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Thread: Saudi Arabia is chief funder of Islamic extremism in UK

  1. #21
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    Jared Kushner 'tried and failed to get a $500m loan from Qatar before pushing Trump to take hard line against country'

    The failed business deal has reignited concerns about Trump family conflicts of interest

    Emily Shugerman New York Tuesday 11 July 2017 14:41 BST

    Jared Kushner tried and failed to secure a $500m loan from one of Qatar's richest businessmen, before pushing his father-in-law to toe a hard line with the country, it has been alleged.

    This intersection between Mr Kushner’s real estate dealings and his father-in-law’s international issues highlights the difficulties of an administration besiged with an unprecedented number of conflicts of interest.

    Early in his real estate career, Mr Kushner purchased a building at 666 Fifth Avenue in New York for $1.8bn – a record-setting deal at the time.

    These days, however, more than a quarter of the office space in the building is vacant. According to The New York Times, the building has not generated enough to pay its debts in several years, forcing Kushner Companies to cover the multimillion-dollar difference.

    In 2015 – while Donald Trump was firing up his presidential campaign – Mr Kushner was working with his biological father to keep the property from going underwater. The men zeroed in on Qatari billionaire sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Thani (HBJ) as a potential investor.

    HBJ eventually agreed to invest $500m in the property, sources tell The Intercept, on the condition that Kushner Companies found the rest of the money for the multi-billion-dollar project on its own.

    For help, Kushner Companies turned to Chinese insurance company Anbang. The company agreed to secure a $4bn construction loan to develop the property in early March. But weeks later, as concerns about conflicts of interest mounted, Anbang pulled out.

    Without the help of Anbang, Kushner Companies could not meet the rest of HBJ's funding demands. According to one source in the region, HBJ killed the deal. According to another, he simply put it on hold.

    Either way, a diplomatic crisis centred around Qatar broke out shortly thereafter. In early June, at least six Gulf Region countries severed or reduced ties to the country, claiming it had supported terrorism.

    The countries issued a list of demands necessary for Qatar to regain favour, including shutting down the media network Al-Jazeera, cutting ties with various Islamist groups, limiting ties with Iran, and expelling Turkish troops.

    The move sent the tiny, isolated nation into an economic tailspin. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson quickly encouraged the countries to engage in “calm and thoughtful dialogue“ and asked for “no further escalation by the parties in the region”.

    Mr Trump, however, unleashed a string of criticism toward the country, calling it a “funder of terrorism at a very high level”.

    “So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off,” he tweeted on 6 June. “They said they would take a hard line on funding, extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar.”

    The President’s position took Mr Tillerson by surprise, and sources say he suspected Mr Kushner was behind it all.

    A source close to Mr Tillerson told The American Conservative that the Secretary of State is convinced that some of Mr Trump’s remarks were written by UAE ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba – a close friend of Mr Kushner.

    “Otaiba weighed in with Jared and Jared weighed in with Trump,” the source said. “What a mess.”

    But even if the source’s account of the proceedings is true, it still leaves open the question of why Mr Kushner wanted to convince the President to speak out against Qatar.

    Mr Tillerson's reasons for supporting the small country, and urging a quick end to the conflict, however, are more clear: The US runs a crucial airbase out of the country, which runs air campaigns against Isis in Iraq and Syria, and helps protect Israel.

    Mr Tillerson left on Monday for a trip to Turkey, Kuwait, the UAE, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia to help mediate an end to the crisis. Kushner Companies did not respond to The Independent’s request for comment.

    Tale of 2 princes: Trump, Saudi king rely on son, son-in-law

    Both president and monarch prefer to receive key support and advice from within the family
    By Aya Batrawy and VIVIAN SALAMAJune 25, 2017, 12:43 am

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Half a world apart, in a theocratic monarchy and a democracy, a king and a president are relying on their thirtysomething son and son-in-law to help consolidate power and push their policies.

    Saudi Arabia’s King Salman this week elevated his son Mohammed bin Salman to crown prince, setting him on course to become the next Saudi king. President Donald Trump relies heavily on son-in-law Jared Kushner to advance his agenda, the closest thing to a royal assist that the US can muster.

    Kushner was in the Mideast this week meeting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in an attempt to restart dormant peace talks. For that effort to succeed, Kushner will need the backing, or at least the quiet support, of Saudi Arabia — now under the reins of the crown prince, also known as MBS.

    In this tale of two princes, Trump’s son-in-law and Saudi Arabia’s new heir to the throne have skyrocketed to power and been entrusted with a wealth of responsibilities and wide-ranging duties, even though neither had the experience that comes with years of government service. The two have been presented to the public as outsiders who bring youthful energy and fresh ideas to sluggish bureaucracies with aging infrastructures.

    For Trump, 71, and Salman, 81, the stakes couldn’t be higher. Both have promised to deliver dramatic reforms to an antsy public.

    Kushner and MBS have built a relationship of increasingly profound importance since Trump took office. Kushner, 36, and MBS, 31, talk on the phone and dined together for several hours during Trump’s trip to Riyadh in May, administration officials said. The officials spoke anonymously to discuss the private working relationship.

    While in Washington in March, MBS lunched with Trump and Kushner in the State Dining Room. That visit helped ingratiate the young royal to Trump, and Saudi Arabia to the new administration in Washington.

    It also laid the groundwork for Trump’s maiden voyage overseas as president last month, when Trump became the first US president to make his first official trip to a Muslim nation with a visit to Saudi Arabia.

    Trump and Salman also witnessed the signing of a nearly $110 billion defense deal, which administration officials say Kushner helped negotiate. The Obama administration had previously stalled on the deal because of concerns over Saudi aggression in Yemen.

    Kushner emerged as a top adviser to Trump in the bruising 2016 presidential race. He spearheaded the campaign’s data operation, had a hand in some policy speeches, and was often the last person Trump spoke to before making major decisions. Prior to assuming his role as Trump’s adviser, Kushner ran his family’s real estate and construction business.

    Within hours of King Salman’s ascension to the throne in January 2015, the monarch named MBS as defense minister, which helped catapult the young prince into power and sidelined more experienced and older princes. Two months later, MBS led Saudi forces into war in Yemen, becoming the face of a conflict framed in the Saudi media as a battle against Shiite-led Iran’s ambitions for regional dominance. The war whipped up nationalist fervor around the new king and his son.

    The Saudis paint the Yemen conflict as a fight against terrorism and border security — something that resonates with the new US administration. Trump takes a bullish approach to defeating “radical Islamic terrorism,” as he frequently refers to it, and is advocating for a border wall along America’s southern border.

    In Saudi Arabia last month, Trump conceded that he would only succeed in his goal of fighting terrorism with the partnership of Saudi Arabia and all other Muslim nations.

    That’s where Kushner and MBS come in.

    Kushner’s growing duties as White House adviser have seen him serve as a point person for a range of contacts with countries from China to Mexico, develop ideas for infrastructure and criminal justice reform, oversee a new Office of American Innovation and, this week, try to broker Middle East peace — a goal that relies heavily on Saudi support.

    MBS’ portfolio includes oversight of defense and security, and transforming the kingdom’s economy to become less reliant on oil exports for revenue.

    His rise to power was accelerated after he visited Washington in March and met Trump. The visit helped reset bilateral relations after years of strained ties under President Barack Obama over the nuclear accord with Iran, which Saudi Arabia strongly criticized.

    Kushner and MBS are expected to collaborate on a more bullish policy on Iran, which both the US administration and the Saudi monarchy view as a threat to regional stability.

    Eric Pelofsky, a former Obama administration official now at the Washington Institute of Near East Policy, said that a number of domestic interests, “coupled with a robust visit and a very warm and direct relationship with the Trump White House,” contributed to MBS’ rise.

    “Neither one by itself would have probably been enough, but it appears that together it was enough to move MBS up,” he said.

    While close family ties are not unusual in US politics, Trump has maintained a tightly knit inner circle that has been influenced significantly by Kushner and his wife, Trump’s daughter Ivanka.

    The Middle East is no stranger to nepotism, with much of the Arab Gulf boasting hereditary rule, and monarchies still ruling over Jordan and Morocco. Syria’s President Bashar Assad is also part of a perceived “dynasty.”

    Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.
    Last edited by gatehousethetinkertailor; 11-07-2017 at 11:01 PM.

  2. #22
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    Speculating but would this view be close - Emir announces abdication, resignation of his cabinet and PM (HBJ) in June 2013, Tamim, the new Emir signs secret agreement with KSA with Kuwait as intermediary 4 months later which is pretty much similar to the 13 demands that we are familar with.

    KSA demanded regime change in 2013 or agreed to it as part of then negotiation to call off their threat. Thus the 2 men responsible for the policies that has upset KSA relented. Except that former Emir and HBJ are still the in power behind the scenes and the son is very much a puppet. Son prior to his ascendency has never made an impression outside of Qatar and was very domestic focus. And the previous policies have prevailed.

  3. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by scroobal View Post
    Speculating but would this view be close - Emir announces abdication, resignation of his cabinet and PM (HBJ) in June 2013, Tamim, the new Emir signs secret agreement with KSA with Kuwait as intermediary 4 months later which is pretty much similar to the 13 demands that we are familar with.

    KSA demanded regime change in 2013 or agreed to it as part of then negotiation to call off their threat. Thus the 2 men responsible for the policies that has upset KSA relented. Except that former Emir and HBJ are still the in power behind the scenes and the son is very much a puppet. Son prior to his ascendency has never made an impression outside of Qatar and was very domestic focus. And the previous policies have prevailed.
    Very close - as it has become apparent now they relented superficially.

    Sheikh Tamim was not the original heir apparent - it was Sheikh Jassim his brother but he told his father very early on that he was not interested and preferred to focus on sports. He is known to drive around Qatar on his own without entourage. And yes Daddy pretty much is behind the scene - Tamim dislikes HBJ so he gladly purged all of his people from the various position of power and influence after HBH stepped down. He also popped into SG for Old Man's send-off but did not stay till the end of the ceremony.

    Do not underestimate the greed of HBJ - his ability to grow wealthy from projects in Qatar are legendary...but despite all this power and influence a New York co-op pissed him off in 2012 when he tried to buy two apartments because they cited his large family as a concern...ironically there is also the rumour that he "warned" the Russia's UN Envoy Vitaly Churkin prior to the UN vote on Syria which demonstrated just how ballsy he/Qatar had grown by 2012.

    Tuesday, 7 February 2012
    Russia's UN Envoy threatens to wipe Qatar off the map

    Russia denied the entire episode took place.


    Qatar's Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabr apparently spoke to Russia's UN Envoy Vitaly Churkin prior to the UN vote on Syria saying: "I warn you against using the veto. You will lose all Arab countries"

    Russia Envoy Churkin replied: "If you speak to me in this manner again there won't be something called Qatar from today. You are a guest on the (UN) Security Council, respect yourself, go back to your size, I only speak in the name of great Russia with big (countries, could also mean adults)"

    The recording was apparently broadcast on France 2. Here is an Arabic transcript and here is one in French. There is no mention of this incident in the English language press.

    It's interesting to note that Russia downgraded its diplomatic ties with Qatar last December following an incident on November 29 in which its ambassador to the Arab Gulf State "was attacked by security and customs officers at the Doha airport." Russia then warned Qatar of "consequences" following the incident, demanding an apology and recalled its ambassador from Doha. Russia Today, Moscow's version of Al Jazeera then started broadcasting a string of reports critical of Qatar saying in one report that it is "punching above its weight".

    Russia breaks Qatar strings after envoy attack scandal
    Published time: 5 Dec, 2011 12:38 Edited time: 5 Dec, 2011 19:26

    Russia has down-scaled the level of diplomatic relations with Qatar following an incident with the Russian ambassador to the country, who was physically attacked by Qatari customs and security officers.

    Ambassador Vladimir Titorenko suffered an assault at Doha Airport on November 29, on his return from a mission to Jordan. While passing through customs control he was attacked by customs security, who made an attempt to confiscate his diplomatic pouch. Titorenko resisted and was beaten, together with two other Russian diplomats who were there to welcome the ambassador.

    The next day Russian Foreign Ministry filed a note of protest to Qatar, demanding that official Doha apologize, but no such apology followed.

    On December 4, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov officially informed Qatari Prime Minister and concurrently Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabr Al-Thani that Moscow is suspending diplomatic relations with Doha until demands of the Russian side are completed in full.

    Ambassador Vladimir Titorenko will leave Qatar once he finishes a course of medical treatment as a result of the attack.

    Earlier, the ambassador told RIA Novosti that at first he had been hoping the incident had occurred due to the incompetence of customs and security officers, who simply were not familiar with the Vienna Convention that allows diplomats to bring in diplomatic mail without having it x-rayed.

    On top of that, the Russian diplomatic mission in Qatar has specially-issued permission not to subject its diplomatic mail to x-ray, but customs officers disregarded this exemption.

    Moscow’s relations with Doha became somewhat strained in the course of the Arab Spring gripping Middle Eastern and North African countries. The previous week, Russia officially criticized Qatar for its role in the Libyan uprising, which violated the arms embargo imposed on the country by the UN Security Council.

    “We know how the arms embargo was applied in Libya. The opposition was receiving arms, with such countries as France and Qatar publicly stating that they have supplied those arms,” said Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at a press conference in Moscow on the same day Titorenko was attacked at Doha Airport.

    An unnamed Russian diplomat gave comments to RIA Novosti, linking the incident with the Russian position on the unrest in Syria.

    Qatar has been consistently supporting sanctions against Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad, whereas Russia is acting against sanctioning Syria on all diplomatic levels, including the UN Security Council.

    The source said Titorenko had been actively explaining the Russian position at press conferences and in articles he has written exposing the nature of the conflict in Syria. Thus, the Russian ambassador’s activity displeased certain figures and led to the attack, concludes the source.

    The incident with the Russian diplomat may be viewed as an extension of the “aggressive stance” Qatar has adopted after it became the rotational head of the Arab League, says James Corbett, the editor of the independent news website

    “It must have been done intentionally,” Corbett told RT. “This is a major diplomatic incident not to be smoothed over easily. One can imagine this might have a lasting impact on the relations between the two countries.”

    Washington may be involved in shaping Qatar’s policy, believes the editor. The US interest in the region is $60-70 billion worth of investments in the Qatari energy industry.

    “The US is probably playing its diplomatic angle to put pressure on Qatar to wield its power in the Arab League in a way it is beneficial to the Anglo-American interests,” remarks Corbett.

    Sheik turned away by Fifth Avenue co-op board — because of too many kids: sources

    By Jennifer Gould Keil
    Sheik turned away by Fifth Avenue co-op board — because of too many kids: sources
    He’s got the dough and the pedigree — just too many damn kids for the co-op board at one of Manhattan’s toniest buildings.

    Sheik Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani — prime minister of the oil-rich Persian Gulf nation of Qatar — was rejected in his $31.5 million bid for a pair of Fifth Avenue pads once owned by late eccentric heiress Huguette Clark, sources told The Post last night.

    A big part of the sheik’s problem was his 15 kids, not to mention his two wives and boatload of staffers who accompanied him everywhere, sources said.

    “It was just too complicated,’’ said one source at the ritzy building at 907 Fifth Ave. at 72nd Street.

    There wasn’t “a chance in hell’’ of his offer being accepted, the source added.

    The sudden influx of potential foreign residents — young and old — to the storied address would have been in stark contrast to the previous tenant. Clark, a doll-obsessed recluse, had spent the last 20 years of her life in local hospitals. She died in May 2011 at 104.

    In addition to the kid factor, the uptight co-op board put the kibosh on Hamad’s bid — which had been backed by Clark’s estate — because it was jittery about where his money was coming from, sources said.

    Board members were also concerned because, as a foreign head of state, the 52-year-old sheik couldn’t be held accountable for anything that might happen there, they said.

    “He had diplomatic immunity,’’ one source noted.

    The sheik — a cousin of his country’s ruler, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who lives down the block — wasn’t even granted an interview with the board before his offer was rejected the weekend just past, sources said.

    The unit’s listing broker, Brown Harris Stevens, did not immediately comment.

    Privately, the broker was telling other realtors last night that the offer was rejected simply because the co-op board had suddenly decided against allowing the two eighth-floor apartments to be combined.

    The board, however, had previously said it was fine with such an arrangement.

    Additional reporting by Dan Mangan and Kate Sheehy

    Qatari Royals Said to Mull Sale of Luxembourg Private Bank BIL

    More stories by Dinesh NairApril 27, 2017, 9:37 PM GMT+8
    The Qatari owners of Banque Internationale a Luxembourg SA are considering a sale of their controlling stake in the private bank, which could fetch about $1.5 billion, according to people familiar with the matter.

    Precision Capital, the investment vehicle of Qatar royal family members including former Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al Thani, is weighing a sale of the bank, the people said, asking not to be identified as the information is private. BIL could interest large private banks in Europe seeking to expand their business, the people said.

    Precision is not running a formal sale process and is holding preliminary discussions with potential buyers, the people said. No final agreements have been reached and the owners may decide against a sale, the people said.

    Representatives for Precision Capital, BIL and the Luxembourg Finance Ministry declined to comment.

    The royals bought into the European private banking scene in 2012, acquiring a 90 percent stake in BIL from Dexia SA as part of a bailout of the Franco-Belgian bank. The Luxembourg government bought the remaining 10 percent. Precision Capital also bought another private bank in the country that year, KBL European Private Bankers SA for 1.05 billion euros ($1.14 billion).

    BIL, founded in 1856, is the oldest private bank in Luxembourg. The bank had 35.5 billion euros of assets under management at the end of 2015, according to its website. Its net income for the first half of 2016 dropped to 45 million euros from 108 million euros for the same period in the previous year in a “challenging market environment,” according to the bank’s latest financial report.

    Qatar has been an active investor in European banks, with the country’s sovereign wealth fund holding stakes in lenders including Barclays Plc and Credit Suisse Group AG.
    Last edited by gatehousethetinkertailor; 12-07-2017 at 03:43 PM.

  4. #24
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    breaking wind. uae cyber-intell kena caught shit-stirring by hacking into qatari official sites and faking terrorist messages, posts, and news to discredit qatar as state sponsor of terrorism.
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    In a statement released in Washington by its ambassador, Yousef al-Otaiba, the UAE said the Post story was “false.”

    “The UAE had no role whatsoever in the alleged hacking described in the article,” the statement said. “What is true is Qatar’s behavior. Funding, supporting, and enabling extremists from the Taliban to Hamas and Qadafi. Inciting violence, encouraging radicalization, and undermining the stability of its neighbors.”

    The revelations come as emails purportedly hacked from Otaiba’s private account have circulated to journalists over the past several months. That hack has been claimed by an apparently pro-Qatari organization calling itself GlobalLeaks. Many of the emails highlight the UAE’s determination over the years to rally Washington thinkers and policymakers to its side on the issues at the center of its dispute with Qatar.

    U.S. intelligence and other officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive matter.

    The Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment, as did the CIA. The FBI, which Qatar has said was helping in its investigation, also declined to comment.

    The UAE had a broadcast over the weekend where a leading Muslim Brotherhood figure explained how Qatar was funding nefarious activities via their various charity organisations:

    Last edited by gatehousethetinkertailor; 17-07-2017 at 01:52 AM.

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    action is louder than words. simple old proverb says it all. shit-stirring cuntries in the middle east are plain for all to see in this chart - neighbors of syria which have taken in 0 refugees. don't care if it's uae vs. qatar or qatar vs. ksa, they are all hypocrites and shit stirrers with their ill gotten wealth. and we haven't counted european cuntries which have taken in refugees.

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    Quote Originally Posted by eatshitndie View Post
    action is louder than words. simple old proverb says it all. shit-stirring cuntries in the middle east are plain for all to see in this chart - neighbors of syria which have taken in 0 refugees. don't care if it's uae vs. qatar or qatar vs. ksa, they are all hypocrites and shit stirrers with their ill gotten wealth. and we haven't counted european cuntries which have taken in refugees.

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    The above graphic was originally posted by Luay Al-Khatteeb, a researcher associated with the Brookings Institution.

    The data source of all of these publications seems to be the UN High Commission of Refugees (UNHCR) itself, which notes that over 4,000,000 refugees have been registered by the UNHCR in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. None of these refugees are registered in any of the Gulf States, including Saudi Arabia.

    However, a look at Saudi Arabia’s UNHCR page has a few curious footnotes that Western publications are conveniently omitting. The UNHCR counts refugees by noting only those “persons recognized as refugees under the 1951 UN Convention/1967 Protocol, the 1969 OAU Convention, in accordance with the UNHCR Statute, persons granted a complementary form of protection and those granted temporary protection.“ Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE are not parties to any of the UN protocols on refugees, and so through this technicality, they, along with most of their refugees, are excluded from many refugee counting mechanisms.

    And as if the statement that Saudi Arabia has not taken any refugees were not preposterous enough, with the lack of a “Great Arabian Wall” of sorts, numerous commentators have conveniently overlooked the fact that the noted Gulf States are not included in maps of UNHCR progress reports like this one. One would think that such maps might raise the question, why aren’t any of the Gulf States included in the graphics? And given their exclusion from many UN refugee graphics, one might also ask, is the absence of Syrian refugees in Saudi Arabia really due to an astonishingly secure border? Or just a technicality that pundits have deceitfully misinterpreted?

    Somehow, even in today’s “enlightened” age where information on human rights is democratized and widely disseminated, the complete absence of Syrian refugees in Saudi Arabia is more plausible than the idea of human misinterpretation of statistics. It’s an inconvenient truth that needs to be addressed.

    With Saudi Arabia’s non-signatory status, the Syrians residing in Saudi Arabia are classified as “Arab brothers and sisters in distress” instead of refugees covered by UN treaties. According to Nabil Othman, the UNHCR regional representative to the Gulf region, there were 500,000 Syrian refugees in Saudi Arabia at the time of his statement. The government itself of Saudi Arabia has stated that it has, over the past five years since the start of the conflict hosted 2.5 million refugees.

    Because the noted treaties establish treatment standards for refugees, some might raise concerns regarding the conditions that Saudi Arabia’s refugees may be living in. However, Al-Arabiya, a news outlet based in the UAE, has noted that “Saudi authorities granted Syrians the right of residency and work, and provided them with education and health services for free.” According to the Saudi government, over 100,000 children are currently receiving education in the country’s schools. Saudi Arabia is not alone in attempts to provide education for the refugees, with Lebanon now providing schooling for another 100,000 child refugees.

    The silence on this issue has redirected the conversation to an absurd idea instead of progressing towards verification of Saudi Arabia’s treatment of Syrian refugees. By focusing on a myth that could easily be debunked with even a cursory look at the UN’s procedures for publishing refugee statistics, the West’s media organizations have been too distracted to verify the Saudi government’s claims.

    This entire matter has been quite illustrative of the pitiful proliferation of modern-day yellow journalism, where even the most bizarre misconceptions are palatable enough to become part of mainstream political debates. Syria’s and Europe’s human rights travesty needs no exaggeration. Merkel’s, Cameron’s, Eastern Europe’s, and the US’s pitiful responses cannot be excused by this lie. It has only served to tarnish the worldly reputation of revered organizations like the Brookings Institution and Amnesty International. The claim is the Birtherism of refugee policy, and it’s time we put at least a modicum of effort into determining the exact conditions on the ground.
    Last edited by gatehousethetinkertailor; 17-07-2017 at 03:01 AM.

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    this has been debated in arabnews, in the comments section.

    JEDDAH: Member nations of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) host more than 7 million Syrian refugees who are officially registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
    Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, hosts 2.5 million Syrians who are not registered as refugees, according to Hisham Yousif, assistant director general for humanitarian affairs at the OIC, a local publication reported recently

    a reply to iqbal by javeed indicated that those in the know or especially on the ground in northern ksa in arar and beyond would witness refugee camps and the processing of refugees. but it's a known fact that most of the refugees migrate north to turkey for passages to europe than migrate south pass jordan and iraq to ksa and other emirates.
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    Enquiring mind and critical thinking is essential in such matters especially when one sees zeroes. They are red flags. The Saudis are also conscious of reporting things that affect their internal dynamics. They had issues in the past where the eastern Shiites have revolted. To the west, all Arabs are the same, all Indians and Chinese are the same etc.

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    Al Jubeir: We will present full file to France on excesses of Qatar

    Saudi minister lauds French resolve to fight terrorism

    JEDDAH: Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Adel Al Jubeir, said that the Foreign Ministry will provide the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs with a complete file of negative actions carried out by Qatar over the years, referring to also providing the American side and other countries with the same file.

    According to the Saudi Press Agency, during a joint press conference held in Jeddah yesterday with the French Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, Al Jubeir said that he hoped that the crisis would be resolved within the Gulf countries, and for Qatar to have the wisdom to respond to the demands of the international community, not just the four countries. He pointed out that the international community refuses their support of terrorism and extremism, and hosting people involved in this matter.

    Al Jubeir said that during his meeting with the French Minister he discussed bilateral relations between the two countries, efforts exerted to combat terrorism and extremism, and the most prominent regional and international issues.

    He added that they also discussed region’s current situation, peace process developments, the situation in Syria, finding solutions to the implementation of the Geneva Declaration 1 and Security Council Resolution No. 2254, as well as the situation in Iraq, SPA added.

    Al Jubeir stressed that there are basic principles that all countries, including Qatar, must abide by, including stop the support of terrorism, extremism, incitement and spreading hatred through the media in any form, in addition to stop hosting terrorist people or those involved in the financing of terrorism or wanted from their countries, and not to interfere in the affairs of countries in the regions.

    The French Minister expressed his concern about the current crisis with Qatar and its political and economic impact. He pointed out that France is in contact with all parties, and that this crisis will allow the strengthening of all mechanisms to combat terrorism, praising Saudi efforts to eradicate this scourge.

    About France’s position on the Qatar crisis, he pointed out that it consists of a number of points, including the firm commitment of all to fight terrorism, and stand against those who support and finance terrorism, stressing the need for the GCC countries to remain together to stay as an impenetrable barrier against terrorists.

    Le Drian stressed that the solution to this crisis must stay among the GCC countries, pointing out that France does not want to replace anyone and that it just wants to add its efforts to other countries efforts, that are similarly concerned and want to support the Kuwaiti mediation.

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    It is a rather long read but worthwhile for the perspective it sheds on what is also contributing to the angst of the Saudis in particular:

    Iran Dominates in Iraq After U.S. ‘Handed the Country Over’
    By TIM ARANGOJULY 15, 2017

    BAGHDAD — Walk into almost any market in Iraq and the shelves are filled with goods from Iran — milk, yogurt, chicken. Turn on the television and channel after channel broadcasts programs sympathetic to Iran.

    A new building goes up? It is likely that the cement and bricks came from Iran. And when bored young Iraqi men take pills to get high, the illicit drugs are likely to have been smuggled across the porous Iranian border.

    And that’s not even the half of it.

    Across the country, Iranian-sponsored militias are hard at work establishing a corridor to move men and guns to proxy forces in Syria and Lebanon. And in the halls of power in Baghdad, even the most senior Iraqi cabinet officials have been blessed, or bounced out, by Iran’s leadership.

    When the United States invaded Iraq 14 years ago to topple Saddam Hussein, it saw Iraq as a potential cornerstone of a democratic and Western-facing Middle East, and vast amounts of blood and treasure — about 4,500 American lives lost, more than $1 trillion spent — were poured into the cause.

    Tehran’s Turn

    From Day 1, Iran saw something else: a chance to make a client state of Iraq, a former enemy against which it fought a war in the 1980s so brutal, with chemical weapons and trench warfare, that historians look to World War I for analogies. If it succeeded, Iraq would never again pose a threat, and it could serve as a jumping-off point to spread Iranian influence around the region.

    In that contest, Iran won, and the United States lost.

    Over the past three years, Americans have focused on the battle against the Islamic State in Iraq, returning more than 5,000 troops to the country and helping to force the militants out of Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul.

    Men suspected of fighting for the Islamic State, detained in a makeshift courthouse in Qaraqosh, near Mosul. Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times
    But Iran never lost sight of its mission: to dominate its neighbor so thoroughly that Iraq could never again endanger it militarily, and to use the country to effectively control a corridor from Tehran to the Mediterranean.

    “Iranian influence is dominant,” said Hoshyar Zebari, who was ousted last year as finance minister because, he said, Iran distrusted his links to the United States. “It is paramount.”

    The country’s dominance over Iraq has heightened sectarian tensions around the region, with Sunni states, and American allies, like Saudi Arabia mobilizing to oppose Iranian expansionism. But Iraq is only part of Iran’s expansion project; it has also used soft and hard power to extend its influence in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan, and throughout the region.

    Iran is a Shiite state, and Iraq, a Shiite majority country, was ruled by an elite Sunni minority before the American invasion. The roots of the schism between Sunnis and Shiites, going back almost 1,400 years, lie in differences over the rightful leaders of Islam after the death of the Prophet Muhammad. But these days, it is about geopolitics as much as religion, with the divide expressed by different states that are adversaries, led by Saudi Arabia on one side and Iran on the other.

    Iran’s influence in Iraq is not just ascendant, but diverse, projecting into military, political, economic and cultural affairs.

    At some border posts in the south, Iraqi sovereignty is an afterthought. Busloads of young militia recruits cross into Iran without so much as a document check. They receive military training and are then flown to Syria, where they fight under the command of Iranian officers in defense of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.

    Passing in the other direction, truck drivers pump Iranian products — food, household goods, illicit drugs — into what has become a vital and captive market.

    Iran tips the scales to its favor in every area of commerce. In the city of Najaf, it even picks up the trash, after the provincial council there awarded a municipal contract to a private Iranian company. One member of the council, Zuhair al-Jibouri, resorted to a now-common Iraqi aphorism: “We import apples from Iran so we can give them away to Iranian pilgrims.”

    Politically, Iran has a large number of allies in Iraq’s Parliament who can help secure its goals. And its influence over the choice of interior minister, through a militia and political group the Iranians built up in the 1980s to oppose Mr. Hussein, has given it substantial control over that ministry and the federal police.

    Perhaps most crucial, Parliament passed a law last year that effectively made the constellation of Shiite militias a permanent fixture of Iraq’s security forces. This ensures Iraqi funding for the groups while effectively maintaining Iran’s control over some of the most powerful units.

    Now, with new parliamentary elections on the horizon, Shiite militias have begun organizing themselves politically for a contest that could secure even more dominance for Iran over Iraq’s political system.

    To gain advantage on the airwaves, new television channels set up with Iranian money and linked to Shiite militias broadcast news coverage portraying Iran as Iraq’s protector and the United States as a devious interloper.

    Partly in an effort to contain Iran, the United States has indicated that it will keep troops behind in Iraq after the battle against the Islamic State. American diplomats have worked to emphasize the government security forces’ role in the fighting, and to shore up a prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, who has seemed more open to the United States than to Iran.

    But after the United States’ abrupt withdrawal of troops in 2011, American constancy is still in question here — a broad failure of American foreign policy, with responsibility shared across three administrations.

    Iran has been playing a deeper game, parlaying extensive religious ties with Iraq’s Shiite majority and a much wider network of local allies, as it makes the case that it is Iraq’s only reliable defender.

    Shiite militiamen guarding the entrance to a desert road in Diyala Province that begins near the Iranian border. Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times
    A Road to the Sea

    Iran’s great project in eastern Iraq may not look like much: a 15-mile stretch of dusty road, mostly gravel, through desert and scrub near the border in Diyala Province.

    But it is an important new leg of Iran’s path through Iraq to Syria, and what it carries — Shiite militiamen, Iranian delegations, trade goods and military supplies — is its most valuable feature.

    It is a piece of what analysts and Iranian officials say is Iran’s most pressing ambition: to exploit the chaos of the region to project influence across Iraq and beyond. Eventually, analysts say, Iran could use the corridor, established on the ground through militias under its control, to ship weapons and supplies to proxies in Syria, where Iran is an important backer of Mr. Assad, and to Lebanon and its ally Hezbollah.

    At the border to the east is a new crossing built and secured by Iran. Like the relationship between the two countries, it is lopsided.

    The checkpoint’s daily traffic includes up to 200 Iranian trucks, carrying fruit and yogurt, concrete and bricks, into Iraq. In the offices of Iraqi border guards, the candies and soda offered to guests come from Iran.

    No loaded trucks go the other way.

    “Iraq doesn’t have anything to offer Iran,” Vahid Gachi, the Iranian official in charge of the crossing, said in an interview in his office, as lines of tractor-trailers poured into Iraq. “Except for oil, Iraq relies on Iran for everything.”

    The border post is also a critical transit point for Iran’s military leaders to send weapons and other supplies to proxies fighting the Islamic State in Iraq.

    Workers unloading Iranian products at an Iraqi border crossing. The flow of goods between the two countries is one-sided. Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

    After the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh, swept across Diyala and neighboring areas in 2014, Iran made clearing the province, a diverse area of Sunnis and Shiites, a priority.

    It marshaled a huge force of Shiite militias, many trained in Iran and advised on the ground by Iranian officials. After a quick victory, Iranians and their militia allies set about securing their next interests here: marginalizing the province’s Sunni minority and securing a path to Syria. Iran has fought aggressively to keep its ally Mr. Assad in power in order to retain land access to its most important spinoff in the region, Hezbollah, the military and political force that dominates Lebanon and threatens Israel.

    A word from Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iran’s powerful spymaster, sent an army of local Iraqi contractors scrambling, lining up trucks and bulldozers to help build the road, free of charge. Militiamen loyal to Iran were ordered to secure the site.

    Uday al-Khadran, the Shiite mayor of Khalis District in Diyala, is a member of the Badr Organization, an Iraqi political party and militia established by Tehran in the 1980s to fight against Mr. Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war.

    On an afternoon earlier this year, he spread a map across his desk and proudly discussed how he helped build the road, which he said was ordered by General Suleimani, the commander of the Quds Force, the branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps responsible for foreign operations. General Suleimani secretly directed Iran’s policy in Iraq after the American invasion in 2003, and was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers in attacks carried out by militias under his control.

    “I love Qassim Suleimani more than my children,” he said.

    Mr. Khadran said the general’s new road would eventually be a shortcut for religious pilgrims from Iran to reach Samarra, Iraq, the location of an important shrine.

    But he also acknowledged the route’s greater strategic significance as part of a corridor secured by Iranian proxies that extends across central and northern Iraq. The connecting series of roads skirts the western city of Mosul and stretches on to Tal Afar, an Islamic State-controlled city where Iranian-backed militias and Iranian advisers have set up a base at an airstrip on the outskirts.

    “Diyala is the passage to Syria and Lebanon, and this is very important to Iran,” said Ali al-Daini, the Sunni chairman of the provincial council there.

    Closer to Syria, Iranian-allied militias moved west of Mosul as the battle against the Islamic State unfolded there in recent months. The militias captured the town of Baaj, and then proceeded to the Syrian border, putting Iran on the cusp of completing its corridor.

    Back east, in Diyala, Mr. Daini said he had been powerless to halt what he described as Iran’s dominance in the province.

    When Mr. Daini goes to work, he said, he has to walk by posters of Iran’s revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, outside the council building.

    Iran’s militias in the province have been accused of widespread sectarian cleansing, pushing Sunnis from their homes to establish Shiite dominance and create a buffer zone on its border. The Islamic State was beaten in Diyala more than two years ago, but thousands of Sunni families still fill squalid camps, unable to return home.

    Now, Diyala has become a showcase for how Iran views Shiite ascendancy as critical to its geopolitical goals.

    “Iran is smarter than America,” said Nijat al-Taie, a Sunni member of the provincial council and an outspoken critic of Iran, which she calls the instigator of several assassination attempts against her. “They achieved their goals on the ground. America didn’t protect Iraq. They just toppled the regime and handed the country over to Iran.”

    The Business of Influence

    The lives of General Suleimani and other senior leaders in Tehran were shaped by the prolonged war with Iraq in the 1980s. The conflict left hundreds of thousands dead on both sides, and General Suleimani spent much of the war at the front, swiftly rising in rank as so many officers were killed.

    “The Iran-Iraq war was the formative experience for all of Iran’s leaders,” said Ali Vaez, an Iran analyst at the International Crisis Group, a conflict resolution organization. “From Suleimani all the way down. It was their ‘never again’ moment.”

    A border dispute over the Shatt al Arab waterway that was a factor in the hostilities has still not been resolved, and the legacy of the war’s brutality has influenced the Iranian government ever since, from its pursuit of nuclear weapons to its policy in Iraq.

    “This is a permanent scar in their mind,” said Mowaffak al-Rubaie, a lawmaker and former national security adviser. “They are obsessed with Baathism, Saddam and the Iran-Iraq war.”

    More than anything else, analysts say, it is the scarring legacy of that war that has driven Iranian ambitions to dominate Iraq.

    Particularly in southern Iraq, where the population is mostly Shiite, signs of Iranian influence are everywhere.

    Iranian-backed militias are the defenders of the Shiite shrines in the cities of Najaf and Karbala that drive trade and tourism. In local councils, Iranian-backed political parties have solid majorities, and campaign materials stress relationships with Shiite saints and Iranian clerics.

    If the Iraqi government were stronger, said Mustaq al-Abady, a businessman from just outside Najaf, “then maybe we could open our factories instead of going to Iran.” He said his warehouse was crowded with Iranian imports because his government had done nothing to promote a private sector, police its borders or enforce customs duties.

    Raad Fadhil al-Alwani, a merchant in Hilla, another southern city, imports cleaning supplies and floor tiles from Iran. He slaps “Made in Iraq” labels in Arabic on bottles of detergent, but the reality is that he owns a factory in Iran because labor is cheaper there.

    “I feel like I am destroying the economy of Iraq,” he said. But he insists that Iraqi politicians, by deferring to Iranian pressure and refusing to support local industry, have made it hard to do anything else.

    Najaf attracts millions of Iranian pilgrims each year visiting the golden-domed shrine of Imam Ali, the first Shiite imam. Iranian construction workers — many of whom are viewed as Iranian spies by Iraqi officials — have also flocked to the city to renovate the shrine and build hotels.

    In Babil Province, according to local officials, militia leaders have taken over a government project to set up security cameras along strategic roads. The project had been granted to a Chinese company before the militias intervened, and now the army and the local police have been sidelined from it, said Muqdad Omran, an Iraqi Army captain in the area.

    Iran’s pre-eminence in the Iraqi south has not come without resentment. Iraqi Shiites share a faith with Iran, but they also hold close their other identities as Iraqis and Arabs.

    “Iraq belongs to the Arab League, not to Iran,” said Sheikh Fadhil al-Bidayri, a cleric at the religious seminary in Najaf. “Shiites are a majority in Iraq, but a minority in the world. As long as the Iranian government is controlling the Iraqi government, we don’t have a chance.”

    In this region where the Islamic State’s military threat has never encroached, Iran’s security concerns are mostly being addressed by economic manipulation, Iraqi officials say. Trade in the south is often financed by Iran with credit, and incentives are offered to Iraqi traders to keep their cash in Iranian banks.

    Baghdad’s banks play a role, too, as the financial anchors for Iraqi front companies used by Iran to gain access to dollars that can then finance the country’s broader geopolitical aims, said Entifadh Qanbar, a former aide to the Iraqi politician Ahmad Chalabi, who died in 2015.

    “It’s very important for the Iranians to maintain corruption in Iraq,” he said.

    Shiite fighters near the Iraqi border with Syria. While Iran has built up militias to fight against the Islamic State in Iraq, it has also mobilized an army of Shiite Iraqi men to fight on its behalf in Syria. Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times
    The Militias’ Long Arm

    For decades, Iran smuggled guns and bomb-making supplies through the vast swamps of southern Iraq. And young men were brought back and forth across the border, from one safe house to another — recruits going to Iran for training, and then back to Iraq to fight. At first the enemy was Mr. Hussein; later, it was the Americans.

    Today, agents of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards openly recruit fighters in the Shiite-majority cities of southern Iraq. Buses filled with recruits easily pass border posts that officials say are essentially controlled by Iran — through its proxies on the Iraqi side, and its own border guards on the other.

    While Iran has built up militias to fight against the Islamic State in Iraq, it has also mobilized an army of disaffected young Shiite Iraqi men to fight on its behalf in Syria.

    Mohammad Kadhim, 31, is one of those foot soldiers for Iran, having served three tours in Syria. The recruiting pitch, he said, is mostly based in faith, to defend Shiite shrines in Syria. But Mr. Kadhim said he and his friends signed up more out of a need for jobs.

    “I was just looking for money,” he said. “The majority of the youth I met fighting in Syria do it for the money.”

    He signed up with a Revolutionary Guards recruiter in Najaf, and then was bused through southern Iraq and into Iran, where he underwent military training near Tehran.

    There, he said, Iranian officers delivered speeches invoking the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the revered seventh-century Shiite figure whose death at the hands of a powerful Sunni army became the event around which Shiite spirituality would revolve. The same enemies of the Shiites who killed the imam are now in Syria and Iraq, the officers told the men.

    After traveling to Iran, Mr. Kadhim came home for a break and then was shipped to Syria, where Hezbollah operatives trained him in sniper tactics.

    Iran’s emphasis on defending the Shiite faith has led some here to conclude that its ultimate goal is to bring about an Iranian-style theocracy in Iraq. But there is a persistent sense that it just would not work in Iraq, which has a much larger native Sunni population and tradition, and Iraq’s clerics in Najaf, including Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the world’s pre-eminent Shiite spiritual leader, oppose the Iranian system.

    Shiite militiamen in Baiji. As it did with Hezbollah in Lebanon, Iran is trying to shift the militias it’s backed in Iraq to positions of political power. Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

    But Iran is taking steps to translate militia power into political power, much as it did with Hezbollah in Lebanon, and militia leaders have begun political organizing before next year’s parliamentary elections.

    In April, Qais al-Khazali, a Shiite militia leader, delivered a speech to an audience of Iraqi college students, railing against the United States and the nefarious plotting of Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Then, a poet who was part of Mr. Khazali’s entourage stood up and began praising General Suleimani.

    For the students, that was the last straw. Chants of “Iran out! Iran out!” began. Scuffles broke out between students and Mr. Khazali’s bodyguards, who fired their rifles into the air just outside the building.

    “The thing that really provoked us was the poet,” said Mustafa Kamal, a student at the University of al-Qadisiya in Diwaniya, in southern Iraq, who participated in the protest.

    Mr. Kamal and his fellow students quickly learned how dangerous it could be to stand up to Iran these days.

    First, militiamen began threatening to haul them off. Then media outlets linked to the militias went after them, posting their pictures and calling them Baathists and enemies of Shiites. When a mysterious car appeared near Mr. Kamal’s house, his mother panicked that militiamen were coming for her son.

    Then, finally, Mr. Kamal, a law student, and three of his friends received notices from the school saying they had been suspended for a year.

    “We thought we had only one hope, the university,” he said. “And then Iran also interfered there.”

    Mr. Khazali, whose political and militia organization, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, is deeply connected with Iran, has been on a speaking tour on campuses across Iraq as part of an effort to organize political support for next year’s national election. This has raised fears that Iran is trying not only to deepen its influence within Iraqi education, but also to transform militias into outright political and social organizations, much as it did with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

    “It’s another type of Iranian infiltration and the expansion of Iran’s influence,” said Beriwan Khailany, a lawmaker and member of Parliament’s higher-education committee. “Iran wants to control the youth, and to teach them the Iranian beliefs, through Iraqis who are loyal to Iran.”

    Political Ascendancy

    When a group of Qatari falcon hunters, “including members of the royal family, were kidnapped in 2015 while on safari in the southern deserts of Iraq, Qatar called Iran and its militia allies — not the central government in Baghdad.

    For Mr. Abadi, the prime minister, the episode was an embarrassing demonstration of his government’s weakness at the hands of Iran, whose proxy militia Kataibb Hezbollah was believed to be behind the kidnapping.

    So when the hostage negotiations were about to end, Mr. Abadi pushed back.

    Around noon on a day in April, a government jet from Qatar landed in Baghdad, carrying a delegation of diplomats and 500 million euros stuffed into 23 black boxes.

    The hunters were soon on their way home, but the ransom did not go to the Iranian-backed militiamen who had abducted the Qataris; the cash ended up in a central bank vault in Baghdad.

    The seizure of the money had been ordered by Mr. Abadi, who was furious at the prospect of militias, and their Iranian and Hezbollah benefactors, being paid so richly right under the Iraqi government’s nose.

    “Hundreds of millions to armed groups?” Mr. Abadi said in a public rant. “Is this acceptable?”

    In Iraq, the kidnapping episode was seen as a violation of the country’s sovereignty and emblematic of Iran’s suffocating power over the Iraqi state.

    In a post on Twitter, Mr. Zebari, the former finance minister, who was previously foreign minister, called the episode a “travesty.”

    Mr. Zebari knows firsthand the power of Iran over the Iraqi state.

    Last year, he said, he was ousted as finance minister because Iran perceived him as being too close to the United States. The account was verified by a member of Parliament who was involved in the removal of Mr. Zebari, and who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid angering Iran.

    Mr. Zebari, who recounted the events in an interview from his mountainside mansion in northern Iraq, said that when President Barack Obama met with Mr. Abadi last September at the United Nations, the American leader personally lobbied to save Mr. Zebari’s job. Even that was not enough.

    Mr. Abadi now finds himself in a difficult position. If he makes any move that can be seen as confrontational toward Iran, or as positioning himself closer to the United States, it could place a cloud over his political future.

    “He had two options: to be with the Americans or with the Iranians,” said Izzat Shahbander, a prominent Iraqi Shiite leader who once lived in exile in Iran while Mr. Hussein was in power. “And he chose to be with the Americans.”

    Mr. Abadi, who took office in 2014 with the support of both the United States and Iran, has seemed more emboldened to push back against Iranian pressure since President Trump took office.

    In addition to seizing the ransom money, he has promoted an ambitious project for an American company to secure the highway from Baghdad to Amman, Jordan, which Iran has opposed. He has also begun discussing with the United States the terms of a deal to keep American forces behind after the Islamic State is defeated.

    Some are seeing an American troop commitment as a chance to revisit the 2011 withdrawal of United States forces that seemingly opened a door for Iran.

    When American officials in Iraq began the slow wind-down of the military mission there, in 2009, some diplomats in Baghdad were cautiously celebrating one achievement: Iran seemed to be on its heels, its influence in the country waning.

    “Over the last year, Iran has lost the strategic initiative in Iraq,” one diplomat wrote in a cable, later released by WikiLeaks.

    But other cables sent warnings back to Washington that were frequently voiced by Iraqi officials they spoke to: that if the Americans left, then Iran would fill the vacuum.

    Ryan C. Crocker, the American ambassador in Iraq from 2007 to 2009, said that if the United States left again after the Islamic State was defeated, “it would be effectively just giving the Iranians a free rein.”

    But many Iraqis say the Iranians already have free rein. And while the Trump administration has indicated that it will pay closer attention to Iraq as a means to counter Iran, the question is whether it is too late.

    “Iran is not going to sit silent and do nothing,” said Sami al-Askari, a senior Shiite politician who has good relationships with both the Iranians and Americans. “They have many means. Frankly, the Americans can’t do anything.”

    Correction: July 15, 2017
    An earlier version of this article misquoted Ali Vaez, an analyst at the International Crisis Group. He described the Iran-Iraq war as “the formative experience for all of Iran’s leaders,” not “the formidable experience.”

    Iran Extends Its Reach in Syria

    Dexter Filkins

    For the first time since the Syrian civil war began, Iranian-backed militias appear to have secured a road link from the Iranian border all the way to Syria’s Mediterranean coast. The new land route will allow the Iranian regime to resupply its allies in Syria by land instead of air, which is both easier and cheaper.
    The road network, which starts on Iran’s border with Iraq and runs across that country and Syria, was secured last week, when pro-Iranian Shiite militias captured a final string of Iraqi villages near the border with Syria. The road link zigs and zags across the two countries, but it appears to give Iran direct, uninhibited access to Damascus and the government of Bashar al-Assad, which the Iranians have been supporting since the uprising there began, in 2011. Since then, the Iranians have been Assad’s primary backer, sending men, guns, and other material by air and sea.

    The news of the Iranian breakthrough comes from officials in the Kurdish Regional Government, the semiautonomous area in northern Iraq, and from an expert in Washington who has been tracking the Iranians’ progress. Kurdish officials have briefed the Trump Administration on the developments.

    “The corridor is done,’’ a Kurdish official told me, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “The Iranians can go from the Iranian border all the way to the Mediterranean.” Officials with the K.R.G. oppose the Iranian road. In 2012, they rebuffed an Iranian request to transit their territory to Syria. They want the Trump Administration to help block it now. “It’s an Iranian road,’’ Fabrice Balanche, a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said.

    The development is potentially momentous, because, for the first time, it would bind together, by a single land route, a string of Iranian allies, including Hezbollah, in Lebanon; the Assad regime, in Syria; and the Iranian-dominated government in Iraq. Those allies form what is often referred to as the Shiite Crescent, an Iranian sphere of influence in an area otherwise dominated by Sunni Muslims.

    The Iranians have sought to create such a sphere since the end of the Iran-Iraq War, in 1988, which they saw as a Western-backed effort to destroy their regime. That’s why Iranians helped create Hezbollah, the Shiite militia that dominates Lebanon, and trained and directed Shiite militias that attacked American soldiers during their occupation of Iraq. The Iranian push into the Arab Middle East has helped aggravate the Sunni-Shiite schism that is fracturing the region. The attack in Tehran this week by ISIS militants is emblematic of the enmity with which Sunni militants regard the Iranian regime.

    No Iranian trucks or other vehicles have apparently used the route yet, and no Iranian official has spoken publicly about it.

    A senior American official who deals with the Middle East contested the idea that the Iranian corridor was open, saying that there were still many actors on the ground who could frustrate the Iranians’ efforts to pass. “It’s an extremely long way through Syria, and they would not control those roads,’’ the official said, of the Iranians.

    The road network makes its way across a long stretch of Iranian-friendly territory—the majority of it held by the Iraqi government, which has little leeway in opposing Iranian demands—and areas controlled by the Assad regime, in Syria.

    Much of the Iraqi territory that hosts the road was until recently held by the Islamic State, before it was cleared by Shiite militias, whose manpower is largely composed of Iraqis often trained and directed by Iranian operatives. In Syria, many of the areas that make up the road network are held by Iran’s allies and proxies—including Hezbollah and Shiite militias from Iraq and Afghanistan, which have done much of the Syrian government’s fighting.

    The one potential obstacle to the Iran-Syria land route is the Kurds of Syria, who dominate the northeast corner of the country and who operate independently of the Kurds of Iraq. Much of the Iranian corridor runs through Syrian Kurdish territory. In recent years, the Syrian Kurds have engaged in a precarious balancing act to preserve their autonomy amid the chaos that has overwhelmed much of the rest of Syria. In practice, that has meant entering into what amounts to a nonaggression pact with the Assad government, an arrangement that has evolved at times into moments of explicit military coöperation.

    And it has also meant coöperating with American and other Western forces in the battle against the Islamic State. Like other Kurdish groups in the region, the Syrian Kurds are mindful of the fact that almost every state in the region—in particular, Turkey—is opposed to their independence.

    Kurdish Syrian officials say that they don’t want any Iraqi Shiite militias to cross into their territory. That’s code for not wanting any Iranians, either. Iran’s allies are already bringing pressure to bear on the Kurds to coöperate: In recent days, the Kurds have said that Russia threatened them/) with an attack by Turkish forces.

    The Iraqi Kurdish official whom I spoke with told me he believed that the Iranian corridor was inevitable, unless the United States weighs in to stop it—possibly by pressuring the Syrian Kurds. Much of the future of the Middle East will depend on who wins the tug-of-war. “Everything depends now on the Americans’ willingness to stop this,’’ the official said.
    Last edited by gatehousethetinkertailor; 17-07-2017 at 12:39 PM.

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    The long-running family rivalries behind the Qatar crisis
    Randeep Ramesh Friday 21 July 2017 05.00 BST

    It is a row that is roiling the Middle East, pitting the wealthiest and most influential Arab sheikhdoms against each other, and sparking weeks of shuttle diplomacy. However, behind the Saudi Arabia-led blockade of Qatar’s air, land and sea ports lies a long-running family feud.

    Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic ties last month with the uber-rich Gulf state of Qatar, which shares the world’s largest reservoir of gas with Iran, Riyadh’s hated rival. The bloc accuses Qatar of supporting terrorism, a charge it denies.

    The blockade attempts to cut Qatar off from the rest of the world: the land border has been sealed, Qatari overflights banned and shipping lanes closed. The Saudi-led coalition issued 13 demands to lift the blockade, which included shutting al-Jazeera, the TV voice of the Arab spring, and dropping support for the Muslim Brotherhood. Despite US intervention, little has been resolved.

    Diplomats in the region say the issues cannot be resolved, partly because they are not just political – they are personal, too.

    “The rulers have familial relationships and the kinship ties between the Saudis, the Emiratis and the Qataris … they are very, very close to each other,” said one highly-placed source in the region. “This means big political issues are also family issues. Those become very difficult to solve, especially when the Saudis and the Emiratis want regime change.”

    In the fractious world of Middle Eastern politics, where absolute monarchs trade on their bloodline and piety, family dissent is often stalled by dispersing privilege and cash. However, these are tumultuous times in the Arab world, which makes this “Game of Thrones” dispute all the more dangerous.

    The UAE and Saudi Arabia are both trapped in a costly and open-ended war in Yemen. Plummeting oil prices hit both economies hard. Qatar, which is more dependent on gas, is tightening its belt, too, but its population is smaller and wealthier in per capita terms than its two larger neighbours.

    On paper, the current ruler of Qatar is Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the 37-year-old son of Sheikh Hamad, who formally abdicated in Tamim’s favour in 2013.

    However, Simon Henderson, an influential analyst at the Washington Institute, wrote recently that Hamad, now known as the “father-emir,” was still pulling the strings – a view widely shared in the Middle East.

    In many ways, Hamad is the founder of the new assertive Qatari identity. He picked his fight with the Saudis first on the battlefield when commanding a brigade of Qataris against Saddam Hussein in the Persian Gulf war almost 30 years ago.

    The soldiers of the Hamad brigade were among the first coalition troops to engage Iraqi forces at the battle of Khafji in February 1991. When Saudi forces joined the battle, however, US marines ended up protecting Saudi troops because their Arab allies from Qatar were accidentally raining “friendly fire” on them.

    Things were patched up swiftly after the war but worry lingered, especially as Hamad returned as supreme military commander and a newly decorated war hero. He continued to rile Riyadh, telling the Saudis over a border dispute in 1992 that they would answer to the “barrel of a gun”.

    These fears were realised when the young sheikh deposed his father, Khalifa, who had left the country for Geneva, where he was allegedly undergoing medical treatment. Hamad sent tanks to surround the royal court, which surrendered meekly.

    Since then, he has been a disruptive force in the region. Sheikh Hamad founded al-Jazeera, which, along with social media, has in recent years stirred public opinion in ways Arab governments – especially the Saudis – did not appreciate.

    Many believe the current conflict may be rooted in these old rivalries. The source agreed, telling the Guardian: “The Saudis and the Emiratis told the current emir ‘you make your father submit to us’. They moved very aggressively against the father. How can the son do that?”

    The Sauds’ influence in Qatar has long been through prominent families, most notably that of the Attiyahs, who are their blood relations. Hamad was brought up not by al-Thanis but in the house of his maternal uncle, an Attiyah.

    However, rather than marry an Attiyah to continue ties with the Sauds, Hamad cemented his powerbase in the Thanis by marrying the daughters of two powerful uncles.

    But his favourite spouse and mother of the current emir is Sheikha Mozah, the only wife he is seen in public with and who hails from a radical tradition. Her father, a commoner, had been jailed by Hamad’s father after making public call for the fair distribution of wealth in the country.

    Hamad’s most influential adviser is not an Attiyah – another break from tradition – but a Thani, Hamad bin Jassim, who bet that buying influence within the rising force of political Islam would carve out long-term stability for the tiny state, a departure from the rest of the Gulf states.

    Qatar’s foreign policy has its detractors. Fawaz al-Attiyah, a former Qatari diplomat, said that to him “and others who had to step back or be sidelined it was obvious that the ad hoc policy objectives and reckless strategies [by Doha] were bound to fail”.

    This was the backdrop to a rivalry between the Sauds and the Thanis, said a Qatari familiar with both, who are bound together by marriage and religion. Both the Thanis and Sauds originate from the peninsula’s Nejd interior, from where austere Wahhabism sprung. Both seek to claim their version of Wahhabism is the right path.

    In Qatar, women are allowed to drive, unlike in Saudi Arabia. There are no religious police forcing businesses to shut during prayer times. Hamad has gone as far to claim the Thanis are related to al-Wahab, an affront to the Saudis who claim proprietorship over the austere version of Islam.

    Allen Fromherz, academic and author of Qatar: Rise to Power and Influence, said: “Qatar really claims a Wahhabism of the sea. It’s a more open and flexible notion of Wahhabism than that of the desert. Sheikh Hamad’s claim of lineage to al-Wahhab may be a way of shoring up the legitimacy of this alternate vision of Wahhabism and a way of disarming those who would claim that Qataris are not truly Wahhabi In essence, Sheikh Hamad is trying to take the high road and move forward even faster than the Saudis.”

    Another factor is Hamad’s public backing of democracy; he told US television in 2003 that “any people that want to develop their countries ... have to practise democracy. That’s what I believe.” Although he did not make good on a promise to have an Qatari elected parliament in 2013, his backing of the ballot box annoyed neighbouring ruling families.

    One of those angered by such talk was UAE’s crown prince and its de facto ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who has long harboured misgivings about Qatar. Cables obtained by WikiLeaks show him raging in 2009 that Qatar was just “part of the Muslim Brotherhood”.

    In fact, the UAE has often intervened in royal politics, backing different branches of the Thani clan. This began as soon Britain announced it would be leaving the Gulf in 1968 and plans were hatched for Qatar to be part of the UAE.

    This idea was buried was in 1972 when the then Qatari emir, Sheikh Ahmad, who had proposed creating a greater federation of Arab Emirates and ruled languidly from his villa in Switzerland, was ousted while on a hunting trip in Iran by his cousin Sheikh Khalifa. Sheikh Ahmad ended up in Dubai and married the daughter of the city state’s fabulously wealthy emir.

    UAE has since taken sides in Thani family rows, most notably for years allowing Hamad’s father to stay in their territory where he plotted counter-coups, all of which failed.

    This was the setting when a pro-Saudi newspaper splashed on 1 June with the sensational news that the descendants of Sheikh Ahmad had “apologised” for Qatar’s present day rulers, whom they allegedly had “disowned”.

    However, a Qatari with links to the royal court told the Guardian that this was “fake news from the Emirati intelligence”. The UAE has denied it orchestrated the hacking of news sites in order to post incendiary false quotes or that it is destabilising the current regime.

    The Qatari source said few sheikhs or family members wanted to be found on the wrong side of Doha’s power game, pointing out that dissident Thanis who had supported coup attempts faced dire consequences in the past. In 2001, Thanis had been sentenced to death for conspiring for the overthrow of Hamad.

    The source added: “Sheikh Ahmad’s family [are] keeping their heads down. No one is saying anything.”

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    Quote Originally Posted by eatshitndie View Post
    that's why qatar is in a difficult position, on a rock and hard place. the u.s. will not abandon the base there but the base means shit when saudis assemble a coalition of blockade. a lesson for sg if neighbors becum radicalized and decide to gang up.
    No need to think so hard lah. Just poison the water from jb.

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    Thanks, really good, first one I read that gave the "personal" rather than political context. Also the first to mention that Mohammad of the Zayeds is the defacto ruler of UAE.

    Quote Originally Posted by gatehousethetinkertailor View Post
    The long-running family rivalries behind the Qatar crisis
    Randeep Ramesh Friday 21 July 2017 05.00 BST

    It is a row that is roiling the Middle East, pitting the wealthiest and most influential Arab sheikhdoms against each other, and sparking weeks of shuttle diplomacy. However, behind the Saudi Arabia-led blockade of Qatar’s air, land and sea ports lies a long-running family feud.

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    Another significant piece of news in particular that Gen Huraini is still in play and not under house arrest as reported by the New York Times yesterday* - I am told that the Saudis are livid that NYT is sticking by their line that it was a face-saving measure and also with the recent article from Washington Post about the characterisation of a coup taking place:

    Saudi Arabia Overhauls Security Apparatus
    New national security body will handle intelligence and counterterrorism functions, taking over duties held by ministry of interior
    By Margherita Stancati July 20, 2017 7:17 p.m. ET

    BEIRUT—Saudi Arabia on Thursday announced far-reaching changes to its security apparatus, establishing a new entity in charge of national security and stripping power from the ministry of interior.

    The new body, called the State Security Directorate, will report directly to the Saudi monarch and take over key responsibilities from the ministry of interior, including domestic intelligence, special-operation forces and other counterterrorism functions.

    The announcement, made in a series of royal decrees, came weeks after a major leadership reshuffle in the kingdom that resulted in the removal of former Crown Prince and Minister of Interior Mohammed bin Nayef from his posts.

    He was replaced as crown prince by Mohammed bin Salman, the monarch’s powerful 31-year-old son, who is spearheading an overhaul of the kingdom’s economy and government bureaucracy under a program known as Vision 2030.

    Saudi Arabia is one of America’s most important security allies in the Middle East, and U.S. officials had long viewed Mohammed bin Nayef, known as Saudi Arabia’s counterterrorism czar, as one of Washington’s most trusted partners in the kingdom.

    In a show of continuity with his tenure, one of Mohammed bin Nayef’s closest aides, Gen. Abdulaziz al Huwairini, was selected to lead the new security body. He retains his role as head of the domestic intelligence agency, the Mabahith.

    A Saudi official said the change would elevate the work of Saudi Arabia’s counterterror forces. Gen. al Huwairini is well known to U.S. officials and will report directly to the king, the official said.

    “The rationale here is a matter of efficiency,” the official said. ”This will be an improvement to our counterterror capabilities.”

    The changes help reduce the bureaucratic load on the ministry of interior, which handles issues ranging from traffic control and marriage-related administrative tasks, on top of its previous counterterrorism duties.

    “A lot of the important divisions of the ministry of interior now answer directly to the Directorate of State Security—anything that touches directly on counterterrorism and state security,” said Mohammed Alyahya, a Saudi political analyst and a nonresident fellow with the Atlantic Council. “Huwairini was one of the most important people under Mohammed bin Nayef—and he is now the head of this new body established under Mohammed bin Salman. It was a seamless transition.”

    Mohammed bin Nayef was in charge of Saudi Arabia’s successful campaign against al Qaeda in the mid-2000s and more recently took on the challenge of confronting Islamic State, whose loyalists have carried out small-scale attacks in the kingdom.

    The new crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who is also minister of defense, has increasingly assumed a more prominent role on security matters since his father became king in early 2015. He is leading Saudi Arabia’s military involvement in Yemen and is seeking to establish a loose coalition of Muslim-majority countries dedicated to countering terrorism.

    —Felicia Schwartz in Washington, D.C., contributed to this article.

    Write to Margherita Stancati at [email protected]

    The overhaul occurred overnight and a number of royal decrees were issued:

    Saudi security system overhauled on overnight royal decrees
    Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has issued a series of overnight decrees to overhaul the country’s security and intelligence apparatus, a move that could spark fresh concerns about the royal’s increased inclination to give more power to his son and the second to the throne Mohammed.

    Saudi Arabia's official news agency SPA said Thursday that King Salman had issued decrees for the creation of a new security agency, which will take almost all responsibilities on intelligence and counter-terrorism operations from the Interior Ministry.

    The SPA said the new unit, entitled the Presidency of State Security, will be headed by intelligence chief General Abdel Aziz bin Mohammed al-Houeiriny and will be overseen directly by King Salman. That would also elevate Houeiriny, a senior Interior Ministry official, and his deputy to the rank of ministers.

    The report said the aim of the new shake-up in the security system was to enable the Saudi government “to face all security challenges with a high degree of flexibility and readiness and the ability to move quickly to face any emergency.”

    However, the abrupt changes seem to be in line with Salman’s previous policies of centralizing authority to himself and his 32-year-old son, who ascended to the position of crown prince last month after the king removed Prince Mohammed bin Nayef.

    Reports over the past days have suggested that Nayef, who was also Saudi Arabia’s interior minister, was stripped of his positions against his will and under pressure. Many say the relatively rapid pace of changes in Saudi Arabia’s higher ranks are designed by Salman, now 81, to accelerate Mohammad’s accession to the throne. The crown prince is also Saudi Arabia’s defense minister, supervising a controversial military operation in Yemen.

    The Thursday night shake-up in Saudi security system also elevated the head of Mohammed bin Salman's personal office to the rank of minister.

    As part of the decrees issued Thursday, king Salman also sacked the head of the royal guard, General Hamad al-Awhaly, and replaced him with General Suheil al-Mutiri. In an unrelated appointment, Mohammed bin Abdullah al-Qweiz became the head of the Saudi stock exchange.

    Saudi Official Who Was Thought to Be Under House Arrest Receives a Promotion

    By BEN HUBBARD and JULY 20, 2017
    AMMAN, Jordan — Saudi Arabia announced on Thursday a big promotion for a veteran security officer who United States officials recently said was without a job and confined to his home.

    In a series of royal decrees, King Salman, the Saudi monarch, announced the creation of a new body to handle domestic security and counterterrorism issues and chose the officer, Gen. Abdulaziz al-Huwairini, to lead it.

    The apparent change of fate for General Huwairini underlined the vast changes that have been reshaping the often opaque Saudi power structure since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ousted his cousin and rival, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, last month to become first in line to the throne.

    The rise of Mohammed bin Salman, 31, since his father became king in 2015 has overturned decades of royal tradition and put tremendous power in the hands of a young and relatively inexperienced prince.

    The sweeping changes have disconcerted some Saudi and American officials, who have seen longstanding working relationships between the two allies interrupted.

    General Huwairini had long served as a crucial liaison between the kingdom’s security services and those of the United States, alongside former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, 57, who also served as the interior minister.

    But after Prince Mohammed was replaced as crown prince last month, General Huwairini’s status became unclear. Current and former United States officials told The New York Times that he had been removed from his post and confined to his home because of his close relationship with the former crown prince, whose movements were also restricted.

    The concern was so great that the Central Intelligence Agency even told the White House that the removal of the two men could hamper intelligence sharing with Saudi Arabia, United States officials said.

    But when asked about General Huwairini this week, a senior Saudi official said in a statement that he remained in his job and had pledged allegiance to the new crown prince.

    “If you wish to see him, you can do so by visiting his office at any time,” the statement said.

    The royal decrees announced the creation of the State Security Directorate, which will assume some of the duties of the Interior Ministry, including efforts to combat domestic terrorism.

    The new body was created “to face all security challenges with a high degree of flexibility and readiness,” the decree said. But much about the new directorate remained unclear, including how it would split from the Interior Ministry and when it would be up and running.

    A former senior United States official who tracks Saudi Arabia said that appointing General Huwairini was smart because he had good relationships with the United States, specifically with the F.B.I., and because he is popular with his men and runs a large network of domestic spies across the kingdom.

    But it remained unclear whether he would actually run the new body or merely act as a figurehead, the former official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity so as not to jeopardize contacts inside the kingdom.
    Last edited by gatehousethetinkertailor; 21-07-2017 at 03:23 PM.

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    Beirut: An ailing and supposedly retired autocrat, former Qatari Emir Shaikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani is the voice whispering into current leader Tamim’s ear, urging him to confront Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

    He erroneously believes that three factors will prevent his son from collapse: money, Israel, and Iran.

    Shaikh Hamad was born during the rule of Qatar’s fourth emir, a distant relative named Shaikh Ali Bin Abdullah Al Thani, back in 1952.

    Growing up in Doha he underwent strict schooling at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in London, joining a list of prestigious alumni such as King Hussain of Jordan, King Abdullah II, and Prince William.

    He graduated in 1971, the year his country gained independence from British rule, and joined the armed forces, helping his father seize power from another distant relative, Shaikh Ahmad, less than one year later.

    Under his father’s rule, Hamad rose to the rank of Major General, becoming commander of the Qatari Army and Defence Minister.

    He staged a bloodless coup against his father in 1995, during the latter’s vacation in Switzerland, becoming emir at the age of 43.

    He kept his father in exile ruled for the next 18 years, living in constant fear of a counter coup, until abdicating in favour of his son and success, the present emir, in the summer of 2013.

    By the early 1990s massive gas reserves had been discovered in Qatar, making it one of the richest countries in the world — and briefly, one of the most stable as well.

    Liquefied natural gas production reached 77 million tonnes in 2010, enabling Hamad to transform his tiny country from an underdeveloped nation in the desert into an international economic heavyweight, toppling powerful regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya while trying hard to bring down the one in Damascus.

    His prized Al Jazeera TV, set up in 1996, helped project the country’s newfound image to the outside world, marketing Qatar as a progressive country focused on entrepreneurship and higher education, while using its studios to host notorious figures such as Khalid Meshaal of Hamas and his spiritual godfather, firebrand Muslim Brotherhood cleric Yousuf Al Qaradawi. Wealth, rather than good government, was the main reason for Hamad’s success and international exposure.

    According to the Qatari opposition, the 6,000-member Al Thani family is presently worth €4.5 billion (Dh19 billion), while according to Forbes magazine, Hamad himself is worth $2.2 billion (Dh8 billion), making him one of the world’s richest leaders.

    That wealth, of course, is partially shared with his three wives and 24 children (11 sons and 13 daughters).

    Most of it is scattered across the world in mansions, yachts, and a wide assortment of international brands.

    Much of Hamad’s investment is centralised not in Doha but in London — the city where he spent his college years and reportedly admires greatly, where he bought a 13-bedroom mansion on Cornwall Terrace, overlooking Regent’s Park, for £120 million (Dh582 million). He also acquired 20 per cent of Camden Market and all of Harrod’s, the famous department store on Knightsbridge, buying it for $2.3 billion in 2010.

    He also bought 95 per cent of the Shard (formerly London Bridge Tower), the tallest building in the UK, and 87 stores in the Olympic Village in East London, in addition to Park Lane’s InterContinental Hotel.

    He also owns a quarter of Sainsbury’s supermarket, 8 per cent of the London Stock Exchange, and 7 per cent of Barclays Bank.

    The former emir made a bid for Manchester United, offering to buy them for £1.6 billion, and signed a £125 million sports jersey deal with Barcelona, in addition, of course, to winning the rights to host the 2022 Fifa World Cup.

    In a 2010 interview with The Financial Times, Hamad’s then-prime minister Hamad Bin Jassim, put it bluntly: “We are investing everywhere. Even your Harrod’s — we took it.”

    Outside of London, Hamad owns the Paris department store Printemps, a French football team, 10 per cent of Porsche, 75 per cent of Miramax in the US (which he bought from Disney), 1 per cent of Louis Vuitton, and 6 per cent of Credit Suisse.

    He also bought a series of hotels on the French Riviera in Cannes, like the Majestic, Grand Hyatt, and Carlton.

    All of that money, however, couldn’t buy him real friends or allies in the Arab Gulf and beyond.

    Mainstream media around the world has accused him of being a spoiled Arab royal who is desperate for attention, while lacking substance and fortitude. Westerners scoff at his investment spree, complaining that Europe is at risk of losing its identity if too much of it was bought off by the Qataris.

    Since his standoff started with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt in early June, none of the international brands and businesses he has a stake in stood up for the ex-Emir — far from it, they stood at arm’s length, seeing him as more of an embarrassment than an asset.

    The only countries supporting him, unsurprisingly, are Iran, Turkey, and Israel.

    The Israelis have always feigned disagreement with Qatar, reportedly over the pro-Palestinian coverage of Al Jazeera TV.

    Recently, a leaked report emerged in the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, saying that Tel Aviv was toying with the idea of closing down al Jazeera’s Occupied Jerusalem bureau — comparing it to Nazi propaganda.

    That has not happened, however, it and the story is increasingly appearing to be aimed at giving Hamad a facelift in the Arab world by appearing to be a foe of Israel.

    In fact, Tel Aviv remains supportive of the House of Al Thani, albeit discretely.

    The two countries have maintained cordial relations, with former President Shimon Peres twice visiting Qatar. But this doesn’t mean Israel will protect Qatar.

    The first was in 1996 when he inaugurated Israel’s trade mission to Qatar, followed by a 2007 trip to appear on al Jazeera’s popular Doha Debates.

    “Hamad and Tamim cannot bet on Israel. Nor can they rely on their money amid this standoff,” Syrian analyst Amer Elias told Gulf News.

    Former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni visited Doha in 2008, meeting with Shaikh Hamad and in January 2008, Defence Minister Ehud Barak met with former Qatari Prime Minister Abdullah bin Khalifa Al Thani in Switzerland.

    Qatar unilaterally closed the Israeli Trade Mission in Doha in 2000, during the highest violence of the second intifada but low-profile trade links remain open between Tel Aviv and Doha, which Qataris hope to tap into now, as Gulf markets have been sealed off since last June.

    Doha also signalled that Israeli athletes would be welcome to participate in the FIFA games, and a stadium was named after the Qatari capital in the Israeli city of Sakhnin in the Galilee.

    Four years ago, Qatar transported 60 Yemeni Jews to Israel, at the direct request of the Israeli Government, giving them a connection via Doha, while in 2015 they hosted talks between Israel and Hamas.

    This relationship can be very useful — Hamad Bin Khalifa believes — to break Qatar’s current isolation and save Tamim’s government from collapse.

    Qatar is always ready — on standby alert — to jump to Israel’s assistance, triggering conflict in the Middle East (when needed) or mediating with non-state players who have the ear of Qatari royals, like Hezoullah and Hamas.

    As the Qatari crisis will soon enter its third month, money and support from Iran and Israel has been unable to break Qatar’s growing isolation in the region or end the boycott.

    According to Kemal Alam, a Fellow at the London-based Royal United Service, Qatar has made it a point to “stick its fingers in every conflict in the Muslim World, from the Horn of Africa to the Afghan border.”
    Last edited by gatehousethetinkertailor; 05-08-2017 at 06:37 AM.

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    This thing smells not just from the head but all over. And of all people HBJ - influence paddler par excellence for both political and private gains

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    THis move earlier this week just shows how desperate the situation is for them and how much they are trying to gain international sympathy - the irony of course is that such laws never seem to come into force - one reason probably because the country is full of Sudanese and Egyptian dregs who have always acted worse than locals with other expats just because they have been around for longer or even born there - they will be the first to start applying (even without merit) and the Qataris wont be able to process those applications for this really is a ploy....they took forever to approve the NOC laws and even then the changes were largely cosmetic....but of course the announcement that the law had been approved was carried positively in the Qatar daily bogrolls....

    Qatar permanent residency offer a ploy to keep expatriates from leaving
    Reaction muted on social media with many users skeptical that such a move will actually happen
    Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief

    Dubai: Amid growing concerns its expatriates are pondering flowing out of the country following the inexorably growing crisis that erupted on June 5, Qatar has moved to offer some of its foreigners a new residence status that could motivate them to stay.

    Qatar, where foreigners make up 88 per cent of the total population, hopes that by affording skilled expatriates the same education and healthcare rights as Qataris and property ownership, it will not lose them and, will not have, consequently, to face inevitable crippling challenges.

    “Qatar is now moving ahead with a plan to ensure it keeps the people it desperately needs in the country following the mounting pressure resulting from the new situation after three Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and Egypt severed their diplomatic and trade ties with Doha,” Mohammad Jaber, an analyst, said.

    “It also wants to play a charm offensive game to win sympathy for adopting a more friendly and flexible approach with expatriates in a region where the sponsorship system has been dominant.”

    On his part, UAE Minister of State and Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, said that Qatar’s dependency on media, marketing “fictitious” accounts, has been exposed as it counters “human logic”.

    Under the new scheme announced by the cabinet, permanent residency ID holders will receive the same treatment as Qataris in education and healthcare in public institutions and will be given priority, after locals, in holding public military and civil jobs.

    “In addition, holders of that ID have the right to own property and engage in some commercial businesses without the need to have a Qatari partner, in line with the executive decisions that will be issued by the cabinet according to the provisions of the law,” a statement issued on Wednesday said.

    The husbands of local women and those with “special competencies” needed by the state can also qualify.

    Comments on social media were more cautious than enthusiastic.

    “What about your kids? Does it get passed down to them? If not, then still no real incentive to stay in Qatar long time,” the commenter posted.

    “I wouldn’t get too excited, it’s probably more of an aspiration than something that is likely to happen.”

    Foreigners keen on the status must apply to the Ministry of Interior, but their application will have to be approved by a special committee to be set up to sift through the applications.

    The idea of granting foreigners with “special competencies” a more secure permanent residency status in Qatar had been floating for several years.

    Several people born and raised in Qatar have also called for the special status that would eliminate the sponsorship rules and exit permit requirements and would give them priority in hiring and flexible property ownership.

    The official Qatar’s National Development Strategy 2011-2016, concluding that “turnover is substantial among high-skilled labour, especially in the health and education sectors, and that the rising proportion of expatriate workers in the past decade has created considerable risks, including to the economy, should a major crisis force expatriates to leave”, recommended “a recruitment and retention programme, including a review and revision as may be necessary, of Qatar’s sponsorship system,” as part of the country’s efforts to retain skilled expatriates.

    However, the state seemed to ignore the recommendation until Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt severed their ties with Qatar and Doha found itself in the face of new challenges that could make thousands of skilled expatriates leave the country.

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    The dam is indeed showing cracks.

    On the other side, EPL football is more important than their foreign policy! After pressure from local telcos, the ban on Al JAzeera's cable network BeIN was lifted after 45 days. And buying Neymar of all things in this time and moment does not look coincidental.

    My understanding is that Egyptians have lost favour across the Gulf in the last decade where in the past they were top of the expat food chain.

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    Quote Originally Posted by scroobal View Post
    The dam is indeed showing cracks.

    On the other side, EPL football is more important than their foreign policy! After pressure from local telcos, the ban on Al JAzeera's cable network BeIN was lifted after 45 days. And buying Neymar of all things in this time and moment does not look coincidental.

    My understanding is that Egyptians have lost favour across the Gulf in the last decade where in the past they were top of the expat food chain.
    The saying in Qatar is if you want your business to fail hand it over to the Egyptians. In Dubai, the saying is if you want your business to succeed hand it over to the Palestinians. In both cases if you want to make the Egyptians work, then makes sure their supervisor is either Palestinian or Lebanese.

    Here is a broader recent view on the general state of affairs:

    The Arab World Has Never Recovered From the Loss of 1967

    Fifty years after the Six-Day War, the intellectualism that once lit up the Middle East has been all but extinguished by corrupt regimes and perverse religiosity.
    June 5, 2017

    On Dec. 11, 2016, Sadiq Jalal al-Azm, Syria’s most consequential public intellectual in the last half-century, died in Berlin. He was 82 years old. In his last conscious days, Azm, like numerous other Syrian exiles, watched from afar the slow, methodical massacre of rebel-held eastern Aleppo. For a man who struggled for half a century against Arab tyranny, intellectual vacuity, socio-economic injustice, and sectarian and ethnic bigotry, it must have been particularly cruel to see the victory of these forces in the physical destruction of Aleppo, the jewel of Syria’s ancient and famed cities. From the heady days of intellectual debates over the perennial question of “what went wrong” in the Arab world to his last deathbed moments of solitude and sober reflection, Azm was a critical witness to the Arabs’ long descent into the heart of darkness.

    Fifty years after Azm and other Arab intellectuals started to mercilessly deconstruct their ossified political orders, reactionary and primitive religious structures, and stagnant societies, the Arab world has descended further into darkness. Physical, intellectual, and political desolation has claimed many of the once lively metropolises of the Arab region — Damascus, Aleppo, Baghdad, Mosul, Cairo, and Alexandria — with only Beirut still resisting, albeit teetering on the edge. For centuries, these cities constituted a rich human and linguistic mosaic of ancient communities including Muslims, Christians, Jews, Druze, Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, and Circassians. In modern times, they were joined by Greek, Armenian, and Italian communities. A vibrant cosmopolitanism found home in the port cities of Alexandria and Beirut and the cities of the hinterland, such as Aleppo, Damascus, and Baghdad.

    As a teenager roaming the streets of Beirut, I would hear a babel of languages: Arabic, French, English, Armenian, Greek, and Kurdish. Admittedly, that thriving cosmopolitanism had its drawbacks amid a brittle world of uncertainties and inequalities. The rural hinterland was populated by resentful peasants, who could see and envy from afar the shimmering lights of the forbidden cities and their hidden rewards.

    As a young man, I witnessed the surprising outburst of enthusiasm that arose in the wake of the collective Arab disbelief and humiliation following the swift, crushing defeat of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan at the hands of Israel in six days. The war allowed Israel to seize Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, the Syrian Golan Heights, and the West Bank and Gaza and eventually marked the death knell for the idea of Arab nationalism embodied by Egypt’s then-president, Gamal Abdel Nasser.

    Initially, most Arabs sought refuge in denial, refusing to admit that their military rout was emblematic of deeper rotten cultural maladies and social defects and instead calling the disastrous defeat a temporary “setback.” Many wanted badly to believe that Israel’s victory was achieved only because of Western machinations and deception, since it was almost an article of faith among many Arab nationalists, leftists, and Islamists that Israel was an “artificial entity” — an extension of imperialism in the Arab East.

    The belief among Arabs that their armies would prevail in the war was almost universal. I was 17 years old then, and I still vividly remember the searing pain I felt, mixed with unadulterated rage directed mostly against the self-appointed guardians of Arab patrimony.

    Fifty years after the defeat, the brittle world the Arabs built is unraveling in civil wars fought with abandon by cruel men supported by equally cruel foreign and regional marauders. Ancient cities that survived many an invader now lay in ruins in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen. Schools and hospitals, places of worship, bakeries and pharmacies — all were repeatedly violated by governments and rebels. Millions of bereft souls wandered over large swaths of scorched earth before fleeing their countries, by choice or by force, forming rivers of refugees and spilling over into neighboring lands and then scattering across Europe. A tragic modern version of the “Middle Passage” has taken place in the Mediterranean, whose deceptively calm waves became the watery graves of many a refugee braving the sea on rickety, overflowing boats operated by greedy seamen, the slave traders of yesteryear. In the second half of the second decade of the 21st century, Arabs — who barely constitute 5 percent of the world’s population — burdened the world with more than 50 percent of its refugees.

    Today, Arabs find themselves living in the shadow of more powerful non-Arab neighbors: Israel, Turkey, and Iran. In both Syria and Iraq, the concept of a unitary national identity has collapsed along sectarian and ethnic fault lines, thus deepening political, social, and cultural polarizations and making the reunification of both countries all but impossible. Egypt, once a regional power, has been thoroughly marginalized politically in the last few decades, remaining afloat economically only because of handouts from the Arab Gulf states. The vaunted Egyptian military is even incapable of imposing its total sovereignty over the Sinai Peninsula. It finds itself reliant on the might of the Israeli Air Force — the same air force that decimated Egyptian air power on June 5, 1967 — in the fight against the so-called Islamic State and other extremists.

    Cairo has ceased to be the cultural mecca of the Arabs, with none of its universities, research centers, laboratories, publications, studios, or galleries producing meaningful science, knowledge, or art. Beirut, the imperfect liberal oasis of my youth, is meanwhile being suffocated by an ossified, corrupt, and feudal political system and by a predatory, cunning, and ruthless paramilitary force: Hezbollah. The group is among the most lethal nonstate actors in the world, serving effectively as Iran’s foreign legion — a Shiite version of the famed Ottoman Janissaries.

    From the ashes, a questioning

    The Sadiq Jalal al-Azm I knew saw such developments as the culmination of his worst fears. I met him in 1968 after the publication of his seminal book Self-Criticism After the Defeat, a withering critique of all facets of Arab life. Published in Beirut, the book argued that only a radical dismantling of the entrenched structures of Arab society and culture, a total rejection of the myths and superstition that support them, coupled with sweeping social and political reforms, could transcend the defeat. It became a milestone in modern Arab intellectual history and caused a storm of contradictory reactions.

    But Azm wasn’t done tearing down the Arab world’s sacred cows. In 1969, he published a collection of essays titled Critique of Religious Thought. This time, he directed his critical blows against the backward religious authorities and their abuse of religion to serve the political powers, which fostered fatalism and ignorance. He juxtaposed these atavistic notions with the values of rational thinking and scientific inquiry.

    The reaction from the custodians of the status quo and the religious authorities to this “blasphemy” from the most prominent leftist Arab intellectual was swift and unforgiving. Lebanon’s Sunni mufti and a collection of hypocritical politicians urged the state to ban the book, and the government briefly arrested Azm and charged him with “inciting sectarianism” — a laughable charge since Azm did not spare the Christian religious establishment.

    After Azm’s arrest, his legion of supporters among the literati, intellectuals, and activists in Beirut and beyond began to mount a counterattack. By 1969, Adonis, the greatest modern Arab poet — a Syrian by birth who spent his most productive years in Beirut — had established the literary journal Mawaqif (“Positions”), which became the venue for critical thinking and avant-garde literature and art. Adonis’s poems and trenchant essays in Mawaqif were magnificently evocative and prescient, the stuff that underpins a civilization. I was among the lucky few to be invited to his weekly salon, along with some of the mostly young and gifted Arab writers and artists who came to Beirut to join the good fight for enlightenment. The biggest thrill in my youthful years was seeing my name in print for the first time in Mawaqif above a few poems Adonis thought worthy of publication.

    The agitation against Azm’s trial was mounting, and I felt emboldened enough to go to court along with a few friends to show solidarity with our hero. Azm was concerned about the safety of his family after receiving death threats, and as a precaution he sent his wife to Jordan. However, Azm’s ordeal was short: He was released from prison after two weeks, the case against him was dismissed, and his book was celebrated as a progressive victory against the forces of backwardness.

    Of all the Arab intellectuals and artists who transformed Beirut after 1967 into the most lively and cultured city in the Arab world, the Syrians had the pride of place. In addition to Azm and Adonis, other Syrian literary luminaries — among them playwright Saadallah Wannous and poets Muhammad al-Maghout and Nizar Qabbani — displayed tremendous courage in exposing the entrenched taboos and sacred religious dogmas of Islam and the political myths of the Arab nationalist movement in its Nasserite and Baathist manifestations. Wannous’s gripping play An Evening Party for the Fifth of June — first published in Mawaqif and then produced in Beirut to critical and popular acclaim — was incisive in its deconstruction of the underlying political and social causes for the defeat. The play, in which some actors sat among the audience, helped revolutionize theater in the Arab world.

    In the early 1970s, new weekly and monthly publications came into being, joining established ones like the progressive periodicals Al-Talia and Al-Tariq, as well as the daily An -Nahar, whose weekly supplement, edited by the Lebanese poet and commentator Ounsi el-Hajj, featured pages brimming with exciting debates and profound soul-searching and introspection. The Palestinian novelist Ghassan Kanafani, who lived in Beirut, produced some of his best literary work and his most scathing political commentary in those years. Beirut’s publishing houses, theaters, art galleries, and universities — including the famed American University of Beirut — were humming with creative activities. That moment of Arab enthusiasm was possible only in Beirut, at that time the freest, most cosmopolitan Arab capital.

    There was a faint attempt by some Arab nationalist writers to resuscitate Arabism, but to no avail.
    The great intellectual debate in the years after the June 1967 war raged mainly between the progressive current (Azm, Adonis et al.) and an assortment of Islamists from many Arab states, who saw the defeat, correctly, as the historic rout of Arab nationalism. There was a faint attempt by some Arab nationalist writers to resuscitate Arabism, but to no avail. I have always believed that it was only after the 1967 defeat that the Arab Islamists, who were mocked and dismissed by the left in previous decades, began to regroup and reassert themselves intellectually and politically as the only “authentic” alternative to Arab nationalism. None of us who were politically active in those years would have believed that the exclusivist and reactionary Islamists, mainly the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood movement and its various branches, and later the Shiite Hezbollah, would dominate Arab life and politics in subsequent decades.

    War comes again

    That historic moment of cultural and political ferment and renewal in Beirut began to dissipate in 1973, as Arab autocracy and the forces of the status quo got their second act. During the October War that year, Egyptian and Syrian forces breached Israeli defenses and performed relatively well, at least in the first few days of fighting. The war achieved its immediate political goal — to draw in American mediation — and allowed Egypt and Syria, having regained some of their territories, to claim that they had restored their credibility.

    By that time, however, the Palestinian national movement, represented by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), had failed to live up to its claim that it represented the genuine “secular” alternative to the humiliated Arab nationalists. The PLO’s blunders in Jordan and Lebanon — in which it intervened in the domestic affairs of both countries and intimidated local communities — deprived the leadership of the pretense that the movement was different from the rest of the Arab regimes. Finally, the civil war in Lebanon, which began in 1975, decisively killed the fleeting moment of hope and promise that was Beirut.

    The forces of autocracy and reaction were back in control. But the world they maintained, even when it looked deceptively strong behind a fake veneer of stability and legitimacy, could not hide the fact that there was something rotten in the world of the Arabs. From the middle of the 1970s until the beginning of the Tunisian uprising in December 2010, several Arab states experienced spasms of violence, some of which could be qualified as civil wars (Algeria in the early 1990s; Syria from 1978 to 1982; Iraq, particularly in 1991), low-intensity civil strife, or limited, mostly peaceful uprisings. All of those upheavals were put down by brute force. In Syria, Iraq, and Algeria, the regimes used savage means to crush their armed opponents, including the use of chemical weapons in Iraq and the uprooting of people from their ancestral homes. Occasionally, such as in the case of Algeria, the armed opposition matched the savagery of the regimes.

    In 1979, the Middle East was shaken to its core by three major political earthquakes: the Islamic revolution in Iran, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the violent takeover of the Grand Mosque in Mecca. From the Iraqi port city of Basra to Beirut, these cataclysmic events brought in their wake long wars, invasions, mass killing of peoples because of their ethnic or religious backgrounds, and unspeakable and unprecedented sectarian Sunni-Shiite bloodletting.

    The attack in Mecca, an apocalyptic Sunni attempt to herald the coming of the new Mahdi, arose from an intolerant religious fanaticism that has a modern parallel in the Islamic State. The reaction of the Saudi monarchy to that attack could not have been worse. The austere Islam preached by the extremists who stormed the Great Mosque was the same Islam that the Saudi state sponsored and embraced with renewed vigor after 1979, as if to prove that no Sunni Muslim could be more puritan or more exclusivist than the Wahhabism it spread across the Muslim world. The Islamization of the war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan initially helped the Saudis, but today they and the rest of the world are reaping the apocalyptic wrath that the self-appointed custodians of puritan Islam in Riyadh began sowing decades ago.

    The war for Islam

    These are the roots of the current Sunni-Shiite sectarian conflict — not any theological dispute or ancient hatred. The foot soldiers who are doing the killing may believe that they are defending what is sacred in their sect, but those who mobilized them know the struggle is at its core a recent political phenomenon. It is a conflict that pits Iran and its Shiite allies in the region against Saudi Arabia and other Sunni allies over political power and tangible strategic interests.

    The revolution in Iran brought the country’s Shiite ethos to the fore. Meanwhile, Sunni identity in the Arab world was undergoing a revival after the defeat of “secular” Arab nationalism. In Syria, the majority Sunnis had been chafing under Baath rule since the 1960s, where the levers of real power were in the hands of the Alawite minority, an offshoot sect of Shiism. In Iraq, Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iran unleashed the monsters of sectarianism on a massive scale — but it was the American invasion in 2003 that pushed the country into a Sunni-Shiite civil war that is likely to continue for years to come.

    There is also an undercurrent of economic and class resentment at the heart of the current upheavals in the Arab world. After World War II, the first waves of young, ambitious, and misguided military officers who hailed from the upper classes but claimed to be representing the resentful rural hinterland took over power in the cosmopolitan cities of Cairo, Baghdad, and Damascus. The regimes they overthrew were not full democracies but were relatively open and tolerant systems that embraced diversity and wanted to maintain good relations with the West. They had allowed for the formation of political parties and lively if not fully free media. Certainly, the monarchies in Egypt and Iraq and the Syrian republic never engaged in the gratuitous violence the petty military officers visited on their people in subsequent years.

    For decades, these new Arab regimes imposed on their peoples a political version of a Faustian bargain: The state will provide social and educational services, government employment, economic subsidies, and other forms of state patronage, provided that the population not agitate for real political empowerment. In the states that espoused Arab nationalism — such as Syria, Egypt, and Iraq — part of the authoritarian bargain was that citizens should postpone their demands for democracy until the so-called battle for national economic development had been won and until victory in the struggle with Israel and imperialism was secured.

    Many intellectuals accepted this diabolical bargain; those who resisted were persecuted or sought refuge in the sanctuary of Beirut. But after decades of atrocious governance, rapacious authoritarianism, predatory economic monopolies, and the hollowing out of civil society, the rickety scaffolding of those new nation-states, built over ancient civilizations like Iraq and Syria, began to fray and disintegrate. Even the homogeneous states with clear cultural identities and a sense of permanency like Egypt, and to a lesser extent Tunisia, could not escape the storm of discontent that swept the region in 2011, ushering in a new open era of constant sorrows and lamentations.

    The unraveling of Syria may well drag into its maelstrom the fractured country of Lebanon or even Jordan.
    In the June 1967 war, three Arab states were defeated and lost territories to Israel, but their very existence was not in jeopardy. Today, the multiple wars raging in Syria and Iraq, as well as those in Libya and Yemen, are more dangerous, as they grind at the weak foundations of the states. The unraveling of Syria may well drag into its maelstrom the fractured country of Lebanon or even Jordan. The local combatants and their regional and international sponsors appear to have no vision for the future and thus condemn these lands to continue their slow unwinding.

    Israelis chant slogans while waving flags at Damascus Gate on June 1, 2011 during a Jerusalem Day parade in the city's eastern sector to celebrate its capture during the Six-Day War. (Photo credit: GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)

    To the victor go the spoils

    The Arab defeat in June 1967 instantly transformed Israel, the little Sparta, into the region’s military superpower. Fifty years later, Israel has a first-world economy with a high-tech industry capable of competing with other corporations from technologically advanced states. But Israel is a country of paradoxes: It is a democracy for its Jewish citizens, a partial democracy for its Arab citizens, and a mean occupier of the Palestinians of the West Bank while keeping the Gaza Strip in its grip. Israel is at home in the 21st century, but it is also home for Jewish groups that wallow in religious atavism, intolerance, and anti-modernity and that are not dissimilar from the like-minded Muslim groups plaguing Arab lands. Regardless of what Israeli leaders say publicly about possible land compromises with the Palestinians, their actions — in the form of unabated settlement building on Palestinian land — speak of their conviction that Israel should maintain enough territories in the West Bank to make the creation of a viable Palestinian state impossible.

    Despite what U.S. President Donald Trump might wish, there is no incentive for Israel to strike a historic bargain with the Palestinians now or in the near future, since the balance of power is not likely to change. The Palestinians, in turn, have grown dependent on the kindness of strangers from Europe and the United States. The Palestinian leadership exists in stagnation, after wasting many opportunities to pursue a comprehensive and protracted strategy of creative peaceful resistance to occupation that could draw the necessary support from Israelis who don’t want their country to be an occupier in perpetuity, one that gives off a whiff of the old American South.

    The absence of a peaceful way out, and Israel’s insistence on maintaining control over a captive nation, will force the occupied to embrace nihilistic violence such as that promoted by Hamas. But this will not lead to liberation or reconciliation, but to more pain and resentment to the occupied and the occupier alike. The recent phenomenon of Palestinians knifing Israeli soldiers and civilians should not be surprising to Israelis familiar with the history of Jewish resistance to Roman control. The group within the Jewish Zealots known as the Sicarii (Latin for “dagger men”) waged a campaign of stabbing against the Romans and their Jewish sympathizers in the first century. The Sicarii Jews wanted to create a Jewish rebellion against the Romans, but their campaign backfired. It was a nihilistic endeavor — but occupation, and the desire to end it, was at its core.

    It may be difficult for the Arabs of today to seriously reflect on the meaning of the defeat they suffered 50 years ago, given their current calamitous predicament.
    It may be difficult for the Arabs of today to seriously reflect on the meaning of the defeat they suffered 50 years ago, given their current calamitous predicament. A half-century ago in the free sanctuary of Beirut, Arabs engaged in introspection and self-criticism, seeking to answer the central questions of their political life: What went wrong, and how did we reach this nadir? That unique moment of guarded hope and promise lasted but a few years.

    Fifty years later, there is no equivalent to Beirut in which to ask the hard questions about why and how the moment of enthusiasm that followed the 2011 Arab uprisings lasted for only a few months before the peaceful protest movements gave way to violence and civil wars. And in the last half-century, the Palestinian movement — along with its numerous Arab allies — has failed to become a transformational force, just as the uprisings of recent years never became transformational revolutions.

    But the fundamental questions asked by Azm, Adonis, and their supporters 50 years ago are as relevant today as they were then. What is radically different today is that things have been falling apart for years and are likely to continue on this trajectory of death and desolation for the foreseeable time. Cairo has lost its greatness, Baghdad is on its way to becoming almost exclusively a provincial Shiite capital, Aleppo was sacked for the first time in 600 years, and Damascus is a city in fear. Geographically, Alexandria is still on the Mediterranean, but in reality it has become a desolate hinterland. Beirut keeps fighting — but it is getting old and tired and feels abandoned. We now know that there are many ways to pillage great cities.

    Singing about his harsh world in the Mississippi Delta of the 1930s, Charley Patton, to my mind the greatest bluesman in the classical era, belted out: “Every day seem like murder here.” Fifty years after the defeat, it is still the time of assassins in the Arab world. But there are many young Arab voices in politics, the arts, academia, and business who are not willing to give up the good fight. They constitute thousands of points of light keeping hope alive. But the reality is that for years to come, these flickering embers of enlightenment will continue to be engulfed in that endless, thick darkness.

    Hisham Melhem is a columnist for the Lebanese daily An-Nahar. Follow him on Twitter at: @hisham_melhem.
    Last edited by gatehousethetinkertailor; 05-08-2017 at 03:30 PM.

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