The exile in the Balkans of Mohammed Dahlan

Milenko NedelskovskiMilenko Nedelskovski

The exile in the Balkans of Mohammed Dahlan


The troubled course and power of Mohammed Dahlan are shaking Palestinians. Near Yasser Arafat, he implemented his assassination at the request of Israel. Unable to maintain order during the fratricidal war between Hamas and Fatah, he resigned from his post and fled abroad. Now based in Egypt, he heads Palestinian security again and has excellent relations with Yahya Sinwar, the Prime Minister of Gaza. During his exile, he has woven many links that he now exploits …

The UAE Crown Prince’s pit bull

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He’s the man of a thousand lives. He’s the man with a thousand faces. “He is also the man of a thousand crimes” persifles his enemies. Mohammed Dahlan’s name slams like a bullet from AK-47, a weapon he wields with mastery. If his name is on everyone’s lips in the Middle East, few venture to pronounce it aloud. Fear…

Former head of security of Yasser Arafat, former strong man of Fatah, possible successor of Mahmoud Abbas at the head of the Palestinian Authority, Dahlan’s shadow hangs over all the intrigues stirring the Near and Middle East. The Palestinian uses his networks and money in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya with incomparable dexterity to establish the influence of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Recently, it was his role in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi that was revealed. Last November, the Turkish daily “Yeni Safak” reported that the second team sent to the Saudi Arabian consulate to clean up after the Saudi journalist’s murder was recruited by Mohammed Dahlan himself and that the men present on the spot were the same as those involved in the murder of Mahmoud al-Mabhif, an influential Hamas member, in 2010.

Mercenaries in Yemen

A must in the region, “Abu Fadi”, its war name, even seems to have a gift of ubiquity, as it seems to be in several places at the same time. Recently, his involvement in the financing and arming of mercenaries deployed in Yemen to fight Houthi rebels has been the subject of much debate. Some intelligence services also provide him with a number of targeted assassinations with the help of a mercenary team led by the Israeli Abraham Golan. His expertise has made him the most prominent security advisor in Abu Dhabi. His mandate: to influence the re-composition of the Middle East in the direction most favourable to MBZ and to sabotage Qatari interests by the most vile means. The Emirati monarchy is also counting on him to crush all internal disputes mercilessly. Observers see him as the most ferocious watchdog of the Emiratis. “It’s the MBZ pit bull who always keeps him on a leash” risks one of them.

MBZ and Dahlan: a long friendship

Dahlan first met Mohammed Ben Zayed, born like him in 1961, in 1993, during a trip by Yasser Arafat to Abu Dhabi. The first, a young adviser to the Palestinian raïs, is preparing to take over the leadership of Preventive Security, one of the police units in the Gaza Strip, which has just been evacuated by the Israeli army, in accordance with the Oslo agreements. A function that he will transform into a financial pump, by taking a tithe from freight trucks entering the territory. The position will also allow him to establish useful contacts with many foreign intelligence services, including the Israeli Shin Beth.

The second, not yet known as “MBZ”, was at that time a fighter pilot, who was positioned to become the heir to his half-brother Khalifa, to whom the succession of Zayed, the founder of the UAE, was already promised. Like Dahlan, the young prince turned a state institution, the Offsets Bureau – which manages the funds that foreign arms companies must reinvest locally after obtaining a contract – into the matrix of his political rise.

The two thirty-somethings, driven by the same thirst for power, met several times and became sympathetic.

Thus, when in the summer of 2011, Mahmoud Abbas had him expelled from Fatah and sued him for embezzlement, it was quite naturally in the Emirates that he took refuge.

In Abu Dhabi, Dahlan is working harder than ever. To counter the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, winners of the elections held in Egypt and Tunisia after the uprisings of 2011, his Emirate master inaugurated a secret and strong diplomacy. As a good barker, Dahlan will be one of the giants of this counterrevolutionary enterprise.

In Egypt, “MBZ” and “Abu Fadi” support the destabilization of Mohamed Mursi, the winner of the 2012 presidential election, from the Muslim Brotherhood. In particular, they finance the gigantic demonstrations in June 2013 that led to Power General Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi.

Suitcases full of cash

Dahlan also invests in Egyptian media on behalf of the Emirates. He is participating in the launch of the Al-Ghad television channel, directed by journalist Abdellatif Menawi, a nostalgic for the Mubarak regime. In return, the Egyptian authorities provide him with services. In April 2015, they let his wife, Jalila, enter the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing point, while under pressure from Mahmoud Abbas, Israel had closed the Erez gate on the north side. Once there, with suitcases full of cash, Jalila Dahlan financed a collective wedding for 400 Gazans. The day after the wedding, huge posters bearing the image of Khalifa Ben Zayed proclaimed “Thank you Emirates” on the walls of Gaza.

The Emirates’ man also operated his famous contacts in Libya. In this country, Abu Dhabi supports Marshal Khalifa Haftar, based in Cyrenaica, against the pro-Qatar camp of Misrata, and against the Prime Minister of national understanding, Faïez Sarraj, who is favoured by the Western World. Dahlan knows several former kadhafists present in Haftar’s entourage: Mohammed Ismaïl, Hassan Tatanaki, a philanthropic billionaire connected to arms dealers, and Kadhaf Al-Dam, a cousin of the Libyan Guide killed by the Misrata rebels in October 2011.

Deliveries of Emirati weapons to Camp Haftar, Libya

Multiple sources claim that these men have helped “Abu Fadi” to travel to Cyrenaica several times since 2012. One of the SissiLeaks, these clandestine recordings of conversations between the Egyptian president and his entourage that leaked into the media in the winter of 2015, referred to a trip by Dahlan, by private jet, from Cairo to Libya. To do what ? Many observers are convinced that Dahlan is one of the actors in the chain of Emirates arms deliveries to Camp Haftar, which was highlighted by the UN panel of experts on Libya. In addition to his security background, the vast network he has in the Balkans qualifies him for this role as an intermediary.

In the 2000s, on the strength of the old friendship between former Yugoslavia and the PLO, forged in the non-aligned movement, the opportunist Dahlan infiltrated the business circles of this region. He approached two senior executives: Milo Djukanovic, Prime Minister of Montenegro four times between 1991 and 2016, long suspected of mafia connections; and Aleksandar Vucic, former Prime Minister and now President of Serbia, whose transparency is not his best quality.

Through a cascade of Balkan companies, most of them shady ones (Monte Mena, Levant International Corporation, Alfursan or Queens Beach Development…), Dahlan was able to conclude some lucrative business such as the production of Egyptian cigarettes “Cleopatra” or as this acquisition of land along the Zagreb- Belgrade highway, revealed by the Balkan Investing Reporting Network (BIRN). But above all, he helped his boss, Mohammed Ben Zayed, to penetrate this market. Between 2013 and 2015, Abu Dhabi won several major contracts in Serbia under particularly opaque conditions, including the Belgrade Waterfront, a project estimated at $3.5 billion to renovate an old part of the capital.

Huge stocks of weapons available in the Balkans

For his good offices, Dahlan received Serbian and Montenegrin passports, as well as eleven from his relatives. And Mohammed Ben Zayed’s interest in the Balkans is also due to the region’s huge arms stocks, a legacy of the civil war of the 1990s. An investigation by BIRN and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, published in 2016 in the Guardian, revealed that in 2015, at least eight cargo planes loaded with weapons took off from Serbia for Abu Dhabi. Random? In June of that same year, General Haftar visited Belgrade.

Some of this equipment was reportedly re-exported to Libya under the supervision of Mohammed Dahlan. In a telephone conversation available on YouTube, recorded clandestinely, we also hear a relative of Mahmoud Jibril, the Prime Minister of the rebellion in 2011, offer a militia leader “Dahlan’s help”. For many experts in the region, there is no doubt: “Dahlan is the man of the Emirates to bring troops to Haftar. He works with Haftar’s son, Saddam. The two men are also business partners and are reported to have invested in a mining site in Sudan. “The appetite of MBZ’s Pittbull is insatiable…

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Ending the Bloodshed in Yemen

The Blade’s Editorial Board

The 56-41 vote by the United States Senate to end US military support for Saudi Arabia’s deadly war in Yemen is remarkable for several reasons.

First, and quite amazingly, it marked the first time that the Senate has utilized the powers granted to it under the 1973 War Powers Act, which gives Congress the authority to end military actions.

Second, the bipartisan vote was a complete 180 from just this past March, when a similar bill to end the US involvement in Yemen only received 44 votes. Political junkies will tell you that a 12-vote swing is an awful lot.

Of course, there is a reason for that vote swing and it was not because 12 senators suddenly developed a conscience. Rather, the brutal murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, allegedly at the order of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, resulted in an enormous outcry. The country wanted Congress to rebuke the Saudis, and removing support of the war in Yemen, which has come mostly in the form of arms and fuel for bombers, was the clearest way to do so.

But getting out of the conflict in Yemen is good for the US and good for the world. Foreign policy experts agree that without US assistance, the bloodshed is likely to come to end. This would be great news because some analysts have estimated that more than 50,000 people have already been killed in the conflict and that nearly 20 million Yemeni are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. For reference, Yemen’s total population is just over 28 million.

Sadly, getting the Senate vote is not a straight shot for removing US support for the war. House Republicans, with the critical help of five House Democrats, slipped a provision into the recently passed “farm bill,” a legislative package focused on agricultural subsidies, which blocks a vote on the Yemen resolution during this congressional term. The thought is that the Senate, which will be even more GOP-heavy come 2019, will not pass the Yemen war resolution again.

The Senate must show its backbone in 2019 and vote the Yemen resolution through again, with the support of the House. Ending US support for the war in Yemen should not be a red vs. blue game. It should be a bipartisan consensus, fueled by a desire to stand apart from the Saudis and reclaim our morality.

There is no time for political gamesmanship. Both chambers of Congress should pass the Yemen war resolution and they should pass it now.

Source: The Blade, Edited by website team

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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

Image result for ‫ثامر السبهان‬‎

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.

Yemen is the start of the Saudi regression اليمن سيبقى مصدر الكلمة الفصل

Yemen is the start of the Saudi regression

ديسمبر 5, 2018

Written by Nasser Kandil,


What was stated by the US Secretary of Defense James Mattis to stop the war on Yemen was remarkable; he did not send a political call, rather he prepared a practical agenda of thirty days to cease fire and to start the political negotiation without bothering himself the visit to Riyadh And the consult with the Saudi leadership as a strategic partner in the region according to the description of James Mattis and the US President Donald Trump. Mattis’s words which are closer to the military order were intended to Saudi Arabia and UAE to stop the war, while the rest of what was stated was a call to the Yemeni leadership and Ansar Allah in particular to accept the barter of the stopping of the Saudi-Emirati military operations in exchange for stopping the missile bombing of the Saudi areas. It is a call that had a clear response from Ansar Allah by linking every discussion to stop the war with the comprehensive application, at the forefront lifting the siege.
The new balance in Yemen has become clear after the US position, it grants Ansar Allah its status in parallel with Washington which announced its control over the decision of Saudi Arabia, UAE, and those who are with them from the Yemenis. It is clear that Muscat will run the negotiation between the Yemeni and American representatives, and it is clear too that Washington does that after it imposed a tax of normalization on Muscat in exchange for the prize of the negotiating role. Despite the fact that the relationship of Ansar Allah with Iran is not a dependency relationship, but Muscat is aware that the geopolitical equations in the region have made out of the war of Saudi Arabia and UAE in Yemen an entry to possess superiority elements against Iran in seas, land, crossings, and straits, and that the US talk about the need for Saudi Arabia to confront Iran is not as the outcomes of the war on Yemen. The cessation of the war under American decision is bound to interact with the Yemeni demands and conditions to lift the siege. This means the end of the Saudi role especially regarding the confrontation with Iran.
Practically, Washington does not forget that the conditions of stopping the war will not include the removal of the ballistic missiles from the hands of Ansar Allah and that the illusion of the international supervision is just in media, and that the call for a temporary autonomy of the Yemeni territories will not be accepted by Ansar Allah, and that the way will be open to a provisional government that paves the way for elections. Therefore, the path of the situation in Yemen will not be different from the fate of the situation in Syria where America lost the war on the Syrian independent state and this is enough to announce the victory of Iran. According to the American newspapers and the studies’ centers depended by the American administration in forming its policies, what matters Iran is to have on the borders of Palestine a Syrian fighting capable and independent country and to have on the Gulf waters and the Red Sea a Yemeni country which believes in the national independence that is not under the control of Washington directly or through Saudi mediation. This is known by Washington once it stops the war.
The course of the American sanctions, their coincidence with the practical openness to the Iranian interests, and the course of negotiation by Muscat raise the question about the certainty of Washington of going into a confrontation with Iran, and its confidence that sanctions can adapt Iran, after it became mere a negotiating necessity and after Saudi Arabia has been got out of war affected by its consequences.
Translated by Lina Shehadeh,


اليمن سيبقى مصدر الكلمة الفصل

نوفمبر 10, 2018

ناصر قنديل

– خلال عشرة أيام ماضية تزامن الحديث الأميركي عن وقف النار في اليمن في مهلة أقصاها نهاية الشهر الحالي، مع خطة عسكرية وضعها الأميركيون وقدموا كل مستلزماتها اللوجستية والاستخبارية للجيشين السعودي والإماراتي للسيطرة على مدينة الحديدة ومينائها، لتكون ورقة القوة التي تبرّر الذهاب للتفاوض من موقع مختلف. وخلال الأيام العشرة تلقت مدينة الحديدة وما حولها آلاف الأطنان من المتفجرات، ودمرت فيها المباني والجسور، وقتل فيها المئات من الأبرياء، وأحرقت صوامع الغذاء والمحروقات، وتقدّمت وحدات النخبة في الجيشين السعودي والإماراتي على مجموعة من المحاور وحققت في بعضها تقدماً جدياً. وبدأت الاحتفالات بالنصر في قيادة حلف الحرب على اليمن.

– من الزاوية الاستراتيجية بات قرار السيطرة على اليمن من أضغاث الأحلام وصار السقف تفاوضياً بوضوح في خطة الحرب الأميركية السعودية الإماراتية، ومن الزاوية السياسية الدولية والإقليمية في ظل ما يطال السعودية من مستقبل رسم الدور، في ضوء سقوط الرهان على صفقة القرن بغياب الشريك الفلسطيني الموعود، لا أمل بمواصلة الحرب على اليمن، وهذه الجولة هي آخر الجولات. ويجب مع نهاياتها ترسيم التوازنات قبل الذهاب للمفاوضات، وبعدها سيكون حجم السعودية والإمارات بحجم المنجزات، أو الخيبات، خصوصاً مع الارتباط العضوي بين مواصلة العقوبات على إيران وبين قدرة السعودية على تشكيل ركيزة لرسم توازن خليجي متين بوجه إيران يشكل ركناً من أركان سياسة العقوبات بعدما سقط الرهان على دور إسرائيلي عسكري يستهدف إيران في سورية، وسقط الرهان على صفقة القرن والحلف الخليجي الإسرائيلي المعادي لإيران تحت رايات السلام في فلسطين.

– تدرك القيادة اليمنية كل هذه الحقائق، ولذلك هي تتصرّف على قاعدة أن هذه الجولة ستقول الكلمة الفصل في الكثير من معادلات المنطقة، وخصوصاً في رسم مستقبل الدور السعودي والإماراتي وحدوده، كما في مستقبل التوازنات التي ستحكم المفاوضات المقبلة حول مستقبل اليمن، كما تدرك القيادة اليمنية أهمية الساحل الغربي في هذه المعادلة وفي قلبه مدينة الحديدة ومينائها، لكن القيادة اليمنية تدرك أيضاً حجم ما تمّ حشده من مقدرات لهذه المعركة الفاصلة، وما أعدّ لها من خطط قتل ودمار، لذلك تصرّفت القيادة اليمنية بقلب حار وعقل بارد مع تطورات الأحداث، فشككت بصدق الحديث الأميركي عن وقف الحرب منذ البداية ووضعت شروطها بفك الحصار أولاً، ولذلك أعادت القيادة اليمنية نشر قواتها وترتيب وضعياتها بما يخفف الخسائر في الأيام الأولى للجولة العسكرية في الساحل الغربي، لكنها أعدّت خطط الكمائن والاستدراج والفخاخ ولاحقاً الهجوم المعاكس.

– ليست المرة الأولى التي يختبر فيها اليمنيون جولة مواجهة في الحديدة، رغم أن الجولة السابقة كانت تمريناً بالقياس لضراوة الجولة الراهنة، إلا أنها كانت أيضاً تمريناً لليمنيين لفعالية تكتيكاتهم، وقدراتهم على المناورة الحربية. قبل يومين وبعدما بلغ الهجوم السعودي الإماراتي ذروته وبدأ التقدم البري، بدأت الكمائن اليمنية بالظهور، وبدأت الفخاخ وعمليات الاستدراج إلى نقاط الرمي الصاروخي المركز، وبدأت أرقام القتلى بالمئات بين المهاجمين بالظهور، وبدأت التراجعات العشوائية للمهاجمين هرباً من الموت بالتكرار من محور إلى آخر، وخلال أيام يظهر الهجوم المعاكس الذي يفرض معادلاته الجديدة كما في المرة السابقة.

– وضع اليمنيون خطتهم على ساعة التوقيت التي أعلنها وزير الدفاع الأميركي جيمس ماتيس، بحيث سيجعلون الشهر الذي حدّده بوقف الحرب شهراً إلزامياً لوقف الحرب بالنتائج التي سيحققونها، وليست تلك التي كان يأمل أن يحققها مع حلفائه.

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Statement from President Donald J. Trump on Standing with Saudi Arabia

Statement from President Donald J. Trump on Standing with Saudi Arabia

November 21, 2018

Note: A friend of mine sent me this today with the following words:

We are post honor, post decency and post rules based society and into perhaps the final step before total collapse in the West now in my view. Floating on oil fumes.

I can only agree.
The Saker

America First!

The world is a very dangerous place!

The country of Iran, as an example, is responsible for a bloody proxy war against Saudi Arabia in Yemen, trying to destabilize Iraq’s fragile attempt at democracy, supporting the terror group Hezbollah in Lebanon, propping up dictator Bashar Assad in Syria (who has killed millions of his own citizens), and much more. Likewise, the Iranians have killed many Americans and other innocent people throughout the Middle East. Iran states openly, and with great force, “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!” Iran is considered “the world’s leading sponsor of terror.”

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia would gladly withdraw from Yemen if the Iranians would agree to leave. They would immediately provide desperately needed humanitarian assistance. Additionally, Saudi Arabia has agreed to spend billions of dollars in leading the fight against Radical Islamic Terrorism.

After my heavily negotiated trip to Saudi Arabia last year, the Kingdom agreed to spend and invest $450 billion in the United States. This is a record amount of money. It will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, tremendous economic development, and much additional wealth for the United States. Of the $450 billion, $110 billion will be spent on the purchase of military equipment from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and many other great U.S. defense contractors. If we foolishly cancel these contracts, Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries – and very happy to acquire all of this newfound business. It would be a wonderful gift to them directly from the United States!

The crime against Jamal Khashoggi was a terrible one, and one that our country does not condone. Indeed, we have taken strong action against those already known to have participated in the murder. After great independent research, we now know many details of this horrible crime. We have already sanctioned 17 Saudis known to have been involved in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, and the disposal of his body.

Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an “enemy of the state” and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that – this is an unacceptable and horrible crime. King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!

That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran. The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region. It is our paramount goal to fully eliminate the threat of terrorism throughout the world!

I understand there are members of Congress who, for political or other reasons, would like to go in a different direction – and they are free to do so. I will consider whatever ideas are presented to me, but only if they are consistent with the absolute security and safety of America. After the United States, Saudi Arabia is the largest oil producing nation in the world. They have worked closely with us and have been very responsive to my requests to keeping oil prices at reasonable levels – so important for the world. As President of the United States I intend to ensure that, in a very dangerous world, America is pursuing its national interests and vigorously contesting countries that wish to do us harm. Very simply it is called America First!


The Iranian Albatross that Donald Trump Has Hung Around Its Own Neck

By Alastair Crooke

Mr. Trump, nor anyone else in his administration, has announced any conclusions about how Mr. Khashoggi died, or who bears responsibility for ordering the killing, a Washington Post editorial fulminates. “Instead, they have pretended to be waiting for the results of a Saudi investigation… the obvious problem with that stance is it assumes that Mohammed bin Salman himself is not at the bottom of the Khashoggi plot — though abundant evidence points to the crown prince. In truth, as the administration surely knows, there is no Saudi investigation — only a cover-up operation that has clumsily tried to disguise itself as an inquiry”.

One aspect to this affair is the US domestic issue. The White House is increasingly perceived – as the Washington Post implies – as engaged in a ‘soft’ cover-up of a cover-up. That is to say, the White House is being viewed as so set on keeping MbS in position as lynchpin to Trump’s entire Middle Eastern strategy that the White House and Mr. Bolton will try to turn a Nelsonian ‘blind eye’ – or a ‘selective ear’ – to any audio evidence provided by the Turkish government that seems to implicate MbS.

President Trump is keeping his powder dry. He said: “I’ll have a much stronger opinion on that subject over the next week … I’m forming a very strong opinion.” But caution on his part might be wise: leading Turkish daily, Yeni Safak, which is close to the Turkish government, and which has been covering leaked details of the Khashoggi investigation day by day, has reported that Maher Mutrib, the Saudi intelligence official who led the 15-man assassination team in Ankara, spoke to Badr al-Asaker, the head of the Crown Prince’s private office, four times directly after Khashoggi was killed (if it was Mutrib who said “tell your boss” to MbS’ chef de cabinet, then the implication is clear). This has not been officially confirmed, but it is possible (and likely) that Turkish intelligence has yet further details to trickle out, piecemeal, to discredit the Saudi ‘line’ each time the kingdom tries to ‘draw the line’ under the case. Erdogan is determined to get MbS’ scalp, it seems.

In any case, the nature and cost-benefit of the Saudi-US relationship clearly is an issue set to run-on in Washington: Adam Schiff (Chair of the House Intelligence Committee) has already identified it – and ‘the who, where, and what’ of the Khashoggi affair – as a prime topic for Democratic Party scrutiny, when the new House assembles.

However, the bigger issue – one that Trump may not yet be ready to admit – is that his Mid-East strategy is in deep trouble, even if MbS does manage to survive as heir-apparent, as seems likely, given Trump’s strong attachment. The complication does not derive from the gruesome Khashoggi murder alone – it is now much wider than that. The significance of the Khashoggi affair, as it were, is that it has slid open a Pandora’s box of ugly goings-on. What is emerging from the Gulf is that the Khashoggi assassination is neither isolated, nor out of the ordinary in the Gulf today: Buzzfeed News reported that UAE leaders had set up, and tasked, a foreign military mercenary unit for the explicit task of serial assassinations of Muslim Brotherhood leaders (Al-Islah), in Yemen (whilst Saudi Arabia was at the same time, quietly facilitating al-Qa’eda forces in Yemen, fighting against Houthi insurgents). More recently, the NY Times has disclosed an attempt by a senior Saudi official to close a $2 billion contract with US interests – again for serial assassinations – but this time, of Iranian leaders. It is, to put it bluntly, more redolent of the Saddam Hussein era, to read these reports; and those of Princes ‘disappeared’ from Switzerland and Paris; of a Prime Minister hijacked; and of dissenters and senior princes incarcerated at whim.

Of course, the ‘realists’ will argue ‘so what’. And we see this line coming from ‘western officials’ in their briefing, for example, to the Financial Times: a weary sigh of ‘there is no alternative’ percolates through. “Western officials doubt that the 33-year-old prince is in danger of being ousted as he has consolidated so much power, including bringing all armed forces and security services under his control … There is no obvious candidate to replace Prince Mohammed, who has won support among youth and the liberal elite for his social reforms during his meteoric rise”, they conclude. Really? No one? No one else to perform any of this roles?

Well then, there is indeed a problem here for Trump’s grand strategy: In fact, there is a three-fold problem: One, is psychology. Does MbS or Saudi Arabia now embody anything authoritative, anything compelling, in terms of leadership or vision? Does the Kingdom have the charisma now to gather under its ‘banner’ the Sunni world, and to lead Trump’s ‘war’ on Iran? (Most people in the region have been sickened by events in Yemen, even before the Khashoggi murder).

Secondly, have not all these reports underscored Mr Trump’s political risk in staking so much on the veritable pinhead of a one-man platform? What else lurks unknown and unseen, beneath the surface? (By-the-by, Prime Minister Netanyahu has based his platform too, on a similarly, precariously narrow foundation.)

And lastly, what – in the light of all that is emerging – now stands as the core ‘idea’ advanced by the Gulf: What does ‘the Gulf’ stand for after the eclipse of Monarchial, de haut en bas, handouts of benevolence to grateful ‘subjects’? Is it a vision of quasi-secular autocracy, the ubiquitous security-state, and raw neo-liberalism? Admittedly, the might prove a hit with Israel, but in terms of the energetic national, cultural re-sovereigntisation taking place in the northern tier of the region, this leaden notion is no competitor. And the embrace of the security-state structure – in, and of itself – speaks not of self-confidence, but of rising internal dissent and existential pressures that must be contained and suppressed.

And it is this latter point (increased internal repression) on which Khashoggi’s death, inadvertently, has shed unexpected illumination. It is an insight which suggests that the future axis of conflict in the region will not be as Trump and PM Netanyahu had hoped. It will be focused not on Iran, but will rotate towards a further round of conflict with the Muslim Brotherhood and its patrons – Turkey and Qatar. Some Gulf states are more frightened of Islamist Muslim Brotherhood dissidence within their emirates than they are frightened of Iran, which has no history of external state expansion. These anxieties are driving – and represent – the new regional re-alignment.

And these Gulf states, the UAE and Saudi, are fearful that Turkey – the old Ottoman imperial political power, and seat of the Islamic Umma – might just succeed in usurping Saudi Arabia’s Islamic credentials – as diminishing Saudi’s position as being no more than an inept Custodian of Mecca and Medina (the Turkish press is full of such claims). This would strip the Gulf of much of its significance and value to Washington.

And whilst the Gulf has made its turn toward a quasi-secularism to please the West, Turkey has been quietly vacuuming up what there is of the Gulf’s discarded Islamic credibility in the form of a MB-style, ‘soft’ Islamism – and a very explicit neo-Ottoman revanchism, fueled by Turkey’s sense of being victim to a conspiracy led by Mohamed bin Zayed, the US and Israel.

Thus, the axis of the coming conflict is more likely to be that between a fearful Gulf, and an increasingly assertive Turkey, bidding for the leadership of the Islamic sphere. As for Iran, it can contemplate these events with sanguinity: Saudi being pressed to end its campaign against Yemen -and end its siege of Qatar. And, additionally, this new regional dynamic will only serve to push Turkey and Qatar closer to Iran.

None of this can be countered as promising for Mr Trump. Turkey will ‘lead’ on embracing the Palestinian cause (with Iran and Qatar in the rear), and MbS will lack the credibility or standing to lead any new ‘war’ against Iran after the disaster of Yemen, nor be able to coerce the Palestinians into capitulation in the face of the ‘deal of the century’. Even his near incapacitated father, as well as the al-Saud family, understand Netanyahu’s strategy to bury the ‘idea’ of a Palestinian state – and in any event, Bibi’s strategy is likely to be overtaken by internal politics, as Israel struggles with the implications of Lieberman’s resignation.

All this raises the question of why the Trump Administration continues to view an MbS-led Kingdom as somehow still a fount of strategic stability (… is it just that old habits die hard)? Trump’s policy of not just exiting JCPOA, but of going that ‘mile’ further in seeking to overthrow the Islamic Republic as well, through sanctions will – we suggest – eventually become seen as ‘the Albatross’ which Trump injudiciously – and without compelling need – hung about his own neck. It will not work, and America’s credibility in the Middle East will be gone when that failure becomes apparent.

Why Bring a Bonesaw to a Kidnapping, Your Highness?

By Fred Hiatt

That is a question the crown prince of Saudi Arabia should be asked at every opportunity.

“Thank you for granting me an audience, Your Majesty,” everyone should say. “Why bring a bonesaw to a kidnapping?”

President Trump should be similarly interrogated, along with the members of his team who so far seem eager to become accessories after the fact to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

Given that the Saudis have reverted to a lie so preposterous that even their own chief prosecutor felt compelled to abandon it weeks ago, the president should be asked: Why are you abetting this crime?

Are we really okay, as a country, with an ally luring a journalist living in Northern Virginia into what should be a diplomatic sanctuary for the purpose of assassination and dismemberment — and then baldly, brazenly, ludicrously lying about it?

Apparently, for Trump, the answer is yes, we’re fine with that. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, fine. National security adviser John Bolton, not concerned.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, are you fine with that? Speaker Paul D. Ryan? Will Congress go along with this coverup?

Because that also will be a choice. Congress does have alternatives.

For starters, it could summon CIA Director Gina Haspel, who listened to the tape of Khashoggi’s killing, who knows the truth, who almost certainly knows who ordered Khashoggi’s killing, and ask her: Why bring a bonesaw to a kidnapping?

Recall the sequence of lies that the Saudi regime has presented about this case:

Khashoggi, a Post contributing columnist who would have turned 60 on Oct. 13, entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, at his government’s invitation, shortly after noon on Oct. 2 to take care of some minor paperwork. He told his fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, that he would be out shortly, and asked her to wait.

She waited — until after midnight. She never saw him again.The regime of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told The Post, told Congress, told the world: Khashoggi left the consulate not long after he entered.

We, too, are concerned.
Khashoggi was our friend.
Why would we harm him?

This was the story told by the crown prince and the crown prince’s younger brother, who happened to be the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Khalid bin Salman.

Where is the videotape of him leaving, they were asked. Our cameras were broken, they said. Where is the paperwork he came to fill out? They did not bother to reply.

No doubt they would have stuck by that story, malfunctioning cameras and all, but evidence got in the way. The Turkish government had photographs of a 15-man hit squad arriving from Saudi Arabia and entering the consulate shortly before Khashoggi. The Turks had audiotape of Khashoggi’s brutal killing, almost as soon as he entered the consulate. They knew that the hit squad included a forensic specialist who arrived with his bonesaw, who put on earphones and listened to music as he dismembered the body.

The Saudis retreated to a new story: No, our friend Jamal had not walked out of the consulate. Yes, they admitted, he had died inside. But he had perished in a brawl, when he tried to grapple with the security team (not a hit squad!) that had been sent to meet him.

That story, too, was too preposterous to sustain — or so we thought — and the Saudi prosecutor abandoned it, coincidentally just as Turkey was playing the audiotape for Haspel. Never mind, they said, there was no brawl; Khashoggi was the victim of a premeditated murder, after all.

Who had premeditated it? They would find out and tell the world, the crown prince himself assured Pompeo, and Pompeo assured us.

But on Thursday, the brawl myth was back. The Saudis announced that Khashoggi’s death was unintentional, that a friendly invitation to return to Saudi Arabia had gone awry.

Why would you need a 15-man team to tender such an invitation?

And even if what you had in mind was “only” a forcible rendition — what you or I would call a kidnapping — why would you need a bonesaw?

Oh, and where is Khashoggi’s body? Turned over to a mysterious “Turkish collaborator,” whom the Saudis are unable or unwilling to identify, even to Turkish police.

Probably no one in the United States government harbors the slightest doubt that the architect of this crime was the crown prince, as the CIA has concluded. His closest henchmen orchestrated the deed, and they would not dare act without his knowledge.

He bets that it won’t matter. He bets that he can feed an already discredited fairy tale to Trump and Pompeo and Bolton, and they will obediently swallow it. So far his bet seems safe.

But that doesn’t mean the rest of us have to go along.

Why bring a bonesaw to a kidnapping, Your Highness?

Source: The Washington Post, Edited by website team

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