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

Will Russia Succeed Where Iran Failed?: New Age Islam’s Selection From World Press, 1 December 2015

 

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

 

1 December 2015

Will Russia succeed where Iran failed?

By Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Russia’s unrealistic expectations of Turkey

By Sharif Nashashibi

Why is Russia wooing Iran even more now?

By Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

MUSLIMS ARE COMING!

By Fakhruddin Ahmed

Fight against extremism

By Abdo Khal

Turkish-Russian dispute: Valid questions

By Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi

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Will Russia succeed where Iran failed?

By Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Monday, 30 November 2015

It's been a bad time for Russia after two of its jets have been downed. The first was a passenger plane downed in Egypt's Sinai, the second was a Sukhoi Su-24 warplane downed by Turkey near the Syrian border. However, the Russians still seem determined to avenge and win the battle in Syria.

They are now implementing a smart plan which is based on isolating the Turks, a key player against Bashar al-Assad’s regime. If they succeed, they may have the final say in Syria's future.

Russian fighter jets have heavily shelled Syrian-Turkish border crossings, as well as Syrian areas which Turks consider under their protection. The Russians have said they have destroyed militant border crossings, cutting the artery for trade activity which links armed groups in Syria with the world.

Border crossings

This is not the first blow to border crossing activities. Jordan has previously suspended all border activities after Iranians began having a presence in southern Syria, particularly in Daraa. In Lebanon, the army and Hezbollah militias have almost completely closed off borders crossings with Syria. Iraq's Kurds followed suit when the battle for Kobane erupted. As for border crossings between Syria and Iraq's Anbar Province, they remain open; however, the Syrian opposition has not used the crossings as a means to add a foreign dimension to their fight.

Now that Turkey's capabilities as a central actor in Syria have been paralyzed, are we about to see the end of the Syrian revolution and moderate armed opposition groups, like the Free Syrian Army, and other extremists such as ISIS and al-Nusra Front?

I think this is a temporary relapse. I am not referring to the operational military aspect here; however, my opinion is based on the social and political motives which influence the war. The Syrian people are the ones who embraced the Syrian uprising, not foreign powers - as claimed by those who oppose the revolution. The Assad regime is reminiscent of Soviet Union era and Cold War era regimes, that have either collapsed or changed.

The opposition will live on and the Russians, the Iranians and the Syrian regime's remnants will not succeed at turning back the clock. Without a political solution that grants hope to everyone, the war will not end - even if all border crossings are closed.

If the Russians want to succeed, there is now a precious opportunity ahead of them as their ties with many major parties negotiating in the Syrian conflict are mostly positive. They can develop a solution that's based on bringing together moderate opposition groups, some community powers and remnants of the Assad regime.

The upcoming Riyadh conference paves the way for creating a united front capable of leading a new Syria without extremism or the elimination of minorities, and this should be of benefit to all parties.

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/news/middle-east/2015/11/30/Will-Russia-succeed-where-Iran-failed-.html

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Russia’s unrealistic expectations of Turkey

By Sharif Nashashibi

Monday, 30 November 2015

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday made his most conciliatory comments yet on his military’s downing of a Russian warplane: “I’m really saddened by the incident. We wish it had never happened, but it happened. I hope something like this doesn’t happen again.” This fell short of the apology Russia has been seeking, but it is likely to be as close to one as Moscow will get.

The ambiguity in Erdogan’s wording must have been deliberate. It could either be interpreted as sadness that his country shot down the warplane, or that by allegedly violating Turkish airspace and ignoring repeated warnings, it forced his military to act.

The choice of wording was likely an attempt to placate Russia - its second-largest trading partner and source of tourists - while not being seen as capitulating in the eyes of Turks, who have become increasingly angry at Moscow’s heavy bombing of areas in Syria that are predominantly populated by their ethnic Turkmen kin.

Russia’s actions since Erdogan’s expression of sadness indicate that it wants a clear, unreserved apology. However, this would undermine his insistence that Turkey was right to protect its sovereignty.

His critics have already jumped on his statement on Thursday that had Ankara known the plane was Russian, “maybe we would have warned it differently,” despite at least two Russian violations of Turkish airspace in October that elicited complaints and warnings from Ankara.

An apology would risk making Erdogan look weak in the eyes of a population that has just re-elected his party into power with a parliamentary majority. Like his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, he enjoys and nurtures his reputation as a tough-talking strongman. We are as unlikely to see an unconditional apology from Erdogan, about anything, as we are from Putin.

Escalation

“We hope that the issue between us and Russia doesn’t escalate any further, become corrosive and have dire consequences in the future,” Erdogan said on Saturday. However, Moscow decreed sanctions on Turkey just hours later.

They include a ban on some goods, and forbidding extensions of labor contracts for Turks working in Russia. The decree also calls for an end to chartered flights from Russia to Turkey, and to Russian tourism companies selling vacation packages that would include a stay in Turkey.

Moscow had already taken retaliatory measures prior to the decree, including warning citizens against travelling to Turkey, suspending a visa-free travel regime from Jan. 1, cancelling a visit by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, leaving Turkish trucks stranded at the border, and confiscating large quantities of Turkish food imports.

Arguably the most dangerous and strategically counter-productive step so far has been Moscow’s cutting of military contacts. Since it has intensified its bombing of areas along the Syrian-Turkish border, and says it will continue to do so despite the downing of its plane, bilateral military contacts are necessary to ensure that such an incident is not repeated.

Dialogue

In a bid to restore relations, Erdogan on Saturday renewed a call to meet with Putin in Paris on the sidelines of the Global Climate Summit on Monday. However, as of Sunday Putin had not responded, with his foreign affairs adviser saying: “We have seen that the Turkish side hasn’t been ready to offer an elementary apology over the plane incident.”

If Putin were to spurn such a meeting, this would indicate that he values political point-scoring over the settlement of an issue that has severely strained ties that are mutually important, particularly in the fields of tourism, trade and energy. Holding the meeting would not necessarily resolve the issue (though it would present the best opportunity to do so), but snubbing it would be seen as an unwillingness to even try.

Ankara may take this as a sign that its overtures have only emboldened an intransigent Moscow. Turkey may then stop taking further conciliatory steps and blame Russia for the impasse. However, whether such a meeting takes place or not, a genuine restoration of ties will need to include tackling the issue of Russian bombardment of Syrian Turkmen, as well as a mutually face-saving formula over the plane-downing.

Putin has domestic backing for his tough stance, but though he will wish for an eventual resolution, he seems to be seeking maximum gains before he decides to bury the hatchet. However, he is in danger of over-playing his hand. This will not only be to the detriment of both countries, but it could further intensify the Syrian conflict as both Ankara and Moscow increase their support for opposing sides.

Sharif Nashashibi, a regular contributor to Al Arabiya News, The Middle East magazine and the Guardian, is an award-winning journalist and frequent interviewee on Arab affairs. He is co-founder of Arab Media Watch, an independent, non-profit watchdog set up in 2000 to strive for objective coverage of Arab issues in the British media. With an MA in International Journalism from London's City University, Nashashibi has worked and trained at Dow Jones Newswires, Reuters, the U.N. Development Programme in Palestine, the Middle East Broadcasting Centre, the Middle East Economic Survey in Cyprus, and the Middle East Times, among others. In 2008, he received the International Media Council's "Breakaway Award," given to promising new journalists, "for both facilitating and producing consistently balanced reporting on the highly emotive and polarized arena that is the Middle East." He can be found on Twitter: @sharifnash

english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2015/11/30/Russia-s-unrealistic-expectations-of-Turkey.html

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Why is Russia wooing Iran even more now?

By Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

Monday, 30 November 2015

While tensions between Russia and Turkey have surged after the Russian jet was shot down by Turks near the Syrian border last week, ties between Iran and Russia are going in the opposite direction.

Iran and Russia’s interests in the Syrian conflict, with both supporting Bashar al-Assad, has been a key element in their friendship.

As much as Tehran likes to showcase these good relations and advertise Russian changes in behavior, some other points speak differently.

During the time of the revolution in 1979, the most famous slogans being chanted included: “No East, No West. Islamic Republic!” Iran was not only shunning Western powers, but also major eastern players, such as the Soviet Union.

Of course, today the Soviet Union doesn’t exist and Russia is not a communist state any more, but core ideologies do remain. Naturally, seeing Iran getting closer to Western states makes more sense economically and politically, despite prohibitions against Western culture and the kind of democracy that is practiced there.

This is especially as many parts of Iranian society hold a sense of distrust towards the Russians. Iran oil and gas shares in the Caspian Sea have always been a source of disagreement between Iran and Russia, while several arms deals between both countries have not been smooth.

The S-300 defense missiles contract with Moscow, aimed at providing Iran with a capable defense system, has become a household topic which many Iranians mention when discussing how opportunistic the Russians can be.

Under an agreement that Iran and Russia signed in 2007, Russia was supposed to supply five batteries of S-300 PMU-1s to Iran according to the terms of a contract estimated at $800 million.

After Russia suspended the supplies in 2010, Iran filed a $4 billion lawsuit against Moscow with the international court of arbitration. The decision to suspend the supplies was taken by the then president, Dmitry Medvedev.

When the nuclear agreement was finally reached in Vienna on July 14, Moscow and Tehran again signed a fresh missile systems contract on November 9.

The new contract hasn’t come into effect yet and the S-300s are no longer as attractive as they were in 2007 since Russia now has a more advanced S-400 system, which is considerably superior to the S-300 in terms of its tactical and technical characteristics.

Beating the West

For many Iranians, it’s clear that the Russians are in need of some cash to boost their economy and are seeking to take advantage of Tehran in the post-sanctions era. The Russians want to grab what a piece of the action, before the West jumps in.

When Iran was under tight international sanctions with its nuclear program in full swing, Russia had been making money with a contract to finish the construction of the Bushehr nuclear plant in southern Iran.

This was alongside Russia voting against Iran’s nuclear program at the U.N. Security Council.

Putin, who recently visited Iran, has said his country is committed towards its partners and wouldn’t “stab them from back.” But we shall wait to see whether their cooperation can last longer than their battle time in Syria.

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard is a journalist, news commentator and writer who grew up during the Iranian Revolution and wrote for leading reformist newspapers. She is also the author of Camelia: Save Yourself by Telling the Truth - A Memoir of Iran. She lives in New York City and Dubai. She can be found on Twitter: @CameliaFard

english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2015/11/30/Why-is-Russia-wooing-Iran-even-more-now-.html

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MUSLIMS ARE COMING!

By Fakhruddin Ahmed

December 01, 2015

On my visit to the local post office last week, I noticed a young woman at the counter wearing a hijab. When my turn came, she addressed me in a perfect American accent, “May I help you?” I said, “Yes.” Seeing that my letter was addressed to the Bangladesh Consulate in New York, she said softly in perfect Bangla, “Onek shomoy lagbe.” She seemed to know that Bangladesh would take a long time to process my request.

Bangladeshis at home will never understand how rejuvenating it feels when a stranger addresses a Bangladeshi in Bangla in America. Because of my six-foot frame, all my life I have been hearing, “You don't look like a Bangali,” especially from Pakistanis, who seem to think that there is a height limit for Bangladeshis! Even Bangladeshis sometimes express surprise: “Apni Bangladeshi?” (You are Bangladeshi?) What pleased me about this young lady was that she was absolutely certain that I was Bangladeshi. There was a lot more to be happy about what this young lady represented.

Here was a US government worker, representing the United States Postal Service, wearing a hijab, something that would not be allowed in France. This encapsulates the difference between assimilation in France (and Western Europe) and America. This is one reason why homegrown terrorism that manifested itself in the form of the Paris attacks on November 13 has escaped America. (All 9/11 terrorists were foreign nationals.)

Terrorist attacks in Paris have highlighted the high degree of alienation and non-assimilation among Western Europe's immigrant population. The terrorists sprang from France and Belgium's disaffected immigrant communities. The root cause of the estrangement can be traced back to the colonial history of the Western European nations.

France's restive immigrant population is predominantly from its former North African colonies – the so-called Maghreb nations of Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. For hundreds of years France was the colonial ruler of these North African Arabs. Some festering vestiges of the unequal relationship, and consequent resentment, still linger among the descendents of the former masters and their subjects. 

America has thus far been in an enviable position to avoid the scourge of homegrown terrorism. Immigrants have found it far relatively easier to integrate into the American melting pot than to assimilate in Europe. America has always been a haven for the world's persecuted. That noble tradition is now under attack.

Republicans in Congress and those running for president are against accepting any more of the 4.1 million refugees fleeing the civil war and ISIS-triggered carnage in Syria.  Thirty Republican governors oppose resettling Syrian refugees in their states. Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, children of Cuban refugees themselves, want to shut the door on Syrian refugees.

The current vetting regime for Syrian refugees – which involves biometrics, the FBI, the State Department, Homeland and other security agencies, and takes 18 to 24 months to complete – is so thorough that only about 1800 Syrian refugees have been granted asylum in the last five years.

Germany reported in October that 103,708 Syrians filed for asylum in 2015, of which 57,000 have been already accepted, and the most of the others will be, soon. The success rate for Syrian asylum-seekers in Germany is 93.2 percent. Germany will spend around $6.6 billion caring for the 800,000 refugees and migrants expected to enter the country by the end of 2015.

Despite the Paris massacre, President Hollande has reiterated France's pledge to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees in the next two years. Yet, President Obama's commitment to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees next year has been met with a firestorm of opposition from the Republicans. While the Republicans reflexively oppose immigration, this time their real targets are the Muslims.

According to a poll, 76 percent of Republicans, and 42 percent of Democrats believe that American and Islamic values are at odds.  Former Governor Jeb Bush and Senator Ted Cruz want to allow Christian, and bar Muslim Syrian refugees from entering the US. Donald Trump would mandate all Muslim Americans to register in a database, track their movements, and require them to carry faith-identifying cards. If Trump had his way, he would probably ship all Muslims to internment camps at the first opportunity, just as President Franklin Roosevelt had interned Japanese Americans during WWII. 

After every Muslim terrorist attack in the post-9/11 West, the demagogues immediately demonize Islam – a religion of 1.6 billion people – as the perpetrator. The subsequent clampdown feeds the terrorists' narrative that there is no room for Muslims in the secular West that has purportedly declared war on Islam. ISIS's explicit aim is to eliminate the so-called “grayzone” – the western acceptance of Muslims.

There is no penalty for egregious anti-Muslim rhetoric. Estimated to be between 2.5 to 8 million, America's Muslim citizens are too weak to retaliate. Trump has stood by his blatant lie that “thousands and thousands” of Arab Americans in Jersey City, New Jersey, across the river from Manhattan, celebrated as the twin towers came down on 9/11!

Muslim Americans have thrown in their lot with America. Their fate is intertwined with America's. It is not only hurtful, but also counterproductive to label them as fifth columnists, which they are not. They are as patriotic as any other group of Americans, and serve America as teachers, physicians, engineers, lawyers, businesspeople, government workers and in the armed forces. They would do anything to thwart attack by ISIS or its clones on America.

America must also consider the possibility that notwithstanding its altruistic intentions, invasion, occupation and bombing of Muslim nations may result in blowback. Muslim terrorism was unknown in America before the US-led Gulf War I in 1991. Perhaps, if America doesn't fight them abroad, they won't have to fight them at home!

Republicans demand strong leadership from President Obama against ISIS while opposing his “stay-the-course,” “reduce-ISIS-controlled-territory,” “no-American-boots-on-the ground” military strategy, and hamstringing his Syrian refugee policy. It is imperative that the world's military leader also be its moral leader. If America refuses to admit more Syrian refugees simply because they are predominantly Muslim, it will cede the global moral leadership to Germany.

Fakhruddin Ahmed is a Rhodes Scholar.

thedailystar.net/op-ed/politics/muslims-are-coming-180556

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Fight against extremism

By Abdo Khal

Dec 1, 2015

We are like a person who had a horrific nightmare and continued his sleep to forget about that frightful dream. This is the right description of our ongoing efforts to fight extremism in our society.

When the Education Ministry recently announced that it would keep a close watch on libraries it was similar to the effort of a sleeping person to free his mind from the nightmare.

Actually it has come not as an initiative from the Education Ministry but as a response to the Interior Ministry’s warning after it observed that some books in our libraries contained extremist thoughts like the books and publications of deviant groups that spread dangerous views and ideas.

Every school should set up a committee to review the books that are kept in its library and other education centers in order to remove banned books from its racks.

If the Education Ministry had not received this warning from the Interior Ministry it would not have taken any action to remove such books from school libraries. This reflects the need for cooperation by all ministries to root out terrorism from the country.

We should understand that there are many other areas that work as breeding grounds for extremism and terrorism. The ministry’s move to check books at school libraries is a welcome gesture, although it came a bit late as the idiom says: Better late than never. But with regard to organizations such late action will be considered a grave mistake.

The Education Ministry should also shoulder it responsibility to neutralize those individuals who inject extremist thoughts in the minds of younger generations. I think it will be a very difficult job.

This campaign should not only cover the ministry’s staff but also other individuals and groups in our bid to eradicate extremism. Every government agency should make contributions toward fighting extremism without waiting for the Interior Ministry’s warning.

We should also focus our attention on families who encourage their children to follow in the footsteps of extremist leaders and Al-Qaeda ideologues.

saudigazette.com.sa/saudi-arabia/fight-against-extremism/

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Turkish-Russian dispute: Valid questions

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi

Dec 1, 2015

I dream sometimes of going back to my journalism school in the University of Oregon, to discuss, in a pure academic environment, Mideast issues from afar, as I often did during my student years there. Then, I would be called upon to explain current events to researchers and journalists trying to make sense of our complicated world.

Last night, I “imagined” helping a researcher understand the latest Russian-Turkish dispute. Since his questions are many, and the space of this article is limited, I’ll save the answers for my next article. Here’s his dilemma:

“I am doing a report on the Russian-Turkish relations, after the downing of a Russian Sukhoi Su 24 bomber by a Turkish F 16 fighter. In the beginning, it seemed an easy task, but what has started as a typical aerial face-off, has turned out to be a complicated political problem. Here’s why:

1. Turkey has maintained that its air force didn’t know the identity of the jet. This is hard to believe. Since it was a close encounter, the Turkish pilots should have been able to see it was Russian not Syrian jet. Moreover, it wasn’t the first incident. Many times before, as Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, made clear, Russian aircraft had violated the Turkish airspace. So it was safe to expect that they were Russian intruders, this time, too.

2. Turkey also says that the Russian jets were warned 10 times in 5 minutes. According to military rules of engagement approved by the NATO, they needed less warnings and time to engage. The Russian denied that warnings were issued and insisted they heard nothing.

Since the Turks were using open frequency, couldn’t there be a third party confirmation of either story?

Lets’ not forget that the sky has been full of civil and military jet activities for over a year. It was more so after Canada, France and US intensified their bombing campaign in alliance with dozens of other participants against Daesh (so-called IS) in northern Syria. Why no one has come forward with a recording of the Turkish warnings?

3. The Turks say they shot the Russian bomber after it entered their airspace, (even though it could have legally shot it, at the entrance if it didn’t identify itself or followed calls to turn around). Russia (according to President Vladimir Putin) insists the bomber was inside Syria, one kilometer away from the border.

Again, isn’t there enough witnesses and satellite imagery to show were exactly was the Russian jet before it was shot? We are talking more than 60 nations, including superpowers and regional powers, with sophisticated intelligence on the ground and in the sky. How come no one could bring this feud to an end with bulletproof evidence? Also, some of the debris, according to Turkey, fell on Turkish grounds. Couldn’t they be submitted as evidence that the downing happened on Turkey airspace?

4. NATO is supporting its member, Turkey, and confirming its story. President Barack Obama is standing alongside the Turks in this dispute, and finding their action legal and right. Still, if America has seen enough proof, why not bring it to the public opinion court, if not to the UN or Security Council, in order to silence the Russian propaganda machine?

5. Turkey started with low tone, then raised it in line with the Russian angry tonality, now it seems they have slipped to the “sad and sorry” tone.

What is causing this? Less than anticipated NATO and regional support? More than expected Russian sanctions and reactions? Fear of political ramification on the Syrian political negotiations? Or the possibility of Russian revelation of possible Turkish links to Daesh?

6. Turkey is a senior member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and has strong regional allies, why no one has voiced any support? Why no OIC or Arab League emergency session was called to discuss the issue? Only the Islamic and Arab media are discussing the matter, but no official statement has been issued, except from the foreign minister of Iran who called for calm and de-escalation of tension.

7. If the reason for this “radio-silence” is to help in calming nerves, why no ally or friend of either disputing country has tried to mediate? I thought the UN would be interested in such a task. They are mediating in every Middle East issue, from Yemen to Syria, why not in this dispute as well? I could imagine UN Secretary General expressing his concerns and calling for calm, then visiting both parties, and assigning an envoy to follow up. Yet, he and his organization seem to regard the issue as non-relevant or less important.”

Dear readers, lets’ discuss these valid questions here, next Tuesday. I need your help, so, please, lets’ share thoughts and comments.

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah.

saudigazette.com.sa/world/turkish-russian-dispute-valid-questions/

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