New Age Islam Edit Bureau
13 November 2017
What Will Become Of The ‘Second Lebanese Uprising’?
By Eyad Abu Shakra
How Iran Tried To Turn Arab States into Fading Ghosts
By Amir Taheri
Will Lebanon Become Saudi's Next Yemen?
By Halim Shebaya
Lebanon Could Be On The Brink Of Another Uprising
Corruption Is Corrosive, And Saudi Arabia Is Right To Fight It
By Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg
Saad Hariri’s Resignation Highlights Hezbollah’s Malignant Role In Lebanon
By Baria Alamuddin
Egypt Beware: Daesh Militants Who Survive Will Have To Go Somewhere
By Abdellatif El-Menawy
The Trump-Putin Meeting Will Not End The Syrian Crisis
By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
11 November 2017
For some in ‘occupied’ and ‘subjugated’ Lebanon the nightmare is over; for others, the country is approaching a regional cliff edge.
In fact, Lebanon is going through a second ‘March 14th’ uprising, this time against direct Iranian ‘hegemony’ which was always the real thing, compared to the first uprising against Syria’s ‘security custody’ which was very much a mere shadow of that real thing.
Many have viewed the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri from a post that was always a flimsy cover of the above-mentioned hegemony, as a step in the right direction. If anything, his resignation may have been overdue, since his only task was rubber-stamping, without questions or reservations.
Those relieved that Hariri had resigned have always felt that he had already lost a good deal of credibility in both the nationalist and Sunni Muslim camps. Moreover, he had been too passive in the face of unrelenting effort to discredit him through pushing him and the military and security forces to accept Iran’s political and security hegemony, and to turn the Lebanese national army into an understudy to a sectarian militia led from abroad and serves foreign aims.
In the meantime, there still are certain groups that are happy to be passive, and continue their futile wait, at the expense of Lebanon’s national identity, Arab interests, and even its demographic composition. Up till now these groups have convinced themselves that diplomacy and appeasement are enough to check Iran’s expansionism fuelled by armed-blackmail already used several times both inside and outside Lebanon.
However, what Ali Akbar Velayati, the political adviser to ‘The Supreme Guide’, said in Beirut after meeting with Hariri was the clearest haughty indication that Lebanon was now under Tehran’s hegemony, extending from southern Iraq to the Mediterranean across large Syrian territories. The Iranian regime has, thanks to Hassan Rouhani’s and Javad Zarif’s diplomacy and Mohammed Ali Jafari’s and Qassen Suleimani’s militias, destroyed national borders drawn in 1920 to separate the Arabs, and had many ‘Arabists’ dreaming of bringing down. Through ISIS (and those behind it) and Iran’s sectarian militias, there are no more borders between Iraq and Syria, or between Syria and Lebanon; thus, Iran now enjoys a corridor to the Syrian and Lebanese Levantine coasts. What Velayati said in Lebanon in front of those supposed to be entrusted with the Lebanese ‘state sovereignty’ laid bare the Iranian plans for the whole region, not only a Lebanon under the military occupation of Hezbollah.
Given The Above, One Should Seriously Ask: What Next?
On the Lebanese front, I believe Saad Hariri did what he had to do, first as a patriotic leader who believes in an independent sovereign Lebanon, and second as Sunni Muslim leader in a time when Sunni Arabs are being only targeted and marginalised in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. His decision was not an easy one, more so as many Lebanese politicians – including him – have been for the last two years warning against political ‘vacuum’, and, subsequently, that any political way out was less damaging than that ‘vacuum’.
However, since agreeing to elect General Michel Aoun as President and appointing Hariri as Prime Minister heading a ‘consensus cabinet, including Hezbollah minister, Lebanon lived the worst scenario of ‘vacuum’ in peaceful manner without a shot fired in anger!
Under Aoun’s Presidency and Hariri’s ‘consensus cabinet’, Iran’s influence inside Lebanon gained both a cover of legitimacy and an involuntary acquiescence from representatives of its religious sects. Furthermore, displaced Syrian refugees became victims of animosity highlighting the high cost of their stay, and their individual transgressions rather than holding responsible for the whole phenomenon the Lebanese players – namely, Hezbollah –, who caused their displacement as a result of their fighting on Bashar Al-Assad’s side in Syria, without a governmental or popular Lebanese mandate.
Moreover, pressure was put to make the army’s and security’s ‘defence doctrine’ an almost carbon copy of that of Hezbollah, which is part and parcel of Iran’s revolutionary Guards (IRGC).
Finally, the post of the Prime Minister – reserved to the Sunnis – was more than once marginalised, and its authority compromised. A salient example was when Gebran Bassil, the Foreign Minister and the President’s son – in – law, ignored the cabinet collective responsibility and the Prime Minister’s position against the Syrian regime, by meeting Walid Al-Mu’allem, Al-Assad’s foreign Minister in New York!
Thus, in the light of Hezbollah’s monopoly of heavy weapons and its ability to penetrate the Christian community, through aligning itself with Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) - which provided it with a political and religious cover reflecting the logic of ‘Alliance of Minorities’- the ‘consensus cabinet’ insured Hezbollah achieved most of its aims. They included securing its favourite ‘electoral law’ and getting away with its strategy towards the sensitive Sunni town of Arsal near Lebanon northeast borders with Syria. The non-existing, or fake, consensus spared Hezbollah the need to use military force in order to impose its will, and tighten its control of the country.
Saad Hariri’s resignation has, thus, pulled the cover over a sinister situation that was damaging to him as well as to Lebanon had it continued. The outgoing Prime Minister has done the right thing, preventing “filling the vacuum with another vacuum’, throwing the ball into the world community’s court.
Lebanon, at any rate is but one link in the Middle East chain. The resignation of a Prime Minister who finally decided not to be a cover for a plan for regional hegemony is certainly an important step in blocking it, however, it is not enough on its own. It will not bear fruits without a serious willingness to block and derail this plan from a much higher level.
Hariri was subjected to many criticisms during the past year, but he has now acted courageously. Will he now be supported by those vocal critics of Tehran’s policies, ambitions, and plans for hegemony underpinned on its arsenals inside Iran, and its active militias in several Arab countries?
Will the world community react with serious urgency in dealing with a Middle East nearing boiling point?
And is there a genuine understanding of how dangerous it is to allow religion-clad extremist ideologies to establish its sway in a highly sensitive area, where ethnic, religious and sectarian identities intersect, nor far from the heart of Europe?
In 2005, when the Lebanese people rose against a ‘security custody’ imposed from across its borders, the world community reacted quickly only to forget them soon after.
How Iran Tried To Turn Arab States Into Fading Ghosts
If history is a stage on which the fate of nations is played out, knowing when to step in and when to bow out is of crucial importance. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time and, even worse, in the wrong context, could lead to loss and grief.
These may have been some of the thoughts that Lebanon’s outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri may have had in mind when he decided to throw in the towel rather than pretending to exercise an office without being able to do so in any effective manner. Hariri realized that he was in office but not in power.
Whatever the reason for Hariri’s departure, I think he was right to withdraw from a scenario aimed at turning Lebanon into a ghost of a state with a ghost of a president and ghost prime minister and parliament.
That scenario was written in Tehran in the early 1980s with the creation of the Lebanese branch of Hezbollah by then Iranian Ambassador to Damascus Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Mohtashami-pour. The original idea had taken shape in 1975 when Ayatollah Hadi Ghaffari created the first branch of Hezbollah in Tehran to fight the Shah. By 1977 clandestine branches had been created in Turkey and Kuwait.
The hope was to fade out political frontiers, often created by accidents of history or designs of empires, and replace them with religious frontiers. The aim was to create an archipelago of Shiite communities across the Middle East, linked together through a network of religious-political organizations controlled by Iran.
The rationale for this was that throughout Islamic history, the element binding people together was allegiance to a version of the religion (Arabic: Mazhab) rather than political concepts such as citizenship of a state.
Weakening Western-Style State Structures
The fall of the Shah and the seizure of power in Tehran by mullahs gave the scheme a new impetus by putting Iran’s resources at its disposal.
However, very soon it became apparent that the grand design could not be realized without destroying or at least weakening Western-style state structures already in place. The states targeted had more or less strong armed forces that would resist an Iranian takeover.
This was precisely what happened in Turkey, where attempts by the Hezbollah branch to make a splash were crushed by the army.
In Iraq, premature takeover bid by Khomeini gave Saddam Hussein an excuse to invade Iran and start an eight-year war.
In Syria, according to the memoirs of General Hussein Hamadani, who led the Iranian military contingent there, the national army did all it could to prevent Tehran from creating power bases of its own. The situation in Syria changed only when the nation was plunged into civil war by President Bashar al-Assad’s ruthless repression of peaceful protests.
The mullahs learned from their experience in Iran.
Soon after they seized power by a combination of freakish circumstances, Khomeini realized that he would never win the loyalty of existing state structures while being unable to destroy them altogether.
Thus, he developed the strategy known as “parallelism” (movazi-sazi in Persian).
He created the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a parallel to the national army. Islamic courts were set up as parallels to state courts based on laws inspired by the Napoleonic Code. The Majlis (parliament) found its parallel in the Assembly of Experts.
Applied to other Middle Eastern countries, this strategy was known as “tohi-sazi” or “emptying of content”.
The first place this was put into practice was Lebanon.
Iran created a Shi’ite militia to “parallel” the regular Lebanese army. Then, through Hezbollah, Tehran also recruited allies among other Lebanese communities and transformed the Lebanese parliament into a toothless bulldog. Finally, Tehran succeeded in propelling its candidate into the presidency, and secured effective power of veto in the Council of Ministers.
All that costs a lot of money.
According to the current Iranian national budget, Iran is spending an average of $60 million a month in Lebanon, most of it through Hezbollah. Consequently, as President Hassan Rouhani said in a speech last month, nothing can be done in Lebanon without Iran’s say-so.
The Lebanese branch of Hezbollah has given Iran value for money to the point of sustaining thousands of casualties in combat in the 2006 mini-war with Israel and, more importantly, the campaign to crush Assad’s opponents in Syria.
In Iraq, the Iranian scheme has had partial results.
Tehran has created the Popular Mobilization Forces, a coalition of 17 Shiite militias, plus the Islamic Peshmergas (Kurdish fighters hired by Tehran) to parallel the Iraqi national army and the military force of the Kurdistan Autonomous Government.
Tehran also exerts political influence through at least part of the Ad-Daawa (The Call) party. However, Iran’s hope of doing a second Lebanon in Iraq has not succeeded because many Iraqis resent Iranian domination while the grand ayatollahs of Najaf regard the Khomeinist regime in Tehran as an abomination.
The mullah’s scheme in Syria has also run into trouble because of Russian intervention and President Vladimir Putin’s determination that Syria’s future is decided in Moscow and not in Tehran.
Tehran’s scheme has had partial success in Yemen.
Iran’s surrogates, the Houthis, succeeded in creating a parallel army in the shape of Ansar Allah but failed to fully clip the wings of the regular army. The Houthis also reduced President Ali Abdullah Saleh to a shadow of his past but could not fully get rid of him. On top of that the Saudi-led coalition’s intervention has dealt a decisive blow to Tehran’s hope of doing a second Lebanon in Yemen.
In the case of Qatar and Oman, Tehran used Finlandization, allowing them to enjoy tranquility in exchange for splitting the Arab ranks and toeing the mullahs’ line on key issues.
When Muhammad Morsi took over as Egypt’s elected president, Tehran tried to sell its scenario in Cairo as well.
Former Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Velayati was sent to Egypt with a letter from ‘Supreme Leader” Ali Khamenei. In it Khamenei called on Morsi to disband the Egyptian army and create a parallel military force to “guard the revolution”. The proposed scheme was never applied either because, as Velayati and Khamenei claim, Morsi rejected it or the Egyptian army pre-empted it by deposing Morsi.
Hariri’s resignation may be a sign that the Arabs are no longer prepared to grin and bear it as Tehran dismantles their state structures by creating doubles to their armies and transforming their governments into puppets with their strings pulled from the Iranian Embassy.
Tehran’s scheme for dominating the Arab states may have reached its limits; the rapid advance of the mullahs may now be followed with a roll-back. And that could mean the return of political frontiers and loyalties based on citizenship not religious sect.
12 November 2017
A week after the surprise resignation of Saad Hariri broadcast on Saudi-owned Al-Arabiyya from Riyadh, Lebanon has stopped asking where he is and has started demanding his release.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun called the circumstances of his disappearance "ambiguous and mysterious" and asked Saudi Arabia for clarification. In meetings with foreign ambassadors, he has gone further and declared Hariri "kidnapped".
It has become clear that Hariri was planning for a short visit in Riyadh and was scheduled to return to Lebanon that weekend. He is set to appear for the first time tonight in an interview from Riyadh.
I spoke to Habib Ephrem, president of the Syriac League in Lebanon and secretary-general of the Levant Encounter, a think-tank known to be very close to President Aoun. He showed me an entry in his calendar from last week titled "11:30am Hariri" scheduled for Monday, November 6. He had received a call from the office of the prime minister on Saturday, November 4, hours before Hariri resigned in front of Al-Arabiya's cameras. Clearly, not even his team in Beirut knew what was going on.
Hariri now seems stuck in Riyadh, like another head of government, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, Yemen's president, who reportedly has not been allowed to leave the Saudi capital for months. And with all the posturing from Riyadh, the fear in Beirut is that the country might be facing a proxy war, just like the one in Yemen.
The Lebanese are not 'a herd of sheep'
According to the latest reports, Saudi Arabia took the decision on Hariri's resignation because "he was unwilling to confront Hezbollah". He was handed his resignation speech while waiting to see Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
There have been also rumours that Saudi Arabia is setting the stage for Saad's older brother, Bahaa, to replace him, and has demanded that members of the Hariri family go to Riyadh to pledge allegiance.
Interior Minister Nohad Machnouq had a scathing response when asked about the issue: "[The Lebanese are not] a herd of sheep or a plot of land whose ownership can be transferred from one person to another. Lebanon's democratic system is based on elections, not on a simple pledge of allegiance."
Clearly, the latest developments are an assault on Lebanon's sovereignty and one that has been widely condemned in Lebanon, except by hardline supporters of Saudi Arabia. These include former Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi, a Sunni strongman from Tripoli, as well as Samir Geagea, the leader of the Christian party Lebanese Forces, who only found the "timing" of the resignation surprising but not the substance of it.
Saudi Escalation In Lebanon
On Thursday, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain urged their citizens to leave Beirut, given the Kingdom's accusation that Lebanon has declared war on Saudi Arabia.
This is not the first time such a travel ban has been issued. In February 2016, Saudi Arabia undertook a similar evacuation in the aftermath of the attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Riyadh's justification for the move then was that Lebanon failed "to condemn Iran's aggression".
Tensions later subsided, especially after the presidential settlement that brought Aoun to the presidency and Hariri to the premiership.
But, this time, Lebanese citizens are more worried that this evacuation of Saudi citizens could be followed by an economic - and possibly military - escalation. There is also the ever-present Israeli threat of renewed aggression against Lebanon; Israeli officials have been talking about another conflict with Hezbollah even before the latest crisis.
Now, Iran already has its ally in Lebanon well-armed and ready. The question is whether Saudi Arabia intends to confront Hezbollah militarily, leading to a Yemen-like situation.
Such a move would have a devastating effect on the country and the millions of Syrian and Palestinian refugees it is hosting. Given the human catastrophes in Syria and Yemen and the incessant turmoil in Iraq, pushing conflict on Lebanon would unleash a whole new level of chaos, destruction and death in the region.
Lebanon Does Not Want War
In a widely watched political show last Thursday, a Saudi analyst offended the Lebanese public by hurling threats and insults at Lebanon, even going as far as accusing the Lebanese president and the speaker of being terrorists.
The Lebanese reacted with anger to these accusations on social media, leading Justice Minister Salim Jreissati to ask the general prosecutor to investigate the case as a crime of contempt and criminal libel against the president, speaker, foreign minister and Lebanese Army.
If the Saudi intention behind the resignation was the formation of a strong anti-Hezbollah coalition that would spearhead an escalation against the party in Lebanon, the result would not satisfy Riyadh. So far, there has been a clear display of "national unity" signalling the importance of preserving stability and avoiding another war.
In fact, it is not clear what options Saudi Arabia has in the event of a decision on a full-blown confrontation. To be sure, it has many supporters.
However, when it comes to an armed confrontation with Hezbollah, it is unlikely that any party in Lebanon would be willing to participate.
Now, this is not to say that Hezbollah enjoys national backing. On the contrary, one thing that has become clearer is that Hezbollah will be unable to continue with its policy of involvement in conflicts outside Lebanon's borders without drawing the ire of Saudi Arabia and other Arab states.
Samir Geagea had a point when he called on the party to withdraw from regional conflicts if it is serious in its support for Hariri.
So far, the Lebanese public has made it clear that it has no "appetite" for a military showdown with Hezbollah. It has also become crystal clear that Lebanon does not want to be part of another armed conflict, nor does it want to be led into a confrontation on someone else's behalf.
The civil war of 1975-1990 was enough. And so were decades of Israeli aggression and wars.
Cooler heads need to prevail. There is no other choice.
November 12, 2017
Hariri's resignation has pulled the cover over a sinister situation that was damaging to him and to Lebanon
For some in 'occupied' and 'subjugated' Lebanon the nightmare is over; for others, the country is approaching a regional cliff edge.
In fact, Lebanon is going through a second 'March 14' uprising, this time against direct Iranian 'hegemony' which was always the real thing, compared to the first uprising against Syria's 'security custody' which was a mere shadow of that real thing.
Those relieved that Hariri had resigned have always felt that he had already lost a good deal of credibility in both the nationalist and Sunni Muslim camps. Moreover, he had been too passive in the face of unrelenting effort to discredit him through pushing him and the military and security forces to accept Iran's political and security hegemony.
In the meantime, there still are certain groups happy to be passive and continue their futile wait, at the expense of Lebanon's national identity, Arab interests, and even its demographic composition. Up till now these groups have convinced themselves that diplomacy and appeasement are enough to check Iran's expansionism fuelled by armed-blackmail already used several times both inside and outside Lebanon.
However, what Ali Akbar Velayati, the political adviser to 'The Supreme Guide', said in Beirut after meeting with Hariri was the clearest haughty indication that Lebanon was now under Tehran's hegemony, extending from southern Iraq to the Mediterranean across large Syrian territories. The Iranian regime has, thanks to Hassan Rouhani's and Javad Zarif's diplomacy and Mohammed Ali Jafari's and Qassen Suleimani's militias, destroyed national borders drawn in 1920 to separate the Arabs, and had many 'Arabists' dreaming of bringing down. Through Daesh (and those behind it) and Iran's sectarian militias, there are no more borders between Iraq and Syria, or between Syria and Lebanon; thus, Iran now enjoys a corridor to the Syrian and Lebanese Levantine coasts.
What Velayati said in Lebanon in front of those supposed to be entrusted with the Lebanese 'state sovereignty' laid bare the Iranian plans for the whole region, not only a Lebanon under the military occupation of Hezbollah.
On the Lebanese front, I believe Saad Hariri did what he had to do, first as a patriotic leader who believes in an independent sovereign Lebanon, and second as Sunni Muslim leader in a time when Sunni Arabs are being targeted and marginalised in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. His decision was not an easy one, more so as many Lebanese politicians - including him - have been for the last two years warning against political 'vacuum', and, subsequently, that any political way out was less damaging than that 'vacuum'.
However, since agreeing to elect General Michel Aoun as President and appointing Hariri as Prime Minister heading a 'consensus cabinet, including Hezbollah minister, Lebanon has lived the worst scenario of 'vacuum' in peaceful manner without a shot fired in anger!
Under Aoun's Presidency and Hariri's 'consensus cabinet', Iran's influence inside Lebanon gained both a cover of legitimacy and an involuntary acquiescence from representatives of its religious sects. Furthermore, displaced Syrian refugees became victims of animosity highlighting the high cost of their stay, and their individual transgressions rather than holding responsible for the whole phenomenon the Lebanese players - namely, Hezbollah - who caused their displacement as a result of their fighting on Bashar Al Assad's side in Syria. Moreover, pressure was put to make the army's and security's 'defence doctrine' an almost carbon copy of that of Hezbollah, which is part and parcel of Iran's revolutionary Guards (IRGC).
Finally, the post of the Prime Minister - reserved to the Sunnis - was more than once marginalised, and its authority compromised. An example was when Gebran Bassil, the Foreign Minister and the President's son-in-law, ignored the cabinet's collective responsibility and the Prime Minister's position against the Syrian regime, by meeting Walid Al Mu'allem, Al Assad's foreign Minister in New York.
Thus, in the light of Hezbollah's monopoly of heavy weapons and its ability to penetrate the Christian community, through aligning itself with Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) - which provided it with a political and religious cover reflecting the logic of 'Alliance of Minorities' the 'consensus cabinet' insured Hezbollah achieved most of its aims. Saad Hariri's resignation has, thus, pulled the cover over a sinister situation that was damaging to him as well as to Lebanon had it continued. The outgoing prime minister has done the right thing, preventing 'filling the vacuum with another vacuum', throwing the ball into the world community's court.
Lebanon, at any rate, is but one link in the Middle East chain. The resignation of a prime minister who finally decided not to be a cover for a plan for regional hegemony is certainly an important step in blocking it, however, it is not enough on its own. It will not bear fruits without a serious willingness to block and derail this plan.
Hariri was subjected to many criticisms during the past year, but he has now acted courageously. Will he now be supported by those vocal critics of Tehran's policies, ambitions and plans for hegemony underpinned on its arsenals inside Iran, and its active militias in several Arab countries?
And is there a genuine understanding of how dangerous it is to allow religion-clad extremist ideologies to establish its sway in a highly sensitive area, where ethnic, religious and sectarian identities intersect, not far from the heart of Europe?
In 2005, when the Lebanese people rose against a 'security custody' imposed from across its borders, the world community reacted quickly only to forget them soon after. Many fear this might happen again to their 'Second Uprising'!
For a long time, organizations such as the World Bank, the UN Development Programme and Transparency International, not to mention respected academics and authors, have thoroughly studied the corrosive effects of corruption.
They have concluded in countless studies that corruption not only acts as a drag on development and a country’s ability to attract investors, but also erodes confidence in state institutions. It breeds disrespect for the rule of law and shakes the moral fiber of any society. It is therefore not surprising that Saudi Arabia’s largest anti-corruption campaign in recent history, launched on Nov. 4, has received accolades far and wide. The fact that the campaign has been conducted through a transparent legal process reassures everyone that the rights of those detained will be safeguarded, and that the investigation is going to be thorough and fair.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office has announced that more than 200 individuals — senior princes, officials and businessmen — had been detained in the first week of the investigation, and 1,200 accounts frozen. The charges include bribery, embezzlement, money laundering and misuse of public funds. As in any such large-scale investigation, some of those detained may be released for various reasons, re-detained or set free, and new suspects detained, depending on the evidence and direction of the investigation.
Saudis by and large were supportive, even jubilant, over the launch of this campaign, something for which they had been hoping for decades. They had been waiting for such bold action because they knew that corruption not only besmirched the good name of their country, but was corroding the social fabric. At a time of belt-tightening, it no longer made sense to tolerate corrupt officials and businessmen who were enjoying their ill-gotten gains while millions were sweating it out to make a living. Many young people went without jobs or secure income because a few corrupt individuals had helped themselves to funds meant for development.
Young Saudis in particular have been buoyed by a campaign that has restored their faith in their future and the future of their country. If they had any doubts about the path of development, those doubts have been eased. They are hopeful that from now on there will be a level playing field, without nepotism, favoritism or financial corruption. There were supportive reactions from key allies, too, and from international organizations concerned about corruption and its corrosive effects on development.
With such support for Saudi Arabia’s anti-corruption campaign, one should not be much concerned about some discordant voices that cast aspersions on it. Some were simply naive or misinformed. Others are political adversaries of Saudi Arabia or self-interested parties who had benefited from the previously permissive atmosphere of doing business in Saudi Arabia, and as such could be negatively affected by the campaign. For example, some of those critics complained about detention without trial, when in fact most legal traditions and jurisdictions in the US and Europe allow pre-trial detention without bail, especially where there is a risk of flight or other factors that may jeopardize their trial appearance. Some critics used to decry Saudi Arabia’s previously tolerant attitude towards corruption, but are now upset that a campaign has been launched against it.
Although the arrests are based on lengthy investigations, some going back years, the anti-corruption drive is only starting. The public prosecutor is providing a steady flow of information about the detentions, releases and measures taken against the suspects. For example, several minor figures have already been released, indicating that the process is evidence-based and fair.
The best approach to get the most out of this campaign is through a transparent legal process. Because most corrupt officials made their fortunes by ignoring the due process of the law, it is now important to restore respect for the rule of law in dealing with them. Stolen public funds have to be returned, clearly. Fines and remedies have to be paid. Punishments have to be meted out where legally justified. At the same time, those cleared of wrongdoing should be able to resume their normal lives. Lessons can be fully learned when all these procedures are carried out in the most open and transparent fashion. That way, young people, in particular, will learn the most from this process.
By Baria Alamuddin
What a difference a few months make. Back in the summer when I mentioned having second thoughts about visiting Beirut, Prime Minister Saad Hariri insisted that I come, stressing that the security situation was good. He appeared relaxed and somewhat optimistic — unaware that within weeks he would be expressing fears for his life.
I am astonished how easily people buy into Hezbollah’s conspiracy theories about Hariri’s resignation. Saad’s father, Rafiq Hariri, was just one of more than a dozen politicians whose assassinations bore Hezbollah’s fingerprints — so why do commentators struggle to grasp the threats against Hariri and those around him? Hariri lived all his life in Saudi Arabia and his family are based there, so why the astonishment that he returns there when his life is threatened?
Saad was never a politician. He was thrust reluctantly from the comfortable world of business into the brutal world of Lebanese politics, feeling a sense of duty after his father’s murder. Lebanese popular pressure compelled him to take up this mantle, and he remains by far the most prominent and popular Sunni figure, making it highly unlikely that Hezbollah could simply edge someone else into his place.
We can forgive Hariri’s reluctance to risk his life as the frontman for a government that had become a farce, under the malignant dominance of Hezbollah. Senior figures within this administration abused their positions to wage undeclared war against the Arab world; while Hezbollah’s copious media outlets apparently forgot that Israel was supposed to be their primary enemy, turning their propaganda weapons instead on Lebanon’s closest allies.
Hassan Nasrallah’s latest speech exemplifies the delusions of a man who regards himself as the real center of power in Lebanon, dictating matters of war and peace. We are right to see the firing of an Iranian missile at Riyadh airport as an act of war by Hezbollah and Iran against the Arab world. Nasrallah’s rantings against Arab states are astonishing — such as the deranged accusation that the Gulf Cooperation Council is bribing Israel to attack Lebanon. These are the same GCC states that poured billions into rebuilding Lebanon the last time Israel and Hezbollah destroyed it. As if Israel needs any encouragement to attack Hezbollah!
In 2006, Hezbollah’s rockets were something of a joke, only occasionally getting anywhere near their targets. Hezbollah today has a massively expanded armory, thanks to generous Uncle Khamenei. It has become a question not of if, but when Israel will cut Hezbollah down to size. Both sides would be equally to blame for the appalling consequences for Lebanon.
Hezbollah bought into its own propaganda; Lebanese people are sick of being told that Hezbollah entered Syria to prevent Daesh from reaching Beirut, and that out of gratitude they should bestow the most lucrative posts and powers upon Nasrallah’s subordinates. In reality, Hezbollah’s blood-letting in Syria wreaked chaos upon Lebanon — and the political turmoil is just getting started. Safe down his bolthole, Nasrallah appears oblivious to the fact that thousands of his devoted foot-soldiers are still coming home in body-bags from a senseless conflict. His detachment from reality allows him to belittle prospects of war with Israel, while his rhetoric and actions simultaneously provoke such an eventuality.
Hezbollah has an octopus-like hold over the Lebanese state; the panic in the banking system resulting from US sanctions against Hezbollah highlighted the movement’s massive penetration of the economy, and Hezbollah’s dominance of the intelligence infrastructure gives Hariri credible grounds to believe that Iran could eliminate him on a whim.
We shouldn’t forget how reliant Lebanon is upon the Arab world; global remittances entering Lebanon ($7.2 billion, two thirds of which are from the Gulf states) represent nearly 20 percent of the total economy. Thus, measures by the GCC could represent a devastating double whammy: Firstly representing a huge decrease in investment and financial inflows, but also a crunch in GCC tourism, the mainstay of the Lebanese economy that brings in nearly $10 billion a year. The centrality of tourism also highlights the need for Lebanon to remain stable and diverse. Hezbollah goons boast about enforcing Islamic clothing and laws — their ideal social model is the Islamic Republic, where meaningful tourism is inconceivable. Hezbollah’s actions are systematically strangling the Lebanese economy: A kiss from Tehran is the kiss of death!
We should do everything in our power to avoid relapse into conflict. My most traumatic memory was carrying my infant children on board an American frigate to Cyprus in 1982 as Israel shelled my homeland. I will never forget seeing the despair on the faces of loved ones around me. Our world had ended, and this was just one of so many devastating Israeli incursions into our homeland.
Lebanese people are unbelievably resilient, carrying on through interminable wars and crises. However, with the current escalation of tensions, citizens are panic-buying or considering fleeing overseas. With Lebanon’s ominous return to the global headlines, is history about to repeat itself?
Hezbollah’s pre-eminence in Lebanon is a castle built on sand, sustained only by $800 billion of funding a year from Tehran and an endless supply of military hardware. Lebanon has always been culturally, politically and economically rooted in its Arab heritage. Beirut, Damascus and Baghdad will be proud Arab cities in a thousand years’ time. Meanwhile, the Islamic Republic is an erroneous historical blip that external and internal pressures will shortly extinguish. Those who have grown fat on Iranian munificence shouldn’t get too comfortable.
Hariri has good reasons to fear for his life, but his other motives for resignation are more compelling: Hezbollah’s growing dominance as a state within a state; incitement against friendly Arab nations; and Hezbollah’s refusal to disarm and allow Lebanon to become a normalized, peace-loving state. Hariri is right to throw a spanner in the works and insist that there cannot be business as usual — that normal politics is impossible when dominated by belligerent paramilitaries armed to the teeth and provoking conflicts on many fronts.
Hezbollah ceased being a Lebanese entity when it entered Syria and began training militants in Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen and beyond; becoming a core segment of Iran’s transnational paramilitary forces. When Iran’s proxies and Israel finally goad each other into war, Lebanon will be trampled under their feet. Nasrallah will hardly even notice or care, knowing that Tehran will compensate for his losses — leaving others to pick up the tab for Lebanon’s devastation.
Having perceived these threats to Lebanon, Hariri felt he had no choice but to try and prevent us from sleep-walking toward war. The question now is whether pressures can be brought to bear upon Hezbollah to disarm and step back from its confrontational posture. Given the unlikelihood of this, one can see why Lebanese are preparing for the worst.
By Abdellatif El-Menawy
Daesh seems to be shaking before finally falling down. It started a few months ago when different parties felt that Daesh had served its intended purpose and it was time for it to vanish geographically. With the decline of its financial resources, its media operations reaching a pathetic state, and the loss of more land with each battle, the end of the so-called caliphate is imminent. But what we should always remember, as I have written before, is that achieving a decisive battle against Daesh remains elusive.
We have seen many times before that when a conflict is over, whether by force, negotiated settlement or a conspiracy, transnational terrorists move in different directions. This was the case with militants who returned from Afghanistan, Albania and Chechnya, and we can expect the same with Daesh.
Where will the Egyptians who joined this terrorist adventure go? And where will the mercenaries, unable to return to their home countries, go?
We can expect them to form a new wave of returning terrorists, as happened before. In Egypt, it will be difficult to accurately identify all of them because they are a new generation who grew up away from the watch of the security authorities, who suffered from the destruction of their intelligence structure in the years after what is known as the “January events.” They are now trying to restore their capabilities and build a new intelligence database, but it will take a long time.
The other difficulty is that most of these young men were just children a few years ago, and there is little information about them. The level of communication, cooperation and transparency between the intelligence services in different countries will have to increase to obtain a more precise picture.
As for mercenaries, they will travel abroad looking for the next militant theater — Yemen, Libya, West Africa or Afghanistan. Some of them are actually the children of extremists who joined Al-Qaeda and fought in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union, as well as in Chechnya and the Balkans, and hundreds more are hiding in Turkey — on Europe’s doorstep. Organizations loyal to Daesh and local militants in these areas would welcome extra support from “comrades” with experience of war.
This should all be kept in mind when the Egyptian administration formulates its plans and expectations for dealing with the incoming danger, especially since leaked information points to a concentration of terrorist groups and their supporters on the Egyptian front. The operators of these groups believe that their next battle with Egypt should be decisive and effective, so we should expect more infiltration through Egyptian land borders. Egypt did well in its pragmatic dealing with Hamas on the eastern border. Moreover, maintaining a quiet and friendly atmosphere is essential with Sudan in the south, and expanding the protective umbrella with Egypt’s allies in Libya is vital. But all this will not be enough without continuous measures for the development of the border protection system. Internally, the decisive solution is to win the support of the whole society in the war against terrorism, which is a whole other issue.
By Abdulrahman al-Rashed
This may be the last chapter of the Syrian war as we knew it over the past six years. However, the Syrian crisis has more chapters to come. In order to end the war, the Russian and American presidents whom are believed to agree on the failure of the military solution and who think it’s time for a “peaceful solution” met in Vietnam to discuss the matter. The Russian and Turkish presidents have also met before for the same purpose. Meanwhile, Iran and Israel are preparing for the next phase.
The final outcome of the negotiations, which are led by the Russians and the UN envoy, aims to suspend the direct fighting between the different parties in Syria. It admits the failure of the military solution, but the most dangerous thing about it is that it accepts the temporary geographic distribution of Syria between four foreign parties which are Russia, the US, Iran and Turkey. The idea of this temporary division is that these powers stop fighting and can later negotiate a final solution. However, the internationally-accepted positioning, even if it’s temporary, will nurture the regional conflict between Iraq, Israel and Turkey who are all preparing for the phase after “stopping the war.”
Satellite maps which have been recently published show how Iran is building a series of small military bases that extend from the suburbs in southern Damascus to Golan. This is in addition to military gatherings, which the Lebanese party Hezbollah established in other posts in Syria. All these reflect the arrangements for the near future in order to impose a fait accompli despite the international agreement which is expected later. The military presence of Iran and its allies, in this magnitude, is establishing for a reality which threatens the entire region in general as well as Israel that has massive destructive military power and whose American ally vows to defend.
Like the rest of the region’s countries, Israel underestimated Iran’s infiltration of Syria. It believed that the civil war served its interests. It saw a sectarian swamp in which Hezbollah and Iranian powers get involved with ISIS and thought that they must have lost a lot of fighters during the past three years.
However, even if the agreement between the major parties succeeds in suspending the fighting, we must be worried of the indicators of a new phase of regional confrontations inside and outside Syria.
An Advanced Iranian Battalion
Israel sees Hezbollah as an advanced Iranian battalion that’s part of the conflict over influence in the Middle East and which is nurtured by the expected agreement to stop fighting in Syria while accepting the Iranians’ presence there. The Revolutionary Guards have solidified the presence of their foreign militias and fighters in their strongholds in Syria, which are about 50 kilometers on the borders of Israel with Golan. Photos show how the Revolutionary Guards built a series of military bases to be centers of support and financing that will operate as an Iranian highway that extends from Iraq to Lebanon. This is why recent Israeli threats have been directed against Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria. The aim of these threats is to confront the new reality. Previous Israeli wars were launched against Hezbollah according to how much the party has piled up weapons and expanded – almost every ten years. Regarding Syria, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned of the new reality saying that “when ISIS is expelled from a place, Iran is replacing it.” The reason is of course obvious, and it’s that the Syrian regime no longer has military capabilities as a result of its multiple defeats.
Israel, Turkey and Iraq are countries which have borders with Syria and are thus directly concerned in the details of the solution - such as which local and foreign militias control the situation on the ground. If it hadn’t been for American warnings, Jordan would have been threatened with Iranian militias marching towards its borders from Daraa.
Although Iran does not have borders with Syria, it has expanded the most there. It’s also the country with the most military activity in Syria. If it hadn’t been for Russia’s air support, Iran’s militias would not have expanded and would not have even survived defeat.
This is the reality which I do not know how the agreement to end the war in Syria will handle. The agreement only ends the presence of terrorist groups like ISIS, al-Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham but it will fail in ridding Syria of the more dangerous regional militias.