Welcome to the Middle East Today

The Middle East has traditionally been important for the world economy. The Middle East situation today has an impact on all aspects of life in America and much of the world.

Only by understanding the motivations of the various factions in the Middle East can we hope to understand how to promote peace and national security for Middle Eastern nations, Europe, and the United States.

Oct 29, 2012

The Syrian Tragedy


The Spring Revolution, which started in December 2010 and spread to Egypt, Yemen, Libya and Tunis, has led to the removal of corrupt governments in all of these states. However, the revolution in Syria, which began in March 2011, is still going on and has led to the killings of more than 30,000 people. At the time the rebellion started, I stated that Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria, would only leave office through a military coup or by being killed. During the past 20 months, more than 30,000 soldiers and officers have defected from the regular army and formed the Free Syrian Army to fight Assad’s regime. During that period, Syria’s human resources, its economy and physical structure have been the target of destruction by both sides.

In the mean time, the Syrian Spring Revolution has turned into an international conflict where regional states as well as super powers have been drawn into the conflict.

At the regional level the alliances with or against has been influenced by religious sectarianism (the Sunnis vs. the Shiaa). The Syrian regime is controlled by the Alawite – a Shiaa offshoot – and is being supported by Iran, Iraq and the Shiaa segment of the Lebanese population, led by Hassan Nasserallah.

On the other side, the Persian Arab Gulf States, led by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, are ruled by Sunni regimes that have been the backbone supporters of the forces fighting the Syrian regimes. Money and arms have been sent by both states to the rebel forces.

It is of interest to point out that the conflict between the two major sects of Islam dates back to more than 1400 years ago.

The foreign interferences by states from outside the region include the U.S. and some West European states such as Britain, France and Germany. They support the rebel forces and call for the removal of Bashar al-Assad’s government.

The opposing group consists of Russia and China, who support Assad’s regime and call for peaceful dialogue.

Unfortunately, such foreign interference is destabilizing the region and is serving the interests of these superpowers and not the Syrian people who are bleeding to death. As a result of such interferences, the U.N. has been attempting to stop the war among the feuding groups and is calling for a ceasefire and a peaceful transitional period.

The first attempt under Kofi Annan failed. Another attempt was initiated by the U.N. under the direction of Al-Akhdar Ibrahimi. During the past few weeks of discussion with some of the political leadership on both sides, an agreement of ceasefire was accepted, which started at the beginning of the Islamic holiday on October 26 and will be effective during the following four days. Unfortunately, on the first day of the ceasefire, a car bomb exploded in Damascus and an exchange of fire in several Syrian cities between the regular government army and the opposing forces shattered the ceasefire agreement. 167 were killed. I am of the opinion that some of the militant Islamic groups such as al-Qaeda and the Salafis are not supportive of such agreements.

The U.N. envoy al-Ibrahimi was hoping to convince the leadership on both sides to extend the ceasefire with the hope of finding a solution to stop the war and establish a transitional government that will lead to a free election.

The success of such a hopeful strategy is unlikely for the following reasons:

First, there are too many players in the Syrian political arena. Several political Islamist groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafis, al-Qaeda and others who are involved want to control the future Syrian government. Second, the various civil political groups, including the Syrian Free Army with fragmented leadership, is seeking to control the future transitional government that will influence the direction of the election in Syria. The struggle has already started between Islamism and secularism. Third, the Syrian conflict began to negatively impact neighboring states such as Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, where more than 300,000 Syrian refugees are located. Fourth, the impact of the Syrian civil war on neighboring states, especially in Lebanon, ignited the conflict between the supporters and the enemies of the Syrian regime, which based on sectarianism.

The latest assassination of Weesam al-Hassan, the head of the secret Lebanese security division, has been attributed by some politicians to the Syrian government.

Also, a few days ago, the Jordanian government arrested several Salafis in Amman who were accused of planning to start a series of explosions in public places similar to 9/11. In turkey, the press reported protest movements against the government interference in the Syrian conflict. Furthermore, there has been shelling taking place on both sides.

I would like to conclude by pointing out that there is no light at the end of the tunnel. The conflict will continue until Bashar Assad is killed. He will not leave his office peacefully. In the mean time, the bloodshed will continue and man y innocent civilians will pay the price.

Even after the removal of the Assad regime, the struggle will continue between the Islamisists and the secularists.

Oct 27, 2012

Qatar Prince’s visit to Gaza


The recent visit of the Qatari emir sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani to the Palestinian Gaza Strip reflects the important political, economic and psychological strategies.

First, it was  the first trip by a head of an Arab state to Gaza since the Israeli government imposed its embargo in 2007. Since then, that strip of land (which is nearly 25 miles long and around 8 miles wide), where nearly 1.6 million Palestinians reside, has been treated by the Israeli government as sub-human. Recently, the Israeli press exposed the Israeli government’s brutalities to even limit the amount of food that is permitted to enter the Gaza Strip, which hardly meets the minimal requirements for survival. This embargo has been criticized worldwide and was even condemned by international human rights organizations, including Israeli ones. Furthermore, the Israeli embargo has been labeled as a violation of international law by the International Court of Justice.

Many international peace movements have tried to break the Israeli embargo by sailing to the shores of Gaza on the Mediterranean Sea, and were intercepted by the Israeli Navy and stopped.

Therefore, the Prince of Qatar visit not only broke the embargo, but also raised the hopes of Palestinians politically and economically. Prince Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani pledged to give $400 million to help the people of Gaza and build new homes for the Palestinians who lost their dwellings as a result of the Israeli invasion of Gaza in 2007, as well as numerous air bombardments that took place frequently. Also, the money given to Hamas is to help its economy, which has been crippled by the Israeli embargo, which led to very high unemployment and poverty impacting more than half of its population.

It is unfortunate that the Qatari prince’s visit to Gaza was not supported by Mr. Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian authority in the occupied West Bank. That negative reaction did not surprise me, since the majority of the members of the Fatah are politically corrupt. The history of that organization, which was started by the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, was an authoritarian and corrupts organization that lacked the basic principles of democracy, accountability and transparency.

At the beginning, the Palestinian people, as well as millions of people in the Arab world, were hoping that the Arafat authority would create a democratic political model of government that might influence other authoritarian political leaders in the Arab world to imitate. Unfortunately, that hope never materialized from day one. Political and economic corruption continued and still is part of Mahmoud Abbas’ authoritarian rule.
Some political individuals w ho were part of the regime were accused of corruption but not a single one was investigated to be prosecuted. Some even left the West Bank before any investigation. Until the death of Arafat, he was the only person receiving money contributed to help the Palestinians to run their own affairs. Nevertheless, Arafat did not have any policy to show how the funds were spent.

An example was given by the previous Prime Minister Qurai about the money given to Suha, the wife of Arafat. Arafat sent her $30,000 per month to support her while she lived in Paris. That such an amount of money was sent while thousands of malnourished Palestinian children lived in refugee camps is nothing but an act of corruption.

In the recent municipalities elections, which were held in the West Bank (October 2012), the majority of voters did not participate, which was described by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz as a slap on the face for Abbas.

It seems to me that the history of Palestinian politicians over the past (at least) eight decades reflects nothing but a struggle for power. During the last eight years, many attempts by some heads of Arab states to bring the Palestinian leadership (Fatah and Hamas) together have failed. In the mean time the Zionist regime continues to expand in the West Bank, in addition to practicing a policy of ethnic cleansing. It is about time for the Palestinian people to start their Spring Revolution and remove their corrupt leadership.

Oct 14, 2012

Recent Violence in Tahrir Square


The recent violence and increasing tensions in Egypt, reflected in Tahrir Square (October 12, 2012) where more than 110 people were injured, is attributed to the following factors.

The first factor is the recent court decision to release 23 people from prison and dismiss the accusations against them due to a lack of evidence. Some of the accused were high-ranking government officials in the Mubarak regime who were accused of killing and injuring protestors in “The Camels’ incident” in Tahrir Square a few days before the fall of Hosni Mubarak.

The supporters and opponents of current president Mursi called for a protest in Tahrir Square to protest the court decision. In the mean time, President Mursi issued a presidential order to relieve Egyptian Chief Prosecutor Mr. Abdel Maguid Mahmoud from his position. He also appointed him as an Egyptian ambassador to the Vatican. The prosecutor rejected the order by saying that the law provides him with immunity and no person has the right to remove him, unless he wants to retire or leave office. Mr. Abdel Maguid Mahmoud was appointed to office by the previous president Hosni Mubarak.

The rumor behind the reason for his removal is that incriminating evidence related to the deaths of some protestors was removed, leading to the dismissal of the case against the 23 people accused of being responsible for the Camels’ incident.

In the mean time, the judicial Egyptian Council met with the chief prosecutor as well as with President Mursi deputy Mahmoud Maki to discuss the case.

The judicial council has requested that the president withdraw his decision and let the chief prosecutor continue in his position.

Mahmoud Maki made a public statement to the press that the president respected the request of the judicial council and will reverse his decision regarding the chief prosecutor.

The consequences of such a situation raised questions (pro and con) regarding the case of Abdel Maguid Mahmoud.

Some judges stated publicly that many cases were submitted to the chief prosecutors for prosecution and were rejected without investigation. If such allegations are true, then the people responsible in the Ministry of Justice to maintain the ethical standard of the judicial system and its independence should investigate such situations. Nevertheless, President Mursi committed a blunder. He should have proceeded with his decision regarding the resignation of the chief prosecutor.  After all, one of the main demands of the revolution was the dismissal of the chief prosecutor who was responsible for the prosecution of Mubarak’s opponents and the cleansing of the judicial system for corruption.

The second factor that contributed to the increasing tension between the supporters and opponents of President Mursi is the proposed draft of a new constitution. When he assumed his new role after the election, President Mursi promised to dissolve the committee that was appointed by the Egyptian parliament before it was dissolved by the Egyptian Higher Court to draft a new constitution. The majority of the committee’s members were from Islamic political groups, which reflected unjustified representation of all segments of Egyptian society.  However, he failed to do so. The Egyptian media reported that the drafting of the new constitution would be presented to the public for ratification. The circulating news revealed that the proposed new constitution is short of equal representation of all segments of Egyptian society. If such rumors turn out to be true, it will lend more support to the opponents of President Mursi and support the belief that he and his party, the “Freedom and Justice Party”, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood, have been following a policy of deception since they joined the January 25th Revolution five days after it started. Such a political strategy, especially on the part of the Muslim Brotherhood and other political Islamist groups such as the Salafis, are contributing to the rising tensions among various groups in Egypt. Such negative political consequences will create barriers in the way of economic progress, which the country needs badly.

President Mursi has the capability to put an end to such a strategy and to implement the objectives of the Egyptian Revolution.