New Age Islam
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Islam and the West ( 16 Sept 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Iran Deal Players’ Report Cards: New Age Islam’s Selection From World Press,17 September 2015


New Age Islam Edit Bureau

17 September 2015

Iran Deal Players’ Report Cards

By Thomas L. Friedman

General Petraeus Calls For Recruiting Al Qaeda

By Bill Van Auken

Why Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Neocons Hate the Iran Deal

By Fred Kaplan

In Yemen, Death From Above, Grief Below

By Nasser M. Kutabish

Why Iraq needs a united Sunni authority to face extremism

By Hamdi Malik

Obama’s War Crimes in Yemen

By Niles Williamson

Turkey’s Erdogan: The method behind his madness

By Dr. John C. Hulsman

Detached Netanyahu leads Israel towards isolation

By Yossi Mekelberg



Iran Deal Players’ Report Cards

By Thomas L. Friedman

SEPT. 16, 2015

The Iran nuclear deal is now sealed — from Washington’s end. But since this has been one of America’s most important foreign policy shifts in the last four decades, it’s worth looking back and grading the performance of the key players.

His prediction last week that Israel won’t be around in “25 years” was perfectly timed to complicate President Obama’s effort to get the deal through Congress. Khamenei is a bad guy. When I asked a Middle East expert friend to explain Khamenei’s behavior, he invoked a Yiddish curse on the Iranian: “May all his teeth fall out, except the ones that hurt.”

But he’s also a clever guy. Through this deal Khamenei gets Iran out from under crippling sanctions, which his people want, by pushing the breakout time for Iran to make a nuclear bomb from two months to a year — for 15 years — but getting the world to bless Iran’s “peaceful” nuclear enrichment program, even though it cheated its way there. And he’s done it all while giving his hard-line base the feeling that he’s still actually against this deal and his negotiators the feeling that he’s for it. So all his options are open, depending on how the deal goes.

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Hat’s off, Ali, you’re good. When I sell my house, could I give you a call?

But here’s a note to his parents: “Ali got an A, but he has a tendency to get cocky. He is confident that he can pull off this deal without any transformation in Iran’s domestic politics. I suggest you buy him a good biography of Mikhail Gorbachev.”

Dick Cheney. Grade: F.

I cite Cheney because his opposition to the deal, which he’s been peddling along with a new book, was utterly dishonest, but in a way that summed up much of the knee-jerk Republican opposition: This is a bad deal because Obama was a wimp.

No, this deal is what it is because it reflects the balance of power, and the key factor in that balance is that the Iranians came to believe America would never use force to eliminate their nuclear program. But that’s not all on Obama. Republicans, and Cheney personally, played a big role in the loss of U.S. credibility to threaten Iran with force.

After briefing Congress on Sept. 10, 2007, Gen. David Petraeus told Fox News that Iran was supporting and directing Iraqi Shiite insurgents who have “carried out violent acts against our forces, Iraqi forces and innocent civilians.” Iran was cited for making specially shaped roadside bombs responsible for killing hundreds of U.S. troops. Yet, even though our commanders said that publicly, their bosses — George W. Bush and Dick Cheney — refused to ever order retaliation against Iranian targets. Iran noticed.

Ditto on nukes. As Peter Beinart wrote for The Atlantic last week, Cheney stopped by “Fox News Sunday” to bash Obama’s nuclear deal, “but moderator Chris Wallace, to his credit, wanted to ask Cheney about his own failings on Iran. On the Bush administration’s watch, Wallace noted, Iran’s centrifuges for enriching uranium ‘went from zero to 5,000.’ Cheney protested, declaring that, ‘That happened on Obama’s watch and not on our watch.’ But Wallace held his ground. ‘No, no, no,’ he insisted. ‘By 2009, they were at 5,000.’ Cheney paused for an instant, muttered, ‘right,’ and went back to his talking points.”

Note to his parents: “Dick has a problem telling the truth, and he’s not alone. Some G.O.P. critiques of this deal should be looked at, but they’ll never be taken seriously if the party isn’t straight about its own role in our loss of deterrence vis-à-vis Iran.”

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: Grade C.

No one had more impact in getting the world to impose sanctions and take Iran’s nuclear threat seriously than Netanyahu. But his reckless spat with Obama, which went beyond substance to openly endorsing Obama’s G.O.P. rivals and colluding with G.O.P. House leaders to address Congress — without the president’s support — hurt him, Israel and the deal.

Had Bibi hugged Obama, he could have made Israel effectively the sixth party in the P-5 side of negotiations with Iran and stiffened every spine. Instead, Netanyahu marginalized Israel. And by calling elections in the middle of it all, and forming a far-right cabinet with extremist Jewish settlers, Netanyahu is playing right into Iran’s hands: Iran wants a one-state solution, where Israel never leaves the West Bank and is in permanent conflict with Palestinians and Muslims, so Iran can better delegitimize and isolate Israel.

Note to Netanyahu’s parents: “Bibi won’t be punished for any of his mistakes; domestic U.S. politics will ensure that. But beware: That will only increase the odds that he’ll lead Israel into a permanent, corrosive occupation of the West Bank, make support for Israel an increasingly Republican cause and lose the next generation of American Jews.”

President Obama. Grade: I (Incomplete).

Note to Obama’s parents: “This deal makes sense; it can keep Iran away from a bomb. But Barack should go to bed every night for the next 15 years worrying whether Iran is living up to it. That’s the best way to ensure that he, his party and his successors will stay vigilant and put in place an effective deterrence to Iran ever building a bomb. I hope he gets an A, but only history can give it to him.”


General Petraeus Calls For Recruiting Al Qaeda

By Bill Van Auken

16 September 2015

Last week, US officials once again marked the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington with solemn speeches vowing a never-ending war on terrorism. President Barack Obama spoke to US troops at Fort Meade, Maryland about “significant threats coming from terrorist organizations and a terrorist ideology,” while US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter vowed at a Pentagon ceremony that “terrorists will not escape the long arm and the hard fist of American justice.”

Alongside this official 9/11 rhetoric, which grows more hollow with every passing year, a different discussion is taking place within the ruling political establishment and the military and intelligence apparatus. It centers on a proposal that Washington recruit factions of Al Qaeda—the group blamed for the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 14 years ago—as its proxy troops in a simultaneous war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad.

The point man for this scheme is David Petraeus, the retired four-star Army general who served as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency after postings as the US military commander in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The attention given to Petraeus’ proposal is indicative of the continuing influence that he wields within US ruling circles, despite his sacking as CIA director over illegally passing binders filled with highly classified information to his biographer and mistress, Paula Broadwell. He received only a misdemeanor conviction and a sentence of a $100,000 fine and two years probation for essentially the same offense for which Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in a military prison. Manning leaked information documenting war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq in which Petraeus himself was among those most directly responsible.

In recent weeks, Petraeus has confirmed the thrust of a story that first appeared on the DailyBeast web site, which quoted unnamed sources in Washington to the effect that the retired general “has been quietly urging U.S. officials to consider using so-called moderate members of al Qaeda’s Al Nusra Front to fight ISIS in Syria.”

Petraeus told CNN: “... it might be possible at some point to peel off so-called ‘reconcilables’ who would be willing to renounce Nusra and align with the moderate opposition (supported by the US and the coalition) to fight against Nusra, ISIL, and Assad.”

In promoting his plan, Petraeus boasts about the supposed “success” of his “surge” policy in Iraq, which included the “peeling off” of Sunni elements that had fought against the US occupation, intimidating and bribing them into forming the “Sons of Iraq” militias to combat Al Qaeda in Iraq. In reality, the “Sons of Iraq” quickly disappeared after the US withdrew the bulk of its troops and with the relentless growth of sectarian tensions first fostered by the US occupation’s divide-and-conquer strategy. Today, many of those who comprised the “Sons of Iraq” are part of ISIS.

Some media liberals have feigned shock at Petraeus’ proposal to harness Al Qaeda to the US war wagon in Syria. In reality, the plan is fully in line with policies pursued both before and after 9/11 of using armed Islamist factions to advance US imperialist interests in the Middle East.

Al Qaeda itself was the product of the CIA-orchestrated war waged by the so-called mujahideen against the Soviet-backed government of Afghanistan that plunged that country into decades of war, costing millions of lives. Osama bin Laden worked closely with the CIA and its Pakistani and Saudi intelligence counterparts.

Well before that, US policy in the region was pursued through the support of Islamist elements as a counterweight to radical nationalist and socialist movements in the Arab world. Washington covertly funded and mobilized right-wing Islamists as a crucial component of the CIA-backed 1953 coup that toppled the Mossadegh government, which had nationalized Western oil interests in Iran, ushering in the Shah’s 25-year dictatorship. In Egypt, it secretly supported the Muslim Brotherhood against the government of Col. Abdel Nasser, during the period when it nationalized the Suez Canal.

More recently, the Obama administration relied upon Islamist militias, including elements who had previously been targeted by Washington for their affiliation to Al Qaeda, as proxy ground troops in the 2011 US-NATO air war to topple the secular government of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.

Fresh from its “success” in murdering Gaddafi, destroying Libya’s government and plunging the country into bloody chaos that continues to this day, the White House and the CIA embarked on a similar venture in Syria, relying on similar elements.

Under the guiding hand of the CIA, Washington’s key regional allies—Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar—funneled billions of dollars worth of arms and aid into the Al-Nusra Front, ISIS and other Islamist militias, which have, from the beginning, served as the main fighting force in the Western-backed war for regime change in Syria.

With the rise of ISIS and its offensive last year that routed the US-trained and armed security forces in Iraq, the policy of aggression and subversion pursued by the Obama administration in the region produced a debacle. Billions of dollars more worth of US weaponry fell into the hands of ISIS from the fleeing Iraqi troops.

The proposed turn to the Al-Nusra Front is a tacit admission that the so-called “moderate opposition,” touted for years by US officials, does not exist on the ground in Syria. The Pentagon’s abortive attempt to arm and train “vetted” rebels has proven an unmitigated fiasco, with the handful sent back into Syria being routed and captured by Al-Nusra, to which they swore fealty. The only indigenous force that has effectively resisted ISIS, the Kurdish militias, have themselves become the principal target of Washington’s main ally in the so-called war against ISIS, Turkey, which is concentrating its firepower on destroying them.

Petraeus is not alone in advocating a turn to Al Qaeda-linked elements to do Washington’s dirty work in Syria. Robert S. Ford, the US ambassador to Syria from 2011 to 2014, drafted an article for Middle East Institute this summer calling for Washington to make an approach to Ahrar al-Sham (Free Men of the Levant) another Islamist militia with its roots in Al Qaeda.

Ford acknowledges that Ahrar al-Sham advocates “an Islamic state in Syria” and a “Sunni theocracy,” but claims that it has “ideological and political differences” with Al-Nusra and Al Qaeda. He admits that its record is “problematic,” with its fighters massacring Alawi civilians and desecrating Christian sites, but points in their defense to a propaganda video showing “its fighters visiting priests.”

Ahrar al-Sham’s founders include Abu Khalid al Suri, who was designated as Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri’s representative in the Levant, and Abu Hafs al Masri, an Egyptian, who was a military commander and trainer for Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Both have been killed in the last year fighting with the militia.

The call by key men of the state like Petraeus and Ford for a more explicit turn to Al Qaeda-linked forces in Syria only underscores the complete fraud of the “war on terrorism.” It likewise points to the real aims of US imperialism in its current war in Iraq and Syria. Washington is fighting neither against terrorism nor for “democracy” and “human rights.” It is prosecuting another predatory war of aggression aimed at securing a US stranglehold over the Middle East and its vast energy reserves and thereby preparing for even more catastrophic conflicts with Iran, Russia and China.


Why Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Neocons Hate the Iran Deal

By Fred Kaplan

JULY 14 2015

Here’s the thing to keep in mind about most critics of the Iran nuclear deal that was signed Tuesday morning: Their objections have nothing to do with the details of the deal.

The most diehard opponents—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi King Salman, and a boatload of neocons led by the perennial naysayer John Bolton—issued their fusillades against the accord (“an historic mistake,” “diplomatic Waterloo,” to say nothing of the standard charges of “appeasement” from those with no understanding of history) long before they could possibly have browsed its 159 pages of legalese and technical annexes.

What worries these critics most is not that Iran might enrich its uranium into an A-bomb. (If that were the case, why would they so virulently oppose a deal that put off this prospect by more than a decade?) No, what worries them much more deeply is that Iran might rejoin the community of nations, possibly even as a diplomatic (and eventually trading) partner of the United States and Europe.

European leaders, especially Federica Mogherini, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, and Philip Hammond, Great Britain’s finance minister, have said that the deal holds out hope for the reopening of broad relations with Iran—and that is precisely these critics’ fear.

The fear is hardly without reason. The lifting of sanctions, which this deal will trigger in the next few years, will certainly enrich Iran. This might embolden the government’s expansionist tendencies and its support of militant movements across the Middle East—or it might moderate the country’s stance, as the population (much of it literate and pro-Western) interacts more with the rest of the world and the reigning mullahs die off. There is some basis for this hope of transformation. How long can the mullahs sustain their cries of “Death to America” and their claims of Western encirclement—the rationale for their oppressive domestic policies—when the country’s president and foreign minister, clearly with the approval of the supreme leader, are shaking hands and signing deals with the Great Satan’s emissaries? Nonetheless, the hope is a gamble, and one can’t blame Israelis for refusing to stake too much on its payoff.

The Saudi royal family is another matter. King Salman sees the entire Middle East through the prism of a grand Arab cold war between Sunnis and Shiites—with the Shiites led by Iran and all Shiite movements, for instance the Houthi rebels in Yemen, as nothing more than Iranian proxies. It’s a zero-sum game: American diplomacy with Iran, in this view, amounts to an American betrayal of Saudi Arabia.

What Netanyahu and King Salman want Obama to do is to wage war against Iran—or, more to the point, to fight their wars against Iran for them. That is why they so virulently oppose U.S. diplomacy with Iran—because the more we talk with Iran’s leaders, the less likely we are to go to war with them. Their view is the opposite of Winston Churchill’s: They believe to war-war is better than to jaw-jaw.

Netanyahu is sure to lobby against this deal on Capitol Hill in the coming weeks, just as he lobbied against the negotiations in his dreadful but politically potent speech before Congress in March. Republicans—keen to cheer the Israeli prime minister and to pummel their own president—probably won’t realize that they’re being played as pawns in someone else’s game.

It may be that Netanyahu is overplaying his hand this time. In a speech on Tuesday, he described Iran’s aggression as “several times more dangerous than that of ISIS” and claimed that Iran’s “ultimate true aim” was “taking over the world.” Does anyone believe this? Does Netanyahu, really?

I’m not saying Republican senators and presidential candidates should roll over and endorse this Iran deal without serious scrutiny. But maybe they should read the document, attend some informed briefings, and analyze all the players’ political motives before endorsing a foreign leader’s claim that their own country’s president and secretary of state have surrendered their interests and “capitulated” to Tehran’s.

Fred Kaplan is the author of The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War and 1959: The Year Everything Changed.


In Yemen, Death From Above, Grief Below

By Nasser M. Kutabish

SEPT. 16, 2015

LEWZA was my sister-in-law. She was a good person, one of the kindest I have ever known.

At about 6 a.m. on Saturday a missile hit her house here, east of the presidential palace, in an area called Al Asbahi. She and her 7-year old son, Taha, were killed instantly. Miraculously, her three other children survived. One of them told me that at the moment the missile hit, Lewza had been praying. She was 45.

The missile hit a side of her house and partially destroyed two other buildings. It also killed a 3-year-old boy who lived nearby. It was almost certainly fired by the Saudi-led coalition fighting in this country’s civil war.

I was sleeping in my home about two miles away, in Beit Miad, when my son Jemil knocked on the door of our bedroom. I asked him to come in. My wife left to go to the bathroom. He then told me that his uncle had phoned him to say Lewza’s house had been bombed. I changed my clothes, didn’t bother to wash and left. I didn’t want to face my wife with bad news about her sister.

I got in the car with my sons Jemil, 32, and Redwan, 25, and Redwan’s friend Mohammed. The ride was quick. The streets were nearly empty. When we arrived, we saw the destruction.

Many of the neighborhood houses had no windows, and some had demolished doors and walls. Lewza’s house and two others near it had been severely damaged. The car that had been in their yard was also destroyed.

The missile had taken out the corner of Lewza’s house — the supporting column was gone, and so were the walls, and the concrete roof had collapsed. The rooms were full of shattered concrete, stone and furniture. Part of the house was still standing, but it would be only a matter of time before it all collapsed.

We entered the house and were met by Lewza’s nephew. “My aunt and her son, Taha, are dead,” he told us. I assumed the bodies would be taken to the house of Hashim, Lewza’s brother, who lived nearby. As I was leaving, a man came out and told me that one of my sons had collapsed in the yard. I went back and found Redwan lying on the ground, unconscious. We lifted him and took him out of the yard, where somebody fetched water and sprayed his face and head, and he was revived.

Soon my wife and my two daughters, along with my son Wasim, who is visiting from Saudi Arabia, arrived in a taxi. Before they could get out, I got in the back seat and asked the driver to go to Hashim’s house. In the car, my wife asked about her sister and the children. I held her with both hands and told her that Lewza and little Taha were dead. She and the children began crying hysterically. I told the driver not to stop.

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At the house we were met by Hashim’s wife, who told us the bodies were not there. My wife was crying, asking me to show her her sister’s body. I promised her that I would bring the bodies back and quickly returned to what was left of Lewza’s house.

On the way I phoned Hashim. He was in a hospital, where Taha’s body had been taken. I asked him where Lewza’s body was. He started to cry. Between sobs, I understood that he was telling me that she was still under the wreckage of the house — the collapsed roof, shattered furniture and the debris of concrete and stone.

Somebody needed to take charge of the situation. I was the eldest. I called my children, their friends, the nephews and neighbors and told them that we had to organize a search for Lewza’s body. They all agreed. I asked everyone near us to either help or leave us to do the job.

About 15 of us formed a line and started removing the debris one piece at a time, each person passing bits of wreckage to the person next to him. In 30 minutes, we’d cleared the road and yard. We saved any paper with writing on it, and any furniture we could salvage, and put it in a room that was not damaged.

Working in the house for the next three hours, we collected small pieces of Lewza’s flesh, bones and hair, all mixed with blood and body fluids. Some got sick and vomited. We found the remainder of her body under stacks of concrete and furniture. We pried it out. One of her legs was missing. Half her face and head were gone. She was beyond recognition. I knew right there and then that I would not fulfill my promise to my wife. I was not going to let her see her sister. Better that she remember Lewza’s beautiful face as she knew it.

I then phoned Hashim and told him that we had found Lewza’s body, without giving him details — I was relieved that he did not ask. I told him that I would make the burial arrangements and rent a hall for people to come pay their condolences and share our sorrow. We took Lewza’s remains to the mosque for the funeral service, and waited for Hashim, who was bringing Taha’s body. There was a crowd of about 200 people there to mourn with us. We shared a sense of hurt, grief and helplessness. Even now, I am stuck between hating myself for being a citizen of a poor country and hating the Saudis and their allies for being rich.

In the few days before the bombing, we had all visited and spoken with Lewza. As usual, she received us with tenderness and love. We talked about Wasim’s coming marriage celebration. We talked about the future, a future that has now been taken away.

On Sunday, after the burial, we went to Lewza’s house with laborers to continue clearing it. There we found the missing half of her head. We took it to the burial place and dug again, about three feet deep, and laid it there, along with the rest of her remains.

This is the first time in my life I’ve had to bury one human being twice.

Nasser M. Kutabish is a general manager at the Fire Protection Center in Sana, Yemen.


Why Iraq needs a united Sunni authority to face extremism

By Hamdi Malik

Spt 01, 2015

Defeating the Islamic State (IS) and other extremist organizations will take a many-pronged approach requiring the cooperation of the Iraqi government and unity among religious leaders.

It seems evident today that a multidimensional strategy is required — one that considers military, security, political and even economic approaches. Such a strategy should also focus on the intellectual and religious aspects of IS' destructive ideology.

IS gave its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, supreme religious power over the world's Sunni Muslims after he declared the rise of the Islamic caliphate on June 29, 2014. Baghdadi gained legitimacy among his partisans by fitting the requirements of a "vilayet." Historically, a Muslim caliph should have Sharia knowledge, descend from the Prophet Muhammad’s tribal lineage — the Qureish tribe — and be sane. Baghdadi is all of this, in addition to having a career rife with jihadism.

IS relies on Islamic religious heritage — though this is debatable — in all its activities, including murder, slaughter, enslavement of women and the burning of detainees alive.

In his most recent voice recording on May 14, Baghdadi used Quranic verses and Islamic religious texts to support his extremist version of Islam, which he summarized as follows: “Dear Muslims, Islam was never a religion of peace. Islam is a religion of combat.”

This radical religious rhetoric coupled with heinous violence was strongly condemned by some Sunni clerics in Iraq and abroad. On April 22, 2014, former Sunni Endowment Diwan head Mahmoud Sumaidaie described IS as an infidel, spiteful group. On Sept. 7, 2014, Iraq’s Sunni Grand Mufti Mahdi al-Sumaidaie issued a fatwa calling to fight IS.

But these intermittent and uncoordinated statements and stances have been unable to penetrate IS' mindset. IS succeeded in building a religious institution with different divisions and a hierarchy linked through several committees to the supreme religious authority represented by the caliph, Baghdadi, who commands obedience.

IS also spreads its religious ideas through educational and pedagogical curricula by extremist clerics and by publishing speeches and ideas of IS leaders on the Internet and social media. It exploits the absence of a moderate and united Sunni authority in Iraq that would be capable of deterring IS' extremist behavior and the Sharia courts in regions under its control or influence.

After the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime on April 9, 2003, the prevalence of radical armed groups contributed to institutionalizing some extremist notions, such as using jihadism to impose religious control on Islamic communities.

That concept was nurtured by the chaotic state of the telecommunications sector in Iraq that allowed radical satellite channels and websites to broadcast an extremist image of Islam that is unfamiliar to Iraqi Sunni society, which is known for its religious moderation. For instance, Wesal TV, which claims its mission is to reveal the absurdity of the Shiite sect, pitted Sunnis against Shiites.

Yahya al-Kabisi, an Iraqi researcher in political affairs, noted in an article on May 6, 2013, that a state of hostility has prevailed throughout history between Iraq’s Sunnis and the Wahhabi movement, saying, “Sunni Iraq has never witnessed the Salafi Wahhabi trend, except to a very limited extent.”

With the current radical ideological attack on Iraq waged by IS and other extremist groups in neighboring countries, there is a pressing need to form a united Sunni religious authority that can face this escalating expansion. Several factions and religious figures are competing for this position.

Hisham al-Hashimi, a researcher in Islamic Affairs, told Al-Monitor, “The Sunni religious authority in Iraq is loose and unstable due to the different affiliations of scholars, some of whom are Sufis, Salafis, Muslim Brotherhood advocates or followers of the four main Sunni sects [Shafi'i, Hanbali, Hanafi and Maliki]."

According to Hashimi, several groups have tried to establish a supreme Sunni authority over the years. “Those included the Association of Muslim Scholars, the Council of Sunni Scholars, the Iraqi Scholars’ Association, Iraq’s Dar al-Ifta, Sunni Ifta Council and the Fiqh Council of Senior Scholars. But these attempts only widened the rift instead of uniting and organizing Sunnis,” he said.

The deep disagreements between these parties resurfaced recently, after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced he would appoint Abdel Latif al-Humaim as acting head of the Sunni Endowment Diwan. Many Sunni parties were competing for the position.

The Sunni Ifta Council urged Abadi to choose Humaim, and prominent Sunni clerics including Ahmad al-Kubeisi, Abdul Razzaq al-Saadi and Rafe’ al-Rifai supported his nomination. On June 24, the Iraqi Scholars’ Fiqh Council — one of the most important Sunni institutions in Iraq — stated it would not accept Humaim's nomination. The council considered the nomination a breach of the Sunni Endowment Diwan’s 2012 Law No. 56, which requires the council's approval to appoint the Diwan’s head. Such disagreements undermine chances of forming a united and strong Sunni authority. Sunni religious institutions and clerics are the ones to blame in these failed attempts.

Iraqi constitutional organizations, including the executive and legislative authorities, must extend their hands to Sunni religious institutions to form a politically and financially independent Sunni authority that enjoys the Sunnis’ respect and distances them from foreign influence. The parliament and government, which are controlled by Shiite parties, must give up their fear of a strong Sunni competitor. Indeed, some Shiite parties and political figures have always been afraid of a united Sunni platform and capitalize on the political and religious Sunni division. Former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and some of his Shiite allies were accused of marginalizing the Iraqi National List, which represented Sunnis to a large extent, thus leading to itsfinal disintegration.

Experience has proven that the Iraqi political system will not remedy the situation unless there are strong political and religious Sunni figures who clearly recognize a democratic political process, represent the Sunni people and put an end to the Sunni leadership crisis.


Obama’s War Crimes in Yemen

By Niles Williamson

15 September 2015

Speaking before the Human’s Rights Council in Geneva, the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, called for an investigation into allegations of human rights violations by “all parties” in the ongoing conflict in Yemen.

In deliberately neutral terms, Prince Zeid pressed for both sides to show “far greater concern for the protection of civilians” in Yemen. According to the official UN tally, more than 2,000 civilians have been killed and another 4,000 wounded since March, when a Saudi-led coalition began raining bombs down on the country.

In recent weeks, thousands of troops from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Egypt have poured into the country, occupying areas around the southern port city of Aden and the northern province of Marib and setting the stage for a massive assault on the capital of Sana’a, which has been controlled by the Houthi since last fall. Armed and trained by the US military, these forces are preparing to unleash even more carnage against Yemen’s civilians.

If the High Commissioner truly desires to bring to justice the culprits responsible for the mass suffering being inflicted on the population of Yemen, they will not be hard to find. He could start by calling for the indictment of US President Barack Obama and his administration on war crimes charges for their role in facilitating the onslaught fronted by the Saudis.

The Obama administration has routinely relied on the filthy and blood-soaked Saudi monarchy to serve as its gendarme on the Arabian Peninsula, enforcing American imperialist interests with the utmost brutality. With the full support of the Obama administration, the Saudi monarchy sent its military into neighboring Bahrain in 2011 to crush mass protests and prop up the US-backed dictatorship of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

Earlier this month, Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, welcomed with open arms Saudi beheader-in-chief, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, to the White House, where they held friendly discussions about a number of issues important to US interests in the Middle East, including the ongoing assault in Yemen.

The coalition of US puppets led by Saudi Arabia have deployed their American-supplied jet fighters, dropping American bombs guided by American intelligence, in an effort to reinstate the government of President Abdrabuh Monsour Hadi.

The beleaguered president established a government in exile in Riyadh after being forced to flee by Houthi militias, which took over much of the country’s western provinces this spring with the backing of former longtime head of state Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The Obama administration has not only provided Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners with bombs, military intelligence and other logistical support in its air campaign. American refueling planes have been flying daily missions to ensure that coalition warplanes can keep pounding targets throughout the country around the clock. American advisers are vetting targets and working alongside Saudi officers in an operations center in Riyadh, which is overseeing military operations in Yemen.

To coincide with the Saudi monarch’s visit to the US, it was announced that the Pentagon had reached a deal to sell Saudi Arabia one billion dollars’ worth of bombs, refilling the stockpiles which have been drawn down by unrelenting airstrikes against the Yemeni population. The Obama administration previously struck a 20-year, $60 billion weapons deal with Saudi Arabia in 2010, the largest in US history, agreeing to sell them, among other things, modern fighter jets and attack helicopters.

Now in its sixth month, the war has plunged the country into the depths of a humanitarian disaster. Human rights organizations estimate that 21 million people, approximately 80 percent of the country’s population, are in need of some form of humanitarian aid.

Shortages of food, medical supplies and clean drinking water have placed the lives of millions at risk. Dire warnings from humanitarian aid organizations that the country is on the verge of famine, with half a million children at risk of severe malnutrition have done nothing to ease the assault.

Saudi warplanes have carried out a continuous barrage of airstrikes against civilian and military targets alike. Residential neighborhoods, workers barracks, factories, market places, schools, hospitals and commercial ports have all been targeted for destruction. Thousand-year-old mosques and other historic archeological sites have been destroyed by coalition bombs.

The only areas which have escaped coalition airstrikes are those parts of the country controlled by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which has proven itself an effective ally of the US in the effort to defeat the Houthis. US drone strikes continue to target individual AQAP leaders, but their fighters have been free to move throughout the country unmolested.

A few examples give a sense of the scale and scope of the criminal devastation being wrought by the Saudi coalition under the direct sponsorship of Obama administration:

On August 30, at least 36 workers were killed when Saudi jet fighters dropped bombs on a water bottling factory in the Abs District of Haajah province. Access to clean drinking water was severely limited prior to the onslaught, which has severely exacerbated the problem and put millions at risk of contracting water-borne diseases. Fuel shortages have also contributed to water shortages in the country.

On August 18, coalition jet fighters dropped bombs on the port of Hodeidad, destroying four cranes used to offload ships and also demolishing nearby warehouses. The port had been the main site for getting humanitarian aid into areas of the country controlled by Houthi forces. A blockade of Yemen enforced by Saudi Arabia and Egypt with the aid of US Navy warships has contributed to a shortage of food, fuel and desperately needed medical supplies. Aid shipments had already been severely limited prior to the bombing of the port.

On July 24, coalition bombs ripped through dormitories housing power plant workers and their families in the southwestern city of Mokah. 63 people were killed and another 50 were injured in the attack. A reporting team from Amnesty International visited the attack site and found no indications that the housing units had ever been used for military purposes by the Houthis or their allies.

On July 6, a devastating airstrike on a busy livestock market in the town of Fayush, north of Aden, killed 45 people and wounded another 50. Livestock and food markets throughout the country have repeatedly been targeted for airstrikes.

Any one these devastating attacks, if they had been carried out by Russia, China or Iran, would have provoked non-stop headlines and media outrage. Politicians would have gone on televisions to weep crocodile tears over the civilian casualties and demand that something be done to bring those governments to account.

Obama, the onetime candidate of hope and change, has not only continued but expanded the imperialist interventions initiated by the Bush administration. In the last seven years, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia have all been subject to one or another form of American military intervention, inflicting death and destruction, while forcing millions of refugees to flee for their lives into Europe and elsewhere.

The brutal assault on Yemen exposes the grotesque hypocrisy of those who cry out for supposedly “humanitarian” interventions against governments which are not fully under the thumb of American imperialism. Over the last fourteen years, the so-called war on terror, “human rights” and the promotion of democracy have all been exposed as mere pretexts for establishing the hegemony of the US over the Middle East and its vast energy reserves.


Turkey’s Erdogan: The method behind his madness

By Dr. John C. Hulsman

16 September 2015

As the years have passed, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has increasingly worried the West. As the era of easy catch-up growth and stable government (all of which very pleasantly surprised observers) has come to an end, America has come to fret about Erdogan’s erratic, authoritarian tactics, as well as his country’s increasingly perilous economic plight. While none of this seemed to dent his AKP party’s unprecedented popularity, Erdogan had morphed – in Washington’s eyes – from being part of the solution in the Middle East to being part of the problem.

But what has happened in 2015 has been a bridge too far, even for the Turkish president’s dwindling band of admirers. Stung by his party’s shocking failure (after over a decade of utter dominance) to win June’s parliamentary elections outright, Erdogan responded by wandering even further off the reservation. Rather than meekly accepting the Turkish voters’ verdict and curtailing his dreams for creating a strong Turkish executive presidency (with himself at the helm), Erdogan doubled down, embarking on a series of highly risky domestic and foreign policy moves that have further destabilised a region already on fire.

In the course of a few short months, he vilified the Kurdish parliamentary opposition, accusing them of being traitors. Then he tore up one of his greatest accomplishments, the fragile ceasefire with the Kurdish armed insurgents, the PKK. Finally, he blocked any hopes of a government being formed in the wake of the inconclusive elections. How, western experts wail, can he be so reckless?

The simple answer, which any realist understands, is that Erdogan wants to survive, both politically and personally. Everything he has done since the June elections is an effort to alter the newly imposed domestic constraints on his power. As ever, this real-world imperative conditions everything else, including foreign policy. The western punditocracy may bewail his lack of statesmanship, but it is unlikely that the Turkish President cares very much. From the perspective of the Turkish Sultan, doubling down on his domestic political agenda makes eminent sense.

The Political Problem

After 13 years in power, the AKP lost its absolute majority in parliament. The Turkish President had gambled on winning a two-third’s majority, which he constitutionally needs to amend the document and create a new presidential system, a course of events that would cement Erdogan’s personal dominance for years to come.

But instead, the HDP (People’s Democratic Party), a left-leaning group with strong Kurdish links, thwarted his grand strategy when it surprisingly won 13% of the overall vote, clearing the high 10% threshold and entering parliament. The AKP, far from winning the desired, massive two-thirds majority, only won a mere plurality of the vote. It would seem that after all, the Turkish electoral colossus has been decisively stopped.

But such a naïve view is to misunderstand the tenacious nature of both the man, as well as Turkish political culture. Erdogan knew that if he meekly accepted the result, his dream of changing the very nature of Turkish politics itself, by the installation of a strong presidential system with himself at the helm, would be definitively over. Worse still, the surprising June result could well mark the high-water mark of AKP power as a whole.

The end game of such a prospect was obvious to Erdogan; either he doubled down, trying with all his might to overturn the result, or his days in power (and even his days of freedom given the corruption allegations lodged against his family) would be numbered. Instead of going gentle into that good night, the Turkish President hatched an audacious scheme designed to nullify a parliamentary result he simply could not live with.

Step one: see that no government is formed that reflects the June result

While the formal powers of the sitting president in the present Turkish system are quite limited, in terms of setting the rules for forming a new government the executive still sets the scene. Erdogan took full advantage of his good fortune, effectively derailing any efforts that would lead to the formation of a new government in the wake of the June parliamentary elections. This he simply had to do, as if a new coalition government were formed which reflected the June results, Erdogan’s dream of creating a strong presidency would be banished forever.

Step two: bolster Turkey’s foreign policy against external Kurdish threats

Erdogan did not have long to wait for an opportunity to emerge allowing him to climb out of the box the Turkish electorate have so recently placed him in. On July 20, 2015, a devastating suicide bombing – highly likely at the instigation of ISIS – took place at a Kurdish youth rally in Suruc, on the Turkish-Syrian border. Seizing his chance, Erdogan used the atrocity to finally commit to acting against ISIS, as the American-led coalition had been pleading with him to do for the past year.

But as ever in the Middle East, Erdogan had a big ‘ask’ in return for his strategic support. Erdogan pressured the Obama administration to agree to help establish a 65-mile ISIS-free zone along a western sector of the Turkish-Syrian border, running north from Aleppo to the Euphrates. The ostensible aim of pushing ISIS out of the area is to sever the access route to Turkey through which it funnels its recruits and supplies.

But this pledge amounts to so much less than meets the eye. As the Syrian war has ground on, the President has increasingly worried about preventing the Syrian Kurds from making further territorial gains. The ISIS-free zone in Syria is – from the point of view of Erdogan – designed to be a Kurdish-free zone. The real strategic goal is preventing the Kurds from taking and controlling the whole of the Syrian border cohesively. Erdogan (perhaps rightly) fears this now increasingly cohesive Kurdish enclave on the Syrian border will become de facto a state, a calamity from Turkey’s point of view.

Step three: whip up anti-Kurdish feeling in Turkey by restarting the war with the PKK

But while Erdogan claims to be battling ISIS, in reality he is primarily fighting Turkey’s old foe the PKK, Turkey’s home-grown Kurdish separatist guerrilla group. The prior Turkish-Kurdish war lasted for decades and left around 40,000 people dead. Erdogan has shown little compunction in ending the tenuous peace process with the Turkish Kurds clustered around the PKK, which up until now has been one his greatest policy achievements.

The Turkish President is now playing the anti-Kurdish card for all it is worth. He has disowned a road map to peace negotiations originally agreed to by the PKK and his own AKP, saying talks ‘aren’t possible’. Increasing pressure on the HDP, he vows to strip away the parliamentary immunity of their MPs, allowing an investigation of their loyalty.

And here we come to the heart of the matter. Erdogan is purposely whipping up anti-Kurdish fervour, as it is the only way he can still achieve his overall goal of decisively winning new parliamentary elections (scheduled for November 1st), allowing for greatly expanding presidential powers and preserving his regime. As so often is the case, domestic politics is a basic force driving foreign policy strategies.

Specifically, Erdogan wants to both smear the HDP as a party of traitors to the Turkish state, while reminding his voters that only one-party government headed by the AKP (and not the coalition outcome they just voted for) can manage the many dangers – both within and without – Turkey. In addition, due to his newfound bellicose stand against the Kurds, Erdogan is hankering to poach some of the far right’s voters. Specifically, Erdogan’s primary political goal is to push the HDP below the 10% threshold required to secure seats in the Turkish parliament, thus cementing his decisive victory. One must accept that, cynical and destructive as it is, the Turkish Sultan has devised a brilliant political plan.

Dr. John C. Hulsman is the President and Co-Founder of John C. Hulsman Enterprises, a successful global political risk consulting firm. An eminent foreign policy expert, John is the senior columnist for City AM, the newspaper of the city of London. Hulsman is a Life Member of the Council on Foreign Relations. The author of all or part of 11 books, Hulsman has also given 1490 interviews, written over 410 articles, prepared over 1270 briefings, and delivered more than 460 speeches on foreign policy around the world.


Detached Netanyahu leads Israel towards isolation

By Yossi Mekelberg

16 September 2015

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brought his pulpit diplomacy to London last week. In his customary exaggerated fashion, he warned his British host, Prime Minister David Cameron, that the Middle East is facing disintegration as a result of “the twin forces of militant Islam – militant Sunnis led by ISIS and militant Shiites led by Iran.”

He did not spare the EU, criticizing it for suggesting some sort of soft sanctions on Israel’s Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. And as one could have expected, he lectured on the mortal dangers of the nuclear deal with Iran.

Netanyahu seemed to be in denial regarding the changing realities in Europe, including the growing readiness to make Israel pay a price for its government’s continuous intransigence and lack of sincerity in the search for peace with the Palestinians.

The erosion in Israel’s international standing is taking place incrementally, though steadily.

International isolation

I wrote here a few months ago that the current Israeli government was sleepwalking the country into international isolation. Events in the past week indicate that this erosion in Israel’s international standing is taking place incrementally, though steadily while public opinion in the country is oblivious to it.

Three developments this past week should cause Israelis as a whole to ponder the direction the country it is taking in its international affairs. First, there was the disappointment that Israel will not get its wish for the U.S. Congress to block, or at least delay, an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program.

Thousands of miles away, the European Parliament voted with an overwhelming majority, in favor of differentiating between goods made in the internationally recognized borders of Israel, and labelling those made in settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Golan Heights. A third and more important, even if mainly symbolic, decision was taken by the U.N. General Assembly to allow the Palestinian flag to be flown in front of U.N. buildings across the world.

Diplomatic failure

All three decisions are indicative of the current failure of Israeli diplomacy, not to mention lack of judgement. Understandably Israel has legitimate concerns over the nuclear deal with Iran and the potential implications of Iranian power and influence in the region. It is even more concerning considering that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, recently – and despicably – stated that Israel will not live to see the twenty-five year span of this agreement.

The constant effort to undermine the authority of President Obama has led to strained relations with Israel’s closest and most important ally.

However, the constant effort to undermine the authority and leadership of President Obama has consequently led to strained relations with Israel’s closest and most important ally, and can only be described as a diplomatic folly that damages Israeli national interest. Indeed, in the past Israel managed, with the help of other countries, to persuade the international community to impose sanctions on Iran and use quite effectively the threat of military actions in order to incentivise Iran to collaborate and negotiate over its nuclear programme. This proved to be successful, leading to a commitment from Iran, in both the interim agreement and the concluding one, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, to never develop nuclear military capability. Israel – instead of shifting gears towards constructively contributing, even behind scenes, to the success of the agreement while addressing some of its flaws – took the route of opposing it altogether and even demanding an increase in sanctions.

It is one of the worst ruptures between an American president and an Israeli Prime Minister.

Netanyahu entered into the domestic American political fray in an effort to stop the United States from ratifying the deal. He stopped at nothing, including a direct attack on President Obama in a speech in Congress, prompting Israel’s friends around the country to vociferously oppose the deal, and appealing directly to the Jewish community to oppose the agreement. In an act of poor judgement he got Israel immersed inside the US’s divided domestic political arena, exposing deep rifts among the Jewish community, not to mention putting their loyalty to question. This also opened one of the worst ruptures between an American president and an Israeli Prime Minister. Worse for Netanyahu, is that despite these relentless efforts, he failed miserably to block the U.S. signing of the deal.

The decision by the EU Parliament, in a non-binding vote, to label products made in Jewish settlements passed by a huge majority together with the U.N. General Assembly decision to display the Palestinian flag in front of its buildings are a clear expression of exasperation with Israeli policies. The complete stalemate in the peace process, coupled with the damaging expansion of Jewish settlements, leads the international community to believe that certain unilateral acts may stimulate change in Israel’s stance towards genuine readiness to negotiate peace with the Palestinians and curtail the settlements project. One can only reach the conclusion that this trend will only continue and even gather momentum, if Israel does not change its approach towards Palestinian self-determination and Palestinians’ rights.

In his typical style, Netanyahu’s response to the product labelling decision was to compare it to the Nazi era when Jewish shops were labeled and Jewish people were forced to wear a yellow badge identifying themselves Jewish. In his own words, “We remember history and we remember what happened when the products of Jews were labeled in Europe.” When one naively thought that the Israeli prime minister could not sink any lower in exploiting the memory of the victims of the Holocaust and distorting the lessons of this terrible episode in Jewish history – he just could not resist temptation! He did it in an effort to divert attention from his failing policies, which increasingly lead Israel into international isolation.

In many countries leaders would have relinquished their position for much less.

Yossi Mekelberg is an Associate Fellow at the Middle East and North Africa Program at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, where he is involved with projects and advisory work on conflict resolution, including Track II negotiations. He is also the Director of the International Relations and Social Sciences Program at Regent’s University in London, where he has taught since 1996. Previously, he was teaching at King’s College London and Tel Aviv University. Mekelberg’s fields of interest are international relations theory, international politics of the Middle East, human rights, and international relations and revolutions. He is a member of the London Committee of Human Rights Watch, serving on the Advocacy and Outreach committee. Mekelberg is a regular contributor to the international media on a wide range of international issues and you can find him on Twitter @YMekelberg.