New Age Islam Edit Bureau
18 October 2015
The paradox of religious (in)tolerance in Indonesia
By Al Khanif
Israeli settlers have taken over the state
By Uri Avnery
Why is Daesh able to recruit Saudi youth?
By Samar Fatany
Why Obama's cool on Syria will prove right
By Fareed Zakaria
Turn words into action involving women for lasting peace
By Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
The media war of Yemen’s leaders
By Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Putin shows his realism in Syria
By Anatol Lieven
What Iran Fears From Reporters Like Jason Rezaian
By AZADEH MOAVENI
It is time for Arabs to take off their hats to Indians!
By Nasser Al-Sarami
Is It So Hard To Say It Was An ISIL Attack?
By Murat Yetkin
What ISIL Wants From Turkey
By Mustafa Akyol
The paradox of religious (in)tolerance in Indonesia
October 16 2015,
Indonesia has once again witnessed religious violence, this time a clash between a majority group and a minority. The violence occurred in Aceh Singkil, and resulted in the destruction of a church, one man dead and others injured. Not long ago a similar incident occurred in Tolikara, Papua, when a mosque was burned down by a violent mob from a majority community.
These two, and other, religious-violence incidents demonstrate the deficiency in religious pluralism in the country that was long ago introduced by the founders of Indonesia.
Additionally, it also illustrates that relations between members of majority and minority religions remain tense.
Religious pluralism is in fact acknowledged not only in the Constitution but also in Pancasila as the ideology of the nation.
These two supreme canopies of law do not mention any specific religion in building a collective awareness of Indonesia’s socio-religious pluralistic character.
Regrettably until the present day, some people use their religion to set a particular standard of rights for others. This means that similar religious violence will potentially occur around Indonesia especially in a region where a majority religion manipulates religious solidarity among its members to persecute members of minority religions.
The majority also uses religion as the primary source for validating the rights of others. They consider a certain minority right, such as building a place of worship, as conflicting directly with democratic values and needing to be eliminated to avoid tensions in society.
Therefore, a violent mob generally targets a particular place of worship as a symbol of the minority’s existence.
The complex relationship between the majority and minority illustrates that even though Indonesia is not a theocratic state, religion in Indonesia still has a significant role in shaping identity among the people.
Thus for many Indonesians, solidarity on the common ground of religion is more important than social and economic reasons. This solidarity generally creates a web of common understanding among adherents of a particular religion.
The government then faces challenges to preserve religious pluralism because of the demand from the majority to restrict the rights of minorities. The majority usually attempts to persuade the government to adopt intolerant policies against minority rights.
Consequently, the government in some cases including in the Singkil case decides to close down a particular place of worship in the name of preserving public order and the protection of the followers of minority religions.
The government generally refers to the Joint Ministerial Decree on the Administrative Procedure of the Construction of Places of Worship (Decree on Places of Worship) to justify its policies.
Yet, this regulation is effectively intolerant against the rights of religious minorities because it requires all religions including minority religions to obtain the signatures of a certain number of people who support the building of a place of worship.
For example, each religious organization is required to obtain 60 signatures from people surrounding who agree to support the establishment of the place of worship and agreement from 90 people who will use it.
The requirement of a certain number of signatures to build places of worship asserts that all religions that are a minority in a certain region may potentially become victims and face difficulties in building their places of worship.
In Singkil Aceh for instance, the Christians decided to build “illegal churches” because as a minority they faced difficulties in obtaining the minimum number of signatures from their neighbors to support the building of a church. This also may happen with Muslims in a predominantly Christian region.
The Interfaith Harmony Forum (FKUB) whose main task is to oversee the establishment of places of worship is still monopolized by majority religions.
In regard to the submission from minority religions to build places of worship, the FKUB often conducts a monologue consensus rather than a dialogue.
This is because the Decree on Places of Worship stipulates the FKUB should mirror the composition of believers in a certain area. This means that in Muslim-majority areas the FKUB should have significantly more Muslim members than Christians, and vice versa.
Thus, building “illegal places of worship” illustrates the desperation of minorities to achieve their rights. The government must explain how a minority religious group without a place of worship can get support from the majority if most people still perceive religious difference as a threat rather than the nature of religion.
This means that places of worship are a cause of strife among religions. They represent the core identity of believers and hence result in solidarity among the congregations.
When there is a conflict between two different religious solidarities, it is very likely that the conflict will end in mass violence.
The religious violence in Singkil demonstrates that some people still use religious sentiments to utilize negative stereotyping and antipathy against minority religions even though some others also succeed in using religion as social engineering to create peace and harmony among religious adherents.
The writer is studying at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London and is writing a PhD dissertation on protection of religious minorities within Islam in Indonesia.
Israeli settlers have taken over the state
Oct 17, 2015
Israeli democracy is sliding downwards. Sliding slowly, comfortably, but unmistakably.
Sliding where? Everybody knows that: towards an ultra-nationalist, racist, religious society.
Who is leading the ride? Why, the government, of course. This group of noisy nobodies which came to power at the last elections, led by Benjamin Netanyahu.
Not really. Take all these big-mouthed little demagogues, the ministers of this or that (I can’t quite remember who is supposed to be minister for what) and shut them up somewhere, and nothing will change. In 10 years from now, nobody will remember the name of any of them.
If the government does not lead, who does? Perhaps the right-wing mob? Those people we see on TV, with faces contorted by hatred, shouting “Death to the Arabs!” at soccer matches until they are hoarse, or demonstrating after each violent incident in the mixed Jewish-Arab towns “All Arabs are terrorists! Kill them all!” This mob can hold the same demonstrations tomorrow against somebody else: judges, feminists, whoever. It is not consistent. It cannot build a new system.
No, there is only one group in the country that is strong enough, cohesive enough, determined enough to take over the state: the settlers.
In the middle of last century, a towering historian, Arnold Toynbee, wrote a monumental work. His central thesis was that civilizations are like human beings: they are born, grow up, mature, age and die. This was not really new – the German historian Oswald Spengler said something similar before him (“The Decline of the West”). But Toynbee, being British, was much less metaphysical than his German predecessor, and tried to draw practical conclusions.
Among Toynbee’s many insights, there was one that should interest us now. It concerns the process by which border districts attain power and take over the state. Take for example, German history. German civilization grew and matured in the South, next to France and Austria. A rich and cultured upper class spread across the country. In the towns, the patrician bourgeoisie patronized writers and composers. Germans saw themselves as a “people of poets and thinkers”.
But in the course of centuries, the young and the energetic from the rich areas, especially second sons who did not inherit anything, longed to carve out for themselves new domains. They went to the Eastern border, conquered new lands from the Slavic inhabitants and carved out new estates for themselves.
The Eastern land was called Mark Brandenburg. “Mark” means marches, borderland. Under a line of able princes, they enlarged their state until Brandenburg became a leading power. Not satisfied with that, one of the princes married a woman who brought as her dowry a little Eastern kingdom called Prussia. So the prince became a king, Brandenburg was joined to Prussia and enlarged itself by war and diplomacy until Prussia ruled half of Germany.
The Prussian state, located in the middle of Europe, surrounded by strong neighbors, had no natural borders – neither wide seas, nor high mountains, nor broad rivers. It was just flat land. So the Prussian kings created an artificial border: a mighty army. Count Mirabeau, the French statesman, famously said: “Other states have armies. In Prussia, the army has a state.” The Prussians themselves coined the phrase: “The soldier is the first man in the state”.
Toynbee, not being given to mysticism, found the earthly reason for this phenomenon of civilized states being taken over by less civilized but hardier border people.
The Prussians had to fight. Conquer the land and annihilate part of its inhabitants, create villages and towns, withstand counterattacks by resentful neighbors, Swedes, Poles and Russians. They just had to be hardy.
At the same time, the people at the center led a much easier life. The burghers of Frankfurt, Cologne, Munich and Nuremberg could take it easy, make money, read their great poets, listen to their great composers. They could treat the primitive Prussians with contempt. Until 1871 when they found themselves in a new German Reich dominated by the Prussians, with a Prussian Kaiser.
This kind of process has happened in many countries throughout history. The periphery becomes the center. In ancient times, the Greek empire was not founded by the civilized citizens of a Greek town like Athens, but by a leader from the Macedonian borderland, Alexander the Great. Later, the Mediterranean empire was not set up by a civilized Greek city, but by a peripheral Italian town called Rome. A small German borderland in the South-East became the huge multi-national empire called Austria (Österreich, “Eastern Empire” in German) until it was occupied by the Nazis and renamed Ostmark – Eastern Border area.
Before the founding of the State of Israel, the Jewish community in Palestine (called “the Yishuv”) was ruled by the Labor Party, which was dominated by the Kibbutzim, the communal villages, many of which were located along the borders (one could say that they actually constituted the “borders” of the Yishuv.) In the new state, the Kibbutzim have become a mere shadow of themselves, and the central cities have become the centers of civilization, envied and even hated by the periphery. That was the situation until recently. It is now changing rapidly.
On the morrow of the 1967 Six-Day War, a new Israeli phenomenon raised its head: the settlements in the newly occupied Palestinian territories. Their founders were “national-religious” youth.
During the days of the Yishuv, the religious Zionists were rather despised. They were a small minority. On the one hand, they were devoid of the revolutionary élan of the secular, socialist Kibbutzim. On the other hand, real orthodox Jews were not Zionists at all and condemned the whole Zionist enterprise as a sin against God.
But after the conquests of 1967, the “national-religious” group suddenly became a moving force. The conquest of the Temple Mount in East Jerusalem and all the other biblical sites filled them with religious fervor. From being a marginal minority, they became a powerful driving force.
They created the settlers’ movement and set up many dozens of new towns and villages throughout the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. With the energetic help of all successive Israeli governments, both left and right, they grew and prospered. While the leftist “peace camp” degenerated and withered, they spread their wings.
The “national-religious” party, once one of the most moderate forces in Israeli politics, turned into the ultra-nationalist, almost fascist “Jewish Home” party. The settlers also became a dominant force in the Likud party.
They now control the government. Avigdor Lieberman, a settler, leads an even more rightist party, in nominal opposition. The star of the “center”, Yair Lapid, founded his party in the Ariel settlement and now talks like an extreme rightist. Yitzhak Herzog, the leader of the Labor Party, tries feebly to emulate them. All of them now use settler-speak. They no longer talk of the West Bank, but use the settler language: “Judea and Samaria”.
Of course, not all settlers are fanatics. Many of them went to live in a settlement because the government gave them, almost for nothing, a villa and garden they could not even dream of in Israel proper. Many of them are government employees with good salaries.
Many factories have left Israel proper, sold their land there for exorbitant sums and received huge government subsidies for relocating to the West Bank. They employ, of course, cheap Palestinian workers from the neighboring villages, free from legal minimum wages or any labor laws. The Palestinians toil for them because no other work is available.
But even these “comfort” settlers become extremists, in order to survive and defend their homes, while people in Tel Aviv enjoy their cafes and theaters. No wonder the settlers are taking over the state.
The process is already well advanced. The new police chief is a kippah-wearing former settler. So is the chief of the Secret Service. More and more of the army and police officers are settlers. In the government and in the Knesset, the settlers wield a huge influence.
Some 18 years ago, when my friends and I first declared an Israeli boycott of the products of the settlements, we saw what was coming. This is now the real battle for Israel.
— Uri Avnery is an activist and an advocate of Palestinian rights. He can be reached at
Why is Daesh able to recruit Saudi youth?
Oct 17, 2015
On Wednesday, the Muslim world celebrated its new year amidst fears and concerns of the growing threat of Daesh (the self-proclaimed IS) and the spread of an extremist militant ideology that has destroyed peace and harmony in many parts of the Muslim world. Daesh and other terrorist organizations which kill and commit barbaric acts against innocent Muslims and non-Muslims alike continue to be the worst enemies of Islam.
Reports of Daesh terrorist activities dominate the Western press and our local press has daily coverage of alarming stories of young Daesh recruits who turn against their own families: a son who kills his father, two young members of a family who shoot their cousin, all because they do not share the same terrorist views. There are also many stories of parents who discover too late that their sons have been recruited by terrorists in Syria or Iraq. It is evident that terrorist groups are determined to target our youth and use them to further their own political agendas. Sadly they have been very active while many of our imams and parents have failed to recognize the extent of their threat.
Meanwhile, the national campaign to fight deviant ideology has not been effective. It is critical at this stage to mobilize a stronger united front of progressive reformers to combat extremists who are a threat to our security and social stability. The public should be more alert and should confront those imams with extremist views who promoted a toxic mentality. Extremists and Daesh sympathizers among us need to be confronted by those with a stronger sense of patriotism and better citizenship.
Nurturing and guiding the young is the national and religious responsibility of all members of society. Many of the young have become disillusioned by the failure of both reformers and hardliners and hence have adopted an extremely negative attitude with regard to their country’s values and traditions. The limited opportunities to participate in cultural, economic and political life have created a dangerous situation with the potential for violent behavior from frustrated youth who have no hope for a better future. This state of affairs may lead to social turmoil and political unrest.
The nationwide campaign to combat extremism and foster tolerance and moderation should involve all government agencies and engage civic institutions. Community leaders must speak out against social ills that have led to extremism and have created a hostile environment.
The prevalent conventional policy of authoritarian constraint does not permit the implementation of flexible programs to ensure basic rights for all citizens. Rather it allows the influence of negative and unprogressive attitudes to exist depriving many of the freedom to express themselves and to reject hardline views.
The social attitude of many who are convinced that there is no urgency for domestic reform is the main obstacle to a more prosperous society. There are others who are persuaded that we need to develop slowly to allow society more time to accept modernity and adopt more progressive attitudes. However, this policy will only add more hurdles, and the continued delay will compound our challenges keeping us lagging behind the accelerating global progress.
The old school of a centralized system must be upgraded with management that delegates work to qualified personnel, young men and women, who can get the work done without delay. Discrimination and the lack of incentives are behind the poor performance in many government departments. It is time we catch up with global progress with more support for an active civil society that can complement government policies, push the implementation of reforms and promote the skills of citizenship essential for a more tolerant and progressive environment.
Let us celebrate this new year with renewed determination to combat extremists who are a threat to our security and social stability. Let us take time to reflect upon our achievements and create better prospects for our youth with innovative reforms to meet the challenges of the modern world.
— Samar Fatany is a radio broadcaster and writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Why Obama's cool on Syria will prove right
October 17, 2015
Imagine if today's interventionists had their way and President Obama escalated force and the Assad regime fell.
Vladimir Putin has America's foreign policy establishment swooning. One columnist admires the "decisiveness" that has put him "in the driver's seat" in the Middle East. A veteran diplomat notes gravely, "It's the lowest ebb since World War II for U.S. influence and engagement in the region." A sober-minded pundit declares, "Not since the end of the Cold War a quarter-century ago has Russia been as assertive or Washington as acquiescent."
It's true that it's been a quarter-century since Moscow has been so interventionist outside its borders. The last time it made these kinds of moves, in the late 1970s and 1980s, it invaded Afghanistan and intervened in several other countries as well. Back then, commentators similarly hailed those actions as signs that Moscow was winning the Cold War. How did that work out for the Soviet Union?
Washington's foreign policy elites have developed a mindset that mistakes activity for achievement. They assume that every crisis in the world can and should be solved by a vigorous assertion of American power, preferably military power. Failure to do so is passivity and produces weakness. By this logic, Russia and Iran are the new masters of the Middle East. Never mind that those countries are desperately trying to shore up a sinking ally. Their client, the Alawites of Syria, is a minority regime - representing less than 15 per cent of the country's people - facing a series of deadly insurgencies supported by vast portions of the population. Iran is bleeding resources in Syria. And if Russia and Iran win, somehow, against the odds, they get Syria - which is a cauldron, not a prize. America has been "in the driver's seat" in Afghanistan for 14 years now. Has that strengthened America?
In the 1870s and 1880s, Europe's major powers were scrambling to gain influence in Africa, the last unclaimed lands on the globe. All but one nation: Germany. Its steely-eyed chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, believed that such interventions would drain Germany's power and divert its focus away from its central strategic challenges. When shown a map of the continent to entice him, he responded, "Your map of Africa is all very fine, but my map of Africa lies in Europe. Here is Russia and here is France, and we are in the middle. That is my map of Africa."
Imagine if today's interventionists had their way and President Obama escalated force and the Assad regime fell. What would be the outcome? Here are some clues. Washington deposed Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq (Syria's next-door neighbor, with many of the same tribes and sectarian divides). It did far more in Iraq than anyone is asking for in Syria, putting 170,000 boots on the ground at the peak and spending nearly $2 trillion. And yet, a humanitarian catastrophe ensued - with roughly 4 million civilians displaced and at least 150,000 killed. Washington deposed Moammar Gaddafi's regime in Libya but chose to leave nation-building to the locals. The result has been what The New Yorker calls "a battle-worn wasteland." Those who are so righteous and certain that this next intervention would save lives should at least pause and ponder the humanitarian consequences of the last three.
In Niall Ferguson's intelligent and sympathetic biography of Henry Kissinger's early life, I was struck by how today's mood resembles that of the 1950s. We now think of that decade as America's high-water mark, but at the time, the country's foreign policy elites were despairing that Washington was passive and paralyzed in the face of Soviet activism. "Fifteen years more of [such] a deterioration of our position in the world," wrote Kissinger in opening his 1961 book, "The Necessity for Choice," "would find us reduced to Fortress America in a world in which we had become largely irrelevant." A few years earlier, in the book that launched his career, "Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy," Kissinger had advocated the tactical use of nuclear arms, so as to have some way to respond to Soviet activism. And Kissinger was one of the most sober-minded and intelligent of the lot.
The 1950s abounded with what seem in retrospect deeply dangerous proposals designed to demonstrate America's vigour - from deposing Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser to military confrontations in Hungary to the use of nuclear weapons over Taiwan. Pundits were outraged that North Vietnam and Cuba had gone communist while the United States just sat and watched.
In the midst of this clamour for action, one man, President Dwight Eisenhower, kept his cool, even though it sank his poll numbers. (The Kennedy/Johnson administration ended the passivity, notably in Cuba and Vietnam, with disastrous results.) I believe that decades from now, we will be glad that Barack Obama chose Eisenhower's path to global power and not Putin's.
- The author hosts Fareed Zakaria GPS on CNN
Turn words into action involving women for lasting peace
October 16 2015
We have recently celebrated the peace deal struck between the government in Colombia and the main guerrilla group. The deal reached on justice issues represents the clearest sign yet of a possible end to five decades of conflict.
Less is said about the multiple constructive ways in which Colombian women have participated in, and influenced, these negotiations or mobilized for peace, including the many meetings held by women survivors with the women in both negotiating teams.
Similarly, few people know that last year also saw the end of another decade-long conflict in the Philippines between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, in peace talks where more than a third of negotiators were women; far above the norm in official peace talks, which are typically either all-male affairs or include very few women.
Their participation was built on a long history of women’s leadership at the local and national levels in The Philippines over the years, including under the leadership of two women presidents who both invested political capital in resuming negotiations with the rebel group.
As tensions threaten Burundi’s fragile peace, Burundian women quickly organized themselves in a nationwide network of women mediators to quell or mitigate the myriad local disputes and prevent escalation.
In 129 municipalities across the country, they addressed, by their count, approximately 3,000 conflicts at the local level in 2015, including mediating between security forces and protesters, advocating for the release of demonstrators and political prisoners, promoting non-violence and dialogue among divided communities, and countering rumors and exaggerated fears with verifiable information to prevent widespread panic.
UN Women has been proud to support these efforts.
These are not isolated stories. A comprehensive study prepared for the fifteenth anniversary of Security Council resolution 1325, a landmark resolution that recognized the role of gender equality and women’s leadership in international peace and security, makes the strongest case to date that gender equality improves our humanitarian assistance, strengthens the protection efforts of our peacekeepers, contributes to the conclusion of peace talks and the sustainability of peace agreements, and accelerates economic recovery after conflict.
It compiles growing evidence accumulated by academic researchers that demonstrates how peace negotiations influenced by women are much more likely to end in agreement and to endure.
It is time to put a stop to the domination of peace processes by those who fight the wars.
In fact, the chances of the agreement lasting 15 years go up by as much as 35 percent.
Where conflict-affected communities target women’s empowerment they experience the most rapid economic recovery and poverty reduction and greatly improved broad humanitarian outcomes, not just for women and girls but for whole populations.
In a world where extremists place the subordination of women at the centre of their ideology and war tactics, the international community and the UN should place gender equality at the heart of its peace and security interventions.
Beyond policies, declarations and aspirations, gender equality must drive our decisions about who we hire and on what we spend our money and time.
It is clear that we must strive for tangible changes for women affected by war and engage the grossly underused capacity of women to prevent those conflicts.
Countries must do more to bring women to the peace table in all peace negotiations. Civil society and women’s movements have made extraordinary contributions to effective peace processes.
We know that when civil society representatives are involved in peace agreements, the agreements are 64 percent more likely to be successful and long-lasting.
It is time to put a stop to the domination of peace processes by those who fight the wars while disqualifying those who stand for peace. It is time to stop the under-investment in gender equality.
The percentage of aid to fragile states targeting gender equality as a main goal in peace and security interventions is only 2 percent. Change requires bold steps, and it cannot happen without investment.
Now that time has come. On Sept. 25, the countries of the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which expresses determination to “ensure that all human beings can fulfill their potential in dignity and equality” and to “foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies that are free from fear and violence”.
Two days later, 72 heads of state and government attended our Global Leader’s Meeting to underline top-level support for gender equality and commit to specific action.
And on Oct. 13, the Security Council celebrated the 15th anniversary of Resolution 1325 and injected new energy, ideas, and resources into women’s leadership for peace.
In a world so afflicted by conflict, extremism, and displacement, we cannot rely only on the ripples of hope sparked by the extraordinary acts of ordinary people.
We need the full strength of our collective action and the political courage of the leaders of the international community.
Anniversaries, after all, must count for more than the passing of years. They must be the moment for us to turn words into action.
The writer is UN under-secretary-general and UN Women executive director.
The media war of Yemen’s leaders
16 October 2015
After being banned by three main Arabic news channels, former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh had to deliver his speech through Al-Mayadeen channel. Similarly, his partner in the insurgency, Abdul-Malak al-Houthi, leader of the Ansar Allah militia, was on Al-Massira channel. Legitimate President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi delivered a written speech to the Yemen News Agency.
That evening was part of the inter-Yemeni media war. Meanwhile, Hadi’s forces, and those of their Saudi and Emirati allies, have made huge gains in Aden, Marib, Taiz and the strategic Bab al-Mandab areas. They are now moving toward Jawf province. Houthi forces and Saleh militias are holed up in regions such as the capital Sanaa, which is ringed by mines in anticipation of the promised attack.
Yemeni public opinion might not have significant influence on the war because the disputants have resorted to arms. However, they do seek to justify their positions, and the rebels are now in need of public support given their battlefield setbacks. The media war reflects efforts by the conflicting parties to win support from the forces and tribes that are not yet involved in the war, or are willing to change allegiance.
After listening to Saleh’s interview, I am more convinced than ever that he is determined to fight until the end, contrary to recent rumors that he is willing to compromise by leaving Yemen. He has killed the closest people to him in order to consolidate his control. This is how he remained in power for 40 years, through his brutality and intelligence, not through the achievements of his government, whose sole task was to prevent challenges against him.
Countries such as Saudi Arabia knew that trying to support change in Yemen, or challenging Saleh’s rule, would be expensive and unsuccessful. That is why they did not interfere until the Arab Spring uprising in Yemen in 2011. These countries urged Saleh to resign and hand over power to the Yemeni people. He did not accept until he was nearly killed in an explosion.
Saleh will never accept the legitimacy of the current government, contrary to what he said on TV about making concessions in order to stop the war. He has always been known as a liar, so legitimate Yemeni forces and their allies will be forced to plan a longer and stronger war.
Saleh has ruined Yemen’s future. This is much worse than the harm he caused by his alliance with Houthi militias, and his subversion against the transitional government that was writing a new constitution and planning elections under U.N. supervision.
This two-year period was paving the way for a historic shift in Yemen, which would give the country the first real opportunity to build institutions that manage the state. The Yemeni people were eager to get out of poverty, ignorance and chaos.
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.
Putin shows his realism in Syria
16 Oct 2015
The Russian government has a number of different motives for its intervention in the conflict in Syria. Among these are the desire to help an old ally, to be seen once more as a great power on the world stage, and establish a position that will force US and European leaders to treat Russia's views with greater respect, especially over the Ukraine crisis.
Russia's strategy, however, also stems from a particular analysis of the situation in Syria based on a mixture of hard-headed realism and the experience of over two decades since the fall of communism. The Russian analysis is that the US strategy of arming and building up the Syrian "moderate opposition" never stood any chance of success and has now been recognised by the Pentagon as a failed strategy. Also, under these circumstances, if the Baath state in Damascus is overthrown, the result will be, at best, long-term anarchy; and at worst: a takeover by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and al-Qaeda.
Reminiscent of Western tactics
Moscow has, therefore, decided to provide the Syrian state and its Hezbollah and Kurdish allies with a Russian air force, in the same way (in the view of Russian officials) the US provided an air force for the Libyan opposition in 2011, the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan in 2001, the Kosovo Liberation Army in 1999, and the Croatian army in 1995.
This Russian decision came when it did because Syrian state forces seemed to be crumbling in the face of ISIL attacks, and also because the state of US policy and interests have made it highly unlikely that the US would do anything to block Russia's actions.
On the last point, Russian analysis has already been shown to be entirely correct. This is because US officials are now faced with an interlocking set of seemingly impossible dilemmas in the Middle East. For obvious reasons, ISIL has now joined al-Qaeda, by the US' thinking, as posing by far the greatest threat of terrorism against the US and Europe. In Iraq, this has led to what amounts to US-Iranian cooperation in supporting the Shia-dominated Iraqi government against ISIL. This has also contributed to the Obama administration's nuclear deal with Iran.
In the kind of simple strategic calculations beloved by international relations students (and which actually happened on occasions during the Cold War), the US would simply move over towards an alliance with Iran, Hezbollah and the Syrian state in the region. But this is obviously impossible for multiple reasons: It would cost the US its alliance with Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and Turkey - with dangerous implications for the wider struggle against terrorism.
Washington is, therefore, left with a set of essentially contradictory interests and policies in the region. Indeed, and very largely because of past US actions, the Middle East has developed such complex and heavily-armed conflicts that no stable hegemony over the region is currently possible.
The US' inability to block Russia's new strategy is also because, in private, considerable parts of the security and intelligence communities in Washington and other Western capitals essentially agree with Russian analyses: that the moderate Syrian opposition is not developing as a serious military force.
Under these circumstances, to destroy the Syrian government and army would risk playing disastrously into the hands of ISIL and al-Qaeda. These analysts fully recognise the odious record of the Syrian state - but the concept of "our son of a b***h" is no more alien to the CIA than it is to the KGB.
The development of this kind of thinking in the West brings these analysts closer to an underlying feature of Russian analysis ( also shared by many others in Beijing, Delhi and elsewhere), that in many parts of the world, states - not regimes, but states - are far more fragile entities than most Western thinking has assumed. Very often, regimes and states are one and the same thing, so that if you bring down one, you also destroy the other. The consequences of this - especially in an era of international terrorists seeking safe havens in ungoverned territories - may be much worse than leaving a dictatorship in power.
This thinking has its roots in historical memories of past periods of chaos in their own countries. It is close to the old saying - in its different forms - that: "A day of anarchy is worse than a hundred years of tyranny". In the view of Moscow, the examples of Afghanistan since 1992, Iraq since 2003, and Libya since 2011 have proved this argument so definitively that no further discussion is necessary.
A certain mood is, therefore, growing in Washington to let Moscow pursue its intervention in Syria and garner all the resulting risks and unpopularity, while, perhaps in the wider scheme of things, also serving long-term US interests. Among these risks for the Russian government are that the Russian people themselves may turn against this intervention, which - according to opinion polls - they seem to view in a very different light to Moscow's strategy in Ukraine. If Washington had a real and viable choice in the matter, this might well be described as a dreadfully cynical US approach. But does Washington have a choice?
Anatol Lieven is a professor at Georgetown University in Qatar and a visiting professor at King's College London. He is the author, among other books, of Ukraine and Russia: A Fraternal Rivalry and Pakistan: A Hard Country.
What Iran Fears From Reporters Like Jason Rezaian
By AZADEH MOAVENI
OCT. 16, 2015
London — FOR most of the years that I was based in Iran as a correspondent for Time magazine, my working life approximated a clumsy script for a television spy drama. I was regularly obliged to meet with intelligence agents who monitored my writing and hectored me to disclose the identities of sources. These interrogation sessions usually took place in empty apartments across Tehran, places where no one could have heard me scream, and always with stern warnings that nobody could know they were taking place.
I got used to seeing an unidentified number flashing on my cellphone, picking up a call from a voice that would not identify itself. I got used to my assigned agent’s macabre jokes, to being followed and sometimes threatened. As he revealed things about my life only those close to me would know, I grew to distrust many of my friends, and felt tainted by his role in my life. But for me, working in Iran involved such an association.
As a child of Iranian exiles living in California, I grew up hearing that the Islamic Republic was merciless. So when I first traveled back to Iran — where I held dual citizenship — to work in 1999, I expected some level of scrutiny. At first, watching the Western reporters around me operating relatively freely, I imagined the challenges would be tolerable.
Only at the very end of my time there did I realize I had been in the hands of the “good guys.” Since I left in 2007, the Islamic Republic’s intelligence apparatus has grown steadily, in tandem with the political establishment’s own increasing fragmentation. Factions within the judiciary and the Revolutionary Guards who often work at cross-purposes with the government have developed their own intelligence bodies that operate with impunity, a deep state that is determined to sabotage détente with the United States and to undermine the pragmatic forces that signed July’s nuclear deal to end Iran’s isolation.
Journalists have always been in their cross hairs, especially Iranian-American journalists, who are viewed as spies and, in recent years, as useful pawns projecting the image that Iran is still very much in the business of hostage taking.
Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post reporter who has been held in jail for nearly 15 months, is the latest victim of this continuing and complex pattern. He was recently convicted of espionage in a secret trial and only heard of this development, according to his brother, watching the evening news in prison.
Jason is also from Northern California, and the last time I saw him in San Francisco, he was planning his move to Tehran with great excitement. Despite his months of interrogation, I can imagine him sitting in his cell, wondering exactly what he did wrong, apart from trying to explain Iran to the world. For the deep state, the journalism itself scarcely matters. The scrupulous objectivity and transparency that marked Jason’s work from Tehran have never been enough to persuade Iran’s intelligence forces that Iranian-Americans are not a security threat.
Their fears are not really about security. During my time in Iran, my agents came to know me with bruising intimacy. They were the ones who approved the renewal of my press card, and of course they monitored my phone calls and emails. Often they complained that we Americans were too prone to conflating elite Iranians with the rest of the country. I told them once, exasperated: “Most Americans view Iranians as a nation of hostage-taking anti-Semites living under Shariah law. Knowing that some like to go skiing makes us seem human.” I remember that day, because my agent put down his pen and seemed to acknowledge the point.
But the part of the deep state that has imprisoned Jason does not bother itself with such subtleties. This is not the old-school intelligence apparatus that was trying to familiarize itself with how Iranian-Americans journalists functioned. Those who are detaining Jason have an ideological vision of Iran’s future that requires continued isolation.
They worry, correctly, that President Hassan Rouhani and his allies are working to open Iran up to the world. And that this opening will gradually erode support internally, among the government itself, for Iran’s aggressive posture in the region and its severe restrictions at home. They see how media coverage of Iran has shifted in recent months, how once routine images of black-chador-clad women and Shiite militias have given way to fashion spreads and profiles of tech start-ups. For them, this is a nightmare in the making, and they know that imprisoning Iranian-Americans is a quick way to stop it.
The pragmatists around Mr. Rouhani privately appreciate the work of Iranian-American journalists. They recognize that we are the ones best positioned to report on our homeland, because we have built-in sympathies, greater historical context and the language skills to document, with more granular nuance, how Iran is changing. For much of the 2000s, when Iran largely refused to allow any American correspondents to be based in the country, America primarily read about Iran through the work of a handful of such dual-national reporters, myself included.
We bore witness to the story of Iran changing around us, but the cost for many of us, in the end, was high. This newspaper’s Tehran reporter, Nazila Fathi, had to leave Iran in the aftermath of the 2009 election unrest, told that snipers had been given her photograph and orders to shoot. Others have endured smear campaigns in the hard-line press, and like Jason, imprisonment.
Sometimes I find myself missing the old days. I would happily sit through those interrogations again, because I see them now for what they were — a chance for a deeply suspicious state to understand how journalism really works, and to see up close why it does not have to be a threat.
Azadeh Moaveni is a lecturer in journalism at Kingston University and the author, most recently, of “Honeymoon in Tehran: Two Years of Love and Danger in Iran.”
It is time for Arabs to take off their hats to Indians!
Oct 17, 2015
To all conceited and arrogant Arabs who take pride in the glorious history of Arab civilization, it is time you took off your hats to Indians after having treated them with discrimination and having looked down upon them for decades.
Indians today run America and the world. While the US imports oil from the Gulf, it imports minds from India. Fifteen percent of start-up companies in Silicon Valley, south of San Francisco which is home to hundreds of technology companies such as Google, Apple, Facebook, etc., are owned by Indians, who, by the way, constitute the largest percentage of immigrants in the San Francisco Bay Area. Their number exceeds that of the British, Chinese, Taiwanese and Japanese combined, who own companies in that area.
Vivek Wadhwa is an entrepreneur who was born in India and holds numerous academic positions at Singularity University, Stanford University and Duke University, all in the United States. In his study, he shows that one-third of start-up companies all over the United States were formed by Indians.
Figures show that Indian-Americans have the largest annual per capita income at $86,135 compared to $51,914 for other Americans. Nowadays, Indians run several mega companies around the world. Indra Krishnamurthy Nooyi is an India-born naturalized American who is currently the chief executive officer of PepsiCo; Ajaypal Singh Banga is the current president and chief executive officer of MasterCard and Anshuman Jain was the former CEO of Deutsche Bank. In fact, you will find many Indian-origin CEOs running technological companies in the US. For example, Pichai Sundararajan is the CEO of Google Inc. while Satya Nadella is the director of Microsoft.
India ranks second in terms of the largest number of management leaders while the United Kingdom, which colonized India for several centuries, comes third on the list. The United States is first.
Venktesh Shukla is the president and trustee of Indus Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. He believes that Indians are successful managers because they greatly value competition and are humble. Moreover, India has a diversity of cultures and backgrounds. You can visit a small village in India and notice how people speak different languages, believe in different deities, and have different types of local dishes. Indian traditions celebrate the existence of various facts and multiple viewpoints.
Shukla also said that Indians are different from one another, not better than one another; they are just different. In Silicon Valley what matters is not what language you speak or what you wear. What matters there is who can generate the largest revenue. Indians can easily adapt to different working environments and make great achievements with limited resources, he added.
The Indian education system focuses on mathematics, engineering and science. Hyderabad is the hub of youth training and development. The Indian government also focuses on building universities that teach students how to become leading entrepreneurs.
The graduates of the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, which is a public engineering institution located in Mumbai, have proved that they can outshine their American counterparts who have graduated from the most prestigious universities in the US. It is all about education and training. Indian educational, commercial and legal laws encourage and promote development and creativity. That is why creative Indians can be found all over the world.
Is It So Hard To Say It Was An ISIL Attack?
By Murat Yetkin
The legal restrictions imposed on the media over news of the Oct. 10 Ankara suicide bombings - in which the number of deaths hit 102 on Oct. 16 (with many heavily wounded victims still in hospital) - did not work well this time.
Despite possible legal probes, most newspapers (including pro-government ones) have started to report the details of the blast - the bloodiest terrorist attack in Turkey’s history. It was clear from the second day onward that one of the two suicide bombers might be Yunus Emre Alagöz, the brother of the bomber (Şeyh Abdurrahman Alagöz) who killed 34 people including himself in Suruç on July 20. The two suspects were part of the same entourage at the “Islam Tea House” in the southeastern town of Adıyaman, together with another Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) bomber, Orhan Gönder. Gönder was arrested and jailed on accusations of killing four people in the Diyarbakır attack targeting a rally of the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) on June 5, just two days before the June 7 general election.
Now it is almost completely clear that the other suicide bomber in the Oct. 10 Ankarabombing was Ömer Deniz Dündar, again from the same circle. Dündar had crossed into Syria after the local authorities closed down the teahouse, heading to Tel Abyad that was then under ISIL control. There he received training and crossed backed into Turkey to carry out an attack. Like the mother of Gönder, the father of Dündar told the press that he had made a number of applications to the authorities to inform them about his son, but these applications had got nowhere. Another member of the group, Mahmut Gazi Tatar, who was captured by the militia of the Kurdish (PYD) forces when they took Tel Abyad from ISIL, confirmed the story in a regret-filled interview.
However, on Oct. 15 Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said the attack could be a result of a “terrorist cocktail” with the participation of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party(PKK), which is the elder sister of the Syrian PYD, and the notorious left-wing DHKP-C militants. He even mentioned the “parallel state” - as the government calls sympathizers of the U.S.-based Islamist ideologue Fethullah Gülen. The PYD/PKK is one of major forces on the ground in Syria fighting against ISIL, but Davutoğlu said he had a meeting in May in the town of Haseki to cooperate in the campaign.
The evidence that Davutoğlu could show to back up his “cocktail” description was a number of Twitter posts by users who are now in custody over their tweets about possible bombs in Ankara on that particular date. Davutoğlu also said the authorities know about certain ISIL-affiliated names - a list of 16-20 people, allegedly including the names above. He said these figures are in Syria so difficult to reach and what’s more the security forces would be unable to arrest them without evidence anyway, despite a recent law that security forces actually could move in if there is “reasonable suspicion.”
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) head Devlet Bahçeli strongly criticized Davutoğlu in a live interview on private broadcaster Habertürk on Oct. 15. He based his criticism on reports that the recent bombers had met with other suspected ISIL members in Kilis, near the Syrian border, after crossing back into Turkey. Bahçeli said they had spent the night in Kilis (despite the heavy presence of the National Intelligence Agency, the police and the military) before traveling to Ankara some 750 kilometers away. In Ankara they had breakfast in a café before going to the main train station and exploding their bombs in front of it. If the bombers’ presence in Syria was a legitimate excuse, Bahçeli asked, what is the excuse for not capturing the bombers - who were already the subject of police reports - when they were travelling in Turkey with bombs?
Meanwhile, Republican People’s Party (CHP) head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu snubbed Davutoğlu’s suggestion that “ISIL and the PKK did it together,” saying the prime minister’s statements in recent days were full of contradictions. He asked Davutoğlu to reveal whether the names of alleged suicide bombers were even on the police list of suspects.
For his part, HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş asked Davutoğlu what the government was trying to hide about the bombing by restricting the media’s reporting on it.
It is pretty clear from the open source evidence that the Ankara bombing was an ISIL attack, despite the lack of official confirmation so far. It is difficult to understand why it is so hard for Davutoğlu’s Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) government to say it was an ISIL attack, trying instead to attach another organization to ISIL. It is not that the PKK would not carry out such terrorist attacks, (they have done so before), but one wonders why the AK Parti is trying not to single out ISIL this time.
For how long will it be possible to smoke screen the truth with media restrictions? People need convincing answers about this terrible act of terror.
What ISIL Wants From Turkey
By Mustafa Akyol
The double suicide bombing in Ankara, which went down in history as the worst terrorist attack Turkey has yet seen, killed a hundred innocent citizens of this country. Hence it is imperative for us Turks to understand why this happened, how it happened, and how we can prevent it from happening again.
But alas, the government instituted a “gag order” on the issue, basically telling the media to shut up. (That is something the government actually wants permanently from the media – or, more precisely, the part of the media that is not enthusiastically pro-government.) Meanwhile, of course, the government itself is above that “gag order.” (“The prince is above the law,” as the Justinian Code put it nicely some 1,500 years ago.) So we do hear from the government everything it wishes to share about “an ongoing investigation.”
One particularly interesting comment in that regard came from Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who said the attack was possibly the work of both the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). He even coined the term “cocktail terror,” implying that the bombs in Ankara were made possible with the collaboration of the PKK, ISIL and even the half-mythical “parallel organization.”
However, with all due respect to Davuoğlu (and the “gag order”), I must say that this does not make sense. You don’t need a “cocktail” organization to execute a suicide bombing. Moreover, the PKK and ISIL hate each other more than anything else. They are at each other’s throats in northern Syria, and their mutual propaganda only reflects the intense confrontation between them.
It makes much more sense, in fact, to think that these groups are not “collaborating” against Turkey, but rather fighting each other on Turkish territory. The Ankara crowd that the bombs targeted, like the targets of the two previous bombings in Diyarbakırand Suruç that took place in the past four months, were secular, leftist, pro-Kurdish groups. They were, in other words, certainly not targets of the PKK, and perhaps they were an indirect way to target the PKK.
Why, then, do we have the “cocktail terrorism” thesis? Probably for propaganda purposes, which are particularly important two weeks before the elections. The thing is, if ISIL gets the whole blame, this will help the propaganda against the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, which is (wrongly in my view) blamed by the secular opposition for supporting ISIL behind the scenes. On the other hand, if the PKKis also blamed for the carnage, this will help the AKP propaganda against its most strategic rival, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). Add to this the nefarious “parallel organization,” and even all other cosmic evil forces, from Zionists to the Illuminati, and you will get a perfectly pro-AKP narrative.
But we cannot afford to fool ourselves with such bilge because we have to understand what is really happening. In my view, there are two things here. First, The Kurdish-ISIL war in Syria is spilling over into Turkey as ISIL cells hit secular Kurds inside Turkish territory. Second, ISIL is giving a message to the Turkish government, too: I can hit you as well, even right in the middle of your capital. And this probably is a form of “punishment” for the Turkish cooperation with the United States against ISIL.
Finally, ISIL has not claimed responsibility for these bombings, perhaps because it is smart enough to see that we have become a delusional nation that will seek conspiratorial explanations to everything, hating each other even more. Unidentified bombs are a great tool for pumping up our madness.