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Russia’s Monopoly on Intervention in Syria: New Age Islam's Selection, 20 February 2016

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

20 February 2016

Russia’s Monopoly on Intervention in Syria

By Mshari Al Thaydi

What Are Our Priorities And Issues In Saudi Arabia?

By Khaled Almaeena

How Long Will We Pay For Post-9/11 Mistakes?

By Najat Alsaied

The Politics Of War Crimes In Syria

By James Denselow

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Russia’s Monopoly On Intervention In Syria

By Mshari Al Thaydi

19 February 2016

The situation in Syria does not require Russia to warn of World War III if the international community does not accept Moscow’s point of view regarding the conflict. This is nothing more than a crude threat that completes a mission started by the Russian military.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is alluding to Turkish or Saudi intervention, meaning that Iran - distant in terms of geography, religion and language - has the right to impose its Revolutionary Guards and militias from Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon without this being considered by Moscow as an attempt to trigger a world war.

Russia’s intervention aims to turn the tide in favor of the Syrian regime, rather than fight the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Should we leave Russia and Iran to focus on striking the real Syrian opposition that is fighting the regime?

Surrendering the country to Moscow and Tehran means handing them the region, but the vast majority of its inhabitants will reject their tyranny.

The cessation of hostilities in Syria, agreed upon in Munich to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid, ended before it began due to Russia’s insistence on continuing to shell Aleppo in order to enable Kurdish militias to control the Turkish-Syrian border and prevent the Syrian opposition from communicating with Turkey. All of this benefits Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Moscow’s intervention is the dangerous one. UNHCR spokesman Rupert Colville condemned Russian-Syrian airstrikes against hospitals and schools in northern Syria, and the latest Russian strikes have caused 50,000 Syrians to flee to the Turkish border. Another objective of Moscow’s intervention is to pressure Turkey. The most serious threat would be emptying northern Syrian for the benefit of sectarian displacement plans.

Existential Threat

Turkey and Saudi Arabia will not tolerate these existential risks. This is why Ankara said its determination to eradicate this danger in northern Syria means doing whatever it takes. This intervention must be U.S.-led under an international umbrella.

Russia takes pride in isolating the national armed opposition in southern and northern Syria. Surrendering the country to Moscow and Tehran means handing them the region, but the vast majority of its inhabitants will reject their tyranny.

Saudi journalist Mshari Al Thaydi presents Al Arabiya News Channel’s “views on the news” daily show “Maraya.” He has previously held the position of a managing senior editor for Saudi Arabia & Gulf region at pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. Al Thaydi has published several papers on political Islam and social history of Saudi Arabia. He appears as a guest on several radio and television programs to discuss the ideologies of extremist groups and terrorists.




What Are Our Priorities And Issues In Saudi Arabia?

By Khaled Almaeena

20 February 2016

I recently received a call from a media correspondent who asked me, among other things, what the priorities in our country are and what issues prevail in the minds of the Saudi public. I cannot speak for all, however I believe that any sensible citizen would be concerned about the economic fluctuations and political situations across the globe.

No country is a solitary island, separated from the rest of the world; we are all connected so deeply and are so interwoven that any incident in the world, whether it occurs in places nearby or far away, concerns us. There are many instances in recent history that give credence to my point. For example, the recent fall of oil prices affects our economy deeply, as well as the economies of other nations.

Saudi Arabia is linked inseparably to its counterparts worldwide, and global issues will inevitably affect us in some way. However, I feel the most pressing issues we have are internal – an issue in particular is of youth and education, and a question we must ask ourselves is: How can we provide an education that will instil school-leavers not only with knowledge to make them productive citizens, but also with good characters and values within the framework of our ideology?

We have to admit – we need a lot of revision of our syllabi, more comprehensive training of our teachers, and to use modern methods of communication to try and involve the youth of our country in nation building. There is a reason that young, ambitious people who are interested in furthering their education are pursuing their degrees abroad; there are serious flaws that need to be addressed in our educational system, from the method of instruction of our youngest students up to those pursuing advanced degrees.

Context for Our Youth

Simultaneously, we have to ingrain dialog, tolerance, acceptance and pluralism into our society, to provide context for our youth to apply all they have learnt to the real world. To others and myself, this is a priority; mainly because targeting the shortcomings of education is one way we can protect our young population from the trappings of extremist indoctrination.

Another priority is the prevalence of the rule of law and a free and fair judiciary system, managed by educated members that possess the priceless qualities of empathy and a broad, knowledgeable outlook. Good governance, accountability and strong work ethic must all be part of the working code governing all officials, and no one should feel that he or she is above the law.

Furthermore, those in authority should be role models and lead from the front! In order to give the young public a chance to become informed, cultured and capable to succeed, they must be provided examples in the form of real people. By observing how figures of authority handle situations and manage different sectors of society alongside one another to maintain healthy development of the nation as a whole, today’s youth will progress and be able to emulate similar, if not better, productive behavior.

We need a lot of revision of our syllabi, more comprehensive training of our teachers, and use of modern methods of communication to try and involve the youth in nation building

Once these goals are set in motion, we can turn our attentions to tackling other issues vital to our survival. We live in a harsh geographical setting and water is a precious commodity. How are we going to manage our limited water resources, and what are we going to do in the face of unexpected circumstances?

Add this concern to our increasing energy consumption and a rising population, and we have a very pressing question – are we doing enough to deal with these issues? Should we set up centers to handle these specific concerns? Do we have the courage to ask for a family planning and population control program, and if we do, have we considered the response of such institutions? Is our media developed enough, to a level that it is able to point out the impending dangers of pollution and the destruction of our environment by certain irresponsible members of our society?

We are quick to pass criticism and indulge in the blame game whilst seated in the comfort of our drawing rooms, yet we do not have the will or courage to point out, in public, what concerns the citizens face. The only way these issues can be addressed is by a civil society in which institutions act as the engines of growth.

Last, but certainly not least, I want the government to embrace these institutions and create a partnership with them that is beneficial to our society. Such a partnership will entail many reforms, but if successful, government collaboration with progressive institutions could pave the way for our nation to develop in unprecedented ways. However, for this to occur, we need the involvement of all regions, peoples and sects.

After all, we are all equal citizens of this country...

Khaled Almaeena is a veteran Saudi journalist, commentator, businessman and the editor-at-large of the Saudi Gazette. Almaeena has held a broad range of positions in Saudi media for over thirty years, including CEO of a PR firm, Saudi Television news anchor, talk show host, radio announcer, lecturer and journalist. As a journalist, Almaeena has represented Saudi media at Arab summits in Baghdad, Morocco and elsewhere. In 1990, he was one of four journalists to cover the historic resumption of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Russia. He also traveled to China as part of this diplomatic mission. Almaeena's political and social columns appear regularly in Gulf News, Asharq al-Aswat, al-Eqtisadiah, Arab News, Times of Oman, Asian Age and The China Post.



How Long Will We Pay For Post-9/11 Mistakes?

By Najat Alsaied

19 February 2016

No one has taken advantage of the Sept. 11 attacks and their ramifications more than Iran, which exploited them and the fact that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi. Unfortunately, Osama bin Laden succeeded in driving a wedge between Riyadh and Washington by using more Saudis than any other nationality in the attacks.

Since then, several American writers and political analysts have accused Saudi Arabia of supporting violent extremism, forgetting that the kingdom is suffering from terrorism as much as the United States is.

A strategic decision was made by Washington to change the balance of power in the region, neglecting 68 years of relations with Riyadh. This was accomplished via military intervention in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003. Nobody could have prevented these invasions because American dignity had been dealt a severe blow and the “war on terror” - or rather against Sunni Islam - became a global war.

Once the United States had become embroiled in these wars, it could not have found a better partner than Iran. Gradually, the regime that was denounced by U.S. President George W Bush as part of the “axis of evil” became a partner against terrorism, and gained legitimacy under the administration of his successor Barack Obama.

Radwan el-Sayed describes in his book “The Arabs and Iranians” how besides the misplaced wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, a bigger mistake was committed by the Obama administration when it withdrew American troops from Iraq. Washington negotiated with Iran to bring about a safe withdrawal.

In return Tehran asked for then-Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to remain in power, for the Americans to forget about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and return their ambassador to Damascus, and allow Hezbollah to dominate Lebanon’s government while promising not to harass Israel or international forces. An Iranian political opponent told me one of the reasons the United States turned its back on Iran’s Green Revolution in 2009 was because of these deals.

Regarding the nuclear agreement, the United States focused only on nuclear weapons and uranium enrichment. It never discussed to what extent sanctions relief would enable Tehran to exert its influence, or what the consequences would be. If Iran was able to negotiate with Washington about such crucial matters as the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq before sanctions were lifted, what power does it have now?

The handling of Iraq by Iran did not come out of the blue. Tehran had been planning such a move since the fall of Saddam Hussain’s regime, demonstrated by how it courted his opposition since the 1980s. When American troops entered Iraq in 2003, so did armed Shiite groups.

Iranian Infiltration

Tehran did not stop with Iraq, but has expanded by penetrating Shiite communities in Arab countries to obtain their allegiance, as happened in Lebanon, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

It is a mistake of historical significance that Washington has lost the trust of traditional allies such as Saudi Arabia due to the ramifications of 9/11.

Tehran has also recruited as secret agents those who go to Iran to study in religious seminaries. The first thing Tehran did in Iraq in 2003 was control religious seminaries by establishing mega-projects in Najaf and Karbala - the holiest cities for Shiites after Makkah and Medina - and developing religious authorities loyal to Iran.

Tehran has penetrated security circles via alliances with Arab regimes, and used aid to extend its geographic influence, as happened in Syria and Sudan. Iran has also penetrated Sunni political Islam, as happened with the Muslim Brotherhood, with which Tehran has established good relations. Iran has taken advantage of the fact that many Brotherhood members are persecuted in their own country, and expresses support for them.

Tehran has gained a good reputation among Arab Sunni Islamists because of its support for Islamist organizations that are fighting Israel, such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Iran has also infiltrated missionary operations via its official and unofficial bodies to spread Shiism in Arab countries, Africa, and central and east Asia. Authorities in Egypt, Sudan, Morocco and elsewhere have complained about Iran exerting influence under the guise of missionary work.


The lifting of sanctions on Iran without signing a formal treaty that guarantees it will stop all these interventions will lead to Iranian regional hegemony and make another 9/11 inevitable. According to prominent political analyst Dr Zuhdi Jasser, the fact that no Shiite militias were involved in 9/11, or on American soil generally, is not because they are more moderate, but because of sanctions on Iran.

Accordingly, handing over the files of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other extremist Sunni groups to Tehran will fan the flames of Sunni extremism and bolster extremist Shiite militias. As a result, the United States will find itself not only fighting Sunni terrorist groups, but also being attacked by Shiite extremists.

Terrorist incidents are now at least five times more frequent today than they were before 9/11, according to the Global Terrorism Index and other reports. That proves that the U.S. approach is not only wrong but dangerous. It is a mistake of historical significance that Washington has lost the trust of traditional allies such as Saudi Arabia due to the ramifications of 9/11, which was not even its fault.

Changing strategies is crucial; withdrawing and passing on a duty of care to unreliable actors will only aggravate the problem. If the current approach to fighting terrorism is helping anyone, it is radicals and extremists at the expense of moderates.

Najat AlSaied is a Saudi academic; a graduate in media studies from the University of Westminster, London-UK (October, 2013). She is the author of: Screens of Influence: Arab Satellite Television & Social Development. She is an Assistant Professor at Zayed University in the College of Communication and Media Sciences.



The Politics of War Crimes in Syria

By James Denselow

18 Feb 2016

After almost five years of brutal fighting in Syria, the issue of war crimes has reappeared following the destruction of two hospitals in the north.

The iconic images of bombed-out medical facilities have set off a firestorm of accusations among some key players in the conflict. Accountability for the crimes of war is noticeable for its absence to date, but it is crucial that the mechanisms of global justice are properly applied, to affect the actions of combatants today and to help heal a Syria of tomorrow. 

For this to happen, the current arms race in the language of accusations must be focused on more practical action towards accountability.

Could A World War Over Syria Actually Happen?

The United Nations has warned that "intentionally directing attacks" at hospitals and medical units would constitute a war crime and Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, confirmed that the raids violated international law.

Turkey has been more forthright about Russia's culpability, claiming that the Security Council permanent member is guilty of an "obvious war crime".

Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said that "those who make such statements are not capable of backing them up with proof".

Targeting Hospitals

MSF, whose hospital was hit, didn't choose to tell the Syrian authorities their exact location for fear of being targeted. Now that the hospital has been destroyed, the Syrian Ambassador to the UN had the temerity to describe the aid agency as an "intelligence" arm of the French government.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin continued his policy of complete denial of any civilian harm from his country's actions, saying that Russia "categorically does not accept such statements".

So could this latest attack on healthcare in Syria be the trigger for a reasserting of the laws of war into the conflict?

This is not the first time a healthcare facility in Syria has been hit. Indeed, there has been an exodus of medics from the country while buildings and vehicles supposedly granted protected status have been devastated.

Overwhelmed makeshift hospitals now operate out of basements in Aleppo more akin to air-raid shelters.

According to the Syrian American Medical Society, 2015 was a record year for attacks on health infrastructure, with an attack on average every two or three days.

So could this latest attack on healthcare in Syria be the trigger for a reasserting of the laws of war into the conflict?

That the UN stopped counting the Syrian dead in 2014 doesn't bode well for those hoping for accountability for those Syrians yet to be killed.

However, if a mechanism by which evidence of potential war crimes can be collected and processed by credible players, it would send out a clear message to those who order air strikes on hospitals and potentially check the likelihood that they will do it again in future.

Power of Evidence

One sample we've seen already as to the power of the evidence of war crimes came in the form of the smuggled work of the Syrian military photographer known only as "Caesar". His thousands of photographs, which eventually found themselves on display in the corridors of the UN, showed the reality of the grisly fate of those whose lives ended in the regime's jails.

Yet to date nobody has been held to account for the crimes which Caesar exposed. We should not forget that much of the infrastructure around the laws of war emerged following the end of World War II.

Today the Syria crisis has heaped more numbers on what is the biggest refugee displacement since the last global war. War crimes were meant to be deterred and punished, yet they are being flouted with impunity in Syria.

That such crimes are being raised now is a positive step but there is a danger around their being used as a justification for escalation rather than as they were originally intended.

There is a need for evidence-based reporting of potential crimes rather than politicised accusations ratcheting up the rhetoric. This month's hospital attacks could see independent investigators being given a mandate from the international community and allowed to safely access and collect evidence as to what happened as a way of signifying a new approach to the conduct of the fighting.

One day - soon, we hope - the war in Syria will end and the people who remain will have to come to terms with the horrors of what happened. Without genuine accountability for what happened in the past, the challenge of the future will be even harder.

James Denselow is a writer on Middle East politics and security issues and a research associate at the Foreign Policy Centre.