The Unpublished Pieces behind Hariri’s Abduction Story in Saudi  Arabia  وقائع غير منشورة من قصة اختطاف سعد الحريري في السعودية

The Unpublished Pieces behind Hariri’s Abduction Story in Saudi Arabia

November 9, 2018

Al-Manar Website Editor

One year has already passed since President Saad Hariri was kidnapped and held hostage against his will in Saudi Arabia. Mohammed bin Salman’s move that caused turbulence in the lebanese community  was described as “utter foolishness”. The crown prince lured his Lebanese ally and forced him to resign from his post in a speech from the Saudi capital, Riyadh, in a surprise announcement on  November 4, 2017, plunging Lebanon into its latest political problems.

The reactions to this move in Lebanon, Arab world and the West have forced the crown- who is colloquially known as MBS-  to retreat. Until the present day, detailed information is still unfolding concerning how Hariri, from his “home detention” in Riyadh, and his team in Beirut, has faced the coup attempt that aimed at ending his political career.

Citing several sources, Al-Akhbar Lebanese daily published on Tuesday, Novermber 5 (2018), several articles that revealed details about Hariri’s detention.

Few Days Prior to “Resignation”: Bin Salman Lures Saad Hariri

By the end of October 2017, lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri payed a visit to Riyadh where he was welcomed by Saudi crown prince. In that visit, MBS promised Hariri to arrange him a meeting with the Saudi King by the end of the week. Hariri, willing to participate in the World Youth Forum, which was held under the patronage of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on November 4, 2017, in Sharm el-Sheikh, insisted that the meeting with the Saudi king would be on Saturday.

Hariri returned to Beirut, to his usual agenda which normally involves meetings and receptions. Thursday night, on November 2, he received a call from Bin Salman’s Divan. He was told that “His Highness the Crown Prince wants to spend the weekend with you, and you will go hunting together.” Hariri welcomed the invitation with open arms and confirmed that he’ll be there on November 3.

Hariri in Saudi Arabia

Saad Hariri set foot in Saudi Arabia by the early evening of November 3, as he promised. As always, a saudi royal parade has welcomed the prime minister and took him home. However, what was unsual is that Hariri was summoned at 8:30 a.m. to the Saudi royal office, unseemly early, by the kingdom’s standards, in the second day of a visit that was already far from what he had expected. Mr. Hariri dressed that morning in jeans and a T-shirt, thinking he was going camping in the desert with the crown prince. There was no customary royal convoy, so Mr. Hariri took his own car. And instead of meeting the prince, officials said, he was manhandled by Saudi officials.

As Saad Hariri arrived at Bin Salman’s palace, his security team, which was treated rudely and firmly,  wasn’t allowed to escort him to where they were normally allowed into. Few minutes later, Hariri’s driver was asked to go home and bring him a “suit”. Shortly after the driver’s return, Saad Hariri announced live on Al-Arabiya satellite television that he had resigned as Lebanese prime minister.

Hariri was handed a resignation speech to read, which he did at 2:30 p.m. from a room an official said was down the hall from the prince’s office. The text blamed Hezbollah and claimed his life was in danger; it used words that don’t match with his rhetoric. This, it seemed, was the real reason he had been beckoned to the Saudi capital: to resign under pressure and publicly blame Iran, as if he were an employee and not a sovereign leader.

The Aftermath of the Announcement

Few minutes after Saad Hariri announced his resignation, Rudeina Al-Arab, the wife of hariri’s head of security team Abdul Karim Al-Arab, gave  General Security Chief, Major General Abbas Ibrahim a phone call. She burst into tears while saying that her husband was kidnapped. Her conclusion was based on a phone call she made with her husband upon hearing the prime minister’s speech. As she was talking to her husband, she could hear people yelling and shouting at him. Excessive noise was coming out of the phone. Al-Arab soon hang up the call and promised to call few minutes later; yet, he never did.

Rudeina al-Arab’s phone call was an ample proof that what happened in Saudi Arabia on that crazy day was neither normal nor coincidential.

In Baabda, President Michel Aoun chose to follow a wait-and-see approach. He performed a series of security-related phone calls. He asked Departments of General Security, Internal Security and the Lebanese army if they had any information about a secret plot,which was promoted by Saudi media, to assasinate Saad Hariri. All the mentioned security services denied the news and were asked to make public pronouncements to this effect. In person, Aoun called Imad Othman, Director-General of Internal Security Forces, more than once to make sure that he had no information regarding the alleged assassination plot.

The lebanese president insisted that the Internal Security must develop a common position regarding the Saudi allegations, given the department’s strong links to both Saudi Arabia and Saad Hariri. Internal Security Forces immediately denied the Saudi allegations, saying that they had no knowledge of an assassination attempt.

Hariri’s Wife Confirms Abduction

Lara Al Azem, Saad Hariri’s wife, who lives in Riyadh, informed her family in Beirut that “Sheikh Saad” was held hostage at the Ritz-Carlton complex in Saudi Arabia, in an annexed villa of the hotel. She also added that MBS’s men allowed her to visit her husband twice.

Lara’s assertions were obviously the preliminary confirmation that the prime minister was abducted against his will. These assertions weren’t available to the public, but to a limited number including: Head of PM Hariri’s office, Nader Hariri, Interior Minister, Nohad Machnouk and Hariri’s adviser, Hani Hammoud.

Wadi Abu Jamil Coordination Unit

A coordination unit to follow up the crisis has been set up in the prime minister’s house located in Wadi Abu Jamil, in Beirut’s Downtown. The unit encompassed Nader Hariri, who is also the cousin of the PM, Hani Hammoud, Major General Imad Othman and Colonel Khaled Hammoud. To expedite the whole process, the unit also involved Culture Minister Ghattas Khoury, Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk and former MP Bassem Al Sabaa.

The unit operated on two parallel internal and external levels. Internally, the unit was reassured by the position of Aoun, Speaker Nabih Berri and Hezbollah. Lebanon’s President, Michel Aoun, a Hezbollah ally, who refused to accept the resignation unless Mr. Hariri delivered it in person, addressed the crisis as a personal matter. As for Berri, he reaffirmed his stand alongside the lebanese PM “whether hanging on the cross or banging in the nails.”

Meanwhile, Hezbollah believed since the beginning that MBS, the young ambitious heir, was determined to shake up Lebanon’s power structure and set the entire country on edge.

Externally, seeking international and regional asssistance, Machnouk headed, secretly, to Cairo where he met state department and intelligence officials. He did not need to explain to them what was going on for the Egyptian officials were fully aware that Hariri was kidnapped and subjected to “house arrest”.

Seeking International Assistance

Foreign Minister Gebran Basil had a central role to play in mobilizing support from decision-making countries to help release the imprisoned prime minister. As for General Security Chief, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, he activated the intelligence services in different countries. In France, Bernard Emié (former French ambassador to Lebanon) was the director of Foreign Intelligence Service. In Germany, Ibrahim called for an urgent meeting with the director of intelligence, but the latter was outside the country, so he sent him the German ambassador in Beirut. Ibrahim explained the circumstances of the prime minister’s “resignation” and shared with him some information in his possession.

In Beirut, the US Ambassador to Lebanon, Elizabeth Richard, was still confused. At first, her stance was quite negative. In the early hours following Hariri’s resignation, when asked about her opinion regarding what was going on, she said that Hariri “had resigned in public. What are we supposed to do?” However, after a series of communication channels and after providing the State Department and US intelligence with thorough and accurate information, Washington’s attitude changed.

As in many other cases (since Donald Trump came to power), there has been a split between the Deep State and the National Security, on one hand, and the White House on the other. Trump backed Bin Salman’s coup against his cousins in Riyadh. He did not take a decisive position from Hariri’s capture at first. But the “national security state” in Washington stood up for Bin Salman’s willigness to exclude Saad Hariri.

Hariri’s Tour

Both Emirati Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed and Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, viewed Bin Salman’s move with suspicion. When the Saudi Crown Prince decided that detained Hariri would visit a number of Arab countries, in a bid to prove that the Lebanese PM is “free”, Cairo said that it would not host the Lebanese prime minister unless he departs from Cairo to Beirut. That made Bin Salman limit Hariri’s tour to Gulf states.

On November 7, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, who is also the Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and known as MBZ, met with the Lebanese prime minister in Abu Dhabi where they discussed “brotherly relations and the recent developments in Lebanon.”

The visit aimed at humiliating Hariri by forcing him to go to Abu Dhabi, whose governor had decided to boycott Hariri for a while, for political reasons and financial differences between them. However, contrary to what Bin Salman wanted, bin Zayed was friendly with Hariri and reassured him that his ordeal would soon end.

Bold Moves 

Saudi Arabia’s Arab Gulf Affairs Minister, Thamer al-Sabhan’s team contacted all Hariri’s family members, except Nader, and asked them to come to Riyadh to pledge allegiance to Bahaa, Saad Hariri’s brother, as the leader of the family and the Sunni Muslim sect. All of Hariri’s family showed their loyalty and commitment to their leader. Even his younger brother, Fahd, who was not in accord with Saad, rejected the Saudi “supreme order” and expressed discomfort with that bold move. Within 48 hours, Saudi Arabia received the following unanimous message from the entire family: Saad has no alternative. The latter played a key role in thwarting this “conspiracy,” through his secret contacts with his team in Beirut. After visiting Abu Dhabi, Hariri eventually moved from the Ritz to his home, where he remained under house arrest. Within days, several Western ambassadors visited him there. They came away with conflicting impressions of how free he was. There were two Saudi guards in the room, officials said, and when the diplomats asked if the guards could leave, Mr. Hariri said no, they could stay. Intense diplomacy followed by France, the United States, Egypt and other countries, producing a deal that allowed Mr. Hariri to leave Saudi Arabia.

Source: Al-Akhbar Newspaper

 

 وقائع غير منشورة من قصة اختطاف سعد الحريري في السعودية

 حسن عليق

اللواء ابراهيم تلقى الإشارة الأولى إلى كون الحريري معتقلا

بعد دقائق على اعلان الرئيس سعد الحريري استقالته من رئاسة الحكومة، يوم 4 تشرين الثاني 2017، في خطاب متلفز من الرياض، تلقّى المدير العام للامن العام اللواء عباس ابراهيم اتصالاً من ردينة العرب، زوجة عبدالكريم العرب، مسؤول فريق حماية الحريري. كانت تبكي قائلة: خطفوا زوجي. استفسر ابراهيم منها عما تقوله، فأخبرته انها، وفور مشاهدتها خطاب رئيس الحكومة، اتصلت بزوجها الذي كان يرافقه. رد عليها، ولم يكن على علم بما يجري. ثم سمعت صراخاً بقربه، وأشخاصاً يتحدّثون معه بعدائية. قطع العرب الاتصال قائلا لزوجته انه سيحادثها بعد دقائق. حاولت الاتصال به مجدداً، لكنها لم تفلح. الصراخ الذي سمعته جعلها تقتنع بأن الذين يصرخون كانوا يريدون توقيف زوجها او اختطافه.

Image result for ‫نادر الحريري‬‎

اتصال ردينة العرب كان الاشارة الاولى على حقيقة ما جرى في الرياض، في ذلك اليوم المجنون. نادر الحريري، مدير مكتب رئيس الحكومة، كان يضع اللمسات الاخيرة على جدول أعمال الزيارة التي سيقوم بها رئيس الحكومة في اليوم التالي الى شرم الشيخ، للمشاركة في مؤتمر والاجتماع بالرئيس المصري عبدالفتاح السيسي. الرجل الاقرب (في ذلك الحين) الى سعد الحريري، صُدم باعلان الأخير استقالته. بعد وقت ليس ببعيد، اتصل به هاتفيا. كرر رئيس الحكومة على مسامع مدير مكتبه، بنبرة لا تخلو من «الرسمية»، ما قاله في بيان الاستقالة عن إيران وحزب الله. اللغة التي استخدمها لم تكن معتادة بين الرجلين. تيقّن نادر من أن ابن خاله لم يكن في وضع طبيعي، فختم الاتصال بعبارة «الله يحميك».

خمسة أيام قبل «الاستقالة»: ابن سلمان يستدرج الحريري

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قبل نهاية تشرين الأول (2017)، زار الرئيس الحريري الرياض. كان وزير الدولة السعودي لشؤون الخليج، ثامر السبهان، قد ملأ الفضاء الالكتروني تهويلاً على لبنان. التقى الرجلان، قبل أن يستقبل ولي العهد السعودي «دولة الرئيس سعد». كان اللقاء «فائق الإيجابية». وعد إبن سلمان بترتيب موعد للحريري مع الملك السعودي قبل نهاية الأسبوع نفسه (أي قبل الخامس من تشرين الثاني). كان الحريري مرتبطاً بموعد المشاركة في «منتدى شباب العالم»، الذي سيقام برعاية الرئيس المصري عبد الفتاح السيسي يوم 4 تشرين الثاني 2017، في شرم الشيخ. ولأجل ذلك، سعى إلى ان يكون موعده مع الملك سلمان يوم السبت لا يوم الأحد. عاد الحريري إلى بيروت، وإلى جدول اعماله المعتاد. استقبالات واجتماعات… ترأس جلسة لمجلس الوزراء، واجتماعاً للجنة الوزارية المكلفة بحث تطبيق قانون الانتخابات. ليل الخميس، 2 تشرين الثاني، تلقى اتصالاً من ديوان ابن سلمان. قيل له إن «سمو ولي العهد يريد ان يقضي معك نهاية الأسبوع، وستذهبان سوياً إلى (صيد) البر». اتفق مع المتصلين به على أي يكون في الرياض مساء الجمعة 3 تشرين. في ذلك اليوم، استقبل وزيرة الثقافة الفرنسية، على رأس وفد ضم السفير الفرنسي في بيروت. اجتمع بها، واستبقاها الى مائدة الغداء. لم يُكمل «وجبته». بعد نحو 10 دقائق، تركها مع نظيرها اللبناني غطاس خوري، ومدير مكتبه، ومستشاره الإعلامي، وآخرين من فريق عمله، واعتذر بسبب ارتباطه بموعد في الرياض.

(هيثم الموسوي)

وصل إلى الرياض في ساعات المساء الاولى. بخلاف ما قيل سابقاً، كان في استقباله موكب من المراسم الملكية، أوصله إلى منزله. بقي منتظراً، من دون أن يتصل به احد. في السعودية، هذا الانتظار «طبيعي». لكن ما هو غير طبيعي حدث صباح اليوم التالي. على غير المعتاد، استفاق الحريري قرابة السابعة من صباح الرابع من تشرين الثاني، على وصول موكب أمني سعودي، ينبئه بأن ولي العهد ينتظره «في القصر»، للذهاب في «رحلة البر».

ارتدى رئيس الحكومة «ثياب سبور». وصل الموكب إلى قصر ابن سلمان، لكن فريق الامن المرافق للحريري لم يُسمح له بالدخول إلى المكان الذي يصل إليه عادة في زيارات مماثلة. أبقي المرافقون في قاعة تابعة للحرس السعودي. وكان حراس إبن سلمان يتعاملون بشدة مع مرافقي رئيس الحكومة، حتى أن احدهم طلب دخول المرحاض، فقيل له: «يمكنك الانتظار، لست مضطراً لذلك الآن». بعد قليل، طُلِب من سائق الحريري أن يذهب إلى منزله ليأتي بـ«بدلة رسمية». وأشاع السعوديون أن الحريري يحتاج إلى تغيير ثيابه للقاء الملك.

بعد عودة السائق بالبزّة بوقت قصير، ظهر الحريري على قناة «العربية»، قارئاً بيان الاستقالة.

زوجة الحريري تؤكد اختطافه

في قصر بعبدا، قرر الرئيس ميشال عون التريث. وصف الاستقالة بالملتبسة. سريعاً، أجرى سلسلة اتصالات امنية. سأل الجيش والامن العام والامن الداخلي عما اذا كانت في حوزة اي منهم معلومات عن مخطط لاغتيال الحريري، وهو ما كانت وسائل الاعلام السعودية تروج له لتبرير بقاء رئيس الحكومة خارج البلاد. نفى الجميع ذلك. فطلب بيانات رسمية بالنفي. شخصياً، اتصل عون باللواء عماد عثمان، أكثر من مرة قائلا له: عليك تحمّل مسؤولية. اذا كانت لديكم معلومات عن مخطط لاغتيال الحريري، فعليك إعلامي بها. واذا لم تكن لديكم معلومات مماثلة، فعليكم اصدار بيان نفي لأن ما يُخطّط للبلد شديد الخطورة. رد عثمان نافياً وجود اي معلومة عن مخطط لاغتيال رئيس الحكومة، فأصر عون على اصدار بيان. كان رئيس الجمهورية قد حصل على تأكيد من الجيش والامن العام ينفي المزاعم السعودية. لكنه شدد على ضرورة صدور موقف من الامن الداخلي، لما لهذه المؤسسة من صلة بالحريري والسعودية معاً.

زوجة الحريري زارته في «الريتز» وأبلغت أفراداً من العائلة بأنه مختطف

لجأ عماد عثمان الى نادر الحريري قائلا ان رئيس الجمهورية يطلب اصدار بيان ينفي ما ورد في بيان استقالة رئيس الحكومة، وما تشيعه وسائل الاعلام السعودية. سأل نادر عماد عثمان: هل طلبت رأي وزيرك؟ قصد عثمان وزارة الداخلية، برفقة رئيس «شعبة» المعلومات العقيد خالد حمود. لم يكن نهاد المشنوق متردداً. أفتى بوجوب إصدار البيان، ونقّحه قبل إعلانه. كان بيان الأمن الداخلي أول صفعة في سلسلة الردود على الرواية السعودية الكاذبة بشأن الأسباب الأمنية الموجبة لاستقالة الحريري. لحق به بيان للجيش، وتصريح للواء عباس ابراهيم، ينفيان المزاعم السعودية.

مضى اليوم الأول على استقالة الحريري. لم يكن ثمة تأكيد يقينيّ بأن الرجل مخطوف. وردت إلى رئيس الجمهورية العماد ميشال عون، يوم الاحد 5 تشرين الثاني، معلومات «غير رسمية» من العاصمة الإيرانية طهران تقول إن الحريري مختطف. وذكرت تلك المعلومات تفاصيل عن الظروف التي أحاطت بالحريري، منذ لحظة إعلان استقالته. لكن ما تقدّم لم يكن سوى إشارات تحتاج إلى ما يقطع الشك.لكن ما حسم الامر، كان في اتصالات هاتفية، جاءت من قبل لارا العظم، زوجة الرئيس الحريري المقيمة مع عائلتها في الرياض، حيث يسكن اهلها اصلا.

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قالت لارا للعائلة في بيروت: الشيخ سعد محتجز في مجمّع الريتز كارلتون في الرياض. ليس موجودا في مبنى الفندق، مع الامراء ورجال الاعمال والمسؤولين السعوديين المعتقلين، بل في فيلا ملحقة بالفندق». وأوضحت إن رجال محمد بن سلمان سمحوا لها بزيارة زوجها مرتين. كان هذا التأكيد الاول على أن الحريري مختطف. معلومات لارا العظم لم تكن متاحة للجميع، بل لعدد محدود بينهم نادر الحريري ونهاد المشنوق وهاني حمود.

«خلية التحرير»

في منزل رئيس الحكومة في وادي أبو جميل بوسط بيروت، نشأت خلية لمتابعة الازمة: دائرة ضيقة تضم نادر الحريري والمستشار الإعلامي هاني حمود. ينضم إليهما اللواء عماد عثمان والعقيد خالد حمود، متى وُجِدت الحاجة لمتابعات ذات طابع أمني. كانت الدائرة تتسع لتضم وزير الداخلية نهاد المشنوق، ووزير الثقافة غطاس خوري، والنائب السابق باسم السبع. هؤلاء جميعاً «موثوقون». لكن ضرورات فرضت توسيع الدائرة اكثر من خلال إشراك الرئيس السابق للحكومة، فؤاد السنيورة، في عدد من الاجتماعات. موقف الأخير كان رمادياً. يكرر كلاماً عاماً: لا هو يريد إغضاب السعودية، ولا هو راغب بطعن الحريري. وخشية من «ذهابه بعيدا»،

قرر فريق عمل سعد «توريطه»، جزئياً، في سعيهم لتحرير الرئيس المخطوف. «الذهاب بعيداً» يمكن أن يكون على شاكلة اقتراح السنيورة، بعد ثلاثة أيام على اختطاف الحريري في الرياض، بدعوة كل قوى 14 آذار إلى اجتماع في «بيت الوسط». وهذه الفكرة كانت تهدف، بحسب ما قدّم لها نائب صيدا السابق، إلى إظهار توحّد الفريق السياسي العريض خلف قيادة الحريري من جهة، ولتأكيد «الثوابت». تصدّى نادر الحريري للاقتراح، مشيراً إلى ان في فريق 14 آذار جهات خانت الحريري. قال كلاماً قاسياً بحق صديقه فارس سعيد، كما بحق سمير جعجع. لم يكن السنيورة بحاجة إلى أكثر من الوقوف في وجهه بلطف، للتراجع عن اقتراحه.

بدأت «خلية وادي أبو جميل» العمل على مسارين: داخلي وخارجي. في الأول، طمأنها موقف عون ورئيس مجلس النواب نبيه بري وحزب الله. الاول، تعامل مع المعركة كقضية شخصية. الثاني كرر وقوفه إلى جانب الحريري «ظالماً او مظلوماً». كان في السابق، وكلما أراد استقبال سعد الحريري، يوصيه بعدم اصطحاب نادر معه. ثمة في فريق رئيس مجلس النواب من أوغر صدره على نادر. لكن الازمة المستجدة دفعت ببري إلى استقبال مدير مكتب رئيس الحكومة. وفي آخر اللقاء، قال بري لضيفه: «انت تعرف أن صوفتك كانت حمرا عندي. لكن اجتماع اليوم محا كل سيئاتك».

وضع بري كل إمكاناته وعلاقاته في سبيل إعادة سعد إلى بيروت. يبقى حزب الله. منذ اللحظة الاولى، رأى في «استقالة» الحريري استهدافاً للبلد، وله. وأن إبن سلمان يريد اخذ لبنان إلى حرب أهلية.

موقف الحزب كان حاسماً: نحن معكم حتى عودة الرئيس الحريري إلى بيروت.خارجياً، لم تترك الخلية أحداً لم تتواصل معه لشرح الموقف: غالبية السفراء المعتمدين في لبنان… كل مسؤول أجنبي لمكتب الحريري به صلة. جرت الاستعانة بكل من يقدر على تقديم إضافة: أمل مدللي في واشنطن، جورج شعبان في موسكو… فجأة، استقل نهاد المشنوق طائرة خاصة، سراً، قاصداً العاصمة المصرية القاهرة. التقى هناك بمسؤولين في وزارة الخارجية، وفي الاستخبارات. لم يكن بحاجة ليشرح لهم ما يجري، إذ كانوا على يقين من أن الحريري مخطوف، وعلى دراية كاملة بظروف «إقامته الجبرية» في الرياض. وكانت قراءتهم دقيقة للموقف اللبناني، رسمياً وشعبياً، كما لردود الفعل الدولية على خطوة ابن سلمان. عاد إلى بيروت التي نشط فيها بالاتصالات مع كل من له به صلة في الغرب، شارحاً خطورة الموقف. لم يقتصر دوره على الموقف الجريء الذي أطلقه بعد عودته من القاهرة بيومين، من على باب دار الفتوى، حيث خاطب حكام الرياض بالقول: لسنا غنماً.

جهد «خلية وادي أبو جميل» لاقاه فريق رئيس الجمهورية. وزير الخارجية جبران باسيل يجول في عواصم القرار حاشداً الدعم لتحرير رئيس الحكومة المعتقل. واللواء عباس ابراهيم يحرّك قنوات التواصل ذات السرعة الفائقة: أجهزة الاستخبارات. في فرنسا، كان برنارد إيمييه (السفير السابق في لبنان) يتولى إدارة الاستخبارات الخارجية. ما تلقاه من ابراهيم نقله على وجه السرعة إلى رئيسه إيمانويل ماكرون. وفي ألمانيا، طلب ابراهيم موعداً عاجلاً للقاء مدير الاستخبارات، لكن الأخير كان خارج البلاد، فأرسَل السفيرَ الألماني في بيروت للقاء ابراهيم. شرح الأخير ظروف «استقالة» رئيس الحكومة، والمعلومات الموجودة في حوزته. سريعاً أيضاً، ظهرت نتائج هذه الاتصالات بموقف سياسي ألماني، ظهر جزء منه علناً.

في بيروت، كانت السفيرة الأميركية لا تزال حائرة. موقفها كان شديد السلبية في البداية. قالت لكل من سألها رأيها في الساعات الاولى التي تلت بيان الحريري إن الأخير «استقال علناً، فماذا تريدون منا أن نفعل؟». بعد سلسلة اتصالات، وإثر معلومات دقيقة توفرت لوزارة الخارجية وأجهزة الاستخبارات الأميركية، تغيّر موقف واشنطن. وكما في كثير من القضايا الأخرى (منذ وصول دونالد ترامب إلى السلطة)، كان ثمة انقسام بين الخارجية والامن القومي من جهة، والبيت الأبيض من جهة أخرى. ترامب كان مؤيداً لانقلاب ابن سلمان على أبناء عمومته في الرياض. ولم يتخذ موقفاً حاسما في البداية من احتجاز الحريري. لكن «دولة الأمن القومي» في واشنطن وقفت في وجه إقصاء رئيس الحكومة اللبنانية.

السيسي وإبن زايد يفاجئان إبن سلمان

ومن حيث لم يحتسب أحد، نظر حاكمان عربيان إلى خطوة محمد بن سلمان بعين الريبة. الرئيس المصري عبدالفتاح السيسي، والحاكم الفعلي للإمارات العربية المتحدة محمد بن زايد. رغم حلفهما الوثيق مع ابن سلمان، إلا انهما وجدا في احتجازه للحريري قراراً غبياً عبّرت دوائرهما عنه بأنه «خطوة غير محسوبة النتائج». وعندما قرر ولي العهد السعودي أن يجول الحريري، المحتجز، على عدد من الدول العربية، ردت القاهرة بأنها لن تستقبل رئيس حكومة لبنان إلا إذا كان سيغادرها إلى بيروت. هذه الإجابة المصرية جعلت ابن سلمان يحصر «جولة الحريري» بدول خليجية، قبل أن يكتفي بلقاء مع ولي عهد أبو ظبي محمد بن زايد (الثلاثاء 7 تشرين الثاني). كان القصد إذلال الحريري بإجباره على زيارة أبو ظبي التي قرر حاكمها الفعلي مقاطعة الحريري منذ مدة، لأسباب سياسية من جهة، ولخلافات مالية بينهما. وعلى عكس ما اشتهى ابن سلمان، كان ابن زايد ودوداً مع سعد. طمأنه إلى ان محنته ستنتهي قريباً، وأبلغه بعدم موافقته على طريقة التعامل معه، رغم تحفّظه (ابن زايد) على طريقة إدارة الحريري للتسوية الرئاسية والعلاقة مع حزب الله. وكان لابن زايد دور في حث الرئيس الفرنسي إيمانويل ماكرون على التدخل لدى ابن سلمان، وإجراء اتصالات مع واشنطن، للملمة ما اقترفه ولي العهد السعودي. وبعد يومين (9 تشرين الثاني)، كان ملف الحريري بنداً أول على مائدة الاجتماع الطارئ الذي عقده ماكرون مع ابن سلمان في طريق عودته من أبو ظبي إلى بلاده.

بعد رحلة أبو ظبي، انتقل الحريري من مجمع الريتز إلى منزله، حيث بقي قيد الإقامة الجبرية.

ابن زايد تجاوز مشكلته السياسية والمالية مع الحريري ورفض «حماقة» ابن سلمان

يوم 7 تشرين الثاني كان مفصلياً في أزمة الحريري. فمن جهة، بدأت تظهر، علناً، علامات الامتعاض العربي، والصدمة الدولية، من «حماقة» ابن سلمان. ومن جهة اخرى، بدا جلياً أن الموقف اللبناني، الرسمي والشعبي، لم يجر بما تشتهي سفن حاكم الرياض. ومن جهة ثالثة، أحرق السعوديون آخر ورقة بين أيديهم: بهاء الحريري. في الليلة السابقة، ارتكب ابن سلمان حماقة إضافية بالسماح لمرافق الحريري، محمد دياب، بالعودة من الرياض إلى بيروت. بعودته، بات موقف «خلية تحرير الرئيس المخطوف» أقوى من ذي قبل، إذ ما عاد في مقدور أحد في تيار المستقبل، ولا خارجه، التشكيك بأن الحريري استقال تحت الضغط، وأنه باقٍ في السعودية خلافاً لإرادته.

فريق ثامر السبهان تولى التواصل مع جميع أفراد عائلة الحريري، باستثناء نادر، طالباً قدومهم إلى الرياض لمبايعة بهاء، خلفاً لاخيه سعد، زعيماً للعائلة والطائفة. وكانت إجابات الجميع متمسكة بسعد. حتى أخوه الأصغر، فهد، الذي لم يكن على وئام معه، رفض «الأمر السامي» السعودي، وعبّر عن امتعاضه من طلب البيعة لأخيه الأكبر. وفي غضون 48 ساعة، تبلّغت السعودية من كافة أفراد العائلة موقفاً موحداً: لا بديل عن سعد. وكان للاخير دور رئيسي في إحباط تلك «المؤامرة»، من خلاله تواصله السري مع فريق عمله في بيروت.

سر زيارة قبرص!

في الأيام التالية، لم يعد امام الرياض من خيار سوى الرضوخ أمام انسداد الأفق، لبنانياً، وعربياً، ودولياً. حاولت قدر المستطاع أن تؤجل خروج الحريري، لتحقيق بعض المكاسب، لكن انتهى بها الأمر تمارس نوعاً من فشّة الخلق، كتلك التي أصرّت عليها، وتحققت بتعريج الحريري على قبرص، ليل 21 ــــ 22 تشرين الثاني، في طريق عودته من باريس (التي انتقل إليها ليل 17/18 تشرين الثاني) فالقاهرة إلى بيروت. فالزيارة التي بقيت أسبابها مجهولة طوال العام الماضي، لم يكن لها من هدف سوى «كسر كلمة السيسي». إذ أن الأخير، عندما عرض عليه ابن سلمان استقبال الحريري بعد يومين على احتجازه، اشترط لتلبية الطلب عودة الحريري إلى بيروت.

طلب ابن سلمان من الحريري عدم العودة مباشرة من القاهرة إلى بيروت لـ«كسر كلمة السيسي»

ولما أفضت الضغوط على ابن سلمان إلى مغادرة الحريري الرياض إلى باريس، قرر الأخير زيارة القاهرة، تقديراً لموقف رئيسها. فما كان من ابن سلمان إلا أن تدخّل طالباً من رئيس تيار المستقبل المرور بأي دولة يريدها، لكي لا يعود إلى بيروت من القاهرة مباشرة، فلا تكون مشيئة السيسي هي النافذة. اختار الحريري قبرص التي رَتّب مكتبُه في بيروت موعداً عاجلاً له في مطار عاصمتها مع رئيسها الذي لم يكن قد مضى على استقباله الحريري سوى 24 يوماً (زار الحريري قبرص يوم 28 تشرين الأول 2017).

في نظر ابن سلمان وحاشيته، ليس مهماً المردود السياسي لما يقومون به. ما يصبون إليه حصراً هو «أن تكون كلمة ولي العهد السعودي هي العليا»، بصرف النظر عن الأسلوب والنتيجة. وما على من يستغرب هكذا أداء سوى تذكّر اغتيال جمال خاشقجي. بهذه الطريقة، لا بسواها، يريد ابن سلمان إدارة الإقليم.

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Unbelievable: Egyptian Navy Kills A Palestinian Fisherman In Southern Gaza

Egyptian Navy Kills A Palestinian Fisherman In Southern Gaza

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Palestinian medical sources have reported, on Wednesday evening, that Egyptian navy ships opened fire at a Palestinian fishing boat in southern Gaza Strip, killing a fisherman.

The fisherman has been identified as Mustafa Khader Khalil Abu Odah, 32, from the Shati’ refugee camp, west of Gaza city.

He was shot with two live rounds in the chest and abdomen, near the Rafah Shore, in the southern part of the coastal region.

Odah was rushed to Abu Yousef Najjar Hospital, in Rafah, but died from his serious wounds.

The Palestinian Ministry of Interior and National Security in Gaza, called on Egypt to investigate the incident.

Media sources in Gaza said the fishing boats slightly drifted by the waves into Egyptian waters, before the navy opened fire at it.

Imran Khan Has Successfully Exposed Liberalism as Pakistan’s Greatest Enemy

America’s Establishment – the military-industrial complex

During his final address as President of the United States of America, General Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of the development of a military-industrial complex in the following way:

“This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government.

We recognise the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted.

Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defence with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together”.

Since Eisenhower’s speech, the US military-industrial complex has become so influential that its policy making role in government is thought to exceed that of elected officials up to and including the head of state. As the country with the world’s most powerful military and strongest economy, this means that not only does the US military-industrial complex threaten democracy in the US but it threatens the peace and freedom of those in other nations whose governments may occasionally quarrel with Washington.

Against this background, it is both absurd and hypocritical for anti-patriotic forces within Pakistan to heap scorn on the young government of Imran Khan and his PTI party under the guise that they are “too close” to Pakistan’s military establishment. In the United States, it has proved to be impossible to even get close to power by promising a revision in the nation’s foreign policy while in Pakistan, PTI proved that a party with a clearly reformist approach to foreign policy making can not only win but in many cases obliterate the vote of the old legacy parties as well as fringe extremist parties.

It is in fact true that Pakistan has a long history of open conflict between civilian governments and what is widely called The Establishment – the military. In July of this year however, a peaceful democratic election signifying only the second ever peaceful transition of power in Pakistan’s history has signalled the early stages of a shift from a policy of confrontation between the Establishment and government to one of cooperation. Before going further, it must be noted that while conflict between the military and elected government is a phenomenon that the international media tends to universally associate with Pakistan, such conflicts transpire in multiple nations with different histories and societal issues.

Turkey

Modern Turkey has a long history of civilian governments in open conflict with the military. In spite of reforms early during Erdogan’s time as Prime Minister to harmonise the relationship between the Turkish Army and elected government, the apogee of conflict between the military and government in Turkey occurred as recently as 2016 when elements of the Fethullah Terror Organisation infiltrated the Army and led an illegal coup against President Erdogan. The result has been an intensified effort by Erdogan and the civilian government to bring to justice those in the Army associated with all forms of anti-government activity. After his recent re-election under new constitutional regulations, Erdogan has made good on his pledge to make the army directly answerable to the president rather than operate as a body that was previously allowed to make public political pronouncements without conclusion with civilian factions.

Egypt

After the US backed de-stabilisation of Egypt in 2011, a Muslim Brotherhood government came to power in Cairo that was directly at odds with the military. In 2013, the military led an ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood’s leader Mohammad Morsi and put General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in power who remains President to this day. While some called Sisi’s rise to power a coup, others point out the reckless incompetence, unpopularity and social extremism of Morsi and his followers. Egypt is clearly a country where mainstream forces all make reasonable arguments both for and against the Army’s strong influence on the country’s national political development.

Pakistan’s light at the end of many tunnels 

Therefore, while Turkey took decades to peacefully harmonise military-civilian government relations and while Egypt has yet to fully do so, Pakistan stands on the verge of peacefully achieving such harmonisation. Furthermore, this was largely accomplished through the ballot box and domestic diplomacy. This is not to imply that the incoming PTI led coalition government of Pakistan is “subservient” to the Army as some of PTI’s domestic detractors have said for obvious enough self-serving reasons. Neither is it to say that Fatima Bhutto (whose relations with a powerful Pakistani political family are minimised by the Guardian’s editors) is correct in stating that “Imran Khan is only a player in the circus run by Pakistan’s military” as she recently did in Britain’s ultra-liberal Guardian newspaper.

In reality, Pakistan is maturing into a state where both the military and civilian leaders are increasing cooperating for the benefit of the nation, just as is the case within all three major superpowers where open schisms between the military and government are largely unheard of. While all such moves in any nation are bound to have growing pains, the fact of the matter is that Pakistan’s leaders are embarking on a new era of national unity – something that is necessary in order to ensure peace and prosperity for future generations. Therefore, less open antagonism between the government and military in Pakistan should be welcomed rather than be subject to conspiracy theories and wild speculation disguised as analysis.

Pakistan has a real enemy within and it is not The Establishment 

With PTI is moving to modernise and harmonise the government’s relationship with the Establishment on a legal and win-win basis, Imran Khan’s transformation from opposition leader to statesman has laid bear the face of the true enemy within. In Pakistan, Imran Khan’s critics have sunk to new lows in their ever more frequent gossip column style criticism of the new Prime Minister. Before Imran has even settled into his new desk, his critics are already proclaiming the PTI led government a failure in a manner that only serves the foreign enemies of the Pakistani people and which in turns threatens the unity and survival of the state.

But while Imran Khan’s opponents continue to hurl stones within a glass house, they fail to realise that in shrieking about their own country’s supposed inferiority under the prying eyes of India, Afghanistan and The United States, they do not realise that when compared with other nations, Pakistan’s problems are not unique. To say otherwise is to fall into the trap of the colonial mentality which in the last election doomed the PML-N and PPP to electoral failure.

Liberal Pakistanis complain about the country’s blasphemy laws and the fact that PTI has no plans to change such laws. Meanwhile, such forces ignore the fact that in the countries of Europe and North America – countries which face a substantially low terrorist threat vis-a-vis Pakistan, legislators are hastily drafting new laws to censor criticism of just about any social trend ranging from feminism to sectarian politics. While Pakistani laws defend the country’s historical religious traditions, western governments are passing laws to protect the pagan gods of the west – the totemic ramparts of ultra-liberalism. Thus, Pakistan’s blasphemy laws should not be viewed in a vacuum and should certainly never be seen as more dangerous than the decrepit state of Indian society in which Muslims are being openly lynched with the support of members of the ruling political party simply for going about their daily business in peace. Until western hypocrisy and Indian mob rule are addressed, there is little point in growing hysterical over Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

Liberal Pakistanis then complain about press freedom before realising that Pakistan actually has some of the freest political speech in the world.

In an age where US corporate media, European corporate and state media and the Indian government all look to clamp down on free speech, Pakistan remains a place whose levels of political free speech are staggeringly high. Whether on Urdu, English or provincial language media, Pakistanis can say almost anything they want about almost anyone they want and for the most part it is all done in relative peace.

When the PTI government announced a further step to free Pakistan’s already highly open media it was clear that existing trends will only improve under the leadership of Imran Khan While private media outlets have long had editorial freedoms, according to a recent statement from Pakistan’s Information Minister Chaudhary Fawad Hussain, now even state owned media will be given full editorial freedom.

As per vision of @ImranKhanPTI Ended political censorship on PTV, clear instructions issued for a complete editorial independence on PTV and Radio Pakistan, drastic changes ll be visible in Information Dept in coming 3 months Inshallah — Ch Fawad Hussain (@fawadchaudhry) August 21, 2018

This means that if fully realised, Pakistan’s private and state owned media will be more free to criticise the government than both private and state owned media outlets in many European countries where opposition views are increasingly shunned or derided as “fake”.

The real fight for Pakistan’s future 

Imran Khan has drawn the liberal werewolves out of their hiding places and has thus exposed the real enemies of social and economic progress in Pakistan to be liberal forces who see it fit to criticise every element of Pakistani society without cessation. Such people take perverse delight in blaming the Establishment for doing that which it does not do while summarily ignoring how the US military-industrial complex is vastly more powerful than Pakistan’s Establishment ever was. Likewise, Pakistan’s liberal fifth column somehow believe that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are unusual while similar things either already exist or are being legally erected in the countries who join Pakistan’s home grown liberals in heaping scorn on a nation being antagonised both on its eastern and western borders.

What good is it to be on guard against terrorism from Afghanistan and India if Pakistan’s own liberal fifth column continues to scapegoat the nation itself for every problem under the sun. Pakistan does have problems and most of these problems are not unique to Pakistan. What is however unique is the agility with which supposed patriots of Pakistan do more for the country’s foreign enemies than the foreign enemies themselves could ever hope to achieve.

By increasing the amplification of these anti-national voices in so far as his presence seems to agitate them into fits of Pakistan hating hysteria, Imran Khan has already proved why he is in the best position to fight this enemy within and secure a better internal and external future for Pakistan.

By Adam Garrie
Source: Eurasia Future

السفارة الأميركية إلى القدس في أيار؟

السفارة الأميركية إلى القدس في أيار؟

روزانا رمّال

تنقل وكالة رويترز عن مسؤول أميركي امس، انه من المتوقع ان تفتح أميركا سفارتها لدى «إسرائيل» في القدس في ايار المقبل. وهو تسريب خطير في مثل هذا الوقت الذي تتواتر فيه محطات التصعيد بالمنطقة المتعلقة بالوضع في سورية وتحديداً الشمال والأوضاع في عفرين وصولاً الى الغوطة الشرقية حتى الجنوب السوري الواقع ضمن معادلة ردع جديدة رسمتها سورية وحلفاؤها بعد إسقاط طائرة اف 16 الأميركية. وبالتالي فإن السؤال عن جدوى التصعيد الإسرائيلي في هذه اللحظات صار اساسياً لدراسة امكانية التراجع من عدمها. وهذا الاعلان يؤكد ان الولايات المتحدة الأميركية ماضية حتى النهاية في هذا القرار الذي اكد خبير في الشؤون الأميركية لـ «البناء « استحالة التراجع عنه لأن الية محددة متبعة بعد تصويت اغلبية اعضاء الكونغرس الأميركي تمنع ذلك، كما ان الرئيس دونالد ترامب هو الرئيس الاول الأميركي الذي تجرأ على توقيع هذا القرار منذ منتصف التسعينيات. وهذا يعني انه قرار مدروس بشكل جيد ومتفق عليه في كل غرف المؤسسة الأميركية الحاكمة. وبالتالي فان كل ما يستدعي مواجهته للمضي قدماً به واقع ضمن سقف محدد أميركياً.

لكن وقبل كل ذلك تبدو واشنطن واثقة بانها استطاعت «لجم» كل ما كان متوقعاً ان يقف عائقاً بوجه هذا القرار المشترك مع الإسرائيليين وهو الموقف العربي. وهذا الامر تم حسب المصادر والمعلومات الدبلوماسية الموثقة بعد موافقة أكثر من دولة عربية اولها المملكة العربية السعودية وحلفائها الذين رحبوا بهذا الخيار بعد ان قدمت واشنطن لهم ضمانات بقاء قواعدها العسكرية في المنطقة وحماية مواقعهم السياسية. وهذا بحد ذاته نجاح أميركي واضح، فمعارضة الدول العربية اقتصرت على بيانات فقط. والأهم من ذلك ذهاب بعض الدول كالبحرين الى التحدي وإرسال إشارات تطبيع بزيارة وفد بحراني عشية توقيع القرار الى «إسرائيل». هذا بالاضافة الى مستجد اكبر يتعلق بتمرير التطبيع بين الشعوب العربية لا الحكومات التي تماشت مع ذلك. وهو الامر الذي يشكل خطورة كبيرة. بدأ مع مصر عبر الحديث عن توقيع شركات خاصة عقود بقيمة 15 مليار دولار لاستيراد الغاز من «إسرائيل». وهو الأمر الذي يبرره خبراء مصريون بانه «لا علاقة للحكومة او الدولة فيه، بل ان هذا واقع ضمن علاقة بين شركات خاصة بين الطرفين». وهذا يعني امراً واحداً و«هو العمل على تعزيز فكرة «التطبيع» بين الشعوب العربية بعد ان كان الرفض الكامل هو سيد المشهد بدون ان يتجاهل الخبراء أنفسهم ان فكرة الاستيراد هذه لا تعني ان الحكومة ليست على علم بها او انها لم تباركها باقل تقدير، طالما انها لم تعرقلها باعتبار ان العلاقات بين مصر و«إسرائيل» واقعة ضمن معاهدة سلام قديمة وهذا ليس سراً».

ردود الفعل العربية أتت دون مستوى توقع الفلسطنيين اصحاب القضية، لكنها بكل تأكيد اتت ضمن مستوى التوقع الأميركي الذي حذا بواشنطن المضي قدماً نحو هذا القرار. والاهم من هذا كله ان احداً لم يمد الدعم للفلسطينيين منهم لاندلاع انتفاضة قادرة على وضع حد للتمادي الأميركي الإسرائيلي الامر الذي صار موضوعا ضمن دائرة امكانية أن تتحرك ايران لدعم مجموعات مقاومة داخل الاراضي المحتلة أبرزها الجهاد الاسلامي وحركة حماس التي صححت العلاقة بايران من جديد من دون ان يعني ذلك انها مستعدة الى التقدم نحو قتال غير مدروس، لان الحرب حسب مصدر قيادي في حركة حماس لـ«البناء» هي «اكثر ما ينوي الإسرائيليون الهروب اليها. والذهاب اليها فوراً يعني اعطاء «إسرائيل» ذريعة للقصف واستهداف المدنيين واضاعة الهدف الاساسي، لذلك فان الحركة ترى ان العمليات التي تحصل ضمن الاراضي بشكلها الحالي على يد الشبان الثائر قادرة على استنزاف قوات الامن الإسرائيلية والامن الداخلي بشكل أكثر تأثيراً في الوقت الراهن».

وبالعودة الى الحكومات العربية التي من المفترض ان تجتمع بعد نحو شهر في لقاء القمة العربية على مستوى الحكام والرؤساء، فإنها الغيث الأخير المنشود «شكلاً» وهو واقعاً الأمل المفقود، لأنه من غير المتوقع على الإطلاق أن تتصاعد المواقف لناحية الخطوات بل الاكفتاء بمواقف قوية سياسياً من دون ترجمتها قطعاً للعلاقات الدبلوماسية والتجارية مع «إسرائيل». وهذا الامر يعني ان المواجهة مقبلة لا محالة اذا صح التسريب الأميركي لرويترز، بعد ان كانت ادارة ترامب قد حرصت على اعلان ان هذا الأمر لن يتم قبل سنة. وبالتالي، فإن التصعيد او ارسال رسائل تهديد صار سيد المشهد. وبالتالي صار ربط ملف الصراع ككل مرتبطاً بالنزاعات المحيطة وسبل التسوية المعرقلة في سورية ومعها المستجد الأخير المتعلق بالنفط في لبنان واقتسام الحصص البحرية. فإذا كانت واشنطن تتوجّه فعلاً لنقل السفارة في أيار، فهل هذا يعني أنها تكشف «إسرائيل» امام الاحتمالات كافة؟

على مقربة من انعقاد القمة العربية يصبح الضغط الأميركي أكثر إحراجاً بما يبدو مقصوداً لجهة الاستخفاف بالمواقف العربية التي لا تقلق الأميركيين بعد موافقة الدول العربية الاساسية على مسألة التهويد والمضي قدماً باتجاه تطبيع العلاقات أكثر. كل ذلك ضمن مبرر شرّعته الادارة الأميركية واقتنع به العرب خصوصاً الخليجيين. وهو واقع ضمن مواجهة ايران وتقارب المصالح مع «إسرائيل» وضرورة التوحّد بوجهها.

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The Arab Spring: Restoration, Repression & Regime Change

The Arab Spring: Restoration, Repression & Regime Change

FINIAN CUNNINGHAM | 22.01.2018 | WORLD / MIDDLE EAST

The Arab Spring: Restoration, Repression & Regime Change

The outbreak of mass protests in Tunisia this week comes on the seventh anniversary of the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011. This week, seven years ago, saw Tunisia’s strongman ruler Ben Ali fleeing for exile to Saudi Arabia. Before the month was out, Egypt’s longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak was also ousted. Back then, revolution was in the air and the region was convulsed with potential change. In many ways, arguably, it still is.

Seven years on it is appropriate that social protests have reemerged in Tunisia. That demonstrates the Arab Spring is still unfinished business. The potential change for full democracy did not occur back then, nor since. At least, not yet.

Tunisia was the first country where the uprisings in 2011 kicked off after a young street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi self-immolated in protest against poverty and state corruption. Today, protesters in Tunisia are still calling for liberation from political and economic oppression.

So, we may ask, what happened the Arab Spring and its promise for sweeping progressive change?

Before we review the momentous events, a note of clarification is needed. Back in the heyday of the Arab Spring some analysts posited that the social movements were part of a grand plan orchestrated by Washington to clear out despots who had passed their sell-by dates.

Authors like Michel Chossudovsky and William Engdahl were among those claiming a hidden hand from Washington as part of grand scheme. They point to communications between the State Department and certain protester groups, like the April 6 youth movement in Egypt, as evidence of a master-scheme manipulated from Washington. In that view, the Arab Spring was just another version of so-called Color Revolutions, which Washington did indeed orchestrate in other parts of the world, like Georgia and Ukraine in the early 2000s.

This author disagrees on what was the motive force behind the Arab Spring events. Admittedly, Washington did have a hand in the events, but more often this was reactionary, to curtail and divert the mass uprisings – uprisings which in this author’s observations were genuine popular revolts against the US and European-backed status quo serving international capital.

Instead of successful revolution, what happened the Arab Spring were three categories of reaction. Here we look at seven countries in the region to illustrate.

Restoration

Tunisians and Egyptians may have seen the backs of Ben Ali and Mubarak, but seven years on it is evident that the ruling system which both these strongmen oversaw has been restored. In Tunisia, the Nidaa Tounes party which Ben Ali patronized is in power as part of a coalition with the Nahda Islamist party. The ruling structure of crony capitalism remains in place. The government’s signing up to an IMF loan last year for $2.9 billion is conditioned on imposing harsh economic austerity cuts on the majority working-class population. The rule of international capital has thus been restored.

In Egypt, the Mubarak regime was restored through in July 2013. El-Sisi was a senior military holdover from Mubarak’s 30-year de facto dictatorship. Admittedly, Morsi’s ascent to power after Mubarak did not represent a pluralist democratic revolution. Morsi was beholden to the Muslim Brotherhood and his short-lived rule was associated with disturbing sectarian hostility. His government alienated secular Egyptian workers. Nevertheless, el-Sisi’s violent overthrow of Morsi can be seen as a reactionary restoration of the old regime. Like Tunisia, today Egypt resembles much of the status quo as before the 2011 uprisings.

Repression

Three countries illustrating this category are Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Yemen. There were similar developments in other countries, such as Jordan, Oman, Morocco, but on a smaller scale.

After Ben Ali and Mubarak fled from power, the Arab Spring wave soon buffeted Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Yemen. Like Tunisia and Egypt, those three countries were ruled by US-backed despots. If the whole regional ferment was somehow a devious plot to renovate the status quo by Washington, as some authors contended, then why didn’t the despots in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain succumb to the State Department’s “human rights” proxies?

This author was in Bahrain when its protests erupted on February 14, 2011. For almost one month, the Al Khalifa monarchial regime was reeling from mortal insecurity.

The protests were mainly led by the majority Shia population against the Sunni self-styled king. Their demands, as far as this author observed, were for a worker-dedicated democracy, not a sectarian Islamic-style revolution. Bahrain’s protests were brutally repressed with the invasion of Saudi troops in mid-March 2011. The Saudi repression had the full backing of the US and Britain since the island state was and is a key military base for those two powers in the geo-strategic Persian Gulf.

Similar protests were unleashed in Saudi Arabia, particularly in the oil kingdom’s Eastern Province where the mainly Shia population have been historically marginalized by the hardline Sunni House of Saud. The protests in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia continue to this day. But Washington and London, along with Western media indifference, have given political cover for the ongoing repression of these protests.

In Yemen, the story is slightly different, in that the protest movement emerging in 2011 actually succeeded in ousting the US-backed regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2012. Saleh was sidelined in a stitch-up deal overseen by the US and the Saudis to be replaced by his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. The latter was prescribed as a “transition president” but ended up delaying the handover of democratic power that the Yemeni people had demanded in 2011.

No doubt that was part of the cynical US plan to restore the old order. However, the Houthi rebels grew tired of the charade and ousted the lingering Hadi by force of arms in September 2014. The US-backed Saudi war on Yemen that started in March 2015 has ever since been aimed at repressing the Yemeni uprising in order to restore their puppet Hadi.

Regime Change

Libya and Syria represent a very different category of reaction – namely, an opportunistic regime change carried out by Washington, its European NATO allies and regional client regimes. In mid-March 2011, the US, Britain and France exploited a UN Security Council resolution under the pretext of “protecting human rights” to launch a seven-month aerial bombing campaign on Libya. That war crime resulted in the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi and his murder at the hands of NATO-backed jihadists. Gaddafi had always been an object for Western imperialist hostility. Under the cover of Arab Spring popular revolts, the US and its allies got their chance for regime change in Libya. But seven years on, the regime change has proven to be disastrous for the people of Libya, turning the once socially developed country into a failed state of jihadist-warlord chaos. Cruel poetic justice is that Libya has haunted Europe ever since with a migration crisis owing to NATO’s criminal sabotage of that country and turning the failed state into a gateway for millions of migrants from the African continent.

In Syria, minor protests in mid-March 2011 were hijacked by US and European-backed provocateurs similar to Libya which then turned into a full-blown war. As many as 500,000 people were killed in the nearly seven-year war which was waged by the US, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel and Turkey sponsoring jihadist mercenaries, who gravitated to Syria from dozens of countries around the world. The US-led regime-change plot to oust President Bashar Al-Assad failed mainly because Russia, Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah intervened with military support for the Syrian state.

However, the announcement this past week by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that American military forces are to expand their presence in Syria shows clearly that Washington’s audacious and criminal regime-change agenda persists.

Conclusion

The Arab Spring events in early 2011 were momentous. But seven years on, the progressive promise of the uprisings has yet to materialize. The recurrence of social protests in Tunisia this week is testament to the unfulfilled promise of democratic liberation for the mass of working people in that country and the wider region. The US and Europe had, and continue to have, a vested interest in maintaining the anti-democratic status quo in most of the region. The custodians of international capital managed to stymie revolution by a combination of restoration and repression. In Libya and Syria, the Western powers used the cover of the Arab Spring for opportunistic regime change with horrendous consequences.

Seven years on, the Arab Spring may seem to have been buried as a genuine popular revolutionary movement. But wherever the mass of people are oppressed by an oligarchic elite, hope for liberation will always spring eternal and is always a potential threat to the oppressors.

The Western powers may have partially succeeded in “managing” the Arab Spring. But the potential for revolt against the Western-backed capitalist order has not gone away. That potential is always there, even for an American or European Spring.

Comment

Readers are advised to check the the following posts, posted in 2012, exposing sectarian”Muslim” Brotherhood who hijacked the so-called “Arab Spring” missed a great chance to turn Arab’s people uprising into a second Arab Islamic revolution against the real ENEMY (Anglozionist Empire), because they thought to govern they have to please the Empire.

The events of the last five years have proved that I was right and on the right track. Moreover, old reader may remember my dispute with brother Daniel Mabsout on Syria, Egypt and the war on terror. Please also check:

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Russia, Egypt: Agreement to Allow Respective Air Forces to Use Each Other’s Airspace and Bases

Russia, Egypt: Agreement to Allow Respective Air Forces to Use Each Other's Airspace and Bases

ANDREI AKULOV | 04.12.2017 | SECURITY / DEFENSE

Russia, Egypt: Agreement to Allow Respective Air Forces to Use Each Other’s Airspace and Bases

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Cairo on Nov.29. Offering condolences for the massacre at a mosque in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on Nov.24 that killed over 300 people, Shoigu emphasized the need to strengthen cooperation in fighting terrorism. According to him, the military ties between the two countries are at all-time high as Egypt placed new orders for Russian weapons.

It was reported on Nov.30 that the Russian government had approved a draft agreement with Egypt, which would allow the two countries to use each other’s airspace and airbases. The draft deal was set out in a decree, signed by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Nov. 28, which instructed the Russian Defence Ministry to hold negotiations with Egyptian officials and to sign the document once both sides reached an agreement.

The access to Egyptian airports would allow Russian military aircraft to refuel on their way to Syria. The agreement concerns a supplementary logistics hub, which might help Russian aircraft act in a free manner in the Syrian theater, when needed. When in force, the deal will make training of Egyptian Air Force personnel much easier. The document does not cover airborne radar pickets and military transport planes carrying hazardous cargo. The agreement is to be valid for five years and could be extended.

The New York Times writes that the air base deal as an “apparent snub to the Trump administration,” since it represents “the latest extension of Russian power in the Middle East, in this case through cooperation with one of Washington’s closest Arab allies.” According to the source, if implemented, the proposed agreement would deepen Russia’s military presence in the region to the levels unmatched since 1973. In practical terms, the presence of Russian jets in Egypt would raise concerns about the operational security of American military personnel and require coordinating with American military planes in the same airspace.

The New York Times cites analysts who claim that Cairo’s perceived willingness to allow Russian airpower access to Egyptian airbases demonstrates a reduction in United States influence in the region. “Power abhors a vacuum and when the United States pulls back we can’t be under the impression that the world is going to stand by and wait for us,” said Matthew Spence, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East policy under the Obama administration.

In August, Cairo criticized the US for its decision to withhold $195 million in military aid and cut $96 million in other aid in response to Cairo’s alleged human rights violations.

Egypt is the most populous country in North Africa and the Arab world, the third-most populous in Africa and the fifteenth-most populous in the world. Last year, the country’s population reached 92 million.

A year ago, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi publicly affirmed his support for the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to bring Egypt even closer to Russia. The possibility of Egyptian military taking part in the implementation of the safe (de-escalation) zones initiative in Syria is on the agenda. The involvement of Egypt would no doubt hike the country’s international standing.

In recent months, Moscow and Cairo have signed several contracts for MiG-29 fighter jets, Ka-52 helicopters, and other weapons as Russia’s arms sales to Middle East countries have spiked to record-high levels. The two partners have signed several agreements for the renovation of military production factories on Egyptian soil. A protocol has been signed to grant Egypt access to GLONASS, the Russian global satellite positioning system. The Russian-Egyptian 2017 Defenders of Friendship joint tactical drills took place in September, 2017 in the Krasnodar region of the Russian Federation – the first joint airborne training exercise on Russia’s soil to become a regular event in future.

Gaining basing rights in Egypt would allow Russia to project military power into many parts of the region, including the Red Sea, the Horn of Africa and the Mediterranean. The military presence will be legitimized. Russia would have the ability to take part in peace keeping missions in Libya should it choose to.

Libya is a promising area for cooperation. Moscow has a special role to play there. Russia and Egypt can contribute jointly into bringing stability to this war-torn country. Their interests by and large coincide paving the way for coordinated policy and actions. The opposing actors in Libya ask Russia to intervene as a mediator. Libyans remember well the NATO intervention of 2011 and don’t trust the West, especially in view of its failure to achieve any positive results in Syria.

Many Arab countries are turning to military cooperation with Russia as a result of its success in Syria. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has just visited Russia to ask for protection against the United States. The possibility of constructing a Russian naval base in Sudan is an issue under consideration.

Russia has special relationship with Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Israel and the Gulf states. Saudi Arabia is Egypt’s ally. It provides funds for buying Russian weapons. This October, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud visited Moscow – the first ever visit to Russia by a Saudi king. A memorandum of understanding was signed on the purchase of S-400 air defense systems from Russia to mark a shift for Saudi Arabia, which until now has been purchasing arms from the United States and Great Britain. The countries don’t see eye to eye on many international issues but realize how important it is to cooperate and exchange the views.

With Western sanctions in place, Moscow makes breakthroughs to gain influence and access to new markets for Russian arms, goods and energy. It enjoys good relations with all countries of the region. There is not a single state in the region that Moscow has a conflict with. No other country has such an advantage. Moscow does not take sides in the Sunni-Shia conflict, which makes it well suited for playing the role of mediator between the Gulf States backed by Egypt and Iran.

A resurgent Russia has asserted itself in the Middle East as a key international player. The draft agreement with Egypt is a convincing example of its growing clout in the region.

Egypt Mosque Attack: 230+ Martyred in Sinai Massacre

Local Editor

25-11-2017 | 11:01

Militants martyred more than 230 people at a mosque in North Sinai Friday, detonating a bomb and gunning down worshippers in the deadliest such attack of Egypt’s modern history, state media and witnesses said.

Egypt Mosque Attack

No group immediately claimed responsibility, but since 2013 Egyptian security forces have battled a stubborn Wahhabi Daesh [Arabic acronym for “ISIS” / “ISIL”] affiliate in the desert region, and militants have killed hundreds of police and soldiers.

State media showed images of bloodied victims and bodies covered in blankets inside the Al-Rawda mosque in Bir al-Abed, west of Al-Arish, the main city in North Sinai.

Worshippers were finishing Friday prayers at the mosque when a bomb exploded, witnesses said. Around 40 gunmen set up positions outside the mosque with jeeps and opened fire from different directions as people tried to escape.

“Four groups of armed men attacked the worshippers inside the mosque after Friday noon prayers. Two groups were firing at ambulances to deter them,” said Mohammad, a witness. The public prosecutors’ office said 235 people had been killed and 109 more wounded.

Hours after the attack, Egypt’s military launched airstrikes on targets in mountainous areas around Bir al-Abed, security sources and witnesses said.

“The armed forces and the police will avenge our martyrs and restore security and stability with the utmost force,” Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi said in a televised address.

“What is happening is an attempt to stop us from our efforts in the fight against terrorism, to destroy our efforts to stop the terrible criminal plan that aims to destroy what is left of our region.”

Egypt later said it would delay the opening of the Rafah border crossing to Gaza after the attack due to security concerns. The crossing had been due to open for three days beginning Saturday. Striking at a mosque would be a change in tactics for the Sinai militants, who have usually attacked troops, police and Christian churches.

The militants have also attacked local tribes and their militias for working with the army and police, branding them traitors.

Sisi, a former armed forces commander who presents himself as a bulwark against extremist militancy, convened an emergency meeting with his defense and interior ministers and intelligence chief soon after the attack.

Security has long been one of the key sources of public support for the former general, who is expected to run for re-election early next year for another four-year term.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri contacted Sisi to give his condolences for the attack.

“These attacks revealed the falsity of taking religious as a pretext to commit the most heinous crimes against innocents,” Hariri’s press office said in a statement, “These attacks call for the necessity to unite all efforts to deracinate terrorism from its roots and protect Islam and Muslims from those who violate their security, religion and safety of their homelands.”

US President Donald Trump, in a post on Twitter Friday, called the assault a “horrible and cowardly terrorist attack.”

“The world cannot tolerate terrorism, we must defeat them militarily and discredit the extremist ideology that forms the basis of their existence,” he added. A White House statement called on the international community to strengthen its efforts to defeat terrorist groups.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent condolences to Sisi, calling the attack “striking for its cruelty and cynicism,” while condemnations poured in from Iran, Saudi Arabia and other countries.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also condemned the attack and said Paris stood with its ally.

Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team

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