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Middle East Press On Islamist Terror, Israel-Arab Ties And State-Sponsored Terrorism: New Age Islam's Selection, 25 November 2020


By New Age Islam Edit Desk

25 November 2020

•  Fight Against Islamist Terror Must Begin With Opposing Extremist Ideas

By Noura Al Kaabi

• Netanyahu, MBS Concur On Iran, But Normalization No Closer

By Ben Caspit

• Australia Is Guilty Of State-Sponsored Terrorism

By Andrew Mitrovica

• Can Biden Move The Rohingya Crisis Toward A Resolution?

By Dr. Azeem Ibrahim

• Hopes Of Peace In Syria

By Talmiz Ahmad

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Fight Against Islamist Terror Must Begin With Opposing Extremist Ideas

By Noura Al Kaabi

24 November 2020

 

French police officers control a car on the Champs-Elysee avenue in Paris, on October 30, 2020. (File photo: AFP)

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The barbarity perpetrated by Islamist terrorists in France and Austria in the past few weeks must be condemned unequivocally by all right-thinking people.

That one of the terrorists who attacked worshippers in a church in Nice in France reportedly carried the Quran must make all Muslims sit up and ponder as to how a bunch of fanatics continue to desecrate their faith and its sacred symbols with impunity.

It is also important to note that two places of worship, one church and one synagogue, were among the targets of the attack, leaving no one in doubt that instigating inter-religious strife was the prime motive. Even as terrorist acts perpetrated in the name of our faith create waves of Islamophobia in different parts of the globe, it is essential that we correctly identify and expose the forces of extremism and terror in our midst.

The United Arab Emirates has consistently held that the fight against extremism and terrorism cannot be confined to the realm of security alone. If we are to make any headway in our efforts, we have to fight them at the level of ideas. That is possible only if we identify and expose the groups and ideological streams that generate and disseminate extremist ideas.

We have often faced severe criticisms, particularly in the West, for our staunch opposition to political Islam, or Islamism, which we are convinced is the source of instigation for terrorism in the name of Islam. Unfortunately, many notable intellectuals and political figures in the West were so awestruck by the Islamists that they eulogized them as the only hope for a liberal, tolerant Middle East.

Many Islamist ideologues rose to senior faculty positions in prestigious Western universities and research institutions. They used these opportunities to their advantage and convinced their audiences that Islamism was a force for good.

We have refused to allow a foothold for Islamists in our country and in our sphere of influence. Instinctively and experientially, we knew they were the primary source of extremist ideas in the Muslim world. We also knew that, unlike some other streams of religious bigotry, Islamists were better able to hide their true colors and present themselves as reformers.

That many learned people in the West were credulous enough to fall for their fake charms never surprised us, but made us seriously worry about the implications of the rising influence of Islamism in many parts of Europe. A tendency to valorize them as the true representatives of Islamic intellectualism alarmed us to no end, but our counsel of caution mostly fell on deaf years.

We have no doubt that the only difference between the Al Qaeda, ISIS terrorists, and the seemingly sophisticated Islamist ideologues is that the former are frighteningly honest while the latter are meticulously duplicitous.

I have mentioned these unfortunate truths not to point fingers at this moment of grief and indignation. This is indeed a moment for us all to reiterate our commitment to go all out against zealotry and terror, and buttress our solidarities globally for a final push to eradicate the forces of darkness once and for all. That is easier said than done if we continue to ignore the elephant in the room.

Look at who were the top figures in the Muslim world from different countries that came out and issued provocative and reprehensible statements subtly or overtly justifying the terrorists in the recent weeks. All of them belonged to one ideological spectrum, albeit minor differences between them – political Islam. While religion as faith always elevated human beings to heights of nobility and grace, religion as ideology unleashed mindless violence on a genocidal scale.

We stand with the victims of all terror attacks. We disagree with the controversial cartoons, and, as a Muslim, I am offended by them but I can realize the underlying politics, ongoing exploitation and manipulation that are pursued behind this issue for political purposes. Linking the Prophet Muhammad, who represents a great sanctity amongst Muslims and is far too great to have his name and status exploited in cheap politicized campaigns, to violence and politicization is unacceptable.

Terrorist attacks are not Islam, they are the Islamist interpretation of Islam, and will always deserve our unqualified condemnation, and whole-hearted support in uprooting its terror.

That is precisely the spirit with which our Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan participated at the unity rally where hundreds of thousands of the French people and tens of world leaders gathered in Paris in 2015 to condemn terror attacks on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo killing of hostages in a restaurant and a Jewish supermarket.

The sad truth, however, is that we are exactly where we were five years ago because nothing was done to curb the murderous Islamist propaganda in Europe. It is high time European authorities paid closer and urgent attention to the tumor spreading far and wide in their midst. As for the UAE, we are clear-headed in our opposition to extremism and terrorism in all forms and speak out against them without the ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ customary in some circles. We believe that opposition to extremist ideas, alongside promotion of cultural and religious tolerance and harmonious coexistence, is the only way to root out the scourge of terrorism.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2020/11/24/Fight-against-Islamist-terror-must-begin-with-opposing-extremist-ideas

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Netanyahu, MBS Concur On Iran, But Normalization No Closer

By Ben Caspit

Nov 24, 2020

 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu listens as US President Donald Trump speaks during a joint statement in the East Room of the White House on Jan. 28, 2020, in Washington, DC. Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images.

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Israel’s military censors allowed local media outlets to report this week that Israel's leader had flown to Saudi Arabia and met there with senior officials. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met on Nov. 22 with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a meeting arranged by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The censors would not have approved the news for publication without a green light from the office of the prime minister. Nonetheless, when Netanyahu was asked about it hours after the report surfaced at a meeting of his Likud party’s Knesset faction in Jerusalem, he said, “Over the years I have never addressed such things and I am not about to start doing it now.” His office declined to confirm the reports and his media adviser deleted the tweet he had posted hours earlier, broadly hinting at the secret visit.

Several developments appear to have occurred on the Riyadh-Washington-Jerusalem axis between the morning hours of Nov. 23, when the reports emerged, and Netanyahu’s coy response that afternoon. The Saudis may have been unhappy with the leak about the meeting or the sides might have agreed in advance on only semi-official public acknowledgement of the event, with no photo ops and fanfare. One thing is certain: The leadership in Riyadh is not ready yet for official, open relations with Israel or other normalization measures, still insisting on significant progress in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. It may come around in the future.

In the meantime, the Saudis got what they wanted — a closing of the ranks with Netanyahu, which together with their Muslim Sunni allies form a broad anti-Iran coalition ahead of the changing of the guard at the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department.

“Netanyahu is going to lose Trump, indeed,” a senior Israeli security source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “But Israel still enjoys broad support in Washington. The Saudis believe that positioning themselves alongside the Israelis in facing [Biden’s pick for Secretary of State] Tony Blinken and the other professionals Biden is naming to key spots in his administration is the right thing to do. It may give them a sense of security or provide a display of power.” Still, another Israeli official expressed doubt about this analysis, telling Al-Monitor also on condition of anonymity that “meeting with Pompeo is not the way to turn a new page with Biden’s administration. Biden’s people won’t appreciate this last-minute move.”

It is unclear whether Netanyahu violated an agreement with the Saudis when he lifted the lid from his meeting with them. He may have simply been unable to resist leaking the news of his historic flight to Saudi Arabia.

That morning, Netanyahu met Defense Minister Benny Gantz at the annual commemoration for the founder of the state, David Ben-Gurion. Following the ceremony, they parted ways. Gantz headed for his office, where he announced the formation of a committee of inquiry into the submarine affair, a move perceived as a declaration of war on Netanyahu, who is so far unscathed and has not even been questioned by the police. Netanyahu, meanwhile, headed off to his secret assignation with the Saudis, taking along the architect of Israel’s clandestine ties with them, Mossad director Yossi Cohen, who has spent considerable time in the kingdom in recent years.

With reports of the trip the following morning, Netanyahu upstaged Gantz once again, robbing him of the media spotlight and telling the Israeli people that he was busy attending to the affairs of state and seeking to make peace while Gantz continued to engage in petty politics.

Though the Saudi denial of the meeting threw some cold water on Netanyahu and his people, no one in Israel has any illusions about the Netanyahu-Gantz unity government formed in May. Israel is careening toward its fourth elections in less than two years, probably in the spring of 2021. Though Netanyahu would surely love to exploit his burgeoning friendship with the Saudis during his campaign, normalization is still a distant goal.

The planned flight to Saudi Arabia onboard an executive jet belonging to wealthy Israeli businessmen was not reported to key Israeli office holders. Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi were kept out of the loop. Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi — one of whose subordinates, the prime minister’s military secretary Avi Blut, traveled with Netanyahu — was not informed. Netanyahu continues to conduct a one-man show even though he formed a two-headed government to run the country with Gantz as his alternate prime minister who is supposed to replace him next November.

Israeli and Saudi diplomatic sources reported that Netanyahu’s meeting with bin Salman went well. They said that on Iran, the two leaders see eye to eye. The Saudis are even more worried than the Israelis that President-elect Joe Biden might take them back to the days of the Barack Obama administration, ease sanctions on Iran and renew nuclear negotiations with Tehran. At the meeting, they ensured that they were on the same page and could present Biden’s people with a unified front. Netanyahu has already publicly declared that Israel hopes the United States will not consider going back to the nuclear agreement that it abandoned two years ago, one that Netanyahu views as a historic catastrophe for Israel’s national security and that of the entire Middle East.

The meeting, which lasted in total just under two hours, also touched on normalizing Israeli-Saudi ties, but on this topic there was no breakthrough. The Saudis are satisfied with their current close but covert ties and would rather avoid the attention and scrutiny their neighbors have attracted.

Shortly after the Israeli jet took off from the small airport of the futuristic Saudi town of Neom, Houthi rebels fired a rocket at a Saudi oilfield near Jeddah. “We do not believe they knew Netanyahu was in the neighbourhood,” a senior Israeli security source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “But that rocket is an excellent illustration of the fact that the changing of the guard in Washington creates a very dangerous and unstable climate in the Middle East. Let us hope it ends without escalation on any front.”

https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/11/israel-saudi-arabia-us-iran-benjamin-netanyahu-mike-pompeo.html

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Australia Is Guilty Of State-Sponsored Terrorism

By Andrew Mitrovica

24 Nov 2020

 

Chief of the Australian Defence Force General Angus Campbell delivers the findings from the inspector general of the Australian Defence Force Afghanistan Inquiry, in Canberra on November 19, 2020 [Mick Tsikas/Pool Photo via AP]

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Australia’s prime minister may not want to admit his country’s guilt. Australia’s defence force chief may not want to admit his country’s guilt. Australians may not want to admit their country’s guilt.

But admit it, they must.

The evidence of Australia’s guilt is beyond dispute. It can be found in a just released report written by the military’s inspector general which took four years to produce and which details atrocities committed by scores of Australian terrorists dressed as soldiers who murdered scores of Afghans.

These home-grown terrorists in battle fatigues were recruited by Australia. They were trained by Australia. They were paid by Australia. They were sent to Afghanistan by Australia. They murdered civilians, including children, in Australia’s name.

The barbarity committed by Australia’s terrorists in battle fatigues – mostly, I suspect, white, Christian men – had one aim: to terrorise non-white, non-Christian Afghans.

Aussie “soldiers” murdered people not to achieve a “strategic objective”, but for a diseased, intoxicating sense of pleasure and, given the defining, competitive nature of Australians, they murdered people for sport.

They accomplished their detestable mission.

The bitter list of Afghans that Australia’s terrorists in battle fatigues murdered reportedly includes boys who had their throats slit, a frightened child who was hiding under a blanket, farmers tending to stock, shackled prisoners and brothers and cousins running away to try to survive, only to be slowly ripped to death by Australian military dogs.

The Australian thugs in uniforms murdered because they had the power, weapons and license to kill.

It is the same license to kill that Israeli thugs in uniforms exercised with impunity when they murdered four Palestinian boys playing on a beach in Gaza. It is the same license to torture and murder that American thugs in uniforms exercised with impunity inside the dungeons of Abu Ghraib. It is the same license to torture and kill that British thugs in uniforms exercised with impunity in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is the same license to torture and murder that Canadian thugs in uniforms exercised with impunity when they were sent to Somalia to “restore order”.

That license to kill is predicated on the “idea” that white, Christian lives in the West matter, and Iraqi, Afghan, Palestinian and Somali lives are cheap, invisible and disposable.

We deserve to live. They deserve to die. When we murder, it is a “tragic accident”. When they murder, it is cause to light the Eiffel Tower in solemn remembrance and to commemorate the dead on Twitter with hashtags expressing human solidarity.

That blunt indictment will, no doubt, offend the insufferable disciples of the late Christopher Hitchens, who, today, are, predictably, as silent as their slick, anti-Muslim patron saint in the face of the terrorism perpetrated by invaders deployed abroad – again and again – to protect Western “freedoms and values”.

Australia’s terrorists in battle fatigues – cheered on, no doubt, as crusading “heroes” by Hitchens’ mendacious acolytes – are largely members of a so-called “elite” fighting regiment known as the Special Air Service. They claim to be the “best of the best”.

They are not soldiers. They are killers. They are cowards. They are terrorists in battle fatigues who murdered Afghans as part of a sick ritual called “blooding”. Consider the measure of their depravity: To become a trusted member of the “best of the best”, these thugs were ordered to execute defenceless Afghan prisoners in brutal, cold blood.

These are not the acts of a “special” military unit, considered the “best of the best”. These are the acts of street gang members who terrorise and murder innocents in random drive-by shootings as part of a demented initiation ceremony.

They are the worst of the worst and, remember, they wear the Australian flag on their uniforms.

Instead of admitting the plain truth, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and defence force chief, General Angus Campbell, have spouted the usual palette of state-cleansed euphemisms to describe what Australia’s “soldiers” did in Afghanistan to as many as 39 helpless Afghan children, fathers, brothers, sons, farmers and prisoners.

Instead of mass murder, they called it “incidents and issues”. Instead of mass murder, they called it “unlawful killing”. Instead of mass murder, they called it a “serious breach of military conduct”. Instead of mass murder, they called it “misconduct” and “wrongdoing” carried out by “some special forces personnel”.

Turns out, 25 “special forces personnel” took gleeful part in the murders and terrorism. In what lunatic calculation does that halting number qualify as “some”?

Instead of admitting his complicity in the terrorist acts committed by Australia’s home-grown terrorists under his command, General Campbell said this: “I sincerely and unreservedly apologise for any wrongdoing by Australian military personnel in Afghanistan and for our organisation’s failure to recognise the problem and take action at the time of the incidents.”

What a shameful display of empty, exculpatory gibberish. For Australia’s top soldier to describe publicly the wanton, summary executions of 39 Afghan civilians as a “problem” that he, and other senior officers, failed to “take action at the time of the incidents” is as criminal as the murders committed by the thugs in his charge.

Once again, the politicians and generals have promptly absolved themselves of any responsibility for the horror visited upon innocents in the name of a disfigured understanding of freedom and plurality.

Instead, they turn, as always, to the, by now, familiar catalogue of excuses. We did not know, they say. If we did, they say, we would have stopped it. Anyway, they say, the terror was the work of a handful of “rogues”. We, they say, are not like them. We, they say, tried to help and performed our duty with “integrity”.

The excuses will work, as they have worked in the past. The Australian press will soon forget. The Australian people will soon forget. And the world, if it bothered to notice at all, will soon forget, as well.

That means that, ultimately, no one of import in Australia will be held accountable for the murder of 39 Afghans, just as no one of import in Israel, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada have ever been held to account for the torture and murder of so many other innocents, in so many other places.

Lest anyone claim that I am pointing an accusatory finger at a country and people I do not know: I was born in Australia.

I spent the first 11 years of my life in Australia. I am no longer Australian by citizenship, but I am by birth. Part of me remains Australian.

So, I am guilty too.

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Andrew Mitrovica is a Toronto-based writer.

https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2020/11/24/australia-is-guilty-of-state-sponsored-terrorism/

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Can Biden Move The Rohingya Crisis Toward A Resolution?

By Dr. Azeem Ibrahim

November 24, 2020

After four years of the US abdicating its role as a global leader, the incoming Biden administration will be keen to reassert American leadership around the world. Few issues will be higher on the agenda than the Rohingya genocide.

In normal times, one would expect a US president to be the leading voice on the international stage. But these are not normal times. The US stands more isolated than at any time since the Second World War.

Washington will therefore need to be very proactive and very focused on rebuilding its standing on the international stage — something that has been its greatest national-defense asset throughout the post-war era.

There is every indication that Joe Biden understands this. It is also reassuring that he is not a novice in these matters. He has decades of foreign policy experience and has been involved trying to solve various crises since Bosnia in the 1990s.

He has also been explicit in his desire to re-establish a robust, rules-based global order grounded in the founding values of the UN, but in which the US would once again be known and trusted as the ultimate enforcer of international law around the world.

So one should expect that the Biden administration will handle fresh crises with the kind of humanity and determination one would have expected in, for example, the days of the Balkan wars.

The greatest test for this reset, and the global consequences it will engender, will be the ongoing Rohingya crisis. Currently, the overwhelming majority of Myanmar’s Rohingya people are languishing in refugee camps across the border in Bangladesh. Almost all of those who remain in Myanmar are effectively captives in so-called “internally displaced people’s camps,” which are run by the very military force that forced their brethren from the country.

Myanmar has had no meaningful push back from the West as a result of the persecution of the Rohingya, and it also continues to enjoy political and economic support from China.

Clearly, things need to change — and the US has a wide-ranging arsenal of measures it can deploy against genocidal regimes. The Trump administration had no interest in this issue but for the incoming Biden administration, this will be where the rubber meets the road for their vision of America as a leader of the free world, and as a global guarantor of international law.

To begin with, expect a much-increased focus on the issue of the Rohingya at the UN — though, naturally, progress there will be blocked by Beijing. Also expect significant back-channel communication between the US government and the government of Myanmar, with the former putting pressure on the latter to redress a legal regime that discriminates against the Rohingya and other minorities; to ramp down the wars waged by the military against the myriad of ethnic minorities throughout the country; and to surrender to international legal bodies those suspected of orchestrating and executing the genocide of the Rohingya.

It is unlikely that Naypyidaw will relent in the first instance but, before long, a stringent sanctions regime will be back on the table — which will inevitably also affect Beijing’s Belt and Road commercial interests in Myanmar. Once that comes into play, progress for the Rohingya will become possible. It will not be easy and the results are not a forgone conclusion, but there is yet hope for this persecuted group.

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Dr. Azeem Ibrahim is a director at the Center for Global Policy in Washington, DC.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1767746

 

Hopes Of Peace In Syria

By Talmiz Ahmad

November 24, 2020

In the past week, reports from different sources have predicted two imminent attacks by Syrian government forces and their Russian allies — one, the long-awaited assault on Idlib; the other, an attack on Daesh elements in the eastern desert around Deir Ezzor.

Preparations for the attack on Idlib have been taking place for more than a month. The strongest signal came on Oct. 18 when Turkish troops evacuated the Morek observation post, their largest base in the region. The Morek withdrawal was, perhaps, the result of a Russian-Turkish bargain allowing Turkey to establish itself in other areas, such as Tell Rifaat, Manbij and Ain Issa.

Since early November, Russian and Syrian aircraft have been bombing Idlib province. A local human rights group has said that during October and early November, over 300 ground targets were hit in the region, causing about 25 casualties.

While Russia and the Syrian government are focused on Idlib, Turkey has been busy softening up territories in the northeast. In October, its aircraft bombed Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) positions at Manbij and Ain Issa in what were clearly preparatory strikes to take control of the entire strip along the Syria-Turkey border.

On Oct. 8, the US delivered a reminder that it is still also a player in Syria by criticizing Turkey’s military forays in the region, warning that Ankara’s offensive in northeast Syria undermines the fight against Daesh, endangers civilians, threatens regional peace and security, and even poses a threat to US security and foreign policy. The White House statement extended the national emergency beyond Oct. 14.

This statement failed to recall that it was US President Donald Trump who, in October 2019, ordered the withdrawal of US troops from the Turkey-Syria border and allowed Turkish forces to replace them — an act widely seen by the Kurds and several US officials as a betrayal of the SDF, which had fought resolutely against Daesh and helped end the extremist group’s grip on Syrian territory. Turkey, in the event, has chosen to ignore the latest US statement and continued its lethal bombings in the region.

A new front seems to be opening for Russian and Syrian government attention in the Deir Ezzor area, the scene of renewed violence by remnants of Daesh. There have been regular reports that militants, organized in small cells, have been carrying out attacks across eastern Syria, and in the past two years may have killed more than 500 people, mainly SDF fighters but also about 200 civilians.

Russia and the Syrian government have a small presence in the area and are believed to be preparing to flush out these extremist fighters through a ground campaign, backed by air support.

After nine years of war, the presidential transition in Washington has provided the principal players in Syria with a fresh opportunity to reflect on what new approaches they could consider in the Biden era. Aaron Stein, in a recent paper for the Foreign Policy Research Institute, noted that the US “has no strategy in Syria” and recommended that it withdraw its forces, following arrangements with Russia to safeguard Kurdish interests.

Russia and Turkey have worked together in Syria as part of the Astana peace process, and have managed to build substantial bilateral ties. While Turkey’s “neo-Ottoman” dreams could encourage President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to retain a military presence at Idlib and in the northeast, this is unlikely to be sustainable in the face of opposition from the Syrian government, Iran and Russia, which will insist on Idlib and nearby areas being cleansed of extremist elements, through military means if necessary.

That leaves the question of the Kurds in the northeast, and, indeed, across the entire Syria-Turkey border, where Kurdish leaders had envisioned their Rojava (“homeland”) in the early years of the Syrian conflict. This dream died with the Turkish military incursions into Syria — Euphrates Shield (2016), Olive Branch (2018) and Peace Spring (2019) — that gave Ankara control over chunks of Syrian territory up to a depth of 40 km or more.

As a political process promoted by the UN and backed by Russia, the EU and the Arab states gains momentum, continued Turkish occupation of Syrian territory will be unacceptable to the Syrian government and its partners Russia and Iran. Here, diplomacy will need to take the lead. This will be best achieved by ensuring Turkish security from Kurdish attacks, possibly with Russian or even UN patrols along the border. The Kurds will also find that their interests are best served by a united Syrian state, albeit one that grants them a degree of autonomy.

After long years of fratricidal conflict in Syria, the new year offers hopes of peace in that ravaged land.

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Talmiz Ahmad is an author and former Indian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Oman and the UAE. He holds the Ram Sathe Chair for International Studies, Symbiosis International University, Pune, India.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1767741

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