Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 14th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Zarif is Right but his advice is old hat to us – Stop the Contrived Dependence on Oil – the only way that Unties the US from its Slavery to Saudi Arabia.
Zarif talks of WAVE – “World Against Violent Extremism” – and wants this to become a UN sponsored policy with the understanding that it is the Saudi Petrodollars that led to the destruction of Syria and that Wahhabi Sunni Extremism has not led only to attacks on Christians, Jews, and Shia, but also on the destruction of more normal Sunni communities that thrived in Syria and all ver the World. His pinpointing the Saudis and their enslavement to Wahhabism comes naturally to an Iranian who is part of a mainly Shia Nation that also an oil exporter – but nevertheless – his analysis is correct.
The posting of the Zarif column by The New York Times comes at a time President Obama has announced that he will VETO the bill in case Congress votes to allow Court cases against Saudi Arabia as having been in part responsible for the 9/11 attacks and the like of sane people jumping to their death because of crimes committed by Saudi citizens proven to have been aided by their government.
Please note – this is a rare occasion we have no understanding for a President Obama held position. In effect he seems to side with the GW Bush position when he released the Bin Laden family and sent them home from an airport that was closed to American citizens.
The Opinion Pages | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR to The New York Times
Mohammad Javad Zarif: Let Us Rid the World of Wahhabism
By MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF – September 13, 2016
Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
From Tehran: Public relations firms with no qualms about taking tainted petrodollars are experiencing a bonanza. Their latest project has been to persuade us that the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, is no more. As a Nusra spokesman told CNN, the rebranded rebel group, supposedly separated from its parent terrorist organization, has become “moderate.”
Thus is fanaticism from the Dark Ages sold as a bright vision for the 21st century. The problem for the P.R. firms’ wealthy, often Saudi, clients, who have lavishly funded Nusra, is that the evidence of their ruinous policies can’t be photoshopped out of existence. If anyone had any doubt, the recent video images of other “moderates” beheading a 12-year-old boy were a horrifying reality check.
Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, militant Wahhabism has undergone a series of face-lifts, but underneath, the ideology remains the same — whether it’s the Taliban, the various incarnations of Al Qaeda or the so-called Islamic State, which is neither Islamic nor a state. But the millions of people faced with the Nusra Front’s tyranny are not buying the fiction of this disaffiliation. Past experience of such attempts at whitewashing points to the real aim: to enable the covert flow of petrodollars to extremist groups in Syria to become overt, and even to lure Western governments into supporting these “moderates.” The fact that Nusra still dominates the rebel alliance in Aleppo flouts the public relations message.
Saudi Arabia’s effort to persuade its Western patrons to back its shortsighted tactics is based on the false premise that plunging the Arab world into further chaos will somehow damage Iran. The fanciful notions that regional instability will help to “contain” Iran, and that supposed rivalries between Sunni and Shiite Muslims are fueling conflicts, are contradicted by the reality that the worst bloodshed in the region is caused by Wahhabists fighting fellow Arabs and murdering fellow Sunnis.
While these extremists, with the backing of their wealthy sponsors, have targeted Christians, Jews, Yazidis, Shiites and other “heretics,” it is their fellow Sunni Arabs who have been most beleaguered by this exported doctrine of hate. Indeed, it is not the supposed ancient sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites but the contest between Wahhabism and mainstream Islam that will have the most profound consequences for the region and beyond.
While the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq set in motion the fighting we see today, the key driver of violence has been this extremist ideology promoted by Saudi Arabia — even if it was invisible to Western eyes until the tragedy of 9/11.
The princes in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, have been desperate to revive the regional status quo of the days of Saddam Hussein’s rule in Iraq, when a surrogate repressive despot, eliciting wealth and material support from fellow Arabs and a gullible West, countered the so-called Iranian threat. There is only one problem: Mr. Hussein is long dead, and the clock cannot be turned back.
The sooner Saudi Arabia’s rulers come to terms with this, the better for all. The new realities in our region can accommodate even Riyadh, should the Saudis choose to change their ways.
What would change mean? Over the past three decades, Riyadh has spent tens of billions of dollars exporting Wahhabism through thousands of mosques and madrasas across the world. From Asia to Africa, from Europe to the Americas, this theological perversion has wrought havoc. As one former extremist in Kosovo told The Times, “The Saudis completely changed Islam here with their money.”
Though it has attracted only a minute proportion of Muslims, Wahhabism has been devastating in its impact. Virtually every terrorist group abusing the name of Islam — from Al Qaeda and its offshoots in Syria to Boko Haram in Nigeria — has been inspired by this death cult.
So far, the Saudis have succeeded in inducing their allies to go along with their folly, whether in Syria or Yemen, by playing the “Iran card.” That will surely change, as the realization grows that Riyadh’s persistent sponsorship of extremism repudiates its claim to be a force for stability.
The world cannot afford to sit by and witness Wahhabists targeting not only Christians, Jews and Shiites but also Sunnis. With a large section of the Middle East in turmoil, there is a grave danger that the few remaining pockets of stability will be undermined by this clash of Wahhabism and mainstream Sunni Islam.
There needs to be coordinated action at the United Nations to cut off the funding for ideologies of hate and extremism, and a willingness from the international community to investigate the channels that supply the cash and the arms. In 2013, Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, proposed an initiative called World Against Violent Extremism, or WAVE. The United Nations should build on that framework to foster greater dialogue between religions and sects to counter this dangerous medieval fanaticism.
The attacks in Nice, Paris and Brussels should convince the West that the toxic threat of Wahhabism cannot be ignored. After a year of almost weekly tragic news, the international community needs to do more than express outrage, sorrow and condolences; concrete action against extremism is needed.
Though much of the violence committed in the name of Islam can be traced to Wahhabism, I by no means suggest that Saudi Arabia cannot be part of the solution. Quite the reverse: We invite Saudi rulers to put aside the rhetoric of blame and fear, and join hands with the rest of the community of nations to eliminate the scourge of terrorism and violence that threatens us all.
Mohammad Javad Zarif is the foreign minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 4th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Analyst: Israel Must Take Advantage of Chance to Become Key Stop on New International Chinese Trade Route
The Algemeiner, SEPTEMBER 4, 2016
Author: BARNEY BREEN-PORTNOY
He is Washington, D.C.-based senior correspondent for The Algemeiner. He previously worked in Tel Aviv, Israel as a journalist and served in the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit. Barney holds a BA degree in Government and History from the University of Virginia. He can be reached at bbreenportnoy at algemeiner.com.
Israel has a chance to become an important stop on a new international trade route being established by China, according to an analysis published by a global news magazine on Thursday.
The article coincides with the G20 meeting in Hangzhou, China
“Israel has become a strategic focal point for China, and if it fails to leverage this, it will miss a unique opportunity to not only upgrade and diversify its economy, but to position itself as a critical outpost on China’s New Silk Road,” Roi Feder wrote in the Diplomatic Courier. “If Israel seizes the current window of opportunity, while being sensitive to America’s regional interests, it may become a critical trading route between East and West.”
The “New Silk Road” Feder referred to is the goal of China’s “One Belt One Road” (OBOR) initiative. As it seeks to expand its economic reach throughout Asia and Europe, China is set to invest in infrastructure projects in dozens of countries.
According to Feder, the OBOR is part of Chinese President’s Xi Jinping’s “doctrine to reinstate China’s 7th Century golden age, when the Silk Road was a critical international commercial route.”
To realize this vision, China is strengthening its relations with Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iran and Israel.
“The growth in collaboration between China and Israel over the past few years is predominately due to Israel’s status as a Start-Up Nation which can supply China’s technological needs and help it to upgrade many of its industries,” Feder wrote. “Israel is a center of excellence in managing terror threats, an issue that Beijing decision-makers view with concern as they try to mitigate the rise of Islamist groups in China’s Western provinces.”
However, for China, Feder wrote, Israel’s true “potential lies in becoming an overland bridge connecting China’s trade routes from the Far East through Africa up to the Middle East and on to Europe. Even if it does not proclaim it publicly, China sees Israel as a strategic outpost in its regional interests; a small dot on the map, but one which is vital for ensuring an alternative for the trade and energy routes of the world’s second largest superpower.”
China has already been involved in a number of infrastructure projects in Israel in recent years — including the Carmel Tunnels and two private port projects in Ashdod and Haifa — but, Feder wrote, the “jewel in the crown” for the Chinese would be a “land bridge — a connection [between] the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea via rail which would provide a safe alternative route to the Suez Canal, and a dependable commercial center for China’s trading needs. Such a development will turn Israel into an essential part of the global trading ecosystem while boosting its economy.”
Feder concluded, “Israel must recognize the significance of OBOR and the enormous economic and diplomatic opportunities. If leveraged cautiously and with full consideration of America’s interests in the region, Israel…could become a small yet strategically critical outpost on China’s New Silk Road.”
As reported by The Algemeiner, Israel and China announced in May they would open talks on a bilateral free trade agreement.
In 2012, Israel and China signed an agreement to build a rail line that will link Israel’s Mediterranean ports in Ashdod and Haifa with its Red Sea port in Eilat.
Hangzhou is the capital city of Zhejiang Province on China’s southeastern coast. As the Province’s economic, cultural, technological and educational center, the city also plays a central role in the Yangtze River Delta. With a permanent population of 8.9 million as of the end of 2014, the Municipality is spread over an area of 16,596 square kilometers with the city proper accounting for 4,876 square kilometers.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 5th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
To stop crippling air pollution, Iranians do car-free Tuesdays
By Karin Kloosterman (KarinKloosterman@greenprophet)
Karin Kloosterman interests intersect in the worlds of the environment, technology, activism and Middle East politics. Blogging for some of the most influential media outlets in the “green” world, such as TreeHugger, and The Huffington Post, Karin founded Green Prophet to share the enormous potential of new clean technologies, and environmental awareness emanating from the Middle East region. For tips, advertising and editorial inquiries Karin can be reached at email@example.com
July 4, 2016
Cities in Iran are some of the most polluted in the world. It’s estimated that 27 people a day die in Tehran from the low quality of air.
Mohammad Bakhtiari, 25, from Arak decided he couldn’t take it anymore, and started car-free Tuesdays –- a day when he’s encouraging Iranians to find alternative ways to get around. He told local media, “With air pollution getting worse, I did not like to sit back doing nothing. I thought everybody is responsible for this problem. And I was thinking of a way to involve more people to help with it.”
So he proposed that people go car free on Tuesdays. Residents in Tripoli, Lebanon tried it once a long time ago, but it didn’t stick.
Mohammad wanted the idea to stick. He went with posters and flyers and explained to locals in Arak until the Department of Environment gave its stamp of approval. It’s catching on in all Iranian cities but there are no reports on how many people are actually doing it.
Tuesday was the day picked because it is in the middle of Iranian week when traffic congestion is high and air pollution is at its worst.
The World Bank estimates losses inflicted on Iran’s economy as a result of deaths caused by air pollution at $640 million, which is equal to 5.1 trillion rials or 0.57 percent of GDP. Diseases resulting from air pollution are inflicting losses estimated at $260 million per year or 2.1 trillion rials or 0.23 percent of the GDP on Iran’s economy.
Leaving cars at home can reduce air pollution: The campaign that started this spring is expected to run for 600 weeks. The idea is to get people to use bikes and more public transport.
Mohammad said: “Sixty percent of the people who know there is such a campaign have supported it. Our first step is to tell people that there is such a movement. The second step is to tell them why they should support it.
“The third step is to have incentives for those who join the campaign.
“And the fourth step is to push the government to carry out its responsibilities at a more rapid pace.”
He is now pushing the government for safe bike routes, and more people to start using electric motorbikes. As well as an overhaul of public transport.
Cities in Russia and India, have made a similar pledge to be car free on Tuesdays.
Read more on sustainable Iran:
Iran Looks to Create Biofuel
Iran Inaugurates Its First Solar CSP Plant
Celebrate Spring and Iranian New Year
View other posts by Karin Kloosterman ?
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 9th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
How Madonna and Hillary Clinton Betray Muslim Women
by Phyllis Chesler
The New York Post
April 6, 2016
Edited version of an article originally published under the title “By Covering Up Too Much, Western Women Betray Their Muslim-World Sisters.”
Many American celebrities (clockwise, from upper left: Lady Gaga, Madonna, Khloe Kardashian, and Rihanna) simulate the oppression of Muslim women as a fashion statement.
The stewardesses of Air France are outraged and have just refused to don headscarves when they fly into Tehran, as the mullahs have demanded.
Viva La France!
The French stewardesses have more dignity, more sobriety, and more self-respect than many American and European women do, beginning with trendsetting celebrities, female diplomats and first ladies, who have all donned headscarves (hijab), face masks (niqab), or full burqas when visiting Muslim countries, or as carefree fashion statements.
For example, Madonna, three Kardashian sisters, Rihanna, Selena Gomez, Katy Perry, and Nicole Richie have all recently posted photos of themselves in Islamic “drag,” either on visits to Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Morocco or just because it suited their fancy. They’re posed wearing filmy, long scarves (Katy Perry), heavy black hijab (Kylie Kardashian, Rihanna), niqab or face masks (Madonna), heavy hijab plus abayas (Gomez) and almost full burqas (Kim and Khloe Kardashian).
Such female celebrities may influence Western girls more than female Western political leaders can. They don’t understand that they are “slumming;” they can remove their exotic Islamic garb and pose naked whenever they choose to do so. This isn’t possible for Muslim girls and women who are forced to wear the Islamic veil (headscarf, face mask, or full head, face, and body covering) and who risk death when they resist.
A female U.S. Navy sailor was forced to where the hijab while detained in Iran with her shipmates in January.
Being forced to adopt a colonizing custom that subordinates women; being forced to “pretend” that one is a Muslim when that isn’t the case; and being made to feel shameful, shameless, if one is naked-faced are acts of psychological warfare.
Remember the sole female Navy sailor who was forced to don hijab on board while Iran held American sailors in captivity? It was an outrage, and reminiscent of how Barbary pirates once treated their captured Christian female slaves.
Why, then, are female non-Muslim Western leaders sometimes willing to comply?
Daniel Pipes has been keeping a careful list of such compliant Westerners. For example, in 1996, Britain’s Princess Diana donned a headscarf when she visited Pakistan; in 1997, First Lady Hillary and Chelsea Clinton both donned hijab on a visit with Yasser Arafat; in 2005, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wore one on a state visit to Tajikistan; in 2007, journalist Diana Sawyer did as well when she interviewed Iranian tyrant Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; also in 2007, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi wore a headscarf on a visit to Damascus, Syria; and in 2007, First Lady Laura Bush wore hijab on a state visit in Saudi Arabia. In 2012, a high-ranking UN official on climate change, Christiana Figueres, donned hijab on a visit to Qatar. In 2015, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop wore hijab on a state visit to Iran; and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wore hijab on a state visit to Pakistan.
Some of these same American and European Christian leaders have chosen not to wear a hijab at other times. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to their decisions. In 2008, Rice and Bush did not wear the headscarf in Saudi Arabia; in 2010, German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a bare-headed visit to Saudi Arabia; in 2012, Clinton wore no hijab when she visited Saudi Arabia. When Obama attended the late Saudi King’s funeral, his wife wore no hijab.
If you’re representing America, it’s fine to find ways to respect the customs of the country you are visiting. But please note: American male diplomats don’t wear traditional Saudi male attire — the bisht or thobe, the keffiya and the ayal.
The Quran doesn’t command that women wear body bags or face masks.
Modesty is a legitimate concern. So it’s important to understand that the Quran doesn’t command that women wear body bags or face masks. Like men, women are commanded to dress “modestly” and to “cover their breasts.” While Muslim countries do have a long history of face- and body-veiling women, they also have a hundred-year history of naked-faced Muslim women who fought for their rights or whose kings granted them the right to feel the sun on their faces, make eye contact with their students and teachers, perform surgery, sit in parliaments, etc.
When is the last time you have seen large numbers of Muslim women in the 21st century (wives of Muslim leaders, female Muslim leaders, immigrants, citizens) in the West going bare-headed and naked-faced? They certainly exist and, if they’re lucky, their families are also westernized.
But some very brave westernized Muslim girls and women have also paid a high price for their decision to dress Western-style. They’ve been threatened with death, battered, imprisoned at home, rushed into forced marriages, escorted to and from school — and have been the victims of honor killings.
As long as women are forced to wear face masks and burqas, or even to wear the heavy hijab, it renders naked-faced women vulnerable, both in Muslim lands and in the West. Remember the large number of Western women who were assaulted, groped and raped by male Muslim mobs earlier this year all over Europe?
Phyllis Chesler, a Shillman-Ginsburg fellow at the Middle East Forum, is an emerita professor of psychology and women’s studies and the author of sixteen books.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 7th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
April 2, 2016
Under the Lime Trees
ONE OF the most famous lines in German poetry is “Don’t greet me under the lime trees.”
The Jewish-German poet Heinrich Heine asks his sweetheart not to embarass him in public by greeting him in the main street of Berlin, which is called “Unter den Linden” (“Under the Lime Trees”).
Israel is in the position of this illicit sweetheart. Arab countries are having an affair with her, but don’t want to be seen with her in public.
THE MAIN Arab country in question is Saudi Arabia. For some time now, the oil kingdom has been a secret ally of Israel, and vice versa.
In politics, national interests often trump ideological differences. This is so in this case.
The area referred to by Westerners as the “Middle East” is now polarized into two camps, led respectively by Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The northern arc consists of Shiite Iran, present-day Iraq with its Shiite majority, the main Syrian territory controlled by the Alawite (close to Shiite) community and Shiite Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The Southern bloc, led by Sunni Saudi Arabia, consists of the Sunni states of Egypt and the Gulf principalities. In a shadowy way, they are connected with the Sunni Islamic Caliphate, a.k.a. Daesh or Isis, which has lodged itself between Syria and Iraq. Except for Egypt, which is as poor as a mosque mouse, they are all stinking rich with oil.
The northern arc is supported by Russia, which just now has given the Assad family in Syria a massive military boost. The southern bloc has been supported until recently by the US and its allies.
THIS IS an orderly picture, as it should be. People around the world don’t like complicated situations, especially if they make it difficult to distinguish between friends and enemies.
Take Turkey. Turkey is a Sunnite country, formerly secular but now ruled by a religious party. So it is logical that it quietly supports Daesh.
Turkey also fights against the Syrian Kurds, which fight against Daesh, and who are allied with the Kurdish minority in Turkey, which is considered by the Turkish government as a deadly menace.
(The Kurds are a separate people, neither Arab nor Turkish, who are divided between Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria, and generally unable to unite. They are mostly Sunnis.)
The US is fighting against Assad’s Syria, which is supported by Russia. But the US is also fighting against Daesh, which is fighting against Assad’s Syria. The Syrian Kurds are fighting against Daesh, but also against Assad’s forces. The Lebanese Hezbollah strongly supports Syria, a traditional enemy of Lebanon, and keeps the Assad regime alive, while fighting against Daesh, side by side with the US, a deadly enemy of Hezbollah. Iran supports Assad and fights against Daesh, side by side with the US, Hezbollah and the Syrian Kurds.
Can’t make sense of this? You are not alone.
Recently the US has changed its orientation. Until then, the picture was clear. The US needed the Saudi oil, as cheaply as the King could supply it. It also hated Iran, since the Shiite Islamists threw out the Iranian Shah of Shahs, an American stooge. The Islamists captured the American diplomats in Tehran and held them as hostages. To get them out, the US provided the Iranian army with weapons, via Israel (this was called Irangate). Iran was at war with Iraq, which was under the Sunni dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. The Americans supported Saddam against Iran, but later invaded Iraq, hanged him and effectively turned Iraq over to Iran, their deadly enemy.
Now the US is having second thoughts (if all this mess has much to do with “thoughts”). Its traditional alliance with Saudi Arabia against Iran does not look so attractive anymore. The US dependence on Arabian oil is not so strong as it was. Suddenly the Saudi religious tyranny does not look so much more attractive than the Iranian religious democracy and its beckoning market. After all, against the 20 million native Saudis there are 80 million Iranians.
So now we have a US-Iranian agreement. Western sanctions on Iran are being lifted. It looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship, threatening to leave the multitudes of Saudi princes seething with anger and shaking with fear.
WHERE is Israel in this mess? Well, it’s a part of the mess.
When Israel was established in the middle of a war with the Arabs, the government favored something called “the alliance of minorities”. This meant cooperation with all the peripheral factors in the region: the Maronites in Lebanon (the Shiites were disdained and ignored), the Alawites in Syria, the Kurds in Iraq, the Copts in Egypt, the rulers of Iran, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Chad, and so on.
There were indeed some loose connections with the Maronites. The Shah’s Iran became a close if half-secret ally. Israel helped the Shah to build his secret police, and the Shah allowed Israeli officers to pass through his territory in order to join and instruct the Kurdish rebels in North Iraq – until, alas, the Shah made a deal with Saddam Hussein. The Shah also became a partner in the oil pipeline that brought Persian oil from Eilat to Ashkelon, instead of going through the Suez Canal. (I once spent a day building that line, which is still a joint Israel-Iranian venture, subject to arbitration.)
Now the situation is quite different. The Shiite-Sunni divide (about the succession of the prophet Muhammad), which has been slumbering for many generations, has come to the fore again, serving, of course, very mundane worldly interests.
For Saudis, their competition with Iran for hegemony in the Muslim world is vastly more important than the old fight with Israel. Indeed, years ago the Saudis published a peace plan that resembles the plans put forward by Israeli peace forces (including my own). It was accepted by the Arab league but rejected by Sharon’s government and then totally ignored by successive Israeli governments.
Binyamin Netanyahu’s advisers boast that never has the geopolitical situation of Israel been better than it is now. The Arabs are busy with their quarrels. Many Arab countries want to strengthen their secret ties with Israel.
The ties with Egypt are not even secret. The Egyptian military dictator openly cooperates with Israel in strangling the Gaza Strip with its close to two million Palestinian inhabitants. The Strip is ruled by Hamas, a movement that the Egyptian government claims is connected with its enemy, Daesh.
Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, is close to having open relations with us. Israel’s political or economic ties with India, China and Russia are good and growing.
Tiny Israel is considered a military giant, a technological power, a stable democracy (at least for its Jewish citizens). Enemies like the BDS movement are mere irritations. So what’s bad?
THIS IS where we return to the lime trees. None of our secret Arab friends want us greet them openly. Egypt, with which we have an official peace treaty, does not welcome Israeli tourists anymore. They are advised not to go there.
Saudi Arabia and its allies do not want any open and formal relations with Israel. On the contrary, they continue to speak about Israel as during the worst stages of Arab rejectionism.
They all quote the same reason: the oppression of the Palestinian people. They all say the same: official relations with Israel will come only after the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The masses of the Arab peoples everywhere are far too emotionally involved with the plight of the Palestinians to tolerate official connections between their rulers and Israel.
These rulers all embrace the same conditions, which were put forward by Yasser Arafat and included in the Saudi peace plan: a free Palestinian state side by side with Israel, mutually agreed borders based on the June 1967 lines with minor exchanges of territory, an “agreed” return of the refugees (“agreed” with Israel, meaning at most a symbolic return of a very limited number).
Israeli governments have never responded to this plan. Today, under Binyamin Netanyahu, they are further from these peace conditions than ever. Almost every day our government enacts laws, enlarges settlements, takes measures and makes declarations that push Israel further away from any peace that Arab countries could accept.
FUTURE GENERATIONS will look at this situation with wonderment.
Since the foundation of the Zionist movement, and most certainly since the creation of the State of Israel, Israelis have dreamed of overcoming Arab resistance and inducing the Arab world to accept the “Jewish and democratic” State of Israel as a legitimate member of the region.
Now this opportunity is presenting itself. It can be done. Israel is invited to the Arab table. And Israel ignores the opportunity.
Not because Israel is blind, but because the occupied Palestinian territories and more settlements are more important to them than the historic act of making peace.
That is why no one wants us to greet them under the lime trees.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 21st, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
From our friend Jay Hauben of Columbia University – Hi,
Many peoples get spirit from celebrating the changes of season. The Jewish people celebrate the start of a new year with the coming of fall and the harvest. Many people in Asia celebrate a new year with a Spring Festival just before the coming of spring and the time for planting. People in the Persian tradition celebrate the new year called Norooz at the Spring Equinox. This year Norooz falls on March 20.
Ronda and I send you warm greetings for Norooz and for the whole year to come. May all of us learn from nature a way of renewing our lives, seeing the light instead the dark and uniting with all that is good.
Norooz is celebrated as the start of a new year by 350 million or more people worldwide. It is an ancient Zoroastrian celebration and was spread by the first Persian Empire established by Cyrus The Great over 2,500 years ago, around 550 BC. A later Persian empire even included parts of what is now the western Xinjiang province in China. That area was within the Sassanid Empire’s borders, around 450 A.D. Even today people there still celebrate Norooz.
Last year, after I sent out my Norooz greeting, a Korean friend answered that people in Asia consider every human being part of great Nature as is every tree or bird or even the wind. He said they try not to conquer Nature rather keep intact as a part of our body. I heard from a friend in Japan that it is also a Japanese tradition to celebrate the Vernal and Autumnal Equinoxes. A friend in Norway told me that “Nowruz – is deeply indo-european, it is New (in Norwegian Ny), the word rooz or ruz has rich associations in the direction of (new/re) birth, flowering, (spring out), in slavic languages rodzenia, rust (birth, growth). We need some of that in the world now, the Arab Spring did not quite get as far as I had hoped.”
An Iranian friend wrote to me. “We spell it No Ruz (New Day) but the double “o” is OK too- When in Iran everything closes and people picnic everywhere for 13 days, even stopping by the side of a main highway and pitching a colorful tent. Iran is certainly a major player as the most stable country in the region and has always had the respect of its neighbors-well, most of them…”
A neighbor in Manhattan wrote, “I love nature [when it’s not violent] and do learn from it when i can. unfortunately, we city-folks are not immersed in it; the little i see is from my window: the birds, the sky, the amazing view of the snow-filled trees, and central park; we all must go there soon.”
A friend in China responded to my Norooz message, “How nice to learn about the Norooz and the Zoroastrian religion of so many people of the earth village. I like definitely as you said: the way of life seeing the light instead the dark and uniting with all that is good. But to our common misfortune, there are always the powers who see the world as a neighborhood to control and to fight with rather than to respect and live in peace.” A friend living in Thailand observed that “Nature is pure and simple, human politics is complicated and insane.” And wished me and Ronda Happy Norooz.
Also, one of my cousins wrote to me that he is “familiar with the fact that many civilizations celebrate the solar equinox, which was and still is the start of renewing (spring and planting), the new yearly start of fertility, both plant and animal alike.” He reminded me that Jewish people celebrate Passover at this time and Christians celebrate Easter. It shows me that we people everywhere are really more the same than different.
Last year Ronda and I attended the UN celebration of Norooz. It consisted of short speeches and videos from twelve nations: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The theme of all the speeches was that Norooz reconnects humans and nature every year. That we all should learn from nature to renew our lives. That Norooz transcends ethnicity and religion and geography. The spirit of Norooz is good neighborliness. Translated into international diplomacy that means respect for cultural diversity and national sovereignty. I found such statements valuable even though I agree with my friend in China that there are dominant nations who see the world as a neighborhood to control not to respect.
Ronda and I hope you are and can stay well and that Spring will make everyone’s life a bit easier and more pleasant.
Happy Norooz, Happy Easter! Happy Passover!
Hello from Ronda.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 18th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
We wish to send you the warmest Nowruz greetings on behalf of everyone at the American Iranian Council. Nowruz is the first day of spring, which begins on March 21. We wish you a healthy and happy 1395 (Iranian calendar year), and we hope that this Nowruz will usher in better US-Iran relations.
Last October, the American Iranian Council became 25 years old. What a challenging quarter century! Congratulations to all AIC administration, supporters, and sponsors for the 25th AIC anniversary and for our collective tenacity and accomplishments in a hostile environment and tough time. When we began dreaming and preaching better US-Iran relations in 1990, not even a small minority of Iranians and Americans believed in our project. We had entered a highly taboo field.
Today, we can claim a total reversal of that figure: a large majority of the people in Iran and beyond now think that the goal of an improved US-Iran relationship is a noble one, and that its time has long past. What a sea change! Our world has always been changed by vision and ideas, not propaganda.
Even more satisfying is that while celebrating our quarter century of work, we witnessed a historic nuclear accord that we hope will last and grow into a springboard for better US-Iran relations. As it is said, dreams come true, but only if you keep dreaming and working hard for their realization. That is what we at AIC have done.
The Council is a community of believers, thought leaders and practitioners. We pioneered the marketplace of ideas for better understanding, opposed all forms of sanctions, and rejected war in any form including coercive diplomacy. We offered a platform for dialogue and never wavered in our support for diplomacy.
This consistency of position over a quarter century is what sets us apart from the organizations and individuals who today claim to support diplomacy and nuclear negotiations. We are also unique for our unparalleled accomplishments in US-Iran relations.
Indeed, for over two decades, major developments in US-Iran relations happened at an AIC platform or through the mediation of the Council. We also published helpful policy papers including the AIC Whitepaper, which became a roadmap for the Obama Administration’s outreach to Iran.
Let us then celebrate the AIC at 25. In that direction, we plan to become even more active and effective as a thinker and policy developer for all parties involved. As in the past, we will also maintain our non-partisan position and help conceive unifying ideas for the common interests of all involved.
With your help, 1395 (2016) could be the year diplomacy will help resolve other matters in US-Iran relations, just as it did in the case of the nuclear dispute. Benevolent individuals such as you fund our programs—we have never taken money from governments. Your tax-deductible contribution of $100 or any amount that is right for you to the AIC during this season of giving will help the Council implement the following established programs:
– The US Congress: Organize four educational roundtables with congressional leaders and staffers.
– Iran and the Nuclear Accord: Publish a major analytical document and several shorter analyses in Farsi showing why the nuclear deal is in Iran’s national interest and economic well?being.
– Saudi Arabia and Iran: Coordinate a major policy conference on Iran-Saudi relations and help formulate a regional security structure involving Iran and its Persian Gulf neighbors.
– Economic Relations with Iran: Organize an informative conference on legalized business, compliance frameworks, and trade prospects.
Best regards and Happy New Year!
Senator J. Bennett Johnston (Rte.)
Professor Hooshang Amirahmadi
The American Iranian Council
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 10th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Amirahmadi says parliamentary elections “engineered” to increase regime legitimacy
March 09, 2016.
What do these elections represent for Iran’s future?
Hooshang Amirahmadi: We must distinguish the Parliamentary elections from those of the Assembly of Experts. The Assembly, though an important institution, is more stable and the elections did not significantly alter its composition. Its function is to appoint and supervise the Leader of the Revolution but that will come only after the current Leader passes away. The Assembly will not be in a position to challenge Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the current Leader. Nor will the Assembly change the institution of Leadership in any meaningful way in a post-Khamenei Iran unless political instability were to follow his death. The institution will remain unchanged in its core governance belief (guardianship of the jurists) as long as the Islamic Republic survives as an Islamic regime. However, far into the future, I guess, change will also come to this institution but that is less relevant to the country at present or in the foreseeable future.
In sharp contrast, Parliament has been more relevant to the nation’s ongoing life and has been less stable. It used to be a more powerful and meaningful institution than it has become in recent times. The elections were “engineered” to produce a centrist Parliament more in tune with the new direction of the Islamic system for accommodation with the West and less political rivalry at home. What it will actually mean to Iran’s future will depend on what happens next. For example, will the Rouhani Government be able to improve Iran’s economy in the immediate future, and particularly to increase employment for the youth and income for the less fortunate social groups? And will it deliver on its promise of more political and social openings for the educated middle class? If yes, then the elections’ impact will be most likely lasting. If not, then Iran will most likely go back to a more hardened domestic and international politics. In the latter case, the “hardliners” will again take over the state including the Parliament, something that happened at the end of the reformist President Khatami reign in 2005. It must be noted that the hardliners are still in the country and they will surely regroup and fight back, this time from inside the “revolutionary” institutions, and, of course, from the streets as they did under the Khatami presidency.
One thing is certain: in the foreseeable future, this election will not lead to widely acceptable reformed politics in Iran where the secular population is excluded from political participation. More than 80 percent of Iranians are politically secular. In sharp contrast, it may indeed produce a more subtle repressive domestic political situation as the Islamic regime may open to the West but tighten its grip on the population in fear of losing control. The number of those arrested under the pretext of being friendly to “Western penetration” has significantly increased in recent months. The election will not help the Rouhani government to improve the Iranian economy on time for the next presidential elections either. The country’s economic woes are just too huge and complicated to be resolved in a matter of less than two years.
Bottom line: Khamenei allowed the engineered election (as he did in 2013 with the presidential election) in the hope of improving Iran’s economy, more effectively controlling domestic politics, and reducing the external threat to the survival of his Islamic system. The perceived external threat emanates from a highly radicalized Middle East region where Islamic radicals like ISIL have made states highly unstable, and where animosity to the Iranian regime has significantly increased as has proxy wars between Iran and its Arab neighbors, Saudi Arabia in particular. Another source of concern for Tehran is the US presidential elections, which most likely will produce a more hostile government in Washington than the current administration of Barack Obama.
Iran is certainly very nervous these days and a centrist Parliament is to increase regime legitimacy internationally and reduce tension at home and aboard. Unless Rouhani delivers, if only partially, on its economic and political promises, he may lose the support of Mr. Khamenei and the working people of Iran. The JCPOA gave Iran some extra cash (which is being unwisely spent) but it also led to a perception of Iran as a weak state as Tehran “surrendered” to American pressure during the nuclear negotiations and its main ally in the region, Syria, became a “failed state.” Unfortunately, perception is reality in international relations, and any time in the past Iran has been perceived weak, its neighbors have challenged it as in the immediate post-revolution when Saddam Hussein invaded the country. The new Saudi challenges to Iran’s strategic depth in the region is a reflection of this perceived weakness in Tehran. Iran must make sure that this perception changes as otherwise the country will not be able to move forward in its economic and political plans.
What do you think of the new Parliament, which is described as a more “friendly” one for President Rouhani?
HA: There is a certain exaggeration regarding the new makeup of the Parliament just elected. First, the coalition of reformists, centrists and pragmatist (RCP) still remain in the minority (about 110 seats out of 290). The rest are “independents” (about 20) and conservatives (about 160). As a whole, however, this parliament will be more amenable to working with Rouhani but, as I mentioned above, the Parliament is not as powerful as it used to be and cannot always help if the matter at hand is not tasteful to the hardliners in revolutionary institutions (largely powerful unelected institutions). Rouhani may use the Parliament for whatever purpose he wishes for but he must also deliver results as otherwise, everything will fall apart again. The elections have raised expectations higher for a better economy and a more open politics. It is doubtful if these two can be delivered on time to keep all in good order.
What led the electorate to vote for a majority of reformists and moderate conservatives?
HA: The election tactics that the RCP used helped them to make certain gains. They entered the race as a “coalition,” that is, they voted as a group and for pre-set lists of candidates, and they put pressure both on the people to vote and on the system to allow them to run. More significantly, the coalition included “moderate” conservatives and certain questionable elements of the regime (e.g., three former intelligence ministers). Besides, while many reformists had been “vetted” as unqualified by the Guardian Council, there still remained a large group of “qualified” conservative candidates acceptable to the reformists in the coalition. Despite all these, their gains remained limited when compared to their gains some 16 years ago when they took over the Presidency and later on the Parliament.
Thus, as I said, there is a certain misunderstanding as to what happened in these elections. The hardline conservatives still control the Parliament but they are less hardline than their previous cohorts. This means that the Parliament as a whole will act more centrist than before but only if the conservative elements are convinced that the government policies do not open doors for uncontrolled foreign “penetration” and that the economy improves while the values of Islamic system are preserved. This is a tough balancing act to maintain. Khamenei is critical to the functioning of the Parliament as he can indeed direct the deputies to move to any direction he wishes. Besides, there is the Revolutionary Guards and other revolutionary institutions, including the Judiciary and the Friday Prayers, who have significant control over what goes on in the country.
What do you think of the fact that some hardliners such as Kazem Jalali, Ayatollah Ali Movahedi Kerman, Ayatollah Mohammad-Ali Taskhiri, Mohammad Mohammadi Reyshahri and Ghorbanali Dorri-Najafabadi ran on the reformists and moderates lists?
HA: The reform movement as we knew it is now dead in Iran. I mean the movement that made Khatami President and took over the Parliament in the 1997-2005 period. The movement died when President Ahmadinejad took over. The protest in 2009 (Green Movement) put the final nail in its coffin. Since then, reformist are divided and demoralized and many of their original leaders have fled the country. Other leaders, including Khatami, who has remained in the country, persona non grata, has concluded that the original movement was too radical for the Islamic Republic to accommodate, that it is currently too weak to challenge the status quo, and that the movement must redefine itself in more social terms (not just political), needs to broaden its base to include moderate conservatives, bring to its side individuals trusted by the system (particularly by the Leader), and move slowly and creepingly. The inclusion of the above personalities reflects this new thinking of “normalization” versus “democratization.” This is a thinking that I would not call reformist; it is better defined as “moderationist.”
Do you think that happened because the Guardian Council vetted so many reformist and moderate candidates?
HA: There was certainly practical consideration in including such individuals in the coalition with the reformists, but I believe a more fundamental reason is the fact that the original reform movement failed and the leaders were forced to redesign the movement, both ideologically and organizationally. However, in rethinking the reform movement, they essentially threw it out of the window in favor of a centrist approach that has no ideology or organizational character. Indeed, the original reform movement is now being melted down into a broader “regime maintenance” movement. It must also be noted that the original reform movement was left-leaning, while the current “moderationist” movement is right-leaning.
Do you think the electorate was aware of this?
HA: Let me begin by saying that the Islamic Republic has over the years highly dampened the “Iranian dream,” making people expect but increasingly expect less of its leaders. This trend has also been accompanied by almost total elimination of the traditional Iranian nationalism. The JCPOA was a major contributor to these trends. Indeed, the post-JCPOA Iran is less of a dreamer and much less of a nationalist nation. It is in this context that the presidential elections in 2013 and the parliamentary elections in 2016 took place. The electorate in Iran was also divided in these elections along rich-poor lines, with richer strata mainly voting for the RCP coalition while most in the poorer population stayed with the conservatives. The rich and most middle class people are happy with the JCPOA and look to the West as a source of new wealth and other opportunities. It must also be noted that participation in these elections was not as high as many previous elections. Indeed, the participation rate of 62 percent was much less than the participation rate (72 percent) for the presidential elections in 2013.
In Tehran, the participation rate was even lower (50 percent) and largely concentrated in northern Tehran where the well-to-do middle and upper middle class live. Indeed, less than 35 percent of southern Tehranis, largely poor, working class, and petty shopkeepers, participated in these elections. Outside Tehran, the so-called reformists were not as popular as in northern Tehran, with even some large cities, like Esfahan, electing predominantly conservative candidates. As I mentioned above, the composition of the coalition was not acceptable to all reformists and the less fortunate population did not participate in high numbers because they no longer believe that the Rouhani government represents their best interest. They see his government s representing the rich. This tendency of the current government in Tehran is well reflected in its spending policy and the purchases it is making in the West with the cash it earned from the JCPOA.
What do you think of the fact that the hardliners mentioned above ran on the reformists and moderates’ lists?
HA: Ahmadinejad isolated a good number of the so-called hardliners and as a result they were gradually pushed towards the moderates. These conservatives still dislike the reformists but they opportunistically joined the RCP coalition so that they could win. I must also mention the fact that during the negotiations over the JCPOA, many “Principalists” or conservatives realized that the Leader has changed policy in favor of opening to the West and moderating factional rivalries at home. Indeed, during the nuclear negotiations, Khamenei took sides with Rouhani and only gave revolutionary lip service to hardliners who opposed the deal. Those opportunist conservatives who did not care about principles, changed sides and embraced the current policy to stay in power. Their reason to join in a coalition with the reformists was opportunistic and an election ploy.
Amirahmadi says “elected officials are still underdogs; power remains concentrated among hardliners”
March 04, 2016
In an interview with Al Jazeera America, AIC’s President Hooshang Amirahmadi discussed the recent parliamentary elections in Iran and their implications. Amirahmadi said the Iranian Parliament is becoming more moderate, but not influential. He said “elected officials are still underdogs; power remains largely concentrated among hardliners.” The most significant political bodies in Iran will always remain in the control of hardliners, such as the Supreme Leader. There is little the parliamentary elections can actually do in affecting Iran’s foreign and domestic policies. In response to whether or not Iran will become more open to the West, considering the success of the nuclear accord, he said “it depends.” If Iran feels secure, it will assume a tougher position. On the other hand, if Iran believes it is under pressure, it will be more open to improving its relations with the West.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 30th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Above the entrance to 21 Zerubabel Street in the Yemenite Quarter in Tel Aviv – next door to the Rabbi Shabzi Synagogue and the warning – a dog in the courtyard – it says – in Hebrew:Sun light is very bleak to someone who does not find sense in his life. Next tomit in English is written: “There is no Fear in Love.”
The Israeli papers that are still not owned by an Israeli government related American individual – The HAARETZ and the Yedioth Aharonot – are now full with hints at internal culture wars started by an uneducated Culture Minister – Ms. Miri Regev who contended that even uneducated people can be educated. That is not my topic here – for those interested please read The New York Times article of today – “Israel, Mired in Ideological Battles, Fights on Cultural Fronts” – By STEVEN ERLANGER January 29, 2016. We are here rather interested in what the rather officialpro-government papers say – The MAARIV and The ISRAEL HAYOM say.
A main report comes from the meeting in Nicosia, Cyprus between Israel’s Prime Minister Mr. Netanyahu and His counterparts from Greece and Cyprus titled as the “Mediterranean Alliance.” As I just arrived here from Vienna I am quite familiar with the Merkel & Faymann problems with Greece and Turkey and the simple facts that the EU in ordr to survive tends now to shed Greece and trade it for higher reliance on Turkey. What I sense thus is the contemplation of the Israeli government to look as well for new allies in its troubled corner of thev World.
Then, no misunderstanding here – President Obama just declared for all to hear that Putin is corrupt and Mr. Putin reacted by asking for evidence. No problem on this front – the UK obliged and declared Putin involved in the execution of a financial competitor – mafia style. This sort of language was not heard even in the days of President Regan’s attacks on the Soviet “Evil Empire.”
Obama looks at the mess in Western Asia he inherited from G.W. Bush who really turned all local devils there lose by taking off the lids that kept a modicum of order as left by the British and French colonial powers. G.W. continued the reliance on the Saudis that came down from Democrat President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and thus became partial to an evolving Sunni Shia rift with an ever increasing Iranian threat to the US oil supplies from the Middle East. Obviously, US interests did not match in all of this the European effort to build their own power bloc and the difficulties the EU put before Turkey’s attemp to join in the Union. Russia had its own problems with the EU and when life for the US and the EU became difficultbin the Arab region – they jumped in and used the occasion to move on the Ukraine as well.
So what now?
My suggestion based on an acknowledged very superficial reading of the real news – is: By necessity there are now two new potential NEUTRAL Centers in a renewed COLD WAR scenario.
Oman is the Neutral space between the Saudis and Iran – to be cherished by the US.
The small group of Greece, Cyprus, and Israel – a new buffer zone between the EU & Turkey alliance and the Sunni Arab Golf and the US – with Syria and Iraq the actual battle-field that will churn the Arab World until it reorganizes the remaining waste-lands. Russia has gained a footing via the Shiia Muslims and the US will see to limit this by making it more profitable to Iran to play the US in exchange for diminished role to the Saudis. It is all in the new world cards.
And what about the Arab North African States? Will they fall into the hands of extreme Sunnis as preached by Saudi Wahhabism – the source of what has moved to the creation of the new Islamic powder keg? I do not think this is possible in North Africa – simply because there are no Shiia elements there that justify to the Sunnis such an effort. Will there be another neutral zone in the North African region in the Cold War arena? This makes sense eventually.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 21st, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
ISIS Is Not the Main Problem in the Middle East
by Jonathan Spyer
PJ Media and the Middle East Forum
January 19, 2016
On a recent reporting trip to Iraq and northern Syria, two things were made apparent to me — one of them relatively encouraging, the other far less so. The encouraging news is that ISIS is currently in a state of retreat. Not headlong rout, but contraction.
The bad news? Our single-minded focus on ISIS as if it were the main or sole source of regional dysfunction is the result of faulty analysis, which in turn is producing flawed policy.
Regarding the first issue, 2015 was not a particularly good year for ISIS. In the course of it, the jihadis lost Kobani and then a large area to its east, bringing the Syrian Kurdish fighters of the YPG and their allies to within 30 km of the Caliphate’s “capital” in Raqqa city.
In late December, the jihadis lost the last bridge over the Euphrates that they controlled, at the Tishreen Dam. This matters because it isolates Raqqa, making it difficult for the Islamic State to rush reinforcements from Aleppo province to the city in the event of an attack. Similarly, the Kurdish YPG advanced south of the town of al-Hawl to Raqqa’s east.
In Iraq, the Iraqi Shia militias and government forces have now recaptured Ramadi city (lost earlier in 2015) following the expulsion of ISIS from Tikrit and Baiji. The Kurdish Pesh Merga, meanwhile, have revenged the humiliation they suffered at the hands of ISIS in the summer of 2014. The Kurds have now driven the jihadis back across the plain between Erbil and Mosul, bringing them to the banks of the Tigris river. They have also liberated the town of Sinjar.
The city of Mosul nestles on the western side of the river. It remains ISIS’s most substantial conquest. Its recapture does not appear immediately imminent, yet the general trend has been clear. The main slogan of ISIS is “Baqiya wa’tatamaddad,” “Remaining and Expanding.” At the present time, however, the Islamic State may be said to be remaining, but retreating.
This situation is reflected in the confidence of the fighters facing ISIS along the long front line. In interviews as I traversed the lines, I heard the same details again and again regarding changing ISIS tactics, all clearly designed to preserve manpower.
This stalling of the Islamic State is the background to its turn towards international terror, which was also a notable element of the latter half of 2015. The downing of the Russian airliner in October, the events in Paris in November, and the series of suicide bombings in Turkey since July attest to a need that the Islamic State has for achievement and for action. They need to keep the flow of recruits coming and to maintain the image of victory essential to it.
Regarding the second issue: seen from close up, the Islamic State is very obviously only a part, and not necessarily the main part, of a much larger problem. When talking both with those fighting with ISIS and with those who sympathize with it in the region, this observation stands out as a stark difference in perception between the Middle Eastern view of ISIS and the view of it presented in Western media. The latter tends to present ISIS as a strange and unique development, a dreadfully evil organization of unclear origins, which is the natural enemy of all mainstream forces in the Middle East.
ISIS has the same ideological roots and similar practices as other Salafi jihadi groups in Syria.
From closer up, the situation looks rather different.
ISIS has the same ideological roots and similar practices as other Salafi jihadi organizations active in the Syrian arena. ISIS treats non-Muslims brutally in the areas it controls, and adheres to a rigid and fanatical ideology based on a literalist interpretation and application of religious texts. But this description also applies to Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda franchise in Syria.
Nusra opposes ISIS, and is part of a rebel alliance supported by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey. In March 2015, when Nusra captured Idleb City in northern Syria, the city’s 150 Christian families were forced to flee to Turkey. Nusra has also forcibly converted a small Druze community in Idleb. The alliance Nusra was a part of also included Muslim Brotherhood-oriented groups, such as the Faylaq al-Sham militia, which apparently had no problem operating alongside the jihadis.
ISIS is not a unique organization; rather, it exists at one of the most extreme points along a continuum of movements committed to Sunni political Islam.
Meanwhile, the inchoate mass of Sunni Islamist groups — of which ISIS constitutes a single component — is engaged in a region-wide struggle with a much more centralized bloc of states and movements organized around the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is committed to a Shia version of political Islam.
The Middle East — in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and to a lesser extent Lebanon, all along the sectarian faultline of the region — is witnessing a clash between rival models of political Islam, of which ISIS is but a single manifestation.
The local players find sponsorship and support from powerful regional states, themselves committed to various different versions of political Islam: Iran for the Shias; Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Muslim Brotherhood-supporting Qatar for the Sunnis.
The long awakening of political Islam as the dominant form of popular politics in the Middle East started decades ago. But the eclipse of the political order in the region, and of the nationalist dictatorships in Iraq, Syria, Egypt (temporarily), Tunisia, and Yemen in recent years, has brought it to a new level of intensity.
States, indifferent to any norms and rules, using terror and subversion to advance their interests, jihadi armed groups, and the refugee crises and disorder that result from all this are the practical manifestations of it.
This, and not the fate of a single, fairly ramshackle jihadi entity in the badlands of eastern Syria and western Iraq, is the matter at hand in the Middle East.
Jonathan Spyer is director of the Rubin Center for Research in International Affairs and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 20th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Today I had the good fortune to be present at a debate between Professor Franz Cede – former Austrian Ambassador to the Russian Federation and now with the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy (AIES), and Russia’s Ambassador to Austria H.E. Dmitrij Liubinskij (Dmitry Lubensky) – in diplomatic service since 1989.
The discussants had agreed beforehand to touch on most topics of contention between the European Union and the Russian Federation – the Ukraine, Syria, Iran, the EU-Russia relations. Being a good diplomat Ambassador Lubensky proposed the official answers as per the the Russian Federation government: Autonomy for the Donbas region as part of an Ukrainian Federation; There was no recent annexation of the Krim this was rather the redress of the annexation that Under Mr. Chruschtschow he gave the Crimean peninsula to Ukraine; about his rule; Russia does not bsck Assad to keep him in Power, only the Syrian people can decide what to do; the Iran deal showed the strength of diplmcy and discussions. Econoic relatios with Iran go on already a long time – he was told – also Germany and Austria. He knows this from his many contacts.
On EU and Russia relations he said that since te 90s there exists the concept of integration of the European Union and the Eurasian Union.
This last item is my reason for writing this up.
My belief is in – rather then using valuable time to discuss ongoing problems for which hardened positions already exist – I would rather start a debate that is intended to create rapprochement by bringing up first – reasonable potential future problems. In today’s case Russia and the West – I would rather start with depicting a situation where China becomes the real danger for Russia – the danger from the East.
The reality is that the Russian Federation is rather a large State but small in the number of its people.
Looking at a future world partitioned between blocks of one billion people plus (each) – neither Russia, nor the EU could make it without supporting each other. The Eurasian Union is only a half backed idea – a much better idea would be a Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok – incorporating the EU and the Russian Federation. In such a Union Russia could find its security much easier then tackling the West in those proposed four areas.
At the end of the meeting I discussed this idea of using potential future problems to help cure present on-going problems,
and it seemed to me that even the Russian Ambassador did not shy away from this idea.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 14th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
The following article surprised us by its clarity and 360 degrees vision. Yes – the truth is that The Taliban, Al Qaeda, ISIS, The Saudi Monarchy and the Wahhabi leaders are one – sort of the snake that bites its tail with Anglo-Saxon spectators enjoying the show.
PHOTO: An explosion and smoke rise after an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition at a weapons depot in Sanaa on September 11, 2015. (photo: Hani Mohammed/AP) What timing?
THE SAUDI RULES
By Robert Fisk, CounterPunch at Readers Supported News.
13 January 16
Only six of our British military chaps, it seems, are helping the Sunni Saudis kill Shia Yemenis. And they’re not actually in Yemen, merely helping to choose the targets – which have so far included hospitals, markets, a wedding party and a site opposite the Iranian embassy. Not that our boys and girls selected those particular “terrorist” nests for destruction, you understand. They’re just helping their Saudi mates – in the words of our Ministry of Defence – “comply to the rules of war”.
Saudi “rules”, of course, are not necessarily the same as “our” rules – although our drone-executions of UK citizens leave a lot of elbow-room for our British warriors in Riyadh. But I couldn’t help chuckling when I read the condemnation of David Mephan – the Human Rights Watch director. Yes, he told us that the Saudis “are committing multiple violations of the laws of war in Yemen”, and that the British “are working hand in glove with the Saudis, helping them, enhancing their capacity to prosecute this war that has led to the death of so many civilians.” Spot on. But then he added that he thought all this “deeply regrettable and unacceptable”.
“Regrettable” and “unacceptable” represent the double standards we employ when our wealthy Saudi friends put their hands to bloody work. To find something “regrettable” means it causes us sadness. It disappoints us. The implication is that the good old Saudis have let us down, fallen from their previously high moral principles.
No wonder the Minister of Defense has popped across to Riyadh to un-crease the maps and explain those incomprehensible co-ordinates for the Saudi leaders of the “coalition against terror”. Sorting this logistics mess out for the Saudis does, I suppose, make it less “unacceptable” to have our personnel standing alongside the folk who kill women for adultery without even a fair trial and who chop off the heads of dozens of opponents, including a prominent Saudi Shia cleric.
Those very words – regrettable and unacceptable – are now the peak of the critical lexicon which we are permitted to use about the Saudis. Anything stronger would force us to ask why David Cameron lowered our flag when the last king of this weird autocracy died.
And exactly the same semantics were trotted out last week when the Tory MP and member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Daniel Kawczynski – who was also chairman of the all-party UK parliamentary group on Saudi Arabia – was questioned on television about the 47 executions in Saudi Arabia, the kingdom’s misogynistic policies and its harsh anti-gay laws. Faced with the unspeakable – indeed, the outrageous – acts of a regime which shares its Wahhabi Sunni traditions with Isis and the Taliban, Kawczynski replied that the executions were “very regrettable”, that targeting civilians would be “completely unacceptable” and the anti-gay laws “highly reprehensible”. “Reprehensible”, I suppose, is a bit stronger than regrettable.
It was instructive, also, to hear Kawczynski refer to executions as “certain domestic actions”, as if slicing heads off human beings was something to be kept within the family – which is true, in a sense, since the Saudi authorities allow their executioners to train their sons in the craft of head-slicing, just as we Brits used to allow our hangmen to bring their sons into the gallows trade. This familial atmosphere was always advertised by its ambassadors and their friends. Prince Bandar bin Sultan, when he was Saudi Arabia’s man in Washington, spoke of his country’s religion as part of a “timeless culture” whose people lived according to Islam “and our other basic ways”. A former British ambassador to Riyadh, Sir Alan Munro, once advised Westerners to “adapt” in Saudi Arabia and “to act with the grain of Saudi traditions and culture”. This “grain” can be found, of course, in Amnesty’s archives of men – and occasionally women – who are beheaded each year, often after torture and grotesquely unfair trials.
Another former ambassador, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles – or “Abu Henry” as he was affectionately called by his Saudi friends – used arguments back in 2006 that might have come from David Cameron today. “I’ve been hugely impressed by the way in which the Saudi Arabian authorities have tackled and contained what was a serious terrorist threat,” he said then. “They’ve shrunk the pool of support for terrorism.” Which is exactly how our Prime Minister justified his support for Saudi Arabia’s place on the UN Human Rights Council last October. “It’s because we receive from them important intelligence and security information that keeps us safe,” he told Channel 4’s Jon Snow.
But wasn’t there, nine years ago, a small matter of the alleged bribery of Saudi officials by the British BAE Systems arms group? The Financial Times revealed how Robert Wardle, the UK director of the Serious Fraud Office, decided he might have to cancel his official investigation after being told “how the probe might cause Riyadh to cancel security and intelligence co-operation”. The advice to Wardle was that persisting with his official enquiry might “endanger lives in Britain”. Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara ordered the investigation closed.
The advice to Wardle, I should add, came from none other than Sherard Cowper-Coles, who later became UK ambassador to Afghanistan and, on retirement from the Foreign Office, worked for a short time as a business development director for BAE Systems. Our former man in Riyadh now has no connection with BAE – yet it would be interesting to know if the Saudis are using any of the company’s technology in the bombing of civilian targets in Yemen.
But relax – this would elicit no expressions of outrage, condemnation or disgust at Saudi Arabia – nor any of the revulsion we show when other local head-choppers take out their swords. Any such UK involvement would be unacceptable. Even regrettable. We would be sad. Disappointed. Say no more.
The First Comments:
+8 # RMDC 2016-01-13 18:45
You can’t really blame the Saudis. The British rules are just as bad as the Saudi rules. And they all come from the Bush rules. Bush declared war on anyone who did not openly side with the US. He said, “You are either with us or you are with the terrorists.” And then he pledged to kill all terrorists everywhere on the face of the earth.
Uber neocons and Bush supporters David Frum and Richard Perle wrote a book called “The End of Evil: How to Win the War on Terror.” It was a best seller. It said that the war on terror was really a war on evil and it would not end until evil had been totally exterminated from the earth. This would mean killing all people who are evil – that is, not on the American side.
This is the American rules. It is essentially a crusade against infidels or heretics. That’s what the Saudis are doing.
What we need to do is recognize that the Americans, Brits, and Saudis are pure evil. The secular and tolerant societies in Syria, Iraq under Saddam, Libya under Qaddafi, Yemen, Sudan, and Somalia are the good guys and they are being killed by the evil people.
I really don’t know how the war on terror will ever end. Right now it is just massacring innocent people and destroying nations. There is no longer a point, if there ever was one. Al Qaeda, the Saudis, ISIS, the Americans — they are all the same. They are all on a killing rampage. They are all head choppers.
+5 # Farafalla 2016-01-13 23:13
Notice that all the mainstream media refuse to say that the 47 people “executed” were beheaded. NPR, BBC, PBS, all of them are only saying “executed”, The Saudis even tell us what we can say.
0 # Shades of gray matter 2016-01-14 00:39
The Brits and the French taught the desert nomads how the Grand Game is played. The students are now reminding their teachers. All 3 thoroughly deserve each other. If only we could extricate ourselves and let the Mideast countries (including Israel), Britain & France have at it. Sort things out, so to speak. If we back away, so might the Russians.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 27th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
November 28, 2015
The Reign of Absurdiocy
There is no such thing as “international terrorism”.
To declare war on “international terrorism” is nonsense.
Politicians who do so are either fools or cynics, and
Terrorism is a weapon. Like cannon. We would laugh at
somebody who declares war on “international artillery”. A
cannon belongs to an army, and serves the aims of that
army. The cannon of one side fire against the cannon of the
Terrorism is a method of operation. It is often used by
oppressed peoples, including the French Resistance to the
Nazis in WW II. We would laugh at anyone who declared war
on “international resistance”.
Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian military thinker,
famously said that “war is the continuation of politics by
other means”. If he had lived with us today, he might have
said: “Terrorism is a continuation of policy by other
Terrorism means, literally, to frighten the victims into
surrendering to the will of the terrorist.
Terrorism is a weapon. Generally it is the weapon of the
weak. Of those who have no atom bombs, like the ones which
were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which terrorized
the Japanese into surrender. Or the aircraft which
destroyed Dresden in the (vain) attempt to frighten the
Germans into giving up.
Since most of the groups and countries using terrorism have
different aims, often contradicting each other, there is
nothing “international” about it. Each terrorist campaign
has a character of its own. Not to mention the fact that
nobody considers himself (or herself) a terrorist, but
rather a fighter for God, Freedom or Whatever.
(I cannot restrain myself from boasting that long ago I
invented the formula: “One man’s terrorist is the other
man’s freedom fighter”.)
MANY ORDINARY Israelis felt deep satisfaction after the
Paris events. “Now those bloody Europeans feel for once
what we feel all the time!”
Binyamin Netanyahu, a diminutive thinker but a brilliant
salesman, has hit on the idea of inventing a direct link
between jihadist terrorism in Europe and Palestinian
terrorism in Israel and the occupied territories.
It is a stroke of genius: if they are one and the same,
knife-wielding Palestinian teenagers and Belgian devotees
of ISIS, then there is no Israeli-Palestinian problem, no
occupation, no settlements. Just Muslim fanaticism.
(Ignoring, by the way, the many Christian Arabs in the
secular Palestinian “terrorist” organizations.)
This has nothing to do with reality.
Palestinians who want to fight and die for Allah go to Syria. Palestinians – both
religious and secular – who shoot, knife or run over Israeli soldiers and civilians
these days want freedom from the occupation and a state of their own.
This is such an obvious fact that even a person with the
limited IQ of our present cabinet ministers could grasp it.
But if they did, they would have to face very unpleasant
choices concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
So let’s stick to the comfortable conclusion: they kill us
because they are born terrorists, because they want to meet
the promised 72 virgins in paradise, because they are
anti-Semites. So, as Netanyahu happily forecasts, we shall
“live forever by our sword”.
TRAGIC AS the results of each terrorist event may be, there
is something absurd about the European reaction to recent events.
The height of absurdiocy was reached in Brussels, when a
lone terrorist on the run paralyzed an entire capital city
for days without a single shot being fired. It was the
ultimate success of terrorism in the most literal sense:
using fear as a weapon.
But the reaction in Paris was not much better. The number
of victims of the atrocity was large, but similar to the
number killed on the roads in France every couple of weeks.
It was certainly far smaller than the number of victims of
one hour of World War II. But rational thought does not
count. Terrorism works on the perception of the victims.
It seems incredible that ten mediocre individuals, with a
few primitive weapons, could cause world-wide panic. But it
is a fact. Bolstered by the mass media, which thrive on
such events, local terrorist acts turn themselves nowadays
into world-wide threats. The modern media, by their very
nature, are the terrorist’s best friend. Terror could not
flourish without them.
The next best friend of the terrorist is the politician. It
is almost impossible for a politician to resist the temptation
to ride on the wave of panic. Panic creates “national unity”,
the dream of every ruler. Panic creates the longing for a
“strong leader”. This is a basic human instinct.
Francois Hollande is a typical example. A mediocre yet
shrewd politician, he seized the opportunity to pose as a
leader. “C’est la guerre!” he declared, and whipped up a
national frenzy. Of course this is no “guerre”. Not World
War III. Just a terrorist attack by a hidden enemy.
Indeed, one of the facts disclosed by these events is the
incredible foolishness of the political leaders all around.
They do not understand the challenge. They react to
imagined threats and ignore the real ones. They do not know
what to do. So they do what comes naturally: make speeches,
convene meetings and bomb somebody (no matter who and what
Not understanding the malady, their remedy is worse than
the disease itself. Bombing causes destruction, destruction
creates new enemies who thirst for revenge. It is a direct
collaboration with the terrorists.
It was a sad spectacle to see all these world leaders, the
commanders of powerful nations, running around like mice in
a maze, meeting, speechifying, uttering nonsensical
statements, totally unable to deal with the crisis.
THE PROBLEM is indeed far more complicated than simple
minds would believe, because of an unusual fact: the enemy
this time is not a nation, not a state, not even a real
territory, but an undefined entity: an idea, a state of
mind, a movement that does have a territorial base of sorts
but is not a real state.
This is not a completely unprecedented phenomenon: more
than a hundred years ago, the anarchist movement committed
terrorist acts all over the place without having a
territorial base at all. And 900 years ago a religious sect
without a country, the Assassins (a corruption of the
Arabic word for “hashish users”), terrorized the Muslim
I don’t know how to fight the Islamic State (or rather
Non-State) effectively. I strongly believe that nobody
knows. Certainly not the nincompoops who man (and woman)
the various governments.
I am not sure that even a territorial invasion would
destroy this phenomenon. But even such an invasion seems
unlikely. The Coalition of the Unwilling put together by
the US seems disinclined to put “boots on the ground”. The
only forces who could try – the Iranians and the Syrian
government army – are hated by the US and its local allies.
Indeed, if one is looking for an example of total
disorientation, bordering on lunacy, it is the inability of
the US and the European powers to choose between the
Assad-Iran-Russia axis and the IS-Saudi-Sunni camp. Add the
Turkish-Kurdish problem, the Russian-Turkish animosity and
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the picture is still
far from complete.
(For history-lovers, there is something fascinating about
the reemergence of the centuries-old struggle between
Russia and Turkey in this new setting. Geography trumps
everything else, after all.)
It has been said that war is far too important to leave to
the generals. The present situation is far too complicated
to leave to the politicians. But who else is there?
ISRAELIS BELIEVE (as usual) that we can teach the world. We
know terrorism. We know what to do.
But do we?
For weeks now, Israelis have lived in a panic. For lack of
a better name, it is called “the wave of terror”. Every day
now, two, three, four youngsters, including 13-year old
children, attack Israelis with knives or run them over with
cars, and are generally shot dead on the spot. Our renowned
army tries everything, including draconian reprisals
against the families and collective punishment of villages,
These are individual acts, often quite spontaneous, and
therefore it is well-nigh impossible to prevent them. It is
not a military problem. The problem is political,
Netanyahu tries to ride this wave like Hollande and
company. He cites the Holocaust (likening a 16-year old boy
from Hebron to a hardened SS officer at Auschwitz) and
talks endlessly about anti-Semitism.
All in order to obliterate one glaring fact: the occupation
with its daily, indeed hourly and minutely, chicanery of
the Palestinian population. Some government ministers don’t
even hide anymore that the aim is to annex the West Bank
and eventually drive out the Palestinian people from their
There is no direct connection between IS terrorism around
the world and the Palestinian national struggle for
statehood. But if they are not solved, in the end the
problems will merge – and a far more powerful IS will unite
the Muslim world, as Saladin once did, to confront us, the
If I were a believer, I would whisper: God forbid.
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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 25th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
The movie was shown this weekend twice (23rd and 25th of October) to sold out audiences at Vienna’s Film Festival – the Viennale. Another Israeli movie- maker plaid it safer – he showed killings in Indonesia. In an interview with the “Wienner Zeitung” – Gitai said that he does not want to end up the same way as Rabin.
The problem is that in the Middle East there seems to be a practical alliance between those that do not want peace. Be those extremist Palestinians or extremist Jews.
The movie includes that stairway scene where Rabin was supposed to pass to the car waiting for him after he spoke at the peace rally. The media film showed in real time the killer coming towards him and shooting.
Every action and every word uttered in the film to be released is what really happened and what was said. Gitai says he checked everything for at least two sources. The film is therefore freitening in its truth that extends to today’s situation in the Middle East.
Let me mention here that Vienna these days is also the locus where the situation in Syria is openly on the operational table and not much hope is there either. The Austrians, after years of denial to themselves – are now clearly embracing the guilt of the Holocaust and this puts them in a situation that they will not be themselves if rejecting true refugees that escape the Middle East mayhem. All this points at this movie becoming a true document
and those in Israel that hatted Rabin for his attempt to lead to peace, can be counted on hating this retelling of their deeds.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 25th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
We react here to the New York Times Editorial of August 24, 2015 that seemingly wants us to believe that Putin and the Ayatollahs found religion when they heard that 250,000 Arabs were killed in Syria. Really – why should they care?
Let us suggest that “THE DEAL” has turned the interest of Iran to revive its International Banking if the Sanctions are removed – and that is the real driving force that eventually can bring Putin and the Ayatollahs to the table IN EXCHANGE FOR A SAUDI AND THE OTHER GULF STATES OIL EXPORTERS PROMISE TO REDUCE THEIR EXPORTS OF OIL.
YES – the US and the Europeans are driven by humanitarian concepts – the Russians and the Iranians think of the PRICE OF OIL that hit them hard in their economies. The US and the Europeans enjoyed the lowering of the price of oil – based on the high supply figures and a decreasing demand that resulted from GREEN ACTIVITIES – higher efficiency and alternate sources of energy.
But also these two developing energy topics can only benefit from a higher price for oil. So what the heck – let us help the Syrians and save whatever cultural monuments the Islamic State has not destroyed yet. We know that one way or another – the Christian population of Syria and Iraq is doomed and the Lebanese Maronites strive already decades in Brazil like the Iraqi Jews who spread all over the globe – from the Far East to the Far West. But let the enlightened world deal with the problem – and explain to the Saudis that time has come for them to listen to the global woes and do their part by selling less oil !!!
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 24th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Report: Retired Saudi General Makes it His ‘Personal’ Goal to Achieve Saudi-Israeli Peace.
From the Algemeiner and WSJ – August 23, 2015
Anwar Eshki, a retired major general in the Saudi armed forces, has made it his personal goal to strike peace between Saudi Arabia and Israel, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
A former top adviser to the Saudi government, Eshki raised eyebrows in June when he appeared alongside Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General and longtime confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Dore Gold at a conference held by the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington DC, espousing desires to build a Saudi-Israel peace, especially to counter the regionally destabilizing expansion of Iran.
“The main project between me and Dore Gold is to bring peace between Arab countries and Israel,” said Eshki.
The former general noted that while the initiative is “personal,” Riyadh “knows about the project” and “isn’t against it, because we need peace.”
Eshki said Israeli and Saudi plans for their shared principal enemy Iran do not completely align, especially regarding an Israeli strike against Iran. He added, however, that Israel would be interested in dealing first with the threat posed by Iran’s proxy in Lebanon and Syria, Hezbollah, before committing its military to countering the much larger and imposing threat of Iran.
Saudi Arabia is also fighting an Iranian-backed group in Yemen, the Houthi rebels, who have taken over the Yemeni capital of Sana’a, and Eshki said it was the common threat of Iranian attempts to destabilize the region and “revive the Persian Empire” that has brought him and Gold together.
Israeli and Saudi officials have reportedly held several meetings in light of the P5+1 arrangement with Iran to peel back international sanctions in exchange for some restrictions on and monitoring of its nuclear program, which Jerusalem and Riyadh view as a boon to Iranian efforts to spread its influence in the Middle East.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 3rd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
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Dispatch from Iraq: the Stealth Iranian Takeover Becomes Clear
by Jonathan Spyer, PJ Media
July 31, 2015
Originally published under the title, “On the Ground in Iraq, the Stealth Iranian Takeover Becomes Clear.”
Projecting the article there is shown A Shi’a militia billboard in Baghdad.
Spyer writes: In late June, I traveled to Iraq with the purpose of investigating the role being played by the Iranian-supported Shia militias in that country.
Close observation of the militias, their activities, and their links to Tehran is invaluable in understanding what is likely to happen in the Middle East following the conclusion of the nuclear agreement between the P5 + 1 powers and Tehran.
An Iranian stealth takeover of Iraq is currently under way. Tehran’s actions in Iraq lay bare the nature of Iranian regional strategy. They show that Iran has no peers at present in the promotion of a very 21st century way of war, which combines the recruitment and manipulation of sectarian loyalties; the establishment and patient sponsoring of political and paramilitary front groups; and the engagement of these groups in irregular and clandestine warfare, all in tune with an Iran-led agenda.
Power in Baghdad today is effectively held by a gathering of Shia militias.
With the conclusion of the nuclear deal, and thanks to the cash about to flow into Iranian coffers, the stage is now set for an exponential increase in the scale and effect of these activities across the region.
So what is going on in Iraq, and what may be learned from it?
Shia militias are essentially the sole force standing between ISIS and Baghdad.
Power in Baghdad today is effectively held by a gathering of Shia militias known as the Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization). This initiative brings together tens of armed groups, including some very small and newly formed ones. However, its main components ought to be familiar to Americans who remember the Iraqi Shia insurgency against the U.S. in the middle of the last decade. They are: the Badr Organization, the Asaib Ahl al-Haq, the Kataeb Hizballah, and the Sarayat al-Salam (which is the new name for the Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr).
All of these are militias of long-standing. All of them are openly pro-Iranian in nature. All of them have their own well-documented links to the Iranian government and to the Revolutionary Guards Corps.
Shia militiamen are becoming a fixture of daily life in the Iraqi capital.
The Hashed al-Shaabi was founded on June 15, 2014, following a fatwa by venerated Iraqi Shia cleric Ali al-Sistani a day earlier. Sistani called for a limited jihad at a time when the forces of ISIS were juggernauting toward Baghdad. The militias came together, under the auspices of Quds Force kingpin Qassem Suleimani and his Iraqi right-hand man Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
Because of the parlous performance of the Iraqi Army, the Shia militias have become in effect the sole force standing between ISIS and the Iraqi capital.
Therein lies the source of their strength. Political power grows, as another master strategist of irregular warfare taught, from the barrel of a gun. In the case of Iraq, no instrument exists in the hands of the elected government to oppose the will of the militias. The militias, meanwhile, in their political iteration, are also part of the government.
In the course of my visit, I travelled deep into Anbar Province with fighters of the Kataeb Hizballah, reaching just eight miles from Ramadi City. I also went to Baiji, the key front to the capital’s north, accompanying fighters from the Badr Corps.
Asaib Ahl al-Haq fighters operating in Baiji in June
In all areas, I observed close cooperation between the militias, the army, and the federal police. The latter are essentially under the control of the militias. Mohammed Ghabban, of Badr, is the interior minister. The Interior Ministry controls the police. Badr’s leader, Hadi al-Ameri, serves as the transport minister.
In theory, the Hashd al-Shaabi committee answers to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi. In practice, no one views the committee as playing anything other than a liaison role. The real decision-making structure for the militias’ alliance goes through Abu Mahdi al Muhandis and Hadi al-Ameri, to Qassem Suleimani, and directly on to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
No one in Iraq imagines that any of these men are taking orders from Abadi, who has no armed force of his own, whose political party (Dawa) remains dominated by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his associates, and whose government is dependent on the military protection of the Shia militias and their political support. When I interviewed al-Muhandis in Baiji, he was quite open regarding the source of the militias’ strength: “We rely on capacity and capabilities provided by the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 27th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
70 years after Hiroshima & Nagasaki, Are we smarter? Are we more human? That was the question!
As reported by Ms.Irith Jawetz, July 27, 2015.
An unusual event took place on Tuesday, July 21, 2015 at the OIIP (Austrian Institute for International Politics. In spite of the unusual high temperatures and a very feeble AC, the room was almost full. I will try to present the essence of that event.
The panel included:
- Ms.Judith Brandner, Since 1984 radio journalist and radio producer for Ö1, but also on DRS2, D-RADIO and SWR2.
- Ambassador Alexander Kmentt; Austria’s Director for Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament. Ambassador Kmentt has received the highest number of votes in an online poll to determine the “2014 Arms Control Person of the Year.” Nine other worthy candidates were nominated by the staff of the Arms Control Association for their significant achievements and contributions to reducing the threats posed by the world’s most dangerous weapons in the past year.
Ambassador Kmentt, who started his career at the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs in 1994 and has been a leading disarmament diplomat for many years, was recognized for organizing the third International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, Dec. 8-9, 2014 in Vienna, which drew delegations representing 158 states, the United Nations, and civil society.
- Prof. Heinz Gärtner OIIP, Professor at the University of Vienna, His research priorities include international and European security; US foreign and security policy; Theories of international politics; Developments in world politics; Arms control.
- Hakan Akbulut, Research Assistant at OIIP, Areas of Research: Nuclear proliferation,Turkish foreign and security policy .
The moderator was Fabio Polly, who has been with the Austrian Radio ORF for more than 30 years. He was head of the ORF young journalists training in 1996. Since then, in the radio’s external policy, with temporary interruptions as moderator of various information programs (among others Ö1-journals).
He spent a total of four years as a correspondent in Germany and in the US. Focus of Reporting: international security, disarmament, nuclear weapons and the Middle East; Travel to Afghanistan (Kabul) to Iraq (Baghdad), to South Africa (Johannesburg).
The main concern of all the panelists was that 70 years after the Atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the problem of nuclear weapons has not been solved. Even the reasons for that terrible event have not been completely clear until now, and may never be fully known. Those two cities were totally destroyed, ten thousands of people killed, and the aftermath was immense. Those events emphasized how dangerous those weapons are.
In the arsenal of 9 countries there are now approximately 16,300 nuclear war-heads. Those weapons are part of a deterrent policy, which was developed during the Cold War. The objection to a notion of a world without nuclear power is strong, however there is a second notion now, which stems from a humanitarian point of view that maybe the world is better off without those weapons.
Ms. Brandner talked about her personal experience visiting universities in Japan and interviewing people who have relatives who still remember the Hiroshima & Nagasaki events and still have psychological scars from that day. One student talked about her Grandfather who lived through this nightmare and for years after could not talk about it. He then came to be interviewed, opened up and talked for two hours non stops about the horrors of that day. He spoke about the slow deaths of the people, the stifling heat and the stench, the burning corpses lying on the streets for days. The Grandfather lived to be 88 years old but carried this trauma with him all his life.
One of the topics of the debate was the notion that nuclear weapons are a deterrent. Does it really work? Is it really a deterrent? Can one rely on the fact that the leaders of those countries who possess those weapons will really only refer to them as a deterrent factor and not use them?
Ambassador Kmentt stressed the fact that human error can be the most dangerous factor in having nuclear weapons. He compared it to a pilot in a plane who, if he makes a mistake and pushes the wrong button, the plane goes down and all passengers and crew will die. If a wrong button is pushed or any button is pushed for some reason on a nuclear weapon the consequences are unimaginable. The system has too many risks.
Prof. Gärtner believes a deterrent is only effective if it is believable by both sides that the weapons would be used.
He gave a bit of an historical view on Hiroshima & Nagasaki and said that the United States always contained that it was needed to end the war. Too many U.S. soldiers have died in World War II and it looked as if the Japanese were not ready to surrender. The questions remains, would they have surrendered had they known of the existence of the nuclear bomb? That’s where the deterrent part comes in. Another version for the necessity of ending the war this way was the fear of the U.S. that Russia would march into Japan and take over. Was that reason enough to use the Atom bomb?
Touching on the Iran deal which was signed in Vienna only a few days earlier the speakers agreed that Iran should be given a chance to prove itself worthy of the confidence that the Allies have put into that deal. The Iran deal will define what is for peace and what is for war. On a questions from the audience how can one be certain that technically the weapons are not to be used for war, the answer was that one cannot be 100% sure of it, but one has to trust the Iranians to some extent.
I would like to elaborate a bit on one aspect which was mentioned a few times during the conversation. It was the fact that nine nations — the United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea — possess approximately 16,300 nuclear weapons. in total. Under the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START), Russia and the United States have reduced their inventories but still account for more than 93% of all operational nuclear warheads. Opened for signature in 1968, the Treaty entered into force in 1970. On 11 May 1995, the Treaty was extended indefinitely. More countries have adhered to the NPT than any other arms limitation and disarmament agreement, a testament to the Treaty’s significance.
A total of 191 states have joined the Treaty, though North Korea, which acceded to the NPT in 1985 but never came into compliance, announced its withdrawal in 2003. Four UN member states have never joined the NPT: India, Israel, Pakistan and South Sudan.
In contrast to those countries, New Zealand is one small country which in 1984 barred nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed ships from using New Zealand ports or entering New Zealand waters. Under the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act of 1987, territorial sea, land and airspace of New Zealand became nuclear-free zones. This has since remained a part of New Zealand’s foreign policy.
The debate went on for a long time with no clear answer to the topic question: 70 years after: Are we smarter, are we more human? Nuclear weapons are basically only safe if used as a deterrent, but they are extremely dangerous if actually used.
Being a deterrent when two opposing sides are both nuclear armed – the certainty of a second strike becomes in effect an insurance of peace. That was the concept of M.A.D. (Mutually Assured Destruction) that lowered animosity between the two sides in the Cold War. The destruction caused in the two events in Japan – big as they were are nevertheless small compared to what, relatively, the new arms could do. The question is indeed, watching today’s ideological enemies, are they mellow enough to take the M.A.D. idea seriously? Will it always be a Head of State that has the nuclear button, or could it be that a device ends up with a group of insurgents?
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 13th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Reported by Irith Jawetz from Vienna
July 12. 2015
On Friday, July 10, 2015 – a very timely – at the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna.
Since the Iran talks are being held in Vienna, the panel discussion was very appropriate and although many people have left the City for the Summer, or at least for the weekend, this round table – and the room were full.
I will try to give a somewhat concise reporting of that event.
The event was called: Iran und der Westen nach den Verhandlungen (Iran and the West after the talks).
The participants were:
Dr. Christian Prosl, Austrian Ambassador to Washingtion 2009-2011
Dr. Walter Posch, Institut für Friedenssicherung und Konfliktforschung an der Landesverteidigungsakademie Wien
( Institute for Peace Support and Conflict Management, Vienna).
Dr. Arian Faal, Journalist, APA (the Austrian Press Agency) and Wiener Zeitung
The excellent moderator was Dr. Werner Fasslabend, President of the Politische Akademie und des AIES, former Austrian Minister for Defense.
Dr. Fasselabend opened the discussion stating that only 99.9% of the talks are completed.
He continued by by displaying historic and current maps of the Region, giving us a broad historic overview of Iran and its influence on the region. He stressed that because of Iran’s geographical location it was and still is a very large regional power and stability in the Middle East without Iran’s cooperation is impossible.
Dr. Arian Faal, Journalist for APA (Austrian Press Agentur) and Wiener Zeitung gave us an inside look from the perspective of the journalists covering the talks.
He recalled that after 17 days, 12-16 hours of work, 600 journalists and at a cost of about $1 million for the stay in Vienna by US Secretary of State John Kerry and his delegation at the famous Imperial Hotel, there is still no deal. There have been many improvements since the beginning of the talks, but still no deal. Mr. Kerry has prolonged his stay yet again and said a deadline will not be a factor as long as an agreement can be achieved. The new deadline to be breached is Monday July 13th.
The three major problems that stand in the way of an agreement are:
1) The sanctions on Iran – the Iranian delegation insists those have to be lifted right away;
2) The UN Arms Embargo that includes conventional weapons;
3) Political readiness by President Obama and Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran. Both have to agree to a deal which will be accepted at home.
Dr. Faal said he is an optimist by nature and is still hopeful that an agreement will be reached.
Ambassador Dr. Christian Prosl addressed the matter from the US point of view. He said that for the US the stability of the region and the security of the State of Israel are the main factors and the two problems which the US faces are with Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Both countries, though for different reasons, are against any deal with Iran since they do not trust the Iranian regime.
As for the supply of oil, this is not anymore a factor for the US because of the fracking industry. However, the strained relationship between President Obama and the Republican party may be a factor. The Republicans have tried for a long time now to see that President Obama fails, and they may try to fail him also in this endeavor. Mr. Netanyahu’s speech in Congress against the Iran deal, which was prompted by the invitation of Speaker of the House John Boemer, did not help. However Ambassador Prosl said that he cannot imagine that the Republicans will fail the agreement if it is iron clad and the treaty will be safe for the US.
Dr. Posch addressed the matter from the Iranian point of view and concluded that although the problems are being viewed from different perspective, i.e. US, the EU and Iran, the will is there. Regional security, oil supply and human rights in Iran all play a part in the talks. He also was hopeful that a deal will be signed
At the end of the panel presentations, Dr. Fasselabend invited to the podium Dr. Massud Mossaheb, General Secretary of the Austro-Iranian Society in Vienna.
Mr. Mossaheb said that there is mutual mistrust between the West and the Iranian Government.
In spite of the fact that the Iranian nuclear position has not changed in the last 40 years, there is still mistrust. The people of Iran hope for the lifting of the sanctions so they can have a better quality of life. They suffer from high inflation and lack of supplies, especially in medications. Dr. Mossaheb also hopes for a deal to be reached.
As the end, the consensus was that the talks will go on, of course not for ever, but without the threat of an immediate deadline, and an agreement, which will be safe and beneficial for all participants will be reached.
From the US MEDIA – I will add to the above that the personal insistence of President Obama and Secretary Kerry, the opinion is that the White House investment in these talks is so high that a failure to obtain an agreement is unthinkable.
The fact that the Iranians see this deep involvement of the Americans has in itself weakened the position of the United States in these negotiations. But then, the Iran Supreme leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei – whose position is still strong as he is still blindly followed by the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) who are in charge of the Nuclear Program – may be using tough talk now just to make sure that his agreeing to an agreement is not viewed as weakness. The Iranian people want an end to the sanctions provided it is not seen as a cave in (the CNN/GPS program of Fareed Zakaria).
The current round, now in its 16-th day, was supposed to conclude on June 30, but was extended until July 7, then July 10 and now July 13. The sides had hoped to seal a deal before the end of Thursday in Washington to avoid delays in implementing their promises.
By missing that target, the U.S. and Iran now have to wait for a 60-day congressional review period during which President Barack Obama can’t waive sanctions on Iran. Had they reached a deal by Thursday, the review would have been only 30 days.
En route to Mass at Vienna’s St. Stephens Cathedral, Kerry said twice he was “hopeful” after a “very good meeting” Saturday with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who had Muslim services Friday.
Kerry noted that “a few tough things” remain in the way of agreement but added: “We’re getting to some real decisions.”
A senior State Department official also said Sunday that the department will not speculate about the timing of anything during the talks and that key issues remain unresolved.
Iran’s state-run Press TV cited Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday as calling the U.S. an “excellent example of arrogance.” It reported that Khamenei told university students in Tehran to be “prepared to continue the struggle against arrogant powers.”
His comments suggest Tehran’s distrust of Washington will persist whether a deal gets done or not. Khamenei’s comments also have appeared thus to be a blow to U.S. hopes than agreement will lead to improved relations with the country and possible cooperation against Islamic rebels.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, like Kerry, indicated talks could go either way. “We behaved so skillfully that if talks won’t succeed, the world would accept that Iran is for logic and dialogue and never left the negotiating table … and if we succeed by the grace of God, the world will know that the Iranian nation can resolve its problems through logic,” his website quoted him as saying.
The supreme leader’s comments also come after it was learned Saturday that the Islamic Republic’s spies have been seeking atomic and missile technology in neighboring Germany as recently as last month.
Iran’s illegal activities have continued since talks between Iran and the P5+1 – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council as well as rotating member Germany – began with a Joint Plan of Action in 2013, according to German intelligence sources. The JPOA was intended to stop Iran’s work on a nuclear weapon until a comprehensive agreement is reached.
“You would think that with the negotiations, [Iranian] activities would drop,” a German intelligence source said. “Despite the talks to end Iran’s program, Iran did not make an about-turn.”
With a final agreement to restrict Iran’s nuclear program set for Monday, the intelligence data from Germany raises disturbing questions about the success of the deal.
Tehran has sought industry computers, high-speed cameras, cable fiber, and pumps for its nuclear and missile program over the last two years, according to German intelligence sources. Germany is required to report Iran’s illegal procurement activities to the UN.
Iran is unlikely to begin a substantial rollback of its nuclear program until it gets sanctions relief in return.
But then the Russian and Chinese Foreign Ministers said they will come to Vienna for the signing of the agreement – and the news are that Mr. Sergei Lavrov has said he will be there on Monday.
An Iranian diplomat said that they have a 100 pages document to study and that logistically it cannot be done by Sunday night with parallel meetings going on.