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AUTHORITARIANISM AND DICTATORSHIP
TERRIFIED OF COVID 19, SAUDI ROYALS GO INTO HIDING!
Yusuf Dhia-Allah
https://crescent.icit-digital.org/articles/terrified-of-covid-19-saudi-royals-go-into-hiding


Although inevitable, nothing scares people more than death. Almost everyone wants to live forever even though they know that is impossible. The fear of death is particularly strong among people that are used to a life of luxury and opulence. They simply cannot give up on the pleasures of the dunya, fearing that there will be reckoning on the other side.

Take the case of the Bani Saud. At least 150 members of the clan—and perhaps many more—have been infected by the coronavirus, according to reports from the medieval kingdom. Some people would say, about time! The highest-ranking member is Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Abd al-Aziz, the Governor of Riyadh. He is in the intensive care unit of King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh, according to The New York Times, which cited hospital communications, doctors in the country and sources familiar with the family. He is in his seventies.

Early last month as news of the royals’ infection broke out, doctors at an elite hospital that treats royals were instructed to prepare 500 more beds for an expected influx of patients. “Directives are to be ready for VIPs from around the country,” the operators of the elite facility, the King Faisal Specialist Hospital, wrote in a “high alert” sent out electronically on April 7 to senior doctors. A copy was later obtained by the
[i]NYT[/i].

“We don’t know how many cases we will get but high alert,” said the message, which instructed “all chronic patients to be moved out ASAP” and only “top urgent cases” will be accepted, according to the [i]Times[/i]. The racism in this directive is clearly evident. The Bani Saud clan must get priority over other citizens. These uncouth Bedouins demand special treatment as if they own the kingdom. It takes gall.

Other clan members have taken drastic steps to try and prevent getting infected. There is no guarantee they are not already infected. The virus has an incubation period of 10 to 14 days before its effects are known. The globe-trotting Saudi royals are believed to have caught the pathogen while traveling to Europe. This is how AIDS was brought into the kingdom 20 years ago. Members of the royal family who regularly frequent brothels in Europe, became HIV-infected and returned home with AIDS.

The aged and ailing King Salman, who is believed to be 86, and crown prince Muhammad bin Salman (MbS) have both gone into hiding. The king has been moved to a remote island in the Red Sea for ‘protection’! Suffering from dementia and multiple other ailments, it is doubtful whether he has much time left on earth. Bearing in mind that the majority of people that have died of COVID-19 in Italy, Spain and France were in their eighties, King Salman is in the appropriate age group for transfer to the other side. Did he move to the remote island for the awaited rendezvous with the Angel of Death?

There is a story related to the time of Prophet Sulaiman (as) that may just apply to King Salman. A courtier in the Prophet’s court was terrified that another man was staring at him intently. He requested the Prophet-King who had power over Jinns, to move him to a remote island where nobody lived. Prophet Sulaiman fulfilled his wish and then turned to the man that was staring at him to inquire the reason for doing so. “I am the Angel of Death,” said the ‘man’. “Allah ordered me to take that man’s[i] ruh[/i] at the remote island yet I found him sitting here. I was wondering how I would fulfill Allah’s command but he himself asked to be sent there.” Has Salman just moved to a similar remote island? Whether the coronavirus kills him, or he dies of old age or the myriad other ailments he is afflicted with, we are likely to find out fairly soon, [i]insha’Allah[/i]. 

As for MbS, he has also gone into[i] purdah[/i] in a palace in Jeddah. This must be very hard for him since, like his master in the White House, MbS is a publicity hog. He likes to be in front of every camera and microphone and wants to be seen shaking hands with people. COVID-19 has demolished all these publicity gimmicks. Would MbS be able to escape encounter with COVID-19? Saudi Health Minister Tawfiq al-Rabiah has warned that the country’s coronavirus battle is only just beginning, predicting “a minimum of 10,000 to a maximum of 200,000” infections. 


The country has been put under total lockdown with most cities under 24-hour curfew. All flights in and out of the country are banned. The two sacred mosques—Masjid al Haram and Masjid al Nabawi—are also closed as are all other mosques in the kingdom. People are barred from venturing out except for absolutely essential services such as food and medicines. Ramadan is a favourite month for Muslims to perform Umrah—the lesser pilgrimage. Makkah is packed with pilgrims, especially in the last ten days of Ramadan. Not this year; it has the deserted look of a ghost town. All hotels are shut down, as are restaurants and other places where pilgrims would usually flock. The regime will not only lose billions of dollars in pilgrimage revenues but also in lost business. From Hajj alone the regime earns about $33 billion annually. It appears increasingly unlikely that Muslims would be able to perform Hajj this year.

Given the sharp decline in oil prices, largely the result of regime’s own faulty policies, as well as shutdown of global trade because of the pandemic, the regime is heading for a financial crash. This will add to regime woes since it would no longer have the money to buy people’s loyalty or silence. It is certain that the regime would be forced to resort to more brutal tactics to browbeat people into submission.

Oppression may not work under the present circumstances. If people cannot get food and begin to see their loved ones dying before their eyes, they will lose the fear of death. MbS’ erratic policies have already antagonized a lot of people. The crisis created by the pandemic may just prove the straw that broke the Bani Saud camel’s back.


GULF ECONOMIES FACE A FIGHT FOR SURVIVAL AS IMPACT OF CORONAVIRUS BITES 
https://www.trtworld.com/magazine/gulf-economies-face-a-fight-for-survival-as-impact-of-coronavirus-bites-36277 

With a dramatic fall in the price of oil and the global economy slowing down, Gulf countries find themselves in a crunch.

Plunging oil prices and the deepening fallout from the coronavirus pandemic is a double blow to Gulf governments as they seek to protect their energy-dependent economies. In 2014, the last time the price of oil saw a drastic collapse, Gulf countries comprising Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and the UAE slashed subsidies, introduced new taxes and undertook policies to diversify their oil-dependent economies.

With much of the global economy now in tatters and most economies pumping in money to stimulate economic activity, Gulf countries have little room to engage in painful reforms. The largesse that Gulf citizens have become accustomed to may see a curtailment which could result in political instability for the absolute monarchies. A Bloomberg financial analyst has warned that an economic recovery amongst the six Gulf countries could look “L shaped” for years to come amidst an oncoming global economic slowdown.  Coronavirus cases are rising in the Gulf countries, with Qatar leading in daily infection rates. (TRTWorld)


Saudi Arabia
As the largest economy in the Gulf and the world's biggest producer of oil, Saudi Arabia, has seen its finances stretched in recent years as the country’s young and inexperienced Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salaman (MBS) has taken over the reins of power. The Saudi war on Yemen, launched in 2015, has seen the country bogged down in an unwinnable war even as the humanitarian crisis in the country goes from bad to worse.  A recent unilateral ceasefire by the Saudi government in its war against the Houthis, brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, may ultimately incentivise Riyadh to enter into negotiations and end its costly war.

The Saudi economy in recent years has also been battered by a cold conflict with Iran, which briefly turned hot when 50 percent of the country’s oil supply was knocked out by drone strikes with some pointing the finger at Iran. A blockade against Qatar, the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Kashoggi, internal crackdowns on the Saudi elite and civil society has frightened foreign investors and tarnished the country’s image. The UN’s World Investment Report for 2019 noted that while Foreign Direct Investment to Saudi Arabia rose from $1.4 billion in 2017 to $3.2 billion in 2018, it is still significantly lower than the 2008 peak of $39 billion.

 The price of oil is far below what many Gulf countries need in order to balance their budgets. (TRTWorld)   “Political factors and lower oil prices were largely responsible for lower than usual FDI flows to Saudi Arabia,” the report said.  In 2019, the MBS government announced the largest budget in Saudi history at $295 billion in a bid to push through reforms and investment programmes. That was largely based on assumptions about the price of oil that no longer hold.
MBS’s ‘Vision 2030’ plan which aimed to modernise the country's economy has also been derided as a “white elephant” and now as the world and Saudi Arabia grapple with the coronavirus, it looks set to be a mirage.

A recent announcement to triple the value-added tax (VAT) from five to 15 percent are initial instalments in what may eventually amount to painful austerity measures for the country.
Initially introduced two years ago in a bid to reduce reliance on oil revenues, the VAT may now also hurt consumer spending. The country's tourism and religious pilgrimage industry will also likely suffer this year. Hajj and Umrah, religious rituals undertaken by Muslims bring in more than $12 billion to the kingdom every year contributing 20 percent to the non-oil GDP of the country, and around 7 percent of the total GDP.

An International Monetary Fund (IMF) report in 2019 painted a stark picture of the financial deterioration facing the Kingdom. It said that the net financial assets of the Kingdom had declined to just 0.1 percent of gross domestic product from 50 percent over the previous four years through 2018. The Kingdom, it noted, will likely be a net debtor for the foreseeable future, even if oil prices rise to over $80 per barrel.  Over the same four years the net financial assets held by the six Gulf monarchies saw a fall of $500 billion according to a study by the IMF earlier this year.  The Gulf region is still heavily dependent on the price of oil and gas. (TRTWorld) 

United Arab Emirates
Although the UAE is the most diversified economy in the Gulf with the non-oil sector accounting for more than 71 percent of GDP, it is still heavily exposed to fluctuations in the oil market. Dubai is particularly vulnerable and faces a repeat of the 2009 crash which saw the neighbouring Emirate of Abu Dhabi step in to bail it out, a UK based consultancy firm Capital Economics wrote in a report last month.

“Efforts to contain the coronavirus will cause Dubai’s economy to contract sharply,” said the authors of the report adding that “debts have risen to more than 80% of the Emirate’s GDP”. “We think that Abu Dhabi would, ultimately, step in with another bailout. But a risk of a repeat of the events of 2009, when support was slow to arrive, is high. That would make the financial market and economic fallout much worse,” they concluded. Dubai faces a triple threat of a decline in tourism, a continued lockdown aimed at tackling the spread of the virus, low oil prices, an oversupply in the country's real estate market and the risk of foreign residents abandoning the city.

The UAE’s flagship airline, Emirates, has said that the international airline industry is 
unlikely to recover for the next 18 months with the airliner likely to need extended state support. According  to the rating agency Moody’s in the UAE, “the negative growth and fiscal implications are most acute in Dubai, while it faces the greater risk of its government-related entities requiring financial support as a result of the deterioration in economic conditions”.

Qatar
Unlike Japan, which saw the summer Olympics cancelled, Qatar, which is hosting the 2022 World Cup, may still have the chance to conduct the games as normal, depending on how the pandemic evolves. More immediately the country has seen an explosion of coronavirus cases with more than 1,000 reported infections per day for the last five days. Authorities there have attributed the spike in case to greater testing capabilities.

With malls closed and much of life coming to a standstill, the state-owned national airline Qatar Airways has announced significant staff layoff as air travel comes to a standstill. In an early belt-tightening measure, the Qatari government in April postponed more than $8 billion in unawared contracts. The gas and oil-rich country have seen demand in Liquified Natural Gas from its main customers in Asia and Europe drop significantly as both regions grapple with the coronavirus outbreak.  While travel and tourism make up a growing percentage of GDP in Gulf, the current pandemic will also impact those industries. (TRTWorld)

Kuwait
Almost a month in and the Kuwaiti government has shown no sign that it will relax curfew measures that have seen people confined to their homes for more than 16 hours a day.
The government has announced a series of measures to ease the financial burden on the oil-rich country reeling from the collapse in the price of energy. The sectors most impacted include aviation, hospitality and the real estate sector as people stay indoors unable to travel and put on hold spending. However, in part, because the government has been running budget deficits for several years it only has around $45 billion in reserves. Declining reserves and a fall in revenues has placed the country on a negative financial outlook, the rating agency Fitch warned.

Bahrain and Oman[/url] [url=https://www.fitchratings.com/research/sovereigns/oil-coronavirus-impact-on-gcc-sovereigns-12-05-2020]Ratings agencies have warned that the minnows of the Gulf economies, Bahrain and Oman, will need “support from the rest of the GCC” to help them withstand the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Budget deficits for this year are expected to be in the double digits for most of the Gulf countries at between 15-25 percent of GDP. Only Qatar is expected to post an 8 percent of GDP budget deficit. Bahrain and Oman both announced 30 percent of GDP economic stimulus packages, and they will both face a recession in the non-oil economy. Alongside the economic stimulus package, Bahrain has announced 30 percent spending cuts with Oman following suit with a 10 percent cut.

After the 2014 oil price crash, Gulf countries introduced indirect taxes for the first time marking a first time attempt at fiscal consolidation. The current pandemic may well see financially strapped countries slashing generous welfare provisions and maybe even direct taxes, the cost of doing this may go beyond the economic balance sheet and may even have political implications. 


OIL CRISIS, CORONAVIRUS TAKING TOLL ON SAUDI CROWN PRINCE 
https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/05/0...in-Salman-

The coronavirus pandemic coupled with a dramatic fall in oil prices is taking its toll on the leadership of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), a new analysis shows.

The analysis from the US-based think tank The Soufan Center indicates that the implications of the current circumstances are "dire" for stability in Saudi Arabia as a recession appears certain there.

However, the young crown, who emerged as the likely heir to the Saudi throne in 2017 with pledges of economic and social reforms, seems to be suffering most from the crises. Son of the ailing King Salman, Mohammed bin Salman has had a close relationship with US President Donald Trump and benefited from the ties, leveraging his position to replace rivals within the extended royal family.

"He's been able to outmaneuver people in the Kingdom. That's one thing when you're flush with cash," says Colin Clarke, a senior researcher at Soufan and the author of the analysis. The situation has, however, changed recently after figures released by Saudi financial officials last week indicated a $9 billion deficit in the first quarter of the year as it responded to the pandemic, and Moody's downgraded its credit rating to negative.


Saudi Arabia mulling tight measures to curb coronavirus impact on economy

Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan has also said in an interview with Al-Arabiya government spending would need to be "cut deeply," according to Bloomberg. "The kingdom hasn't witnessed a crisis of this severity over the past decades," the finance minister said the 

current status quo means that the government might have to reconsider the generous social welfare programs and significant subsidies for loyal tribal leaders who have sustained the ruling family ever since it was established decades ago.

The tribal communities have been enjoying financial support and government legitimacy provided by the dynasty as part of a longstanding agreement in line with its own tribal identity and as a way to retain control practically over the sprawling and sparsely populated parts of the country.

However, the agreement presently appears to be in danger with the government and the crown prince, as the chief official responsible for its implementation, having less money to contribute.

"The erosion of the social contract between the rulers and the ruled will lead to serious problems, especially in a tribal society," Clarke wrote in his analysis. "That paradigm is now being called into question by the actions of the crown prince. The implications are dire – an unstable Saudi Arabia will have reverberations beyond the country and the region itself."

The global oil crisis is also ravaging the Saudi economy due to its almost exclusive reliance on oil with the country deriving 87 percent of its budget revenues from the petroleum sector which accounts for over 40 percent of its gross domestic product.

According to the International Monetary Fund, oil must sell at $76 a barrel in order for Saudi Arabia to be able to balance its budget this year, but the benchmark Brent crude price remained just under $30 per barrel on Wednesday morning.

Trump warned Saudis to cut oil production or lose US military support: Reuters
US President Donald Trump had warned Saudi Arabia earlier in April that he would end American military support for the kingdom if Riyadh did not cut oil production.


"The economic crisis has not threatened MBS' place in the line of succession. As long as his father is alive, his position is safe," says Gregory Gause, head of the International Affairs Department at Texas A&M University's Bush School of Government and Public Service. "The question will be, when his father dies, will there be a coalition in the family that tries to block his ascension to the kingship?"

Meanwhile, there are other factors affecting the future of the Saudi crown prince. Elder relatives in the family are unhappy with his behavior, Gause says, adding but it is unclear whether that discontent has caused them to plot his ouster.  "And MBS is quite willing to do what he needs to do to prevent that from happening," he says.

The crown’s support of a war on Yemen, which has claimed more than 100,000 lives over the past five years, has drawn international condemnation. Riyadh and its allies have been widely criticized for the high civilian death toll resulted from their bombing campaign in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched the devastating war on Yemen in March 2015 in order to bring the country’s former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power and crush Ansarullah.

Nearly 300 air strikes conducted by Saudi-led coalition in Yemen in seven days: Army
The Yemeni army says the Saudi-led coalition has carried out nearly 300 air strikes across the country over the past week.


Inside the country, a corruption investigation, which targeted members of the royal family in 2017, as well as the crown’s involvement in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi of The Washington Post, has caused his credibility to further diminish on the world stage.

"He's not the sophisticated operator that he portrays himself to be," Clarke says. "He's less like a businessman or politician and more like a gangster."



Meanwhile, as part of the crown prince’s "Vision 2030" signature plan for domestic reform is the construction of the city of Neom on Saudi's northern Red Sea coast. The project valued at $500 billion was designed to be somewhat the most tangible showcase of his ambitions. In order to make way for construction of the city, the Saudi authorities have resorted to forcible eviction of tribes, which have been living in the area for more than 800 years. The move, however, has been harshly criticized.

Last month, Saudi activist Abdul Rahim Ahmad Mahmoud al-Hwaiti, a local resident, refused to vacate his home, but Saudi security forces reportedly killed him and falsely portrayed him as a terrorist.


Saudi regime forces kill tribal activist after resisting deportation over NEOM megacity project
Saudi regime forces reportedly kill a tribal activist after he resisted demolition of his house for the sake of controversial NEOM megacity project.


"Proving that MBS is both brutal and predictable, extra-judicial killings have once again cast a negative light on the Crown Prince's modus operandi, which equates to murdering anyone who stands in his way," Clarke wrote in his analysis. Bernard Haykel, professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, says, "The Vision 2030 plans have certainly been affected by the crisis, and if oil prices remain low for a long time, many of the Vision projects will have to be postponed or shelved."
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BEWARE OF THE LOOMING CHAOS IN THE MIDDLE EAST 
The region in 2020 is in much worse shape than in 2010.
Marwan Bishara
https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinio...30463.html



If you thought the Middle East has hit rock bottom and may finally emerge intact from a decade of upheaval and conflict, think again. The economic, political and societal realities in the region are going from dire to horrendous, with no end in sight. They could spiral out of control towards a more violent and chaotic future with unforeseen international ramifications. The killings may have relatively subsided in some places, for now, but the wounds of war are not healing and are being exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and its associated economic hardship. The greater Middle East is hurting far more than meets the eye.

In 2010, the region was also heading into the abyss, but with little fanfare. Today, the writing is on the wall. If similar but milder situations have led to a violent and destructive decade, today's apocalyptic dangers could lead to a much worse outcome.


Predicting a hot winter
"This is going to be a hot winter," I wrote in an internal Al Jazeera memo in November 2010, forecasting the political temperature of the coming season. "The Middle East's falling temperatures will do little to cool off what appears to be a hot winter season. As a number of fragile or deadlocked states heighten tensions toward a major crisis, conflict, and possibly terrible violence, it's paramount that we at Al Jazeera reflect and prepare for various scenarios including the worst - war."


The list of countries was long, and they shared similar characteristics: deepening division, frustrated populations, compromised sovereignties, instability, and the threat of inter- and intra-national conflict and violence. The region may have suffered terribly over the previous century, but at no time in recent memory had the Middle East looked so gloomy as in the first decade of the 21st century - its ruling elites so cynical, tensions so high, and impoverishment so widespread.


Within months, popular protests broke almost everywhere, leading to a short "Arab Spring", which was soon followed by turbulent seasons that brought the region to its knees. Today, like back then, anger and despair linger on every street corner. At the turn of this decade, just as at the turn of the previous one, the region is facing a global economic crisis. And once again, Middle Eastern nations are suffering not only from the incompetence, repression, and corruption of their regimes but also from foolish and reckless US foreign policy which backs autocrats and provokes instability.


But now, unlike back then, the region hurts from not one but two decades of conflict: civil wars, proxy wars, and imperial wars that have left Syria, Libya, Yemen and Iraq in tatters. Indeed, the melancholy of 2010 hardly measures up to the depression and simmering anger of 2020. If the tension in the air was palpable then, you could now cut through it with a knife. The melange of political corruption, geopolitical paralysis, and economic depression have paved the way for unprecedented brutality and violence.


From bad to worse
If in 2010 the Israeli-Palestinian "peace process" was deadlocked, today it is dead, period. The military occupation has deepened, and tensions have risen amid looming Israeli annexation of a third of the occupied Palestinian territories. The Iranian regime was and remains bombastic, but the tension with its neighbours has only intensified following its military interference in the civil wars of Syria and Yemen - wars that have destroyed much of the two countries, leading to the death and displacement of millions.


And for the past four years, the Trump administration has fuelled tensions in both the Gulf and Near East as it has supported the Israeli expansionist policies and walked away from the Iran nuclear deal while imposing harsh sanctions on the country and its trading partners, which have bankrupted and infuriated its regime. The violent tit for tat between the two sides could escalate to open conflict, especially if Trump is re-elected in November. One could only imagine the death and destruction another imperial war against a regional power may produce. The same goes for the destructive Russian intervention and counterproductive European interference in regional affairs. North Africa and the Sahel region continue to suffer from insurrection, drought, and regional disputes, with the civil war in Libya spiralling out of control amid increased foreign military intervention.
   Even those smaller nations once bizarrely referred to as "islands of decency", like Tunisia, Lebanon, and Jordan, are facing instability and simmering tensions. Another, the United Arab Emirates, has turned into a "police state" and rather indecent destabiliser, playing a pernicious reactionary role from Libya to Yemen.

Tunisia, which has been considered the only "Arab Spring" success story, is mired in political volatility and economic hardship, while Lebanon and Jordan have struggled with social upheaval and empty coffers.
Dwindling oil prices are hitting and hurting all countries of the region - the energy-producing countries, from Algeria to Iraq through Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf states, as well as the poorer countries in the region that depend on remittances. The result is higher unemployment, poorer public services and assured instability.


One of those dependent nations is Egypt. For decades, the most populated Arab nation has been governed by an incompetent authoritarian regime. But today it is ruled by a brutal and inept dictatorship that has imprisoned tens of thousands of political opponents and ordinary people. Since Abdel Fattah el-Sisi took over power through a military coup d'etat in 2013, promising Egyptian revival, his inept and corrupt regime has only produced paralysis and depression. The hope in some western capitals that General el-Sisi would take after Chile's military dictator Augusto Pinochet and - apart from brutal rule - would also achieve some stability and economic growth turned out to be no more than wishful thinking.  Now that his Gulf backers are not able or willing to provide him with additional billions of dollars, humanitarian, economic and political crises will likely ensue.

Doubling down The same regimes that unleashed a reign of counter-revolution characterised mainly by violence, terror and repression are today doubling down on their brutal rule.Morally, financially and politically bankrupt, their power is completely and utterly dependent on brute force and foreign support. Nowhere is that as obvious as in the Iranian-Russian support for the bloody Bashar al-Assad's regime, Saudi-Emirati support for the el-Sisi regime, US support for the extremist Israeli regime, and Emirati-Egyptian support for the warlord Khalifa Hafter in Libya and Emirati support for the separatist stooges in Yemen.


The situation has been so dire for so long throughout the region, nothing short of divine intervention would be needed to undo the damage of the past decades. Not even a miraculous fall of repressive dictatorships and the retreat of their international backers would be sufficient to resurrect Arab countries in the years, nay decades, to come. It is only the people of the region who are able to pull away from the brink. In the past two decades, they have shown they are capable of the most peaceful, most enlightened revolt but also of the darkest, most violent insurrection. How they choose to go about changing their unbearable reality will go a long way in shaping their future.


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WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON IN SAUDI ARABIA IN THE NAME  OF VISION 2030? WHY IS MBS PUSHING HARD ON THE ACCELERATOR OF CHANGE TO BECOME "THE NEW EUROPE"?  THE DECISION TO BAN THE TABLIGHI JAMAAT A NON POLITICAL ISLAMIC POPULIST FAITH MOVEMENT HAS TAKEN  EVERYONE BY SURPRISE. THIS SHOULD BE ADDED TO THE EXISTING BANS ON POLITICAL ISLAMIST MOVEMENTS LIKE THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD UNDER THE TERROR NARRATIVE. THIS REVEALS THAT THE SAUDI MONARCHY AND REGIME CAN NOT TOLERATE THE  DIVERSITY OF ISLAMIC POLITICAL AND THEOLOGICAL EXPRESSIONS. THE IRONY IS THAT THESE MOVEMENTS WITHIN LIMITS CAN FLOURISH CURRENTLY IN WESTERN AND SOME ISLAMIC DEMOCRACIES.    

THIS WILL BE PROBED FURTHER SOON AS THIS LAND INCORPORATES THE REGION OF HIJAZ WHICH CONTAINS MAKKAH AND MADINAH. AS NO QUESTION IS OUT OF BOUNDS HERE. WE NEED TO REHEARSE THE FACT THAT WHEN THE KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA WAS ESTABLISHED FROM THE DEMISE OF THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE THE STATUS OF THE HIJAZ WAS UNSETTLED. THERE WAS A SCHOOL OF ISLAMIC THOUGHT WHICH WANTED THE INTERNATIONALISATION OF THE HIJAZ KINGDOM. LET IT BE CLEAR THAT THIS WAS NOT SETTLED BY THE CONSENSUS (IJMA)- OF THE UMMAH.

IN 2021 THIS QUESTION IS RAISING IT'S HEAD AGAIN BECAUSE OF THE POLICIES BEING PURSUED BY THE KINGDOM.  IS THIS KINGDOM A HOUSE BUILT ON SAND OR A DESERT KINGDOM?




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WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON IN SAUDI ARABIA IN THE NAME OF VISION 2030? WHY IS MBS PUSHING HARD ON THE ACCELERATOR OF CHANGE TO BECOME "THE NEW EUROPE"?  THE DECISION TO BAN THE TABLIGHI JAMAAT A NON POLITICAL ISLAMIC POPULIST FAITH MOVEMENT HAS TAKEN  EVERYONE BY SURPRISE. THIS SHOULD BE ADDED TO THE EXISTING BANS ON POLITICAL ISLAMIST MOVEMENTS LIKE THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD UNDER THE TERROR NARRATIVE.


THIS REVEALS THAT THE SAUDI MONARCHY AND REGIME CAN NOT TOLERATE THE  DIVERSITY OF ISLAMIC POLITICAL AND THEOLOGICAL EXPRESSIONS. THE IRONY IS THAT THESE MOVEMENTS WITHIN LIMITS CAN FLOURISH CURRENTLY IN WESTERN AND SOME ISLAMIC DEMOCRACIES.

THIS WILL BE PROBED FURTHER SOON AS THIS LAND INCORPORATES THE REGION OF HIJAZ WHICH CONTAINS MAKKAH AND MADINAH. AS NO QUESTION IS OUT OF BOUNDS HERE.

WE NEED TO REHEARSE THE FACT THAT WHEN THE KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA WAS ESTABLISHED FROM THE DEMISE OF THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE THE STATUS OF THE HIJAZ WAS UNSETTLED. THERE WAS A SCHOOL OF ISLAMIC POLITICAL THOUGHT WANTING INTERNATIONALISATION OF THE HIJAZ KINGDOM. LET IT BE CLEAR THAT THIS WAS NOT SETTLED BY THE CONSENSUS (IJMA)- OF THE UMMAH.

IN 2021 THIS QUESTION IS RAISING IT'S HEAD AGAIN BECAUSE OF THE POLICIES BEING PURSUED BY THE KINGDOM.  IS THIS KINGDOM A HOUSE BUILT ON SAND
OR A DESERT KINGDOM?




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GEO STRATEGIC IMPLICATIONS OF KAZAKHSTAN's UNREST
https://crescent.icit-digital.org/articl...n-s-unrest

The latest mass unrest in Kazakhstan will have significant long-term internal and external socio-political ramifications on Central Asia and Russia.Before analyzing the impact of these developments, a realistic assessment of ground realities is necessary.This is crucial as outsiders often view political crises through an external prism while those on the ground view them through an internal lens.Without understanding key internal and external dynamics, an accurate assessment of events becomes difficult.

Let us begin with purely local aspects of the situation.The ruling elites in all Central Asian countries, except the current government in Kyrgyzstan, were at some point in their former careers allowed to occupy key positions by the direct vetting process overseen by the Soviet Union KGB.The KGB-installed system retained monopoly on political and economic power in all Central Asian countries for decades even after the collapse of the Soviet Union.



Due to Kazakhstan’s small population and vast natural resources, the Nazarbayev family was able to share a portion of the looted wealth with its citizens.Despite its autocratic system, the Kazakh regime remained stable compared to others in the region because its population was not as destitute as that of its neighbors.Nevertheless, it seems the latest events manifest the fact that a population ruled with iron-fist by an illegitimate regime, will at some point show its true feelings.


If unrest on this scale has occurred in Kazakhstan—the wealthiest among all Central Asian autocracies and long regarded as the most stable—it can and most likely will happen in most other post-Soviet states as well.The fact that protests in Kazakhstan which began for purely social and economic reasons quickly escalated into a full blown anti-regime movement is a sign that all Central Asian autocracies are “stable” only at a superficial level.



The most shocking aspect of disturbances in Kazakhstan is the fact that the regime’s security apparatus collapsed in a matter of days. This forced the regime to appeal for direct Russian military intervention.While this move will probably save it from immediate collapse, it will delegitimize the “reform” gimmicks by whoever takes over from among the ruling elite.Asking for Russia’s military intervention after several days of protests, no matter how bad, has demolished the invincibility façade of all Central Asian despots.

Without external help to suppress popular uprisings, no regional autocracy can reign with impunity as they did before. Moscow’s meddling due to the long history of Russian colonialism combined with Western political backing and propaganda, will force the societies of the former Soviet Union to adopt an anti-Russian sentiment.


While all autocratic regimes in the post-Soviet space depended on Russia’s backing for survival, it does not mean that NATO regimes were focused on undermining them. They did  business with them just fine, as they do with the Saudi regime. Tony Blair and others consulted Central Asian dictators on how to remain in power. Not only to have them park their looted millions in Western banks and real estate, but also for geopolitical reasons.

This brings us to key external factors which will flow out of the ongoing unrest in Central Asia. In February 2020, Crescent International stated that Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) bringing natural gas from the Caspian Sea to Western Europe bypassing Russia will intensify geopolitical frictions in Central Asia.


Since then, there were a few very untypical events in Central Asian countries.The latest unrest in Kazakhstan will undoubtedly create political space for NATO regimes to destabilize Russia’s borders.This geopolitical strategy has been repeatedly pointed out by Crescent International in its numerous analyses of the region.


While no anti-Russian regime is likely to be formed in Kazakhstan, if Moscow positions itself in very clear terms against the mass protest movement, it will become easier for NATO regimes to ferment anti-Russian sentiment. The protest movement in Kazakhstan is unlikely to organize itself into a coherent political alternative to the current regime, the tectonic plates of politics and geopolitics in Central Asia have shifted dramatically.
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PAKISTAN’s UNENDING POLITICAL CRISIS
Zafar Bangash
https://crescent.icit-digital.org/articl...cal-crisis


Since its emergence on the world map on August 14, 1947, Pakistan has seldom witnessed calm for any extended period, staggering from one crisis to the next like a corner drunk. Its wounds are largely self-inflicted opening opportunities for predatory powers to interfere in its internal affairs.

The latest crisis that erupted in March is a case in point. Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf (PTI) had made significant progress in stabilizing the economy when a crisis was engineered ousting him from power. Quite aside from the argument about whether it was US-engineered—opinion on both sides is deeply entrenched—since Imran Khan’s ouster, the economy has been battered. Foreign exchange reserves have dwindled, the rupee has nose-dived vis-à-vis the US dollar and inflation has skyrocketed making life miserable for the already poverty-stricken people. Today, 90 million people languish in poverty. Three months ago, it was 60 million.
Who is responsible for this state of affairs and why was it necessary to undermine Imran Khan’s government and to what purpose? These are questions that need clear answers. Unfortunately, these will not be forthcoming because those who engineered the crisis were acting at the behest of their foreign masters and will hardly confess to wrong-doing.

Perhaps it might be more useful to examine the root causes of Pakistan’s recurring dilemma. For this, we must examine the circumstances in which the struggle for Pakistan was waged. The provinces that currently constitute Pakistan—Punjab, KPK, Sindh and Baluchistan—were largely absent from the struggle for independence. They already had Muslim majorities and had no need for change.

The struggle for independence was waged by people who lived in predominantly Hindu-majority areas of British-ruled India. They bore the brunt of Hindu fascism and struggled to secure their rights once the British raj ended. The former East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) was disposed off in 1971 because the West Pakistani elite were not willing to share power with the Bengalis. For their selfish ambitions to retain power and privilege, they were prepared to destroy Pakistan. And they did. This story needs to be recounted.

The idea of Pakistan as a separate homeland for the Muslims of India was conceived by Dr Muhammad Iqbal in his presidential address of December 21, 1930 to the All-India Muslim League convention in Allahabad. Iqbal did not refer to it as ‘Pakistan’ but he clearly envisioned an independent state for the Muslims.

It also needs recalling that the All-India Muslim League was established in Dhaka in 1906. The people of what came to be called East Pakistan were in the forefront of the struggle for Muslim rights yet regrettably, once Pakistan came into being, they were sidelined and treated largely as second-class citizens.

Pakistan started on the wrong foot right at independence. The opportunity to make a clean break with British raj was missed when Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who led the Pakistan movement for independence, opted to become governor general of the new state. Field Marshal Claude Auchinleck was accepted as the supreme commander of the armed forces of both India and Pakistan. On his first day as governor general, Jinnah rode to office in Karachi in a horse-drawn carriage in the style of the British viceroy.

Compared to those that followed, Jinnah was honest and hard-working even if steeped in British habits and manners. Within a few years of his passing, political intrigue gripped the new state. His successor, Liaquat Ali Khan was assassinated in October 1951 two weeks before he was to visit Moscow and the intriguers and crooks came into the open.

Shortly thereafter, Pakistan joined CENTO and SEATO military pacts, placing it squarely
under the United States umbrella against the Soviet Union. An air force base at Budhaber near Peshawar was given to the US from where U-2 planes would take off to spy on the Soviet Union. It earned the Soviets’ enmity resulting in disastrous consequences for Pakistan.

Three names stand out in this sordid tale of intrigue and making Pakistan subservient to the US: Iskandar Mirza (a military-bureaucrat), Ayub Khan (a military man) and Ghulam Muhammad (a bureaucrat). Of the three, Ghulam Muhammad was the most devious and morally bankrupt. He died of venereal disease (gonorrhea) in 1956 although penicillin had been discovered a year earlier. It did not arrive in time to save him.

In the two-year period between 1954-1956, six governments were dismissed. The main characters behind this drama were Iskandar Mirza and Ayub Khan who had by now become the commander-in-chief of the Pakistan army and defence minister. His British commanding officer had written in his file that Ayub Khan should not be promoted above the rank of lieutenant colonel because he was incompetent. How did this incompetent military officer not only become the commander-in-chief of the Pakistan army but also grabbed power in October 1958 and elevated himself to the rank of field marshal? This is where his skills for political intrigue came into play.

In his book, Friends not Masters (believed to be written for him by Altaf Gauhar), Ayub Khan proudly admitted that Muslim officers in the British Indian army, as true professionals, remained ‘neutral’ as the pogrom of partition got underway. Their ‘professionalism’ and ‘neutrality’ cost the lives of more than a million innocent Muslims at the hands of Hindus and Sikhs. Does the word ‘neutrality’ ring a bell?

In its early days, the Pakistan army was staffed by British officers. The commander-in-chief was General Frank Messervy while Douglas Gracey served as deputy commander-in-chief. When Pakistani tribes from the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) entered Kashmir in October 1947 to help their Kashmiri brethren against the Dogra forces and the invading Indian army, General Messervy was away in London. General Gracey was acting as Pakistan army chief. He refused Jinnah’s order to send Pakistani troops into Kashmir, instead waiting from Auchinleck’s orders.
Auchinleck had already issued Standdown instructions that in the event of military conflict between India and Pakistan, no British officer would participate in the conflict. From the get-go, the army displayed insubordination to civilian authority, including Jinnah who was governor general.

With time, such insubordination has not only been entrenched but the military (army) has intruded into other domains—politics, foreign policy and the economy—and usurped more power and authority. It has become the arbiter of who should rule and who must be sent packing home.

Successive bouts of martial law—Ayub Khan (1958-1969), Yahya Khan (1969-1972), Zia ul-Haq (1977-1988) and Pervez Musharraf (1999–2008) have stymied the development of civilian institutions. When not directly at the helm of affairs, the men in khaki have dictated policy from behind the scenes. The martial law regimes threw up such men as Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (Ayub and Yahya eras), led to the break-up of Pakistan (Yahya era), Sharif family and MQM monstrosities (Zia era) and PML-Q (Musharraf era).

When Imran Khan tried to chalk out an independent foreign policy by reclaiming some political space, a motley collection of criminals, murderers and money-launderers was cobbled together and placed in power by the army. Its claims to ‘neutrality’ find few takers.

Imran Khan’s ouster has brought the country to the brink of economic ruin and civil war. Will anyone be held accountable for such crimes? There is little hope because accountability is unknown in Pakistani politics, especially when it involves the men in khaki.


DISASTROUS CONSEQUENCES OF MILITARY RULE IN PAKISTAN
https://crescent.icit-digital.org/articles/disastrous-consequences-of-military-rule-in-pakistan

Among Muslim countries, four stand out for their militaries’ involvement in politics. These are not in any particular order: Indonesia, Pakistan, Turkey and Egypt. A quick glance would show that in all four countries, the militaries are large. With the exception of Turkey, the others have not been able to wean their militaries from interfering in politics. Even in Turkey the situation is not so clear-cut. But since the July 2016 attempted coup that was frustrated because the masses came out to confront the tanks in the streets, the military’s wings have been clipped somewhat.


Militaries in at least two Muslim countries—Pakistan and Egypt—have followed a similar trajectory and caused irreparable damage to the social fabric of their respective societies.

In both, the militaries exercise enormous influence and have spread their tentacles into most spheres of activity in society. As organized groups, they exercise disproportionate influence in politics, foreign and defence affairs as well as economic policies. In both locales, they have become multinational corporations and generals have become real estate tycoons and industrial barons.



With such obsession for real estate, their military performance has declined. Egypt has faced successive defeats against Israel and threw in the towel in 1978 eschewing any thought of liberating its own territory occupied by the zionists, much less liberating Palestine. In fact, the Egyptian army acts as a subcontractor for the zionist occupiers in oppressing the Palestinian people.



Despite a carefully-crafted image, the Pakistan army’s performance has also not been very impressive. While it played no role in the creation of Pakistan, it came to assume enormous influence in the new state. Let us begin with the state of Jammu and Kashmir. One-third of the state that was liberated from India’s clutches was the direct result of tribesmen from the North West Frontier Province (now renamed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) rushing to help the Kashmiris in 1947-1948.



Pakistan fought two wars with India (1965 and 1971) without liberating an inch of Kashmir. There was also the Kargil operation of 1998 which ended in disaster because it was not well thought-out.



Let us begin with the 1965 war. Officially described as the September 1965 War, this characterization is not entirely accurate. Pakistani forces had already launched military operations in Kashmir in August. Dubbed ‘Operation Grand Slam’, the plan was to send Pakistani commandos into Kashmir. They would instigate an uprising against India’s occupation forces that the people of Kashmir would support, it was assumed.



Colonel Ghaffar Mehdi, commandant of SSG (Pakistani commandos) opposed this plan describing it as ill-conceived and faulty. He visited the GHQ and tried to impress upon the chief of General Staff, General Sher Bahadur that it would not succeed because no groundwork for such an operation has been done. Instead of listening to Colonel Mehdi’s advice, he was relieved of his responsibilities as commandant SSG and transferred to Sialkot (For details, see Colonel Mehdi’s Book: Politics of Surrender and the Conspiracy of Silence).



How did such a plan come about? Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the evil man of Pakistani politics and ruthlessly ambitious, convinced President ‘Field Marshal’ Ayub Khan that India would not attack along the international border even if Pakistan launched operations in Kashmir. Ayub bought into this diabolical folly and launched ‘Operation Grand Slam’.



Eight to ten commando units headed by majors and captains were launched into Kashmir to carry out sabotage and instigate an uprising. Concurrently, a ground assault was launched in Chhamb-Jurian sector inside Indian occupied Jammu in early August 1965. While the ground operations by the Pakistan army commanded by Major General Akhtar Hussain Malik (GOC 12 Division), made good progress, the commando operations were a complete disaster, as predicted by Colonel Mehdi.



In his book about the Indo-Pak War of 1965, Illusion of Victory, General Mahmud Ahmad (retired as DG-ISI) has described in detail what went wrong with the commando operations. Far from the Kashmiris staging an uprising, in many instances they reported the movement of Pakistani commandos to Indian occupation forces. Almost all of them were captured, some died fighting Indian troops and the whole operation ended in failure.



With his forces making rapid progress in Chhamb-Jurian, General Akhtar Hussain Malik was asked by Ayub Khan whether he could take Akhnur, the most important Indian military post in Kashmir at the time. The only road to Srinagar, capital of Indian-occupied Kashmir, passed through Akhnur. Even while battling three Indian divisions with one of his own and making good progress, General Malik asked for two additional brigades to complete the mission.



Instead of providing him the additional forces, Ayub replaced him with General Yahya Khan. The latter made no progress in Kashmir and the war ended in a stalemate. The Americans imposed a ceasefire that was to the detriment of Pakistan. The US had also imposed an arms embargo on both. It did not affect India at all because their weapons were Russian-supplied. The embargo had a major impact on Pakistan’s fighting ability. Despite the arms embargo, Pakistan still had the ability to inflict major damage on India after blunting its attacks but under US pressure, Ayub Khan accepted the ceasefire.



Bhutto’s role in the war also needs proper assessment. He knew that the war would cause enormous damage to Pakistan’s economy. His deliberately false opinion that India would not attack along the international border also put Pakistan at great risk. That Pakistani soldiers and young officers (lieutenants to majors) fought with great valour is a tribute to their courage. The same cannot be said about the senior officers, barring a few exceptions.



With the economy badly damaged, Ayub suffered a stroke in 1968 incapacitating him. By now, General Yahya had been appointed commander-in-chief of the army. Bhutto saw in Ayub’s illness an opportunity to launch a campaign of agitation against his former benefactor (Bhutto used to call Ayub Khan ‘daddy’!) He demanded Ayub’s resignation. When Ayub asked Yahya to impose martial law, the latter demanded that Ayub hand over power to him as president. This is what Ayub had done to Iskandar Mirza in 1958. History had caught up with Ayub.



General Yahya only compounded Pakistan’s problems. Bhutto’s devilish mind went to work
and easily manipulated Yahya into a series of disastrous decisions. Elections for the new civilian government were held in late 1970. The East Pakistan-based Awami League headed by Shaikh Mujibur Rahman won an absolute majority in the new parliament (153 seats). There was, however, a lacuna. Awami League’s seats were exclusively from East Pakistan. In West Pakistan, the vote was split but Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party came out on top with 82 seats.

This is where his criminal mind went to work. He was absolutely determined to frustrate Mujibur Rahman from becoming the prime minister. When Yahya Khan called the National Assembly session in February 1971 in Dhaka, Bhutto threatened to “break the legs of anyone” who dared to attend from West Pakistan. He also started to work on Pakistani generals telling them that Mujib was a ‘traitor’ and if he came to power, he would break-up Pakistan.



The already-prejudiced minds of Pakistani generals and some bureaucrats easily fell into the trap. Far from convening the assembly session in Dhaka, Yahya unleashed the army against the people of East Pakistan to “teach them a lesson”. True to his evil nature, Bhutto declared: “Thank God, Pakistan has been saved”.



How many people were killed in East Pakistan is anybody’s guess but even one civilian killed was one too many. There was absolutely no need for a military operation. It sealed Pakistan’s fate and provided an opportunity to arch-enemy India to meddle in East Pakistan. A massive propaganda campaign was also launched against Pakistan.



As India amassed forces along the borders with East Pakistan, instead of seeking a political solution with Shaikh Mujib who had been arrested in March 1971 and flown to West Pakistan to face ‘treason charges’, Yahya blundered into launching a war against India. The loss of East Pakistan was a foregone conclusion. Yahya and the coterie of generals around him were not only incompetent, they also indulged in debauchery and orgies while the soldiers and young officers died in defence of their country.



Bhutto was not done with his evil plans. At the United Nations Security Council, Poland presented a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire, the withdrawal of Pakistani forces from East Pakistan and release of Shaikh Mujibur Rahman. As Pakistan’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister, Bhutto contemptuously tore up the resolution and throwing it in the air, walked out of the council chamber. Pakistan’s fate was sealed. A few days later, all Pakistani forces and civilians surrendered to the invading Indian army.



This is exactly what Bhutto wanted. He was close to succeeding in his evil design to become the prime minister of what was left of Pakistan. He could not have done so without getting Shaikh Mujib out of the way and humiliating the army through a widely-televised surrender to arch-enemy India.



When he took over power in January 1972, he went about destroying Pakistan’s industries and agriculture. While claiming to be a western-educated liberal democrat, in reality he had a feudal mindset. He brooked no criticism or opposition, going so far as to order the murder of political opponents. The late British journalist Harold Evans wrote about him: “Beneath his polished exterior lurks a medieval tyrant”.



His tyranny led to his downfall, at the hands of his own appointed army chief, General Zia ul-Haq in July 1977. While General Zia dispatched him to the gallows for the murder of Ahmed Raza Qasuri’s father (the actual target was the son), there are many other crimes, far too numerous to recount, that Bhutto committed. His family continues to plague Pakistani politics to this day.

General Zia (1977-1988), however, imposed his own evil plans on the hapless people of Pakistan. Saved by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan—engineered by the CIA to trap them into their own ‘Vietnam’—General Zia launched his ‘Islamization’ program to hoodwink the people into believing that he was a ‘pious’ Muslim. At the personal level, he may have been but Islam is much more than rituals that most Muslims indulge in. His ‘Islamization’ plan was to steal the clothes of the opposition alliance that had raised the slogan of Nizam-e Mustafa to oust Bhutto from power.



Zia spawned two other evil forces, the Sharif family and MQM. The first was propped up to undermine People’s Party support in Punjab and the second to reduce its appeal in Sindh. While he succeeding in both objectives, Zia bequeathed two monstrosities that have caused havoc with the lives of people ever since.



Following Zia’s death in a fiery plane crash, the people had hoped that military rule would be over for good. Not so fast. After a short interregnum, the military was back with a vengeance in the form of General Pervez Musharraf (1999–2008), declaring himself ‘chief executive’. We need not detain ourselves with the details of the intrigue that led to his coup but his complete surrender to the US to wage war on Afghanistan following the 911 attacks devastated Pakistan. Human and material losses of Pakistan have been enormous.



While today Pakistan is not under direct military rule, it does not mean that the army has stopped interfering in politics. The latest blow it delivered to the body politic and economy of Pakistan was to impose a bunch of criminals, murderers, thieves and money-launderers on the people. What precisely did the army top brass want to achieve by this move which has led to the destruction of Pakistan’s economy? Was it because Imran Khan as prime minister was showing too much independence and refusing to obey the army’s orders?



History will render a very harsh verdict against the army, especially General Qamar Javed Bajwa, if Pakistan survives this latest blow. The only force standing in the way is the masses, awakened by Imran Khan to stand up for their rights.



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A PERPETUAL WAR FOR AN IMPOSSIBLE PEACE

The ghosts of America’s war in Iraq are still haunting a nation deformed by violence.
  • Marwan Bishara
  • https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2022/...ible-peace

    Supporters of Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr help injured protesters during clashes with anti-riot forces near the office of the prime minister in Baghdad on August 29, 2022 [Ahmed Jalil/EPA]

  • The scenes of violence and chaos at the heart of Iraq’s capital Baghdad earlier this week were terribly disturbing but hardly surprising. Tensions have been building throughout this bruised nation over the past year; a formidable nation that has been deformed by war and violence over the past two decades and more, with no end in sight.


  • The immediate crisis began after the October legislative elections. Some of the Iran-backed parties blamed their losses on a “fraudulent election” engineered by “America and its clients”. They tried to paralyse the government and parliament until their demands were met, but when the prime minister ordered security forces to break their siege of the Green Zone that hosts the government buildings, he was targeted by a drone attack in a failed assassination attempt. It backfired.

    The decision of the country’s Supreme Court to certify the elections allowed their rival, the populist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose party won the most seats, to build a broad coalition along with predominantly Sunni and Kurdish parties in order to form a majority government. However, the constitution stipulates that the parliament must first elect the president, which requires two-thirds of members to be present, allowing the Iran-backed Coordination Framework to block government formation simply by absenting itself from parliamentary sessions.


  • After a months-long impasse, the impulsive and angry al-Sadr ordered all of his 73 members to quit in protest and called for the dissolution of parliament and the holding of new elections. However, when the Iran-backed Shia coalition led by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki tried to name a new prime minister last month, al-Sadr’s supporters stormed parliament, leading to more violent confrontations. The security forces intervened and al-Sadr doubled down on his earlier announcement of quitting politics, putting the country on the path to the unknown.


  • It may well get worse. In a leaked audio recording that sparked outrage in Iraq, al-Maliki, the leader of the Iran-backed Coordination Framework, warned that the country will descend into “devastating war” if the political project of Muqtada al-Sadr and his potential Kurdish and Sunni coalition partners is not defeated. Al-Maliki is supported by various militias that have reportedly been involved in acts of violence and political assassinations.
    Those Iran-backed militias, known as Hashd al-Shaabi – “The Popular Mobilisation Forces” – were armed and financed by both Iraq and Iran to fight the so-called Islamic State (ISIL/ISIS). ISIL was destroyed after three years of fighting, but the war has left its ugly marks on Iraq, further bruising its society and devastating its attempts at recovery.

    ISIL itself had come out of a decade of war and sectarian violence following the US invasion and occupation in 2003, which left the country in utter shambles. The American failure has also enhanced the influence of Iran, its nemesis in Iraq. As the US rushed to exit the country after more than a decade of blunder, Iran doubled down, expanding its influence at the expense of Iraq’s stability and prosperity.


  • The last two decades of imperial, sectarian and civil wars were preceded by two other decades of regional war and violence. It started with the horrific Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the US-led war to liberate it, followed by crippling sanctions throughout the 1990s. This has systematically drained the country’s manpower and resources, ruined its economy, torn apart its society and sapped the spirit of its people.


  • It is tiring to merely list these long episodes of war and violence, so you can imagine how incredibly exhausting and dispiriting it must have been for generations of Iraqis to live and die through it.


  • It is as if Iraq and the rest of this ill-fated region are doomed to live in perpetual violence after a century of Western colonial, imperial and proxy wars. The region has not enjoyed a single year, a single day without conflict and violence ever since. It is certainly easier to start a war than to end it, as the saying goes, but a conflict does not actually end when the fighting stops and smug leaders reach new accommodation. The tragedy and the mindset of war live on in the broken and impoverished society left behind.

    Fear and violence continue to occupy and harden peoples’ hearts and minds, bruising their spirits, deforming their values and skewing their loyalties. In Iraq and much of the Middle East, this has meant people – especially the young – finding shelter in their clan, tribe, sect or faith; joining the local militia, gang or shady racket; basically, doing anything to overcome that dreadful feeling of constant fear and insecurity.


  • Soon enough, new and more violent faultlines are drawn, as societies flounder, and armed militias form political parties, paving the way to more vengeful conflict and violence. It is a perpetual war for an impossible peace, let alone a peace of mind.


  • These are the true “birth pangs of a new Middle East“, which US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice celebrated in 2006. That was after the US global War on Terror and its invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq began to spill over to other parts of the Middle East, starting with Israel’s aggression first against Palestine and later against Lebanon. Gory and gruesome.


  • Indeed, Iraq and much of the region – including Syria, Yemen, Libya, Lebanon, Palestine, Afghanistan, Iran and Sudan – continue to suffer from a variety of wars driven and shaped mostly by violent Western cynicism and rogue Middle Eastern authoritarianism.


  • It is heart-wrenching to see Iraqis turn against each other again and again, as if politics is war by other means. It is not. If anything, politics is and must be the antidote for war and violence in the region and beyond.



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