New Age Islam Edit Bureau
20 April 2018
Four Reasons Why Destroying the Brotherhood Is a Noble Task
By Mamdouh Almuhaini
What If Saddam Had Stayed In Power?
By Adnan Hussein
Future Scenarios for the Unfolding Crisis in Syria
By Abdullah Bin Bijad Al-Otaibi
How To Counter Iran’s Military Entrenchment In Syria
By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
France Seeks A More Active Middle East Role
By Zaid M. Belbagi
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
Four Reasons Why Destroying the Brotherhood Is A Noble Task
By Mamdouh AlMuhaini
19 April 2018
The governments of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt are performing what we can call the noblest task that we are continually witnessing – the task of destroying the Muslim Brotherhood as an ideology, organization and individuals. However why is this task, which will have the greatest impact in the future, viewed as the noblest? In my opinion, there are four reasons.
A Fertile Soil of Extremism
The first reason is that the Brotherhood’s ideology is the fertile soil of extremism and without it, we would not have known the most dangerous terrorist leaders who caused plenty of tragedies and tarnished the image of Islam and Muslims. If the Muslim Brotherhood hadn’t existed, Bin Laden would have probably been a rich contractor residing in Jeddah and Zawahiri would have probably been a surgeon living in the suburbs of Cairo.
However, their belief in this extremist ideology is what made them murderers whose hands are stained with the blood of innocent people. It is perhaps an exaggeration to say that terrorism will completely end without the Brotherhood as there will continue to be scattered groups that transform the culture of hatred into violence. However, they will not be like the Brotherhood who have transformed extremism into a skill and a profession and nurtured terror groups with a countless number of recruits. Imagine our world without the Brotherhood and you will clearly realize that terrorism will not reach this massive extent it has reached.
The Brotherhood Vs The Civil State
The second reason is that there cannot be a state with the Brotherhood, meaning a modern civil state which people cannot develop without. The Muslim Brotherhood are this state’s worst enemies as they aspire to establish a religious state or a caliphate. This is why they admire Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The Brotherhood has destroyed the concept of a state every time they attained power, just like what happened during the eras of Mursi, al-Shater and the group’s general guide as they’ve pushed Egypt, for the first time ever, to the edge of collapse, darkness and chaos. The Brotherhood’s insults are continuously directed at the modern state in an attempt to fully delegitimize it. According to them, rulers are tyrants, security forces are murderers, the applied laws are not Islamic and religious scholars are the preachers of the sultans.
This Brotherhood perspective is nothing strange because it relies on old and well-established teachings spread by Muslim Brotherhood thinkers like Maududi, Sayyid Qutb and others who solidified these concepts such as Hakimiyyah and Jahiliyyah (ignorance) of societies. Their ideas influenced the thinkers and leaders of the Shiite Brotherhood version represented in Khomeini and Khamenei after that who translated Qutb’s works into the Iranian language.
Completely destroying the Brotherhood means a complete and final victory of the idea of the civil state without any future threats to it. Just like the West destroyed Nazism, fascism and communism to progress and advance without any obstructions, it is important to completely destroy the Muslim Brotherhood in order to fold the last page of their obnoxious book forever.
The third reason is that there cannot be scientific, intellectual and cultural advancement with the Brotherhood and their ideology. The Brotherhood controlled educational institutions in several Arab countries and completely destroyed them. They poisoned students’ minds with hatred and conspiracies that are woven against the West thus creating a severe state of disconnect and conflict between Muslims and the rest of the world to the point where coexistence and integration became such a difficult idea. They also created an internal state of disconnect as part of the Uzlah al-Shu'uriyyah concept (isolation from others through feelings) which the pious must adopt within their ignorant societies.
This isolation is the psychological foundation to any terrorist, whether a beginner or a professional. Those whom the Brotherhood taught are unfortunate because they never felt the joy of reading a literary novel. How can they do so when Naguib Mahfouz was a heretic and a secular? They did not understand the beauty of poetry as to them, Adonis, Nizar Qabbani and Ghazi Al-Gosaibi are a bunch of immoral writers.
The same goes for prominent western intellectuals who are specialized in Islamic heritage, like Georges Tarabichi who they see as a Christian infiltrator and Bernard Lewis who they see as a Zionist orientalist and an enemy of Islam. They destroyed the idea of experimental and neutral science and sought to link it to religion according to the mythical methods of Zaghloul El-Naggar. A nation whose education is destroyed, is steeped in conspiracy theories whose literature is suspicious and theoris for science are a joke cannot rise. This is exactly what the Muslim Brotherhood specializes in and it’s not possible to take one step forward in their presence.
The fourth reason is that the Brotherhood’s ideology is an epidemic that spreads in every spot. The Brotherhood ideology is totalitarian. Those who believe in it infiltrate all institutions and ministries and manage to spread this epidemic, especially if they are at the head of power.
The Brotherhood destroyed the media and turned it into a tool for blatant propaganda and promotion that celebrates terrorists and calls them clerics and describes them as pious men. The Brotherhood turned the media, which must support civilized values like freedom, openness, coexistence and tolerance, into platforms that spread violence, sanctifies extremists and promotes the Fatwas of suicide bombings. They spread their ideas in religious institutions and mosques.
Even in institutions which you’d think they’re distant from, they will still find a chance to spread their doctrine. You will find their books in hospital and prison libraries. Even among terrorists, there are men who advise them.
The Brotherhood ideology is a tank for terrorism that is against the civil state, science and culture and it is a disease which infiltrates institutions and tampers with them and destroys them. There are other reasons which put this ideology in direct conflict with civilization and progress. This is why the noblest task is the one which is clearly and bravely carried out by Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Cairo on behalf of everyone.
If we compare the situation in Iraq since 2003 with what it was before that year, would Iraq (and consequently the Middle East and the world) have been in a better position now, had Saddam Hussein and his regime not been toppled?
Some people think this is true, but this belief defies logic. For example, let’s take a look at Syria. Is its situation today better than it would have been if Bashar al-Assad had responded to his people’s demands and given up power or at least carried out political reforms?
Saddam: The Brutal Dictator
About a quarter century prior to 2003, Saddam had started his term as president in 1979, after having carried out a horrific massacre of some of his own Baath Party members because they had voted against forcing former president Ahmed al-Bakr to retire in order to allow Saddam, who was then vice president, to attain high office.
Within that period, Saddam also waged an internal war against the Communist Party in his country, which was a small partner in power, as well as against other nationalist parties. In fact, Saddam wanted all Iraqis to become Baathists and thereby loyal to him alone. In case they refused, they were to be sentenced to prison, torture or death.
The war against the Kurdish movement also escalated after Saddam upturned the peace and autonomy plan, accepted five years earlier. He then reached a deal with the Shah of Iran – a deal which violated Iraq’s sovereignty and national independence, just to seek Tehran’s aid to eliminate the Kurdish revolution.
The Toll Of Saddam’s Wars
In less than a year, Saddam began to prepare the stage for a war against Iran. He ignited a war within months, which began in 1980 and lasted eight years. The war drained Iraq’s financial, economic and military resources. After it ended without achieving its aims, Saddam began to blackmail Gulf countries that had opened their vaults to him during the years of war.
When they refused to submit to his blackmail, Saddam launched a new war and invaded Kuwait in 1990. He arrogantly and stubbornly refused to withdraw from Kuwait and was then faced with another war that further harmed Iraq. Still, Saddam refused to acknowledge defeat in the Kuwait war and insisted on describing it a victory, similar to what happened with the war with Iran.
At this time, Saddam committed three major massacres against his people: the chemical attack on the Kurdish city of Halabja, the Anfal campaign against the Kurds (1988) and the campaigns of killing or burying alive thousands of people from the southern and central provinces who later rose following the defeat of the Gulf War of 1991. These campaigns cost Iraqi people hundreds of thousands of lives.
Obduracy of the Tyrant
Even after these developments, Saddam did not change his approach in terms of domestic and foreign policy. He further tightened his grip on power and increased the level of suppression and arbitrariness while being indifferent to the situation of Iraqi people who sold all they had to maintain minimum standard of living. Meanwhile, the international siege was tantamount to a collective punishment against the Iraqi people, as Saddam continued to build lofty palaces and live extravagantly.
Saddam could have given up power after the end of the war against Iran and allowed someone else to lead the state but he didn’t. He could have done so following his defeat in the Gulf war of 1991, but he didn’t. He could have limited his absolute powers and adopted an open approach towards opposition parties and revived the autonomous rule agreement with the Kurdish movement. However, he did not adopt any of these options and he stubbornly held on to power in a tyrannical and unjust manner towards his people, Iraq’s neighbours and the rest of the world.
Resignation and transfer of power to someone else from the Baath Party was an option, even after the war began in 2003. The Late President of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan had offered a safe haven for him and his family but he arrogantly dismissed it and threw Iraq into the cauldron of a destructive war.
Leadership Woes Continue
What’s clear from the resume and behaviour of such a person is that he would have become more arrogant and tyrannical, the longer he stayed in power. He would have exacted revenge on any opposition within Iraq and foreign states who stood against him following his invasion of Kuwait and supported its liberation.
Those who say the situation of Iraq and the world would have been better had Saddam still been in power say so because Iraq and the Middle East have been headed towards turmoil during the past 15 years. The present bad situation in Iraq is due to those who assumed power after Saddam was ousted as they did not work on building the state which the Iraqis have waited decades to establish. After Saddam’s barbaric regime was toppled, Iraq was ready to build a state that has economic might and level of public welfare, comparable to that of Saudi Arabia and the UAE. In addition to its huge oil and gas wealth, Iraq has massive agricultural and industrial capabilities. The country’s human resources, specifically the competent educated class stood out among the region’s countries.
The problem is that Saddam’s successors dealt with the state and society, with unjust and brute force. They fought over power and sought to share it on the basis of a sectarian system. This led to serious and violent conflicts and to the spread of administrative and financial corruption. A state that has been exhausted by consecutive wars and a long phase of dictatorial rule could not stand on its feet amid armed sectarian and nationalist conflicts and the regulated looting of the state’s financial resources.
Just like Saddam, his successors were also stubborn and arrogant. They did not want to undo their mistakes and sins and amend the path. The Iraqi people’s situation thus deteriorated which made some publicly long for the days of Saddam and his regime!
Toppling Saddam’s regime was right. However, what was not right was how after toppling it, the US put Iraq in the hands of political Islam groups which, based on experience, are only fit to manage shrines, mosques and hossainyas.
By Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi
No sound is louder than that of the drums of war once they start beating. War neither compliments nor trusts anyone. It is one of the most rigorous expressions of conflict, opposing beliefs and the imbalance of power in the region and the world.
During the Cold War and its several battles across the world, the sound of the war drums rose after the fundamentalist revolution in Iran was led by Khomeini in 1979. He was praised by many top intellectuals and writers in the region and the world, who portrayed him as a loyal, glorious, free and revolutionary man and a guardian jurist just like he wanted.
Today, the Wilayat al-Faqih regime boasts of its control over four Arab capitals — Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa. Nothing has helped it in this respect more than the political mistakes of the most powerful country in the world, the United States. In 2003, the US militarily invaded Iraq without any viable strategic plan for the post-occupation phase. Saudi Arabia blamed the United States for this mistake for a long time. Blaming it should have lasted for a short period of time, yet it has consumed many years, and this is a story which is too long to explain.
The situation is changing, and the positions of the antagonists are evolving. A short while back, Russian President Vladimir Putin was making threats. He is proud of himself and his allies, as he has military bases in Syria. He has an alliance with Iran and Turkey, therefore consequently with all the extremist groups.
During his election campaign, he paraded the new generation of Russian weapons and whipped up a euphoria that Russia was back on the international political map. Barack Obama had made it possible for him to come forth as a major force in the international arena due to his lack of awareness and to his visions that only included withdrawal and isolationism.
Putin was acting as if the war in Syria was a cold regional war that he could effortlessly manage through quick and intense intervention, but things didn’t pan out as he had planned. Despite acknowledging the major differences that cannot be controlled inside Syria and despite regional disputes, Putin made his allies blindly believe in his country’s military, political and economic power. However, is this really the case? Could the impression he gave to his allies be justified on the ground? Does Russia really have the capabilities of the former Soviet Union?
The answer is simply no. Russia’s military power is well known and doesn’t need any evidence. It is a major nuclear and military power. Nevertheless, it cannot stand in the same league as the United States, let alone confront an alliance that includes the US, France, Britain and others around the globe. Even economically, Russia’s economic weight is significant, yet it is incomparable to the economies of major counties, notably the United States and Western countries. The comparison is not at all in Russia’s favour.
So now the question emerges, who decided to escalate the situation in Syria? Who decided to use internationally banned chemical weapons in Douma last week? There is quite a controversy surrounding this, and all data and speeches at the UN Security Council strongly put the finger of blame on the regime of Bashar al-Assad. What is important here is that Western countries have assembled their forces and weapons to act in response to what it deems as provocation. Russia’s tone has shifted to a calmer demeanour. Apart from the slogans, there is no comparison in power between the United States and Russia thanks to a new coalition that is underway that will restore international balances.
Escalation of the Syrian Conflict
This major international escalation in Syria underscores the importance of three things. The first thing is the major changes in the regional balance of power, and the strong Saudi role carried out on the regional and international scene in all fields (in Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and others) as part of a major confrontation against the Iranian and Turkish projects and for the purpose of creating an efficient Arab political force.
This is in addition to the Arab quartet that boycotted Qatar, the actual war chaperoned by Saudi Arabia against extremism and terrorism and Saudi Arabia's mastery to establish ample political, military and economic alliances with Arab countries, Muslim countries and worldwide.
Secondly, the mistakes of international escalation served the interest of the United States and the Western countries supporting it and its allies around the world. North Korea’s unprecedented concessions bear resemblance to what’s happening to Iran as the United States’ remains adamant to repress Iran and subjugate it to international law.
The phases of restoring international balance have historically needed brave leaders known for their strong political decision-making, with the victims being those who had benefitted from the imbalances.
Thirdly, the past cannot stand up to the future. Countries that focus on the future are completely different from ideological countries that are nostalgic for the past and seek to reclaim it, exploit it and employ it.
Russia wants to go back to the era of the Soviet Union, and Iran wants to go back to an extremist ideology that belongs to the past and to reinterpret and exploit it. This is the Shiite version of political Islam, which Khomeini interpreted from Sunni political Islam, i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood’s version. Khomeini adapted it for the Shiite rhetoric and coined it as Wilayat al-Faqih.
Meanwhile, Turkey aspires to bring back the ill-famed Ottoman past and works hard to link Muslims to the idea of the Ottoman caliphate via a contradictory discourse that’s based on Ataturk’s secularism, which represents the legitimacy of the modern Turkish state, and that also bodes the return of the caliphate which the Turkish state itself abolished.
Politics has never been easy, as some of its fixed principles are complexity and interlacement. During important moments, when the world is holding its breath, politics needs skills, decisions and balances that assess everything, including the Syrian scene, accurately. The accumulation of mistakes does not allude to their lawfulness, repeating crimes doesn’t mean normalizing them and harvesting temporary gains doesn’t ensure one gets to maintain these gains. As such, the Syrian crisis needs a major re-creation of balances, not only in the region but also internationally.
An important question remains: What are the future scenarios for the crisis in Syria? There are many. One of it is Russia’s, Iran’s and Turkey’s scenario that hands over Syria to Iran as a little annexation to serve its terrorist project. The second one is handing over Syria to extremist and terrorist groups that are supported by Qatar and which had tarnished the Syrian cause.
It is best to have a scenario that revives Syria's unity, independence and the rights of its people without sliding the country into any situation leading to the first two scenarios.
Finally, no one likes war but sometimes it is a necessity, not an option.
April 19, 2018
Iran’s foreign and military policies in Syria are far-sighted and carried out with the aim of accomplishing the long-term revolutionary, ideological and hegemonic objectives of the regime. Any change in Iran’s militaristic role in Syria would not only significantly impact the seven-year-old conflict and the status quo between Bashar Assad and the opposition groups, but it could also have severe repercussions on the alliances and national security of other nations in the region.
In the space of a few years, the Iranian regime went from simply conducting an advisory role to becoming deeply embedded in Syria’s political, military and security infrastructure.
As the conflict continues, the Iranian regime shows ever greater disregard for the sovereignty of the Syrian nation, and Tehran is effectively acting more like an occupying force. Strategically speaking, the regime of Assad is too vital for Iran to abandon. Controlling Syria gives Iran immense geopolitical and military clout in the region. In addition, Tehran is effectively utilizing Syria to create a land corridor from Tehran to the Mediterranean, to support Hezbollah, empower Shiite militias in other nations, accomplish its regional ambitions, and tip the regional balance of power in favor of the “Shiite Crescent.”
Due to Iran’s current deep involvement in Syria, officials including Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have begun to boast that no force can push Iran out of Syria. Nevertheless, the international community still has the time to halt Iran’s entrenchment in Syria via five strategies that have not yet been paid adequate attention. Yielding to Iran’s political posturing will only assist Tehran in further solidifying its presence in Syria to the point of no return. This could alter the geopolitical chessboard of the Middle East in favour of the ruling clerics of Iran for decades to come.
In order to halt Iran’s entrenchment, first it is important to understand Iran’s twin strategies and modus operandi in Syria. In order to expand its influence in Syria more rapidly, the Iranian regime has transformed the function of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The IRGC and its various domestic branches, including the Basij, have been deployed to act like the Quds Force, which specializes in conducting operations in foreign countries. Secondly, Iran deploys Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiite militias to fight on its behalf in Syria.
The first strategy in countering the Iranian regime’s efforts is for the US and its allies to establish a no-fly zone on the Syrian borders. Among the countries that are bordered with Syria — Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Iraq and Jordan — Jordan and Israel are the most likely to agree to such a move.
Iran’s military and militias rely on the Syrian regime’s air force to give its militants cover on the ground. Aerial attacks put the Syrian regime, and consequently the IRGC, in a more advantageous position in comparison to the opposition groups. Without the aerial bombardments, Iran’s military would find it extremely difficult to score victories and make territorial advances at its current swift pace.
Secondly, the US and its allies ought to dismantle the IRGC’s independent command and control system in Syria with air strikes. It follows that the command and control centers in Iran’s military bases, which are being built across Syria, should be targeted.
Third, to push back against Iran’s military, a powerful, moderate and legitimate domestic force is required. The international community appears to have given up on finding such a moderate force in Syria. This is partially due to the notion that, since the West has decreased its engagement in Syria, the Iranian and Syrian regimes have been on the offensive, shelling and bombing areas held by opposition groups. In addition, Damascus and Tehran appeared successful at spreading their narrative and propaganda message that the only anti-Assad groups left in Syria are terrorist and extremist groups.
With intelligence and advisory assistance, the Gulf Cooperation Council, the US and its EU allies can reinitiate their plan to support a moderate Syrian opposition group. A moderate Syrian force could play a significant role as a bulwark against Iran’s entrenchment.
Fourth, empowering minority ethnic groups, specifically the Kurds, is essential to countering Iran and its linked groups. The Kurds were effective at fighting Daesh, but the West has recently cut back on its support for them. This has allowed Iran, Turkey and Russia to expand their influence in Syria’s Kurdish areas.
Finally, Iran is hemorrhaging billions of dollars to keep Assad in power. Iran’s main revenue originates from its oil exports and, thanks to the nuclear agreement; it is exporting approximately 40 percent of its oil to Europe. The leaders of Europe can put significant pressure on Iran’s military by suspending its oil imports. Europe’s other alternatives for oil supply can be the Gulf States.
France Seeks a More Active Middle East Role
France has colonial ties with a quarter of the Arab world, but the long shadow of violent wars of independence and a focus on West Africa have meant that it always held back from taking a lead role in the region. However, in a departure from his predecessors, President Emmanuel Macron has shown a readiness to get more involved. Just last week, three Arab leaders — Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, King Mohammed VI of Morocco, and Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri — walked through the gates of the Elysees Palace.
A perceived US withdrawal from the region is the most significant factor behind France’s readiness to intervene. President Donald Trump’s State Department cuts and the fact that US ambassadors have yet to be appointed to six regional countries illustrate the White House’s lack of resolve with its traditional area of influence. Russia’s tactical undermining of Western influence in the region is a direct result of the US scaling back, while it seems France has also recognized an opportunity to impose itself on the region with the added value of retaining its big power status.
The Trump administration’s primary focus on the region seems to be Israel, containing Iran and demolishing Daesh. Though it has expressed support for other Arab allies, the absence of ambassadors to enforce relationships creates challenges. In a part of the world where personal ties are paramount and protocol of critical importance, the US lacks the tools and indeed the appetite to delve into the region’s fraught politics.
France has instead capitalized on its standing in the Arab world, as being historically supportive of the Palestinian cause, against the US invasion of Iraq, and having been vocal in its opposition to the Assad regime. Whereas Trump has put Middle East policy in the hands of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, President Macron has been keen to bring in regional expertise. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is a former Minister of Defense with extensive relationships in the Arab world, and a cadre of former French ambassadors to the region are key appointees.
France’s relationship with the Middle East is not new and its renewed interest in the region in some respects stems from a desire to leverage its historical ties. Shortly after becoming president, Macron chose Morocco as the destination of his first state visit. Politely breaking bread with the king during the month of Ramadan, the president displayed a willingness to make good on his campaign promises to improve France’s relations with the Muslim world.
Having urged the UN to take a hard line against human trafficking in Libya, actively seeking a smooth transition of power in Algeria, and mediating during the Gulf crisis, the president has shown that France will be more actively involved in regional affairs. Helene Pichon, a former French diplomat and director of institutional relations at French think tank CEPS, discussed this issue from Paris. She considered the main driver behind French foreign policy to be “the President, who really wants to make a difference. France is back in the region. His growing ties with Arab leaders are a typical example of his desire to be a bridge of understanding and collaboration between nations.”
Last Saturday, France, along with the United States and the United Kingdom, launched over 100 missiles targeting locations in Syria linked with the regime’s chemical weapons program. In a move that Macron said was intended to “save the honor of the international community,” the rare military action has allowed the president to show French leadership on the international stage. It has allowed France to capitalize on its imperial history and to stabilize a part of the world where it has important relationships. The Syrian case is an opportunity for France to involve itself in a conflict where other great powers have shown reluctance. With the UK and Germany distracted with domestic affairs, this is a moment for France to show leadership in Europe, especially in the context of Brexit, which will leave France as the EU’s only nuclear power.
With an economy that has struggled to grow in recent years, building French relationships in the Arab world will also have a positive impact on the Republic’s finances. Saudi Arabia and Egypt are two of France’s largest export markets for defence equipment, while Macron has mentioned the possibility of a state visit to Iran later in the year and has spoken admirably of the French companies that have sought to build bridges in that market.
France has to be seen to be taking a role in the Middle East to show a strong front to its allies in the region who, directly or indirectly, feel the effects of the Syrian conflict. France maintains a military base in Lebanon and has close relations with its leadership. As the third largest weapons supplier in the world, France has increased arms exports by 27 percent in the last five years, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which tracks this data. The vast majority of this growth has been through its trade partners in the Arab world, underlying the region’s importance to France.
Whether as diplomatic mediator, economic partner or indeed UN Security Council ally, France has and will continue to pursue a more active policy in a region that has been torn apart by foreign intervention. It is therefore imperative that its role be a positive one, as several recent events have shown how isolated incidents have quickly escalated.