Voices from Syria’s Rukban Refugee Camp Belie Corporate Media Reporting

Global Research, July 05, 2019
MintPress News 4 July 2019

Eva Bartlett visited refugees in Syria escaping the horrid conditions in the Rukban Refugee Camp, a desolate outpost in the US administered deconfliction zone. What she found was very different than the ‘reality’ depicted by the Western press.

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A little over a year ago — just after the Syrian army and its allies liberated the towns and villages around eastern Ghouta from the myriad armed jihadist groups that had waged a brutal campaign of torture and executions in the area — I interviewed a number of the civilians that had endured life under jihadist rule in Douma, Kafr Batna and the Horjilleh Center for Displaced People just south of Damascus.

A common theme emerged from the testimonies of those civilians: starvation as a result of jihadist control over aid and food supplies, and the public execution of civilians.

Their testimonies echoed those of civilians in other areas of Syria formerly occupied by armed anti-government groups, from Madaya and al-Waer to eastern Aleppo and elsewhere.

Despite those testimonies and the reality on the ground, Western politicians and media alike have placed the blame for the starvation and suffering of Syrian civilians squarely on the shoulders of Russia and Syria, ignoring the culpability of terrorist groups.

In reality, terrorist groups operating within areas of Syria that they occupy have had full control over food and aid, and ample documentation shows that they have hoarded food and medicines for themselves. Even under better circumstances, terrorist groups charged hungry civilians grotesquely inflated prices for basic foods, sometimes demanding up to 8,000 Syrian pounds (US $16) for a kilogram of salt, and 3,000 pounds (US $6) for a bag of bread.

Given the Western press’ obsessive coverage of the starvation and lack of medical care endured by Syrian civilians, its silence has been deafening in the case of Rukban — a desolate refugee camp in Syria’s southeast where conditions are appalling to such an extent that civilians have been dying as a result. Coverage has been scant of the successful evacuations of nearly 15,000 of the 40,000 to 60,000 now-former residents of Rukban (numbers vary according to source) to safe havens where they are provided food, shelter and medical care.

Silence about the civilian evacuations from Rukban is likely a result of the fact that those doing the rescuing are the governments of Syria and Russia — and the fact that they have been doing so in the face of increasing levels of opposition from the U.S. government.

A harsh, abusive environment

Rukban lies on Syria’s desolate desert border with Jordan, surrounded by a 55-km deconfliction zone, unilaterally established and enforced by the United States, and little else aside from the American base at al-Tanf, only 25 km away — a base whose presence is illegal under international law.

It is, by all reports, an unbearably harsh environment year-round and residents of the camp have endured abuse by terrorist groups and merchants within the camp, deprived of the very basics of life for many years now.

In February, the UNHCR reported that young girls and women in Rukban have been forced into marriage, some more than once. Their briefing noted:

Many women are terrified to leave their mud homes or tents and to be outside, as there are serious risks of sexual abuse and harassment. Our staff met mothers who keep their daughters indoors, as they are too afraid to let them go to improvised schools.”

The Jordanian government, home to 664,330 registered Syrian refugees, has adamantly refused any responsibility in providing humanitarian assistance to Rukban, arguing that it is a Syrian issue and that keeping its border with Syria closed is a matter of Jordan’s security — this after a number of terrorist attacks on the border near Rukban, some of which were attributed to ISIS and one that killed six Jordanian soldiers.

According to U.S. think-tank The Century Foundation, armed groups in Rukban have up to 4,000 men in their ranks and include:

Maghawir al-Thawra, the Free Tribes Army, the remnants of a formerly Pentagon-backed group called the Qaryatein Martyr Battalions and three factions formerly linked to the CIA’s covert war in Syria: the Army of the Eastern Lions, the Martyr Ahmed al-Abdo Forces, and the Shaam Liberation Army.”

Those armed groups, according to Russia, include several hundred ISIS and al-Qaeda recruits. Even the Atlantic Council — a NATO- and U.S. State Department-funded think-tank consistent in its anti-Syrian government stance — reported in November 2017 that the Jordanian government acknowledged an ISIS presence in Rukban.

The Century Foundation also notes the presence of ISIS in Rukban and concedes that the U.S. military “controls the area but won’t guarantee the safety of aid workers seeking access to the camp.”

Rukban

The Rukban camp, sandwiched between Jordan, Syria borders and Iraq, Feb. 14, 2017. Raad Adayleh | AP

Syria and Russia have sought out diplomatic means to resolve the issue of Rukban, arguing repeatedly at the United Nations Security Council for the need to dismantle the camp and return refugees to areas once plagued by terrorism but that have now been secured.

As I wrote recently:

The U.S. stymied aid to Rukban, and was then only willing to provide security for aid convoys to a point 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) away from the camp, according to the UN’s own Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock. So, by U.S. administration logic, convoys should have dropped their Rukban-specific aid in areas controlled by terrorist groups and just hoped for the best.”

The U.S., for its part, has both refused the evacuation of refugees from the camp and obstructed aid deliveries on at least two occasions. In February, Russia and Syria opened two humanitarian corridors to Rukban and began delivering much-needed aid to its residents.

Syria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Bashar al-Ja’afari, noted in May 2019 that Syria agreed to facilitate the first aid convoy to Rukban earlier this year, but the convoy was ultimately delayed by the United States for 40 days. A second convoy was then delayed for four months. Al-Ja’afari also noted that the U.S., as an occupying power in Syria, is obliged under the Geneva Conventions to provide food, medicine and humanitarian assistance to those under its occupation.

Then, in early March, the Russian Center for Reconciliation reported that U.S. authorities had refused entry to a convoy of buses intending to enter the deconfliction zone to evacuate refugees from Rukban.

According to a March 2019 article from Public Radio International:

[W]hen Syrian and Iranian forces have entered the 34-mile perimeter around the base, American warplanes have responded with strikes — effectively putting Rukban and its residents under American protection from Assad’s forces.”

Despite the abundance of obstacles they faced, Syria and Russia were ultimately able to evacuate over 14,000 of the camp’s residents to safety. In a joint statement on June 19, representatives of the two countries noted that some of the camp’s residents were forced to pay “militants” between $400 to $1000 in order to leave Rukban.

Media reports on Rukban … from abroad

While Rukban — unlike Madaya or Aleppo in 2016 — generally isn’t making headlines, there are some pro-regime-change media reporting on it, although even those reports tend to omit the fact that civilians have been evacuated to safety and provided with food and medical care.

Instead, articles relieve America and armed Jihadist groups of their role in the suffering of displaced Syrians in Rukban, reserving blame for Syria and Russia and claiming internal refugees are being forced to leave against their will only to be imprisoned by the Syrian government.

Emad Ghali, a “media activist,” has been at the center of many of these claims. Ghali has been cited as a credible source in most of the mainstream Western press’ reporting on Rukban, from the New York Times, to Al Jazeera, to the Middle East Eye. Cited since at least 2018 in media reporting on Rukban, Ghali has an allegiance to the Free Syrian Army, a fact easily gleaned by simply browsing his Facebook profile. He recently posted multiple times on Facebook mourning the passing of jihadist commander and footballer Abdul Baset al-Sarout. As it turns out, Sarout not only held extremist and sectarian views, but pledged allegiance to ISIS, among other less-than-noble acts ignored by most media reports that cite him.

Ghali ISIS

Ghali paid homage to ISIS commander Abdul Baset al-Sarout on his Facebook page

Citing Ghali as merely a “media activist” is not an unusual practice for many covering the Syrian conflict. In fact, Ghali holds the same level of extremist-minded views as the “sources” cited by the New York Times in articles that I reported on around the time Ghouta was being liberated from jihadist groups in 2018.

Four sources used in those articles had affiliations to, and/or reverence for the al-Qaeda-linked Jaysh al-Islam — including the former leader Zahran Alloush who has been known to confine civilians in cages, including women and children, for use as human shields in Ghouta — Faylaq al-Rahman, and even to al-Qaeda, not to mention the so-called Emir of al-Qaeda in Syria, the applauded Abu Muhammad Al-Julani.

Claims in a Reuters article of forced internment, being held at gunpoint in refugee centers, come from sources not named in Rukban — instead generically referred to as “residents of Rukban say”…

An article in the UAE-based The National also pushed fear-mongering over the “fate that awaits” evacuees, saying:

[T]here is talk of Syrian government guards separating women and children from men in holding centres in Homs city.There are also accusations of a shooting last month, with two men who had attempted an escape from one of the holding centres allegedly killed. The stories are unconfirmed, but they are enough to make Rukban’s men wary of taking the government’s route out.”

Yet reports from those who have actually visited the centers paint a different picture.

An April 2019 report by Russia-based Vesti News shows calm scenes of Rukban evacuees receiving medical exams by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, who according to Vesti, have doctors there every day; and of food and clean, if not simple, rooms in a former school housing displaced refugees from Rukban. Notably, the Vesti journalist states: “There aren’t any checkpoints or barriers at the centre. The entrance and exit are free.”

The Russian Reconciliation Center reported on May 23 of the refugee centers:

In early May, these shelters were visited by officials from the respective UN agencies, in particular, the UNHCR, who could personally see that the Syrian government provided the required level of accommodation for the refugees in Homs. It is remarkable that most of the former Rukban residents have already relocated from temporary shelters in Homs to permanent residencies in government-controlled areas.”

Likewise, in the Horjilleh Center which I visited in 2018 families were living in modest but sanitary shelters, cooked food was provided, a school was running, and authorities were working to replace identity papers lost during the years under the rule of jihadist groups.

Calling on the U.S. to close the camp

David Swanson, Public Information Officer Regional Office for the Syria Crisis UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs based in Amman, Jordan, told me regarding claims of substandard conditions and of Syrians being forcefully held or mistreated in the centers that,

People leaving Rukban are taken to temporary collective shelters in Homs for a 24-hour stay. While there, they receive basic assistance, including shelter, blankets, mattresses, solar lamps, sleeping mats, plastic sheets, food parcels and nutrition supplies before proceeding to their areas of choice, mostly towards southern and eastern Homs, with small numbers going to rural Damascus or Deir-ez-Zor.

The United Nations has been granted access to the shelters on three occasions and has found the situation there adequate. The United Nations continues to advocate and call for safe, sustained and unimpeded humanitarian assistance and access to Rukban as well as to all those in need throughout Syria. The United Nations also seeks the support of all concerned parties in ensuring the humanitarian and voluntary character of departures from Rukban.”

Hedinn Halldorsson, the Spokesperson and Public Information Officer for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) based in Damascus, told me:

We looked into this when the rumours started, end of April, and concluded they were unfounded – and communicated that externally via press briefings in both Geneva and NY. The conditions in the shelters in Homs are also adequate and in compliance with standards; the UN has access and has done three monitoring visits so far.”

Syria Rukban

Syrian Arab Red Crescent members unload food and water for Rukban’s evacuees. Photo | Eva Bartlett

Halldorsson noted official UN statements, including:

“Alleged mistreatment of Rukban returnees

  • The United Nations is aware of media reports about people leaving Rukban having been killed or subject to mistreatment upon arrival in shelters in Homs.
  • The United Nations has not been able to confirm any of the allegations.

Regarding the issue of shelters, Halldorsson noted that as of July 1st:

  • Nearly 15,600 people have left Rukban since March – or nearly 40 per cent of the estimated total population of 41,700.
  • The United Nations has been granted access to the shelters in Homs on three occasions and found conditions in these shelters to be adequate.”

Confirming both UN officials’ statements about the Syrian government’s role in Rukban, the Syrian Mission to the United Nations in New York City told me:

The Syrian Government has spared no effort in recent years to provide every form of humanitarian assistance and support to all Syrians affected by the crisis, regardless of their locations throughout Syria. The Syrian Government has therefore collaborated and cooperated with the United Nations and other international organizations working in Syria to that end, in accordance with General Assembly resolution 46/182.

There must be an end to the suffering of tens of thousands of civilians who live in Al-Rukban, an area which is controlled by illegitimate foreign forces and armed terrorist groups affiliated with them. The continued suffering of those Syrian civilians demonstrates the indifference of the United States Administration to their suffering and disastrous situation.

We stress once again that there is a need to put an end to the suffering of these civilians and to close this camp definitively. The detained people in the camp must be allowed to leave it and return to their homes, which have been liberated by the Syrian Arab Army from terrorism. We note that the Syrian Government has taken all necessary measures to evacuate the detainees from the Rukban camp and end their suffering. What is needed today is for the American occupation forces to allow the camp to be dismantled and to ensure safe transportation in the occupied Al-Tanf area.”

Given that the United States has clearly demonstrated not only a lack of will to aid and or resettle Rukban’s residents but a callousness that flies in the face of their purported concern for Syrians in Rukban, the words of Syrian and Russian authorities on how to solve the crisis in Rukban could not ring truer.

Very little actual coverage

The sparse coverage Rukban has received has mostly revolved around accusations that the camp’s civilians fear returning to government-secured areas of Syria for fear of being imprisoned or tortured. This, in spite of the fact that areas brought back under government control over the years have seen hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians return to live in peace and of a confirmation by the United Nations that they had “positively assessed the conditions created by the Syrian authorities for returning refugees.”

The accusations also come in spite of the fact that, for years now, millions of internally displaced Syrians have taken shelter in government areas, often housed and given medical care by Syrian authorities.

Over the years I’ve found myself waiting for well over a month for my journalist visa at the Syrian embassy in Beirut to clear. During these times I traveled around Lebanon where I’ve encountered Syrians who left their country either for work, the main reason, or because their neighborhoods were occupied by terrorist groups. All expressed a longing for Syria and a desire to return home.

In March, journalist Sharmine Narwani tweeted in part that,

the head of UNDP in Lebanon told me during an interview: ‘I have not met a single Syrian refugee who does not want to go home.’”

Of the authors who penned articles claiming that Syrians in Rukban are afraid to return to government-secured areas of Syria, few that I’m aware of actually traveled to Syria to speak with evacuees, instead reporting from Istanbul or even further abroad.

On June 12, I did just that, hiring a taxi to take me to a dusty stretch of road roughly 60 km east of ad-Dumayr, Syria, where I was able to intercept a convoy of buses ferrying exhausted refugees out of Rukban.

Merchants, armed groups and Americans

Five hundred meters from a fork in the highway connecting a road heading northeast to Tadmur (Palmyra) to another heading southeast towards Iraq — I waited at a nondescript stopping point called al-Waha, where buses stopped for water and food to be distributed to starving refugees. In Arabic, al-Waha means the oasis and, although only a makeshift Red Crescent distribution center, and compared to Rukban it might as well have been an oasis.

A convoy of 18 buses carrying nearly 900 tormented Syrians followed by a line of trucks carrying their belongings were transferred to refugee reception centers in Homs. Members of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent distributed boxes containing beans, chickpeas and canned meat — the latter a scarcity among the displaced.

Rukban evacuation

Buses transported nearly 900 refugees from Rukban Camp to temporary shelters in Homs on June 12. Photo | Eva Bartlett

As food and water were handed out, I moved from bus to bus speaking with people who endured years-long shortages of food, medicine, clean water, work and education … the basic essentials of life. Most people I spoke to said they were starving because they couldn’t afford the hefty prices of food in the camp, which they blamed on Rukban’s merchants. Some blamed the terrorist groups operating in the camp and still others blamed the Americans. A few women I spoke to blamed the Syrian government, saying no aid had entered Rukban at all, a claim that would later be refuted by reports from both the UN and Red Crescent.

Image on the right: An elderly woman recounted enduring hunger in Rukban. Photo | Eva Bartlett

Syria Rukban

An old woman slumped on the floor of one bus recounted:

We were dying of hunger, life was hell there. Traders [merchants] sold everything at high prices, very expensive; we couldn’t afford to buy things. We tried to leave before today but we didn’t have money to pay for a car out. There were no doctors; it was horrible there.”

Aboard another bus, an older woman sat on the floor, two young women and several babies around her. She had spent four years in the camp:

“Everything was expensive, we were hungry all the time. We ate bread, za’atar, yogurt… We didn’t know meat, fruit…”

Merchants charged 1,000 Syrian pounds (US $2) for five potatoes, she said, exemplifying the absurdly high prices.

I asked whether she’d been prevented from leaving before. “Yes,” she responded.

She didn’t get a chance to elaborate as a younger woman further back on the bus shouted at her that no one had been preventing anyone from leaving. When I asked the younger woman how the armed groups had treated her, she replied, “All respect to them.”

But others that I spoke to were explicit in their blame for both the terrorist groups operating in the camp and the U.S. occupation forces in al-Tanf.

An older man from Palmyra who spent four years in the camp spoke of “armed gangs” paid in U.S. dollars being the only ones able to eat properly:

The armed gangs were living while the rest of the people were dead. No one here had fruit for several years. Those who wanted fruit have to pay in U.S. dollars. The armed groups were the only ones who could do so. They were spreading propaganda: ‘don’t go, the aid is coming.’ We do not want aid. We want to go back to our towns.”

Mahmoud Saleh, a young man from Homs, told me he’d fled home five years ago. According to Saleh, the Americans were in control of Rukban. He also put blame on the armed groups operating in the camp, especially for controlling who was permitted to leave. He said,

“There are two other convoys trying to leave but the armed groups are preventing them.”

Image below: Mahmoud Saleh from Homs said the Americans control Rukban and blamed armed groups in the camp for controlling who could leave. Photo | Eva Bartlett

Syria Rukban

A shepherd who had spent three years in Rukban blamed “terrorists” for not being able to leave. He also blamed the United States:

“Those controlling Tanf wouldn’t let us leave, the Americans wouldn’t let us leave.”

Many others I spoke to said they had wanted to leave before but were fear-mongered by terrorists into staying, told they would be “slaughtered by the regime,” a claim parroted by many in the Western press when Aleppo and other areas of Syria were being liberated from armed groups.

The testimonies I heard when speaking to Rukban evacuees radically differed from the claims made in most of the Western press’ reporting about Syria’s treatment of refugees. These testimonies are not only corroborated by Syrian and Russian authorities, but also by the United Nations itself.

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Note to readers: please click the share buttons above or below. Forward this article to your email lists. Crosspost on your blog site, internet forums. etc.

Eva Bartlett is a Canadian independent journalist and activist. She has spent years on the ground covering conflict zones in the Middle East, especially in Syria and occupied Palestine, where she lived for nearly four years. She is a recipient of the 2017 International Journalism Award for International Reporting, granted by the Mexican Journalists’ Press Club (founded in 1951), was the first recipient of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism, and was short-listed in 2017 for the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism. See her extended bio on her blog In Gaza. She tweets at @EvaKBartlett

Featured image:  An elderly women evacuated from Rukban complained of hunger due to extremely high food prices. Photo | Eva Bartlett

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Hezbollah’s Secret Plan to Invade Galilee: Israeli Media

July 2, 2019

Hezbollah missiles

Claiming that the Israeli occupation army has destroyed Hezbollah’s border tunnels, Israeli media said that the Lebanese resistance organization still plans to operate inside the Palestinian occupied territory and take control of a town or a piece of land in Galilee.

“Perhaps Hezbollah doesn’t have another strategic weapon like the tunnels, but it can be assumed it still has an extremely ambitious and detailed plan to occupy communities and military posts on Israel’s northern border,” Times of Israel reported on Sunday.

In an article titled: “Hezbollah’s secret, grandiose plan to invade Israel in the post-tunnel era,” Times of Israel’s Avi Issacharoff          said the Lebanese resistance movement’s tunnel plan was meant to shock the Zionist entity by funneling hundreds of members of the Radwan commando unit into the occupied territories to carry out various attacks.

Issacharoff noted that the activities of the Radwan unit resemble the occupation forces’ elite units “such as combat soldiers trained to use ATVs or navy commando fighters supposed to sneak into Israel in small underwater vessels.”

“In the absence of the tunnels, the mission of Radwan members will likely be to covertly get thousands of fighters into Israel at once through several points on the border while bombarding the border region, hoping that will overwhelm the IDF and allow some of the fighters to reach an Israeli border community or army post,” the Israeli writer said, referring to the occupation forces.

He added that Hezbollah plans a trick through a heavy artillery bombardment of the entire border area, plus the use of high-caliber rockets that can destroy targets such as military posts.

“The group today possesses significant firepower that could theoretically wipe out the entire Israeli frontline upon command — every post, every antenna.”

Issacharoff added that Hezbollah’s attack plan will likely involve a logistic and intelligence apparatus, including drones that would transmit real-time intelligence and could carry out “kamikaze” bombings of Israeli targets.

He said meanwhile, that a land barrier built by Israel in recent years will “make it difficult” for such an operation to be carried out, but noted that “Hezbollah decision-makers nevertheless think that at least some of the attackers will manage to penetrate into Israeli territory.”

SourceIsraeli media

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The “Let Em Eat Cake” Deal of the Century: Trump’s “No Peace Deal Peace Plan” for Palestine and the Middle East

Global Research, June 28, 2019

A peace conference without participation of warring sides is an affront to what the process is supposed to be all about.

Trump’s no-peace/deal of the century peace plan was partly introduced at the so-called June 25-26 “Peace to Prosperity Workshop” in Bahrain.

A fascist dictatorship was appropriately chosen to host a scheme Palestinians, the Arab street, and activists for peace, equity, and justice categorically reject.

The common theme of participating nations was their abhorrence of rule of law principles and democratic values. Representatives from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Oman and Morocco attended.

So did reinvented war criminal Tony Blair, along with US officials, others from the predatory World Bank and IMF, business interests as well showing up.

Palestinians boycotted the conference. Israel didn’t attend because of their absence. Nor Iraq and Lebanon.

Many participating representatives were mid-level officials, indicating lack of enthusiasm for the Trump regime’s dog and pony PR show — a scheme going nowhere.

Deceptively billed as “a vision to empower the Palestinian people to build a prosperous and vibrant Palestinian society,” the plan is all about serving privileged US/Israeli interests at their expense.

It has nothing to do with peace, equity and justice for long-suffering Palestinians, nothing to do with resolving irreconcilable Israeli/Palestinian differences, nothing to do with fundamental Palestinian rights affirmed under international law.

The economic portion of the plan discussed is all about serving US-led Western and Israeli monied interests, neoliberal harshness intended for Palestinians – how ordinary people are mistreated throughout the West and for the majority of Israeli Jews.

UK-based Palestinian academic Kamel Hawwash said holding the workshop without Palestinian participation showed its true goal — exploiting, not helping them, adding:

Palestinian self-determination and other rights affirmed under international law are fundamental.

Without achieving them, the peace process is stillborn — the way it’s been for the past half-century, the greatest hoax in modern times, along with the US global war OF terror, not on it.

Trump’s no-peace/deal of the century ignores fundamental final status issues, including Palestinian self-determination, illegal Israeli occupation, settlements, borders, air and water rights, other resources, the right of diaspora Palestinians to return to their homeland, and East Jerusalem as exclusive Palestinian capital.

The plan ignores US/UK responsibility for over a century of harshness imposed on Palestinians, over 70 years of Israeli viciousness, and over half a century of militarized occupation — their land stolen, their fundamental rights denied.

Longstanding Israeli land theft is fundamental, what the Trump regime supports, including Jewish state annexation of West Bank settlements on stolen Palestinian land.

The plan treats Palestinians as “customers,” not afforded the right to be citizens of their own country, free from oppressive occupation.

The scheme involves securing a $50 billion investment fund for infrastructure and business projects. It’s unclear where most of the money is coming from and under what terms — whether it’s a gift, a loan, or combination of both, and what return on investment donors/lenders expect.

Without resolving key political issues, the economic proposal is meaningless. Who’ll invest billions of dollars for development in a de facto war zone?

Undeclared Israeli war on Palestinians remains ongoing throughout the Territories, no end of it in prospect.

The Trump regime showed contempt for their rights by illegally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s exclusive capital, moving the US embassy there, and cutting off all funding for millions Palestinian refugees considered nonpeople.

Over $200 million in US aid for the West Bank and Gaza was “redirected” elsewhere “to ensure these funds are spent in accordance with US national interests (sic) and provide value to the US taxpayer (sic).”

The Trump regime’s vision of “a new reality in the Middle East” is old wine in new bottles — Palestinians still denied their right to live in peace on their own land in their own country, Israel’s repressive boot no longer stomping on them.

The bottom line of what went on in Bahrain and may follow is that Trump’s no-peace/deal of the century peace plan was dead before arrival — leaving oppressive Israeli apartheid rule in place.

 

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Note to readers: please click the share buttons below. Forward this article to your email lists. Crosspost on your blog site, internet forums. etc.

Award-winning author Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG)

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

مؤتمر المنامة ومأزق السياسات الأميركية

يونيو 25, 2019

ناصر قنديل

– ستكشف الأيام أن أشد قرارات إدارة الرئيس الأميركي دونالد ترامب غباءً وأكثرها تعبيراً عن الجهل والأمية السياسية هو قرار تبني حل للقضية الفلسطينية يلبي المطالب الإسرائيلية بالكامل ويتجاهل الحد الأدنى من الحقوق الفلسطينية بالعودة والقدس وتقرير المصير، مستنداً إلى الاطمئنان لوجود الحكومات العربيّة في قبضته، ومتوهّما أن مقايضة القضية الفلسطينية بالمال أمر ممكن أن يكتب له النجاح، وأن الكتلة العربية الرسمية لن تجرؤ على التمرد على قراره. وهنا من المفيد أن نستذكر كلاماً لوزيرة الخارجية ومستشارة الأمن القومي الأميركي سابقاً غونداليسا رايس في مقال لها في النيويورك تايمز أول أيلول 2000 بعد دخول ارئيل شارون إلى المسجد الأقصى، قالت فيه إن شارون أطاح عقوداً من النجاحات الأميركية بجعل القدس وفلسطين والعروبة من المفردات المنسيّة، وأعادها إلى الضوء مذكراً شعوب المنطقة بهويتهم الجامعة، محرجاً حكومات قطعت مع واشنطن أشواطاً في التعاون لتدمير هذه الهوية الجامعة.

– مؤتمر المنامة الذي يشكل الاختبار الأهم لقدرة أميركا على تأمين الحشد اللازم للإقلاع بصفقة القرن، التي تشكّل عنوان المشروع الأميركي لشرق أوسط جديد، ينعقد بحضور جدّي واضح من عدد من الحكومات العربية بعدد أصابع اليد الواحدة، هي السعودية والإمارات والبحرين ومصر والأردن، وبغياب رسميّ واضح موازٍ بالعدد، لفلسطين وسورية والعراق ولبنان والجزائر، وبينهما تراوح في الغياب والحضور دول كالكويت وقطر وعمان من جهة، والمغرب وموريتانيا وتونس من جهة موازية، حيث في الجانب الأول تريّث لعدم الوقوع في خطأ الحساب، وفي الجانب الثاني أحزاب سياسية وحركات في الشارع وفي المجلس النيابي تعلن تجريم الحضور وتفتح النار عليه. والحكومات مرتبكة القرار.

– في كل المعارك التي خاضتها واشنطن منذ العام 2000 نجحت في الحفاظ على تماسك موقف عربي رسمي وراءها، من الحرب على العراق إلى الحرب على سورية، ومثل ذلك نجحت في حشد النظام العربي الرسمي وراء السعودية في حرب اليمن وفي مواجهة إيران، حتى جاء موعد الحصاد، في كيفية تسييل هذا الفائض الأميركي في الجيب الإسرائيلي، فبدأ التغيير، والضربة القاضية كانت فلسطينية، وبغياب التغطية الفلسطينية لأي مشروع يخصّ فلسطين، يصعب على أي حاكم أو حكم عربي أن يغامر أو يقامر. فهذه فلسطين، وهذه القدس، واللعب ممنوع ومكلف وخطير. وها هي النتيجة أميركا تستبعد «إسرائيل» من المدعوين أملاً برفع نسبة الحضور، والحصيلة أن أعلى نسبة تمثيل هي وزير دولة، فحتى الدولة التي تتلقى التعليمات وتنفذ الأوامر لا تجرؤ على جعل المناسبة احتفالاً «يليق» بصهر الرئيس ترامب وعراب الصفقة.

– من يظن أن العبث مع فلسطين والقدس ممكن عليه أن يفسر هذه الخيبة وهذا الفشل، ومن يعتقد أن الأميركي ممسك بالوضع العربي عليه أن يضع تحفظاً ويضيف «حتى يصل الأمر إلى فلسطين». فعملياً الذي يجري الآن هو أن محوراً عربياً يولد من رحم المقاطعة لمؤتمر المنامة، سيتبلور أطرافه بوضوح كلما تمسّكت واشنطن بمشروعها، ومقابله سيكون محور العار، وبينهما محور الانتظار، ورغم كل شيء يمر به لبنان وكل شيء يقع تحت وطأته العراق، سيكتب لهما مع فلسطين وسورية تشكيل عمق جديد لمحور جديد سيكتب التاريخ العربي الجديد وننتظر الجزائر. وغداً ربما تكون معهم الكويت، وموريتانيا والمغرب وشوارع تونس والعين على مصر والأردن وما سيقوله الشارع فيهما إن لم يكن اليوم فبعد حين، ولن يطول الانتظار. فهذه فلسطين وهذه القدس.

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صفقة القرن: سقوط يتهيّأ وتداعيات تعقبها؟

يونيو 11, 2019

العميد د. أمين محمد حطيط

قد يكون تراءى للبعض خاصة من أولئك الذين يؤمنون ويتصرفون على أساس انّ إرادة اميركا وقرارها قدر لا يُردّ، ان يكون تراءى لهم انّ سعي اميركا لتصفية القرار الفلسطينية عبر ما اسمي «صفقة القرن» بات امراً نهائياً مؤكداً، وانّ مواجهته ستكون عقيمة فاشلة. وقد غاب عن هؤلاء انّ إرادة الشعوب إذا فعلت تبقى هي الأقوى، غاب عنهم انّ مساعي كثيرة لطمس جريمة اغتصاب فلسطين خلال الأعوام السبعين الماضية لم تنجح في تحقيق المُراد، وبقيت القضية الفلسطينية عند الأمتين العربية والإسلامية وأحرار العالم القضية المركزية الأولى التي يتمّ التمسك بها ويرفض تصفيتها مع سعي دائم الى إعادة الحقوق الى أصحابها، ولا يغيّر من هذه الحقيقة خيانة بعض الأنظمة الرسمية لهذه القضية وارتهانها للعدو الإسرائيلي وأميركا.

اليوم ومنذ ان صعد ترامب الى كرسي رئاسة الولايات المتحدة الأميركية ويتصاعد الحديث عن قضية فلسطين وتصفيتها الى ان عبّر عنه بعنوان «صفقة القرن» التي تختصر بإعطاء فلسطين كلها لـ «إسرائيل» واعتبارها وطناً قومياً لليهود، وتوطين الفلسطينيين المهجّرين من أرضهم حيث هم خارجها وبخاصة في سيناء والأردن ولبنان وإقامة نظام إقليمي ذي طبيعة مركبة سياسية أمنية اقتصادية بإدارة «إسرائيلية» وقيادة ورعاية أميركية، عملية تتمّ بتمويل عربي مع بعض الدعم الطفيف من أميركا وأوروبا واليابان.

وفي التنفيذ، تمّ اعتماد سياسة القضم المتدرّج والابتلاع لقمة لقمة، فكانت مواقف أميركا من مسألة القدس وإعلانها عاصمة للكيان الصهيوني ثم مسألة إسقاط صفة المحتلّ عن كلّ أرض تحتلها «إسرائيل» الآن، ثم اعتبار الجولان جزءا من «إسرائيل»، ثم التضييق على وكالة غوث اللاجئين لتصفيتها وإسقاط مصطلح لاجئ فلسطيني من التداول لإسقاط حق العودة، ووصل قطار التنفيذ الآن الى بناء النظام الدولي لتمويل الصفقة، ولأجل هذا كانت الدعوة الى ما اسمي «ورشة البحرين»، من أجل «الازدهار والسلام» أيّ ازدهار «إسرائيل» وسلامها.

هذه المشهدية والتسلسل المتتابع للخطوات التنفيذية أقنعت البعض كما سبق القول، بانّ صفقة القرن في طريقها الواثق للنجاح الأكيد… فهل هذا الظنّ أو الاعتقاد في محله؟ وهل يمكن الركون الى هذه العناصر للقول بنجاح القرار الأميركي بتصفية القضية الفلسطينية، وتنفيذ الخطة المسماة صفقة القرن؟

انّ البحث في المقلب الآخر، وتجميع العناصر وتحليلها، يؤدّي الى نتيجة مغايرة للتسليم المتقدّم ذاك ويقودنا الى القول بأنّ أميركا تعمل للتصفية مع «إسرائيل» ومعها بعض أنظمة العرب الرسمية، لكن هناك كتلة كبرى مقاومة لهذه الصفقة تملك من القدرات والمكانة وتتمتع بمزايا من شأنها ان تعرقل التنفيذ أولاً وان تسقط الصفقة ثانية، وقد بدأت هذه الكتلة الممانعة المقاومة باتخاذ المواقف التي تنبئ بأنّ تهيئة بيئة إسقاط صفقة القرن قائمة على قدم وساق، لا بل انّ الاعتقاد بسقوط الصفقة بات أقوى بكثير من الظنّ بإمكان نجاحها، ويمكن ان يبرّر هذا الاعتقاد بفشل أميركا الأكيد في خطتها الإجرامية بما يلي:

1 ـ إجماع فلسطيني محكم وشامل على رفض التنازل عن الحقوق الوطنية في فلسطين بشتى وجوهها بما في ذلك حق العودة وحق تقرير المصير وحق إقامة الدولة الفلسطينية الكاملة السيادة والناجزة الاستقلال، هذا الرفض يعني بكلّ بساطة: الزواج لن يحصل إذا كان رفض من العريس او من العروس. فالفلسطينيون هم الطرف الأول والأساسي في الصفقة لأنهم هم أصلاً أصحاب الحقوق المنوي تصفيتها وشطبها.

2 ـ رفض دولي وإقليمي للصفقة مع تمسك بما نصّت عليه القرارات والمبادرات السابقة بحلّ الدولتين. اذ رغم كلّ ما يُقال عن سيطرة أميركية على قرارات الأمم المتحدة ومجلس الأمن فيها فإنّ هناك متغيّرات دولية جعلت مجلس الأمن يتفلت من هذه السيطرة نوعاً ما مع وجود فيتو صيني روسي فاعل بوجه أميركا، وقد رفضت كلّ من روسيا والصين الخروج على الشرعية الدولية في مسألة فلسطين، ما يعني عدم السير بصفقة القرن، والأمر ذاته ظهر في منظمة التعاون الإسلامي التي أكدت على هذه الشرعية ورفضت التنازل عن الحقوق الوطنية الفلسطينية ثم كانت أغلبية المواقف الدولية بما في ذلك الأوروبية التي تختصر بعبارة وجوب احترام الشرعية الدولة او قول الآخرين «لا نقبل بما يرفضه الفلسطينيون» عبارة كافية للقول بانّ هناك عقبة دولية كبرى أمام الصفقة.

3 ـ الوهن والضعف المستشري في بنية أطراف الصفقة: من المعروف انّ الصفقة أرسيت على قوائم ثلاث ترامب ونتنياهو ومحمد بن سلمان، وهؤلاء الثلاثة يعانون اليوم من حالة وهن تستشري في أوضاعهم وتمنعهم من التحرك الآمن لتنفيذ مشاريع استراتيجية كبرى بحجم صفقة القرن، حيث نجد ترامب في وضع مهتزّ داخل أميركا مع شحذ وشهر سيف العزل بوجهه إضافة الى انه أصلاً يستعدّ للدخول في السنة الأخيرة لولايته وهي سنة الانتخابات، ونتنياهو تعثر في تشكيل الحكومة ما اضطره للذهاب الى انتخابات مبكرة غير مضمونة النتائج، والأخير ابن سلمان يغرق في وحول اليمن ويخسر المواقع في العسكرية في جيزان وتتعرّض مرافقه النفطية لتهديدات جدية تجعله في وضع يتنافى مع مستلزمات إطلاق صفقة استراتيجية كبرى.

4 ـ عجز معسكر العدوان على سورية من احتواء الخسارة فيها وتحييد سورية عن الهمّ الإقليمي العربي الأساسي. حيث انّ سورية استطاعت بعد عظيم الإنجازات التي تحققت في معركة الدفاع عن نفسها، استطاعت مؤخراً ان تفشل حرب الاستنزاف التي جرت إليها، وان تنطلق وبثبات واضح في معركة تحرير إدلب، المعركة التي تجهض استراتيجية أميركا إطالة امد الصراع وتسرع في استعادة سورية دورها الاستراتيجي العربي والإقليمي في المحافظة على حقوق الأمة عامة والفلسطينيين خاصة، وقد أثبتت التجارب السابقة ان لا حلّ ولا سلام ولا هدوء في المنطقة انْ لم يقترن بتوقيع سوري، وسورية ترفض صفقة القرن علانية ووضوحاً.

5 ـ اشتداد التماسك في محور المقاومة وتنامي قدراته المختلفة بما في ذلك العسكرية والسياسية، وعلى هذا الصعيد يسجل أمران… الأول بنيوي وفيه عودة بعض الفصائل الفلسطينية التي اختارت الطريق الخطأ خارج المحور، والثاني التوسع الجغرافي والعسكري لمحور المقاومة وقدرته على ممارسة الحرب الشاملة الواسعة التي يعجز العدو عن إنهائها، والمعروف المؤكد عليه انّ محور المقاومة وفي ظلّ إجماع فلسطيني على رفض الصفقة سيكون في خدمة هذا الإجماع لمنع تمرير الصفقة.

ـ إحجام مصري أردني عن منح التسهيلات التنفيذية التي تتطلبها الصفقة ومن المعروف انّ على الدولتين أعباء يشترط القيام بها لإنجاز الصفقة، فعلى مصر ان تعطي أرضاً في سيناء وعلى الأردن ان يفتح باب التوطين لمليوني فلسطيني وان يراجع نظامه السياسي ليصبح الأردن بمثابة الوطن البديل. وكلا الأمرين مرفوضان من قبل أصحاب العلاقة كما يبدو.

لكلّ ما تقدّم نكاد نقول انّ المشهد بات محبطاً لأميركا واتباعها، ولا يشجع على القول بانّ نجاح الصفقة أمر مضمون، لا بل العكس تماماً نقول انّ المشهد يكاد يقطع بفشل الصفقة، قول يعززه أيضاً ان وقت صاحب المشروع وأطرافه قد ضاق كثيراً، فترامب يستعدّ في الخريف المقبل لإطلاق سنة الانتخابات الرئاسية مع ما يستلزم انشغاله بها ونتنياهو مضطر لخوض انتخابات مبكرة في أيلول أيضاً ما سيحرمه من بذل الجهد والقدرة على القرار للعمل من أجل الصفقة المترنّحة ولهذا نرى انه من المجدي النظر الى المستقبل وفيه فشل الصفقة المرتقب، وتوقع بعض التداعيات لفشلها خاصة في:

أ ـ الأردن: الذي سيضطر الى إعادة النظر في الكثير من المواقف والسياسيات الخارجية والداخلية وان يكون أقلّ تبعية لدول الخليج التي دعمت الصفقة على حساب الكيان الأردني ومصالحه.

ب ـ لبنان الذي سيؤدّي به فشل الصفقة الى إعادة النظر بخطة التجويع للتركيع ثم المقايضة مع التوطين وقد تكون خطة سيدر وموازنة التقشف المبحوث المطروحتين من ضحايا فشل صفقة القرن.

ج ـ سورية التي سيرتدّ فيها فشل الصفقة على خطة أميركا الرامية الى إطالة الحرب والتمهيد للتقسيم وإذا عطف الأمر على العناوين الأخرى المتقدّمة الذكر أمكن القول بانّ تسارع عمليات إنهاء الازمة السورية سيكون منطقياً.

د ـ فلسطين وهي الأساس، وانّ اهمّ ما سيسجل فها تبريد في العلاقات الداخلية بين الأطراف الفلسطينية مع تعثر ضمّ الضفة وسقوط خطة تهجير فلسطيني 48، ومراجعة لبعض سياسات السلطة تجاه «إسرائيل».

أسباب الحرب على إيران… أسرارها في البحرين؟

مايو 21, 2019

د. وفيق إبراهيم

قمة البحرين المرتقبة الأسبوع الأخير من حزيران المقبل تُلخصُ الأبعاد الفعلية للتوتر العسكري الكبير الذي يُخيمُ على منطقة الخليج وصولاً الى أعالي اليمن.

فالقوى الأميركية والخليجية والإسرائيلية التي يهددُ الرئيس الأميركي ترامب باسمها بمحو إيران هي نفسها الدول والقوى التي تستضيفها مملكة البحرين في قمّة لها هدف أساسي. وهو تأمين استثمارات «للأراضي الفلسطينية» و«السلام من أجل الازدهار» والشراكة الاستراتيجية مع الأميركيين، فيما تختص القمة الخليجية في أواخر أيار الحالي بما يزعمون أنه «الإرهاب الإيراني».

التقاطعات الحادة اذاً واضحة بين الحصار الحربي والاقتصادي غير المسبوق حول إيران وبين قمتين إحداهما تريد خنق إيران وثانية تذهب نحو خنق فلسطين والعرب والعالم الإسلامي بكامله.

وإذا كان غياب «إسرائيل» عن القمة العربية أمراً طبيعياً، لأنها كيان غير عربي فإن وزير ماليتها موشيه كحلون مدعو للمشاركة في قمة البحرين إلى جانب وزير الخزانة الأميركي ستيغين منوش ووزراء وقادة من الدول الإسلامية والعربية والأميركية واقتصاديين عالميين من أصحاب الشركات الكبرى، ولتمرير هذه القمة بأقل قدر ممكن من الاعتراضات مع كثير من التأييد جرى طرح شعارات جاذبة على مستوى الاقتصاد منها: فرصٌ مثيرة للفلسطينيين، استثمارات كبيرة «للأراضي الفلسطينية»، أفكار واستراتيجيات لدعم الاستثمارات، الدعم الاقتصادي للفلسطينيين والأردنيين والمصريين وخلق اقتصاد إقليمي ناجح.

وأرسل مستشار ترامب وصهره جاريد كوشنر اليهودي الأميركي والقائد الفعلي للقمة شكراً كبيراً لدولة البحرين على «الاستضافة»، فيما اكتفى وزير المال البحريني سلمان بن خليفة بوصف القمة بأنها تجسّد الشراكة الاستراتيجية بين العرب والأميركيين.

للتنبّه فقط فإن مساحة البحرين تزيد قليلاً عن خمس مئة كيلومتر مربع وفيها قواعد عسكرية أميركية وبريطانية وفرنسية وسعودية وأخرى لمجلس التعاون الخليجي والقوات البحرينية وحضور عسكري إسرائيلي، ودرك أردني لقمع التظاهرات الداخلية، فماذا يبقى بعد كل هذا الانتشار العسكري العلني لإقامة السكان المحليين؟

وهل هذه شراكات استراتيجية عسكرية أم احتلال لأسباب أخرى تحت مسمّى حماية العائلة الحاكمة؟

البحرين إذاً، وكما يظهر واضحاً، موقع استراتيجي يوفر حماية للانظمة السياسية في الخليج إنما في وجه مَن؟ فـ»إسرائيل» ليست هناك وروسيا بعيدة والصين في أقصى الارض وهذا بمفرده دليل ساطع على ارتباط هذا الانتشار العسكري بالسياسات الإيرانية التي ترفض الهيمنة الأميركية وتؤيد تحرير فلسطين من باب العمل الفعلي من أجلها في غزة ولبنان وسورية وليس على مستوى الخطابات والابتهالات.

على المستوى العملي والواضح تريد قمة البحرين تحقيق الجزء الثاني من صفقة القرن، وذلك عبر أمرين: الجمع بين معظم المسؤولين العرب وبين وزير المال الإسرائيلي وتأمين استثمارات لتمويل مشاريع في «أراضٍ فلسطينية» والتعويض على الأردن ومصر وربما لبنان بأموال خليجية وشركات غربية كالعادة، وتشكيل محور عربي إسلامي إسرائيلي برعاية أميركية معادٍ بالمطلق لإيران، فيتحقق الجزء الأخير من صفقة القرن بالإنجاز العملي للجزء الثاني الحالي الناتج من قمة البحرين المرتقبة وأساسها الحلف الإسرائيلي العربي على اساسين: إنهاء القضية الفلسطينية نهائياً والاستعداء الدائم لإيران.

البحرين اذاً هي القاعدة العسكرية الأميركية لحماية العائلات الخليجية الحاكمة من مخاطر الداخل والخارج.

وهذا هدف استراتيجي لحماية سيطرة واشنطن على خطوط النفط حالياً والغاز في العقود المقبلة والاستمرار في فرض مستوى من التخلف التاريخي لمواصلة تصدير السلع الغربية من «الإبرة» حتى الصاروخ، الى بلدان خليجية لا تصنّع شيئاً.

هناك دلائل اضافية تؤكد ان إيران لم تهاجم بلداً عربياً منذ الفتوحات الإسلامية والتاريخ خير شاهد، أما في بدايات القرن العشرين فلم تحارب أي دولة خليجية لأنها لم تكن قد تأسست بعد، فمعظم هذه الإمارات والممالك تعود الى الستينيات والسبعينيات من القرن الفائت باستثناء السعودية التي ابتكرتها المخابرات البريطانيّة والعقيدة الوهابية وآل سعود في ثلاثينيات القرن العشرين وتمتّعت هذه الإمارات بأفضل علاقات ممكنة مع إيران في المرحلة الشاهنشاهيّة، لأن الطرفين كانا تحت التغطية الأميركية، ما وفّر لهم قواسم مشتركة بما يؤكد أن الاستعداء الخليجي لإيران يعود الى رفضها الهيمنة الأميركية وتدمير القضية الفلسطينية، فهل حكام الخليج والدول العربية ذاهبون الى البحرين من خارج هذا السياق؟ إنهم في قلب حركة الانحطاط العربية، التي تخلّت حتى لغة التهديد بالخطابات فاستسلمت فعلياً ولغوياً وأصبحت تشكل رأس حربة النفوذ الأميركي في الشرق والشرق الأوسط والعالم الإسلامي.

فهل تنجح قمة البحرين في مشاريعها؟ هناك ثلاثة أهداف: الأولى تدمير إيران وهي فاشلة سلفاً، لأن ترامب اعترف بأنه لا يريد الحرب العسكرية بل الخنق الاقتصادي. وهذا يصيب حكام الخليج و«إسرائيل» بإحباط وجدت واشنطن له دواء بنشر مرتقب لعشرات آلاف الجنود الأميركيين في الخليج وعلى حساب دوله.

أما الحلف مع «إسرائيل» فقائم منذ أعوام عدة ولن يتمدد نحو دول جديدة في ضوء استمرار إيران بمقاومة الحصار وبموازاة تحرّك حلفائها ومنهم أنصار الله في اليمن الذين يمسكون الآن بقسم من الأمن النفطي العربي.

فلسطينياً فإن تنفيذ صفقة القرن أصبح مرتبطاً بالقدرة على خنق إيران.

فهل تنتظر إيران خنقها؟ هناك صمود إيراني داخلي يتقاطع مع حركة حلفاء يعرفون أن إسقاط إيران لا يعني إلا القضاء على القوى التي تحارب الأميركيين والخليجيين والإسرائيليين في سورية والعراق واليمن، ما يجعل من فكرة خنق إيران أداة تخويف أميركية للخليج ووسيلة لربطه بحلف مع «إسرائيل» لا يخدم في حقيقة الأمر إلا دعم أُحادية النفوذ الأميركي في العالم.

 

«Deal of Century»: An Arab NATO in the Making

By Staff, Agencies

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend” is and ancient proverb that is never outdated when it comes to politics and geostrategic policies. Given the light of the situation in the region, the “Israeli” entity is literally in its pursuit.

“Israel” is smart enough not to tarnish its hands with its dirty work against Iran and have others do that on its behalf. But this time, it’s not the United States – its best friend and long supporting ally – instead, it has been focusing on our side of the globe: the Middle East.

Not long back, the “Israeli” entity has been engaged in normalization efforts with various Arab nations among which are Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman; the same countries which are also part of a Saudi Arabian initiative called the so-called “Arab NATO” – the Middle East Strategic Alliance [MESA] – to combat Iran in the region.

The kingdom on April 8 hosted a meeting with the high-level participation of Saudi Arabia, the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Jordan. According to the Saudi WAS news agency, the meeting was “an important step to launching the alliance, which aims to strengthen the security and stability of the region and the world.”

Sulaiman al-Oqaily, a Saudi political analyst, says there must be one strategy among the Arab nations that form the alliance, as well as a clear target in order for such an endeavor to succeed.

First, al-Oqaily points out that there must be one united Arab bloc that has agreed that the “Arab NATO” would protect the Arab world from all kind of threats and security challenges. “Its members’ motives and determinants have to be the same,” he says.

Al-Oqaily says that the sectarianism with which Iran targets the Middle East is more dangerous than Israel.

“Iran is taking advantage of its culture and religious links to the Arab world to expand there and destroy it,” he claims. “‘Israel’ can’t violate the Arab society like Iran, but through its intelligence services.”

He also speculates that if Iran weren’t involved in Iraq, the latter would have peace by now.

The US administration has since last year been exploring the creation of a new security body comprising Middle Eastern countries that would be geared toward countering Iran. Reportedly, MESA member-states would seek deeper cooperation in the realms of missile defense, military training and counter-terrorism, while strengthening broader political and economic ties.

“It would serve as a bulwark against Iranian aggression, terrorism, extremism and will bring stability,” a spokesperson for the White House’s National Security Council alleged in reference to the potential association last year.

“It’s not a new project. However, its implementation is what matters,” says Qassem Qaseer, a Lebanese political analyst. He confirms that the US has been working with Arab states for a while now to form such a body, noting that “the issue remains with the different agendas and political approach of its member of states.”

For example, Qaseer says that the Arab countries don’t agree on more than one critical issue, pointing out that the Arab NATO is still an idea with no structure.

“They aim to pressure Iran on the ground by such initiative, although, they need to make it a reality first,” Qaseer says. It is noteworthy that the Idea of an Arab NATO coalition is one of the results of the Arab-Islamic summit hosted by Riyadh in May 2017.

Over the past year, senior American officials, including President Donald Trump’s adviser Jared Kushner and international negotiator Jason Greenblatt, have conducted shuttle diplomacy among Middle East capitals. These visits have laid the foundation for MESA, although the notion reportedly was first raised by Saudi Arabia.

Regarding the “Israeli” entity, its relations with regional Arab nations are by most accounts improving, primarily the result of a shared interest in curbing Iran.

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