Opinion: Soleimani’s Occupations by War, Peace or Agreements

Those who are familiar with how Iran’s political institutions work explain General Qassem Soleimani’s intended appearances in pictures and films shot in Arab battlefields where his militias fight, and the broadcasting of them on TV and online social networks, as part of the ‘psychological warfare’ that Tehran has mastered.

Soleimani, Commander of the IRGC’s ‘Quds Brigade’, is himself engaged in a fight for influence within Iran’s security and military establishment which is currently the backbone of the country’s power structure under the nominal ‘legitimacy’ of the ‘Vali e Faqih’. ‘Elected’ and selected councils, as well as religious authorities, the presidency and the prime minister’s posts are now of secondary importance compared to the real ‘centre of power’ which comprises the interests networks of the security and military apparatuses – led by the IRGC – and its financial mafias; albeit, under the cloak of ‘the Supreme Guide’ Ali Khamenei.

Thus, Soleimani and his mates in the IRGC and other security and military apparatuses are the ones who today call the shots, decide the national political agenda, and plan and execute Iran’s adventures abroad. Furthermore, even, when recalling that most of what is being uttered in the now familiar arrogance may not be true but is primarily reserved for ‘local consumption’, and that Iran’s internal situation is much worse than we are led to believe by Tehran propaganda organs, one has to accept that the better part of Tehran’s arrogance is helped by very helpful and accommodating regional and global conditions.

Indeed, it was recently reported that things are not all well between Tehran’s leading players and some of its influential lobbyists in Washington who have different approaches and tactics. However, reliable observers do not see these emerging differences as a critical problem in dealing with Washington under Donald Trump unless the anti-Iran forces and those at the receiving end of Tehran’s aggression and expansionism succeed in establishing a solid understanding based on common interests with the incoming Trump administration.

Frankly, one has to regard Tehran’s achievements in both Iraq and Syria as outright victories. Tehran has also managed to reach an agreement with Washington leaving it the freedom to do as it pleased throughout the Middle East, and tie up its tactical interests with those of Russia despite the historical Russo-Iranian animosities in the southern Caspian Sea basin.

The Iranian de facto occupation of Iraq began with the 2003 US-led attack and occupation, and gathered pace under the Coalition Provisional Authority which dismantled Iraqi state institutions and ‘gifted’ the country to pro-Iran sectarian factions; and now this Pax Iranica is obvious after the successive governments of Ibrahim Jaafari, Nuri Al-Maliki and Haider Al-Abadi. In the meantime, while the Kurdish north is all but an ‘independent state’, the only part of Iraq whose position remains ambiguous in the atmosphere of Iranian hegemony is the Arab Sunni part awaiting the outcome of the battle for Mosul and the clarification of the relationship of the Mid-Euphrates (Al-Anbar) with the central government in Baghdad.

The overall picture is not much different in Syria now that the Russia – Iran alliance is applying the final touches on the desired demographic change in ‘Useful Syria’ through systematic mass population displacement under full international auspices. This displacement, or rather ‘cleansing’ is being meticulously conducted regionally and internationally through multi-party talks and meetings that began in Geneva and may not end in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan.

In other Syrian areas, while the situation in the ‘militarily-frozen’ south seems to be controlled by coded messages between Israel on one side and the Assad regime, Soleimani’s bunch, and Putin’s protectorate on the other, Washington continues to bet on Kurdish secessionist ambition in northern Syria under the pretext of fighting ISIS. Finally, eastern Syria, i.e. Deir Ez-Zor Province is left to share the same fate with the Iraqi part rest of the Mid-Euphrates basin.

Last but not least, there is Lebanon. Here the majority in both the Christian and Sunni Muslim communities thought they finally managed to “save” Independent Lebanon by electing a ‘strong’ Maronite Christian with majority support as President, and appointing a ‘strong’ Sunni with a majority support as Prime Minister. They felt that the two men (Michel Aoun and Saad Al-Hariri) would be able to end Lebanon’s ‘political vacuum’ which lasted for around two and a half years. But while most level-headed Lebanese knew deep inside that the ‘vacuum’ was only the tip of the ‘iceberg’, and that the reality was much more serious, they gave this development the benefit of the doubt, and trusted yet again promises that have been proven to be worthless. The grantor of these promises was the ‘force of the Status Quo’ – i.e. Hezbollah – that receives its orders from abroad while exercising its ‘occupation’ of the country, permeating all government institutions, and unilaterally fighting regional wars that serve the interests of its regional master, Iran.

This ‘occupation’ is now about to be legitimized by an ‘electoral law’ demanded by Hezbollah, and would contribute to the ongoing process of the IRGC’s occupation of Syria; noting that the latter is taking shape through sectarian cleansing of regions, towns and cities like Qusair, Homs and Aleppo, as well as that in the greater Damascus region with the intention of bolstering its defences and linking it with the Shi’ite human reservoir in neighbouring Lebanon.

In fact, Hezbollah – an organ of the IRGC and a follower of Vali e Faqih – has done its share in changing the demographic map of Lebanon, through its military adventures that damaged the country’s economy, driving hundreds of thousands of Lebanese to emigrate.

Thus, one needs to reflect when seeing Qassem Soleimani’s pictures in front of Aleppo’s historic citadel, the weeping displaced being driven away in the regime’s green buses in a journey of sectarian population exchange, and hearing of forced ‘conciliations’ under threat of famine and murder.

Yes, one must reflect and think, as the international community chatters about fighting terrorism, fighting extremism, and supporting ‘legitimacy’ through conferences and deals designed – in reality – to facilitate the redrawing of the Middle East map.

We are indeed at a threshold of a regional situation totally different from the one in place around 100 years ago. In this new situation there will surely be winners, losers and the departed; and it is our duty to realise the magnitude of its critical challenges.

Opinion: Obama – the Beginning and the End

Next month, the USA and the whole world will turn the page of Barack Obama’s presidency; bidding farewell to eight years whose early days were full of promise, but for tens of millions ended with sadness and disasters.

Like lottery tickets, electoral democracy is never a sure thing. Indeed, American voters throughout US history elected several presidents with big majorities and yet their terms in office ended either with scandals such as Richard Nixon’s Watergate, war quagmires such as Lyndon Johnson’s Vietnam, or economic recessions such as the one during Herbert Hoover’s presidency.

When Barack Obama won the presidential race in November 2008, many regarded his victory as a ‘revolution’. It was a ‘new hope’ for America, giving the nation a much needed dose of youthfulness and vitality, as well as tolerance, hope and belief in a future away from conservatism and racism.

Why not, bearing in mind that when elected president Obama was a youthful senator in the middle of his first term in Congress? Why not, when he became the first Afro-American president, and the first president carrying a non-European name, as he was not a descendant of freed former slaves but rather the son of a Kenyan academic who hailed from the prominent Luo people of East Africa?

Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 was, thus, truly historical. Perhaps this was most poignantly manifested by Rev Jesse Jackson’s tears of joy during inauguration day. That day Jackson witnessed what another Civil Rights hero Dr Martin Luther King Jr was dreaming of when he uttered his famous words: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”, in the country described in the US national anthem as “The Land of the free and home of the brave”.

Obama entered the White House under the banner of “Change”, and optimism in his ability to affect change was almost as huge as the need to affect that change.

Throughout the eight years of George W Bush’s presidency the ‘neocons’ brought out almost all the cruel prejudicial policies that suited their ideology, without forgetting to satisfy the conservative Evangelist Right by giving it a free hand in domestic social affairs. In addition to launching pre-emptive and punitive wars under the pretext of eradicating terrorism and ignoring human rights, clean environment and anti-gun lobby campaigners, Bush Jr left market forces and big business unrestrained. Under pressure from extremist conservative Evangelists, Bush Jr also slowed down scientific – namely stem cell – research, thus delaying vital medical breakthroughs for years if not decades.

Obama was just the opposite of all that. While Bush Jr was a parochial personality with a primarily domestic vision and culture, Obama had a cosmopolitan character with global dimensions and interests. Not only was he the son of a Kenyan Muslim, but also the son-in-law and half-brother of Indonesian Muslims and he actually lived for a while in Indonesia, and later in Hawaii – the only American state with non-White European population.

While Bush Jr was a member of his white aristocratic Protestant family, and a ‘hostage’ of religious, social and economic conservative lobbies, Obama – despite studying in some of America’s top colleges – was basically a self-made man who did his ‘rough and tumble’ political apprenticeship in the poor neighbourhoods of Chicago.

The first impression about Obama was that he was a leader keen not only to understand the world – which his predecessor never cared much about getting to know – but also change it. This is at least what many thought after his famous ‘Cairo Speech’ in Egypt on June 4th 2009.

During his first few months in office, the new US president seemed quite interested in tackling the roots of problems rather than limiting his endeavours to symptoms. Indeed, during the first two years he retained the aura of idealism and goodwill that were the hallmark of his rhetoric since elections day, however, the momentum began to weaken and grind to a halt. Furthermore, despite succeeding in forcing courageous internal changes in the face of his stubborn Republican opponents, foreign relations approaches began to shroud his ‘idealism’ and credibility with doubt.

There were two early setbacks that uncovered the fragility of Obama’s ‘idealistic’ push for ‘Change’, both directly connected with the Arab and Muslim worlds: the first, beating a retreat on the Palestine-Israel peace front when confronted by the hawkish Binyamin Netanyahu; and the second, his failure to live up to his promises to shut down the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp where suspected Islamist terrorists are detained.

Thereafter, Washington looked confused giving contradictory and misleading information in the early 2011 during what came to be labelled ‘The Arab Spring’. Then, within a short time, the hitherto ‘secret’ American – Iranian talks in the Omani capital Muscat were made public, although few at the time imagined these ‘talks’ and agreements reached would become the cornerstone of Washington’s strategy towards the Arabs and the Muslim world.

Few thought that the mullahs and Revolutionary Guards’ Iran, with its hyperactive gallows, sectarian agitation and incitement, and destructive expansionism would soon become a strategic ‘ally’ to the USA in the open war against a ‘new’ enemy called ISIS. An enemy that appeared suddenly, and was allowed to grow, expand and occupy lands, and then used as an excuse to justify sacrificing hundreds of thousands of innocent people, uprooting and displacing tens of millions other, bringing down cities, wiping out communities and redrawing national borders.

Thus, if ‘Change’ was the motto of Obama’s first term in the White House, then ‘Retreat’ would be the most appropriate motto for his second.

It is not only a ‘retreat’ in the face of Iran which Obama’s policies allowed to become a regional time bomb, but against Russia, the ‘old enemy’ from the Cold War days!

Today the whole of Europe is paying a heavy price for Vladimir Putin’s strident and aggressive ‘leadership’ and his unabated efforts to undermine the continent’s stability through aiding and abetting his extremist and racist new ‘allies’. The same ‘allies’ who are now riding the waves of hatred and xenophobia against immigrants and refugees, tens of thousands of whom were made refugees by the Kremlin itself.

Even America’s democratic system is not safe anymore from Putin’s ambitious meddling, if we are to believe the CIA, no less! In a few words, ‘retreat’ in the face of extremism and racism is now Barack Obama’s catastrophic legacy to America and the whole world.

Opinion: Lebanon’s Long Governmental Wait

Against the background of Syria’s debacle, Lebanon continues to wait for the birth of its first government (cabinet) under its new president Michel Aoun.

Yet, Lebanon, long regarded by Hafez Al-Assad, and later Bashar Al-Assad, until 2011 as ‘Syria’s soft belly’, looks in better shape than its ‘Older Sister’. There is no fully-fledged destructive war here. No declared and systematic sectarian displacement carried out by force with official international blessings. And no need for the East and West to call a common strategy for confronting extremist groups, operating in territories controlled and occupied by militias unopposed by regional and international powers, as a result of limiting the anathema of terror and terrorism to a single confessional strain while overlooking others.

Thus, Lebanon looks ‘great’ compared with Syria; however, this should not mean that things are really moving in the right direction, especially in the light of the failure of Prime Minister-designate Saad Al-Hariri to form a new government.

When Hezbollah nominated Aoun, head of the Free Patriotic Movement, as Lebanon’s presidential candidate, and forced a presidential ‘vacuum’ for almost two and a half years until it got its way, opinions were divided on its choice of candidate, its suspension of the elections process, and the way it would deal with ‘President’ Aoun!

Initially, before the February 2006 ‘agreement’ between the two sides, Hezbollah was not a great fan of Aoun, and neither did the hard-line Christian Maronite leader believe much in Hezbollah’s policies of ‘Resistance’. Later, however, both decided to bury the hatchet and enter a ‘marriage of convenience’ against the anti-Tehran and anti-Damascus ‘14 of March’ loose coalition, born in the aftermath of the assassination of the former Prime Minister Rafic Al-Hariri in February 2005 against what was described as the ‘Lebanese-Syrian Security Regime’, and Hezbollah’s open support of the Al-Assad regime- then widely accused of carrying out the assassination.

Since February 2006, Aoun has been providing almost full backing to Hezbollah’s policies and actions, inside and outside Lebanon; while the latter has turned its ‘agreement’ with Aoun into a blueprint of its dealings with Lebanon’s religious sects. Hezbollah through its leaders and mouthpieces has been citing its ‘respect of the powerbase’s wishes’ within the Christian communities for Aoun to justify its all-out support for him; and thus regarding Aoun as the ‘most popular Christian Lebanese leader’ the Shi’ite powerful militia claimed it was abiding with the spirit of the country’s unwritten ‘National Pact’.

This however, has been rarely practiced by Hezbollah toward other sects, namely the Sunnis and Druze. The pro-Iran powerful militia brought down the national unity cabinet headed by the leading Sunni Saad Al-Hariri in January 2011, and formed an alternative cabinet with poor Sunni cover. On the Druze front, it not only pushed to ‘neutralise’ the supreme Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, but also ‘invented’ alternatives even to his traditional competitor Emir Talal Arslan, in case Arslan decided to side with Jumblatt on issues vital to their small community.

The Syrian Uprising, then civil war and international intervention, were bound to profoundly affect the Lebanese. As the weak independent capabilities of Bashar Al-Assad’s regime became clear for all to see, Iran’s plans for regional and sectarian hegemony became clearer; best manifested in Hezbollah’s direct involvement in combat duties inside Syria under the guidance of Iran’s IRGC. Later on, the regional and international picture became clearer still with the signing of JCPOA (i.e. the Iran – American nuclear deal), and Russia’s direct military intervention in support of Al-Assad with Washington’s silent approval.

In such a scenario, Lebanon became a ‘side show’, a refuge for the displaced, and a land controlled by the illegitimate forces of the ‘Status Quo’ which until recently were – along with their sponsor, Iran – accused of aiding and perpetrating terrorism.

Furthermore, the crippling of political activity entwined with economic collapse and acute Shi’i – Sunni polarization, both inside and outside Lebanon, have necessitated some sort of a political deal. However, Lebanon’s internal problems neither disappeared by making Aoun president and Al-Harari prime minister, nor has the state’s wellbeing been assured given the fact that some local players continue to reject the ‘Taif Accords’ and conspire against them.

Hence, Lebanon remains a ‘soft belly’ although its fragility has now spilled over across its border and spread into its region. This is making more difficult the job of a political class that proves everyday it does not believe in coexistence, is not brave enough to be frank about it, is unable to read the changing scene and seems unable to learn from past mistakes.

Opinion: The ‘New World Dis-Order’

Rumors were rife during the past few days about Moscow’s attempts to influence the outcome of the forthcoming German elections. Marine LePen, the leader of France’s extremist anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant ‘National Front’ was ecstatic in commenting that now, following the UK’s exit from the European Union and Donald Trump’s victory in America, her ‘alt-Right’ lot are on their way up. True to form, Bernard-Henri Levy, widely regarded in the Arab world as the ‘Arab Spring philosopher’ expressed his belief that given recent developments in Europe and globally, there was now a good chance that Ms LePen would win the French presidential race!

Contrary to many self-proclaimed ‘Leftists’ and ‘Revolutionaries’, Russia’s Vladimir Putin is a right-wing nationalist who has nothing to do with Soviet legacy except his links with the KGB (the salient symbol of the USSR’s police state) and Moscow’s everlasting ‘Superpower’ ambitions. The latter simply metamorphosed in tactics but not in substance from ‘Tzarist Imperialism’ to the Bolsheviks’ ‘International Scientific Socialism’ and ‘Anti-Colonial Emancipation’.

Technically, Putin is a 2016 model ‘Tzar’! He is a KGB-trained and German-fluent ‘Tzar’ who completed his apprenticeship in the German theatre of intelligence operations; and like many of his generation, is a firm believer that Germany is the source of existential threat to Russia from the west. He also knows that Germany is the pulsating ‘heart’ of Europe, its most populous nation, and the cradle of its notion of ‘unity’. Thus, disrupting Germany from within, after achieving a similar goal in the USA through his unreserved support of Trump’s campaign, will go a long way in strengthening his ‘escape forward’ strategy, which includes exporting Russia’s severe domestic economic, demographic and social problems.

However, what is noteworthy today too is that Putin’s disruptive – indeed, destructive – attempts are not limited to the USA and Germany, but extend to various parts of Europe, including France, where the countdown of its own presidential elections has started.

As for the Muslim world, there isn’t much to say actually, in the light of Russia’s direct involvement, with American acquiescence. Moscow is currently a ‘partner’ with Barack Obama’s administration, and is expected to be even closer to the future Trump administration, in the global fight against Sunni political Islam.

Therefore, Putin’s attempts to weaken and blackmail Western democracies through supporting its most extreme and racist political forces, and joining Moscow and western capitals with ‘security pacts’ against ‘political Sunni Islam’ as a common enemy, would achieve several goals in one go.

The first goal is weakening liberal, democratic and progressive groups in the West against the onslaught of the extreme Right, which would exacerbate internal instability, frighten immigrant communities, alienate minorities, and encourage secessionist movements as we see today in Scotland and Catalonia.

The second is eliminating the issue of ‘human rights’ as a political tool often used by the West against the excesses of the Kremlin, whether inside Russia or in the former satellites of the defunct USSR; since the ‘new’ Western extremist political elites are as intolerant and as abusive. In other words, those who persecute minorities and immigrants, bar asylum seekers, build walls, and discriminate against people based on color, religion and language, are not entitled to lecture others about tolerance.

The third, in connection with two above, leave Moscow to do as it pleases in regions where it claims to have ‘inherited’ or legitimate rights, or strategic core interests. This is exactly what we witness today in the Arab east, the Black Sea region including the Caucasus and the Balkans where two pro-Moscow presidential candidates won in Bulgaria and Moldova.

The fourth and last, is making Russia a full political and security partner in drawing the future Euro-American strategy in a world going through rapid political and demographic changes, to the extent that the White, Christian, European powers (be they Germanic, Latin or Slavic) are not guaranteed future world supremacy. This is the case given the economic, population and educational growth in many parts of the world, especially, in Asia. Another thing, worth mentioning in this context is that the world is returning unannounced to the idea of ‘Clash of Civilizations’ against ‘Islam’; as the major non-Christian religion in Europe’s neighboring regions, without forgetting the presence of Muslim communities in Western Europe, the USA, and Russia.

The four aforementioned goals, and there may be many others, tell us that that all that was said about since the fall of the ‘Berlin Wall’ in 1989, and the emergence of the ‘New World Order’ under America’s unipolar dominance, may have either been premature or incomplete.

Those who have hailed the great victory of Western Liberalism over Socialism – although, some softened their stances – it looks now that there was indeed some kind of a ‘New World Order’ born after the collapse of the USSR, in 1991, but has not been solid and well-defined. Within less than two decades the ‘victorious’ Liberal capitalist West was shaken and devastated by the financial crisis of 2008, which was a proof that if Soviet-style Socialism had failed, capitalism was not doing well either. In fact it has been suffering from debilitating structural problems no denial or political obstinacy can hide.

Furthermore, in addition to denial and obstinacy, and in vain attempts to defend their own ‘legitimacy’, American and European capitalisms, began to look for scapegoats which were soon found to be the following:
1.Globalization, i.e. the freedom of movement of people, goods and services, and the resulting racist and xenophobic hostility towards migrant workers willing to accept lower wages, and less secure working conditions.
2. Technology, whereby technological advances in the fields of computer science, communications and robotics have made several manual jobs redundant and old techniques obsolete.

As a result, it may time we talked about the ‘New World Dis-Order’.

Opinion: The Trump Phenomenon

I have to admit that my forecast regarding the outcome of US presidential election was wrong, even though I have observed American affairs for decades, having lived under the “Western democracy” since 1978.

I deluded myself into believing that human nature is capable of transcending selfishness, greed and hatred for “the other” if it gets the opportunity to freely express itself. Perhaps I should have paid more attention to recent developments, in the UK in particular, when citizens voted to leave the European Union in a move known as Brexit.

I should have considered two facts: That the American voter is not necessarily more tolerant or mature than the British; and that a high percentage of Brexit supporters were immigrants. Some of them were even, until a few years ago, refugees who took advantage of the British tolerance to live on the UK territory. But they proved selfish, voting for those who promised to deny access to other immigrants who are suffering today perhaps more than they did when they decided to leave their countries.

I should have also been more realistic with regard to the notion of coexistence in the US where, for eight years, the identity and faith of the first African-American president was always doubted by far-right “birthers” and nativists. With polls telling us that President Barack Obama was enjoying a 53-55 percent public approval rating toward the end of his second term, I failed, like many serious American analysts, to probe the depth of racism of the white population in rural America and the antipathy the semi-cultured segments had for the black president.

I also failed to gauge the strong hatred harbored by the right-wing Catholics, Protestant-Anglican and conservative politicians for the Democratic Party liberals. The American presidential election served as an opportunity for them to get revenge on multiple enemies in a single swing.

They hit back at the political “establishment” in Washington by consistently voting for Trump, who is not a politician but won the Republican Party’s nomination against prominent political figures, and by supporting Bernie Sanders, who although not a member of the Democratic Party, got 40 percent of the Democrats’ votes in the initial race for the party’s nomination. Racist white people sought to address a political situation they perceived as threatening the demographics in the US and having the potential to become “permanent”.

For example, statistics show that the white population of European origin under 25 years of age will become a minority in the US (compared to those of Hispanic, African or Asian ancestry) by 2020, that is, by the end of Trump’s first term. This, in addition to the reality that the three most populous US states — California, Texas and Florida — are dominated by “minority” majorities.Trump and other far right demagogues focused on “the necessity to save America before it’s too late” propaganda.

Indeed, this strategy paid off greatly, and it is now feared that it could negatively affect not only the coexistence of ethnic groups in the US, but also the principle of separation of powers, which represents the key guarantee of any democratic system, the US included, because the Republican Party, which increasingly drifts toward the extreme right, has won not only the presidency (the executive power), but also kept control of the two Houses of Congress (the legislative power), which gives Trump the opportunity to appoint partisan judges who back Republican policies on the Supreme Court (the judiciary).

The third target of the angry white voters was globalization. This was used by a number of Republican candidates before the Republican nomination went to Trump, the most outspoken candidate in favor of racism and isolation.

Trump had earlier pledged to ban Muslims from entering the US and to build a wall along the US-Mexico border. Even the speech of Ben Carson, former Republican presidential candidate of African-American descent, was racist and fanatic, particularly against Muslims.

This means that those candidates understood the nature of the voters and tried to incite their hatred and stir up their feelings of fear and despair in order to gain their votes. The fourth backlash was against technological and scientific progress, which is interrelated with globalization.

There were remarkable similarities between the speeches of leftist Sanders and right-wing Trump, as well as of some Republicans, talking about the suffering of the working class in the US due to the fall of barriers to market movement, jobs and goods.Trump gained a significant proportion of the votes of blue-collar workers in Northeastern states, the so-called Rust Belt, whose once-powerful industrial sector had shrank.

In fact, Trump won the presidential election after securing the votes of three northern states (Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, along with Ohio), which were supposed to vote for his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

The ongoing protests in some US cities are in response to the shocking Trump win. Protesters fear that tolerance will no more exist in their country where voters decided to do away with time-honored principles and human decency.

The Founding Fathers established the United States of America as a haven for immigrants. The country developed, guaranteeing openness, pluralism and acceptance of the other — regardless of color, race or religion.

Now, the same country voted for building border walls and denying entry to emigrants based on their religious identities. The US, which was founded on the principles of individual initiatives, free economy and open market, eliminated all kinds of restrictions and enacted legislations against monopoly, is now working against the interests of its industrial companies, which were forced by the competitiveness of the capitalist system, to reduce production costs by building factories abroad.

America, which boomed thanks to the scientific progress, encouraging creativity and embracing scientists from around the world, is now bidding for the votes of anti-progressive parties. It may even suspend scientific research under pressure from the radical Christian right, whether in the field of the stem cells, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology or information technology.

This is Trump’s America in the 21st century. And the world will have to pay the price even though it did not vote for him.

Opinion: Hillary Clinton – the Ideal Choice in Normal Circumstances

In normal circumstances, and in an established democracy like the USA, there would not have been a need to choose between the two presidential candidates.

In an advanced and sophisticated institutions-based country, the presidential primaries should have been enough to differentiate between a serious politician and a maverick gate-crasher; between real programmes and protest posturing; and finally, between responsible and rational approaches that put attainable choices and unadulterated solutions before the American electorate and cheap populism that drags political discourse into the lowest abyss of personal slander, contradictory promises, and sickening out-biddings.

Given all the above, a candidate like Donald Trump should not have been picked as the official candidate of one of the two parties of government in America, i.e. the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, in the first place.

However, we are most certainly not in normal times or circumstances. The value system of America today is not the one that built the most powerful country, the most advanced educational system, and the most vibrant and energetic economy in the world.

True, protest is not something new to politics. Accidental and controversial politicians have appeared during certain periods in American history, but political life in the USA has so far remained covered by broad political and social consensus.

At one stage in the mid – 20th century, there was a large group inside the Democratic Party, namely in the states of the ‘Old South’, that was ideologically more conservative than the Republicans of the North and Northeast. This, however, began to gradually change as the North and Northeast moved towards the Democrats, while the Southern states which gave America its last three Democratic presidents before Barack Obama (Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy carter and Bill Clinton) steadily became solid Republican strongholds.

Indeed, Prof Paul Krugman, the noted academic, writer and Nobel laureate, said something quite interesting in a lecture he gave in London a few years ago. Krugman said “In today’s America there is not a single Republican anymore who is to the Left of the Democrats, and not one Democrat who stands to the Right of the Republicans”. Obviously, what he meant was that ideological polarization in America is now complete; and each of the two main parties now had its clear-cut political criteria: the Democrats are the social and religious liberals who respect individual freedoms as much as they cherish social rights, support state intervention in one way or another, support public peace and collective responsibility that insure safety nets for the underprivileged and minority groups. They also tolerate racial, gender, religious and sectarian diversity.

In the opposite camp, the Republicans are now the religious, sectarian and social conservatives who vigorously uphold absolute individual freedom even at the expense of public good, view safety nets as restrictive to these freedoms and regard government intervention as a hindrance to individual ambition and detrimental to free enterprise, success and greatness. In fact, hawkish Republicans go even further, preaching that America must go back to the one built by the ‘founding fathers’, i.e. a white, Christian homeland closed off to outsiders and foreigners.

The latter is exactly the choice that was recently put forward to American voters; and due to the clear-cut difference between the Democrat and Republican candidates, we are witnessing two noteworthy phenomena:

The first is that due to solidified political positions of the two parties’ support bases, any movement or shift is becoming virtually impossible as are the chances of listening, convincing and compromise. Such a situation has led to a nasty and vicious campaign.

The second is that the two partisan bases now reflect contradictory ‘value systems’ that pose a real threat to social harmony, and subsequently public peace.

Going back to “in normal circumstances”, I would say Hillary Clinton deserved to win because she is a wise, rational, moderate and experienced politician.

Trump, on the other hand, is an unscrupulous ‘populist’, who is willing to gamble anything, and say anything. It is truly unfortunate that Americans have grown so hateful toward the ‘political establishment’ in Washington that they voted for such a candidate.

Opinion: The Minorities in the Bigger Picture of the Levant

The Lebanese Parliament has elected Michel Aoun, MP, as Lebanon’s new president and has thus ended the ‘Presidential Vacuum’ brought about, since May 25th 2014, by the boycott carried out by Hezbollah and its subservient parliamentary blocs which would accept no candidate for the post other than their man… Aoun. On another front, in north western Iraq and northern Syria new maps of influences are being drawn by Iran’s expansionism, the Kurds’ ambitions, and Turkey’s calculations.

Aoun’s securing the Lebanese presidency, whatever excuses are given to justify it, is yet another victory to Iran’s grand plan in the Arab ‘Mashreq’ whose fulfilment began with another Republican US administration, and solidified, sponsored and nurtured by another US administration, but Democrat this time around.

However, Iran’s new victory in Lebanon – with due respect to both the country’s absent sovereignty and the post of president – is but a small drop in the sea of Tehran-led Arab-named militias inside Iraq and Syria.

Lebanon, its presidency, parliament, and government are insignificant details that mean nothing in the ‘big regional picture’ that includes religious and sectarian uprooting and displacement here, and ethnic cleansing there. Only some Maronite Christians still take the Lebanese presidency with undeserved seriousness refusing to accept why Iran – through its arm Hezbollah – nominated Aoun in the first place; with Washington’s indirect blessings.

Frankly, Lebanon’s president is not going to a real ‘president’ simply because Lebanon has ceased to be a real ‘country’. At present it is nothing more than a coastal part of Iran on the east coast of the Mediterranean, and a large training camp run by a religious militia accorded regional duties which have brought down the political borders internationally drawn & recognized in 1920.

Those who do not want to see the facts on the ground, must look no further than the duties that Hezbollah is ordered to execute in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, the GCC countries, and even Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Then, follow the development of Iraq’s Shi’ite militia starting with small groupings such as ‘Assa’eb Ahl al-Haqq’, ‘Badr Brigade’ (later Badr Organization), ‘Abu’l Fadhl Al-Abbass Brigade’, ‘Al-Nujabaa’’ etc.. and reaching the ‘umbrella’ organization ‘The Popular Mobilization Forces’ (PMF) that was legalized and legitimized by Haidar Al-Abadi’s government. Incidentally, that is the same Al-Abadi who defended the appearance of General Qassem Suleimani, the commander of Iran’s IRGC’s ‘Al-Quds Brigade’ on Iraqi battlefields by declaring that he was acting as an advisor of his US-backed government!

Evidently, in the meantime the ‘tri-partite’ liaison between the rump of Bashar Al-Assad’s regime in Syria, Iran and Russia gathers pace. The Moscow meeting that took place last week was yet another landmark on the road to confirm the Russo-Iranian ‘Dual Trusteeship’ in the ‘Useful Syria’. The Russians and Iranians are now actively helping the Al-Assad regime in its campaign of religious uprooting and displacement throughout ‘Useful Syria’ in the western part of the country, including the northern provinces of Aleppo and Idlib. Elsewhere, while the regime’s army and Iran’s Shi’ite militias bolster the defences of the capital Damascus through displacing the Ghouta towns and suburbs surrounding it, Al-Assad and Tehran strive to keep the southern ‘front’ in the Golan calm in order to assure Israel of the ‘positive rewards’ of it accepting its share of Iran’s grand plan in both Syria and Lebanon.

Details are different in eastern and north eastern Syria where the Kurds and Turks are playing a pivotal role that reverberates inside Iraq. The other day, in an extremely poignant development ‘The Popular Mobilization Forces’ (PMF)– sponsored and backed by the Iraqi government – announced that after achieving the “liberation” of the city of Mosul, they will move into Syria to support the Assad regime!

The PMF’s notorious record in acts of vengeful sectarian violence is well known and documented everywhere it has operated, from Al-Fallujah and Al-Ramadi to Al-Muqdadyyiah and Saleheddin Province. Furthermore, in addition to this militia’s sectarian crimes under the command of General Suleimani, the “Iraqi Government advisor”, several aggressive and abominable pronouncements were made by the leading figures of the PMF such as Qais Al-Khaz’ali, Hadi Al-Ameri et al, which uncover deeply held sectarian hatred that is surely destructive to Iraq’s national unity and any chance of coexistence between its major communities.

Consequently, the PMF’s crimes and its leaders’ rhetoric and threats have pushed even Washington to “advise” the Baghdad government not to allow this hateful militia to take part in the attack planned against the largest Sunni Arab Iraqi city, i.e. Mosul.

American endeavours, however, seem to have failed with a government that is nothing but a façade of the hegemony of Iran – Washington’s new Middle East ally – over Iraq. Indeed, the PMF went further by insisting on attacking Nineveh Plain then the predominantly Sunni Turkmen town of Tal Afar.

In both northern Iraq and northern and north eastern Syria, Turkey feels concerned and has vital interests in two areas:
1- Protection of the Turkmen minorities.
2- Prevention of the creation of ‘Greater Kurdistan’.

Given the above, Turkey has launched the ‘Euphrates Shield’ between the city of Aleppo and the Turkey – Syria border west of the Euphrates River in order to protect the Turkmen and prevent the linking of the Kurdish Afrin – in the north west corner of Syria – enclave with the bulk of the Kurdish-majority territories in the north and northeast; and is now deeply concerned about the fate of the Turkmen of northern Iraq, as well as secessionist Kurds’ aspirations for independence.

In fact, Turkey is absolutely right to be concerned about the situation in both its southern neighbours. The Iraqi oil city of Kirkuk – inhabited by Turkmen, Kurds and Arabs – has long been a tinderbox of friction and antagonism, and the candidly expressed desire of Iraqi Kurds for full independence may have grave repercussions in the Kurdish regions of eastern Turkey; noting that Iran has already made inroads within ‘Iraqi Kurdistan’ through the Jalal Talebani wing in the Sulaymaniyah District of the so-far ‘autonomous region’. Hence, the last thing that the Turks want along their borders is a Shi’i Arab – Kurdish alliance under Iran’s influence against Arab Sunnis and Turkmen left to face an unknown future in the aftermath of the broad understanding and cooperation between Washington and Tehran.

In such a situation, the Christian presence in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon is dwindling as a result of unwise strategies adopted by several Christian leaders in their respective fragile and fractious countries; either by aligning themselves with illegitimate ruling elites, or relying too much on Western protection without realizing that interests and not moral commitments drive Western policies.

Opinion: A President ‘Made in Lebanon and Abroad’

A few days ago, a supposedly ‘wise’ Lebanese politician hailed the imminent end of the presidential impasse by saying “we are going to have ‘a made in Lebanon president’”!

Such words are misleading as they are painful. The said politician who is well experienced in Lebanese politics, militarily and politically, with foes and friends, must realise that Lebanon has never in its history managed to elect a president without either a foreign deal or as a result of dramatic regional or international imbalance. In fact, had the Lebanese had any real say in choosing a president, the post wouldn’t have remained vacant for around a year and half, there would not have been the ‘Doha Agreement’ (that allowed the election of ex-president Michel Sleiman and ended the occupation by Hezbollah and co of downtown Beirut), the ‘Taif Accords’ (which ended the 1975-1990 Lebanese War), the Richard Murphy attempt in 1988, and the Robert Murphy deal in 1958.

Alas, the fact is that Lebanon has been an ‘unfinished nation-building project’ despite 96 years of its existence in its current borders and 73 years of becoming an independent state. The reason behind this is that the philosophy that underpinned the ‘independence format’ viewed and treated the Lebanese as members of ‘sectarian flocks’ not as citizens. As time passed, and in the absence of proper citizenship and lasting religious and sectarian loyalties, the ‘flock mentality’ became more entrenched, and eventually, ‘institutionalized’. Then, even when vibrant forces within all ‘flocks’ – now acting as ‘refuges’ too – attempted to rebel against this status quo, many internal and external elements came together to crush all attempts.

Thus, today, when some hail the agreement on ‘A made in Lebanon president’, they intentionally ignore important and unsavoury facts, just as those who have been parroting the silly words “any president is better than the continuing vacuum” for the last two and a half years. In reality there has been ‘no vacuum’ and talking about, or rather using it as an excuse, are overlooking the following truths.

The first is that Lebanon is a country actually occupied and dominated by Hezbollah; a religious-military party with vital links outside the country (i.e. Iran), and enjoys a stature and capabilities that far exceed those of the Lebanese state, which in turn is penetrated by the party thanks to sectarian apportionment of political, military, and economic posts. Incidentally, Hezbollah, which is an inseparable part of Iran’s regional set-up, and follows its orders and political directives throughout the Middle East, has been the actor that has prevented the election of a president for the last two and a half years, blackmailing the Lebanese people into accepting its candidate, now described as ‘a made in Lebanon president’!

The second is that Lebanon, even before becoming a ‘polity’ in 1920, and later as an independent republic in 1943, was a ‘principality’ that covered Mount Lebanon and was always susceptible to regional competition and jockeying for influence between regional governors and sub-governors of neighbouring Syria, Palestine, and even Egypt. Later, since the creation of Israel in 1948, Lebanon became a battleground of the Arab-Israeli conflict and its repercussions, which added to its fragile fabric and weak political consensus. Today, as the maps of the Levant are being revised, Israel does not seem bothered by a Hezbollah’s de facto ‘occupation’ of Lebanon, or worried about the alleged presidential ‘vacuum’; and even more importantly it does not feel uneasy at all with Hezbollah’s active participation – with other sectarian militias – in Iran’s occupation of several parts of Syria.

Thirdly, as far as Iran is concerned, the whole Middle East is currently going through a decisive and historical period of nationalist confrontation with a sectarian façade. Iran is, indeed, fighting a comprehensive ‘war of revenge’ against Arab Sunni Islam. So far, this war has displaced between 15 and 20 million Arab Sunnis in Iraq and Syria, and has destroyed their cities and towns from Al-Falluja and Al-Ramadi to Dera’a, through Mosul, Deir Az-Zor, Al-Raqqah, Aleppo, Hamah, Homs and Damascus suburbs.

Fourthly, in connection with the above, President Barack Obama during his last few weeks in the White House, seems to be in a hurry to complete the mission he considers the ‘cornerstone’ of his Middle East policy, as reflected in the JCPOA with Tehran, rehabilitating and normalizing political relations with Iran, if not making it a strategic ally of the USA, and giving it a free hand in its neighbouring Arab countries. Thus, it is no coincidence that the need to end the ‘vacuum’ in Lebanon was timed with the battle to liberate Mosul, which the UN expects is going to leave more than a million homeless (mostly Sunni Arabs), and the silence accompanying the annihilation of Aleppo at the hands of a shaky regime saved from collapse by Iran’s militias, then by direct Russian intervention.

Without disregarding Yemen too, today we are in a ‘regional situation’ exacerbated by an American vision that has impacted several sensitive issues, namely in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe.

In Europe, Washington’s withdrawal has sent a clear message to Moscow to do as it pleases in its own historical sphere of influence beginning with the Ukraine. It has also allowed a humanitarian crisis like the refugee waves heading for Europe to become a strong political card played effectively by anti-Europe British, and racist and ultra-conservative anti-refugees – mainly, Muslims – in France, the Netherlands, Germany and other nations. Such a situation, has in the opposite direction, prepared the ground for an angry and extremist, sometimes terrorist, reaction within the underclass of marginalised second and third generations in slums and ‘ghettoes’ inhabited by Muslim immigrants.

However, it is in the Middle East and North Africa that Obama’s catastrophic policies have been most obvious, in every respect, since his now famous ‘Cairo Speech’ just before the ‘Arab Spring’ early in his first term in office. What sounded like ‘innocent’ utopia towards Palestine, democratic change, and fighting terrorism in Obama’s discourse, clearly appeared during his second term as destructive unethical negativity, the consequences of which are for all to see: Iraq is been torn apart, Syria is in ruins, Turkey and the Arab Gulf are states under threat, the Palestinian settlement is all but non-existent, Sunni-Shi’i tensions becoming a raging sectarian war, and long dormant Arab – Iranian and Turko – Kurdish tensions threatening to engulf the whole region with blood and fire.

Given such a background, how can the Lebanese, who have failed to build a homeland, believe that they can produce ‘A made in Lebanon president’?!

Opinion: Obama’s Middle East – Fettering and Collusion

For President Barack Obama to enjoy around 55% support among Americans according to the latest polls, a few weeks before the election of the new president, is a very interesting phenomenon. It is interesting especially as America’s international credibility wanes and prestige tumbles to the extent that a Yemeni militia subservient to Iran managed to target one of its navy’s ships three times within the space of a few days.

The ends of US presidential terms, more so the penultimate and last terms, usually point to voters getting tired of the boss in the White House. Even ‘ultra-charismatic’ presidents like Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton failed to achieve the popularity of Obama, if we are to believe the latest polls, near the end of their sojourns in the Oval Office. Indeed, the 55% figure is much higher than the figures achieved by either of the two current candidates, the Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump. So what is the ‘secret’ behind Obama’s continuing popularity within America, while losing his glitter abroad, even reaching unprecedented lows in regions like the Middle East?

Most likely, there are two very important reasons. The first, is that Obama has succeeded in securing a social and economic ‘safety net’ inside America, mainly in the fields of healthcare, employment, economic upturn and improvement in living conditions after the pains suffered by ordinary Americans during the financial crisis of 2008-2009 and its repercussions. In democracies, it is a well-known fact that a voter passes judgement on his/her elected leaders based on how they directly affect his/her direct interests, regardless of anything else. This why Bill Clinton defeated George Bush senior in 1992 when he raised the slogan ‘It’s the economy, stupid!’ while Bush and his lieutenants were congratulating each other after the ‘liberation of Kuwait’ in 1991. Then, Obama won the presidency in 2008 under the charming banners of ‘Change’ which rejected both the entanglement in Iraq and the crippling financial crisis that forced a Republican ‘laissez faire’ – driven administration to carry out the temporary ‘nationalization’ of banks, industrial companies and home-loan and mortgage groups.

The second reason, related to the above, is that Americans are getting sick and tired of political involvement and military adventures abroad, and are becoming inclined instead to look inwards and concentrate on issues close to their livelihood. Thus, what many – especially in the Middle East – regard as Washington’s letting down, if not betraying its global allies, this is viewed as wise and prudent policy by ordinary American voters who cannot see why their children should die in foreign lands.

In addition to these two reasons, one might add the fact that the Republican Party, which is supposed to provide the ideological alternative to the Democrats, has gone too far in ‘giving in’ to the extreme Right, whether within the party establishment or the erstwhile ‘marginal’ extremist outsiders who have managed to infiltrate its organizations. These extremists – including ‘The Tea party’ group and ultra-fundamentalist Evangelists and White Supremacists – have penetrated the Republican Party structure, taken over most of its networks, and imposed their political agendas on it.

Today it is a fact that the Republican Party may be anything but the party of Abraham Lincoln. In fact, the mere term ‘Lincoln’s Party’, which Republicans love to parrot during their rallies and major events, is an insult to the great man who defended the Union and broke the back of slavery in the second half of the 19th century. If a proof is ever needed, one cannot go further than how ultra-fundamentalist Evangelist and racist votes in the ‘Old South’ states have turned these states into Republican strongholds, noting that the American Civil War (1860-1861) in which the Republican Lincoln defeated the Southern ‘Confederates’ had virtually eliminated his party’s presence there almost until the Second World War. Indeed, the Party did not recover its presence in the South except when it became the vehicle of the ‘conservative’ Right facing the Left-bound Democrats towards… Liberalism.

On November the 8th, American voters will elect a new president who won’t take office before the 20th of January 2017. It is quite likely that regardless of who wins, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will adopt policies different from those of Barack Obama.

Despite the obvious differences; if Clinton wins she’ll be the first woman-president and if Trump does he will be the first outsider who has never been elected to political office, the personalities of both candidates and political cultures – as divergent as they are – as well as their vision of America and its role in the world differ markedly from Obama’s personality, culture and vision. Clinton and Trump, for example, do not necessarily believe that America is an arrogant and aggressive Super Power that needs to apologize to its enemies and turn against its old allies.

Clinton and Trump are also less reliant on small cliques of ‘mafias’ of close advisers and associates, while more committed to broader party consensuses; Clinton with Congressional blocs and ‘Liberal’ lobbies, and Trump with business, industrial and conservative religious lobbies.

Having said this, it would be naïve to expect Hillary Clinton to dump Obama’s Middle East policies; however, one expects her to be less shackled by JCPOA with Iran, or to continue the ongoing collusion with Tehran against Washington’s traditional allies in the Arab World and West Asia. On the other hand, ‘President’ Trump, in spite of his controversial stances – including how he views Russia – is expected to adopt different approaches to Obama’s and his political ‘kitchen’ towards the Arab World, Middle East, Islam, terrorism, and America’s policies with its foes and what is left of its friends.
On November the 8th, a painful page for the Arab World but a good one to 55% of Americans will be turned in Washington, and although the decision is American and so is the main and direct interest, we – Arabs – are entitled to honestly tell the American voter that in foreign policy you harvest what you plant, and the bad seeds that President Obama has planted shall bear bad fruits in the future.

It is then the judgement of history on his presidency and political legacy that will be more truthful and objective.

Opinion: Reading into Morocco’s Successes

An advice given to me by a dear late friend keeps coming to mind when I discuss politics. He said: “Beware, Eyad, of a politician who knows only politics and likes nothing but politics!”

He was absolutely right; and after getting to chance to meet with politicians all over world the world, I realized that the worst were those who do not enjoy reading, are not attracted to culture, never developed an artistic taste or hobby, whether for music, drawing, painting, sculpture, or literature.

This is not the case with Morocco, where I found, over the years, the highest percentage of intellectually, culturally and artistically gifted but totally unpretentious politicians and diplomats in the Arab world. This quality is for all to see in Morocco’s political life which the other day crossed another important milestone when the second general elections in the country since “The Arab Spring” were held. The “Spring” that has shaken, changed and uncovered a lot of our political ills.

Here, too, Morocco has been an exception. The massive upheavals witnessed in some Middle Eastern and North African countries, showing the ugly face of dictatorship, the malignancy of terrible sectarianism and the disingenuity of glittering slogans, led to civil and tribal wars nurtured by regional greed and international conspiracies that are destroying Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya.

Morocco, however, thanks to its politicians’ awareness and realism, has continued to enjoy two advantages that have allowed it an easy and safe passage through “The Arab Spring” despite the social and economic difficulties in a young nation that is not blessed with rich resources.

The first is political legitimacy. There is no question in Morocco about the legitimacy of Amir Al-Mu’mineen (The Commander of the Believers), neither from the Left nor from the Right. Both the ideological and trade unionist Left have adapted to and interacted with this legitimacy because they preferred national unity and social stability over venturing into the unknown. As for the Right, both its liberal and religious wings have had no reason to challenge either the country’s market economy or its ruler’s religious legitimacy.

The second is the ‘exhaust valve’, i.e. the mechanism that is provided by the cultures of co-existence and diversity in a country that has rejected exclusion, marginalization, denial, factional privileges, which directly contrast with the anathema that has been destroying the entities of the Mashreq before our eyes.

I thought long and deep before choosing to write about the Moroccan general elections and its meanings today. I hesitated. Then I asked myself the following questions:

1. Would it be right to ignore the affliction of Aleppo, the world’s second oldest metropolis, the city long praised by Al-Mutanabbi (the great 7th century Arab poet), now being slaughtered by the bloodiest mass murderers of the 21st century?
2. Would it be appropriate to disregard the imminent grave danger threatening Mosul, the ‘mother of two springs’, the birth place of Ibrahim and Ishaq Al-Mosuli (the great musicians of the 8th and 9th centuries), the jewel of Iraq’s cities and the capital and cultural cradle of Assyria?
3. Can I possibly forget Lebanon; ‘God’s paradise on Earth’, the ‘homeland’ of my father and forefathers, and the playground of my youth that is burdened by tyrannical occupation and threatened by a bleak future?
4. Is it possible to turn the page of Yemen, once felicitous but currently grief-stricken, which is encountering the Persians as conquerors rather than saviours in the absence of Saif bin Dhi Yazan (the great pre-Islamic Yemeni hero)?

All of these afflictions are, unfortunately, true. But because they are, the contrasting picture becomes more deserving of discussion and analysis. The Moroccan experiment, specifically in accommodating diversity and the opposite view, provides a lesson in ‘The Culture of Life’, while the Mashreq entities look as if they are in a race for death, whether gratuitous, in the shape of martyrdom, or in attempts to obliterate others.

In Morocco, as reflected by the polls, there is no monopoly of patriotism and no outbidding from any side. Furthermore, although it is almost impossible to have a spotless election – as proven by the flawed Florida poll in the US presidential elections of 2000 – it has been obvious that the top priority for all Moroccan parties is the firm belief that the choices and programs put forward to the voters are there to be negotiated by their parliamentary representatives, and implemented in the widest consensus possible.

Clearly, the Islamist ‘Party of Justice and Development’ led by the current Prime Minister Abdul-Ilah Ibn Kiran was the major winner, gaining 125 seats out of a total of 395, against the 102 seats gained by the liberal ‘Party of Authenticity and Modernity’. With the rest of the parliamentary seats shared by several other parties including the “historical trio” of the ‘Istiqlal (Independence) Party’, the ‘Popular Movement’ and the ‘Socialist Union of Popular Forces’, the overall result shows two facts. The first is that moderate Islamists continue to enjoy sizeable support; and the second is that intellectual and cultural diversity continue to enrich Moroccans’ politics inside and outside their home country.

It is worth noting here that ‘political Islam’ has neither been new nor alien to the Moroccan political scene before and after the country’s independence. It was always one of the salient identities of the national struggle led by great patriots like Allal Al-Fassi and Dr Abdul-Karim Al-Khatib. The ‘marriage’ of Islam and nationalism has been the solid base for Morocco’s unity that has transcended regional, ethnic and linguistic divides.

By the same token, the other political trends of all colors and creeds thrived in Morocco’s rich and glorious diversity. The history and geography of the country has confirmed the principle of ‘unity in diversity’ throughout the ages. Indeed, Morocco has been the ‘bridge’ of Islam, Arabism, and ‘Amazighism’ linking Africa – including its Middle Eastern depth – with Europe. It is also the full cultural partner in the great Andalusian heritage and its preserving reservoir, as well as being the melting pot of French, Spanish and Portuguese cultural influences with the Moorish (Arab/Amazigh) core expressed in almost every field.

Furthermore, in Morocco the cultural lifestyles of the rural areas, desert oases and major cities have fused and metamorphosed in an amazing way. Indeed, this exceptional country has had several ‘capitals’ including four ‘royal capitals’ (Fez, Meknes, Rabat and Marrakesh) which enjoyed glorious periods under different dynasties, and a vibrant economic capital (Casablanca), and a metropolis that was once ‘an international city’ (Tangier). Home to the world’s oldest university (Al-Qarawiyyin University and the grand mosque in Fez), Morocco has been a hotbed of industrial and trade unionists movements that bore impressive cultural and political fruits.

Last but not least, Morocco’s political successes have not been limited to the national or domestic scene, but could be witnessed wherever expatriate Moroccan communities live. Three Moroccan women are currently members of the French cabinet, another is the speaker of the Dutch parliament; and a compatriot of hers is the mayor of Rotterdam, the Netherlands and Europe’s largest port.

Many thanks to Morocco from every Arab, and congratulations for the recurring success of its democratic experiment.