Would Qatari Crisis Last Two Years?

Those who were betting on a short-lived Qatari crisis have lost. Everyone who thought that Qatar’s efforts for international pressure would be fruitful, was proven wrong. Three months on, the four states’ stance hasn’t changed, and is as firm as it was on June 5. Since day one, the ball has been put in Qatar’s court.

The message has been clear: If Qatar wants to restore ties, end the boycott and open the border, all it should do is implement what was handwritten by Qatar’s emir in the Riyadh Agreement in 2014. However, it is up to Doha if it decides to face the boycott and lose its interests with the four states.

Qatar chose confrontation, intransigence, escalation and the failure to implement what was requested from it out of its assumption that the crisis would soon end even if it disregarded its pledges. Yet this didn’t happen and time wasn’t in Doha’s favor. As three months passed without achieving its goals, maybe a year or two would also pass and Qatar would discover that it has become the only isolated state and all its bets are gone with the wind.

“It is okay if the Qatari crisis lasted two years,” said Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir. The boycotting states decided to cease the harmful Qatari policies only after they geared themselves for a long-term boycott out of their conviction that Doha’s attitude won’t be easily straightened and it won’t meet its pledges overnight.

As it has so far skilfully done, Doha will continue to procrastinate. Only time will reveal where Qatari interests will lie. Did Turkey and Iran really compensate the Gulf loss? Did Doha benefit from marketing itself in a trivial way among western capitals to urge them to pressure for lifting the boycott?

The answer is clear, as the crisis nears the 100-day mark, Qatar continues to see it as its main political, economic and social cause. In contrast, the four states haven’t lost anything from crisis but consider the Qatari file to be among a dozen others put on their agenda. Qatar is more than welcome to step back, but if it holds onto its stance and rejects to abide by its commitments, then it is free to do so.

We can say that the world has forgotten the Qatari crisis. It appeared in the headlines for some time, then states resumed their businesses by looking after their interests. The foreign ministers of US, France, UK and Germany toured the region to carry out diplomatic missions with allied states, then they left. Nothing more was done.

Gradually, Qatar woke up on an ugly truth that it is facing a real crisis unilaterally. It has plenty of solutions, but procrastination or resorting for Western help are not among them. Pursuits to strike alliances with Turkey and Iran didn’t compensate its stalled interests. Even the “blockage” lie didn’t work out. It rather unveiled Qatar’s naivety – here you see Qatar bragging that 35 percent of Middle Eastern trade goes through the state’s “besieged” port.

Amidst the current Qatari regime policy, it seems there is no hope in resolving the crisis soon. Let Qatar stick to its stance and let there be a protracted crisis. Sometimes, only time is capable of resolving complex issues. Qatar is the only damaged party – its losses are increasing but only these losses will urge Doha to meet its obligations.

Why do We Attack the World?

Whenever an explosion shakes a city, the same scene is repeated. I see eyes fastened to the breaking news on the screens. I hear the whispers of my colleagues: let’s hope the perpetrator is not an Arab; let’s hope he’s not a Muslim; we don’t need more…

I hear them and share their hopes; but the events quickly contest our wishes. It is no longer a secret that the attack on the world is an appalling specialty that we are unique in.

I know quite well that the man who ran over the tourists here or there does not represent his country or the confession to which he belongs; that he did not obtain official permission to commit his crime; that he was wanted in his country before being included in international lists of wanted individuals; and that the threat he represents to his hometown is more dangerous than his threat to the distant crime scene.

I know that intolerance is not confined to a certain people, a sect or a country; and that frenetic persons are sons of many different springs. But we have to admit unequivocally that we are the record holders of world aggressions. And we have booked ourselves an invincible position in the Guinness Book.

I do not exaggerate dear reader. The sight of tourists bleeding to death as a result of an attack perpetrated by a person coming from our region hits me in great confusion. I don’t know why I feel the duty to apologize to a Chinese family, who happened to be in Barcelona, or a Japanese man who was strolling in Nice, or a German who was on a visit to Luxor. This is awful.

Who gave us the right to violate maps, states and cities? Who gave us the right to assassinate young people celebrating life in Istanbul? Who gave us the right to assassinate the residents of the twin towers in New York?

The invocation of injustice here or there is just a curtain to hide a deep desire to kill the other; a deep desire to eliminate those whose features and affiliations do not match ours. Let’s suppose that injustice was done; do we respond to it by inflicting even greater injustice on innocent people? Talks about the world’s hatred of us are not true.

One cannot deny limited harming practices that can occur sometimes in the West in response to our rude performances, but they certainly do not rise to the level of death banquets that we organize at different and far-flung theaters.

Those, who know the West, are aware that the law there has sovereignty and priority that benefits even the advocates of hatred. Many know that Arab and Muslim communities enjoy freedom in Europe often lacking in their homeland.

Why do we attack the world? Is it because it chose to sail towards the future, while we are determined to sail back to the past? Is it because it invented the plane in which we travel? The car we ride? And the cancer medicine we use in our hospitals?
Then what is the validity of this hatred towards the West when we wish to see our children and grandchildren graduate from its universities?

Why do we attack the world? Is it because we have failed to build modern states… to achieve development… to provide employment… to guarantee freedoms and consolidate the rule of law?

Do we see in the progress of the other a defeat to us and a threat to our existence?
Does the solution lie in detonating ourselves or instead coming out of the tunnels in which we have long chosen to reside?

Is it true that we are horrified by the multiplicity of colors, choices and opportunities and we seek to preserve the one-color world that we perceive as the guarantee of our existence and the continuity of our identity far from any interaction or enrichment?

Is it true that we are alarmed whenever we hear the bells of the new era ringing? The bells of science, technology, medicine, ideas, culture, education and music…

Why do we attack the world? From where did we bring this huge amount of hatred? Why are we tempted to collide with the world instead of living with and within it?

Why do we favor explosions over dialogue? Death over interaction and settlement? Rubble over accommodation in common homes? Ashes over multiplicity? Why do we prefer to retreat instead of extending our hands to peace? Why do we choose the recipe of murder rather than dialogue and recognition?

We cannot continue to attack the world. This policy means destroying our societies before destroying a cafe, museum or a tower in other people’s world.

Roving killers assassinate their homeland while they have the illusion of attacking other countries.

Those countries, which seem fragile, are able to live with the danger, because they are states and institutions that commit mistakes, correct them, reconsider their calculations and promote their capabilities.

It is time to put the war on extremism as a first priority in our life. It is imperative to eradicate the extremism dictionary from homes, neighborhoods, schools and the different curricula. The flow of hatred feelings on the screens and social media must be stopped.

We must ask ourselves about the culture that promotes the rise of this tendency to attack the world. In the absence of a daring rational confrontation, we will sink even further in mud and blood and we will produce more roving killers.

Can Libya’s Warring Strongmen Come Together?

Reviewing the latest Paris summit, it seems that a new glimmer of hope shines around the possibility of settling the conflict between Libya’s strongmen, Libyan National Army LNA Chief Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who controls two thirds of the country, including oil-rich territory, and the head of the UN-backed Government of National Accord Fayez al-Sarraj.

The summit drew the attention of international and regional players back to the North African country which they once had ruled out to ‘fail’ in terms of statehood. Libya has found its way back into the political agenda of world major powers—Russia, for example, has displayed growing interest in the recent past.

In his recent Moscow visit, fellow in the Middle East and North Africa Programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations Mattia Toaldo said that President Vladimir Putin on one hand seeks providing Haftar with limited support, while on the other hand wishes to present himself as a mediator.

True to that, all Russian-linked visits and calls, and more importantly the printing of Libyan banknotes in Russia, prove Toaldo’s claim on Putin backing Haftar.

It remains to be said that what Putin offered fell way beneath Haftar’s expectations. Which was to overcome the UN Arms embargo on Libya.

Alternatively, GNA leader al-Sarraj was welcomed in Moscow, as well as Misurata delegations.

It is nonsensical to blame Russia for not adopting a clearer policy on Libya. Time and time again, Moscow clarified that it supports peace over war, despite its ally countries in the region placing their bets on Haftar, who is leading the fight against militant Islamists.

Falling into expectations, Moscow likely shows interest in joining international peace efforts, but for its own national interests.

Reviewing Russian-Libyan relations in depth, it is vital that historical facts are considered. History is a major factor into Russian-Libyan dynamics.

A large number of people today forgot about the post- World War II heated debate which consumed United Nations powerful states over the former Italian colony.

At the time Libya consisted of three different entities; based in Tripoli, Barca and Fezzan.

Baraca and Tripoli were occupied by British and American forces. Fezzan was under full French control. At the time, Western superpowers wanted to keep Moscow out on the process shaping Libya’s future. But Moscow was far from indifferent concerning Libya.

The rarely remembered Vyacheslav Molotov, Soviet Union foreign minister between 1939 and 1949, told Russian author Feliks Ivanovich Chuev that Moscow had taken note of a movement in Libya.

Although Motolov described it as weak at the time, he said that Russia viewed the movement as a front for national liberation, and expressed a desire to provide support, and establish a military base there.

Molotov tells Chuev, that when the subject was brought up, Britain’s statesman Ernest Bevin succumbed to a striking panic attack to the point that medics hurled in to administer a calming shot.

In ‘Molotov Remembers’– through conversations with the poet-biographer Chuev– Molotov offers an incomparable view of the politics of Soviet society and the nature of Kremlin leadership under communism.

The Soviet Union’s proposition merely made to test waters- most likely, the Soviet leadership did not view presence in Libya as a pressing matter (the Soviet Union does not need any military base in Libya) – but such a proposal was employed to pressure the United States away from founding a military base there. It was also made to drive British occupation forces out of Libya.

As a compromise, the then four superpower leaders decided to instruct their foreign ministers to prepare a joint resolution that would be later ratified. But no such decision was reached, because Moscow insisted on the immediate independence of Libya.

The Western rejected this, forcing the Soviet Union to come up with a new plan of action.

Soviets then said they were ready to reign in Tripoli and putting it ultimately under their administration. This proposal was also aimed at placing pressure on the three major Western countries, since in Moscow knew that its experience was limited in terms of t Libya’s internal affairs.

Eventually, and with no avail in sight, the proposal was withdrawn from the Soviet’s agenda, but Western allies did not give in and controversy endured.

In his speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations on 9 May 1949, then-new Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko ended matters by proposing that a unified Libya would be granted independence within the maximum period of five years.

Over those five years, Gromyko suggested that Libya will be governed by a joint multilateral committee and remain under. But even then, the proposal did not come to the liking of the West which sought to divide the country.

Idris Senussi, the then Emir of Cyrenaica and key Libya political leader, with British support declared Barca’s independence, which London immediately recognized.

France, however, conditioned its agreement to the British controlling Tripoli and Barca by it having administrative control over Fezzan.

Moscow called for the immediate establishment of a self-governing body for a unified Libya, the withdrawal of foreign troops and the closure of the US military base there.

The Kremlin was unable to reach this goal, yet no one else did.

The UN General Assembly Resolution 289 (IV) on 21 November 1949, adopted with the active support of Moscow, states that Libya must form a united, independent and sovereign state.

It also says that the oil-rich North African country should establish a national assembly and form an interim government as soon as possible.

Despite that on December 24, 1951, Libya officially gained its independence, announced a federal monarchy with Senussi as king, the US military base and the British occupation forces did not withdraw until 1969.

Moscow recognized Libya and established diplomatic relations with it. Therefore, Russia today has all the right to consider itself a key factor in Libya’s independence and unification.

One other historical event is the Security Council resolution of March 17, 2011, in which Moscow abstained and did not use its veto, hoping that Western powers would abide by the mandate on establishing a Libya no-fly zone, and do not interfere in the country’s internal conflict.

Today, the Russian leadership believes it was deceived by the West with its forces directly intervening in the Libyan crisis, and having the regime changed using brute military force. Moscow took a lesson from these events and has ultimately lost confidence in its partners.

Russia’s pragmatic and geopolitical policy calculations will most likely converge with past lessons and its long-established desire for a unified Libya.

Emir of Qatar Speech…Dispute Does Not Lie in Different Points of View

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Political disagreements don’t ruin amicability. This is how Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani summarized Qatar’s crisis in his speech on Friday, and I don’t think that anyone was expecting a surprise in his speech, which expressed the Qatari diplomacy that has been depending for two months on international pursuits and has been avoiding pointing fingers to the problem.

Who would have imagined that the emir speech wouldn’t point out the real reason behind the dispute but would, instead, distance itself from Unfulfilled 2014 Riyadh Agreement, which was signed by Sheikh Tamim.

This is the main trigger of the crisis — this is what has led the region to this place and Qatar to isolation. Briefly, there is an agreement that was signed by Doha and the emir but was unimplemented – Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain are demanding that Qatar abides by it.

But directing the speech towards disgrace and calumniation with neglecting the main reason of the crisis is another message from Qatar’s leadership that it has chosen to remain isolated. I assume that this speech intentionally didn’t mention the real reason behind the dispute for a simple reason: Doha can’t deny signing the agreement and can’t claim implementing it.

The emir’s speech intended to deliver two main messages: the first was internal and it urged a permanent enthusiasm as he said: “I call upon all to continue this approach.” The second message was foreign, informing the West that Doha is ready to solve its problems with the former and to alleviate concerns related to funding and backing terrorism.

Speaking justly and away from the media propaganda and Qatari policy, Doha has started the first step on the road whether in the agreement signed with the US to curb terrorism funding or in its approval to send officials from the US Department of Justice to the Public Prosecution in Qatar to pause accusations to funding-terrorism suspects.

This would limit Doha’s previous acts in supporting groups and individuals related to terrorism – according to Reuters, a US official said that arrests were made and scrutiny increased since the beginning of the crisis. He added that Qatari people have taken huge steps, which reveals that the boycotting countries have started to yield.

What matters is that Qatar implements the demands, regardless of the way it chooses to promote its concessions – the four states took diplomatic and economic procedures to oblige Doha to change its terrorism and extremism-supporting policies and Doha could have initially admitted committing to the agreement signed in Riyadh.

But Qatar preferred to seek the harder solution through the US, which means that the crisis period will extend until reaching an exit that fits the propaganda policy adopted by Doha.

As long as Sheikh Tamim avoids putting his finger on the problem and as long as he chooses that the solution comes from the West and not Kuwait – unlike what he said – then Qatar will isolate itself more and will prolong the crisis period.

But, what could be said to a state that considers choosing the longest roads and aborting the shortest to reach the same purpose an achievement and a great victory?

Modi’s Visit to Israel, Arabs Going Green with Envy

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Arabs find themselves envious when they encounter the developed world. A friend of mine sought a better life in London after having had enough with reign of oppression back home. He purchased a house in his wait for the war to end.

One day he was disturbed by a tree in his small garden. He made the decision to take it down. He then asked his native neighbor if he knew a worker who could do the job.

The neighbor laughed and explained that he has no right to cut down trees even if they are rooted within private property.

“You must first apply to the local council and convince him of the reasons,” the neighbor told my friend.

“The law here protects trees– it is necessary to get the council’s approval– and then comes the chopping,” he went on saying.

My friend was short to stunned, he had come from a world in which a city could be leveled or have its people uprooted without a flicker on an eye. A citizen can be taken away without the right for families, friends or relatives to demand for an explanation.

In the United Kingdom the law protects trees, while the memory of my friend’s cousin lingers of him returning with plied nails, bloodied gums and fallen teeth after being summoned to a mysterious interrogation.

A tree in London enjoys more rights than a citizen in countries where torture and suffering has become the status quo.

Nevertheless, jealousy is not a virtue and rather only fosters feelings of hatred and bitterness.

But for Arabs to feel envious is not inexplicable or odd. Envy can also become a constant concern.

When an Arab visits a museum in a developed country a thought occurs to him as he wonders what fate did legacies and historical artifacts in Iraq, Syria and other Arab countries face.

As Vienna nourishes and preserves its trees, bulldozers raze whole natural landscapes in Lebanon. While Oslo continues to pay attention to perfecting its healthcare plans and sustaining a sanitary environment, sewage in Arab countries flow without accountability.

Arabs sometimes try to mitigate the disappointment, seek justifications for this wide gap separating them from the developed world. We now stand at a very decisive and unique time in history.

Developed countries now reap the fruits of struggles and major events that were witnessed by The Old Continent– the French Revolution, the industrial revolution, the Renaissance, the separation of church and state, German philosophy, and the ever-changing revolution of women’s rights all of which are factors who helped shape the developed world today.

Europeans have experienced all sorts of wars that destroyed the continent and the world along with it. Nevertheless they finally arrived at a constructive conclusion.

Despite the horrendous account that Adolf Hitler left behind, Germany now thrives under Angela Merkel’s chairmanship and the institutions. Fallen empires have become nothing more than shelves at museums and written lines in history books. Border became bridges, not walls.

Communities eventually recognized the right to difference, and minorities are no longer viewed as a threat to be neutralized. The constitution protects variety and prevents the majority from erasing it.

These countries no longer search for leaders who speak in the language of bloodshed. Instead, they are looking for governments that are concerned with fighting unemployment, developing the economy, encouraging investment, taking care of the environment and tackling climate change. All of which leaves the visiting Arab is envious.

Setting aside trees and museums aside, there is something worse. Arabs took close note to Benjamin Netanyahu freeing up his day to attend his visiting guest, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

That was the first time a sitting Indian prime minister visits Israel. What is even more remarkable is that the Modi did not feel the need to visit the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. A move that saw to Israel’s liking.

It is worth remembering that India was a pioneer in understanding the aspirations of the people of Palestinian and did not hesitate to take their side in international arenas.

Arabs kept a close eye to each step of the visit, especially after the warm welcome Modi received in Israel and which exceeded in hospitality that which was afforded United States President Donald Trump.

Modi then said that true cooperation between Israel and India would change the face of the world. Netanyahu also said that Israel welcomed Modi in a manner befitting a president of leading the world’s largest democracy, and the only democratic state in the Middle East.

What turned around heads is that Modi viewed Israel as a prevalent beacon in technology and him clearly speaking of his country’s tremendous need to benefit from Israel’s capabilities in this field.

The visit resulted in the signing of an agreement between Netanyahu and Modi, under which India will secure its very own Israel’s signature Iron Dome Weapon System worth two billion dollars. Memorandums of understanding were also signed on establishing an Indian-Israeli fund for innovation in research and development in the domain of technology.
Other agreements included water and agricultural development in India, as well as a partnership in economic projects in Africa and third world countries.

Saying that Modi belongs to a hard-line Hindu nationalist movement or that the influence of rising “jihadist” terrorism is not enough to elaborate on Modi being swayed into a stronger relationship with Israel. What is more dangerous is that a country the size of Israel can offer the Indian army such a large-scale weapons deal, which goes beyond its previous role in developing ex-Soviet and Russian weapons owned by India. Ever more threatening is that Israel now has managed to develop an advanced strategic, military, security and economic relationship with a country the size of and with geopolitical significance of India.

Arabs were disturbed by the arrogance which characterized Netanyahu’s speeches during Modi’s visit.

But when reading in-between the lines and closely reviewing the Middle East, Arabs discovered that in recent years, Israel had achieved a series of victories without firing a bullet.

States, armies and economies around the occupying state have eroded to its benefit. Waves of extremism in the Arab world have caused untold calamities, creating a long bullet-list of issues and conflicts in which the Palestinian cause is a mere one of many.

This time Arabs did not feel envy alone, but sensed utter defeat for those who for failing to catch up with the developing world.

Yemeni Media to Address the West in English

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Jeddah- Yemen’s Information Ministry intends to launch an English newspaper and satellite channel to inform the international community of the violations and practices of rebels against the Yemeni people.

Yemen’s Minister of Information Muammar al-Eryani said that this step is among the ministry’s priorities that will be implemented in the coming period. He add that around USD20 million are needed to restructure the ministry branches that were misused by the rebels and to return the broadcast of satellite channels in the country after providing the required infrastructure.

Eryani added that the ministry has commenced first steps to implement a strategy to address the West through the Yemeni news agency’s release of a number of news stories in English and Yemen TV’s broadcast of English language programs after midnight.

According to the Ministry of Information, the number of pro-legitimacy newspapers issued in Yemen is around 30, in addition to seven television channels, including two state-run channels. The number of employees in the Ministry is estimated at 10,000.

The minister of information stated that the ministry has future plans to resume efforts on the international level in revealing facts about the militias’ actions. It is planning visits to a number of European capitals where it will hold seminars and present crimes committed by the militias.

He added that the Saudi role was significant in welcoming the Yemeni people, especially journalists, with many settling in Saudi Arabia and others heading to other countries.

Commenting on the fate of arrested journalists, Eryani said that the ministry has addressed all international organizations in this context and requested that they play their role in protecting the detainees.

Iranian Militias in Bahrain

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The quiet kingdom on the Arabian Gulf has experienced a tough crisis over six years of chaos, explosions and sabotage. Bahrain has been shouting loud for six years: This is not a revolution nor a peaceful protest, but a riot supported by Iran.

The West, however, only sees what it wants to see. Even worse, the administration of former US President Barack Obama abandoned its closest ally and the Fifth Fleet of the United States Navy – it also blinded itself to the facts.

But the facts are finally being revealed to the western governments– they themselves are admitting, for the first time, that there are criminal acts by which Iran is endeavoring to form militias in Bahrain.

The Washington Post has published documents and interviews with former and current intelligence officials on a detailed training program by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to train its Bahraini members on building advanced bombs and waging guerrilla warfare.

European and American analysts now see a mounting threat since Iranian-funded and -armed cells are emerging. The Washington Post intelligence report also revealed that over the past three years, a huge quantity of modern weapons and military grade bombs have been discovered in Bahrain, all of which have most certainly been made by Iran.

At any rate, what the western intelligence considers as a newly-discovered major surprise has been known and backed with evidence since the eruption of the riots in February 2011. The Iranian exploitation of these acts to picture them as another form of the “Arab Spring” has also been known.

In fact, the Iranian regime had itself made this admission when in March 2016, Senior IRGC Saeed Qassimi openly declared “Bahrain an Iranian province that had broken away from our country due to colonization.” He added that Iran is now a base to support “the revolution in Bahrain”.

The belated western confession that the developments in Bahrain are neither a revolution nor an “Arab Spring” is a new western failure in analyzing, reading and taking decisions in the region.

It is true that the Trump administration is keen on setting things right through imposing sanctions on two Bahraini individuals who have been designated as terrorists on the US terrorism list. The US Department of State pointed out clearly that the designation came after the “escalation of rebel attacks in Bahrain, where Iran provided arms, funds and training for the rebels.”

The Bahraini kingdom has however witnessed serious losses and has been suffering for six years from organizations, associations and western parliaments that depended on the wrong stances of their governments. This led to the acquittal of the criminals and the indictment of the victims and caused unjustified international pressure. This complicated the Bahraini crisis, which was not a revolution, but a riot backed by the Iranian regime’s money and arms.

The West’s confession, although very late, is an opportunity for Bahrain to face all these rights and humanitarian organizations that overlooked all the human rights violations in all the conflict zones around the world and focused only on Bahrain.

It is time to confront these organizations with their own weapons: the intelligence reports that they have long used as an excuse, even if in most cases they were used for political, not rights, purposes.

King Salman in Asia: the New Silk Road

One of the most important aspects of Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy in the past decade has been the enhancement and diversification of its partnerships, and expanding its political options on the international arena.

Surely, the Saudi approach to East Asia is not only a political-diplomatic move, but also an economic need in line with the grand economic reform process the kingdom is currently undergoing.

Asia is blooming and developing to an extent that it has become an international and prominent key player with grand influence politically and economically.

Based on that, the Asian visit of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz reflects the Saudi foreign policy that aims to maintain balanced relations while keeping its current international ties. At the same time, it wants to keep a strategy that is in line with the Saudi Vision 2030 in an attempt to achieve a comprehensive and sustainable economic growth.

Heading east is not strange to the Middle East, yet transforming such an idea into reality through a permanent partnership has always faced many obstacles.

The main obstacle is probably the strong alliance with western powers that always undermines the improvement of relations with key players in East Asia. Nonetheless, the dramatic shift in the international system proved that being content with current alliances – even if strategic and historic – should not stop the search for common interests with Asian parties.

This policy is based on three important facts. First, the developing Asian countries are not only economically influential and dominating, but they are also key political players in international arena in addition to the fact that they effect world security.

Second, the interaction with influential and politically and economically stable countries reflects positively on their partners. East Asian countries are in a politically stable environment and part of the international political circle away from crises and conflicts.

Finally, Saudi Arabia’s strategic role is important for Asian countries, which had previously not benefited from it in a way that establishes their geopolitical importance.

The new “Silk Road” being paved by Saudi Arabia is a tempting view of the future. Surely, it will be a bumpy road at first, but joint Saudi-Asian interests will overcome these obstacles and pave way for a promising future partnership.

If relations between Saudi Arabia and Asia are old and deeply-rooted, the newly-established connections gain their strength from the multipolar international system as more influential players get involved.

It is important for Saudi Arabia to seek strategic relations with the emerging powers of Asia amid changes in international relations and the transfer of economic power from the west to the east.

In 2012, London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies issued its Military Balance report in which it said that for the first time in modern history, military budgets of Asian states exceeded that of their European counterparts.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, it is safe to say that unipolar policy contributed to the isolation of the Middle East and for strategic reasons that required an alliance with the US and European countries.

That era hampered the emergence of independent policy from the Middle East. Yet, Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries that were the first to feel the international shift of power to Asia, acted in line with the new changes while maintaining old alliances.

Based on that, King Salman’s Asian tour is a strategic move to bolster the changes in the international scene. Both China and Japan are strong Asian nations, while Indonesia and Malaysia are rising, making it difficult to affirm if the current great powers will keep exerting influence.

As ISIS Loses Territory, it Seeks to Survive Online

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Washington – Al-Qaeda’s main affiliate in Iraq avoided extinction at the hands of U.S. and Iraqi forces a decade ago by backing away from military engagements and moving the remnants of its network underground until its reemergence as ISIS.

That successor organization, now confronting its own eventual fall, is devising a modified survival strategy that may involve surrendering control of its “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria but seeks to preserve a virtual version of it online.

That plan is described in a new report on ISIS’s evolving media strategy as its physical territory shrinks. The study, published by King’s College London, warns that it is premature to imagine a “post-ISIS world at this time.”

“The organization has used propaganda to cultivate digital strategic depth,” the study concludes, using a term that traditionally applies to a mountainous region or other terrain that a nation can retreat to and defend. “Due to this effort, the caliphate idea will exist long beyond its proto-state.”

As part of this strategy, ISIS’s media wing has already begun to repurpose videos, images and messages from its massive collection for new propaganda releases that depict the alleged state it sought to establish as an idyllic realm destined to be restored.

“If compelled to, the group’s true believers will simply retreat into the virtual world, where they will use the vast archive of propaganda assembled by the group over these past few years to keep themselves buoyant with nostalgia,” the report said.

The plan reveals a level of desperation for a terrorist organization that has seen its territory shrink rapidly over the past year. But it also serves as the latest example of the group’s innovative approach to using the Internet and social media — first to draw recruits to the fight in Iraq and Syria and now to preserve the loyalties of its dispersed followers.

The King’s Collegereport draws many of its conclusions from an ISIS propaganda guidebook that surfaced online last year.

Called “Media Operative, You Are a Mujahid, Too,” the booklet equates propaganda teams with armed operatives in their importance to the terrorist group and provides guidance on how to ¬develop messages that exploit mainstream media coverage and advance the organization’s ideology.

“Media weapons [can] actually be more potent than atomic bombs,” one passage proclaims, according to the King’s College report.

A video released by ISIS this month appears to be drawn from the organization’s evolving playbook. Titled “Building Blocks,” the video mixes typical footage of fighters with scenes of workers paving streets, firetrucks leaving stations and shoppers perusing stocked shelves.

Charlie Winter, a senior research fellow at the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at King’s College and the author of the new report, described the video as a “good example of the kind of pre-emptive nostalgia” that ISIS is seeking to elicit, one that “seems geared toward offering evidence of the good old days, of the caliphate that once was, even before it’s lost.”

Beyond losing territory under military pressure from the United States, Turkey, Russia, Syria and Iraq, ISIS has seen the flow of foreign fighters into its ranks plummet — from as many as 2,000 a month two years ago to as few as 50, according to recent assessments.

The group began altering its propaganda themes last year to prepare followers for the collapse of the caliphate, depicting its mounting battlefield losses as ¬noble and inevitable struggles, in contrast to the triumphant messages that had previously dominated its output.

The emerging media strategy faces significant challenges. ISIS’s audience online has shrunk, though it is unclear by how much, in part because social media companies, including Facebook and Twitter, have more aggressively removed ISIS supporters and their content.

Still, experts said the plan to maintain its online following could enable ISIS to reemerge much the way its predecessor did when Syria fell into civil war.

The group is “trying to hold onto a much more ambitious version of itself than it did a decade ago,” said Alberto Fernandez, a former senior U.S. State Department official and expert on ISIS media. The organization is moving into “kind of a holding pattern,” he said. “The question is, holding pattern for what and for where and for when?”

ISIS has sought to compensate for territorial setbacks by seeking to carry out terrorist plots in Europe and the United States as a way to demonstrate its relevance as a global force.

In Iraq and Syria, the network has already shifted toward more traditional insurgency tactics. It claimed credit for the recent bombing of a restaurant in Mosul and is likely to continue to mount such operations to destabilize territory the group has been forced to surrender — and also to provide footage for new propaganda releases.

“Broadly speaking, we’ll see ISIS reverting to type, looking more like a run of the mill terror group rather than a proto-state,” Winter said. “They’ll put a huge amount of effort into producing content, but also recirculating content. Their claims about just how utopian it was will become even more exaggerated.”

The Washington Post

‘What’s Happening to our Children?’ .. ISIS is Cultivating Adolescents

ISIS

The threat presented by ISIS is taking on a new form: child terrorists either directly in contact with or inspired by the militant group. Even as it suffers setbacks on the battlefield in Iraq and Syria, ISIS is cultivating adolescents in the West, who are being asked to stay in their home countries and strike targets with whatever weapons are available, such as knives and crude bombs. A 16-year-old girl was among four people arrested in the south of France on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack, French authorities said Friday.

“The amount of ISIS videos and propaganda aimed at children has really jumped in recent months,” said Daniel Koehler, director of the German Institute on Radicalization and Deradicalization Studies. “We haven’t seen anything quite like this, not on this scale and of this quality. They know that in the West, you don’t expect a 10-year-old to be a terror suspect.”

Last September, German authorities arrested a 16-year-old Syrian asylum seeker after they discovered the young man was in contact with an ISIS handler who was teaching him how to build a bomb.

In December, a 12-year-old German Iraqi boy — guided by an ISIS contact in the Middle East who warmly addressed him as “brother” and groomed the boy via the encrypted messaging app Telegram — built and tried to detonate a bomb near a shopping center in the western German city of Ludwigshafen. The device failed to explode.

The boy had been “headhunted” by ISIS, officials said, after searching radical websites online. A 17-year-old accomplice was later arrested in Austria.

Last month, a 15-year-old girl — the daughter of a German convert to Islam and a Moroccan mother — was sentenced to six years in prison for an attack last February on a German police officer in Hanover. She gouged him in the neck with a kitchen knife, causing life-threatening injuries after being befriended and cajoled by an ISIS instructor via a text messaging service.

All told in Germany, at least 10 minors have been involved in five plots over the past 12 months. In a country where militants disguised as migrants have been blamed for a terrorist plague, most of the minors were homegrown threats born in Germany.

And then one night last April, officials said, the Emir — a Muslim title for an exalted leader — led two cell members to a Sikh house of worship in this industrial city and hurled the bomb toward its door. A deafening boom rang out. Orange flames lit a mosaic of blood and shattered glass. Inside, victims screamed as the assailants fled.

All three terrorists were 16-year-old boys, according to German police.

“Our children!” cried Neriman Yaman, 37, mother of the Emir, whose first name is Yusuf, in an interview after attending a court hearing for her son. “What is happening to our children?”

Worse, authorities said, is that the intelligence community is often blind to the threat posed by these teens and preteens.
Officials lack the legal authority to track children the same way they monitor adults, creating what German authorities describe as one of their greatest counterterrorism challenges.

Intelligence agencies here have identified at least 120 minors who have become dangerously radicalized — and some of them cannot be intensely monitored because of domestic laws protecting children, officials said.
German law was amended last year to allow for the collection of data on suspects as young as 14. But officials now argue that is not young enough.

“Our service mainly focuses on adults,” said Hans-Georg Maassen, head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency. “We are allowed to monitor minors and record them in our databases in exceptional cases only, but they have to be aged 14 or over. Normally people do not expect children to commit terrorist attacks. But they can and are.”

He added: “What is really worrying is that people frequently look the other way. They say it’s just a phase of adolescence and surely they will grow out of it. Often parents don’t really know what their children are doing in their rooms.”

Targeted propaganda

Since the start of the Syrian civil war, Europe has grappled with the kind of radicalization that led thousands of its Muslim citizens to travel to the Middle East, often to join ISIS. But as Turkey and other nations more actively block the path of foreign fighters to Syria and Iraq, the journey has become harder.

So the targets of radicalized youths are shifting, European intelligence officials said, with terrorist groups either enlisting or inspiring them to attack their homelands. They are employing propaganda tailor-made for youths, including several recent graphic videos showing grammar-school-age children executing prisoners and a newly released computer game, inspired by “Grand Theft Auto,” in which users kill enemies under ISIS flag.

ISIS recruiters carefully monitor children who visit their propaganda sites or enter radical chat rooms, meticulously evaluating who may be suitable for cultivation.

Typically, they don’t immediately attempt to challenge children’s relationships with their parents but nudge them toward violence by convincing them that Allah smiles on those who defend the faith.

The Washington Post