LCCC ENGLISH DAILY
Bible Quotation for today/In Praise of Wisdom
Proverbs 08/19-36: "What
you get from me is better than the finest gold, better
than the purest silver. I walk the way of
righteousness; I follow the paths of justice, giving
wealth to those who love me, filling their houses with
treasures. “The Lord created me first of all, the first
of his works, long ago. I was made in the very
beginning, at the first, before the world began. I was
born before the oceans, when there were no springs of
water. I was born before the mountains, before the hills
were set in place, before God made the earth and its
fields or even the first handful of soil. I was there
when he set the sky in place, when he stretched the
horizon across the ocean, when he placed the clouds in
the sky, when he opened the springs of the ocean and
ordered the waters of the sea to rise no further than he
said. I was there when he laid the earth's foundations.
I was beside him like an architect, I was his daily
source of joy, always happy in his presence—happy with
the world and pleased with the human race. “Now, young
people, listen to me. Do as I say, and you will be
happy. Listen to what you are taught. Be wise; do not
neglect it. Those who listen to me will be happy— those
who stay at my door every day,
waiting at the entrance to my home. Those who find me find life, and the Lord will be pleased with them. Those who do not find me hurt themselves; anyone who hates me loves death.”
Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For October 23/13
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For October 23/13
killed, 11 wounded in north Lebanon fighting
October 22, 2013/The Daily Star/TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Renewed fighting between supporters and opponents of President Bashar Assad killed one boy and wounded 11 other people Tuesday in the northern city of Tripoli. The intermittent clashes broke the calm that prevailed in the area as part of the government’s security plan to preserve peace in the volatile city. The boy was identified as 13-year-old Daniel Ahmad who died of wounds he sustained in the clashes, a security source told The Daily Star. The wounded were transferred to nearby hospitals in the city and included four soldiers, the source added. Clashes broke out Monday evening between supporters and opponents of Assad after residents of the neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen, supportive of the Syrian leader, fired shots in the air when the Assad appeared in a TV interview. Shortly afterward, residents of the rival neighborhood Bab al-Tabbaneh returned the fire and targeted Jabal Mohsen. On Tuesday, the two rivals exchanged mortar shells as well as rocket-propelled grenades amid sporadic sniper fire and residents expected the direct fighting to erupt at any moment. The tensions forced several branches of the Lebanese University to close Tuesday as well as several public and private schools in the areas of Baddawi, Bab al-Tabbaneh, Qibbeh and Zaheriyah. Backed by armored vehicles, the Lebanese Army was seen patrolling the city and several other neighborhood. The two neighborhoods have a history of violent clashes, since the uprising against Assad began in 2011. In order to restore calm in the city following two car bombs two months ago, the caretaker government drafted a security plan for Tripoli, but security forces have only implemented its first phase.
Lebanese Cameraman Missing in Syria Urges Officials to Act
Naharnet Newsdesk 22 October 2013/The family of Sky News Arabia cameraman Samir Kassab who has gone missing in Syria urged Lebanese officials on Tuesday to address the case, stressing that “he was performing his job professionally and impartially and he is not involved in the conflict.” “Eight days have passed since the disappearance of our son …, his Mauritanian colleague Ishak Moctar and their Syrian driver, after contact with them was lost as they arrived in the Syrian region of Aleppo last Tuesday to conduct a field report on the humanitarian aspect of the Syrians' plight during Eid al-Adha,” the family said in a statement. “After we preferred during this period to resort to prayer and silence and to let things take their natural course, and after we followed up on Sky News Arabia's strenuous efforts to find its crew, and as Samir's cause remains absent from the interests of all political officials in Lebanon, we remind that our son was performing his job professionally and impartially and he is not involved in the conflict,” the family added, stressing that Kassab “is not a member of any political party or group in his country.”The family also urged journalists, civil society groups, international organizations and all parties who have influence on the events in Syria to help secure the safe return of Kassab and his colleagues.
The Abu Dhabi-based Sky News Arabia said Thursday it had lost contact with its crew on assignment in the north Syria province of Aleppo, where abductions have been on the rise. The channel said in a statement that Kassab, Moctar and a Syrian driver it did not name at his family's request have been missing since Tuesday. It appealed to "all concerned parties" to help it locate its team and support "any effort ensuring their safe return."The journalists are "dedicated to covering the news objectively, professionally and without bias," said Nart Bouran, head of Sky News Arabia. Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says at least 16 foreign journalists are missing in Syria, although many cases have not been made public at the request of their families. RSF says that since the conflict erupted in Syria in March 2011, at least 25 professional journalists and 70 citizen journalists have been killed. Though journalists have been killed while reporting from the regime side, most deaths and kidnappings have been among those behind rebel lines. Sherif Mansour of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said the threat has evolved. "In the beginning we only saw journalists being kidnapped by the government but later we began to see the opposition becoming increasingly involved," he told Agence France Presse. "The kidnappings now are not just for political reasons, but also for financial reasons. We have also seen groups that are specifically targeting journalists, accusing them of being spies."
Suleiman: Disassociation Policy is a Source of Pride, No One Has Right to Criticize it
Naharnet Newsdesk 22 October 2013/President Michel Suleiman stressed on Tuesday the importance of the Baabda Declaration that calls for Lebanon to distance itself from regional developments, saying that it has helped safeguard the country from the unrest. He said: “The policy of disassociation is a source of pride and no one has the right to criticize it.” He made his remarks during a speech on the occasion of the expansion of the container area at Beirut Port. “We must save Lebanon through dialogue and not shy away from its agreements, especially the Baabda Declaration that seeks to preserve Lebanon,” continued Suleiman. “Let us put aside our differences and agree on saving our country,” declared the president. Moreover, he said: “We must reconcile with ourselves and in turn with the law. We must let the judiciary and audit bureaus carry out their work.”
“We must also respect constitutional deadlines, starting with the presidential election,” he stressed. Suleiman emphasized the need for administrative reform, noting: “The rule of law must be imposed in Lebanon away from the corruption that has become rampant at some institutions.”“The best examples of corruption at state institutions are the ongoing vacancies at these establishments that were caused by political meddling,” he remarked. “We must unite and cooperate in maintaining our constitutional institutions,” he demanded. Syrian President Bashar Assad had criticized on Monday Lebanon's disassociation policy, saying: “Lebanon has contributed directly to the situation in Syria by allowing the safe passage of terrorists and weapons into the country.”
“It has allowed incitement against Syria, so technically it has not implemented the policy of disassociation,” he noted to al-Mayadeen television. “Assuming if it did implement the policy, what would it do if the fire spread to it? The situation in Syria has started to directly impact Lebanon,” he said. The Baabda Declaration was unanimously approved during a national dialogue session in June 2012.
It calls for keeping Lebanon away from regional developments, especially those in Syria. Hizbullah has however been seen as having violated the declaration after it became involved in the crisis in Syria where its fighters are supporting regime forces. Its actions in Syria have been strongly condemned in Lebanon and by foreign powers. Suleiman is scheduled to make two more speeches this week, one on Thursday and another on Saturday.
Saturday's speech will take place during the opening of the Gathering for the Christians of the Orient in Rabweh, reported al-Joumhouria newspaper on Tuesday. During the event, he is set to highlight the need for dialogue between religions and civilizations
Ongoing Row over Constitutionality of Parliamentary Session
Naharnet Newsdesk 22 October 2013/Discussions over a two-day parliamentary session reached a dead-end on Tuesday amid a sharp row over its constitutionality as al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc insisted on boycotting it if Speaker Nabih Berri failed to modify its agenda. Head of al-Mustaqbal Parliamentary bloc Fouad Saniora told reporters after talks with Berri, on the sidelines of a session set to elect the parliament's bureau committee members and the parliamentary committees members, that Wednesday's session is “unconstitutional.” He pointed out that the bloc will not attend the two-day session. For his part, Lebanese Forces MP Antoine Zahra said that Berri has the “keys to the parliament.”While Phalange Party MP Sami Gemayel told reporters that there's no need to hold a session “as there is no state.” Lawmakers earlier elected the same members to the parliament's bureau committee and the parliamentary committees without any modification. The controversial two-day legislative session that Berri called for is set to discuss 45 items on its agenda, the same session that has been boycotted for five times since July over differences on whether the parliament can convene amid a resigned government or not. The previous sessions were boycotted by the March 14 coalition, caretaker PM Najib Miqati and Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun's Change and Reform parliamentary bloc. Miqati and the March 14 alliance argue that the parliament can only discuss urgent items, while Aoun has boycotted over Berri's failure to include his bloc's items on the session's agenda. However, Berri is holding on to his stance that the parliament can convene at any time to discuss draft-laws. He insists on keeping the 45 draft-laws on the session's agenda, saying that he would continue to call on MPs for a General Assembly meeting until the agenda is discussed. An Nahar newspaper reported earlier that Berri and Saniora meeting will be held in presence of several March 14 MPs. According to An Nahar daily published on Tuesday, the coalition held a meeting on Monday eve to discuss the possibility of attending Wednesday's parliamentary session, the process of cabinet formation and the developments in neighboring country Syria.
Miqati Urges Preservation of Coexistence, Warns Against Favoring Sectarian Interests
Naharnet Newsdesk 22 October 2013/Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati called on Tuesday for the preservation of Lebanon's unique state of coexistence through stances that are based on national unity.
“Lebanon represents a national willingness for coexistence which multiplies our responsibility in preserving this unique formula of Islamic-Christian Brotherhood,” said Miqati after he was invited to attend the first Conference for the Christians of the Orient. Miqati called for “practices and stances that preserve national unity and consolidate partnership that is based on equality, justice, cooperation and mutual respect.” The upcoming conference is a necessity for Lebanon at this stage amid a rise in extremism, he said. “We should hold onto our coexistence to guarantee a (better) future for all the Lebanese … and to overcome this delicate stage,” he added. Miqati warned against putting sectarian interests before patriotic feelings, which he said contradicts the Taef Accord that has established a consensual democracy based on freedom, justice and equality. The caretaker PM condemned attacks on churches and places of worship in several countries, the latest in Egypt. “There should be unity in confronting these assaults that tarnish the image of the monotheistic religions and threaten coexistence among the faithful,” he said. Four Coptic Christians were gunned down outside the Church of the Virgin in Cairo's working class neighborhood of al-Warrak on Sunday. The four victims belonged to one family, according to relatives. Seventeen others were wounded the attack. Bishop Samir Mazloum, who is the Secretary-General of the Gathering for the Christians of the Orient, said after meeting Miqati that he invited the caretaker Premier to the conference that will be held on Saturday in Rabweh.
Change and Reform Slams 'Dangerous Campaign' against Sehnaoui
Naharnet Newsdesk 22 October 2013/The Change and Reform parliamentary bloc on Tuesday condemned what it described as a “dangerous campaign” against caretaker Telecom Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui over the issue of telecom data, announcing that it will play a role in reactivating the work of parliament. “There is a dangerous campaign against Sehnaoui and those behind it bear the responsibility. They are accusing him of crimes over the issue of telecom data, but we stress that security agencies have always received the data they want,” the bloc's secretary MP Ibrahim Kanaan said after Change and Reform's weekly meeting in Rabieh.
“There is a control center that cost the state large sums of money. It allows them to have direct access to the phone calls and to obtain the information they want, so why is the center still closed?” Kanaan said.
“Why don't you activate the control center which was created according to resolutions taken by the successive governments. It was a Lebanese dream to gather intelligence without encroaching on the privacy of people,” he noted. Former Internal Security Forces chief Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi has accused Sehnaoui of withholding telecom data from security agencies in the periods that witnessed the assassination of Intelligence Bureau chief Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan and the attempt on Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea's life. Rifi accused Sehnaoui of being accomplice in al-Hasan's assassination “because he withheld the telecom data from investigators.” But the minister hit back, stressing that “security agencies were receiving the complete telecom data everyday during the past three years, including during the period of the assassination of martyr Major General Wissam al-Hasan and the other incidents.” Separately, Kanaan said “Speaker (Nabih) Berri informed us that some of the exits he suggested have been rejected, and we believe that we must continue the discussions with Berri and with the other blocs in order to resume the legislative sessions and the work of parliament, as there are social priorities that we need to address.” “We will contribute to relaunching the work of parliament," Kanaan noted.
Turning to the issue of the nine Lebanese pilgrims who were freed on Saturday after a 17-month kidnap ordeal in Syria, Kanaan said: “We consider that the joy is not complete as the fate of the two (Syrian) bishops is still unclear.” “We have not obtained any information about them and about all those who went missing in Syria. This is a humanitarian and not political issue and we will exert efforts in this regard,” he added. On the issue of the row over oil excavation, Kanaan emphasized that “all the needed oil decrees must be approved and this must not be a topic for overbidding. “The cabinet must convene even if it is a caretaker cabinet as the issue of oil is a priority,” he underlined.
Tawq Supporters Protest Removal of Illegal Construction, MP Geagea Voices Support for Security Forces
Naharnet Newsdesk 22 October 2013/Security forces clashed on Tuesday with supporters of former MP Jebran Tawq in the northern city of Bsharre over the removal of illegal construction. "Tawq's supporters protested the removal of a recently built amphitheater in the Cedar forest,” the state-run National News Agency reported, noting that the construction was established on the occasion of the weeding ceremony of the former MP's son. The NNA said: “The protesters blocked the Ainta-al-Arz international road.”"Tear gas was used in the clashes and the protesters were divided between those supporting the blocking of the road, and others calling for reopening it.”"Local figures and Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rahi were called to intervene without reaching consensus and the road is still blocked," the same source remarked. LBCI television later noted that negotiations are underway between the protesters and security forces over the removal of the amphitheater. “Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel and former MP Jebran Tawq are discussing the possibility of reopening the Bsharre road,” LBCI added. Tawq explained to LBCI that the amphitheater was built for a family occasion and on a private property that is "protected by the constitution."
“It does not harm the environment and we want to plant trees in it,” he said. "All Bsharre residents want to keep the amphitheater and what is happening today is a militia-like behavior.”
He continued: “We do not want troubles but Bsharre lawmakers are held responsible for the stage we reached today.”Later in the day, however, Tawq urged his supporters to reopen the blocked road to “legally” find a solution to the clashes with security forces, according to al-Jadeed television. Commenting on the escalation of events, Lebanese Forces MP Sethrida Geagea stated that “the majority of Bsharre residents support the security forces.”
“We urge them to continue their mission of removing illegal constructions,” the Bsharre MP said. "We want our city to be an example of a region that respects the state's authority and we insist that everyone abides by the law that should be applied without any exceptions.”Geagea elaborated on Tuesday's event to Radio Free Lebanon: “The caretaker Environment Minister took a decision to remove the newly built illegal construction near the Cedar forest, but when security forces started their work, a group of supporters of ex-MP Tawq tried to prevent them.” "We call on Tawq to take the initiative and ask his supporters to allow security forces to complete their mission,” she said. "Let's leave these matters to the state that protects us along with the army and the security forces.” Geagea thanked Charbel, caretaker Environment Minister Nazem al-Khouri, and caretaker Culture Minister Gaby Layyoun over their insistence to preserve "We also appreciate the efforts exerted by acting Internal Security Forces chief Brig. Gen. Ibrahim Basbous and the security forces.”LF MP Elie Keyrouz assured LBCI that the removal of illegal construction “does not target anyone.”"It is a matter of a violation near the Cedar forest, which is placed on the list of World Heritage Sites,” he pointed out.
SourceAgence France Presse.
Mustaqbal Slams 'Scandalous' Release of Suspects Linked to Turkish Pilots' Abduction
Naharnet Newsdesk 22 October 2013/The Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc slammed on Tuesday the release of suspects linked to the case of the abduction of two Turkish pilots, saying that this “scandal” helps enforce lawlessness in Lebanon. It said in a statement after its weekly meeting: “The state, starting with President Michel Suleiman and the government, should take a position that would put a stop to the collapse of laws in Lebanon.”
It accused the March 8 forces of pressuring authorities to release the three suspects, noting: “It is a message that encourages lawlessness in Lebanon, which will transform the country into a failed state.”
The bloc therefore asked caretaker Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi to list what measures he took to confront this violation and what role the judiciary plays in monitoring investigations. Moreover, it wondered how the released pilots were transferred out of Lebanon and through what state authority. “Who transported them from where they were being held captive? Is it true that some political powers in government were behind their abduction?” it asked. “This scandal is reminiscent of the kidnapping of foreigners in Lebanon that had taken place in the past,” it continued. “It is also reminiscent of the scandal that surrounded the death of pilot Samer Hanna” in 2008, said the Mustaqbal bloc. Addressing the renewal of clashes between the rival neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen in the northern city of Tripoli, the bloc urged the residents to exercise restraint and avoid falling victim to the Syrian regime's trap of creating strife in Lebanon. It also condemned Syrian President Bashar Assad's remarks on Monday that Jabal Mohsen is part of Syria. “Th neighborhood is part of Tripoli and its security. The Syrian regime should stop inciting its residents, arming them, and sending them explosives that are being used against fellow residents of Tripoli,” it demanded. It also hailed President Michel Suleiman's recent remarks on the Baabda Declaration and his affirmation that it helps keep Lebanon away from regional developments. It therefore demanded that the political and security authorities take tangible steps that protect Tripoli and not just make due with statements on security plans in the city. Commenting on the release of the nine Lebanese pilgrims that were held in Syria's Aazaz region for over a year, the Mustaqbal bloc congratulated the people on their release, hoping that it will pave the way for efforts to be exerted to ensure the release of all prisoners, especially Lebanese held in Syrian jails. It condemned however General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim, who played a major role in releasing the Aazaz pilgrims, for holding talks, as part of these efforts, with Syrian security chief Ali Mamlouk, who is wanted by Lebanon for plotting to carry out terrorist attacks in the country. Three suspects held over their connection to the August abduction of two Turkish pilots were released on bail on Monday. The two Turkish Airlines pilots – Murat Akpinar and Murat Agca – were freed Saturday as part of a swap deal involving the release of the nine pilgrims and a number of Syrian women prisoners.
Elias Murr Appointed Head of INTERPOL Foundation for a Safer World
Naharnet Newsdesk 22 October 2013/Former deputy Prime Minister and ex-Minister Elias Murr has been appointed the head of the INTERPOL Foundation for a Safer World for a seven-year term. The appointment was made unanimously by INTERPOL's Executive Committee ahead of the organization's 82nd General Assembly held in Colombia. The Assembly, which opened in Colombia on Monday, is focusing on the need for new strategies and measures to help law enforcement more effectively amid emerging global crime threats.
Cautious Calm in Tripoli Despite Intermittent Sniper Activity
Naharnet Newsdesk 22 October 2013/Cautious calm prevailed on Tuesday in the northern city of Tripoli despite intermittent gunfire and sniper activity as several residents fled to safer areas, the state-run National News agency reported. The news agency said that sniper activity reached the international highway that links Tripoli with the northern province of Akkar. Five people were injured, including soldiers, after clashes renewed on Monday eve between the rival neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen. The report pointed out that army units are responding to the sources of fire and deployed in the area separating the two rival neighborhoods.
Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) reported earlier that two mortar shells hit Syria street, which separates the two districts. The army also carried out patrols in the area. Tripoli has witnessed recurrent clashes between the Sunni-majority neighborhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh and the mainly Alawite neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen. The clashes have become more frequent and deadly since the beginning of the Syrian uprising, which pits the Sunni-led opposition against the regime of President Bashar Assad, who is Alawite. The NNA said that registered traffic in Tripoli was light, in particular, on the international highway. Tripoli police chief Brig. Gen. Bassam al-Ayyoubi announced early August the launching of a crackdown on gunmen in the northern city.
Ibrahim Promises to Resolve Case of Hundreds of Lebanese Missing in Syria
Naharnet Newsdesk 22 October 2013/General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim has revealed that he would seek to reopen the file of Lebanese held in Syrian jails and resolve the case of the two bishops kidnapped in Syria. In remarks to As Safir newspaper published on Tuesday, Ibrahim said that he had promised Lebanese political and religious officials to seek the release of Bishops Youhanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi, who were kidnapped in Syria at the end of April. He stressed that he had also promised them to find a closure to the fate of hundreds of Lebanese thought to be held in Syria since the end of Lebanon's 15-year civil war. Ibrahim said his mission lied in implementing the orders of President Michel Suleiman and Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel. He told As Safir that the release of the nine Lebanese pilgrims after 17 months of captivity in Syria was “an achievement for every Lebanese citizen.”The achievement “does not belong to any sect or area,” he said, adding that “we should take pride in our state.”The nine Shiite pilgrims, who were kidnapped by rebels in May 2012 while on their way from Iran to Lebanon via Turkey and Syria, were set free late Saturday as part of a deal that also saw the release of two Turkish Airlines pilots, who were abducted in August in Beirut.
October 22, 2013/The Daily Star
Some politicians in Lebanon suffer from acute schizophrenia. Day in and day out, they spend half their day waxing poetic about the virtues of coexistence, and the other half scaremongering about the threats posed by everyone who is not from their small sect or group. While this schizophrenia has been around for a while, it sometimes bursts out into the open. The latest trigger has come in the form of anxiety over property ownership. If one reads the headlines, one might think Christians are anxious over the sale of land to non-Christians. At first glance, such fears and worries might even seem reasonable, due to demographic change. But a little more digging is required to arrive at a sound diagnosis. For one thing, the same type of politician and public figure who carries on about the need to respect the law in Lebanon ends up becoming the first person to ignore the concept of law altogether. There is simply no legal foundation for engaging in such blatant, racist discrimination. Some might think decentralization has actually arrived, but it hasn’t – and even decentralized government doesn’t permit anti-constitutional behavior. Moreover, the same type of Christian politician who rails against selling land to non-Christians has been strangely silent about Muslim investors when they engage in large-scale investments in places such as Sin al-Fil or Hazmieh. If one travels further uphill in areas of Mount Lebanon, there are summer resort areas that have seen large-scale purchases by Gulf investors, and home ownership by non-Christian Lebanese – no one seems to be upset by the phenomenon, and few politicians seem interested in railing against the unwanted guests.
Christians are not the only group that has been afflicted by this schizophrenic behavior, but they are the ones usually making the loudest noise about the threats posed by outsiders. Any politician who takes such a stance should at least be consistent; instead of spending time talking about coexistence, they should run openly on an anti-coexistence platform come election time.
But a more professional response by such politicians would be along the following lines. They should ask themselves why Christians want to sell their land.
Can politicians and officials who have spent years in their positions tell the public about all the robust development projects they’ve brought to Christian-majority areas, especially in rural parts of the country?
Can they tell the public about how they’ve helped boost the agricultural sector, through forward-looking plans to grow high value crops, backed by public infrastructure projects?
Can they point to any successes in eliminating the corruption and lack of opportunity that makes many Christians (and other Lebanese) give up on where they grew up and leave for a better life elsewhere?
If these politicians can’t point to such successes, then they should stay quiet and stop inciting people to break the law, and stop paving the way for another civil war.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague: Syria Meeting Agrees Assad Can Have No Role in Future Govt
Naharnet Newsdesk 22 October 2013/Western and Arab powers agreed with Syrian opposition leaders Tuesday that President Bashar Assad should be excluded from any future government, but urged the rebels to take part in a peace conference in Geneva. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said after a meeting in London that the rebels had to overcome their differences and commit themselves to the talks in the Swiss city that are due to take place in late November. But a defiant Assad said he was willing to run for re-election in 2014, a move further likely to anger a key rebel group that has so far refused to take part in the Geneva 2 conference if regime figures are present. Hague told a press conference after the meeting of the so-called Friends of Syria that they had agreed a "number of important steps" during a meeting with Ahmad Jarba, the head of the Syrian National Coalition.
"We are as clear as he is that Assad has no role in a peaceful and democratic Syria," Hague said. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged the world to help find a negotiated settlement for Syria, adding that the country itself could disintegrate if more is not done. "The only alternative to a negotiated settlement is continued if not increased killing," Kerry told reporters. "We believe that the state of war will simply lead to the implosion of the state of Syria." The London talks grouped Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates and the United States, together with Syrian opposition leaders.
The Syrian National Council, a key member of Jarba's Syrian National Coalition, has already said it opposes the Geneva conference and threatened to quit the umbrella opposition group if Assad's regime takes part.
Hague said that Jarba had to "carry others with him" ahead of a meeting of leading rebel groups in early November, when they will decide whether or not to take part in the Geneva meeting. He added: "Despite the enormous challenges faced by the Syrian opposition, we urged the National Coalition to commit itself fully to the Geneva 2 process, and lead and form the heart of any opposition delegation."
In a communique after the meeting, the Friends of Syria agreed that when a transitional government was established "Assad and his close associates with blood on their hands will have no role in Syria.
"There must be accountability for acts committed during the present conflict."'I don't see why I shouldn't run in the next election' Notably absent from London's meeting is key Syria ally Russia, which has dismissed such gatherings in the past, saying they do not represent all Syrian people. Hague also warned of the need to bolster moderate forces in Syria, where an estimated 115,000 people have been killed since March 2011 and several million more made homeless. "The longer this conflict goes on, the more sectarian it becomes and the more extremists are able to take hold, that is why we are making this renewed effort to get the Geneva peace process going," he said. The United States and Russia have been trying to organize the Geneva conference on the heels of the deal they reached for the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons in the wake of a deadly poison gas attack in August widely blamed on Damascus. But Assad dealt an early blow to peace hopes, saying in an interview Monday that the factors are not in place for the conference to succeed. "No time has been set, and the factors are not yet in place if we want (Geneva 2) to succeed," Assad told Lebanon-based pan-Arab satellite channel Al-Mayadeen, adding that there was no guarantee about "which forces are taking part." Assad also gave no hint of releasing his grip on power. "Personally, I don't see any reason why I shouldn't run in the next election," Assad declared. Hague earlier said that Iran -- Damascus's main regional ally -- could also play a role in the Geneva talks if it backed the need for a transitional government in Syria. SourceAgence France Presse.
Hollande Tells Obama of 'Deep Disapproval' of U.S. Spying
Naharnet Newsdesk 22 October 2013/French President Francois Hollande condemned U.S. spying on French citizens in a call with President Barack Obama on Monday, as a row escalated over U.S. eavesdropping on millions of French phone calls. Hollande's office said in a statement that he had expressed "deep disapproval of these practices, which are unacceptable between friends and allies because they infringe on the privacy of French citizens." Hollande "asked that all explanations be provided, as well as all information that could be at the disposal of former NSA consultant Edward Snowden."
The statement said the two leaders had agreed "to work together to determine the facts and the exact scope of surveillance activities" revealed by French newspaper Le Monde. The two stressed that surveillance operations should be put into a "bilateral framework" and agreed that U.S. and French intelligence agencies would "work together to this effect," the statement said.
Meanwhile, later on Tuesday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he had made clear in talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that snooping on its allies was "unacceptable". In talks in Paris on Tuesday morning, "I said again to John Kerry what Hollande told Barack Obama, that this kind of spying conducted on a large scale by the Americans on its allies is something that is unacceptable," Fabius said.
He said he urged Kerry to provide timely details on reports that the U.S. National Security Agency had secretly monitored tens of millions of phone conversations within France. "John Kerry responded that it was a system inherited from previous administrations," Fabius told reporters after talks between Western and Arab nations on Syria in London. "We want these practices to stop, and we want to be informed about everything that exists.
"The fact that such practices have developed to this point between friends, allies, is unacceptable." The claims were based on leaks from fugitive U.S. ex-security analyst Edward Snowden and published by French newspaper Le Monde and the German weekly Der Spiegel.SourceAgence France Presse.
Canada Concerned by Persistent Violence Against Coptic Orthodox Christians in Egypt
October 21, 2013 - Andrew Bennett, Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom, today issued the following statement:
“Canada is deeply concerned by an attack outside a Coptic Orthodox Christian church in Giza, Egypt, that killed four people, including two girls, an eight-year-old and a 12-year-old, the latest in a number of assaults targeting the country’s Coptic Orthodox Christian community.
“Attacks on places of worship are unacceptable. Canada calls on Egyptian authorities to protect the Christian community and their churches and other properties from violent attack.
“On behalf of all Canadians, I would like to extend our deepest sympathies to the victims of these attacks and wish a speedy recovery to the injured.
“Canada firmly believes that implementing a transparent, democratic system that respects the voices of all Egyptians, including members of all religious communities, is the best way to restore calm and give all Egyptians a stake in the future stability and prosperity of their country.”
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird Meets With Israel's Minister of
Strategic and Intelligence Affairs
October 21, 2013 - Ottawa - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird meets with Yuval Steinitz, Israel's Minister of Strategic and Intelligence Affairs responsible for International Relations, to discuss the ongoing Middle East peace process, reinforce Canada's excellent relations with Israel and discuss the situations in Syria and Iran.
Canada’s strong and multi-faceted relationship with Israel is based on shared values, common interests and strong political and social ties between the two countries. This relationship has been enhanced in recent years through increased cooperation in several areas, including public security, defence, trade and investment, and innovation. The Canadian and Israeli governments, private sectors and academia continue to work together to develop this cooperation.
Riyadh to 'shift away from U.S.', spy chief tells envoys
October 22, 2013/By Amena Bakr/Reuters
DOHA: Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief has said the kingdom will make a "major shift" in relations with the United States in protest at its perceived inaction over the Syria war and its overtures to Iran, a source close to Saudi policy said on Tuesday. Prince Bandar bin Sultan told European diplomats that Washington had failed to act effectively on the Syria crisis and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was growing closer to Tehran, and had failed to back Saudi support for Bahrain when it crushed an anti-government revolt in 2011, the source said. It was not immediately clear if Prince Bandar's reported statements had the full backing of King Abdullah.
"The shift away from the U.S. is a major one," the source close to Saudi policy said. "Saudi doesn't want to find itself any longer in a situation where it is dependent."
The United States and Saudi Arabia have been allies since the kingdom was declared in 1932, giving Riyadh a powerful military protector and Washington secure oil supplies.
The prince's initiative follows a surprise Saudi decision on Friday to reject a coveted two-year term on the U.N. Security Council in protest at "double standards" at the United Nations.
Prince Bandar, who was Saudi ambassador to Washington for 22 years, is seen as a foreign policy hawk, especially on Iran. The Sunni Muslim kingdom's rivalry with Shi'ite Iran, an ally of Syria, has amplified sectarian tensions across the Middle East. A son of the late defence minister and crown prince, Prince Sultan, and a protégé of the late King Fahd, he fell from favour with King Abdullah after clashing on foreign policy in 2005.
But he was called in from the cold last year with a mandate to bring down President Bashar al-Assad, diplomats in the Gulf say. Over the past year he has led Saudi efforts to bring arms and other aid to Syrian rebels while his cousin, Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, worked the diplomatic corridors.
"Prince Bandar told diplomats that he plans to limit interaction with the U.S.," the source close to Saudi policy said. "This happens after the U.S. failed to take any effective action on Syria and Palestine.
"Relations with the U.S. have been deteriorating for a while, as Saudi feels that the U.S. is growing closer with Iran and the U.S. also failed to support Saudi during the Bahrain uprising."
The source declined to provide more details of Bandar's talks with the diplomats, which took place in the past few days. But he suggested that the planned change in ties between the energy superpower and its traditional U.S. ally would have wide-ranging consequences, including on arms purchases and oil sales.
Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, ploughs much of its earnings back into U.S. assets. Most of the Saudi central bank's net foreign assets of $690 billion are thought to be denominated in dollars, much of them in U.S. Treasury bonds. "All options are on the table now, and for sure there will be some impact," the Saudi source said.
He said there would be no further coordination with the United States over the war in Syria, where the Saudis have armed and financed rebel groups fighting Assad.
The kingdom has informed the United States of its actions in Syria, and diplomats say it has respected U.S. requests not to supply the groups with advanced weaponry that the West fears could fall into the hands of al Qaeda-aligned groups. Saudi anger boiled over after Washington refrained from military strikes in response to a poison gas attack in Damascus in August when Assad agreed to give up his chemical arsenal.
Saudi Arabia is also concerned about signs of a tentative reconciliation between Washington and Tehran, something Riyadh fears may lead to a "grand bargain" on the Iranian nuclear programme that would leave it at a disadvantage. The U.N. Security Council has been paralysed over the 31-month-old Syria conflict, with permanent members Russia and China repeatedly blocking measures to condemn Assad.
Saudi Arabia backs Assad's mostly Sunni rebel foes. The Syrian leader, whose Alawite sect is derived from Shi'ite Islam, has support from Iran and the armed Lebanese Shi'ite movement Hezbollah. The Syrian leader denounces the insurgents as al Qaeda-linked groups backed by Sunni-ruled states.
In Bahrain, home of the U.S Fifth Fleet, a simmering pro-democracy revolt by its Shi'ite majority has prompted calls by some in Washington for U.S. ships to base elsewhere.
Western policymakers say Bahrain's hosting of a U.S. naval base makes it a key ally in keeping open the Strait of Hormuz, conduit for 40 percent of the world's sea-borne oil exports.
Many U.S. economic interests in Saudi Arabia involve government contracts in defence, other security sectors, health care, education, information technology and construction.
But American businessmen in Riyadh, who did not want to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue, said they did not believe the political bumps in the U.S.-Saudi relationship would affect their business significantly.
"The big contracts are mostly government, but I don't see much political content in who gets the contracts," one said.
Syrian rebels battle army in Christian town
October 22, 2013/By Diaa Hadid/Associated Press
BEIRUT: Syrian government forces battled Tuesday with al-Qaida-linked rebels trying to capture an ancient Christian town north of Damascus, activists and the state media said. The Jabhat al-Nusra, or Nusra Front, appears to have targeted Sadad because of its strategic location near the main highway north of Damascus, rather than because it is Christian. But hard-liners among the rebels are hostile to Syria's Christian minority, who tend to support the government of President Bashar Assad, and other al-Qaida-linked fighters have damaged and desecrated churches in areas they have seized. The assault on Sadad, some 95 kilometers (60 miles) north of Damascus, began at dawn Monday, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Local police fought back the initial assault and were reinforced by the army. The rebel attack seemed to target a chief hospital in the town, said the Observatory, which monitors fighting through a network of activists on the ground. He said that there was also fighting in the nearby town of Muhin and that the Nusra Front controlled the main road leading to Damascus. President Bashar Assad has drawn support from Syria's patchwork of ethnic and religious minorities, including Christians and members of his Alawite sect, a Shiite offshoot, in the country's civil war, now in its third year. The rebels are dominated by Syria's Sunni Muslim majority. Al-Qaida-linked militant groups such as the Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant are among the most active rebel factions in Syria. They have fought other rebel brigades to seize strategic border areas, and are also battling Kurdish fighters in northern Syria. Also Tuesday, mortar rounds slammed into a pro-government suburb on the outskirts of Damascus, killing at least two people, said the state SANA news agency and the Observatory. It wasn't immediately clear who was behind the shelling but rebels have previously targeted Jaramana, home to Christians and the Druse religious group. It is close to another suburb, Mleiha, where fighting between rebels and government forces has been raging for days. Also Tuesday, Sigrid Kaag, the head of the team charged with destroying Syria's chemical weapons, said Damascus had so far "fully cooperated" with the mission. The goal of the joint U.N. and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons mission is to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, all chemical precursors, and the equipment to produce the deadly weapons by mid-2014. "To date, the Government of Syria has fully cooperated in supporting the work of the advance team and the OPCW-UN Joint Mission," said Kaag, who was appointed by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for the post earlier this month, in the Syrian capital of Damascus. "By joining the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Syrian Government has indicated its commitment to the task," she said referring to Syria's joining of the OPCW. She added that the "timeframes are challenging given the goal of the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons program in the first half of 2014."
Meanwhile, international inspectors to destroy Syria's chemical weapons capability said they had visited 17 sites since they began their work at the beginning of October. In a statement issued late Monday, they said they had destroyed "critical equipment to make the facilities inoperable."
Us Russia and Iran expanding military cooperation and arms trade
DEBKAfile Special Report October 21, 2013/In his four-day trip to Tehran, Russian Air Force Chief Gen. Viktor Bondarev and his hosts, Brig. Gen. Hassan Shasafi and other senior Iranian military chiefs, laid the groundwork for a series of agreements to upgrade their military ties to a level unprecedented in their past relations. DEBKAfile’s military and Iranian sources report that Iran is deliberately accentuating those ties as a message to the Western powers that if they give the Islamic Republic a hard time over its nuclear program, it will go all the way to a full-dress defense pact with Russia.
Moscow has its own reasons for being keen to expand its military ties with Tehran:
1. Signing defense accords and arms transactions with Iran will give Russia its first serious military foothold in the Persian Gulf;
2. Moscow is not only seeking to compete with the US military presence in the Gulf but also displace America and China in the weapons markets of the Middle East.
3. Major Russian-Iranian arms deals will be a precedent for important weapons transactions brokered by Saudi Arabia with Egypt. Moscow sees the shape of a weapons-trading triangle that could be exploited in the future for Russia to serve in the role of mediator between Riyadh and Tehran.
These are long term strategic goals for the Kremlin.
Iran additionally keeps at the front of its mind the potential for an Israeli or American military strike on its nuclear program if the diplomatic track runs into the sand – especially since the Islamic regime has no intention of giving up what it considers its right to develop nuclear power and enrich uranium.
That is the truth behind the make-believe posture in some Western circles that Iran offered the Geneva conference last week a list of concessions on its nuclear program.
Tehran has put in special requests for massive Russian technological assistance for upgrading its missile industry by extending the range of their ballistic missiles and improving their precision. The Iranians also see a chance to renovate their aging air force and have applied for Russian fighters, interceptors, transports and refueling planes as well as training facilities for air force flight crews.
After Moscow refused to deliver them advanced S-300 anti-air missile systems, the Iranians set up programs for developing home-made products. They claim to have built their own S-200 interceptor missiles and are offering to shell out hefty sums for the purchase of new Russian technology to improve them.
The visiting Russian air force chief therefore had plenty to discuss with his Iranian hosts. Especially significant was his visit Monday, Oct. 21 to the Iranian anti-air command at Khatam Al-Anbiya and his conversation with its head, Brig. Gen. Farzad Esmaili.
The Post-Islamist Era
By: Ali Ibrahim/Asharq Alawsat
Over the past four decades or more, the issue of political Islam, in all its forms—from the Muslim Brotherhood to its extremist offshoots and literature—has been a fertile topic for Arab and Western academics and scholars. Theses specialists—along with entire research centers and think tanks across the globe—have dedicated their academic careers to this issue, analyzing and investigating the phenomenon of political Islam, each from their own specific viewpoint, whether positive or negative.
The general academic trend is of the view that political Islam is on the rise, with researchers exploring ways of securing coexistence and conducting dialogue, as well as how to refine and tone down extremist ideas, particularly those advocating the use of violence, which is something that many Islamist groups have adopted. These studies also aimed at containing these ideas and concepts both within the local community and as part of the rules of the international game, particularly as this phenomenon has extended across the world as a result of immigration and the presence of large Muslim communities in Western countries. This is not to mention the terrorist acts carried out by some of the violent offshoots of political Islam.
The events associated with what has been dubbed the ‘Arab Spring’ and the subsequent arrival of the main Islamist trend to power in several Arab republics, seems to have prompted some researchers and analysts to reconsider previously-held views. This included views regarding the importance of coexisting with the Islamists and allowing them to operate freely in the political arena. However doctoral theses and treatises about the failure of political Islam and its inability to rule or solve the traditional problems of developing societies have now begun to emerge. Of course, these studies are based on what happened in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya over the past two and a half years and—more significantly—the Islamist experience of rule in both Sudan and Iran.
These particularly Western studies and analyses perhaps focus most on the Jihadist ideology and jihadist organizations, particularly Al-Qaeda and its offshoots. This is due to the numerous terrorist acts carried out by these groups, with incidents of violence and bombings taking place across the world. However as is the case with terrorism throughout history—which is a phenomenon that preceded Jihadism—this is something that has no political horizon or future because in the end sabotage and murder cannot attract genuine supporters who are able to represent a mainstream trend in any society.
There is no better example for judging the failure or success of political Islam to achieve an awakening or lead a society than the Sudanese ‘Salvation’ experience and the arrival of the Revolutionary Command Council for National Salvation (RCC) to power. This is a regime that is still in control of the joints of the Sudanese state today. The achievements of this government after more than two decades in power are the best evidence of political Islam’s failure:
South Sudan seceded after the
failure to reach a formula for coexistence following a war in which religious
slogans and jihadist literature was utilized as a justification for the Dababin
(suicide bombers) and everything else.
The economy failed to live up to the people’s aspirations, and this is evidenced by the recent protests that broke out in the capital Khartoum against price hikes, the widening gap between social classes, and issues pertaining to the distribution of wealth. Even if the recent decision to lift fuel subsidies are economically justified, this decision was not accompanied by any convincing developmental projects or hope for the future that could help the Sudanese people swallow this bitter pill.
As for Iran—which witnessed the first experience of the rule of political Islam—it is easy to notice the public restlessness behind the Green Revolution which followed Ahmadinejad’s victory in the penultimate presidential elections. This is something that also can be seen in the attempts being made by current President Hassan Rouhani—who came to power on the back of moderate electoral slogans—to ease restrictions on society and give the impression that his administration is able to shake off Iran’s international isolation as a result of the country’s previous foreign policy.
There are also no studies or reports indicating that Iran is making any economic achievements under political Islam, instead being a rentier state relying on the country’s oil resources.
The Muslim Brotherhood came to power in a number of Arab Spring countries, and it may say that it has yet to be given an adequate opportunity. However, the Brotherhood’s performance in Egypt was a catastrophic failure. This led to their ouster just one year after they came to power on a wave of popularity, with the general public being willing to grant them a chance. We also do not see any success for political Islam in Tunisia, which has ground to halt, or in Libya, which has become hostage to chaos, militias, and factionalism.
Foreign Affairs magazine published a review of The Failure of Political Islam by the well-known academic Oliver Roy; this book made an important observation that the current phenomenon of urban “neo-fundamentalism” has nothing to do with the views of Muslims scholars and intellectuals seeking harmony between social traditions and heritage and modernity. In other words, Roy maintains that neo-fundamentalism does little more than channel the anger of urban youth regarding the lack of opportunities afforded to them into political opposition, using political Islam as a cover. These projects also fail to offer any real economic alternatives.
The problem lies in finding a genuine developmental project—with the requisite political and economic facets—to meet public aspirations that generally revolve around what non-Muslim nations have achieved, in addition to anger over the failure of previous projects. The people have discovered that they were deceived by the Islamists and that Islamist rule has nothing to offer them, while they are also fed up with the violence and societal division that accompanies political Islam. The question that must be asked now is: What next? This is something that requires us to think outside of the box regarding the post-Islamist era.
What a nuclear deal with Iran could look like
By Michael Singh, Published: October 18
Michael Singh is managing director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
With the first round of nuclear talks with Iran’s new, and newly pragmatic, negotiating team in the books, the Washington policy debate about Iran has shifted from whether a deal is possible to what sort of deal is acceptable. While such discussions can often seem a miasma of centrifuge counts and enrichment levels, there are, in fact, two distinct paths to a nuclear deal with Iran.
The first path is one in which Tehran would receive relief from sanctions in exchange for putting strict limits on its nuclear activities, such as restricting uranium enrichment to low levels. The success of such an agreement would depend on ensuring that Iran could not use declared nuclear activities as a cover for covert activities aimed at developing a nuclear weapon. It would also depend on ensuring that the deal was not easily reversible, so Tehran could not renege once pressure had been alleviated.
There are ways that sanctions relief could be made more easily reversible — for example, channeling oil payments to Tehran through a single mechanism that could be blocked in the event of noncompliance — but none of these is fail-safe. The efficacy and durability of a deal over limited enrichment would rest on Iranian transparency. To be meaningful, transparency measures would have to include allowing inspectors unfettered access to sites of their choosing, not just those declared by Iranian officials, and a comprehensive accounting of Iran’s past and present nuclear work, including the military elements of its nuclear program, such as weaponization research.
Coming clean in this manner is a prerequisite for the success of any deal that leaves in place dual-use nuclear capabilities. Countries that have divulged their nuclear secrets, such as South Africa, have proceeded to cooperate peacefully with the international community on atomic energy. Those that continued to obfuscate despite agreements, such as North Korea, experienced deeper isolation and external tensions.
Iran appears to prefer the latter model. While its officials profess a desire for cooperation, they continue to dismiss as “unfounded allegations” evidence deemed “credible” by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran has engaged in nuclear work related to weapons. Iran continues to deny inspectors access to suspected nuclear sites and key personnel, and it seeks to constrict their activities within the bounds of its declared nuclear program.
Even in the best circumstances, it would take time to establish confidence that Iran had truly given up its nuclear weapons aspirations. Allies such as Israel and the Gulf states would distrust Iranian intentions, while Iranians would bristle at the intrusiveness of inspections. Absent a strategic shift by Iran, a deal on limited enrichment is more likely to increase those tensions than to defuse them: Iran would seek to hide or deny activities for which the United States and its allies have convincing evidence; Iran’s adversaries would seek to match its nuclear capabilities; and erstwhile allies such as Russia and China would drift away from the unlikely coalition currently led by Washington.
The unlikelihood of a change of heart by Iranian leaders suggests a second, more straightforward path to an agreement: requiring Iran to dismantle its nuclear program in exchange for any relief from sanctions, which would be increased should Tehran refuse to yield. In this model, Iran would have to suspend enrichment- and reprocessing-related activities as demanded by the U.N. Security Council, dismantle its underground enrichment facility at Fordow and export its stockpiles of enriched uranium, among other steps.
The obvious objection to such a deal is that it may be too difficult to achieve; even U.S. negotiators have characterized this stance as “maximalist.” But any deal must be evaluated in comparison to plausible alternatives, not in isolation, and Iran’s alternatives are bleak. Iran’s economy is under severe strain because of the sanctions. If Iran tried to “break out” for a nuclear weapon, the United States and Israel have made clear that they would strike a devastating military blow.
And contrary to conventional wisdom, time is not on Iran’s side. With each passing day, Iran’s economic predicament deepens and its nuclear program expands. But while the former threatens Iran’s well-being, the latter does not improve it. Adding to its centrifuge inventory and uranium stockpile merely edges Iran closer to Western “red lines” while making it no less vulnerable to attack.
The United States possesses powerful leverage in the nuclear talks: Its negotiating position is eminently reasonable. The West is offering Iran something it desperately needs — sanctions relief — in exchange for something it has little ostensible use for — enrichment and reprocessing — given its disavowal of nuclear weapons. That’s hardly a maximalist position.
It is commendable that the United States and its allies hope earnestly that Iran would take the path of true transparency and cooperation; indeed, President Hassan Rouhani’s “ charm offensive ” is so beguiling because it appeals to those hopes. But we, and perhaps even Rouhani, cannot compel Iran to make such a fundamental change in course. We can, however, with firmness at the negotiating table and confidence in our leverage make plain the alternatives and force Tehran to confront, rather than evade, the consequences of its choices.
Read more: Michael Singh: Iran’s actions speak louder than its election results Anne Applebaum: Iran hasn’t changed, no matter what it tells negotiators Ray Takeyh: No more half-steps from Iran Hassan Rouhani: Why Iran seeks constructive engagement
© The Washington Post Company
The Gulf Will Endure
Jihad el-Khazen/Al Hayat
“After the Sheikhs: The Coming Collapse of the Gulf Monarchies,” is a new book written by Professor Christopher Davidson, who teaches at the University of Durham in the north of England. A few days ago, he wrote an article in The New York Times related to the book titled “The Last of the Sheikhs.” On June 22, 2013, the first paragraph of my column read, “Nearly 20 years ago, a book was published in English by a Palestinian-American author named Said Aburish, titled “Rise, Corruption and Coming Fall of the House of Saud.” The book was published in 1994 and the author died in 2012, but the House of Saud has endured.
Some books contain wishes, and others contain some personal independent reasoning. Professor Davidson’s book is perhaps of the second kind, as he is an academician of the highest caliber, and has a long and profound expertise on Gulf affairs. But I say that he missed the mark. I don’t seek a response from him, as the debate will be settled in the coming years, or in one or two decades. But just like Said Aburish died with Saudi, Bahrain, and other Gulf countries still enduring, I predict that the professor and I will depart this world with the situation in the Gulf largely unchanged.
It is not an ideal situation at all. Every member state of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) needs to reform. However, this applies to every single country in the whole world. If we consider the “exceptional” nation, the United States, we will find that this country needs to reform, even more than any dictatorship in the depths of Africa. For one thing, a dictatorial regime in a backwards country harms no one but its citizens. Meanwhile, the United States, at least since the Second World War, has engaged in neo-colonial policies, and its wars killed millions of people in addition to hundreds of thousands of Americans. Therefore, reform in the United States is a thousand times more important than toppling a dictator in the Middle East, Africa, or East Asia. Moreover, there is a key point in understanding Gulf countries that the Western authors ignore or overlook, namely, that some Gulf regimes are more liberal, democratic, and open than their peoples. These peoples did not see prosperity, in the sense of high income that guarantees high living standards, education, and healthcare for citizens, until the last generation or two, and they are still feeling their way ahead between the advocates of old traditions and the advocates of joining the world and openness. And yet Western or Westernized Arab writers try to invent Gulf countries tailored to their fantasies, steering away from accurateness, both in analysis and outcomes. I am not defending anyone, but only presenting an opinion that I hope is objective. To prove it is objective, I criticize Saudi policy.
I had barely expressed support – on October 7 – for Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, for refusing to deliver his country’s speech at the UN General Assembly in protest against the UN Security Council’s performance, when I suffered from the ‘evil eye,’ as they say in English, and disagreed with Saudi policy a few days later. What happened was that Saudi Arabia was elected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, but it turned down the seat saying the Council had failed to carry out its duties in protecting international peace and security, and preventing transgressions, conflicts, and wars. This is true, but it was better for Saudi Arabia to remain in the UN Security Council and express its views there on the Council’s failures again and again, instead of expressing them once and withdrawing. For this reason, I hope Saudi Arabia will reconsider its decision.