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Islam and the West ( 30 Sept 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

No More Speeches At The General Assembly Boxing Ring: New Age Islam’s Selection From World Press, 1 October 2015



New Age Islam Edit Bureau

01 October 2015

No more speeches at the General Assembly boxing ring

Chris Doyle

The Russians are in Baghdad too!

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

What form will Russian involvement in Syria take?

Maria Dubovikova

Netanyahu in the ‘axis of resistance’

Diana Moukalled

Dhaka’s Much-Loved Monstrosity

Tahmima Anam

Kim Davis and Pope Francis’s Grand Strategy

By  Ross Douthat

Beyond the war in Yemen

SABRIA S. JAWHAR

 

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No more speeches at the General Assembly boxing ring

Chris Doyle

30 September 2015

It is quite some menagerie in New York as ever for the 70th edition of the U.N. General Assembly. Hotel prices shoot up every year as the world's leaders - that motley crew of despots, Kings, Presidents and Prime Ministers compete for airtime and attention. Typically, there is enough hot air to launch a thousand Zeppelins. This is when minnows can get a stage, when major Presidents can grandstand. For sure there are many heads of state but how few leaders. As I have argued before one wonders if the U.N. General Assembly achieves much at all?

But it always delivers entertainment and theatre. We have had the 11-year-old son of Alexander Lukashenko's turning up to represent Belarus. San Marino, with slightly more than a third of the population of Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, gets a meeting with Lithuania. And how can you beat Robert Mugabe, even at the age of 91 (he was 21 when the U.N. was founded), for his "we are not gays" diatribe.

Putin

The ‘star’ act for 2015 has been, of course, Vladimir Putin. He smartly positioned himself and Russia as the go-to-power for resolving Syria just at the key moment when Europe and the US finally realized that the crisis was actually hitting them and their interests. Vladimir is offering to sort out Syria with his grand bargain putting the crushing of ISIS before any power transition in Damascus. His price is to maintain his grip on Damascus. His post-Crimea isolation, much to the chagrin of the Ukrainian leader, Petro Poroshenko, is pretty much all over. Barack Obama grudgingly acknowledged Putin’s revival with their chilly 90-minute summit.

Despite not addressing the U.N. for a decade, Putin had lost none of his confident brio on stage. "The United Nations is a structure that has no equal when it comes to legitimacy, representation, and universality…. Whatever actions a state takes bypassing this procedure [of passing resolutions] are illegitimate, run counter to the U.N. Charter and defy international law." Where were the hecklers when you need them to scream Chechnya, Georgia, Crimea, and Ukraine? One wonders whether Vladimir has ever bothered to read the U.N. Charter let alone stick to its principles. This is a man who understands power and how to wield it. Does anyone seriously believe he will ever give the Crimea back to Ukraine? (Perhaps if Ukraine becomes a part of Russia)

Obama

Contrast Putin’s speech to Obama’s - the latter still seems idealistic and detached, with fine words and intentions but is there an end product? "Laws and agreements mean something", he proclaimed. He left out the word ‘should’. (As with Putin, there was no heckler to chant Israel and Gaza) His words were skewed to criticize Russian expansionism but he offered no solutions to global challenges not least Syria.

Obama may or may not like this, but those that argue that the world has to engage with President Assad appear to be winning the debate to the delight of the Russian leader. The British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and even President Erdogan of Turkey have now acknowledged that there could be a role for Assad in a transition.

Rowhani

And Hassan Rowhani has found out what it means not to be in the limelight. The auditorium was only half full for his speech and there were no mass walkouts. Nevertheless a heckler was needed when Rowhani proclaimed that Iran was “prepared to bring about democracy in Syria and Yemen”. He did not explain why his own country should not get this privilege.

Iran has not been such a divisive issue at the U.N. this year. Netanyahu will of course make up for this in spades when he speaks on Thursday in his annual war dance.

But Rowhani’s speech epitomized the dangers and pitfalls of the U.N. General Assembly debate. This was the perfect opportunity for him to grandstand for domestic Iranian consumption. From the first sentence he tore into Saudi Arabia’s handling of the Hajj, “the incompetence and mismanagement of those in charge.” Whatever the rights and wrongs of the horrific events at Mina, publicly pillorying Saudi in such a fashion is hardly an effective let alone diplomatic way of increasing Iranian influence or the much needed rapprochement with Riyadh.

If ending speeches is too radical, why not at least reduce the number of speeches every year

Chris Doyle

So as all these worthy and not so worthy orations take place, a wide range of meetings on the margins foster the real work and arguably make the General Assembly worthwhile.

So as ever it is the sidelines not the headlines that matter. If the public speeches were removed from the agenda and the bilaterals retained my suspicion is that far more would be achieved. In a world, oversaturated with crises and conflicts, it is often wiser to restrict the opportunities to grandstand and point score against opponents.

And this is what the General Assembly debate has become - a boxing match with no knock-outs. It is Putin versus Obama, Netanyahu versus Abbas, Iran versus Saudi and so forth. Most of the worthy speeches are ignored for the jousts and barbs from conflicting leaders.

Are the world’s problems solved? How relevant were these speeches to the 60 million refugees and displaced peoples across the planet? Putin ludicrously suggested that once ISIS was crushed, Syrian refugees could just return home, no doubt dodging the barrel bombs as they cross the border. And on the refugees, Obama’s straight face was impressive when saying “in the faces of suffering families, our nation of immigrants sees themselves” knowing that the US has only offered to take an extra 10,000. For the first time in his U.N. speeches Obama made not one mention of Israel nor Palestine.

So my humble proposal is to end these set piece speeches. Are they needed in a world where unlike in 1945, the public views of Presidents, Kings and leaders are well aired not just locally but across the globe in multiple languages? Most of salient points get trailed in the media beforehand. We have yet to hear ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu’s speech but mix and match his Congress speeches with previous U.N. General Assembly efforts, and I suspect we shall hear little fresh. If ending this is too radical, why not at least reduce the number of speeches every year.

Perhaps other leaders could follow the example of the star of the show, and speak just once every ten years.

Chris Doyle is the director of CAABU (the London-based Council for Arab-British Understanding). He has worked with the Council since 1993 after graduating with a first class honors degree in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Exeter University. As the lead spokesperson for Caabu and as an acknowledged expert on the region, Chris is a frequent commentator on TV and Radio, having given over 148 interviews on the Arab world in in 2012 alone. He gives numerous talks around the country on issues such as the Arab Spring, Libya, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Islamophobia and the Arabs in Britain. He has had numerous articles and letters published in the British and international media. He has travelled to nearly every country in the Middle East. He has organized and accompanied numerous British Parliamentary delegations to Arab countries. Most recently he took Parliamentary delegations to the West Bank in April, November, December 2013 and January 2014 including with former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

english.alarabiya.net/en/views/2015/09/30/No-more-speeches-at-the-General-Assembly-boxing-ring-.html

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The Russians are in Baghdad too!

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

 30 September 2015

The Kremlin has been marching toward Syria and Iraq for months now, expedited by the West and Iran reaching a nuclear deal that ends international sanctions on the latter. Recent developments provide a clear picture of the scale of Russia’s and Iran’s military presence in Syria and Iraq.

Russia alleged that weapons shipped to Syria were military purchases previously agreed upon with the regime of President Bashar-al-Assad. It was only a few weeks before the truth surfaced, that the shipments included different specifications than those mentioned. For example, they included temporary housing units as well as equipment to expand airports. Moscow’s justification is that these are training facilities for Russian consultants.

Some two weeks ago, we found out that there was a huge number of applications submitted by the Russian military to pass through certain countries' airspace to head to Syria, implying that Moscow is shipping ammunition for the Russian army. After it was no longer possible to deny the truth, Moscow made its first confession: it was sending combat forces to help the Assad regime fight the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other terrorist groups.

Satellite images of Bassel al-Assad Airport in Latakia, and facilities in Tartus and Damascus, showed Sukhoi fighter aircrafts, T90 tanks, attack helicopters and a missile system. Amid surprise and tension in Washington, U.S. officials continued to naively speak of the possibility of cooperating with the Russians to fight ISIS.

Syria to Iraq

Last week, despite doubts regarding Russian intentions, the Americans presented a dangerous concession, announcing their acceptance of a Russian political solution in which Assad is president but gives up governance in the future.

Neither Iran nor Russia intend to resolve the humanitarian tragedy of the Syrian and Iraqi peoples - all they care about is strengthening Assad, who has become a mere front for Tehran, and completing their domination over Iraq

It then turned out that Russian intelligence opened an office in the heart of the Iraqi capital, specifically opposite the Defense Ministry in the Green Zone! The Americans were shocked, realizing that the Russians have entered Iraq as well as Syria.

To justify the betrayal of its American ally by allowing the Russians to work in American strategic areas, the Iraqi government confessed that it agreed to share intelligence information regarding ISIS with the Iranian and Russian governments.

The White House has for two years been repeating that it does not care about Syria because it does not view it as a country with strategic value, unlike Iraq. It has also said that its interest in Syria was a response to a purely humanitarian case.

This reveals that President Barack Obama has not learnt the lesson that his predecessor George W Bush learnt late, that Syria is the source of a major threat to Iraq and was behind the American defeat. Syria was the headquarters of the gathering of Al-Qaeda fighters, and of what was known as Iraqi resistance, and it became the path from which they passed to Iraq after 2004.

These years have proven that it is not possible to govern Iraq without guaranteeing Syria. The Iranians are fighting there because they know that he who governs Damascus can threaten or protect Baghdad.

The Russians did not move toward Syria then Iraq until their ally Iran signed the nuclear deal. It seems the Iranians succeeded in deceiving American negotiators by convincing them that stopping their nuclear program, which had already been struggling, was a gain that deserves all these Western concessions, including remaining silent over their military activities and interventions in Iraq and Syria.

The Russians have decided to quickly move forward and solidify their presence in Mesopotamia. Neither Iran nor Russia intend to resolve the humanitarian tragedy of the Syrian and Iraqi peoples - all they care about is strengthening Assad, who has become a mere front for Tehran, and completing their domination over Iraq.

Fighting ISIS has become a Western problem, and an umbrella to grant Iranian forces and their Afghan, Lebanese and Iraqi militias legitimacy for a military presence under the pretext of cooperating with the U.S.-led international coalition to fight terror. This paved the way for them to take over two important countries within this geopolitical struggle of the Middle East.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Sept. 30, 2015.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

english.alarabiya.net/en/views/2015/09/30/The-Russians-are-in-Baghdad-too-.html

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What form will Russian involvement in Syria take?

Maria Dubovikova

30 September 2015

When Russian involvement in Syria is viewed in the context of supporting President Bashar al-Assad, reaction is totally negative. When it is considered as part of the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the perception is mostly positive. The difference is determined by the fact that some players are mostly concerned by ISIS, others by the bloodshed of the Syrian civil war.

Some - such as Moscow - consider Assad the key force to fighting ISIS, even though only 10 percent of his army’s battles are with ISIS. Others consider Syrian rebels the main force to fight ISIS, though the credibility and origin of most rebel fighters raise valid concerns.

Russian support to Damascus is nothing new. Military contracts were not signed yesterday. Moscow intensifying its activities in Syria is quite predictable. So with regard to whether Russia will get involved, it already is. But should we expect direct military involvement in the form of ground combat or airstrikes?

Risk and reward

The risks for Russian national security are extremely high, as ISIS has made threats against Russia, which has more than 2,700 citizens fighting for the jihadist group. To make direct involvement happen, the dividends should outweigh possible losses, but Russia will never send troops to fight on the ground.

To make direct involvement happen, the dividends should outweigh possible losses, but Russia will never send troops to fight on the ground.

Maria Dubovikova

Direct involvement depends on whether the West and its regional allies come to accept Assad as part of the solution in Syria, or whether they maintain that he is part of the problem. Partially accepting Assad as part of the solution against ISIS would mean Moscow becoming a key mediator between Damascus and the U.S.-led coalition, as well as coordination between various forces.

The key feature of any broad anti-ISIS cooperation is that any action should be U.N.-mandated and correspond to international law. The role of mediator would be sufficient for Moscow’s ambitions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s U.N. General Assembly speech shows that his position is unchangeable. He would most likely prefer to remain the great supporter of Iraq and Syria in their fight against ISIS, without taking part in airstrikes, unless he is forced by circumstances or if the stakes dramatically rise.

Russian mediation in talks with Damascus, along with military and humanitarian aid to Syrians on condition that delivered weapons never be used against rebels, could be the best scenario for all players. This will avoid confrontation, encourage cooperation, and lay a reliable foundation for common resolution of regional and global crises on the basis of mutual trust.

Maria Dubovikova is a President of IMESClub and CEO of MEPFoundation. Alumni of MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations [University] of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia), now she is a PhD Candidate there. Her research fields are in Russian foreign policy in the Middle East, Euro-Arab dialogue, policy in France and the U.S. towards the Mediterranean, France-Russia bilateral relations, humanitarian cooperation and open diplomacy. She can be followed on Twitter: @politblogme

english.alarabiya.net/en/views/2015/09/30/What-form-will-Russian-involvement-in-Syria-take-.html

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Netanyahu in the ‘axis of resistance’

Diana Moukalled

30 September 2015

It is really entertaining to follow the headlines and analyses of media outlets affiliated with the “axis of resistance” as they try to justify Israeli-Russian military coordination in Syria. The West was surprised by Russian President Valdimir Putin deciding to intervene in what looks like an operation to save Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, using the same units that fought the filthy war in Ukraine.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Moscow after this development, and returned with official reassurances that the Syrian regime will not open the Golan front. The talks highlighted the intersection of interests in maintaining the Assad regime.

Justifications

The media of the “axis of resistance” are struggling to overcome this public Russian-Israeli consensus. They have made desperate and confusing attempts to justify it, such as Putin deterring Israel from violating Syrian airspace, and Netanyahu trying to save face by claiming a major understanding with the Russian president.

Moscow is providing Israel with the kind of stability that former Syrian President Hafez al-Assad granted it 45 years ago

Diana Moukalled

Why do we expect Israel to object to the Russian military role in Syria as long as this does not oppose its interests? Moscow is providing Israel with the kind of stability that former Syrian President Hafez al-Assad granted it 45 years ago.

Perhaps it would have been better if the media affiliated with the “axis of resistance” claimed that they do not know what is going on, instead of comically cheering these developments. The Putin-Netanyahu meeting subjects those affiliated with the “axis of resistance” to contradictions that they cannot overcome.

Congratulations to “axis of resistance” supporters, as it seems that Netanyahu is now at its forefront! However, one question remains: Who are you resisting? Most probably your societies, all for the sake of Netanyahu!

Diana Moukalled is the Web Editor at the Lebanon-based Future Television and was the Production & Programming Manager with at the channel. Previously, she worked there as Editor in Chief, Producer and Presenter of “Bilayan al Mujaradah,” a documentary that covers hot zones in the Arab world and elsewhere, News and war correspondent and Local news correspondent. She currently writes a regular column in AlSharq AlAwsat. She also wrote for Al-Hayat Newspaper and Al-Wasat Magazine, besides producing news bulletins and documentaries for Reuters TV. She can be found on Twitter: @dianamoukalled.

english.alarabiya.net/en/views/2015/09/30/Netanyahu-in-the-axis-of-resistance-.html

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Dhaka’s Much-Loved Monstrosity

Tahmima Anam

SEPT. 30, 2015

From across the lake, we watched them dig the foundations. We thought, at the time, that it would look like any other house, albeit with a bit more lake frontage than most. Then, as the scaffolding went up, and the building took shape, we realized it wasn’t going to be an ordinary house at all, but that rare thing: a landmark — and an architectural monstrosity.

It was 1993 and my parents and I had recently returned to Dhaka, Bangladesh, after 14 years abroad, most recently in Bangkok. With the promise of a new life in our old hometown, we moved into my grandfather’s house, where two of my uncles lived with their wives and children. The house, built in 1964, was a sprawling, two-story brick building, with a flat cement roof and a wide wraparound balcony. The kitchen was in an outbuilding, down a few steps and across an open drain into which one uncle would blow his nose every morning.

In the backyard, which was wild and unmown, my cousins and I pretended to shoot things with imaginary guns. In the evenings, the air was thick with mosquitoes.

Dhaka was then still a rather sleepy metropolis. You could get across town, between Dhanmondi, where we lived, to Gulshan, the diplomatic enclave on the northern fringe, in about 20 minutes. After Bangkok, where the traffic and pollution were much worse, Dhaka seemed bucolic, even neat, by comparison.

But in the early ’90s, everything began to change. The house across the lake was a sign of things to come.

It was about six stories high and irregularly shaped. Multiple roofs cascaded from its peaks, making the front of the building resemble the hide of a rhinoceros, from which a tall, pointy obelisk was raised. It was only after the red tiles had been placed on the facade that we realized the pointy thing was a minaret.

The building was a strange pastiche of the sacred and the secular, for the rest of it looked like a ship, with the outer boundary wall shaped like a curved hull and the roofs looking like sails in the wind. The neighbors nicknamed it Jahaj Bari (the Ship House).

Urban myths about it sprouted. We heard that it belonged to Sher-e-Khwaja, a self-styled holy man and philanthropist who had amassed a huge fortune no one knew quite how, and who was rumored to have deep political connections. No one I knew had ever been inside the building, which was said to have 40 bedrooms.

In the meantime, the landscape of Dhaka was rapidly changing. The roughly 100 square miles of the city were not enough for a growing metropolis, but instead of expanding out and creating suburbs, the city planners gave permission to landowners in 1996 to build six-story apartment buildings on their residential plots. Commercial permits soon followed, and those who were lucky enough to own a piece of land on a main road were able to build shopping malls and office buildings on their property.

This is what happened with my grandfather’s house. In 1999, the family made the decision to tear down the broad, low-slung building; in its place a shopping mall and an apartment building sprang up. My father and his four brothers each got two apartments. Uncles, aunts, cousins, their wives and children all moved into this building, an extended family bifurcated now by stairwells and separate entrances.

Our neighbors did the same, and soon the familiar whine of construction and the sight of cement mixers and bricks spilling out onto the road became ordinary. Throughout the construction of our building, and those around us, the Jahaj Bari remained as it was — impenetrable, mysterious, lights twinkling from crimson towers above the dark lake.

The price of property in Dhaka has escalated: Over the last decade, the value of homes in our neighborhood multiplied by a factor of five or six. As land has become scarcer, almost every available inch of the city has been turned into apartments, offices and high-rises.

In the upscale neighborhoods like Gulshan, you will occasionally see a fancy house that has remained untouched. But it is often now in shade, flanked by taller buildings. The planning authorities did not insist that landowners leave a certain amount of space between buildings, which also means that the buildings are perilously close to one another — a dangerous mistake given that Dhaka is susceptible to earthquakes like the one that struck Nepal earlier this year.

Everywhere is evidence of the haphazard nature of the city’s growth. Even as property values increased, the overburdened roads, sanitation and drainage systems all deteriorated. Traffic is almost perpetually gridlocked, and during every monsoon season the roads flood and become impassable. Worst of all is the urban misery of the slum-dwellers who migrate to the city every year in their tens of thousands.

The city planning authority, known as Rajuk, just announced a new “master plan” for Dhaka that included expanding the city limits, building a series of ring roads and preserving wetlands and areas of conservation. While many stakeholders — such as the mayors of Dhaka North and South, who were not consulted — have criticized the new plan, everyone agrees that it’s time to take radical steps to put the city right.

Meanwhile, Jahaj Bari is due for demolition. Social media are alight with calls to declare the building a heritage site. In a city that has changed so rapidly, where no landmark seems sacred, even a hideous boat-shaped monstrosity can provoke nostalgia.

Tahmima Anam, a writer and anthropologist, is the author of the novel “A Golden Age” and a contributing opinion writer.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/01/opinion/jahaj-bari-dhakas-much-loved-monstrosity-tahmima-anam.html?emc=edit_ty_20150930&nl=opinion&nlid=71783194

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Kim Davis and Pope Francis’s Grand Strategy

By  Ross Douthat

SEPTEMBER 30, 2015

It appears we have a backhanded, non-denial version of Vatican confirmation of the story that Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk briefly jailed for her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, was received by Pope Francis privately during his visit to the United States. (For the story to be false, the Davises would have needed to be pathological liars and someone in Rome would need to have baldly lied to the well-sourced Robert Moynihan of Inside the Vatican, so it was already reasonable to treat the news as basically confirmed.) This is a fairly surprising bit of news; it also lends some credence to Philip Lawler’s interpretation of this pope’s approach to the American culture war, which he offered after Francis’s address in Washington last week:

Pope Francis challenged Americans of both liberal and conservative political sympathies in his historic address to Congress on September 24. But his objections to conservative stands were clear and direct, while his criticism of liberals subtle and oblique. Why?

… Is it because he knows that the American defenders of life and of marriage really are in sympathy with the Catholic Church, whereas proponents of abortion and homosexuality are fundamentally hostile? Because he knows that he must first establish some common ground with liberal secularists (including some who masquerade as Catholics) before he can expect any positive response? Because he realizes that he can encourage pro-lifers indirectly, and the message will come through loud and clear? Maybe the Pope is reaching out to the lost sheep, confident that the others will await his return.

An alternative reading, which I offered in Sunday’s column, would interpret this tendency to be oblique about abortion and marriage and explicit about immigration and the death penalty as a straightforward sign that Francis cares a little more about the latter issues, and that his stresses reflect his own sensibility and priorities as much as they do a carefully-conceived grand strategy.

But these readings aren’t mutually exclusive. There’s no question that outreach to the lost sheep/younger brother has been a core element of Francis’s approach since the beginning, and when you combine his visit to the Little Sisters of the Poor with the reception of and apparent encouragement of Davis, you are left with a sense that the pope felt like he could deliver a message to conservative Catholics quietly, implicitly, obliquely and symbolically … even as his public words, in the congressional speech especially, offered more overt outreach to the liberal religious and the secular center-left.

Whether this calculation is wise or correct is another question. For my own part, I think a more explicit critique of American liberalism’s recent drift on both abortion and religious freedom in the papal speech to Congress, inserted somewhere in between the more Nancy Pelosi-friendly passages, would actually have been better received by persuadable fence-sitters than a “private” but inevitably public meeting with a controversial figure whose religious liberty claim is considerably weaker than other claims that the Vatican needs to defend. From a strategic perspective, meeting with Davis seems calculated to give maximal symbolic offense to the American left and center without delivering a clear message in Francis’s own, often-eloquent voice; it challenges the left’s “progressive pope” narrative and reminds us all that the pope is still Catholic, but in a Twitter-friendly, #hottake-generating way, which I’m not really sure serves any of this pontificate’s larger goals.

Of course the strategic reading, too, may be overthinking things; Francis has “a spirit of encounter” and talks a lot about “going to the peripheries,” he really likes evangelicals and Pentecostalists, he’s met with people at the opposite culture-war pole from Davis, and the Vatican is not always perfectly clued-in about the complexities of American politics. And with a mercurial, unpredictable, often deliberately-ambiguous pontiff, “he likes to keep people guessing” and “he just likes to meet people” are both sometimes reasonable interpretations of moves that otherwise seem hard to figure out.

And whatever else comes of it — speaking as someone who disagrees with her position but also knows well that I might never have the courage to be jailed for any of my beliefs — I hope it was a blessing for Kim Davis and her husband.

http://douthat.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/09/30/kim-davis-and-pope-franciss-grand-strategy/

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Beyond the war in Yemen

SABRIA S. JAWHAR

 1 October 2015

As the war in Yemen continues, foreign and local critics unaware of the ground realities take aim at Saudi Arabia’s grueling and costly efforts to stabilize the country.

This week critics became more vocal following the bombing of a village wedding in Yemen that left more than 70 people dead. Some congressional leaders in the United States have asked the Obama administration for explanations for its continued support of the war. Saudi Arabia has categorically denied the coalition was responsible for the wedding bombing.

The bombing of the wedding is a terrible tragedy and who is exactly responsible for the deaths still must be determined. Civilian deaths under any circumstances are a high price to pay to stamp out Houthi-controlled territory.

I have had my doubts about the war at the beginning, but the Houthis’ resilience in the face of the sophisticated Saudi military has given me pause to consider what’s at stake.

The Saudi government has made it clear from the beginning that the Houthis are at the beck and call of Iran, which wants a foothold on the Arabian Peninsula through Yemen. By controlling Yemen, Iran can control the mouth of the Red Sea, which is Saudi Arabia’s lifeline for goods shipped to Saudi ports.

Earlier this year, then Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, had left no doubt by telling reporters that Iran continues its “interference in affairs of Arab countries.”

The late foreign minister had said, “We are, of course, worried about atomic energy and atomic bombs. But we’re equally concerned about the nature of action and hegemonic tendencies that Iran has in the region. These elements are the elements of instability in the region. We see Iran involved in Syria and Lebanon and Yemen and Iraq … Iran is taking over (Iraq)… It promotes terrorism and occupies lands. These are not the features of countries which want peace and seek to improve relations with neighboring countries.”

At the beginning of the war in March, this might be interpreted by the West as an overreaction, if not paranoia, by Saudis. We, of course, have since seen US President Barack Obama win approval in the Senate for its Iran nuclear deal that ultimately will lift economic sanctions against Iran that undoubtedly will ramp up their influence in the Middle East.

Equally disturbing is the military performance of the Houthis. The Houthis have leveled a low-grade campaign against the Yemen government since 2004. When Saudi Arabia initiated airstrikes in March, the Houthis were easily routed. However, their emergence in the following months as a fighting force is a clear indication that the rebels are supplied with sophisticated weaponry.

In May US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said, “There is well-documented history of (Iranian) support for the Houthis, including in various State Department reports — money, weapons, support for a very long time.” And Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters that Iran has sent “a number of flights every single week” to Yemen with vital supplies. With Iran’s growing influence, now supported by the nuclear deal with the United States and its new relationship with Russia to help protect Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria, Saudi Arabia can ill-afford to leave Yemen to the Houthis.

An Iranian-backed Yemen government would give Iran control over the Red Sea and bring the GCC to its knees. This is no longer a Cold War or a war of words. It’s gone beyond geopolitical gamesmanship. It’s a war in which losing could have a real and immediate impact on the people of Saudi Arabia.

arabnews.com/columns/news/813801

URL: https://www.newageislam.com/islam-and-the-west/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/no-more-speeches-at-the-general-assembly-boxing-ring-new-age-islams-selection-from-world-press-1-october-2015/d/104756


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