability in the region makes sense. As a model, the Congress of Vienna has an attractive echo for the Middle East’s monarchies and dictators, as it was designed mainly by conservative autocrats as they sought ways to contain the subversive republican fervor unleashed by the French revolution. Old regime leaders in the Middle East see the Arab Spring in much the same light.
“We are talking about a major change in the Middle East,” Moussa said at a conference I’m attending this week in Salzburg, Austria, on lessons to be drawn from the Vienna Congress and the outbreak of World War I, hosted by the International Peace Institute and the Salzburg Global Seminar. “We have to discuss this like grownups: What are we going to do when this wave of change comes to its end?”
The Congress of Vienna was also used to redraw the map of Europe after the Napoleonic wars, and then fix borders and establish a mechanism to agree on changes. In this light, Moussa was adamant that proposals to break up Iraq along sectarian lines would be infectious and disastrous for the region. A deal in in which the likes of Iran and Saudi Arabia guaranteed the non-violation of borders is appealing.
Of course, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical. For one thing, Iran and Saudi Arabia are involved in what they see as a zero-sum contest for power, and a meaningful agreement between them seems fantastical: The empires of Europe were driven to reconciliation only after nearly 20 years of defeats forced them to learn the value of alliance. Indeed, while Saudi Arabia’s Prince Turki al-Faisal, also in Salzburg, supported Moussa’s idea, his focus was on how to create a united Arab front toward Iran — a poor starting point if the goal is to reconcile Iranian and Saudi interests
So long as the focus is on getting the Arab house in order, this is unlikely to get anywhere. A more serious attempt would focus not on Arab identity but on who needs to be at the table so that any deal that is reached would be meaningful. At a minimum, that means Iran, Israel and Turkey must be present. Inviting the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to facilitate and hold the ring would also be smart. It’s crazy, and it’s worth a try.
To contact the author: Marc Champion at Bloomberg.net
To contact the editor responsible for this article: Tobin Harshaw at bloomberg.net
Today, Saturday, July 26th, the news are that Prime Minster Netanyahu agreed to offer a 12 hours pause in the assault on Hamas in honor of the Muslim Eid al Fitr celebration and Hamas agreed to obey as well. The general hope is that the time will be used to start negotiations that could justify an extension of this truce. So far these news rated page 8 of the New York Times.
We follow very closely these events as SUSTAINABILITY in the Middle East requires a peaceful settlement of the Palestinian-Palestinian-Israeli conflict with the creation of an agreed upon and legitimized two or three States solution in the area between the Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea.
After the release of the Genie of War from his temporary tunnel. Israel cannot allow another temporary non-solution that will clearly lead only to renewed fighting down the road. Kick the Can time is over they say. The destruction of the military capability of Hamas and making safe the frontiers around the Gaza Strip – so no tunneling under those frontiers will continue in the aftermass of the 2914 conflict.
In these conditions Prime Minister Netanyahu and his cabinet have no interest in a 7 days cease-fire suggested by US Secretary of State Mr. Kerry, neither does Israel consider pulling back the military equipment and the military from the recent incursion into the Gaza Strip without having achieved first the destruction of those tunnels – some as three mile long. Nor will Israel allow bringing in cement to the Gaza Strip before there is an authority to monitor that this cement is used for housing and roads and not for repairing those tunnels and build new ones.
Those issues are fully known to Mr. Kerry and he also mentions them in his argument for cease-fire and negotiations, but here comes his meeting in Cairo where besides the President and Foreign Minister of Egypt acting as hosts, he also faced the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who was pulled in as International Boss by the Amir of Qatar.to whom Mr. Kerry had to give homage in order to get the UN into this as representing the World at large – knowing that he came here on money from the main backer of the Hamas, while he himself, Mr. Ban, is in effect leaning on help from the Arab League at large that was represented in Cairo thus by the boss of the boss – Mr. Nabil AlArabi, Secretary -General of the Arab League that Mr, Ban Ki-moon recognizes as representing the Middle East region without Israel at the UN. So far as the UN goes, Israel is not in Western Asia, but in Europe and “Others” – somewhat closer to the moon.
The real power the four elements that met in Cairo on July 24th is shown in the reporting from the US Department of State that we post here in full. The last speaker being obviously the one who thinks he represents the power of Sunni Islam – Arab and Turkish
Nabil AlAraby (born 15 March 1935 in Egypt) is an experienced Egyptian diplomat who has been Secretary-General of the Arab League since July 2011. Previously, he was Foreign Minister of Egypt in Essam Sharaf’s post revolution government from March to June 2011. Elaraby was Legal Adviser and Director in the Legal and Treaties Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 1976 to 1978 and then Ambassador to India from 1981 to 1983; he then returned to his previous post at the Foreign Ministry from 1983 to 1987.
He was Legal Adviser to the Egyptian delegation to the Camp David Middle East peace conference in 1978, Head of the Egyptian delegation to the Taba negotiations from 1985 to 1989, and Agent of the Egyptian Government to the Egyptian-Israeli arbitration tribunal (Taba dispute) from 1986 to 1988. He was appointed by the Egyptian Minister of Justice on the list of arbitrations in civil and commercial affairs in Egypt in 1995.
He holds a J.S.D. (1971) and an LL.M. (1969) from New York University School of Law and a law degree from Cairo University‘s Faculty of Law (1955). AlAraby is a partner at Zaki Hashem & Partners in Cairo, specializing in negotiations and arbitration.
at the United Nations:
In 1968 Elaraby was an Adlai Stevenson Fellow in International Law at the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). He was appointed a Special Fellow in International Law at UNITAR in 1973, and was Legal Adviser to the Egyptian delegation to the United Nations Geneva Middle East peace conference from 1973-1975.
AlArby was Egypt’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York from 1978 to 1981, the Permanent Representative to the UN Office at Geneva from 1987 to 1991, the Permanent Representative to the UN in New York from 1991 to 1999, a member of the International Law Commission of the United Nations from 1994 to 2004, President of the Security Council in 1996, and Vice-President of the General Assembly in 1993, 1994 and 1997. He was a commissioner at the United Nations Compensation Commission in Geneva from 1999 to 2001, and a member of the International Court of Justice from 2001 until February 2006.
AlAraby has served as Chairman for the First (Disarmament and international security questions) Committee of the General Assembly, the Informal Working Group on an Agenda for Peace, the Working Group on Legal Instruments for the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, and the UN Special Committee on Enhancing the Principle of the Prohibition of the Use of Force in International Relations.
Other international work:
AlAraby was an Arbitrator at the International Chamber of Commerce International Court of Arbitration in Paris in a dispute concerning the Suez Canal from 1989 to 1992. He was a judge in the Judicial Tribunal of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries in 1990.
AlAraby was a member of the governing board of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute from 2000 to 2010. Since December 2008 he has been serving as the Director of the Regional Cairo Centre for International Commercial Arbitration and as a counsel of the Sudanese government in the “Abyei Boundary” Arbitration between the Government of Sudan and the Sudanese People’s Revolutionary Movement.
AlAraby has also served as a Member of the Board for the Cairo Regional Centre for International Commercial Arbitration, a Member of the Board for the Egyptian Society of International Law, and a Member of the World Intellectual Property Organization Arbitration and Mediation Centre List of Neutrals.
2011 Egyptian revolution and transitional government:
At a democracy forum on 25 February 2011, he said the Egyptian government suffered from a lack of separation of powers, a lack of transparency and a lack of judicial independence.
On 6 March 2011, he was appointed Foreign Minister of Egypt in Essam Sharaf‘s post-revolution cabinet. Since then he has opened the Rafah Border Crossing with Gaza and brokered the reconciliation of Hamas with Fatah.
Clearly – a very versed man with large horizon and it is not clear where he stands with the present government of Egypt. Clearly not in the US corner.
From the US Department of State – Remarks from
Secretary of State
July 25, 2014 o9:59 PM EDT
Near East: Remarks With UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, and Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Araby
Remarks With UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, and Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Araby.
FOREIGN MINISTER SHOUKRY: (Via interpreter.) Good evening. You know that Egypt is – the serious military escalation in Gaza and what the Palestinian people have been exposed to in terms of destruction – broad destruction and killing of civilians that claimed up until now over 800 civilians and thousands of injured. We are working incessantly to end this crisis and to spare the Palestinian people of the dangers it has been exposed to, and to prevent further military escalation. And this has led to the proposal – to us proposing our plan, and we should know that Egypt has not spared any effort to stop – or to reach a cease-fire to protect the Palestinian people and to allow for negotiations to start between the two parties in order to discuss all the issues, in order to restore stability in the Gaza strip, and to meet the needs of the brotherly Palestinian people, and to also prevent further violence which the Palestinian civilians have been exposed to.
We have continued our efforts since the beginning of the military escalation to achieve this goal in cooperation with the U.S. and the secretary-general of the UN and the secretary-general of the Arab League and other parties – other regional and international parties in order to achieve this goal. We once again call for the immediate cease-fire, a cease of all actions in order to protect the Palestinian people. And given that the parties have not shown any – sufficient willingness to stop this, we are calling for a humanitarian cease-fire to observe the holy days that we are on the verge of observing at the end of the holy month of Ramadan and the Eid for a period of seven days, in the hope that this will lead – will prompt the parties to heed the calls of conscience and humanitarian needs in order to reach a comprehensive cease-fire, and also begin negotiations in order to prevent the reoccurrence of this crisis.
And also, to propose a good framework for this objective, we have consulted over the last few days in order to formulate a formula that would be agreed to by all the sides, and also to stop the bloodshed. But unfortunately, we have to exert further effort in order to realize our common goals in this regard. The proposed ideas were focused or fell within the same framework that the Egyptian plan proposed. And once again, we will call on all parties to benefit from it and to accept it definitively. I would like on this occasion also to allow the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to speak.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. All right. Well, let me start again. I want to thank Sameh Shoukry and President al-Sisi and Egypt for their very warm welcome here, but most importantly for their continued efforts to try to find a way to achieve a cease-fire agreement in Gaza and then beyond that, to be able to resolve the critical issues that are underlying this conflict. I thank Sameh for his help today and the work we’ve been doing together. We’ve made some movement and progress, and I’ll talk about that in a minute.
I also want to thank Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who has traveled and worked tirelessly in these past days throughout the international community to try to bring people together, as well as Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Araby for his close partnership in this effort. They’ve been sources of good advice and also of tireless effort. So this is a broad effort with a broad based sense that something needs to be done.
I also want to acknowledge President Abbas who has traveled to any number of countries in recent days, and whom I met with just the other day, who expressed his desire – strong desire to achieve a cease-fire as rapidly as possible, and he has been passionately advocating for the Palestinian people and the future of the Palestinian state.
Let me just say that the agony of the events on the ground in Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel, all of them together, simply cannot be overstated. The daily reality for too many people of grief and blood and loss and tears, it all joins together to pull at the fabric of daily life in each of their communities.
In Israel, millions of people are living under constant threat of Hamas rocket fire and tunnel attacks, and they’re ready to take cover at any moment’s notice. And I’ve had telephone conversations with the prime minister interrupted by that fact. Earlier this week I had a chance to visit with the family of a young man by the name of Max Steinberg, an American – one of two Americans killed in this devastating conflict – and his mother Naftali Fraenkel, who was murdered at the outset – whose son was murdered at the very outset of this crisis.
So any parent in the world, regardless of somebody’s background, can understand the horror of losing a child or of seeing these children who are caught in the crossfire. In Gaza, hundreds of Palestinians have died over the past few weeks, including a tragic number of civilians. And we’ve all read the headlines and seen the images of the devastation: 16 people killed and more than 200 injured in just a single attack yesterday; women and children being wheeled away on stretchers; medics pulling shrapnel out of an infant’s back; a father nursing his three-year-old son. The whole world is watching a – tragic moment after tragic moment unfold and wondering: When is everybody going to come to their senses?
Both the Israelis and the Palestinians deserve and need to lead normal lives, and it’s time for everyone to recognize that violence breeds violence and that the short-term tactical gains that may be made through a violent means simply will not inspire the long-term change that is necessary and that both parties really want.
I have been in the region since Monday at the request of President Obama, and I’ve spent five days on the ground here and also in Israel in the West Bank engaging in countless discussions with leaders throughout the region and even around the world, conversations lasting, obviously, late into the night and through the day. We have gathered here, my colleagues and I have gathered here together because we believe that it is impossible for anybody to simply be inactive and not try to make government work to deal with this bloodshed. We need to join together and push back.
Specifically, here is what we’ve been working to try to bring about. At this moment, we are working toward a brief seven days of peace – seven days of a humanitarian cease-fire in honor of Eid, in order to be able to bring people together to try to work to create a more durable, sustainable cease-fire for the long run, and to work to create the plans for that long haul.
The fact is that the basic structure is built on the Egyptian initiative, but the humanitarian concept is one that Egypt has agreed to embrace in an effort to try to honor Eid and bring people together at this moment. Seven days, during which the fundamental issues of concern for Israel – security, the security of Israel and its people – and for the Palestinians – the ability to know that their social and economic future can be defined by possibilities, and that those issues will be addressed. We believe that Egypt has made a significant offer to bring people to Cairo – the factions, the Palestinian factions and representatives of interested states and the state of Israel – in order to begin to try to negotiate the way forward.
Now, why are we not announcing that that has been found yet tonight? For a simple reason: That we still have some terminology in the context of the framework to work through. But we are confident we have a fundamental framework that can and will ultimately work. And what we need to do is continue to work for that, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do. We believe that seven days will give all the parties the opportunity to step back from the violence and focus on the underlying causes, perhaps take some steps that could build some confidence, and begin to change the choices for all.
We don’t yet have that final framework, but I will tell you this: None of us here are stopping. We are going to continue the conversations. And right now, before I came in here tonight, I had conversations with people on both sides of this conflict. Just spoke to Prime Minister Netanyahu, who made it clear that he wants to try to find this way forward. I think the Secretary-General, who has graciously called for a 12-hour cease-fire, will speak in a moment about that possibility and where it will go. And Prime Minister Netanyahu’s indicated his willingness to do that as a good-faith down payment and to move forward. And I’m grateful to the Secretary-General for his leadership in that regard.
But in the end, the only way that this issue is going to be resolved, this conflict, is for the parties to be able to come together and work through it as people have in conflicts throughout history. And it’s our hope, and we intend to do everything possible. Tomorrow, I will be in Paris, where I will meet with some of our counterparts, my counterparts, and where I will also meet with other players who are important to this discussion in an effort to be able to try to see if we can narrow the gap. And Prime Minister Netanyahu is committed to try to help do that over the course of the next day.
So we begin with at least the hope of a down payment on a cease-fire, with the possibility of extension, a real possibility in the course of tomorrow. And hopefully, if we can make some progress, the people in this region who deserve peace can find at least one step towards that elusive goal. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Secretary-General.
SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN: Thank you, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry of Egypt, Secretary of State of the United States John Kerry, League of Arab States Secretary-General al-Araby. Ladies and gentlemen, good evening. Assalamu alaikum, Ramadan Kareem.
Let me begin by commending all the leaders here today. I’d like to particularly thank President Sisi of Egypt and Foreign Minister Shoukry as the host of this initiative to have made ceaseless efforts to bring all the parties together. And I also commend highly the leadership and commitment and tirelessly – tireless diplomatic efforts of Secretary of State John Kerry, and it has been a source of inspiration to work with all these distinguished colleagues. And I have been obviously closely working with League of Arab States Secretary General al-Araby.
This is my sixth day in the region visiting eight countries, 11 stops, meeting kings, amirs, presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers, over meeting, over telephones. I have been working very closely with the leaders here as well as all the leaders in the region. I really appreciate their kind cooperation and leadership. Our joint effort is a clear signal of a global commitment to end the bloodshed and destruction that is tearing apart the lives of hope and the hopes of so many innocent civilians. People of Gaza have bled enough. They are trapped and besieged in a tiny, densely populated sliver of land. Every bit of it is a civilian area. The Israeli people have been living under the constant fear of Hamas rocket attacks. Tensions are spreading further. We are seeing growing unrest in the West Bank. Surely now, the parties must realize that it is time for them to act, and solutions must be based on three important issues.
First, stop the fighting. We called for a seven-day humanitarian cease-fire extending over the Eid period, beginning with a extendable 12-hour pause. Second, start talking. There is no military solution to addressing the grievances, and all parties must find a way to dialogue. Third, tackle the root causes of the crisis. This effort – peace effort – cannot be the same as it was the last two Gaza conflicts, where we reset the clock and waited for the next one. The ongoing fighting emphasizes the need to finally end the 47-year-old occupation, end the chokehold on Gaza, ensure security based on mutual recognition and achieve a viable two-state solution, by which Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace and security side by side.
Along with world and regional leaders, we continue to make every effort to forge a durable cease-fire for the people of Gaza and Israel based on those three pillars. Progress is being made, but there is much more work to do. We may not be satisfied with what we are now proposing, but we have to build upon what we are now proposing. In the meantime, more children are dying every hour of every day.
Ladies and gentlemen, today is the last Friday of Ramadan. The world is just away from marking Eid-al-Fitr. Let us all take inspiration from this season of peace and reflection. The United Nations is fully committed to ensuring the success of this proposal and securing hope and dignity for all the people of Palestine and Israel. And I thank you again for all leaders in the region and in the world who have been working together with the United Nations and the leaders here to bring peace and security to this region. I thank you very much. Shukran Jazilan.
MODERATOR: Thank you. (Via interpreter.) Secretary-general of the United – of the Arab League.
SECRETARY GENERAL AL-ARABY: (Via interpreter.) Thank you very much. I would like to thank also the Secretary-General of the United Nations. This is a very serious and grave situation. There are martyrs in Palestine have been – have died as a result of the Israeli aggression and the violation of the principles of international humanitarian law. People have been fired at, children are falling, and all civilians are being killed. This is the holiest month in the Islamic world, as those before me have mentioned. And on the eve of the Eid, we would like to support and uphold the idea of a cease-fire, as Mr. John Kerry has said and also the UN Secretary-General has said.
But before I conclude my very brief remarks, I would like to say that the occupation and the siege on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip – these are occupied territories. We cannot imagine that the siege and the occupation, that there would be no resistance to them. For that reason, everyone should work to end this conflict. I would allow myself to say, in English and in very simple and brief language: (In English) In a very simple and concise way, that as much as I support the humanitarian (inaudible), but we have to look at it. I think everyone has to do that. We have to look ahead. Then it’s diplomacy, and then (inaudible) results. We have to dedicate ourselves, all of us, to reach a final solution. That means the end of the occupation. Thank you.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter.) We will be taking four questions, from Arshad (inaudible) first of all.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter.) Good evening.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter.) Mr. United Nations Secretary-General has to leave.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter.) Good evening. My question is for Mr. John Kerry and Minister Sameh Shoukry. You’ve launched this proposal or plan. Has there been – have there been contacts between the two sides, and how far have you reached in these contexts, especially that the Eid is approaching fast?
With respect to the rules of engagement that Israel uses in Israel and in Gaza and the West Bank, and what we’ve seen in terms of destruction of and demolishing of hospitals, have you received any guarantees from Israel that these actions would not be repeated? And thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: With respect to the negotiating process, it’s inappropriate to sort of lay out all the details, but of course we’re talking to everybody that we can talk to who has an ability to have an impact, and obviously I’m talking directly to Prime Minister Netanyahu and directly to other foreign ministers in the region, some of whom have different ways of talking with different factions of Palestinians, as well as talking to President Abbas. In the course of that, it’s very clear to me that under very difficult circumstances some are ready to move and others are reluctant and need assurances of one kind or another. And clearly, given the history, some of those assurances are sometimes difficult to be able to make and formulate appropriately so that somebody else doesn’t wind up being – struggling with them. That’s why the simplicity of this is really the best, which is come to the table and negotiate.
But to the degree that either side needs assurances of one thing or another being talked about, without outcomes, no preconditions, but something being negotiated and talked about, then you get in a contest of priorities and other kinds of things.
I believe we can work through those things. We have. The basic outline is approved by everybody. People believe that if the circumstances are right, the structure is right, a cease-fire makes sense, a cease-fire is important, and people would like to see the violence end. But it has to obviously be in ways that neither side feels prejudiced or their interests compromised.
So that’s what we’re working on. I think we’ve made serious progress. We sat today, worked some things out to deal with some of those sensitivities, but basically we still have some more things to do over the course of the next 24 or 48 hours, and we’re going to do that. My hope is that the 12 hours will be extended, perhaps to 24, and that people will draw from that the goodwill and effort to try to find a solution. But it takes – the parties have to come together and reach an understanding, and that’s what we’re going to continue to work on because it’s urgent for innocent people who get caught in the crossfire, and obviously the – as I said in my opening remarks, people in Israel deserve to live free from fear that their home or their school will be rocketed, but people in Palestine, the Palestinian territories and people in Gaza have a right to feel free from restraints on their life where they can barely get the food or the medicine or the building materials and the things that they need.
So there’s a lot on the table. It’s been complicated for a long time; it didn’t get easy last night. But we’re going to continue to work at this, and I’m confident that with goodwill, with good effort, I think progress can hopefully be made.
FOREIGN SECRETARY SHOUKRY: (Via interpreter.) Certainly, since the outbreak of the crisis in Gaza, we have been in contact with all parties, with the Palestinian Authority and Mahmoud Abbas. We have expended serious efforts based on our own Egyptian initiative, and also in cooperation with the American side. I would like to seize this opportunity to thank you, to thank Mr. Kerry for his efforts and – that he has spent and continues to expend, and his cooperation in order to achieve a complete cease-fire to protect the Palestinian people.
Military action and the serious escalation and the serious strikes taking place against the Palestinian territories, including the West Bank, prove the importance of immediate action to end this crisis so that it would not result or lead to more serious ramifications, not just in the occupied territories, but in the region as a whole. The framework we talk about is a framework that is – that the U.S. Secretary of State has talked about – is based on the Egyptian initiative, and also based on the idea of encouraging the parties to interact with it, so that we can reach a complete cease-fire and seizure of all military action, and to also save civilians from being targeted, and to end the bloodshed, just like the strike against the school yesterday. Such actions should not be repeated and should completely end, and so should military action.
And a temporary humanitarian cease-fire should be accepted to give a chance, an opportunity for interaction between the various parties, and perhaps expand it beyond there, so that all parties would come to recognize that a comprehensive solution to all this crisis and to the Palestinian conflict should be reached, and also to establish a Palestinian state in order to prevent the reoccurrence of such a grave situation.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter.) Arshad Mohammed.
QUESTION: Secretary Kerry, as I imagine you are aware, there are multiple reports that the Israeli cabinet today rejected the cease-fire proposal that you had on the table and said they wanted modifications. Do you regard that as just a negotiating ploy or do you regard it as likely to be a more definitive rejection?
And secondly, have you made any direct progress on getting the Egyptians to commit to opening Rafah, on getting the Israelis to commit to increasing traffic at the Erez crossing, and on getting Hamas to agree to let Israeli troops stay in the Gaza Strip during a truce? If you haven’t made any headway on those issues, how is it possible – after five days of diplomacy, how is it possible to describe these days as having produced serious progress?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me deal with the first issue, which is the fiction of diplomacy and of politics at the same time. There was no formal proposal or final proposal or proposal ready for a vote submitted to Israel. Let’s make that absolutely crystal clear. And Prime Minister Netanyahu called me a few minutes before this to make it clear that that is an error, inaccurate, and he’s putting out a statement to that effect. They may have rejected some language or proposal within the framework of some kind of suggestion at some point in time, but there was no formal proposal submitted from me on which there should have been a vote or on which a vote was ripe. We were having discussions about various ideas and various concepts of how to deal with this issue, and there’s always mischief from people who oppose certain things, and I consider that one of those mischievous interpretations and leaks which is inappropriate to the circumstances of what we’ve been doing and are engaged in.
With respect to the individual issues that you raised, I’m not going to make any announcements and I’m certainly not going to reveal issues that are of a bilateral nature between Egypt and the United States or the United States and another country, but I will simply tell you in a candid way that those issues were talked about, and I am satisfied with the responses that I received with respect to how they might affect the road ahead. And each and every one of them I believe there are ways of moving forward.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter.) (Inaudible)
QUESTION: My question is for Secretary Kerry and the Egyptian foreign minister. First of all, it seems that all of those efforts, the phone calls, visits have led only to a cease-fire for seven hours. Why is the reasons for not having more achievements? Who is blockading having more achievements in this? Is it Israel, or is it Hamas? Is it the Palestinians? Who is going to – we are going to blame on this? Because we have heard that Israel refused. As you have said, it’s not correct, but it was published that Israel refused, actually, some ideas of having more cease-fire, more than seven hours.
Also, it seems that all of this is because the peace process has stopped, actually, because of the settlements of Israel. This is the main cause – the blockade of course, and other things on the Gaza, the boycotts on Gaza. People can’t have food or water or other things, but also the peace process have stopped. You have – Secretary Kerry have done a lot in this, and yet you didn’t say why, who is the reasons behind it stopping.
And my question is for our foreign minister, please. (Via interpreter.) There is a lot of talk about the Rafah Crossing, and that Egypt is – closes this crossing. And there’s also an attempt to blame the siege, the Israeli siege on Gaza, on Egypt, even though it has – Israel has closed six crossings and is responsible for the siege. Can there be some clarification with respect to the Rafah Crossing, and will it continue to be closed in the coming days?
FOREIGN MINISTER SHOUKRY: (Via interpreter.) Thank you. With respect to Rafah Crossing, I have repeatedly responded to this, but it seems no one is listening. Rafah Crossing is open continuously and at all times, but it has to be under regulation related to Egyptian policy, and it’s also related to the situation in Sinai. But it is open, and it receives constantly and permanently, around the clock, people from the Gaza Strip for treatment in Egyptian hospitals, and more than 600 or 700 tons of food and medical material have crossed. And the crossing has never been tied or linked to any kind of siege on the Gaza Strip.
The six Israeli crossings that you referred to, they have to be operational. And the responsibility of Israel as an occupation authority is what – it is the responsibility of Israel, and we have called for this in our initiative, that the Israeli crossings need to be open so that the needs and the humanitarian needs of the Gazans should be met, and so that also normal life would be restored to the Gaza Strip. I hope that this response will be widely shared and it’s clear without any attempt to internationalize or to misinterpret the situation.
SECRETARY KERRY: Actually, I think a great deal has been moved in the course of the last days. Though it doesn’t meet your eye yet, those of us who are working this have a feeling that gaps have been significantly narrowed on certain things, but obviously not everything yet.
And in fairness, it’s important to say that, yes, Israel had some questions or even opposition to one concept or another concept – that doesn’t mean to a proposal by any means – at an early stage of discussion. But most importantly, I think it’s important to note that in Ramadan, when everything is on a different schedule, it’s more complicated to be able to have some meetings, particularly when I am mediating between different people who talk to different people. And it’s secondhand, thirdhand, it takes longer. So there’s a certain time consumption in all of that.
But I’m not a – I’m not somebody who I think is going to stand here and misinterpret the difficulties. At the same time, I can recognize progress when I see it and a concept that has taken shape. And I think my colleagues would agree there’s a fundamental concept here that can be achieved if we work through some of the issues of importance to the parties. That’s the art, and sometimes it just doesn’t happen overnight or as quickly as you’d like. But it doesn’t mean it can’t.
And so – by the way, it’s not seven hours; it’s 12 hours with a very likely extension of another 12, hopefully for 24, but we’ll see. The proof will be in the pudding on that. And on the peace process, I’ve purposely tried not to start pointing fingers and getting involved, because to us, the process is not over. It hasn’t stopped, and it doesn’t help to be starting to point fingers. What you have to do is figure out, okay, where do you go from here and how. In the course of this conflict right now, I would respectfully suggest to you there are some very serious warnings about what happens when you don’t have that process, and what happens if you’re not working effectively to try to achieve a resolution of the underlying issues.
This is about the underlying issues. And what we need to do is get through this first. It’s a little surrealistic in the middle of this to be talking about the other process, but those people who have been at this for a long time, my colleagues here and others, absolutely know that that is at the bedrock of much of the conflict and the trouble that we all witness here and that is going to have to be resolved if there is a chance of peace, and we believe there is.
Egypt has been a leader on that. Years ago, Egypt took extraordinary risk, and we all know what the consequences were. Egypt made peace, and it has made a difference. And the truth is that today there’s a great commitment here and elsewhere in the region to be able to get back to the process and try to address those underlying issues.
So it’s not gone. It’s dormant for the moment. It’s in hiatus because of the events that are taking place. But the leaders I’ve talked to tell me that what they’re witnessing now and what they’re seeing now has reinforced in them the notion that they needed to get back to that table as soon as possible and begin to address those concerns.
I don’t know if you want to say anything on that.
SECRETARY GENERAL AL-ARABY: (Via interpreter.) Certainly, with respect to the peace process, we call for the resumption of negotiations under U.S. sponsorship. Based from the point we have – it has stopped at, we do not want to go back to the beginning, but several accomplishments have been made on several issues. And we have to build on this progress in order to reach our ultimate goal, which the entire international community has agreed to: the two-state solution, a Palestinian state on Palestinian land with East Jerusalem, and this is the final solution to this conflict. And this will give the Palestinian people a chance to have a normal life away from killing and destruction, and to also fulfill its aspirations – the aspirations of the Palestinian people in the region, and will also ultimately lead to a final end to the conflict.
MODERATOR: (Speaking in Arabic, not interpreted) at CBS, Margaret Brennan.
QUESTION: Thank you. Mr. Secretary, given the protests that we’ve seen in the West Bank over the past 24 hours, which resulted in at least one fatality, do you believe – do you fear that a third intifada is about to happen? And could you clarify – when you said that there’s a difference of terminology in regard to these negotiations, that sounds technical rather conceptual. Can you clarify what you meant there?
SECRETARY KERRY: I can, but I won’t. (Laughter.) I think it’s important to let us work quietly on those things and not put them out in the public domain, but I applaud you for a worthy try.
With respect to the incidents and events on the West Bank, I have learned not to characterize something ahead of time or predict it, and I’m not going to now. But I do know that the leaders I’ve talked to in Israel, in the West Bank, in Jordan are deeply concerned about what they are seeing right now. And it is very, very necessary for all of us to take it into account as we think about the options that we have in front of us. It’s just enormously disturbing to see this kind of passion find its way into violent protests, and in some cases not violent.
But we need to address – it’s a statement to all of us in positions of responsibility, get the job done, and that’s what we’re trying to do.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thanks.
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In Tel Aviv UN Secretary-General Ban KI-moon discovers the facts about Gaza and “OFF-THE-CUFF” proclaims: “WE CONDEMN THE USE OF CIVILIAN SITES – SCHOOLS, HOSPITALS AND OTHER CIVILIAN FACILITIES – FOR MILITARY PURPOSES. NO COUNTRY WOULD ACCEPT ROCKETS RAINING DOWN ON ITS TERRITORY – AND ALL COUNTRIES AND PARTIES HAVE AN INTERNATIONAL OBLIGATION TO PROTECT CIVILIANS.”
But above statement does not sit well with the Secretary’s benefactor on this trip – His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, Amir of the State of Qatar, who is funding the UN Secretary-General’s current trip to the Middle East, or the Mr. Ban Ki-moon’s Middle East Policy guide, Dr. Nabil ElArabi, the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, the linchpin between the opposing two Arab Sunni factions headed by Qatar – the Godfather of the Muslim Brotherhood and of its off-Shoot the Hamas, and Saudi Arabia, that detests those two last named political Islamic fundamentalist organizations.
Not only that, it is the UN paid for and UN maintained facilities that are used as storage place for the rockets. when such a use of a facility became public the UN paid folks just turned them over to the Hamas. It is just not enough to acknowledge as the UNSG did when in Ramallah on July 22nd that UNRWA’s regular operations were “acutely affected” by the fact that they were used to store weapons. and then say that he strongly condemns “the indiscriminate rocket fire launched by Hamas and Islamic Jihad from Gaza into Israel. I am also alarmed by Israel’s heavy response and corresponding high civilian death toll. This is the “proportionality argument” that forgets that in the World there are more then a billion Muslims and less then 10 million Jews – which would indeed mean a proportionality of 1:1,000 – or in mathematical terms each Jew killed weighs as much as 1,000 Muslims killed – this when the killing is started by people that dream of cleansing their region of the Infidel Jews.
In that video-conference from Ramallah Mr. Ban complains that in the last 5 years, the time he is UN Secretary-General this is his third time to come on an emergency mission tp the region to help in a crisis.
That means the children of Gaza are now living through the third major assault in the last five years of their lives, he said.
Obviously, the UNSG just said the truth which is that just achieving a cease-fire without demilitarization of Gaza achieves nothing else then a short break in a continuing warfare and there is no reasn why Israel should accept this. The ridiculous fact is that Israel nevertheless did accept Egypt’s proposal to allow for just such a break and it was Hamas grand-standing that rejected it. Hamas hates Egypt perhaps even more then their hate for Israel. The ruler of Qatar sees this self destructing attitude of Hamas and has sponsored the UNSG mission in an attempt to save Hamas from Israel and from itself.
The UNSG in his trip was in Egypt as well – just to make sure Egypt does not give up its efforts in the face of this Hamas intransigence and to ask Egypt to figure out a face saving approach for Hamas so they do not look like losers. Will a united Israel cave in to such pressure that leaves the Hamas enemy look like a winner? Specially now when Hamas managed to close Israel’s link to the World by in the post downing of Malaysia 17 in the Ukraine that forces civil airlines to avoid flying over war zones.
To top this all we just received the following e-mail from UN Watch that nixes a UN were Arab States and some sworn anti-Western states are shredding the UN Charter and the UN Declaration on Human rights.
But before we post that e-mail, let us remind the UNSG that his predecessor was able to pass on the very important and here relevant PRINCIPLE OF THE RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT which here translates into the responsibility of a ruling government to protect its citizens. This is something the Israeli Government is trying to do, but the Hamas that took over the governing of Gaza from the National Palestinian Authority uses its citizens as human shield to their missiles something that has to be undone by outside intervention that removes them from the business of government. Only the Palestinian Authority, with outside help, could do this. Qatar does not back the PA but Hamas. As such the Qatar money carpet used to fly te UNSG to the Middle East may have been a very bad idea. It seems that this is being realized at high levels at the UN and texts are being altered as reported today by Matthew Russell Lee of the Inner City Press Office at the UN who speaks also for FUNCA – the Free UN Coalition For Access.
THE UN WATCH PRESENTATION TODAY IN GENEVA BEFORE THE UNHRC:
Testimony delivered today, 23 July 2014, by UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer, at the UN Human Rights Council Emergency Session on Gaza
Mr. President, I have just returned here from visiting Israel to tell this assembly, and the world, about the grave situation that I witnessed and experienced.
An entire nation—towns, villages and cities, from the Negev Desert up to the Galilee, from the Judean hills of Jerusalem to the Tel Aviv seashore—has been under brutal and relentless attack, from more than two thousand mortars, rockets and long-range missiles, fired from Gaza toward civilians in every part of the Holy Land.
Never before, in the history of Israel’s seven decades of existence, has its men, women and children come under such a massive aerial assault, forcing them, at the sound of air raid sirens day and night, to run for shelter.
And never before, in the modern history of nations, has a free and democratic society come under such sustained bombardment from a terrorist organization, one that openly strives for and celebrates the murder of civilians, and that, as its general worldview, glorifies death.
Did the world ever imagine that the ancient city of Jerusalem—sacred to Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and replete with holy places that are recognized by the United Nations as protected world heritage sites—would be deliberately targeted by indiscriminate rockets?
And yet it is.
During one air raid in Jerusalem, I ran down to the basement of a building with little children crying and traumatized. During an air raid in Tel Aviv, the neighbors of an apartment building showed great strength of spirit in defiance of terrorism, by reaching out to strangers in the shelters, as we heard the booms of the rockets above.
And as I was seated in my airplane, about to depart and return back here to Geneva, the air raid siren went off around the airport. We all had to rush off the plane and seek shelter. You’ve heard the news today: that international airlines are now ceasing to fly to Israel because of this danger.
I believe that the world should salute this terrorized, besieged and embattled nation, which has refused to surrender to demoralization, instead showing such courage, resolve and strength of spirit in surviving—and resisting—this massive aggression.
And people should consider: Is there any precedent in world history for a nation passively to suffer a three-week bombardment of its civilian population, by more than 2,000 deadly rockets?
The attempt by Hamas to shut down Israel’s sole international airport, in a country already besieged by land from hostile forces from north to south, would constitute the strangulation of an artery vital to the life of Israel’s people and economy.
These acts of aggression also target the sovereign rights of the nations under whose flags these airplanes fly.
I ask each ambassador in this chamber to take a moment and imagine terrorists deliberately firing deadly rockets at the airports of Heathrow, Charles de Gaulle, or Frankfurt; Rio de Janeiro, Johannesburg, or Tokyo.
How would your government react?
How long would your nation wait before doing everything in its power to exercise its right, under international law and morality, to resist such aggression?
I turn now to the resolution upon which this Council will soon vote. The text before us denounces Israel, denies its right to self-defence, and disregards Hamas war crimes.
We ask: why does this Council refuse to say that which was said only two weeks ago by the Palestinian ambassador himself?
In an extraordinary moment of candor, Palestinian Ambassador Ibrahim Khraishi admitted, on Palestinian TV, that “each and every” Palestinian missile launched against Israeli civilians constitutes “a crime against humanity.”
And that, by contrast, Israel’s own response actions in Gaza “followed the legal procedures” because, as Hamas spokespersons admitted on TV, “the Israelis warned them to evacuate their homes before the bombardment; but, “as for the missiles launched from our side, we never warn anyone about where these missiles are about to fall or about the operations we carry out.”
Can any UN entity, or any individual, be truly for human rights when they refuse to say that which was said by the Palestinian ambassador himself?
Is it possible that the true purpose of this session is to silence the true victims and voices of human rights around the world by deflecting attention from the world’s worst abuses?
We ask all those who embrace hypocrisy and double standards: if in the past year you didn’t cry out whe thousands of protesters were killed and injured by Turkey, Egypt and Libya; when more victims than ever were hanged by Iran; women and children in Afghanistan were bombed; whole communities were massacred in South Sudan; hundreds in Pakistan were killed by jihadist terror attacks; 10,000 Iraqis were killed by terrorists—
[Egypt interrupts with an objection.]
President of UNHRC Session: We have a point of order. Egypt, you have the floor.
Egypt: Mr. President, I think we are meeting today for the special session to discuss the current crisis in Gaza and the violations committed within this crisis. So I don’t see why we have a reason to discuss other issues relating to human rights situations on other countries.
United States of America: We think it is relevant to the subject under debate, and therefore you should allow the NGO to continue to speak.
Iran: We fully support the point of order made by Egypt.
Canada: We urge you to allow the NGO to complete their intervention, which is relevant to the discussions at hand.
Israel: It is important that civil society participate in this debate, and we request that you allow this NGO to continue.
Venezuela: We support the point of order made by Egypt.
Palestine: This is not a point of order, but more a clarification. The speaker will continue along the same lines if the speaker is not stopped. I would ask you not to waste any time on this so we can conclude this meeting in good time.
Cuba: It is inconceivable that a NGO should be able to come to this Council to distract us with the little time we have to debate an issue which is of such crucial importance as the genocide being committed currently against the Palestinian people.
President: I give the floor back to UN Watch, with the request that he adhere to the subject matter under discussion today.
UN Watch: Thank you, Mr. President. I’ll just note that there had been some questions whether the videotape interview of the Palestinian ambassador on Palestinian TV was genuine or not, but we see that the Palestinian ambassador has just intervened—and has failed to deny those remarks. Let the record show that.
Finally, we ask: If those who refuse to speak out for Palestinians—1800 Palestinians, if not more—who were starved to death, murdered, by Assad in Syria, but you only cry out when Israel can be blamed, then you are not pro human rights, you are only anti-Israel.
Syria: We’re used to hearing this NGO creating divisions among the speakers, and speaking out of turn. It is strange to hear an NGO defending the killing of women and children, and the destruction of infrastructure in Palestine. I would hope that the speaker is no longer allowed to continue his statement.
Hillel: Thank you, Mr. President. Let the world note: that in a session purportedly on Palestinian human rights, the government of Syria objected to us mentioning the 1800 Palestinians that they starved and murdered.
tel: (41-22) 734-1472 • fax: (41-22) 734-1613
The UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, travels to the Middle East in a UK registered chartered plane paid for by the Ruler of Qatar, a Hamas sponsor, his throne safeguarded by US Armed Forces sitting on top of his gas fields. This justifies lots of questions about the present UN.
Call for UN Reforms After Ban Flies on Qatar-Funded, UK Registered Plane
By Matthew Russell Lee, The Inner City Press at the UN – Follow up on exclusive
UNITED NATIONS, July 21, more here — Why shouldn’t the UN be able to live up the most basic standards of transparency and good government?
Inner City Press: As I asked you before, and I know that you had said you would answer at some point, how did the Secretary-General fly from New York to Qatar? Was it on a Qatari plane, and what safeguards are in place? Would he take a flight from any nation?
Spokesman Dujarric: Okay, Matthew, it was the Qatari Government [that] very generously chartered a plane for the Secretary-General to enable him to go about his visit. This is not the kind of visit that we could do if we were not flying on a private plane. It is not a Qatari plane; it was chartered. It is a British-registered plane, as some of you will be able to see on the photos. But, it is a private aircraft funded by the Qatari Government.
Should the UN Secretary General in a mediation attempt accept free travel from a country with a particular interest in the conflict to be mediated?
Inner City Press: you are saying that the use of private planes, generically if necessary, is signed off by the ethics office, but my question is, private planes provided by anyone? Would the Secretary-General, would he accept such service from any Member State, or would he accept it from corporations? The question becomes, given that particular countries have different views of the conflict, what review is made before accepting a particular country’s contribution?
Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq: Well, we do have, like I said, an ethics office and a legal office that can look into these things and see whether something is appropriate or not.
Inner City Press: Was this particular flight checked or you’re saying there’s a generic ruling in advance that any private plane is okay?
Deputy Spokesman Haq: No, I don’t think there’s a generic ruling about this, but certainly, if you need to justify this for essential needs, and something like this, a trip that the Secretary-General was able to embark on and made the decision on just at the end of last week and then had to travel, starting Saturday evening, something like that would have been extremely hard or basically impossible to do in a different sort of way.
Inner City Press: I’m asking because in the budget Committee, often many, particularly developing world countries, they say that things should be funded out of the UN’s general budget rather than taking voluntary contributions from States that then have influence. So, my question is, isn’t there a travel budget? We’ve asked in this room many times to know what the budget is, so I’d still like to know that. But, if there is a budget, why wasn’t the general UN budget used for this rather than taking a specific gift from a specific country? That’s the question.
Deputy Spokesman Haq: The worry is, of course, if you run out of money early, does that mean you can’t travel, even if there’s a crisis? In this case, there was a crisis that necessitated sudden travel.
Inner City Press broke the story on July 19 — credit has been given, for example, by Newsweek, here — and has been asking Ban’s spokespeople for disclosure and what safeguards are in place.
Lead spokesman Dujarric replied but did not answer on July 19. When he called in to the UN noon briefing from Cairo on July 21, Inner City Press asked him again on whose plane Ban is traveling.
This time, Dujarric answered that Ban is flying on a Qatar government funded, UK registered plane. But he did not answer if there are any safeguards against influence or conflicts of interest. Would Ban accept free flights from any UN member state? From anyone at all?
Inner City Press asked Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq, who said the UN Ethics Office said taking private planes is okay when necessary.
But private planes from ANYONE? Any member state? A corporation? There have been no real answers, yet. But there need to be.
Diplomats told Inner City Press that Ban would fly — on a Qatari plane — to Qatar, Ramallah (but not for now Gaza), Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Kuwait.
The diplomats who complained to Inner City Press questioned not only Ban taking free flights from a particular country, but also how the use (and landing) of a Qatari plane will play in, for example, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
Inner City Press asked Ban’s top two spokespeople, and the spokesperson listed as on weekend duty, the following:
“Please state whether the Secretary General is accepting free transportation from any member state or outside party for his current trip to the region concerning the Gaza crisis, and if so please explain the reason and any safeguards in place against influence or conflict of interest.
“Such disclosure should be common practice; if necessary, note that former Spokesperson Nesirky did answer such Press questions, for example concerning the Secretary General flying on a UAE plane (see sample below). On deadline, thank you in advance.
- The UAE Government provided an aircraft to fly the Secretary-General from Beirut to Abu Dhabi because of time constraints.
Later on July 19, the following was received, which we publish in full 25 minutes after receipt:
From: Stephane Dujarric [at] un.org
Dear Matthew, Thanks for your question and thanks for the draft answer. The logistical details of the SG’s trip, including the travel arrangements are still being worked out. Once we are in a position to confirm them, i will revert.
Stephane Dujarric (Mr.)
But obviously the “logistical details” of getting to Qatar were worked out – Ban had already been to Qatar, then Kuwait before Cairo.
One asked, what can you solve if you can’t even say how you got there?
Inner City Press thanked Dujarric and his colleagues for the interim response and asked, “both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Poroshenko’s office say they have spoken with the Secretary General and give read-outs. Will a UN read-out be put out? If so, when? If not, why not?”
On July 21, Inner City Press asked Haq, who confirmed the calls took place but nothing about the contents. What is happened with the UN?
However you cut it ISIS or ISIL (the second S for Syria, the L for the Levant) – this is a Sunni anti-Western and anti-Shiia organization that was sprung originally on the World by the Saudi Wahhabism. Call it Al-Qaeda or Al-Qaeda alikes – these are Sunni anti-colonial fanatics who believe that all of Western Asia Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, that were formed after the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire, are basically one State or Arab Nation of Sunni Islam. To them the Shiia reform movement was actually another foreign intrusion. They understand the fact that the area was divided by colonial western powers for reasons of oil. To them all Western Asian oil is Arab and they claim it now.
The US never acknowledged this self determination will of the Sunni Muslims as we in the West believe in human rights as an ethic that is beyond religion, but supported by Nationalism based on Democracy that can accept diversity of religions as long as they adhere in common to a Wahhabi style of a capitalist economy. The Arabs say – all this is rubbish. ISIS or ISIL want just one Muslim-Sunni State based on religion and the Sharia Laws Wahhabi-style. For now the aspirations of ISIS/ISIL end at the borders of Jordan and Saudi Arabia – perhaps also leaving out all of the Gulf States.
Syria Bombs Iraq, US Doesn’t (It Says).
By William Boardman, Reader Supported News
25 June 2014
US lines up to ally with Iran and Syria in support of Iraq.
In the current round of fighting, it seems the first international aerial bombing of Iraq was carried out June 23 by the Syrian Air Force, acting at the behest of the Iranian government in support of the Iraqi government, which the U.S. government has sort of pledged to support, just as soon as the Iraqi government purges itself to U.S. satisfaction, which may or may not please the governments of Iran and Syria to which the U.S. government has pledged clear opposition.
The Syrian attack apparently went unreported in almost all media. All the same, this escalation marked a widening of the ongoing war in Iraq and Syria, which already involves, at a minimum, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United States (as well as Israel and Lebanon), either overtly or covertly.
Syrian bombing of Iraq continued on June 24, this time reported by The Wall Street Journal (alone at first), which referred to the earlier attacks:
The Syrian Air Force comprises mostly Russian and French planes
Syrian bombs reportedly killed at least 50 people and wounded at least 132 others when they hit targets including the municipal building, a market, and a bank in Al Rutba, a town of about 55,000 in western Iraq, captured by ISIS forces June 21. Al Rutba (also Ar Rutba or Al Rutbah) is strategically located on the prime east-west highway across vast and mostly desert Anbar Province. It is about 90 miles from both the Syrian and Jordanian borders, and more than 120 miles from Baghdad.
U.S. forces occupied Al Rutba during most of 2003-2009.
In December 2013, a complex ISIS suicide attack on Iraqi military forces in Al Rutba killed at least 18 officers, including two commanders. Even though the current ISIS offensive has apparently surprised many – including the U.S. government – it’s part of a long campaign, as documented in The Long War Journal in December 2013:
Another purported bombing target, Al Qaim, is located about 100 miles to the northeast, on the Euphrates River and the Syrian border. The city of about 250,000 was reportedly the site of Iraq’s Uranium refining complex during the 1980s. Americans bombed the city and destroyed the complex during the 1991 Gulf War.
For most of 2003-2006, Al Qaim was occupied by American forces, who used it as a base for raids into Syria (tactics reminiscent of Viet Nam, where U.S. forces covertly raided Cambodia). When an Iraqi general there turned himself in to Americans in 2003, in an effort to free his two sons, Americans eventually tortured the general to death, without releasing his sons.
Al Qaim was scene of fierce fighting during last Iraq War
In 2005, insurgents took Al Qaim from the Iraqi forces left in charge by the Americans. American Marines were unable to fully re-take the city in the face of fierce resistance. American bombing of Al Qaim in August killed at least 47 people. Late in the year, a sign outside the city reportedly said, “Welcome to the Islamic Republic of Qaim.”
Forces of ISIS took control of Al Qaim on June 21.
The American denial of drone strikes on Al Qaim is explained by RT (Russian Television) this way:
The Iraqi Air Force has bombed the Iraqi city of Baiji, about 130 miles north of Baghdad, on the Tigris River. Americans bombed the city in 1991, destroying most of its oil refinery, which was quickly rebuilt. Americans occupied Baiji for most of 2003-2009, putting down significant resistance in 2003.
ISIS and Iraqi forces have been fighting for control of the Baiji oil refinery since June 11. With ISIS in control by June 20, the Baghdad government over 100 miles away decided to start bombing. The United Nations has reported that the Iraq death toll for June is already the highest in years, with more than 1,000 killed, most of them civilians.
In a rather conspicuous propaganda stunt, Hamas, the terror group ruling Gaza, foisted a new billboard showing the heads of its Islamist leadership, along with the leaders of Turkey and Qatar, with a caption that implies their help has been recruited to wrest Jerusalem from Israeli control.
The billboard shows Hamas political chief Khaled Meshal and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, alongside previous and current Qatari leaders Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The billboard reads ”Jerusalem is Waiting for Men,” along with a photo of the Dome of the Rock.
The massive banner was photographed in Gaza by the Palestinian News Agency, and flagged on Thursday by blogger Elder of Ziyon.
The blogger wrote that the sign also implies two other messages.
First, the belittling of leaders of other Arab countries, especially Egypt, where Hamas gained under the Muslim Brotherhood leadership, and is now being shunned after that group, its political “big brother,” was expelled last year.
And, second, that Hamas, which played second fiddle to Islamic Jihad in last month’s shelling of Israel, is the stronger of the two groups and will be on the winning team to, one day, take Jerusalem.
An Egyptian entrepreneur said he resents his country’s hostility to Israel which prevents him from openly conducting any business with the Jewish state, Egyptian daily Al-Ahram reported late last week.
“It is very unfortunate that we cannot be pragmatic and say this particular country has good quality and inexpensive commodities and we are going to import from it because it is in our interest,” said the unnamed Egyptian, who still does business with Israel on the down low. “After all these years an Israeli commodity on, say, the shelf of a supermarket would not be picked up except by a few people — if we assume that any supermarket would at all dare to carry, say, Israeli fruit juice.”
Like most Egyptian businessmen who work with Israelis, he insisted on remaining anonymous for fear of being “stigmatized as dealing with the enemy,” he told Al-Ahram.
“I really don’t understand; we have a peace deal and we cannot do business, it has been 35 years since this peace treaty was signed and still it is a big issue if someone said let us do business with Israel or let us benefit of their agricultural expertise,” he said.
Trade between Israel and Egypt dropped after President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in 2011, but government officials in Cairo say the fall was possibly a result of the subsequent political turmoil, according to the report.
Despite any current animosity Egypt may harbor toward Israel, an independent economic source told Al-Ahram that Egyptian authorities are considering all options in dealing with the country’s current severe energy shortages, not excluding the import of natural gas from Israel.
“Cooperation in natural gas has been very stable for many years despite the suspension and trade dispute that occurred after the 25 January Revolution removed Mubarak — but this is the case with trade cooperation in general, limited and stable,” said a government official.
A Hindu Sees The Light in Between the Muslims Fighting Each Other in Syria – and he is obviously right – it is not nice! Neither is the US above blame – in effect it is with US acts that the spread of Islamicism in its various forms took place. Could one now hope for India and China Diplomacy? We add – Could the Saudis come out of the Israeli Closet?
Syrian rebels or international terrorists?
Vijay Prashad* – The Hindu
*Vijay Prashad is the Edward Said Chair at the American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon.
With Bashar Assad arguing that this is a war against terrorism, and the rebels arguing that this is a war against authoritarianism, no agreement can come of the peace talks on Syria.
Geneva 2’s mood mirrored the sound of mortar and despair on the ground in Syria. Not much of substance came of the former, as the U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi tiredly indicated that diplomacy continued despite the lack of a breakthrough. He hoped that the United States and the Russians would pressure their clients to remain at the table, from where, for three weeks, little of value has emerged. No agreement can come of these peace talks for at least two reasons. First, the government of Bashar Assad and the rebel coalition do not agree on the interpretation of the conflict. Mr. Assad argues that this is a war against terrorism (Al-Qaeda), while the rebels argue that this is a war against authoritarianism (the Assad government). Second, the rebels themselves are deeply fractured, with the Islamists in Syria who are doing the brunt of the fighting indisposed to any peace talks.
Mr. Brahimi hoped that humanitarian relief would be the glue to hold the two sides together. Residents in the old city of Homs and in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Yarmouk in Damascus have been under siege for two years. It was hoped that safe passage could be provided for food and medicine, but this was not accomplished. U.N. and Islamic Red Cross workers bravely avoided snipers and shells to transport food and medicines to the Syrians; children among them stared at fresh fruit, unsure of what to do with it. Absent momentum from Geneva, the options for a regional solution are back on the table.
Role for India, China?
In 2012, Egypt convened the Syria Contact Group that comprised Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey — unlikely partners. Pressure from the U.S. and Russia at that time closed down the Group. Today, the regional partners seek an exit from their exaggerated postures over Syria, but there is no diplomatic space for them to act. It falls to powers that are untainted by the war, perhaps China and India, to call for a meeting — a Beijing or New Delhi summit — to craft a serious agenda to pressure all sides to a ceasefire and a credible political process.
The war is now fought less on the ground and more over its interpretation. Expectations of a hasty collapse of the government withdraw as the Syrian Army takes Jarajir, along the Lebanon border. Islamists groups continue to fight against each other in the north, weakening their firepower as the Syrian army watches from the sidelines. The emboldened Syrian government has now stepped up its rhetoric about this war being essentially one against terrorists with affiliation to al-Qaeda. Ears that once rejected this narrative in the West and Turkey are now increasingly sympathetic to it. As the Islamists suffocate the rebellion, it becomes hard to champion them against the government. Focus has moved away from the prisons and barrel bombs of the government to the executions and social policies of the Islamists.
A year ago, the West and Turkey would have scoffed at talk of terrorism as the fantasy of the Assad government. The West and the Gulf Arabs had opened their coffers to the rebels, knowing full well that they were incubating the growth of the Islamist factions at the expense of the secular opposition. Turkey’s government of Recep Tayyip Erdog?an micromanaged the opposition, provided bases in Turkey and allowed well-armed fighters to slip across the border into Syria. By early 2012, it had become a common sight to see well-armed Islamist fighters in the streets of Antakya and in the refugee camps in Hatay Province. The seeds of what was to come — the entry of al-Qaeda into Syria — was set by an opportunistic and poorly conceived policy by Erdog?an’s government. It did not help that his otherwise well-spoken and highly-regarded Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutog?lu began to refer to Syria’s Alawites (Mr. Assad’s community) as Nusayri, a derogatory sectarian term. Turkey joined U.S., Europe and Gulf Arab calls for Mr. Assad’s departure well before the numbers of those dead climbed above the thousands. Nervousness about the spread of al-Qaeda to Syria has made the rebels’ patrons edge closer to the Damascus narrative. The U.S. government wishes to arm the Iraqi government with Hellfire missiles and drones to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Iraq’s Anbar Province. Britain has said that any fighter who comes back from Syria will be arrested (last week, a Sussex man — Abu Suleiman al-Britani — conducted a suicide operation in Aleppo). The Saudi Royal Court decreed that any Saudi found to have waged jihad abroad could spend up to 20 years in prison.
General Mansour al-Turki of the Saudi Interior Ministry said: “We are trying to stop everyone who wants to go to Syria, but we can’t stop leaks.” The Turkish Armed Forces fired on an ISIS convoy on January 28 inside Syria, and told the government in a report prepared jointly with the Turkish National Intelligence agency that al-Qaeda had made credible threats on Turkey.
Mr. Erdog?an hastened to Tehran to meet the new Iranian leadership — their public comments were on trade, but their private meetings were all on Syria and the need to combat the rise of terrorism. What Mr. Assad had warned about in 2012 came to pass — for whatever reason — and led to a loss of confidence among the rebels’ patrons for their future. Even al-Qaeda’s putative leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has sought to distance himself from ISIS. These signs indicate that on Syria, the “terrorism narrative” has come to dominate over the “authoritarian regime narrative.”
The fractious Syrian opposition that came to Geneva does not represent the main columns of rebel fighters on the ground. These are mainly Islamists — with the al-Qaeda wing represented by ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, and the rest represented by the Islamic Front. They have no appetite for negotiation. Mr. Abu Omar of the Islamic Front said that Syria’s future would be created “here on the ground of heroism, and signed with blood on the frontlines, not in hollow conferences attended by those who don’t even represent themselves.” A U.S. intelligence official told me that when the U.S. went into Afghanistan in 2001, “We smashed the mercury and watched it spread out slowly in the area.” Al-Qaeda was not demolished in Kandahar and Tora Bora. Its hardened cadre slipped across to Pakistan and then onwards to their homelands. There they regrouped, reviving the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, al-Qaeda in Yemen, Ansar al-Sharia, Ansar Dine, and ISIS. The latter slipped into Syria from an Iraq broken by the U.S. occupation and the sectarian governance of the current government. There they worked with Jabhat al-Nusra and fought alongside other Islamist currents such as Ahrar ash-Sham. It was inevitable that these battle-tested Islamists would overrun the peaceful protesters and the defectors from the Syrian Army — the Free Syrian Army (FSA) — who scattered to the wind in 2012.
The FSA troops either joined up with the Islamists, continued to fight in small detachments, or linger precariously as twice defectors who are now homeless. The barbarism of the ISIS pushed other Islamists — with Gulf Arab support — to form the Islamic Front. The hope was that this group would run ISIS back to Iraq and remove the stigma of “al-Qaeda” from the Syrian rebellion. The problem is that one of the constituents of the Islamic Front — Jabhat al-Nusra, arguably the most effective of its fighting forces — sees itself as the Syrian franchise of al-Qaeda and has largely abjured the fight against ISIS. Another problem is that the in-fighting on the ground seems to have tapered off — one of the Islamist groups, Suqour al-Sham signed a truce with ISIS and pledged to work together.
By early 2014, these groups found their supply lines cut off. Iraq’s attack on ISIS began to seal the porous border that runs through the Great Syrian Desert. Jordan had already tried to close its border since early 2013, having arrested over a hundred fighters who have tried to cross into Syria. Lebanon’s border has become almost inaccessible for the rebels as the Syrian Army takes the roadway that runs along the boundary line. Last year, Turkey closed the Azaz crossing once it was taken over by the radical Islamists.
On January 20, the rebels attacked the Turkish post at Cilvegözü-Bab al-Hawa, killing 16. This is what spurred the Turkish Army to attack the ISIS convoy a week later.
As the Islamists saw their supply lines closed off, the U.S. announced that it would restart its aid to the rebel fighters. On February 5, the Syrian Coalition chief Ahmad Jabra told Future TV that his rebels would get “advanced weapons” — likely from the U.S. The FSA announced the formation of the Southern Front – with assistance from the West — to revive the dormant fight in Syria’s south-west. All this took place during Geneva 2, signalling confusion in U.S. policy. Does Washington still want to overthrow the Syrian government? Would it live with an Islamist government on Israel’s borders? Or, perhaps, the U.S. is eager for a stalemate, as pointed out by former CIA analyst Bruce Riedel, “The rebels lack the organization and weapons to defeat Assad. The regime lacks the loyal manpower to suppress the rebellion. Both sides’ external allies are ready to supply enough money and arms to fuel the stalemate for the foreseeable future.” This is a cruel strategy.
It offers no hope of peace for the Syrian people.
Road ahead for Syria group:
A senior military official in West Asia told me that one of the most overlooked aspects of West Asia and North Africa is that the military leaderships of each country maintain close contacts with each other. During Turkey’s war against the Kurdish rebellion in its eastern provinces, the military coordinated their operations with the Syrian armed forces. These links have been maintained. When it became clear that Mr. Erdog?an’s exaggerated hopes for Syria failed, and with the growth of the Islamists on Turkey’s borders and the Kurds in Syria having declared their independence, the Turkish military exerted its views. The Iraqi armed forces had already begun their operations against ISIS. Additionally, Egypt’s new Field Marshal Sisi overthrew the government of Mohamed Morsi when the latter encouraged jihadis to go to Syria. This was anathema to the Egyptian military who acted for this and other reasons to depose Mr. Morsi. The military view of the political situation leans naturally toward the terrorism narrative.
It appears now that the regional states are no longer agreed that their primary mission is the removal of Mr. Assad.This view — shared by the militaries — is evident in the political leadership in Iran, Iraq, and Turkey.With Egypt, these three states would be the core of a rejuvenated Syria Contact Group.
The 2012 group also had Saudi Arabia, which might be enjoined to come back to the table if they see that their outside allies — notably the U.S. — are averse to a policy that would mean Jabhat al-Nusra in power in Damascus.
Without Saudi Arabia, and perhaps even Qatar, the Syria Contact Group would be less effective.
If the Syria Contact Group is to re-emerge, it would need to be incubated by pressure from China and India, two countries that are sympathetic to multipolar regionalism.
Thus far, neither China nor India has taken an active role in the Syrian conflict, content to work within the United Nations and to make statements as part of the BRICS group.
But the failure of the U.S. and Russia and the paralysis of the U.N. alongside the continued brutality in Syria require an alternative path to be opened up.
Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have indicated willingness for a dialogue — China and India need to offer them the table.
MENAFN – Qatar News Agency – 09/02/2014
Demonstrations against a restrictive new internet law grew violent Saturday night, as hundreds of protestors clashed with police near Istanbul’s main Taksim Square.
Anti-government demonstrators, who erected barricades near the square, battled police with rocks and fireworks. Police fought back with water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets.
Protestors set up barricades near the square, on a street between two hospitals. There were reports of numerous ambulances in the area, as well as many arrests. One press photographer was reported to be injured, and many money machines vandalised.
Opposition groups had called for a rally in Taksim Square to denounce the internet law, but Police closed off the square. Thousands of demonstrators chanted for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to step down.
On Thursday night the Turkish parliament approved amendments to its internet regulations that allow the government to block websites without a court order and mandate Internet Service Providers to store data for up to two years.
The law must still by signed by President Abdullah Gul. The European Union criticised Turkey for introducing tighter internet controls, urging a revision to comply with standards in the bloc that Ankara hopes to join.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said that “the amendments to Turkey’s already restrictive internet law would compound a dismal record on press freedom in the country, which is the leading jailer of journalists worldwide.”
Erdogan on Saturday said “no censorship” would be imposed upon the internet. Instead, Erdogan said, the law will make the internet more safe and free, the Turkish Anadolu news agency reported.
It is still a marvel to behold Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s self-confidence, even after 11 years of his rule. In recent weeks, a new poster featuring Turkey’s prime minister has appeared throughout Istanbul, on highway billboards and mass transit. Wearing his usual dark suit, Erdogan looks to be in purposeful motion, like an action hero. Two large words in block letters, SAGLAM IRADE, Turkish for “Iron Will,” accompany him. Surely some of his supporters appreciate this evocation of 1930s-era masculinity, but for others, it must feel like an invasion of personal space. The enormous billboards intensify the claustrophobia that many Turks have felt for years: that Erdogan is everywhere, in every tree or open space sacrificed for a building, in every traffic jam, in every newspaper column and pro-government tweet and call to prayer. The poster, which a group of his supporters claims to have put up, begs to be defaced, and Turks have torn at it or covered it with new slogans: “Iron Fascist,” “Iron Corruption,” “Iron Enemy of the People.”
The public turn against Erdogan began last May, when protests in Istanbul escalated and pictures of police officers violently attacking the demonstrators circulated around the world. For the first time in a decade, Turkey didn’t look like one of the few Middle Eastern destinations where Westerners would take a vacation. The government was caught off guard. A couple of weeks later, Erdogan convened two meetings in the capital, Ankara, with assorted activists, artists and observers. Many immediately dismissed this public exercise as a sham gesture — plausible, given that the invitees included film stars — but some activists relished the opportunity to speak to their prime minister. The episode recalled the time when Robert F. Kennedy met with James Baldwin, Harry Belafonte and Lorraine Hansberry in 1963 because he wanted to understand why blacks were angry. Erdogan wanted to understand why so many Turks were angry.
In one meeting, Erdogan sat at the head of the table, constantly writing with a fountain pen in a leather-bound notebook. He wrote for five hours as activists gave testimony about their experiences in the previous weeks. Erdogan’s cabinet ministers often cut them off or spoke with weary condescension about whether, say, tear gas could be dispensed from a low-hovering helicopter. Erdogan sometimes told his officials to be quiet. “Let them speak,” he said.
The protests began when activists gathered in Gezi Park to demonstrate against its demolition. Ipek Akpinar, a professor of architecture, asked Erdogan if he gave orders during the brutal first days, when the police burned the tents of peaceful environmentalists and assaulted them with pepper spray and tear gas. “Somehow, in the last 10 years, he gave an image of being democratic, of trying to talk with everyone, to understand other groups,” Akpinar told me later. “We couldn’t believe — we didn’t want to believe, probably — that he would do this.” The activists kept returning to this question. “Prime Minister Erdogan,” Akpinar asked, “did you know what was happening in the first three days?”
He said he did not. “My team didn’t take it very seriously,” Erdogan said, according to several people who attended the meeting. “We thought it was just environmentalists, and so we didn’t react. But yes, the police acted severely. I wasn’t aware of the burning of the tents the first two nights. I was told about it on the third day, and then it was too late.”
“And then what happened?” the professor asked. Several other activists joined in. “What did you do?” cried Nil Eyuboglu, a 20-year-old college student. “Tell us! They violently attacked us! How could you not know?”
“Don’t worry,” Erdogan said. “I brought the people responsible into my office and yelled at them. I made them cry.”
The prime minister seemed more like a clan leader than the head of a government. “It was like . . . there’s just one man,” Akpinar said later. She wasn’t the only one disappointed. Some of the young people in the meeting had attended religious schools, as Erdogan had, and their families had championed Erdogan’s conservative Muslim party. Like the millions of countrymen who regarded him as a hero, they had lived through decades of repression of religious Turks by secularist regimes. Now they were criticizing Erdogan harshly. Some even cried at the betrayal they felt.
Finally, listening to those who once supported him, he showed emotion: “How can even you misunderstand us,” he said,“ like everyone else?”
Over the last decade, Erdogan has made himself the most powerful prime minister in Turkey’s history, the most successful elected leader in the Middle East and the West’s great hope for the Muslim world. In the last year, however, a thoroughly different Erdogan has emerged: a symbol of authoritarianism, corruption and police brutality whose once-populist rhetoric has turned into thundering rage. The Gezi Park protests last spring challenged the enduring dysfunctions of the Turkish state — mainly disregard for the rule of law — as well as the dubious economic policies of Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party, known as the A.K.P. What followed was worse for Erdogan. In December, extensive accusations of corruption were leveled at him by followers of an Islamic movement that propelled him and the A.K.P. to power. The threat to Erdogan posed by the Gezi Park protests has been largely photogenic, but the challenge raised by the corruption charges is existential.
Erdogan’s response to both threats has been to punish those he considers disloyal. Critics of Erdogan are called traitors or terrorists — or, more colorfully, assassins. Thousands of activists have been detained, their schools or workplaces investigated, their homes raided. Informal emergency medical care, common during street protests, has been criminalized. Some 5,000 police officers and prosecutors, who Erdogan claims are conspiring against him, have been dismissed from their jobs or reassigned. Internet sites have suddenly become inaccessible. The judiciary is in danger of falling under Erdogan’s control. The exchange rates for Turkey’s currency, the lira, have plunged significantly, and predictions for the economy are dire. The feeling in Turkey is that, all of a sudden, the country that was a model for the modern Muslim world is on the verge of disintegration.
An Erdogan government was once synonymous with stability. One reason even skeptical secular Turks tolerated the A.K.P. was its hard-working officials. Even if people disliked their Islamist pasts or their head-scarf-wearing wives, they liked their industriousness, and above all the rapid economic development they facilitated in the 2000s. Before then, Turkish politicians were mostly bland bureaucrats, and Turkey was very poor. The military staged coups every decade or so in the name of secularism or anticommunism, each time shattering the country’s diverse political longings and enfeebling its government. The pattern changed somewhat in the mid-1980s, when Prime Minister Turgut Ozal liberalized the economy, which allowed a capitalist class of small-town entrepreneurs and fledgling corporate bigwigs to take root.
Erdogan, who attended a religious high school and played semiprofessional soccer, grew up in a conservative, blue-collar neighborhood in Istanbul called Kasimpasa. The men there are quick to say they are Erdogan’s “best friend,” and their loyalty to him can be fierce. At Erdogan’s old soccer club, I once asked some of them what makes a Kasimpasa man. A silver-haired guy in a black leather jacket said: “Watch Tayyip, watch how he walks. That’s Kasimpasa.”
A member of the youth groups of Islamist parties that later evolved into the A.K.P., Erdogan was elected Istanbul’s mayor in 1994 at age 40. He cleaned up the city; his administration distributed largess to peripheral neighborhoods and improved the water supply. To various elites, the A.K.P. men might have seemed like provincial rubes, but as an organization, the A.K.P. was like a sleek corporation.
“One usually assumes that Islamists are not educated, that Islamists are provincial — no, no, no,” says Seyla Benhabib, a Turkish political philosopher at Yale University. “There is a new political class in Turkey. The C.H.P. cadre” — the Republican People’s Party, the main secularist opposition party — “comes from the usual civil servants, teachers, judges, bureaucrats. A.K.P. is a very young and ambitious professional cadre of people.”
The A.K.P. emerged from an Islamist movement called Milli Gorus, whose outlook was anti-Western and combative — the Turkish, watered-down version of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. Theirs was a challenge to the preceding Kemalist regimes, which embraced the ideals of Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and enforced strict adherence to a secularist, nationalist identity. In the late 1990s, after he was jailed briefly for reciting a supposedly Islamist poem in public, Erdogan shifted course. He began preaching a pro-European Union, pro-American and pro-business worldview, and rather than espousing Islamist politics, he framed religious rights in terms of personal freedom. As a Turkish scholar named M. Hakan Yavuz put it in his 2009 book, “Secularism and Muslim Democracy in Turkey,” the A.K.P. didn’t operate outwardly as an Islamist group at all; it was a pragmatic party of “services.” Erdogan’s transformation won him the admiration of liberals at home and abroad. It also caught the attention of another Islamic movement eager for power, one that followed the teachings of an imam named Fethullah Gulen.
Gulen is a Muslim preacher who in the 1960s began promoting a Sufi-inspired vision of Islam and a strategy for leading a modern and religious life that offered his followers a path to success in Turkey. The stated goal was spreading an emphatically peaceful expression of Islam, but a central ambition was also the expansion of the movement, which required amassing followers and capital. The Gulenists, who prefer to be called sympathizers, describe themselves as nonpolitical, anti-violence, pro-business and deeply patriotic. Indeed, the movement advocates a specifically Turkish Islam. Unlike Milli Gorus, it rejects party politics; theirs is “cultural Islam,” its adherents say, a religion-based civic movement they call Hizmet, or Service. Instead of Quranic schools, the Gulenists have built secular ones emphasizing science, as well as colleges, media companies, publishing houses, industrial groups, tutoring centers for the college entrance exam and international nongovernmental organizations. The Gulenists run 2,000 schools in 160 countries; outside Turkey, the countries with the greatest number of these schools are Germany and the United States.
When I embarked on a tour of Gulen’s world a few years ago, I visited some of the schools in Houston and Washington, as well as a boarding school in Kabul, Afghanistan. In many of them, students learn Black Sea folk dances and Turkish poetry. Gulen himself, who is 72, lives in a wooded area in the Poconos behind a security checkpoint; he is supposed to have moved to the United States for medical treatment, and his residence in a country that many Turks deem meddlesome, if not nefarious, has made him the human flame that sustains a thousand conspiracy theories. In 2010, when I visited Gulen’s compound, a couple had come from Japan to see him. “Hocaefendi,” or master teacher, as he is called, was too ill to meet me. He typically gives interviews to journalists only when he has something specific to announce.
The Gulenists I met at the compound were relentlessly charming, friendly and intelligent. They also engaged in self-protective obfuscation, something the sociologist Joshua Hendrick, an assistant professor at Loyola University in Maryland, calls “strategic ambiguity,” which shrouds some of their activities. This lack of transparency, they say, is justified by their past persecution at the hands of the Turkish military.
An alliance in the early 2000s with the ascendant A.K.P., whose center-right, pro-business perspective they shared, offered the Gulenists a way to extend their influence, even as they refrained from putting up their own candidates for Parliament. In Turkey, Hendrick says, “parties come and go, and any party isn’t going to have a long shelf life.” But, he says, succeeding in business or receiving ministerial appointments or joining the police confers lasting power: “Affiliates of the Gulen community have been accruing influence in the Istanbul police force and other police forces, and in the judiciary and prosecuting offices around the country.” This aspiration to secure important government jobs makes many Turks suspicious of their motives.
Mustafa Yesil, the president of the Journalist and Writers Foundation, an Istanbul-based public-relations arm for Gulen’s followers, argues that every citizen has the right to work in any sector of the society. “Mr. Gulen sees three problems in society: ignorance, conflict and poverty,” he said of the Gulenists’ ideals. “Hizmet supported A.K.P. based on the promise that A.K.P. would fight against the military tutelage, further the E.U. process and democratization and create a new civilian constitution.”
Erdogan welcomed the movement’s international influence and media support. With its endorsements, he achieved real gains. He sidelined the military. He moved Turkey’s laws significantly toward European Union norms. The economy flourished, as he pushed privatization and investors from abroad poured money into the country. The A.K.P. built hospitals, roads, bridges and luxury shopping malls. Turkey had been so dysfunctional, and so undemocratic, that many of these initiatives were necessary.
Eventually, however, they seemed like a power grab. Around 2007, the A.K.P. and Gulenists in the judiciary and the police force put hundreds of journalists and former military generals on trial, charged with being members of a Kemalist “deep state.” Much of the evidence appeared to have been manufactured by Gulenists. At the same time, many Turks were beginning to believe that the intelligence wing of the police force was wiretapping the phones of journalists and businessmen. Erdogan himself bullied the corporate owners of media outlets, and hundreds of journalists were muzzled or fired. And in 2010, a referendum on the Constitution revamped the judicial system to favor the judges affiliated with Erdogan and Gulen. Instead of reforming the state, the A.K.P. appeared to be capturing it.
Yet the Erdogan-Gulen media machine, suffusing the landscape with the rhetoric of freedom and progress, managed to portray Erdogan as the very incarnation of democracy. In 2011, Erdogan won his third national election with nearly 50 percent of the vote, which he took as a mandate for the Erdoganization of everything.
One of Erdogan’s third-term promises was a package of vast construction projects, and he quickly got to work. Turkey is run like a city, where the prime minister can control local projects as if he’s playing in his own private Legoland. An earlier venture he endorsed, for example, was Miniaturk, a park in Istanbul. It is a scaled-down version of the country’s major historical sites (the Hagia Sophia, for one, is nose height), and it seemingly embodies Erdogan’s aesthetic vision for Istanbul: a theme-park parody of itself. He started construction of a third bridge over the Bosporus, which meant removing a million trees. He flirted with a plan, known as the Crazy Project, to build a second Bosporus, as well as a second Istanbul, the promos for which looked liked something out of the 1927 Fritz Lang film “Metropolis.” Then he announced a new project for Taksim Square.
Taksim, in the center of the city’s European side, is considered the heart of Istanbul. The square itself surrounds tiny Gezi Park and is covered with concrete and filled with traffic, but the absence of buildings offers at least a sense of free space. Erdogan wanted to close the square to cars, build tunnels for them beneath it and replace Gezi Park and its rows of sycamore trees with a giant shopping center designed to look like Ottoman-era military barracks. Putting anything Ottoman-like in Taksim, a symbol of the secular republic, felt like an assertion of Erdogan’s neo-Islamic identity. In terms of scale and presumption, it would be as if Michael Bloomberg, New York’s former mayor, tried to erect a five-story shopping mall in Bryant Park with facades like blinking Bloomberg terminals.
Except Erdogan wasn’t the mayor of Istanbul. And he wasn’t consulting his constituents there. Far from it: When a local committee composed of academics, historians and municipal appointees unanimously voted against the plan, he simply had another committee made up of his own bureaucratic appointments override the vote. This, to Turks, was what his rule had come to mean.
Osman Can, a constitutional scholar who is on the A.K.P.’s executive committee, says Erdogan’s ability to act unilaterally is a byproduct of Turkey’s highly centralized political structure, in which all decisions are made in Ankara. “The governors are appointed by the central government, so they are not elected,” Can says. “The mayors are elected, but Ankara also controls the mayors. Normally the mayor would decide things in a city. But if the prime minister happened to be interested in a park, the mayor can’t resist him.”
The A.K.P. is the rare party that has made important changes to democratize Turkey, Can says, but the system established a century ago by Ataturk and his followers limits those advances. “It was a conscious choice of Ataturk,” he says. “They wanted to control everything, they want to change the people, change the minds, reformat people. How could they do this? A decentralized system? No. An independent judiciary? No.” The only limitation, Can says, “is the reaction of the people.”
And the people reacted in a surprising and organic way. Many of the protesters in Istanbul last year were not activists. They were apolitical verging on apathetic members of the middle class, whose parents, traumatized by coups, taught them to stay out of politics. Radicalization happened quickly. Guzin, a 35-year-old lawyer who didn’t want me to use her last name, was a typical case. A week after the police cleared Gezi Park of its occupants, I met her in the Taksim neighborhood of Cihangir.
“My father is a supporter of Erdogan — he is in love,” she said. “My parents also had not been happy about what happened to religious people in the 1990s, when women couldn’t wear the head scarf — my mother covers — and Erdogan had fought for their rights. But it’s more that my father likes all the things that capitalism brings; every time I go to my village, he says, ‘Look at the roads, look at the factories, look at the health care.’ He doesn’t see the negative. And he was really angry when I told him I was protesting.”
Guzin had heard that some 50 environmentalists, in a city of 15 million people, in a country of 80 million, had pitched tents in Gezi. “When I read about Gezi Park, for the first time I said, ‘We should do something,’ ” she told me. “I got like five people, and we just went and sat on the grass. There were some tents, but it wasn’t that crowded. I had wanted to see so many more, like 5,000 people. So I was a little disappointed, and we went home.”
Around 4 the next morning, the police lit tents on fire. Guzin said that when she read about it in the newspaper the next day, she thought: They have no right to do that. They don’t even have the right to take the tents.
“I got really angry,” she said, “and I called all my friends and said, ‘Come on, let’s go again.’ We knew they had used tear gas before, so we went to the pharmacy to get masks, and they said: ‘O.K., get ready, bring water, put on your gas mask. And come back safe.’ We thought, What is happening? Then we saw a huge crowd walking toward Gezi Park. And suddenly I couldn’t see anything, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t even put my mask on.”
Guzin continued: “I started to breathe again, thankfully, but I saw the water cannon, and I was scared, and people got panicked. I kept checking behind me to see if it was going to hit me, and it did. But then I thought, O.K., we passed this, we can survive it. And I became braver. We went back maybe 10 times that night. When everyone in the neighborhoods began banging pots and pans from their windows for us, I was going to cry. I thought, Wow, we are doing something good.”
Within a week, the activists’ tiny sit-in spread to 70 cities. The occupation of Gezi Park lasted 19 days. In Istanbul, on the evenings the riot police stayed away, thousands of people — Kurds and nationalists, gays and soccer fans, secularists and leftists — streamed into the square to celebrate what was a historic act of state defiance. It was utterly leaderless. One Kurdish demonstrator told me, “Perhaps the only thing that could have brought all of these warring groups together was something as innocuous as a park.”
Many participants described their time in Gezi Park as a first brush with political consciousness. In the early 2000s, the Turkish people experienced what they were told was a democratic opening. Now they wondered whether something was being taken away from them, or whether that democracy was a mirage. The protesters showed a global audience that Turkey’s new wealth was a distraction from the realities of injustice and one-man rule. And the cacophonous utopia that bloomed in the park served as a rebuke to the blandly baroque language of neoliberal democracy and family-values conservatism that the A.K.P. and Gulenist media had so skillfully deployed. As one activist named Zeynel Gul explained to me, Gezi wasn’t Occupy, Syntagma or Tahrir — referring to the protests in New York, Athens and Cairo — it was “all but none.” Erdogan, meanwhile, called the protesters “terrorists” and “looters” and declared that a conspiracy was opposing him.
From Pennsylvania, Fethullah Gulen chastised both the prime minister and the protesters. “We need to handle them in a smart way,” he said in a video on his website. “If you are facing an invasion of ants, you can’t disregard it, thinking that they are ‘ants.’ ” The Gulenists do not support street protests, and they, like Erdogan, believed that armed groups had joined the demonstrations in Gezi Park — but Erdogan was making Turkey look bad.
The quarrel between the two allies had been slowly brewing for years. It was financial, ideological and moral, but it was mostly about power. The Gulenists didn’t like Erdogan’s sudden transformation into a hero of the Arab street. In 2010, when the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara tried to break an Israeli blockade of Gaza, the Gulen sympathizers were against, as they put it, “confrontation.” “What I saw was not pretty,” Gulen said in a rare interview with The Wall Street Journal. “It was ugly.” More important, Gulenists seemed to oppose Erdogan’s ways of resolving the 30-year-old conflict between Turkey and its disenfranchised Kurds. In 2012, prosecutors who were assumed to be Gulenists subpoenaed a Turkish official who had been negotiating with Kurdish leaders and who also happens to be the head of Turkey’s national intelligence organization. Erdogan was enraged by the Gulenists’ meddling.
Fundamentally, Gulenists disagreed with Erdogan’s political tactics. “Gulen doesn’t cultivate influence through top-down reforms,” says Hendrick, who lived among the Gulenists for more than a year while researching his book about Gulen. “They encourage social change by winning hearts and minds through media, through education and through competitive market performance.”
Erdogan attacked the Gulenists at that level. In November, his plans to close the college-exam-preparation schools, many of which are run by the Gulen movement, became public. Closing a multimillion-dollar industry has more than financial ramifications; those schools are where the Gulen movement recruits members. Erdogan, Hendrick says, is “going after the existential nature of the movement by destroying its human resources.
Three weeks later, the Gulenists struck back. (On Twitter, someone posted a doctored picture of Gulen holding a lightsaber.)
In mid-December, the authorities, presumably Gulenist sympathizers, brought corruption charges against the businessman sons of three A.K.P. ministers and several businessmen tied to Erdogan, including his son, Bilal. Millions of dollars were said to have been suddenly discovered in shoe boxes in a closet belonging to the chief executive of a bank. Shady gold-for-oil schemes with Iran were exposed. Bribery for construction projects unexpectedly came to light. Corruption is an open secret in Turkey, but the A.K.P. had been untouchable. When Erdogan asked the ministers to take the fall and resign, one of them said publicly that most of the construction projects had been approved by Erdogan.
Since then, Erdogan has declared that the Gulenists’ corruption charges constitute a conspiracy against him by a “parallel state.” To obstruct the investigation, he has purged thousands of supposed Gulenists from the police forces and reassigned the prosecutors on the corruption cases. Last month, the Gulenist Journalists and Writers Foundation held a news conference in Taksim Square and denied that Gulen sympathizers made up a parallel state with intelligence capabilities. One speaker there nevertheless made it clear that the movement wanted Erdogan to go: “In England, Margaret Thatcher lost touch with the people at the end. In the United States, even a popular politician like Bill Clinton cannot serve three terms.”
Are the Gulenists a parallel state, or a hierarchical minority faction with some self-serving ambitions, like interest groups in any society? Hendrick says that “groups coming from the same educational or religious networks and gaining positions of authority in the state — for the United States, this is normal. In Turkey, where the state has not been open to all, it is conspiratorial.” Osman Can says their presence in the judiciary is a “violation of state sovereignty.” The Gulenists’ opacity makes it difficult to tell whether they seek to control Turkey. Nonetheless, that they are able to exercise any power at all resulted from the same forces that allowed Erdogan to come to power, as well as made it possible for thousands of Turks to occupy a park — because Turkey had opened up to them.
But Erdogan no longer has use for his country’s nascent inclusiveness. With his electoral mandate, he seems to believe he embodies Turkey himself. It is very likely that his core constituents, those who still love the man they call the Conqueror, will cast their votes for the A.K.P. in this spring’s municipal elections. Erdogan’s public vengefulness, however, may well wreck the economy, wounding the vulnerable people he once claimed to speak for. When he lashes out during public appearances — most recently describing his critics as members of a “losers’ lobby” — many Turks feel as if they are seeing the fractured future of their country.
In a way, Erdogan’s bad year is a result of a liberalizing society clashing with an inherently illiberal Turkish system. The Turkish Model — the idea that the A.K.P.’s softer vision of Islam was compatible with democracy — suggested a way forward for Middle Eastern countries. But Turkey’s biggest problem, its authoritarian structure, has little to do with Islam. The state remains a tool for accumulating disproportionate power, and when threatened, it sacrifices its citizens to save itself. If a prime minister can co-opt the laws and the media, and if a self-interested group can prosecute trials of dubious legality, and if the citizens have nowhere to express themselves but in the streets, then the state institutions are broken. Someday Erdogan will be gone, but Turkey’s system will still be a work in progress. Democratization takes a long time, and as Gezi Park and other global movements have proved, part of the process is figuring out what kind of country its citizens want.
The activist Zeynel Gul touched on this feeling when he said to me about Gezi Park: “It was important for us to experience that kind of life. If you were hungry, the food was free. If you were wounded, someone would carry you to the emergency tent. If you needed a lawyer, he is always there. Gezi gave us a powerful sense of a world based on solidarity and equality, which we could not imagine before. No one can take away what we experienced in the park.”
Suzy Hansen is a contributing writer for the magazine. She lives in Istanbul.
The Al Jazeera of Qatar – an outlet, based in a US friendly Oil State that shows no restraint when inciting against Israel and Jews. Its US operations bought up Al Gore’s Current TV for $500 million of oil money in hope of getting also a foothold in the US.
From the Huffington Post – June 3, 2013 –
Al Gore Sued Over Current TV Sale To Al Jazeera.
SAN FRANCISCO — A television consultant claims that former Vice President Al Gore and others at Current TV stole his idea to sell the struggling network to Al-Jazeera.
Los Angeles resident John Terenzio is demanding more than $5 million in a lawsuit quietly filed in San Francisco Superior Court Tuesday.
Al-Jazerra announced Jan. 3, 2013 that it would pay $500 million for San Francisco-based Current TV.
Terenzio alleges he first brought the idea of the Qatar-owned Al-Jazeera’s purchase of Current TV to board member Richard Blum in July, and he expected to be paid if his plan was used. The lawsuit claims Blum was open to the plan, which Terenzio laid out with a detailed PowerPoint presentation but feared Gore would find such a deal with the oil-rich government of Qatar “politically unappealing.”
Neither Gore or Blum, nor their representatives, could be reached for comment late Wednesday.
Gore co-founded Current TV in 2005 with Joel Hyatt, with each receiving a 20 percent stakes in Current, a politically left leaning news and talk network. Comcast Corp. had less than a 10 percent stake. Another major investor in Current TV was supermarket magnate and entertainment industry investor Ron Burkle, according to information service Capital IQ.
Blum, a venture capitalist and husband of California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, is also an investor in Current TV.
Terenzio claims he presented to Blum “a step-by-step approach for making the sale of the liberal media outlet to Al-Jazeera palatable to U.S. lawmakers, pro-Israel factions, cable operators and, most importantly, the American public.”
Terenzio claims he created the English version of China Central Television and reprogrammed it for American audiences. He said he planned to use the same strategies in rebranding Current TV into Al-Jazeera America.
“Blum greeted Terenzio’s proposal with enthusiasm, indicating that he and other investors were eager to salvage their multi-million investment in the floundering cable network,” Terenzio claims in his lawsuit.
Terenzio said he believes Gore did turn down the deal in July and was “adamant” in rejecting it.
Terenzio’s attorney, Ellyn Garofalo, said an “insider” told her client of Gore’s rejection but refused to identify that person in a brief email interview Wednesday night. Garofalo represented Dr. Sandeep Kapoor when a jury acquitted him of illegally funneling prescription drugs to Anna Nicole Smith.
Terenzio said Al-Jazeera’s January 2013 announcement of the sale was the first he heard of it.
THERE IS NO MONKEY BUSINESS LIKE MONEY BUSINESS – AND THE ABOVE MIGHT EXPRESS VARIOUS BREAKDOWNS – ALL REVOLVING AROUND MADISON AVENUE BELIEF THAT IF YOU MAKE WAVES YOU GET NOTICED.
SO WHY DOES AN ARAB MONEY EMIRATE NEED A LEFT LEANING US GREEN TV STATION?
Leading Jewish human rights group, the Anti-Defamation League, slammed Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera for posting an online poll which asks viewers to compare the crimes of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad with those of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.
“Shame on Al Jazeera. Even when people are dying on the streets of Syria the network cannot help but to inject their own warped views toward Jews and the Holocaust,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director and a Holocaust survivor. “This is part of the network’s dangerous obsession with Jews and Israel, and this poll is a blatant attempt to exploit and diminish the Holocaust while having the unintended effect of demeaning all of the people who died in Syria.”
“There is simply no comparison between Assad’s crimes, no matter how horrific they are, and the crimes of Hitler,” Foxman added.
So far, the online poll, posted just days prior to International Holocaust Remembrance Day, has received more than 44,000 votes. More than 95 percent of those voters responded “yes” to the question of whether Assad’s crimes are “worse than the Nazi crimes of Hitler.” Slightly more than 4 percent responded “no,” the ADL said.
The poll will be available on Al Jazeera’s Arabic-language website through January 30, and the network has announced that the results will be broadcast on a popular show called “The Opposite Direction,” which airs live across the Arab World.
Analyzing the poll further on its website, the ADL said, “The premise of the poll is inappropriate because it compares the death of more than six million Jews who were not part of any armed conflict and were annihilated for no reason other than their faith and culture to the humanitarian crisis and violence in Syria.”
The group points out that commenters who weighed in on the poll on Facebook after “The Opposite Direction” host, Dr. Faisal Al-Qassem, posted a link to it, further justified Hitler’s genocide against the Jews.
“Unlike Bashar, Hitler killed the Jews and not his own people,” one comment reads. Other comments state that there is no way to compare the two at all because, unlike Bashar, “Hitler was defending his people,” the ADL said.
The ADL said it has previously expressed concern about content featured on Al Jazeera, including the network’s showcasing of anti-Israel ideologues and its promotion of anti-Israel and extremist propaganda.
Al Jazeera first gained prominence after it aired video messages from arch-terrorist Osama Bin Laden following the 9-11 terror attacks on the U.S. that he masterminded. Recently it has drawn attention after launching an unprecedented entry into the U.S. market with Al Jazeera America.
“Al Jazeera’s decision to create a U.S.-based news channel was based in part on the fact that Americans have already shown a great demand for its news and programs,” said a company statement at the time of its launch.
Critics, however, doubt whether Al Jazeera can gain a foothold in the U.S. market and maintain that the network is just a mouthpiece for its Qatari owners and their agendas.
Can Iran be made Salon-Clean before it came out clean in its nuclear posturing? Can Russia succeed with Sochi without first taking clean attitudes on Islamists of all stripes? Do we enter new areas that need SUSTAINABILITY?
The following is by now old hat but we decided to post it anyhow – this because it is still the base for understanding the surrealism of the Syria Geneva II meeting that just started with a Montreux, Switzerland, introductory.
The best reporting we know is that from Matthew Russell Lee reporting from the UN Security Council door:
We believe that Iran belongs to the meeting – so do the Kurds. But Geneva I deemed that the meeting is basically between the Assad government of Syria and a “UNIFIED” opposition delegation that in reality does not exist. The Syrian National Coalition (SNC), that is headed by Mr. Jarba is a Saudi/Qatari pupp.et – they are backed only by half of the Turkey based leadership, and do not include the Kurdish held territory at all. That is the Turks’ contribution to the Syrian/Iraqi mess.
To start making sense Iran will have to come clean on its nuclear dealings with the West – so the US will allow them participation at the Syrian table and this is what we mean by making themselves Salon Clean. Without this there is no progress in their relations with the UN and the West on any issue. They may think that time is in their favor and might try to play as outsiders against everyone at the Geneva table.
Russia on the other hand does not have the luxury of time – this because of the Sochi winter games and surprise – their internal nemesis are training now in Syria and the US might just decide that if the Russians are not supportive of the West’s goals in the Middle East – why play their ski slopes at all? That would be a terrible set-back to ambitious Mr. Putin.
The drama is thus that nobody gives a damn about Syrian lives when pursuing their own particular goals and our true cynicism is revealed in the greater interest we saw in the Davos World Economic Forum meeting then in any of the Middle East negotiations.
U.N. Invites Iran to Syria Talks, Raising Objections From the U.S.
The announcement by Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, that he had invited Iran to a peace conference to end the war in Syria drew strong objections on Sunday from American officials, who suggested that Iran had not met all the conditions for attending and that the invitation might need to be withdrawn.
At the heart of the dispute is whether Iran has accepted the terms of the talks, which begin Wednesday in Montreux, Switzerland: to establish “by mutual consent” a transitional body to govern Syria. Mr. Ban said he had been privately assured that Iranian officials “welcome” those rules and that they had pledged to play “a positive and constructive role.”
American officials said they had been in regular communication with the United Nations over the requirements Iran would need to meet to be invited, but they appeared to have been caught off guard by Mr. Ban’s hastily organized news conference. They pointed out that Iran had not publicly accepted the formal mandate for the conference, which was agreed upon in Geneva in 2012 and is known as the Geneva communiqué.
“If Iran does not fully and publicly accept the Geneva communiqué, the invitation must be rescinded,” Jen Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman, said in a statement.
Officials in Washington emphasized that Iran had made no such public statement at the time of Mr. Ban’s news conference. It was expected to release one early Monday.
If Iran has accepted the Geneva terms, it would be a sharp turnaround, since it has long insisted that it will participate in talks only if there are no preconditions. Still, such a shift would not necessarily mean Tehran had accepted that President Bashar al-Assad must leave office.
Some 30 countries have been invited to Montreux for what may be a largely ceremonial opening day of the peace talks. Two days later, Syria’s government and opposition delegations will move to Geneva to continue the deliberations, mediated by a United Nations special envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi.
Diplomats and Middle East analysts say that if there are any breakthroughs, they will take place in Geneva. The negotiations are not expected to yield major results, except perhaps to open up certain parts of Syria to the delivery of humanitarian aid, which has been long denied.
Iran’s participation has been a subject of intense diplomatic wrangling for several weeks. Mr. Ban and Mr. Brahimi have insisted that Iran, given its considerable influence over the Assad government, should be part of the negotiations. So has the Syrian government’s other major ally, Russia.
The United States has long been wary of Iran’s intentions. Tehran has been one of the Assad government’s staunchest political and military supporters, sending arms to Damascus and encouraging Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia, to join the fight on the side of Mr. Assad.
As recently as last Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry complained that Iran was, effectively, a belligerent in the conflict.
“Iran is currently a major actor with respect to adverse consequences in Syria,” Mr. Kerry said. “No other nation has its people on the ground fighting in the way that they are.”
On Sunday, Ms. Psaki added in her statement, “We also remain deeply concerned about Iran’s contributions to the Assad regime’s brutal campaign against its own people, which has contributed to the growth of extremism and instability in the region.”
Iran’s inclusion has the potential to turn the Syria peace talks into a platform for intensifying Middle East conflicts. Also represented will be Saudi Arabia, Iran’s chief rival.
Andrew J. Tabler, an expert on Syria at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said Iran’s presence “seems to widen the circle of regional involvement.” But he also noted that Iran and the United States could be expected to hold diametrically opposed views as to whether Mr. Assad must give up power.
“Given that Iranian forces and their Shia militias are deployed on the ground backing up Assad, it means another Assad backer will be present at this meeting,” Mr. Tabler said.
Syria’s political opposition said in a Twitter message that it would not attend unless Mr. Ban withdrew Iran’s invitation.
“The Syrian coalition announces that they will withdraw their attendance in Geneva 2 unless Ban Ki-moon retracts Iran’s invitation,” the Twitter message said, quoting Louay Safi, a coalition spokesman.
The ultimatum came just a day after the coalition, facing a boycott by a third of its members, had voted to send a delegation to the peace talks. The opposition has been under intense international pressure, including from the United States government, to participate.
Mr. Ban said Sunday that he had spoken extensively with Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif.
“He has assured me that, like all the other countries invited to the opening-day discussions in Montreux, Iran understands that the basis of the talks is the full implementation of the 30 June, 2012, Geneva communiqué,” Mr. Ban said.
“Foreign Minister Zarif and I agreed that the goal of the negotiations is to establish by mutual consent a transitional governing body with full executive powers,” he added. “It was on that basis that Foreign Minister Zarif pledged that Iran would play a positive and constructive role in Montreux.”
Somini Sengupta reported from New York, and Michael R. Gordon from Washington.
A definite first – Coca Cola brings the World Cup trophy to the Middle East starting with Israel, Palestine, and Jordan, but the Arab Prince who is FIFA Vice President, Ali Bin Al-Hussein skips the stop in Israel highlighting the impossibility of sustainable co-habitation.
Trophy touches down in Israel and Palestine
FIFA.com) Sunday 10 November 2013
© Getty Images
The FIFA World Cup Trophy has been steadily making its way around the globe through the planned 90 countries, and having just completed its Caribbean tour, it has now landed in the Middle East for the first time.
Bringing the joy of football to the region, FIFA together with Coca-Cola have brought the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour to Israel and Palestine for two days, before heading off to Jordan. Accompanying the trophy for this trip is special guest, former FIFA World Cup™ participant and Argentina national team player and coach Gabriel Calderon. He will be with the trophy through all the local activities that the tour is planning for the coming two stops, where kids from schools, universities and local football clubs will have the opportunity to experience the magic of most powerful symbol in world football.
“I think it’s extremely important that every child gets the same opportunities to enjoy the world’s game. Playing regularly when I was young is what shaped me into the player I turned out to be,” Gabriel said as he arrived in Israel for his first stop. “I am extremely honoured that I have been asked to be part of the tour, and especially to visit this historical region, as it is a cause I truly believe in, and I am happy to play my part.” added the former Argentina star.
Joining Gabriel on the tour in Palestine and Jordan is FIFA Vice President Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein who is very excited to be welcoming the trophy to his home for the first time.
I think it’s extremely important that every child gets the same opportunities to enjoy the world’s game.
Gabriel Calderon, former Argentina midfielder and coach
The situation in the Middle East has prompted a mandate to be received by FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter during the 63rd FIFA Congress. This mandate was brought about by several years of conflict and unrest, making it challenging to improve and develop the game, and as part of FIFA’s statutes to develop the game. The President took this matter to heart to ensure that everyone has equal access and opportunities to play football, and the tour is another sign of the commitment which FIFA and its Partners have outlined to develop the sport in the Middle East.
A special FIFA Task Force, chaired by the FIFA President, was created with the aim to help improve the situation of football in Palestine and Israel, more specifically to analyse different bilateral matters including facilitating the movement of players, referees and equipment in and out of and within Palestine. The ultimate objective is to improve the situation of football in the region, particularly so that FIFA can implement its mission of developing and promoting the game in accordance with the FIFA Statutes.
As a result of the historical meeting, the football associations of Israel and Palestine will implement a mechanism under the umbrella of FIFA that will facilitate the movement of persons and goods. This mechanism includes the modalities and notification requirements as well as the appointment of liaison officers within each association. A meeting will be held under the auspices of FIFA within four months to assess the level of cooperation, with a view to signing a memorandum of understanding at the 2014 FIFA Congress.
IMPORTANT TO NOTE HERE THAT IN 2022 THE WORLD CUP GAMES WILL BE HELD IN QATAR – this after 2018 in Russia.
Those that qualified for the 2014 games are:
Iran is thus the only Middle East State (or World Cup team – this being different as England is a player rather then the UK) to participate in Brazil. Israel had to play in the European preliminaries as it is impossible to match it with an Arab State.
An amazingly convoluted article in As-Safir (Lebanon) by Mustafa al-Labad seems to attribute all sorts of goals to Saudi Arabia except the one clear conclusion that Saudi and Israeli aims converge these days. UPDATED
The article we looked at is at: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/politics…
Then today’s Opinion Column by Roger Cohen: www.nytimes.com/2013/10/29/opinio… that starts:
” DUBAI — Here’s how the Saudis see it: President Obama has sold out the Syrian opposition, reinforced President Bashar al-Assad after having called for his departure, embarked on a dangerous duet with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran, played the wrong cards in Egypt, retreated from initial criticism of Israeli settlements that promised a more balanced American approach to Israel-Palestine, tilted toward the Shiites in the growing regional Sunni-Shiite confrontation, and generally undercut the interests of the kingdom.”
Both columns seem to forget that the real world is not based on heart feelings – not even when at the helm of a country sits a 89 year old monarch.
Nevertheless, Cohen notes “The Saudis, of course, always talk a good line and are happiest when others — read the United States — do the heavy lifting for them.” So now the Saudis will have figure out for themselves what heavy lifting their oil money can do for them. That for a start.
Then he says: “”But it is over Iran that the Saudis are most exercised — and it is not the Iranian nuclear program that has them so upset. Rather, it is the idea that the pre-revolutionary relationship between Iran and the United States could somehow be revived, extending Iranian influence in the region and relegating Saudi Arabia to being, as it once was, the lesser party of America’s “twin pillar” policy in the region.
The Saudis have already watched with concern as the U.S. invasion of Iraq served Iranian interests; they see Iran’s influence and military presence growing in Syria. What they fear above all is an Iranian irredentism aimed at stirring up of the Shiite populations in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.
It was not lost on Saudi Arabia that Rouhani wrote in The Washington Post in September that, “We must join hands to constructively work toward national dialogue, whether in Syria or Bahrain,” just a few days before Obama spoke at the United Nations of working to resolve “sectarian tensions” in Syria and Bahrain.
Nothing can set Saudi alarm bells ringing quite like that: U.S. and Iranian presidents speaking to each other on the telephone, having aired similar sentiments on Bahrain, where the Saudi-backed Sunni monarchy has engaged in fierce repression of an opposition led by members of the Shiite majority, which is pressing for broader rights and political inclusion.
It is hard to say whether Israel or Saudi Arabia is more anxious today over the possibility of an American-Iranian breakthrough. That possibility remains extremely remote. The right deal — one that prevents the Islamic Republic from going nuclear while drawing it back into the community of nations — is in the U.S. interest, but current Saudi fury is one measure of the difficulty and of a U.S. Middle Eastern policy that is falling short.“”
Trying to reach conclusions from above we observe:
(a) The Saudis are yet to announce officially to the UN that they give up their UN Security Council seat – and we ask why should they? Is it not much more forceful to let there an empty seat that they can fill whenever they decide to do so, and in the mean-time force the UN to start reviewing its procedures in order to have a way to handle such an unprecedented situation when a state does not participate for a longer period at the meetings?
(b) The oil weapon has lost its power somewhat – so there are obvious repercussions when talking about the stand of Golf Community members.
(c) Everybody has a wish list and can tell the Saudis what to do – but after all the Saudis will find out that they know their self interests best.
UPDATED from an October 29, 2013 posting.
THE UPDATE IS FROM OCTOBER 30, 2013 NEWS:
Allies in Revolt
Published: October 29, 2013 27 Comments
It is not every day that America finds itself facing open rebellion from its allies, yet that is what is happening with Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel. The Obama administration has denied there are serious problems. But there are clearly differences, some perhaps irreconcilable.
Here’s a quick summary: Saudi Arabia and Israel are deeply worried about the Obama administration’s decision to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran — their mortal enemy. Saudi Arabia and Turkey are sore at President Obama’s refusal to become militarily involved in ousting President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, in particular his decision not to respond with military strikes to Mr. Assad’s use of chemical weapons. Mr. Obama instead chose a diplomatic deal under which Syria’s chemical weapons would be dismantled.
The Saudis are also unhappy that Mr. Obama withdrew support for Hosni Mubarak, the deposed Egyptian president, and then worked with Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood member who was elected to replace Mr. Mubarak but was later thrown out.
All three countries have resorted to threats and displays of pique to make their points. Saudi Arabia renounced a United Nations Security Council seat it had worked hard to win because, it said, the United States and the United Nations had failed to achieve a Mideast peace agreement or solve the Syria crisis, as if either objective could be easily delivered by America alone. Although it is hard to see how other countries like China and Russia would be better alternatives, Saudi officials have gone so far as to complain that they regard the United States as unreliable and would look elsewhere for their security.
Meanwhile, Turkey, a NATO member, has said it would buy a long-range missile defense system worth $3.4 billion from China because China’s bid was lower than bids from the United States and Europe. The decision may also, however, have reflected Turkey’s annoyance with Mr. Obama’s Syria policy. (It’s a dumb deal, too, and Turkish officials now seem to be reconsidering it; China’s system will be hard to integrate with NATO equipment, thus undermining alliance defenses and Turkey’s.)
As for Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is doing his best to torpedo any nuclear deal with Iran, including urging Congress to impose more economic sanctions on Iran that could bring the incipient negotiations between Iran’s new government and the major powers to a halt.
Much of this anger at the United States is driven by a case of nerves. The Arab Spring uprisings shook the old order, plunged the region into chaos, created opportunities for Iran to expand its influence in Syria and Iraq and threatened to worsen the Sunni-Shiite divide. Saudi Arabia, a Sunni-majority country, in particular, fears an American rapprochement with Shiite-majority Iran.
But Mr. Obama’s first responsibility is to America’s national interest. And he has been absolutely right in refusing to be goaded into a war in Syria or bullied into squandering a rare, if remote, chance to negotiate an Iranian nuclear deal.
In addressing the United Nations last month, Mr. Obama reinforced his intention to narrow his regional diplomatic focus to the Iranian nuclear deal and an Israeli-Palestinian peace. Some have read this as weakness and retreat, rather than pragmatism. We wish he had put more emphasis on Egypt and Iraq. But his priorities make sense. His task now is to reassure the allies that the United States remains committed to their security.
Also, the Iraqi leadership comes to Washington to ask to buy arms – this while having done nothing about uniting their country or alternatively letting it sub-divide to its three components – Shiia – Kurds – Sunni. Without this first Iraq will turn into another Syria with the Maliki, a Shiia, government trying to surpress its Sunni and Kurdish minorities. What should the US President do? He clearly does not want to step back into the Iraqi morass that his predecessor has created.
Some more about the visit of UNSG Ban Ki-moon to Jerusalem, and what he learned about the Middle East from Israeli leaders on location. Will this show in the way the UN Secretariat speaks about the States of the region?
According to Al-Monitor:
“UN Leader’s Visit to Israel Shows Waning US Influence in Mideast.”
By: Ben Caspit for Al-Monitor Israel Pulse Posted on August 23.
While on a visit to Israel on Aug. 15-16, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon held some interesting talks, receiving the red carpet treatment from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who oversees the slow yet chanceless negotiations with the Palestinians.
I would like to suggest to you not to talk about the settlements, Livni told Ban. At around that time, Israel was issuing new tenders for construction in the territories, mainly in Jerusalem and the large settlement blocs. Ban wanted to know why. Since your position on this issue is well-known, Livni replied, I would propose that you do not talk about it at this particular time. According to her, any statements to that effect at this juncture would only render the negotiations harder, forcing Palestinian Authority Chairman Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) to say something harsh, which could perhaps then undercut the possibility of progress. Abu Mazen cannot come off as more moderate than the UN. He, too, faces an opposition.
Livni explained to Ban how sensitive the situation was, imploring him not to make the same mistake the Americans had made during US President Barack Obama’s first term. Back then, the administration put Abu Mazen on a high horse from which one cannot dismount peacefully. You can only fall off, and they left him to his own devices. Finally, the negotiations resumed, she told him, and the future of the settlements will have to be determined in the bilateral discussions. That’s why at this point it’s better to be smart than right and leave the talking to us (the recent sentences are my own interpretation.)
Livni adopted the same approach when the discussion touched on the Palestinian prisoners-murderers whom Israel had released just two days earlier. What I would like to suggest to you, she said, is not to issue a statement in support of the release. When the secretary-general wanted to know why, she explained to him that some 85% of the Israeli public was opposed to the release. If you find out what those people were convicted of, you would understand too. No other country in the world would have released such prisoners. This is an open Israeli wound. This move is hard for everyone, myself included, mainly because Israel did not get anything real in return.
In other words, Livni suggested to Ban that he let the Israelis and Palestinians run their own affairs without interfering by making unnecessary statements. When all is said and done, the peace treaties that Israel signed with the Arabs — Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians in Oslo — were always accomplished through direct negotiations between the parties without involvement, interference, pressure or threats. Former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin made such a strategic decision and executed it, and the same is true of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. The world can only stand in the way. Whenever the world meddled, wielded pressure or lectured, it all came crashing down.
Then, it was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s turn. That was interesting, too. Netanyahu is a weak prime minister, a failed manager and a controversial leader. However, when it comes to public diplomacy he is unmatched. Having studied Ban, he knew exactly how to strike a chord with him.
Netanyahu presented Ban the ongoing Palestinian incitement against Israel that comes across from the Palestinian curriculum which continues to call for Israel’s obliteration from the face of the earth, while describing Jews as “monkeys and pigs,” etc. Then it was time for [Prime Minister Netanyahu] Bibi to get to the punch line. The prime minister compared the Palestinian campaign of incitement and lies against Israel to North Korea’s unending and unbridled incitement against South Korea. Bibi had a long list of examples which left the secretary-general dumbfounded.
Then, as was to be expected, Bibi proceeded to discuss the Iranian nuclear program. He drew a similar comparison to North Korea, or, to put it more precisely, to North Korea’s nuclear project. Netanyahu masterfully delineated the similarities between Iran’s nuclear program and that of North Korea. The latter didn’t give a hoot about the world or the United States, until South Korea woke up one morning only to find out that its neighbor to the north has a nuclear bomb.
In that case, too, the world believed that diplomacy could postpone or do away with the bad news — a belief which proved to be baseless. When Netanyahu switched over to the Iranian nuclear project, he let Ban understand how dangerous Iran is to world peace — not just to Israel. He explained to the secretary-general how messianic Iran’s leadership is and how it is guided by radical religious edicts. The Iranians must not be allowed to do what the North Koreans did, Netanyahu said. Iran is a huge country with immense oil deposits and high capabilities. Such a country cannot be isolated the way the West has isolated North Korea. A nuclear Iran will exact a heavy price from the world — a price it cannot afford.
The comic relief in the meeting between Ban and Netanyahu took place when the Israeli premier started talking about “construction in the settlements.” Most of the construction takes place in Jerusalem — Israel’s capital. It is carried out in places that everyone understands will remain in Israeli hands even in the settling of a final status arrangement, Netanyahu explained. For example, we build in Gilo, which is a neighborhood in Jerusalem across the Green Line, the premier explained. Then took the UN secretary-general to the window and pointed out the neighborhood. Can you possibly imagine that we won’t be able to build here, a place you can see from the prime minister’s office? Bibi asked.
Fortunately, Ban is not familiar with Jerusalem.
On the one hand, Bibi is right. The Palestinians know all too well that Gilo will remain in Israeli hands even in the settling of a final status arrangement. On the other hand, you cannot see Gilo from the prime minister’s office. What Bibi showed Ban is the Israel Museum, which is not too far from his office. But Ban is from South Korea. As far as he is concerned, the Israel Museum can represent Gilo, can’t it?
Incidentally, Ban did not hear anything substantially different from the leader of the opposition, Knesset member Shelly Yachimovich (chairwoman of the Labor party). When it comes to these issues, there is a consensus in Israel.
Later during his visit, it felt like the UN secretary-general had listened closely to what the Israeli leadership had said to him in that room. His statements sounded relatively mellifluous to Israeli ears.
I would assume that Ban is well-aware of the fact that the only capital in the Middle East where he can move about freely nowadays — without the fear of being targeted by rockets, car bombs, chemical missiles, mass demonstrations or other similar perils — is Jerusalem. He cannot do this in Cairo, Damascus, Beirut, Tripoli or Sanaa. Even Amman is not what it used to be. By way of comparison, Jerusalem and Ramallah are a paradise of leisure, although this is temporary, too. In the Middle East the tables can turn in a matter of a split second.
Since I last described here in Al-Monitor the relative quiet in Jerusalem and Ramallah, Israel was hit by rockets fired at Eilat on Aug. 13 (which were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system) and at the Western Galilee on Aug. 22 (likewise intercepted). On Aug. 19, 25 Egyptian policemen were executed by armed militants in Rafah in the Sinai, a car bomb exploded in Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah’s Dahiyeh quarter in Beirut on Aug. 15 and the Syrian regime killed hundreds, if not thousands of civilians in a chemical attack in east Damascus on Aug. 21.
Whenever we think that the Middle East has hit rock bottom, we hear heavy pounding from below, and then it turns out that hitting rock bottom is still quite a ways away. There’s one truth, however, that’s emerging right before our eyes: The West is losing control over the events. Western deterrence is already nonexistent. The days when everybody would hold their breath waiting for the daily press briefing from the White House are long gone. US President Barack Obama has made a mockery of himself, so much so that nobody really cares about what America thinks, says or does.
This is best illustrated when drawing a comparison between the events in Cairo and Syria. The Americans had long ago set a “red line” for Syria, namely the use of chemical weapons.
However, when a high-ranking Israeli intelligence officer revealed that chemical weapons had been used in Syria, the Americans gagged, got muddled, denied and ultimately confirmed this. Preposterously enough, they announced that “there might have been a possibility” that the Syrian regime had indeed masterminded the recent chemical attack in Damascus. Great. If that’s the case, what will you do? Nothing, it seems.
I’m not calling on the Americans to act in Syria. If I were the US president, I would not intervene in Syria no matter what. Anyone in his right mind has to steer clear from that. Intervention in Syria would pay off and be deemed legitimate only if it were supported by the entire international community. Since this is not going to be the case, there’s no point in goading this or that sheriff to hold the reins in Syria. The world has to come to terms with the new reality: You cannot avert every horror across the globe. Using moral principles, it’s very hard to decide between two similar devils — such as the warring factions in Syria.
It is against this backdrop that the Western conduct in connection with Egypt is becoming more perplexing. My friends, when will it dawn on you that what the Egyptian army is trying to do is to prevent replicating the harrowing reality in Syria? The nonsense of Western democracy and values are unsuitable for societies that still enslave women, minorities and weak castes.
The Americans placed their bet on the Muslim Brotherhood two years ago and now they find it hard to accept that they bet on the wrong horse. The Egyptian public doesn’t want “the brothers” to dictate their life, laws and customs. In Egypt, there are no checks and balances as one would find in a true democracy, at least not for now. So the only way of coping with the events is to determine that having the Egyptian army take control for a transitional period and disperse the riots with force is better than the alternative.
What’s the alternative? That’s simple. The alternative is an armed gang that takes 25 plainclothes men off two minibuses, forces them to lie on the ground and shoots all of them — one by one — to death in broad daylight. This is the face of radical Islam, of which all of us — regardless of religion, sex, color, race or nationality — should be afraid of.
Ben Caspit is a contributing writer for Al-Monitor’s Israel Pulse. He is also a senior columnist and political analyst for Israeli newspapers, and has a daily radio show and regular TV shows on politics and Israel.
Those killed in Egypt and Syria to be mentioned at the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish High Holidays Yizkor Services – a sign of simple humanity. Allah willing the people of the Middle East could take notice.
The reach of human compassion!
And from Rabbi Michael Lerner’s Tikkun Magazine:
Please urge them to check it out at www.beyttikkun.org/article.php/HH… [ www.beyttikkun.org/article.php/HH... ].
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon marks territory in Jerusalem the day after the re-start of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations intent on unravelling the yarn of hatred that tied together the previous victims of Arab aggression and present victims of Arab Islamization – be it Sunni or Shi’ia. It is obvious to us that the Palestinians deserve a spot in the 21st Century Sustainable Future for All.
In Syria there is already a number for the dead well above 1.000,000 and in Egypt, without large efforts, that number can be surpassed. So, the UN Secretary General comes to the place that is these days the most peaceful in the region and marks territory.
It is just possible, that behind closed doors, the Israelis and the Palestinians of the West Bank under the Abbas leadership, may indeed be planning an agreement in order to avoid the ISLAMIZATION that is killing the region. It is in the best interest of the two sides to compromise behind closed doors and allow for a process of normalization and economic Sustainable Development in the spirit of the 21st Century to be presented later to the World at large. This clearly without the need of bickering sessions at the UN. No problem – when we reach that stage, the UN will be allowed to bless on the final agreed results. But the UN is no place to obtain any practical results.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon meets separately with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem, August 15, 2013.
Then Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon met Friday August 16th in Jerusalem with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and warned him of the dire security situation in the region.
He added that Lebanon based terror group Hezbollah was Iran’s main weapon against Israel, and warned Ban that the Israeli government has detected Hezbollah activity near Israel’s northern border, in violation of UN Resolution 1701.
“This organization is a state within a state. They get weapons from Iran and Syria,” he said.
“I think today everybody understands that the root cause of the instability in the Middle East and beyond has to do with the convulsion that is historic and cultural in nature of which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is merely one of many, many such manifestations,” said Netanyahu.
Ban thanked Netanyahu for his effort to restart peace talks, saying, “I’m here to urge all the leaders to continue along the path to peace and to underscore a shared commitment to walk together to make 2013 a decisive year for Israel-Palestinian peace and peace in the region.”
During his meeting with Ban, Peres also addressed the security situation in the region within the context of the Israeli-Palestinian Authority peace talks.
“Peace is a real need for both parties, none of us have an alternative. The overall situation in the Middle East is quite bleak and if we can achieve an agreement between us and the Palestinians it is good news in a region that needs good news,” he said.
In the meantime – as reported by Avi Issacharoff – the same day:
In Egypt – The military claims that armed Muslim Brotherhood supporters opened fire on the soldiers, killing close to 50 and injuring dozens more. Each side recruited the television channel that supports its agenda. The Muslim Brotherhood was backed by Qatar’s al-Jazeera, which broadcast pictures of corpses and injured protesters in an endless loop, while al-Arabiya, which is funded by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which support the Egyptian military, screened a video of supposed Muslim Brotherhood activists wearing masks and firing at unseen targets.
As expected, the bloodshed was condemned by prominent figures in the Arab world and by various political parties in Egypt. Leaders such as Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh — former Egyptian presidential candidate, and a former Muslim Brotherhood activist in his more distant past — who strongly opposed Mohammed Morsi while he was president, criticized the army and their excessive use of violence. Representatives of the extremist al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya organization, the al-Wasat Party and countries such as Qatar, Turkey and Iran, condemned the Egyptian military as well. And to top it all, Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei, who was one of the first to stand by the military when protests against Morsi began on June 30, submitted his resignation.
The war for Egypt’s future has returned to international headlines and the Muslim Brotherhood is now demanding that el-Sissi be removed from power in order to restore peace. It is highly unlikely, though, that this will happen any time soon. Right now, Egypt is headed towards the unknown.
The days of Mubarak’s trial-and-error policies and mixed messages are over.
The army has entered a new era of all-out war against Islamic forces in Sinai and against the tunnels connecting the peninsula to Gaza, while at the same time, it is exerting force against the Muslim Brotherhood inside Egypt. The problem is that there are limits to the force and violence that can be applied, as the situation in Syria underlines. The Syrian army has been unable to suppress the opposition against Bashar Assad even as the death toll exceeds 100,000. Unlike in Syria, though, large portions of the Egyptian population support the military’s harsh policies.
Even as violence continues throughout Egypt, the army continues its efforts to destroy Jihadist headquarters in Sinai. Egyptian armed forces attack from the air and the ground and have managed to hit dozens of targets in the last week alone. The problem is that the number of armed activists that identify with al-Qaeda’s ideology is estimated at 3,000. It will be a long time before the Egyptian army will be able to declare victory in Sinai.
In Lebanon – Any four-year-old kid in Lebanon, and certainly in the Shi’ite community, knows who was responsible for Thursday’s attack in Hezbollah’s Dahieh stronghold of Beirut that killed at least 18 people. You don’t need to be an intelligence operative or a Middle East analyst to recognize that extremist Sunni groups operating as part of the Syrian opposition made good on their promise to strike at Hezbollah and its supporters on their home turf.
This was a response to the dominant involvement of Hezbollah in the fighting against the rebels in Syria. On Thursday evening, the “Brigade of Aisha” even issued a statement of responsibility to make it crystal clear to Hezbollah why it carried out the car bombing.
Yet despite this, a whole host of Lebanese politicians, not all of them Sh’iites, rushed to charge that Israel was involved – allegations ridiculous and in Lebanon too are considered an insult to the intelligence — even when they come from President Michel Suleiman, who claimed that the blast bore the fingerprints of the Israelis, or from Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, a Middle East’s great opportunists, who leveled similarly ridiculous charges.
These politicians, including Suleiman, are worried that an attack like this will prompt a particularly violent Hezbollah retaliation. In pointing the finger at Israel, they are trying to manufacture a common enemy for all Lebanese. Suleiman, who only days ago demanded the disarming of Hezbollah, understands that an attack like this in Dahieh could eventually lead to a complete takeover by the Shi’ite Hezbollah in Lebanon and a cleaning out of all pockets of opposition — be they Sunni extremists or rival politicians.
Like many in Lebanon, Suleiman recognizes that the Syrian civil war, which has intermittently seeped into Lebanon, escalated to a still more dangerous level for his country. It was notable that the internet site of Hezbollah’s TV station Al-Manar was quick to publicize comments by the organization’s number 2, Naim Kassam, who said that Israel is deterred from confrontation with Hezbollah “and checks itself before risking any aggression against us.” This was Hezbollah telling all those politicians, and its own people, that, no, Israel isn’t the problem right now.
So, again, the UN Secretary-General is in Israel to mark Territory, but what has he done to bring attention AND ACTION to the problems of Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt – did he campaign in Saudi Arabia and Qatar to get them to stop pushing Islamic extremism?
Also, in Nairobi, Kenya, an airport fire took place on the anniversary of twin blasts at US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people in 1998.
Kenya has also seen terror targeted at Israelis. In 2002, terrorists blew up an Israeli-owned hotel in Mombasa, killing 13, and launched an unsuccessful attack on an Israeli plane departing from the airport there.
In May of this year, two Iranians were jailed for life for planning massive bombing attacks on Jewish, Israeli and Western targets in Kenya. Defense lawyers claimed that Israeli security official interrogated the two while in Kenyan custody. Kenya and Israeli security agencies have a long history of cooperation, dating back to the Entebbe hostage crisis in 1976.
Dissecting the case of Tunisia where The Arab Spring started and seemingly still continues despite two political assassinations, we get to how Qatar tries to build influence behind the back of Saudi Arabia. Is this an outcome from them sitting on gas rather then oil?
Tunisia and the divided Arab Spring.
Mutual fear may prevail and the use of force be felt necessary. Exactly this plays into the hands of the parasites inside the apparatus who are busy transforming themselves into a self-governing body within the state (especially the Interior Ministry) that can exploit, if not directly manipulate, such contradictions.
On July 25, Mohamed Brahimi, the Nasserist leader of the opposition party ‘The People’ (chaab) was assassinated. He is the second Tunisian political leader to be killed after the removal of former dictator Ben Ali. It happened in the environs of the capital city, Tunis, near his house and with the same weapon used to kill Chokri Belaid, the first victim of such a terrorist act. According to the initial security communiqué this was planned and carried out a similar manner to the previous one, six months before. If the first assassination on February 6 left many questions hanging in the air, this time it left a strong feeling that someone was calculatedly planning such actions with a specific political strategy in mind. This was if anything confirmed by later events, in which eight soldiers were killed in an ambush during their patrol in the frontier region of Mountain Chaambi.
Since the beginning of July, in the aftermath of the deposing of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi, tension has risen amongst Tunisia’s governing parties, fearing an attempt to sabotage the only ‘successful Arab spring democratic transition’. The opposition has been trying since then to replicate the Egyptian scenario. The Popular Front, the Marxist-Pan Arabist alliance to which Chokri Belaid belonged, demanded an immediate and total dissolution of the government and the Constituency Assembly, working together with the newly-created group of Tamarrod Tunisia (inspired by the anonymous group that triggered the mobilization in Egypt). After some holding of its breath, the governmental camp was initially reassured by the reaction from Tunisian society at large, which seemed skeptical about the Egyptian scenario.
The many differences between Tunisia and Egypt are significant: since the beginning, a constitutional path has been chosen in Tunisia, which created an elected Constitutional Assembly in order to draft a new constitution; in this assembly the Islamist party procured 41% of the members and so needed a larger coalition in order to run the government; the Islamist party elected, Ennahda, chose to work in coalition with the two main secular parties (CPR and Ettakatol). Despite this important difference, in Tunisia as in the rest of the Arab world, a new era of conflict was ushered in by the Arab Spring; a huge hegemonic change is under way with the coming to power of Islamic parties and the marginalization of both the former nationalist parties and the democratic secular camp.
Tunisia went through its highest point of tension six months ago, before the dramatic developments unfolded in Egypt. In the aftermath of the assassination of the leftist leader, Belaid, an emotional wave of spontaneous demonstrations packed the public spaces throughout this country. It appeared to many, even those not much engaged in politics, that the Ennahda party must have had some responsibility. The crisis was survived though, and the ruling troika showed great flexibility in accepting change in all the strategic ministries – Interior, Justice and Foreign Affairs – with the introduction of neutral technocrats in top positions. From those in power the political message was: “we are ready to make concessions” on condition that the legitimacy of the elected government will be respected. They made it clear that any move aimed at overthrowing elected institutions and the constitutional transition process would be considered a coup d’etat.
However, in successive months, criticism of the government has continued. The main preoccupation has become the security situation of the country and the threat of terrorism. Heightened tensions returned between April and May when several mines exploded in the Chaambi mountain, on the border with Algeria (the same area where eight soldiers were killed last week). The reaction of the security apparatus was amateurish, giving contradictory statements and showing the IDs of alleged suspects later identified by the press as individuals who had died years ago. These developments provoked increasing unease in some Tunisians, and in others, further skepticism at the elite power play known to be occurring in certain spheres.
The assassination of Mohamed Brahimi was interpreted by many as resulting from the same political strategies and splits that were behind Chokri Belaid’s assassination. The Nasserist leader had been a strong supporter of the ‘Egyptian solution’, speaking out loud publically and even engaging in polemics with his own party when it disagreed with some of his declarations. He denounced ‘the infiltration’ of Islamic elements in his party. The political process became destabilized as a result of this loss of common ground and the clash of conflicting ideological orientations that ensued. For the opposition there was clear responsibility on the part of the government; many suspect the direct implication of Ennahda, accused of creating a ‘parallel apparatus’ inside the security system aimed at dealing with their political opponents. For the government camp the responsibility belongs to the ‘deep state’ motivated by a counter-revolutionary strategy and supported by prominent ‘liberal’ and ‘leftist’ secular leaders, bitter about their marginal role in the elected government. Yet others have accused the salafist-jihadis, though their direct responsibility has yet to be established. For all parties, this is a ‘terrorist attack’, but attributed by the press and the Interior Minister to an ‘isolated takfirist group’ with foreign involvement. Interestingly, there is common ground between the salafist and secular opposition analyses, both of whom berate the government for scapegoating and instrumentalizing the salafi component as a way of avoiding exposing the truth behind the assassinations.
These opposing views of the political situation are key to understanding the evolution of the political situation in Tunisia. The main contenders (Islamist and anti-Islamists) don’t trust each other, and the suspicions may turn into open conflict if events further exacerbate this divide.
The political situation could evolve in either of two directions. One option is that a new form of mediation is found, but that the institutions created by the transition process (the Assembly and the three presidencies – of parliament, of the Republic and the government) are preserved in order to finish the drawing up of the constitution in the next three to four weeks. In this case a new road map must be decided in common with the opposition parties and a precise date for the election must be assigned before the end of the year, as well as giving convincing guarantees to the opposition that such a clear electoral process is under way. Alternatively, tension may grow and further terrorist acts may lead to chaos with the dissolution of the assembly, the cessation of the transition process and the creation of a Salvation government led by a special committee of technocrats committed to a new draft of the constitution. This would be a scenario very similar to the Egyptian one, with the significant difference that, at least until now, the Tunisian opposition has looked unlikely to have the strength to bring an important mass of protesters onto the street.
The evolution of the political situation therefore in a sense depends upon the degree of trust that the process is able to generate between the various actors. Three factors may be the most influential in determining the direction this takes: the first is the willingness of Ennahda to share power; the second is the social and economic situation; and the third, the regional and geopolitical context.
The most common complaint lodged by the opposition camp against Ennahda and the coalition in power (Troika) is their unwillingness to share power. Ennahda and its allies have as their sole aim the ‘monopoly’ of power, they aver; and even the way the Government resists a government of ‘technocrats’ is proof that the only thing they care about is staying in power for as long as it takes to eventually enforce a new authoritarian political system. For their part Ennahda insists that it is willing to share power, pointing for proof to the formation of its coalition government with two secular parties, including a large majority in the Assembly. They do reject the prospect of a technocratic government because they interpret it as an attempt by the opposition to outmanoeuvre a government that fully respects the political balance determined by the electoral outcome. They agree on the need to form a larger coalition including all the parties in the assembly, each contributing according to their electoral weight. Yet they point to the stonewalling of the opposition parties in relation to their overtures to this end.
If Ennahda’s argument is to be believed, this still does not entirely explain the capacity the opposition have had until now to threaten its stability and question its legitimacy. This has to be explained more in terms of the struggle for hegemony that has been taking place than on the election result. The modern state of Tunisia was, more than the other states in the region, founded on the basis of a radical secular vision of modernity. Its middle class, educated by an educational programme that lauded the rational virtues of the western heritage and minimized the importance of achieving compatibility between modernity and the religious and Arab patrimoine. This framing of national identity has not taken hold to the same extent for the popular masses of the people. The proof is that on average Tunisians were willing to vote in a party that referred to Islam as the basis for its principles.
However, Tunisian ‘laicité’ is an ideology firmly rooted in the apparatus of the state, first of all in the bureaucracy that constituted the backbone of the former Bourghibian party (those who propagate Tunisian nationalism – Tunisianité – and constitute a clear political and sociological interest group). The same middle class also produced critics of this model – not in its basic principles, but in its acceptance of the authoritarian regime. Those belonging to the first category today are divided between Nidaa Tunis, led by the Bourghibian Caied Essebsi, and isolated groups of interests that still exist inside the state apparatus and feel themselves threatened by the new ‘revolutionary’ scenario. The first group is often defined as the ‘Bourghibians’, meaning the ones who believed in the national modernist project, who are ready to fight to prevent the country falling in the hands of a ‘backwards’ Islamic vision of the world. The second element consists of the ex-regime parasites who exploited power under Ben Ali’s regime through the opportunistic system of patronage. The critics of authoritarianism, also stemming from the same middle class, are however more ‘democratic’ and have developed over recent decades a secular appreciation leading to their opposition to dictatorship. But they share the same vision of modernity and may be willing to support a repressive action in order to deal with what they consider the ultimate threat, Islamists.
These positions can all be traced back to the beginning of the 1990’s, when Ben Ali started a repressive campaign against Islamists, carried out with the support of a large part of this ‘modernist’ and ‘democratic’ middle class. The main challenge for any Islamic party nowadays is not only to win elections, but to convince this core state constituency that they have a stake in and may be integrated into the construction of a post-revolution nation, without threatening its highest values. Trust between these two highly contrasted social and political components can only be generated through each assuring the other of its good intentions. This trust-building exercise is especially vital in such a transition from dictatorship to democracy, a period in which it is only natural that the loser thinks that the winner will not give them another chance. This is an obligatory step if democracy is to be achieved. However, if the split gets more profound, the mutual fear may prevail and the use of force may be felt to be necessary. Exactly this latter recourse plays into the hands of the parasites inside the apparatus who are busy transforming themselves into a self-governing body within the state (especially within the Interior Ministry) that can exploit, if not directly manipulate, such contradictions.
When it comes to the second consideration, the social and economic situation, it is quite surprising how little attention this aspect receives from the analysts and commentators. The truth is that what is being analyzed in terms of ‘political events’ is largely down to the narrow categorisation of a small political elite. But participation in politics, up to the present day, is in fact quite marginal. There are practically no new political leaders thrown up by the revolution, and even the participation in the elections was pretty low (51%), and for many not exactly representative of a general public opinion (because of the ‘apolitical’ orientation of most of the voters). This means that the political struggle, as it might be understood in the sense of a liberal transition process from an authoritarian power to a democracy, is reliant on the same middle class we have just discussed, with the addition of the conservatives represented from this new power of Ennahdha.
While the elite contenders are struggling to gain hegemony or recognition from one another, trying to draw up a new shared social contract, most of the rest of the entire population is concerned with day-to-day realities, including the dramatic economic situation. The deep discontent which drives the situation is coming from an apolitical population that is desperately frustrated because of the deterioration in their standard of living. These social and economic problems were the reason why the former system collapsed, and it has already bequeathed to the successor nation a large section of society profoundly alienated from the country’s future development. As a result a generation of apolitical, but nonetheless actively engaged, youth has engaged in what has been called ‘street politics’. Amongst the most visible of these movements is the Ultras, the football supporters, organized in groups very popular among young people. This movement never misses an occasion to confront the police and to be a destabilizing element in an open conflict between the two political blocs, with the sole qualification that they themselves are more comfortable on whichever side can be considered at any one time as more anti-system.
Another important element in the self-expression of this disenfranchised youth is the jihadi-salafi movement. Though the movement is large (thousands of young people) – not all are really participating in the political struggle, with many so far concentrating on preaching or proselytizing to others (dawa). It is still the case that this movement, especially in its jihadi version, is very attractive to young people who have lost all their reference points (beginning with any chance of economic and social integration). That is why jihadi terrorism still has a chance to flourish in any situation in which the political transition leaves an institutional vacuum. Though there has not been until now any proof of the infiltration of terrorist groups into the Tunisian salafist movement, at each moment of tension the Interior Minister becomes increasingly shrill in voicing his suspicions and conspiracy theories. What is more important is that a factor such as the economic frustration of large segments of the people, may become an accomplice if the split in the political class deteriorates into outright confrontation, so that people’s desperation in the face of economic decline is transformed into a political consensus to overthrow the institutional process, such as has happened now in Egypt.
The third point concerns the new regional developments and its influence on the process. To understand this very crucial determinant it is first of all necessary to point out how the definition of the Arab Spring has changed and how it has become part of a rhetoric solely the preserve of the Islamists. The Islamists, and the part of the secular political class still in coalition with them, are the only ones who invoke the rhetoric of ‘freedom’. For them revolution still represents the sole opportunity for freedom and for democratization – a transition process driven by elections constituting the necessary means. To them, the new opportunities witnessed in Tunisian society today, whereby most people can show off their Islamic faith and their sense of belonging without inhibition (described by those who have taken fright at this as the ‘Islamization’ of Tunisia), is a precious step towards a new free society.
The opposition camp, consolidating its position in the light of the growing complications of the Syrian conflict and role of Tunisian jihadis within it, is built on a familiar Arab nationalist foundation, but also operates on the logic that ‘the enemy of my enemies are my friends’ – the enemies being those who oppose the ‘Islamization’ of the political and social process. They oppose the ‘occupation’ of public spaces by religious symbols and practice as a threat. They believe that Islamists in power within the institutions, and salafists gaining ground in the social sphere, are part and parcel of one strategy, aiming to establish a new backwards Islamic authoritarian system. They interpret the support of Qatar, Turkey, France and US for the Arab Spring as a big plot to keep the Arab countries enslaved to the west and avoid a true emancipation. They point to examples of a US administration that is harsh towards secular Arab nationalist presidents, while providing unconditional support to the Zionists (the Israeli state). Islamists in their Muslim Brotherhood version are, for them, the new ‘servants of the West’, with Qatar serving as the big puppet/proxy in the region, and Turkey as a neo-Ottoman imperialist country.
This explains in part why it is feasible that salafists and Arab nationalists may find themselves on the same side against the ‘Muslim Brotherhood plot’, as was the case in Egypt. When the struggle is anti-imperialist, they may form a concerted bloc. In the case of Tunisia, though, because the radical leftist anti-MB camp is comprised of a different political and social composition which is not especially anti-western or anti-Zionist, but rather primarily anti-Islamic, this coalition is less viable an option.
The landscape of the Arab Spring’s countries has increasingly divided into two very visible political orientations: Islamic and anti-Islamic. Both camps are made up of two ‘parties’ adopting a different degree of radicalism toward the anti-imperialist cause. The Islamist camp contains an appreciably greater range of animosity towards anti-imperialist causes, in also embracing those who cite Palestine and Algeria and argue that the west was never remotely interested in working with Islamists, or allowing any real democracy. But indeed we can safely say that that all these political parties or ideological orientations are wary of a certain western policy in the Middle East, especially when it comes to the Palestinian cause. On that subject alone, you will find no division between these two camps.
What is true, though, is that we may distinguish between a ‘moderate’ attitude on the part of the Muslim Brotherhood and the modernist camp in Tunisia; and a ‘radical’ stance on the part of salafists and Arab nationalists alike. And it is here that the geopolitical framework has played its part in providing each of these sides with a perceived ‘common enemy’. On the one hand, Qatar has become, since the beginning of 2000, an important centre for the propagation of the so-called ‘wasatiyya’. The famous Egyptian clerk, Youssef Qaradawi, has been living there for long time as a refugee, and has been given both academic and TV space (as the special host of Al-Jazeera’s religious programme shariaa wa hayat for some years) to ‘propagate’ the new idea of a moderate Islam (the word wasat in Arabic means centre, taken from a basic Koranic concept explaining that Islam is the religion of the centre, interpreted as ‘moderation’). This was in part prompted as a response to the terrible reputation Islam had acquired in the west after Bin Laden’s decade of terrorist acts, and in part by the larger geopolitical imperative on the part of the Al-Thani royal family to introduce a new policy of modernization (closer to that of the west). This was supported by the US, of course, until Qatar became – even militarily – a new strategic pawn in the regional policy of the US.
Qatar’s geopolitical pursuits must themselves be read in the wider context of the Arabic peninsula, in which Saudi Arabia is the biggest super-power, with Qatar historically feeling encircled. So this small country elaborated an intelligent policy to gain a larger piece of the action under the shadow of its big brother. Saudi Arabia, on the contrary was and still is very uncomfortable with this new bid for power, especially since it was based on an ideological-religious theorem seen as very dangerous to the survival of the Saudi royal family. The new ideology arose from the ‘democratic’ shift that occurred within the Muslim Brotherhood leadership. One must not forget that Saud’s family was very seriously under threat in the 1990’s from a reformist Islamic movement largely influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood.
The new scenario created in the Arab Spring seemed to justify Qatar and certain American Democrat circles, which had placed their bet on a democratic evolution of Islamism which might be integrated into the larger democratization scenario of the region as a whole. Yet what was a victory for Qatar was a threat for Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia was very much on the defensive in the first year following the Arab Spring uprisings. This changed when it appeared that they could still find an ally in the region to balance against the overwhelming presence of the MB: the salafists. Salafism in its Wahhabist version of course (and not jihadi), were supported everywhere, even in Tunisia, in the classic manner; the financing of charitable and Koranic Wahhabit associations.
A further geopolitical actor, with an important influence on events in Tunisia, is Algeria (increasingly important since regional developments that included the French intervention in the northern regions of Mali and the supposed expansion of jihadi towards Libya). From Tunisia’s point of view there cannot be any solid base for its process of transition without having the solid support of its two Arab neighbours. This geopolitical factor emerged clearly enough during Libya’s rebellion against Gaddafi, supported logistically and politically by the new Tunisian Government.
From the perspective of Algeria, these evolving events appeared quite different. The Algerian government remained highly suspicious of the hidden intentions of the new Tunisian ‘revolutionary’ government: the Algerians feared a knock-on effect. Their skepticism only deepened when the Islamic party, Ennahda, took power, which seemed a real nightmare to them. Rached Ghannouchi (the Tunisian Islamic leader) was at the time of the civil war in the 1990’s in fact a good ‘friend’ of the Algerian Islamic FIS.
But after almost two years since those revolutionary events, the political climate has changed again, and now it is the fear of external interference that is largely mutual. Despite the exchange of official visits, the Islamic Tunisian party continues to suspect Algerian infiltration of conspiring to overthrow the Ennahda-led government, encouraged by regional developments in Egypt. Bouteflika, the Algerian president, could take advantage of the new Arab nationalist feeling abroad in the region and in Tunisia as well. He has come to be represented, in a line with Assad and the new strongman in Egypt, Sisi, as resistant to the western plot to overthrow the Arab nationalist governments. At the same time he has come to be seen as a saviour against the Islamist wave, and the one who ‘knows how to deal with terrorists’ (because of the experience of the civil war of the 1990’s). It has been pointed out many times in Tunisian public debate how important the Algerian experience was in the struggle against terrorism.
The Algerian press often intervenes in Tunisian debate to underline the Islamic danger coming from this side of the border. It is very likely that those in power in Algeria, especially at this sensitive systemic moment, in which the country is preoccupied with the imminent post Bouteflika transition, are concerned about jihadi or salafi infiltration. The fear on the Algerian side is of a repetition of the Syrian scenario. There are enough elements here coming together to make one take very seriously the role of this important neighbour, and its influence on the process going on in Tunisia.
The outcome of this most recent Tunisian crisis may tell us much about the future of the so called ‘Arab Spring’ and the democratization process of the country. If it is able to emerge from this dangerous minefield by relying on the institutional tools already in existence, this will be an important step forward. The consequence will be the development of a system that will start to believe in itself and be more confident in future conflicts in relying on the mechanism of state institutions. That is why it is so important that the state, with its apparatuses and institutions, ‘plays by the rules of the game’.
The transitional process in Tunisia has been until now exemplary, and despite the tensions and the social and economic crisis, it has shown itself well-suited to the country and its traditions. The Islamic option is still perceived as a threat by many, and Ennahda is still lacking a political hegemony (in the sense of conquering the elites). But what has emerged from the recent dramatic events, exacerbated by all the latest regional developments, is that obscure forces are trying to divert the accomplishments of the transition and crush all remaining elements of the myth of ‘The Arab Spring’. This is the moment for Tunisia to reveal itself as a true exception, and a model for the future of the other countries in the region.
Has the US decided that the leadership of the Arab world goes to Saudi Arabia?
What is indisputable is the pivotal role played by the radical and regressive Wahhabi Salafi religious establishment in giving religious legitimacy to the Saudi regime, which in turn provides it with the vital funding to propagate and export its violent ideology. According to the Wahhabi ideology it is strictly forbidden to oppose the ruler. Thus, in the Saudi regime’s eyes the MB’s explicit endorsement of political Islam, which underlines explicitly that legitimate rule can only stem from democratic elections, is an existential threat aimed at the very legitimacy of the Saudi King’s absolute power. Making matters even worse, Qatar had enthusiastically embraced and even offered citizenship to the influential and highly controversial spiritual leader of the MB, Yusuf Al Qaradawi.
As the protest in Syria became increasingly militarised, the Qataris ramped up their full-blown support to the MB. However, the Saudi regime has consistently considered the Syrian regime, since the days of the late, Hafiz Al Assad, Bashar’s father, a major thorn in its side and an irreplaceable strategic ally to its principal adversary Iran. The regime moved swiftly to shore up the armed insurgents by deploying its intelligence services, whose instrumental role in establishing and funding Jabhat Al Nusra (JN) was highlighted in an online intelligence review released in Paris in January 2013. The Saudi regime also used its huge influence and leverage on not only Sunni tribal leaders in western Iraq, but also on Saudi members of Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) to convince AQI that its principal battlefield must be Syria and that its ultimate goal should be deposing Bashar Al Assad’s Alawite regime, since its overthrow would break the back-bone of the Iraqi Shia-led government and inevitably loosen Iran’s grip on Iraq.
Creating a new branch of Al Qaeda in Syria under the new label of ‘JN’, which was not yet designated a terrorist organisation, was not only an unmissable lifeline to AQI, on its back foot in 2011, but also it provided Saudi Arabia and Qatar with a window of opportunity to bolster AQI and JN and destabilise Syria and Iraq simultaneously, under the perfect pretext of supporting democracy in Syria. So AQI scrambled to send Abu Mohammed Al Jolani, in July 2011, to form JN, while Aymen Al Zawahri, the overall leader of Al Qaeda, instructed all of his fighters in February 2012 to converge on Syria.”