July, 2016 Middle East


Author Mohammed A. Salih
ERBIL, Iraq — Political wrangling between Iraq's federal government and the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in the north appears to have, for the time being, overshadowed planning for a military offensive to liberate the Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State (IS).

 Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi

By GERSHON BASKIN
Arafat is no longer around and neither is Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, and Liberman too might not be the same old Liberman we know from yesteryear. 
On Monday, during an open Q&A in the Knesset Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman stated: “Egypt is the most important and serious ally we have in the Middle East and among Arab states. I invested a lot of effort in building trust and cooperative relations.” This is a very interesting statement from the man who in 1998 suggested bombing the Aswan Dam in retaliation for Egyptian support for Yasser Arafat.


Project Syndicate, Anas Alhajji
IRVING, TEXAS – The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is dead. Saudi Arabia killed it. Now, OPEC is just a toothless zombie, attracting attention, but without having any impact on the living.
Few have noticed OPEC’s demise for a simple reason: it never really had the impact that it was widely perceived to have. It was never actually a cartel, possessing monopolistic market power. Anyone who thought otherwise was mistakenly attributing to it Saudi Arabia’s market power.

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Geopolitical Monitor, Daniel Urchick
Russia continues to seek to increase its influence in the Middle East region’s power-brokering structure to a level it believes to be appropriate for its traditional great power status. As one Russia-watcher recently described, “Russia seeks the same level of say in the global system as it had at the Yalta conference of 1945.” It is important to look at Russia’s broader moves in the Middle East, like in Egypt, and not just Syria to properly understand the evolution of Russia’s resurgent great power foreign policy.


A briefing by Efraim Inbar
Summary account by Marilyn Stern, Middle East Forum Board of Governors

Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University and a Shillman/Ginsburg Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum, briefed the Middle East Forum in a conference call on June 30, 2016.

 

Author Ali Hashem

As July 15 was coming to an end in Tehran, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was on the phone with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu, whose government was under the threat of being overthrown by a military coup. Meanwhile, Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), was on another line with security officials in Ankara.

 


Alex Fishman

Analysis: By sending his foreign minister to Israel, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was showing the world that Egypt means business, that it truly is the strongest player in the region, and that no one, especially not the US, should ignore it.


by Jonathan Spyer, The Jerusalem Post
Israeli soldiers returning from the front with captured Lebanese and Hezbollah flags, July 25, 2006.
For those of us who took part in it, the war remains quiet and always just in view, like a suitcase filled with items of memory in the corner of a room.

tr-gaza

By Nathan Shachar

Whatever dividends the fresh Turkish-Israeli rapprochement will bring, it reveals something fundamental about the new Middle East: the number of unknown variables in this ever less predictable environment is steadily growing, and even the most arrogant and unrepentant leaders will have to eat crow from time to time in order to salvage their national interests. Leaders who stand by their words and their principles will be severely handicapped


DEBKAfile Exclusive Report

In a supreme effort to prevent ISIS suicide units from reaching Russia from Syria, Sergei Shoigu, Russia's
Defense Minister, has promoted the Russian commander in Syria, Colonel-General Alexander Dvornikov. to an expanded command as head of the South Russia military district.

Inline image 1

Crispian Cuss
Until recently much of the violence caused by extremists in Southeast Asia has been as much about local conditions as Islamist ideology. The return of local jihadists from the Middle East threatens to change this. As the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group continues to lose territory as it battles on all fronts in Iraq and Syria, so the nature of the threat in Southeast Asia is set to change.


by Jonathan Spyer, The Jerusalem Post
ISIS's pretensions to statehood are receding as it loses ground, but the organization is anything but defeated.
The latest wave of bombings by Islamic State confirm a pattern long observed. As it continues to lose ground in its heartland and its "provinces," so the organization turns back to an intensified focus on international terrorism. This is in line with previous experience of international Salafi-jihadi organizations.


DEBKAfile Exclusive Report 

The Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry's visit to Israel Sunday, July 10 and the two conversations he held with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that day underscored the intensified ties between the two governments and their leaders, President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi and the prime minister.

 shutterstock_365702177

THE SAKER 
A number of events have happened recently which point to the possibility that something might be brewing in the Syrian conflict. First and foremost, there was Erdogan’s apology to Russia which was really much more than just an apology.


 

by Mark Durie, The Spectator

 

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull thinks that his Iftar dinner guest, Shady Alsuleiman, should "reflect on what he has said" about homosexuals and adulterers.
A widely-publicised Iftar dinner, intended to show that Malcolm Turnbull gets what it means to be inclusive, ended badly after he was advised that one of his guests, Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman, had taught that Islam prescribes death for adulterers, and homosexuals spread diseases. No rogue maverick, Australian-born Alsuleiman is the elected national president of the Australian National Imams Council.

Although insisting that "mutual respect is absolutely critical," Turnbull subjected this prominent Muslim leader to public humiliation. He regretted inviting him to dinner and counselled the sheikh "to reflect on what he has said and recant." In the middle of an election, wanting to limit fallout from the dinner-gone-wrong, held only days after the Orlando massacre, Turnbull stated that his no-longer-welcome guest's views are "wrong, unacceptable, and I condemn them."

Well, Mr. Turnbull may deplore Alsuleiman's teachings, but the real challenge is that these were not merely his personal views. The sheikh's teachings on homosexuality and adultery reflect the mainstream position of Islam, preached by many a Muslim scholar around the world today. Telling a sheikh to reject the sharia is like telling a pope to get over the virgin birth.

Western leaders pretend that the objectionable teachings of Muslim faith leaders are personal faults.

Many Australian Muslims will be disappointed at the treatment meted out to Sheikh Alsuleiman. An event designed to honour the Muslim community ended up providing a platform to denigrate one of their most respected leaders for promoting Islamic doctrines. Several Australian Muslim leaders have since dug in their heels to affirm support for the sharia position on homosexuals. So much for recanting.

While Turnbull refused to pass judgement on Islam itself, saying "there are different views of different issues, as there are in all religions," he also sent a message that he is prepared to disparage Australian Muslims' religious beliefs. It was a bitter pill for Muslims to swallow that this came in the form of a humiliating invite-to-disavow game of bait-and-switch, conducted during a pre-election media storm.

The cognitive dissonance is startling.

On the one hand, Mr. Turnbull has stated, "I reject and condemn any comments which disparage any group of Australians, whether on the basis of their race, their religion, their sexuality, their gender." On the other, he is willing to disparage one of Australia's most prominent Muslim religious leaders on the basis of his religious teachings.

Turnbull has also said "It is vital in our multicultural society that every part feels included and that each of us gives to the other the mutual respect that each of them gives us." A video response posted on Sheikh Alsuleiman's Facebook page, and viewed more than 40,000 times, asks, "But that statement also includes respect for people's religious beliefs, doesn't it?"

Turnbull and others subscribe to the idea that the same basic values are channeled by all religions.

Turnbull appears to subscribe to the really bad idea that the same basic values are channeled by all religions. In 2011 on Q&A he praised Islam's moderation in embodying "universal values." This vacuous universalism has blinded him to the possibility that a religion might actually teach things that he would be duty-bound to disparage. No doubt the PM is also influenced by advice from ASIO not to alienate Muslims by criticising their religion. This policy is ultimately driven by fear of offending adherents of the one religion from which most terrorists are drawn; and why millions of dollars are directed to Muslim organisations, and not to Sikhs or Copts. Turnbull attempted to use a "shoot the messenger" strategy to minimise the cognitive dissonance of his conflicted statements, directing attention away from the religion onto an individual.

The fact remains that, whatever the sheikh's personal attitudes to gays, his teachings on adultery and homosexuality are not personal. Given his extensive training in sharia law, Alsuleiman's views could only be called personal if they had diverged from mainstream Islamic positions. But they did not.

Turnbull's staff might have googled the sheikh before they invited him to dinner. And as Alsuleiman's Facebook post put it, "the prime minister might have the same issue in future when inviting just about any other Muslim imam to any other function." Rather than calling out the sheikh as a hater, what is needed is to challenge the religious doctrines which have determined his preaching.

As long as our political leaders pretend that objectionable Islamic teachings are merely personal faults, while insisting that the religion of Islam is above reproach, we will stay stuck in this unhelpful place; where we tell a highly trained Muslim imam that we respect his religion, but denigrate his religious beliefs as bigotry. The conversation needs to be about Islamic sharia, not those who preach it.

Mark Durie is the pastor of an Anglican church, a Shillman-Ginsburg Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and Founder of the Institute for Spiritual Awareness. 

www.meforum.org/6106/its-not-personal-its-islam

shutterstock_152917418

Posted By Garikai Chengu 
After seven years, the Chilcot report has delivered a damning verdict on Tony Blair’s role in the war on Iraq, but British Prime Ministers playing a destructive role in Iraq is a centuries old practice. Britain has used its military might and commercial prowess to subjugate Iraq and control its oil resources for over one hundred years.


Project Syndicate, Richard Haas
NEW YORK – Seven years, 12 volumes of evidence, findings, and conclusions, and one executive summary later, the Report of the Iraq Inquiry, more commonly referred to as the Chilcot Report (after its chairman, Sir John Chilcot), is available for one and all to read.


Author Mustafa Saadoun
BAGHDAD — Most Shiite political parties in Iraq have their own armed groups, enjoying influence on the Iraqi street and engaging in the war against the Islamic State. Yet these groups all have different religious authorities and funding sources, and their stances towards domestic and foreign issues also differ.


Author Rania Rabeaa Elabd
Budgets rarely please everyone, but opponents are challenging Egypt’s recently passed spending plan. The Egyptian parliament approved the country’s 2016-17 general budget June 29 despite accusations that the legislation violates the constitution and contains figures that are not feasible.


by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi 
A screenshot from the video lists the "wilayas" (provinces) of the Islamic State.
Readers of this blog will have known that a long-standing interest of mine has been the structure of Islamic State (IS) administration, focusing primarily on internal documents. To mark the start of Eid, IS has released via its central media outlet al-Furqan Media a video on the very subject, entitled 'Structure of the Caliphate'. Below are some observations of mine:

 

Project Syndicate, Jeffrey Sachs
NEW YORK – Deadly terrorist attacks in Istanbul, Dhaka, and Baghdad demonstrate the murderous reach of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Asia. The longer ISIS maintains its strongholds in Syria and Iraq, the longer its terrorist network will create such carnage.


by Efraim Inbar
BESA Center Perspectives

Hamas is deeply rooted in Palestinian society.
A senior Defense Ministry source in Israel said recently that a confrontation with Hamas is inevitable, and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) must be prepared for it. The source added, significantly, that "the next round must be the last one for the Hamas government."


By ERIC SCHMITT
WASHINGTON — In just the past few days, the Islamic State’s evolving brand of terrorism has revealed its deadly, shifting faces. n Istanbul last week, Turkish officials say, militants guided by the Islamic State conducted a coordinated suicide attack on the city’s main airport. In Bangladesh on Friday, a local extremist group that has pledged loyalty to the Islamic State butchered diners in a restaurant. And in Baghdad on Sunday, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for a bombing that killed more than 140 people.


Author Khalid Hassan
TranslatorMike Nahum

CAIRO — Recent days have witnessed a new cycle of conflict pitting the Muslim Brotherhood against Gamaa Islamiya. The latter was the Brotherhood’s foremost ally following its fall from power on July 3, 2013. Yet Ibrahim Munir, the Brotherhood’s deputy supreme guide, accused Gamaa Islamiya of responsibility for the violence that broke out during the period of former President Hosni Mubarak’s rule. His accusation drove Abboud el-Zumar, a prominent leader and member of the Gamaa Islamiya’s Shura Council, to demand that ties between the two groups be frozen.

A Turkish Air Force F-16 fighter jet lands at Incirlik air base in Adana, Turkey. © Murad Sezer

The statement came from Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu during his interview with TRT channel.
The top diplomat has acknowledged that Moscow might be given the green light to use Turkey’s Incirlik airbase to engage Islamic State targets in Syria. As of now, Russian aircraft make their sorties from Khmeimim airbase in Syria’s Latakia province.



By Zaakir Ahmed Maye

 "Information Clearing House" - The reactions of the Turkish-Israeli rapprochement deal have been have been met with a plethora of emotions. Some Palestinians have argued that despite Turkish rhetoric, national self-interest would always supersede that of the Palestinian people.

 Jobar, a district of Damascus controlled by Jabhat al-Nusra militants

Russia and Turkey have reached common understanding on the Syrian crisis, including fighting al-Nusra Front militants. During a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Ankara considers not only Daesh but also al-Nusra Front as terrorists.

NURAY MERT, hurriyetdailynews
Turkey seems to be changing its foreign policy with new deals with Israel and Russia – two arch enemies until recently. Nevertheless, it would be very misleading to assume that this change is a sign of “moderation.” First of all, these are not deals between moderate, peaceful and democratic countries; Turkey, Russia and Israel have authoritarian regimes and governments which will hardly encourage each other to engage in moderate politics.

By Josh Rogin

 "Information Clearing House" - "Washington Post"- The Obama administration has proposed a new agreement on Syria to the Russian government that would deepen military cooperation between the two countries against some terrorists in exchange for Russia getting the Assad regime to stop bombing U.S.-supported rebels.

imaratk
Central Asia Caucasus Analyst, Stephen Blank
Despite the ongoing terrorist insurgency, Russian officials claim significant progress in pacifying and reintegrating the North Caucasus. For example, in 2015 alone, Ministry of Interior forces in the North Caucasus (VVMVD) allegedly killed over 70 militants.


by Michel Gurfinkiel
PJ Media

Originally published under the title "The Road to Brexit: How Merkel Thwarted Cameron's Smart Gamble."

Polls show mass migration was the number one concern of voters in the Brexit referendum.
There were many signposts on the road to Brexit. As early as 2001, the Swiss rejected access to the EU by an overwhelming 72.5%. Four years later, in 2005, both the French and the Dutch rejected a European constitutional treaty project in separate referendums. Polls indicated that similar referendums would have turned the same way in other places.


Turkey has been the target of Islamic State (IS) bombing attacks seven times since the general election a year ago. But the IS attack at Istanbul Ataturk Airport on June 28 that killed 42 people and wounded 239 others needs closer attention for its target selection, timing and possible links to regional developments.

BURAK BEKDİL, hurriyetdailynews
“Terrorism is like a boomerang… which will come back and hit you,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan warned the countries of the European Union on June 24. “Terrorism is like a boomerang… which will come back and hit you,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan warned the countries of the European Union on June 24. “If you [the EU] abet terrorists [and]… give them financial support, you will have worse days.” Five days later, the boomerang came back and struck – not precisely EU soil, but Istanbul. Sadly, in the president’s grossly inconsistent thinking, the terrorists hit Europe because the Europeans abet and financially help them, but when they hit Turkey it is not because Turkey abets and financially helps them.