The New Bloc against Tehran

Iran

The pace of developments has taken us by surprise. Ever since Washington announced its decision against Iran’s government, Britain and Germany shifted their stance from insisting on remaining loyal to the commitments of the nuclear deal to announcing that they support Trump’s plan to confront Tehran’s regime in the Middle East.

The problem is not related to an agreement over nuclear activity as much as it is about the wars, which Iran is regionally managing. It is unreasonable to let the regime loose in the region and allow it to spread chaos, threaten other regimes and dominate Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. All this would basically be its reward for decreasing uranium enrichment!

Britain and Germany criticized Iranian practices and announced they will join the US in confronting Tehran’s policy. This position foils Iran’s attempts to adopt the entire agreement in one package to impose it on everyone without distinguishing between preventing nuclear activity, which qualifies it for military supremacy, and between the dangerous practices of the regime, which is benefiting from the nuclear deal itself.

We must acknowledge that the White House wittingly managed the battle with its European allies who completely rejected backing down from the agreement and refused to take any action that may lead to tense relations with Tehran.

However, President Trump put two options before them: correct the mistakes related to the agreement or cancel it altogether. He insisted on refusing the previous situation. This stance is in harmony with the Republican Party’s view and his government, of course, supported the decision.

The wheel will begin to turn again to pressure Tehran’s regime, which will be responsible for the next economic and political crisis it will suffer from – that is if it refuses to change its behavior and to suspend its military and militant activities in the region.

The US and governments that support it it do not oppose Iran’s right to establish a civil nuclear program, but Washington expects Tehran rein in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and its intelligence apparatuses in the region.

Iran must withdraw the militias, which the IRGC established and trained and which consist of powerless refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and other countries. It also developed “Hezbollah’s” roles and turned the party members into mercenaries who launch wars on its behalf in the region.

It is preparing the Houthi Ansar Allah group in Yemen for this same purpose. Iran also used a naval network to smuggle weapons to conflict areas in Yemen, Syria and Lebanon and used ships to smuggle supplies to fund the Yemeni war. It tried to do the same in Syria via the Mediterranean Sea. Iran also has activities in Afghanistan as it has supported the war there ever since the American invasion of the country following the September 11 attacks.

Iran could not have expanded in this manner in the region if those who signed the agreement hadn’t submitted to its conditions and hadn’t lifted sanctions randomly. Tehran could not have expanded in Syria if the former US administration, under Barack Obama, hadn’t been lenient with it out of fear that it may not sign the deal.

The challenge will be in proposing a new project to Tehran. This can include lifting sanctions in exchange of keeping the deal and getting Iran to commit to withdrawing all its foreign militias from conflict zones and pledging to stop supporting local militias allied with it, like the Houthis, the League of Righteous People, “Hezbollah in Iraq” and others.

To pressure Iran, Washington said it will revive its support of the Iranian opposition that is seeking to topple the regime. Obama’s administration had stopped doing that and had suspended supporting academic, political and media activities directed against Tehran in order to please Rouhani’s government.

Now that the political confrontation is back on, Tehran is faced before a new equation: stop wars or be sanctioned again. All this will be accompanied with the formation of a new bloc, whose aims are to pressure Iran and guarantee the implementation of sanctions.

Washington and the Iranian Public Opinion

During the negotiations for the nuclear agreement three years ago, Iran’s propaganda focused on claiming that the deal will lead to peace in the region and end the long-term conflicts.

Unlike what’s commonly known about it, Tehran’s government expanded its propaganda to include Iranian communities, most of whom have not been in agreement with the regime since the revolution erupted.

Some figures who have supported the nuclear deal, in fact, oppose the regime.

The unfamiliar reconciliation between the two opposing parties was very intriguing, which is why I inquired about it. Some commended the influence of the Iranian lobby, while others said the reconciliation was a result of the former US administration’s pressure on opposing parties.

Of course, some believe the opposition supported the deal although it was against the regime.

Hassan Rouhani’s government exerted a lot of effort and succeeded in painting a positive image about Iran’s future, promising reconciliation and positive change that would eventually end strained relations with around 5 million Iranians in exile, most of whom live in the West.

At the time, Rouhani and his Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s message focused on Iranians outside the country asking them to support Iran’s right to nuclear weapons, despite their different political orientations.

Iranian elites in the US reiterated the proposition and were convinced that Iran will change towards the best with tolerance and openness.

However, the question here is about the stance of the opposition that defended the nuclear deal after signing and implementing it. Did they sense any indications that the regime improved its treatment towards the opposition, and towards Iranians generally?

We did not sense any change in the regime’s behavior which increased its suppressions to even include those affiliated with the regime, such as the children of late Iranian leader Hashimi Rafsanjani and figures close to former president Mohammad Khatami. Only recently, a number of figures affiliated with Rouhani were arrested as part of the never-ending game of balances.

From the time Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was signed between Iran and the West in July 2015 and until today, we did not hear from this Iranian elite, whether inside or outside Iran, regarding any progress on becoming a tolerant civil society as promised.

Therefore, we do not know what game will Rouhani resort to, again, to mobilize people like he managed to do last time.

Last time, Rouhani appealed to the patriotic sentiment saying the nuclear project is for Iran as a whole and not just for the regime. He convinced the public that it is a scientific and cultural pride and noted that lifting the ban of Iran will make the Iranians’ life better than before.

The Iranians must certainly be proud of their achievements but not when it is just another means towards more wars and domination. The agreement empowered oppressive forces like the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

Because of the regime and its policies, Iran willingly continued to engage in battles despite the international ban and siege. It continued to spend billions of dollars on armed groups in Gaza, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.

In addition, Tehran spent funds on a large network of extremist groups in Africa, Southeast Asia and even South America.

I expect Rouhani’s government to confuse the Iranian people living under the influence of the regime’s media, just like North Korea. The government will portray US’s decision as aggression against the Iranian people and as an attempt to restrain their lives, especially that Washington already imposed a ban on US visas for Iranians.

Washington must clarify its stance to the Iranian people and note that re-imposing sanctions on the government is not inevitable as it has rather previously given the regime a chance to put an end to its military adventures and stop funding extremist groups outside Iran.

US conditions are supposed to be backed by the majority of Iranians who had enough of the regime’s behavior and practices which squander their money on militias around the world.

Trump in a Confrontation with Tehran’s Regime

Iran

We, and the whole world, are anticipating the results of US President Donald Trump’s decision to confront Iran after he announced yesterday that he will reconsider his country’s nuclear deal with Tehran.

Trump saw that Iran has violated the deal’s spirit and this is not in the interest of the US security and therefore it must be amended.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates promptly and courageously backed the US decision as it falls in the region’s interest and sends a political message to Iran, urging it to stop its battles and threats.

The decision is also in favor of the moderate voices in Iran – perhaps it would restrain extremist groups in power.

The US decision is courageous and one which we have not seen in two decades. It may be the beginning of a regional course correction, or it may at least stop Iran’s advance.

In his decision, Trump will rectify a number of mistakes that Iran has seen as implicit agreements to it to expand and threaten the security of the region and the interests of the United States, as well in Bahrain, Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Lebanon.

Iran thought that the declining role of the international community in Syria is a new sign of victory for it and “Hezbollah”, and it tried to benefit from the battle of the US-led coalition against ISIS to be granted control in Iraq.

Trump is not hasty as some say. Don’t forget that he was patient with Iran previously and signed the continuation of the US-Iran deal twice since he should be reviewing it every three months.

However, Iran did not cooperate with Washington whether in stopping its military activity in the region or quitting its military tests. Instead, Iran challenged Washington and announced that it was developing a ballistic missile system.

This time, Trump made up his mind, thereby delivering the biggest blow to Iran’s extremist wing. With this decision, Trump would send back the deal to Congress to vote on and he would then re-impose painful economic sanctions. Now, let Tehran’s government do what it wants.

The rest of the Western countries are against Trump’s decision. They want the agreement to continue, fearing Iran will again start enriching Uranium and developing its military forces as an excuse.

In fact, what President Trump is proposing is correct because he is noting that the current signed deal is not halting Iran from carrying on its military-nuclear project, but it is only postponing it.

During the period of temporary ban on enrichment, Iran is allowed to build its military equipment, such as missiles carrying nuclear warheads.

We are not underestimating the risks of Trump’s decision on the region since if the president completely terminated the agreement and faced Iran, he could open a new phase, which could lead to a greater confrontation.

What is said about President Trump as being a reckless warmonger, who acts without taking into consideration the consequences of serious global issues, such as Iran and North Korea, is not true.

The truth is that since he took over his post, Trump has given Tehran’s leaders two chances in order to respond in a positive manner towards the deal; however, they refused to meet him halfway.

Also, let’s not forget that members of Trump’s party, the Republican Party in the Congress, have had a consensus against the agreement even before Trump became president.

It is also obvious that Tehran has underestimated Trump after living eight comfortable years during Barack Obama’s time in office.

There is no interest for the world in allowing the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to roam around freely in the region and allow it to lead the militias war in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.

By the time the ban period comes to an end and the agreement is terminated, Iran would have extended its presence in the region and established puppet governments.

Then, the West will not be able to impose sanctions or prevent Iran from enriching Uranium. Iran would have also completed establishing a support system comprised of platforms, laboratories, caches and others.

Iran’s agenda is an expansionist one and it intends to dominate the region. The agenda is not simply about building Iran’s nuclear powers for defensive purposes.

For instance, Iran and Pakistan possess nuclear weapons, but we have never seen the two countries seek expansion or wage wars.

It is wrong to view Iran’s nuclear agenda as just a mean to join the nuclear states’ bandwagon. Iran is involved in destructive wars in the region on a daily basis, none of which are for defensive purposes, but they all serve its expansionist goals.

Tehran’s intentions and persistence to challenge the world are clear from the way it has dealt with its current conflict with Washington.

The US administration stepped down for Iran in Syria and agreed to maintain Bashar al-Assad’s regime, Iran’s ally.

Yet, Tehran did not step down from any of the areas where it is fighting wars, nor did it give Trump any concessions in the nuclear deal.

Saudi Arabia’s Armament Policy

Russian President Putin shakes hands with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister bin Salman during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow

After Saudi King Salman’s visit to Moscow ended with serious talks over two major military agreements, it seemed more pressing than ever to delve into the why behind Riyadh gravitating closer towards importing all sorts of arms deals in an unprecedented manner.

The matter of the fact is that Saudi Arabia faces considerable foreign threats emerging from the growing Iranian menace and America’s receding commitment to defend it.

Iranian threats increased across all Saudi borders. From the north, Tehran expanded its influence in Iraq and Syria in the north, while on the southern front has meddled with Yemen’s civil war.

Tehran would have tightened its grip on the entire region had the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule in Egypt lasted under the presidency of Mohammed Mursi.

As for the regressive American protection policy, the Obama administration bluntly dashed the “Saudi Arabia’s security is part of the US’ security” notion in the sense of serving America’s higher interest.

Henceforth, Saudi leadership was put up before a single option: enhancing national defensive capabilities.

For Western governments, there is always a close relationship between arms’ sales and foreign policies. This relation links deals to conditions and it may restrain them for political considerations.

US former President Obama’s administration had suspended its supplies of ammunition to Saudi Arabia and deprived it of intelligence cooperation due to disputes over the war in Yemen.

It is not strange that some American state institutions and some Congressmen opposed deals with Saudi Arabia or other countries. Many deals struggle due to opposition figures lobbying against them. There are hostile groups working against Saudi Arabia and some that accuse it of carrying out military operations against civilians in Yemen.

In addition, there are lobbyists doing the bid of anti-Saudi powers. Despite all this, it is the president who makes decisions based on American interests.

The military deal with Russia is not an alternative to US weapons and it does not aim to distance the kingdom from the US, as some people had suggested in their analogies.

King Salman’s visit to Moscow was the first official visit by a Saudi monarch to Russia. It was critical in terms of Saudi efforts in stabilizing oil market and mitigating Moscow’s Iran policy.
Iran’s growing threat that is forcing Riyadh to be stronger than it ever was, buying Russian and Chinese weapons will liberate it from US pressure. In case the US suspends its supply of ammunition or prevents it from using its weapons in any upcoming war, Riyadh will have other options.

The arsenal that Saudi Arabia will have two alternative missile defense systems that stand against Iranian attacks or any other attack: the American THAAD and the Russian S-400.

After possessing several resources, Saudi Arabia will not go through what it went through two years ago in Yemen.

Gulf countries, whose neighbors lurk in resourcefulness, must strengthen defense policies, not just by buying more weapons but also by improving military institutions performance and developing scientific and industrial work.

Truth be told, this is what Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has effectively put in action.

Crown Prince Mohammed is reformulating the concept of Saudi military might away from media spotlight.

It is the Gulf countries’ fate to live in a region swamped with wars and chaos. Saudi Arabia is forced to think that military superiority is more than sealing arms deals as it is also a doctrine that relies on science, discipline and developing industries.

It is a comprehensive system. This is what Israel, which is the largest importer of weapons, also believes. The peak of excellence is for armament not to become a burden on the state, a reason for bankruptcy or a weak point– as it must be a path for development, growth and peace.

Some Haven’t Learned from the October War

The Jewish state suffered heavy losses: almost 3,000 soldiers were killed, 8,000 were injured, 1,000 tanks and other destructive machinery were lost while 100 military air crafts went down.

It also lost possession over one of the largest lands it has seized six years prior to a rather easy and opportunistic war. This is a brief overview of the October 1973 war.

Wars are political activities, and their aim is not only to defeat the enemy. And the outcome of that war is that it has changed perceptions on the banks of the Suez Canal.

Israel is a strong and advanced state, which possesses a dangerous military and expansion project.

It lived a sense of permanent superiority and content ever since winning the war in 1967, but most of the elements of this equation have changed in the October War.

From then till now, Israel’s mission has become to protect whatever it has gained from the six-day war.
Israel has learned its lesson and so did Egypt, yet some Arabs haven’t. They are the ones you see in Qatar, Iran and remaining torn regimes in Syria and Iraq.

Perhaps the Sinai Peninsula and the Suez Canal would not have returned to Egypt if the 1973 war wasn’t waged, and perhaps Israel’s hunger for expansion would not have been put to an end without that defeat.

The October War resulted in a major difference in relations between both sides as it adjusted the power balance. After that, both sides knew that there is no such thing as guaranteed victories.

It dismissed many axioms inside the Jewish state, however, it failed to enlighten anti-Egypt Arab states, which misunderstood the war and its outcomes.

Former Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat remains one of the history’s most prominent figures, politically and militarily. This war is only one of his many achievements.

Egypt entered the war in critical political and military circumstances; only six years after its defeat in June – a war that stripped Egypt of its arsenal and enthusiasm.

Sadat’s advisers certainly attempted to dismiss the pursuit of such a dangerous mission against a state having a massive arsenal of advanced weaponry.

It is wrong to compare both countries in terms of size and population, such as some commentators have said continuously.

Despite Israel’s smaller population when compared to Cairo alone, yet it has a bigger army. This is because most Israelis are trained and qualified soldiers for war if we count the army back-ups and the rest of the soldiers as the state demands that all those between the age of 17 and 49 should fight when needed, amounting up to 1.5 million individuals today.

This makes their numbers greater than that of the Egyptian army, who stood at half a million at the time.

Despite the difference in numbers, Israel lost then. The war came as a victory for faith, a victory over arrogance and superiority, a victory spurred for the first time a sense of insecurity among Israelis. It echoed conviction of humility and retreat after a constant desire for expansion.

After the 1973 war, Israel did not wage an expansionist war again. The dream of a “Greater Israel” was over. The following wars that Israel was engaged in were about defending itself against the Palestine Liberation Organization in Lebanon, and then against the Iranian-backed Hezbollah.

In the October War, Egypt was victorious over Israel while the latter was the winner in the Syrian front as it seized more territory, which it later returned via negations in its agreement with late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad.

The agreement was not on separating forces and reordering borders as it was described, but it was an end to the direct war between Damascus and Tel Aviv. Even so, Baathists launched a false propaganda war against Egypt because it signed the Camp David Accords.

Sadat was a realist politician, who was different from them. He developed the victory to become a greater project. If it weren’t for the threats by President Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq and Assad regime in Syria, the Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat would have been part of the accords.

That war could have also come to a final peace agreement if it weren’t for Syria, Iraq and Libya’s conspiracy against Egypt and the treason of Islamic groups that assassinated Sadat – the man who released them from Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Naser’s prison.

Egypt won in the October War, yet it is quite unfortunate that the Arabs lost it as an opportunity to capitalize on their only victory over Israel.

To this day, there are those who are trying to distort the war’s history and the events that followed it to cover up their defeats and their political stances, which later proved futile.

Why Has Qatar Chosen Defiance?

Qatar Airways plane is seen in Doha

Qatar has adopted one concept within its response to the Arab Quartet that has decided to boycott it: do all that it can to thwart their plan and force them to reconcile with it.

It has become closer to Iran and has restored relations with Hezbollah. It’s funding Houthi militias in Yemen and hostile Islamic extremist groups that oppose the boycotting countries. It has also been supporting the US Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) and wants to criminalize Saudi Arabia by accusing it of funding the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Qatar has also been pushing international organizations to hold Saudi Arabia accountable at the UN Security Council and the US Congress for its military activity in Yemen, knowing that it was part of the coalition there.

Doha is also paying huge amounts of money to anyone who speaks out against the Arab quartet.

Some may ask: Why do we denounce Qatar for doing so while it is defending itself after the quartet actually started the crisis by boycotting it?

It is true that we denounce what Doha is doing, but we are not surprised at all as this is how it secretly operated earlier. Doha, however, is now openly targeting these countries, and it has doubled its acts against them.

Hostility and confrontation practiced by Doha is not the only option since it can also accept the reality and live with it.

Qatar had three options from which to choose since the eruption of the crisis with the Arab quartet – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

The first option is to accept conditions and rearrange relations based on guaranteed interests. The problem will then end, and we would all live through a stable phase based on mutual respect and not interfering in each other’s affairs.

The second option, which Qatar could have chosen, is to boycott the countries, just like what the quartet states did, and just manage its affairs without them.

The third and most difficult option, and which Qatar has chosen, is to declare enmity and launch a war by confronting the four countries via international organizations and governments, form alliances, seal military deals against them, fund the four countries’ rivals and incite against them through every available platform.

The behavior of Doha’s authority is not surprising. This is what it has been doing for the past 20 years.

Qatar thinks it can impose its views on other countries regardless of their orientation and capabilities and risks of facing them.

Qatar has also paid huge sums of money to see this through. However, isn’t its concern justified? Can Qatar’s leadership really go to bed every night and rest assured that no one will overthrow it and take over power?

What Qatar is actually doing is provocation and antagonism. Its hostile activities against these four countries may force them to overthrow this leadership or support those with ambitions, and they are many.

The other truth is that no one wants to impose change by force unlike what the Qatar regime is claiming.

This is due to several reasons, as for example changing regimes and arranging coups lead to a bad reputation for the country doing so.

Besides, if the quartet really wanted to stage a coup or an invasion, it would not have boycotted Qatar and let its security forces on alert 24/7.

Those angry at Qatar could have simply not sparked a battle and instead seized Doha in the dark within two hours.

The royal family, which used to conspire during tea sessions to topple regimes in the region and intimidate governments, including the quartet’s, is terrified like we’ve never seen it before.

This fear of a “justified” revenge pushed it to scream out and appeal for help from every state, especially that now it’s been distanced and belittled.

It has been spending large amounts of money, like nothing we have ever seen before. The result, however, will be as I have written before; it will submit and sign, maybe behind closed doors.

I think Qatar could have tried to live in isolation without Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain.

It could have been best friends with 200 other countries instead of being reckless and attacking the quartet everywhere.

This behavior will eventually lead to its bankruptcy and make others lose respect for it. It may even provoke its rivals to do far more than what they are currently doing.

Gaza Opens its Doors after Years of Deprivation

Gaza’s leadership finally welcomed the Palestinian Authority with arms wide open to end their dispute.

This is a very important political and humanitarian agreement credited for the government of Egyptian President Abdul Fattah el-Sisi, the first in a decade who succeeded in doing so.

If the deal’s implementation went as planned, and Ramallah and Gaza’s leaders cooperated, one of the worst politicians-made humanitarian disasters would be over.

There is no doubt that Gaza’s leaders, who were drawn into Qatar’s adventures and Iran’s exploitation, are responsible for the dark stage.

For ten painful years the densely populated strip suffered, and its people witnessed devastating wars having no political objectives. The factions in the enclave fought with extremists and radicals.

Trade was banned, tunnels were blocked, swimming in the sea was forbidden, and fishermen were constrained.

The suffering began when the airport, symbol of peace promise and better future, was closed.

Most of Gaza’s news became about the crossing point, and when it would be open for humanitarian cases.

The people’s suffering was neither a national duty nor a political necessity. It was rather a nonsensical disagreement and personal rivalry over leadership.

Not until the new agreement goes into full effect for weeks and months, will we be certain that it will last. However, this remains the best thing that has happened in years.

Can Rami Hamdallah’s government run the enclave and coexist with Hamas simultaneously? Will disagreements be forgotten and replaced by a cooperation that shall unite the strip back with the West Bank?

Many old reasons make this a difficult task, and even if it succeeds today, it might not last.

Gaza’s return to Ramallah is an important sign on the Palestinian leadership’s ability to speak on behalf of all Palestinians.

The reconciliation puts an end to Israel’s rejection of peace claiming that “Hamas,” “Islamic Jihad”, and other armed opposition movements thwarted past attempts for peace.

Reconciliation opens the door to any international desire to launch a new initiative.

Even if a serious peace plan is not produced, at least it will be possible to reform the internal Palestinian situation shattered by conflicts over authority.

Egypt’s return is an important new peace factor. It was responsible for sponsoring the Gaza Strip, hadn’t it been for the Qatari-Iranian interventions that struck Egypt’s role, created a wall of fear and closed the strip.

During the 10 years of intra-Palestinian conflict, Egypt tried to mediate but failed. However, this is the first time we see a sign of hope in ending the conflict between two brothers.

Sincere intentions are required so that the authority isn’t tempted into total domination, nor does it become a victim of Hamas’ deception to open the crossings in order to overcome the crisis, provide its needs, and then return to disagreement and estrangement.

Reconciliation and the opening of Gaza may be the door to regional stability and a sign of an end to regional chaos.

Steering the Battle Towards Saada

Houthis

Saada is the Yemeni governorate south of Saudi Arabia and home to the Iran-affiliated Houthi and Ansar Allah’s militias.

It is not an exaggeration to assume that through those militias, Iran wants to establish a presence on Saudi Arabia’s southern borders which poses a serious threat not only to the kingdom, but also to any authority that rules Sana’a.

Iran’s allies, the Houthis, fought five wars against the government forces during the presidential term of Ali Abdullah Saleh and they attacked Saudi Arabia in 2009. They undermined the UN-sponsored Yemeni agreement when their militias entered Sana’a and seized power in September 2014.

Saudi Arabia has two goals to achieve in Yemen: solidify legitimacy of its neighboring country given that stability and security in Yemen are vital, and protect its borders and territories from chaos, terrorism and smuggling.

The kingdom fears that Houthis are the Trojan Horse where Iranians hide to besiege Saudi Arabia.

Currently, they continue to attack the border and cities of Saudi Arabia. Had it not been for the kingdom’s advanced defense capabilities, missiles would have caused severe damage and panic in the southern cities and major ones like Jeddah, Mecca and Taif.

Now that over one third of Yemen’s territories have been liberated and are governed by legitimate forces under the Saudi-led coalition, Riyadh has good options. The first option is to continue with the war and fight hostile forces, as well as Saleh’s troops, Houthi militias and al-Qaeda in Yemen.

The second option is to settle with what has been achieved and resume military support of the legitimate government to strengthen its influence in areas under its control. The third option is to protect its territories and create a buffer zone, south of its borders, including Saada.

I believe that a full-scaled war may take a long time and is not necessary now that the legitimate government is in Aden, and especially since Sana’a no longer has any influence on the rest of the state.

The second option, completely giving up on the war, is not practical because parties like Iran and al-Qaeda will be empowered and legitimacy will weaken.

The third option of creating a buffer zone will unify all capabilities to attack the Houthis in their home.

If the campaign is a success, its results will serve Saudi Arabia and the rest of Yemen, because the Houthis are responsible for most of the crisis. By eliminating this rotten element from Yemen, stability will be achieved in the north and Saudi Arabia will be protected. After that, we can focus on Sana’a.

Houthis are a relatively small Yemeni component that does not exceed 3 percent of the country’s population and perhaps their supporters are double that due to their ideological, political and military activity.

We do not have reliable information about the number of their forces and deployment, but we know that they are a small armed and religiously extremist group that ideologically and politically follows Iran.

The Houthi threat can be better understood when compared to al-Qaeda, which it resembles a lot. The small number of Houthi followers does not make them any less dangerous In fact, they are committed ideologically and they glorify waging religious “jihad” according to their religious interpretations.

Therefore, without any siege imposed on Houthis, they will continue to pose a chronic and dangerous threat to everyone. It is possible to cooperate with Yemeni tribes in the north as they have always been Saudi Arabia’s allies and a source of stability there.

Houthis can be deterred in Saada, the headquarters of their tribal and military leadership, and then its militias in other conflict zones will be abolished.

When they retreat from Sana’a as a result of the Saada war, it will be easier for parties to agree on a peaceful solution for whoever is left in the city.

The situation as it is today suggests that Houthis and Saleh have failed miserably. Since the war began they failed to establish their own state and failed to prevent exiled legitimacy from returning to Yemen.

However, one cannot deny that even though they are militias, not armies, they are capable of engaging in further clashes. If Houthi power is crushed in their governorate, the rebellion might be completely extinguished.

Baghdad’s Reform to Halt Iraq’s Secession

Give the Kurds a real stake in Baghdad’s government, and then they will let go of the separation idea. Right now, they are conferred honorary posts without powers just like many components of the Iraqi state, which was founded, post the invasion, on a participatory parliamentary system.

Almost all the countries in the region oppose the idea of any territory’s separation, which will not let Kurdistan’s plan easy to be achieved. There is increased fear that the central Iraqi authority, along with Iran and Turkey, will wage a war against the Kurdish ‘state,’ especially after 92 percent of the Kurds in Kurdistan region supported the separation from their country, Iraq.

Separation is a long and dangerous political route as it includes military confrontations and a painful economic blockade; At the same time, the Kurds are determined, and even if they hold back somehow now, they will pursue it later.

The reason why the Kurds’ project is worrisome is that the rest of Iraq’s provinces and governorates are dominated by separatist ideas that will eventually lead to the end of Iraq as we know it. An Iraq we have known since 1920 – the country whose borders were set by the Britons and the French.

Solutions exist if there is a sincere intention to stop the separation that threatens to destroy Iraq and the region.

The political parties in Baghdad should grant the Kurds the powers and guarantees that they are not only a memorial image but also partners in the government. If that happens, the justifications will end.

The Kurds, like the rest of Iraqi parties on which the new Iraq project was based, were marginalized and their presence was eliminated by the governing partners, political figures and other Iraqi parties after the Americans, who were guarantors of the political project, left the country.

Baghdad is the capital of the entire state and is supposed to be run by all groups that represent the country to reflect the participatory governance project, which was designed by the Americans.

The imbalance began in the era of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki when the government’s powers were seized and given to Maliki only.

After that, the parties that have an armed presence in Baghdad imposed their demands, and the capital became ruled by armed militias, backed by Iran, which was successfully able to legitimize them under the Popular Mobilization Forces’ banner.

Similarly, there are religious references that some are trying to impose as a political reference. Now, the fatwa given by these religious references precedes the parliamentary vote and the government’s decisions.

What is the value of the state’s legislative institutions, such as the parliament, if it is incompetent, and the Supreme Court is subject to what the political leaders want while the current government cannot impose its decisions when opposed by parties supported by armed groups?!

In this perspective, why do we expect the Kurds, and any other political group, to commit themselves to a state without identity or full powers?

This is why the Iraqi state, not only the government, needs to reform its status through supporting its legal authority, respecting its constitution and pledging to treat everyone equally under its law.

Iraq must not only chase ISIS militants and separatists from Kurdistan but should also fight whoever violates its rules and regulations.

During the years of war against terrorism, the slogan was that the Iraqi state would not allow anyone to carry arms other than its military institution and that it would not accept any territory or governorate to be run by illegal groups.

Wars were waged under this promise; Anbar and Salah al-Din provinces were cleansed, and Mosul and many other cities were liberated.

However, in southern and central Iraq, state authorities were weakened. The head of the Popular Mobilization Forces became more important than the prime minister, and Vice President Maliki voiced his opposition and incitement against the prime minister.

This is how they weakened the state until the Kurds decided that the time has come for their independence.

To stop the separation conflict, give the Kurds real powers not only theatrical acting roles. This will also stop the ongoing conflicts among some Sunni Arabs in Anbar and some Shiites in Basra – who are waiting for Kurdistan’s separation so they can wage their own war.

Unless Baghdad is a state for all Iraqis, secession will not stop.​ ​

More than Just Driving Cars

These are happy and historic days in Saudi Arabia! There are positive changes that would have never crossed our minds after years of despair.

For decades, every time an obstacle was removed, social and political battles would erupt tackling education, employment, sports and the media.

Mother of all battles was granting women their right to driving cars. King Salman intervened, signed and adopted the decree, and with that the biggest and toughest obstacle is removed.

The king’s decision was brave and wise which will be long remembered by history. He is the man who ended an era and began a new one.

The history will also remember Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in charge of development in the kingdom and the architect of the “vision” of the new state and its future.

Ever since Vision 2030 was announced, decisions were made one after the other; decisions we never thought possible because for long decades we were running in a vicious circle.

The message we can conclude here is that we are before a new modern kingdom discovering its status among civilized nations by adopting more welcoming standards that include everyone and is building a new and competent generation of men and women amid a real economy based on real developing aspects.

Many decisions and activities issued came as a surprise to the Saudi society because up until recently, they were considered almost impossible. Combined, they all reflect the transition plan evident to those considering the entire picture.

I believe, and after fierce opposition, that allowing women to drive cars is of great significance. However its political and social aspects are much bigger than that.

The king’s decision is a clear message to the society that the government will carry on with the path of change and modernization and will not allow those objecting to obstruct it.

Many years were wasted waiting for the society to change, especially the conservative members who refused any progress until hopelessness took over us. They objected any initiative or any hint to allow women to go out or drive cars or work or participate in social life.

Saudi Arabia cannot adopt an ambitious plan like Vision 2030 without acknowledging women as partners in it.

With the King’s courageous decision to allow women to drive, skeptics’ excuses tumble. Such decisions are not popular and are not looking to please one part at the expense of another; They aim to serve the greater good of the country and society.

For years now, driving ban was never based on convincing social or religious reasoning, but was applied following the desire of a category that wants to form the society according to its desires. Those isolated men who obstructed social and economic development can no longer lead an entire nation.

In order to not generalize, let’s note that those objecting the historic decision can be divided into two categories: a conservative category raised on traditions and wanting to maintain them, whose opinion we respect but is not binding, and another politicized category that wants to lead the society according to its own agenda.

The latter can no longer have a place in the kingdom. It is an extremist category with ill intentions, opposing every move and project because it wants Saudi Arabia to remain a disabled, depressed and obstructed state until it fails.

This category better understand the message: no one will allow it to stop the wheel of change.