The Yemen Truce Is in Danger: The Aggressor’s Ships Are in the Crosshairs of the Yemeni Forces

Sep 30, 2022

By Mustapha Awada 

During negotiations for the extension of the armistice agreement for a fourth time in a row and before the current ceasefire expires, Yemen’s Ansarullah movement put forward three conditions.

The conditions are as follows:

“Paying salaries, ending the siege on Sana’a Airport, north of the capital, and the port of al-Hudaydah, west of the capital, and a halt to violations in order to achieve real stability.”

*Al-Hanash: If the aggressors do not abide by the terms of the armistice, we will end it.

Offering insight into the course of these negotiations, a member of the Yemeni national negotiating delegation, Abdul Majeed Al-Hanash, told Al-Ahed News that “if the aggressor does not abide by the terms of the armistice, we will end it ourselves. Sanaa would have no other choice because if the conditions are not implemented, the Yemeni people will demand their leadership resume the war.”

“The bank of objectives that the Yemeni leadership adopted before the truce is the same one that we are working on. But oil shipments will be added to that list. It is not possible for us to allow oil to cross into the Gulf to go to global markets while our people are besieged and their wealth is being stolen,” Al-Hanash added.  

“If we end the truce, we will use everything we have within the territorial waters to intercept oil tankers and stop the theft that is being conducted.”  

Abdul Majeed Al-Hanash applauded the resistance axis, stressing that “the Yemeni people are a qualitative addition to this axis and to the Palestinian cause, who pledged to always stand by its side and its resistant people.”

Anam: The forces of aggression not complying with the armistice will pave the way for an expansion of the circle of engagement.

For his part, the advisor of the Yemeni Supreme Political Council, Dr. Muhammad Taher Anam, told Al-Ahed that “the failure of the forces of aggression to abide by the armistice will not only push the leadership to resume military confrontations, but will expand the circle of engagement, especially after it was disturbed by the theft of oil resources and the conspiracy involving the United Arab Emirates, Total and the French government that are stealing Yemeni gas from Shabwa Governorate.”

“Clear statements were issued by the Yemeni army’s official spokesman, directed at foreign companies that steal Yemeni oil and gas. He called on them to take these statement seriously if an agreement on a new truce is not reached based on the conditions we set.”

He pointed out that “the adherence to the truce by the Saudi and Emirati regimes was in the 20% to 25% range, according to our estimates. They opened Sana’a Airport to Yemeni travelers to Amman and Cairo and allowed fuel ships to enter the port of al-Hudaydah. Other than that, there was no commitment neither to paying salaries of the employees from oil and gas revenues that are exported from Shabwa nor opening roads.

“There are some mediators, such as the UN envoy to Yemen, the Sultanate of Oman, and other countries, that are trying to press Saudi Arabia and the UAE to abide by their duties. We hope that these mediations will result in the implementation of the agreement that was signed because if this is not done, we will target companies and ships that steal Yemeni gas and oil unless salaries are paid before specifying the next truce.”

The adviser to the Yemeni Political Council stressed that “the military parade that the Sana’a government recently held on the occasion of the anniversary of September 21 was not random. Rather, it carried a message that we are still carrying the rifle and are ready for war again, and on a larger scale.”

According to Dr. Anam, “the parade is a warning to the Saudi and Emirati regimes. If both of them do not abide by the agreements that are in the interest of the Yemeni people, withdraw from their lands, and pay war compensation, the upgraded missiles and naval mines will be used to protect the interests of this nation.”

Muhammad Taher Anam affirmed that “both Saudi Arabia and the UAE are still violating these agreements and the commitments presented to the UN envoy and the mediating countries, as they are trying to position themselves between Russia and the West by stealing Yemeni gas and exporting it to Europe. This is after concluding agreements on this issue with some European states at a time when they are importing their oil from Qatar and others. However, we will follow through on the threat of the leader Sayyed Abdul-Malik Badr al-Din al-Houthi, and we will not be patient to the continuous looting of our wealth.”

WORLDMuslim Brotherhood Mob Boss Qaradawi Dies

September 30, 2022

Declan Hayes

The only tragedy about the death at 96 years of age of Youssef al-Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, the world’s deadliest terrorist grouping, is that the Muslim Brotherhood did not die along with him.

The only tragedy about the death at 96 years of age of Youssef al-Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, the world’s deadliest terrorist grouping, is that the Muslim Brotherhood did not die along with him.

Qaradawi was the Egyptian born spiritual head of the Muslim Brotherhood murder gang. Typical of the beliefs Qaradawi espoused was that Hitler went too easy on the Jews, that the world’s 100 million Shia, along with all apostates from Sunni Islam, must be exterminated and that his Islamic Caliphate should rule over us all. He lived in Qatar and, when not spewing out misogynistic, Shiaphobic, anti Semitic bile from that excuse for a country on al Jazeera’s top rating TV show. this hateful, Hitler loving demagogue issued fatwas to the Muslim Brotherhood faithful to slaughter Syria’s minorites and “apostates”.

The Muslim Brotherhood, its strong links with Western intelligence forces and dubious Trotsykist groups notwithstanding, is the Arab world’s original, most subversive, and most dangerous terrorist organization. It strongly believes in imposing the Caliphate and, as their countless atrocities in Egypt and Syria show, murdering or subjugating all who resist them. There will be no peace in the Arab or Western worlds until the Muslim Brotherhood is crushed in its Egyptian and Syrian spawning grounds and in those areas of the Western world NATO has allowed it colonize. Syria’s former ruler, the late Hafez el Assad, accurately described these NATO aligned devils in this video.

Following their failed 1982 coup, most Syrian Muslim Brotherhood terrorists fled into safe haven bolt holes from where they built a network of dedicated and highly professional cadres to spew their toxins. Though the Muslim Brotherhood Support Network in the West deserves a lot more scrutiny to determine why supposed left wing groups support these sectarian cut throats, they are, from my experience at least, protected by MI5 and allied intelligence agencies.

Take the case of Omar Gabbar, who shared a platform with prominent child sex jihad proponent Muhammed al-Arefe. Not only did Gabbar’s Hand in Hand for Syria front group secure one of the world’s top child sex jihadist recruiters in their first month of operation “from a Leicester kitchen table” but their original posters were designed by Turkish-based hacks of the terrorist Free Syrian Army, whose flag is emblazoned on the logo of Hand in Hand for Syria. Gabbar should, together with the legal hounds and British armed response units he set on me, consider that decent people, who are not members of the Muslim Brotherhood or any of its satellites, have got very lengthy prison tariffs for much less. Though al-Arefe is now barred from Britain, Omar Gabbar remains there and, like many others, who brought al-Arefe to Britain, is allowed work, as a hospital consultant in his case, where he has access to the young and impressionable children al-Arefe expects to do sex jihad.

The Muslim Brotherhood are allowed leverage the professional status of operatives like Gabbar not only to bring sex jihadist recruiting sergeants like Al Arefe to England to help the Canadian secret service ferry child brides like Shamima Begum to their Syrian caliphate but to collect tens of millions of dollars for the Caliphate under false pretenses thanks, in large part to the control MI5 have over the Charity Commission which can be seen, inter alia, by the example of Samara’s Appeal, a dodgy Anglican cult charity focused on Syria, which is exempted from having to list its trustees.

Gabbar is not the Muslim Brotherhood’s only well placed British asset. Dr Rola Hallam is the daughter of Mousa al Kurdi, one of the head honchos in the supposedly moderate wing of Syria’s Murder Inc; she can drive through ISIS checkpoints at will, as this website based on BBC Panorama’s farcical puff piece plainly illustrates.. Though Hand in Hand for Syria’s collusion with ISIS, as evidenced by their ability to sail through ISIS checkpoints and to work in ISIS strongholds, is a further indication that the moderate and less moderate wings of Syria’s Murder Inc are in bed together and that the British and Irish authorities should consider rounding up the flotsam working with them, that will not happen because Qaradawi’s Muslim Brotherhood are so well engrained at the heart of British and Irish political life.

At the center of the effort to hijack Ireland’s traditional tolerance stand the extremists of the Clonskeagh Mosque aka The Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland, which Wikileaks’ leaked U.S. cable and all informed writers say, have embedded ties to the most extreme elements of the Muslim Brotherhood murder gang. The mosque or “cultural center”, which gets massive subsidies from the opaque Dubai-based Al Maktoum foundation and sources linked to other totalitarian Gulf states, regularly hosts such “scholars” as Saudi cleric Salman al Awda, who calls for the total extermination of all Americans, and Egyptian demagogue Wagdy Ghoneim, whose views likewise make him an international pariah in places where the writ of the Muslim Brotherhood does not run as deeply as it does in Ireland.

The “cultural center’s” head religious figure is Hussein Halawa, an Egyptian blow-in, who has lived in Ireland for decades but who cannot speak either English or Irish. Halawa reported directly to Yusuf al-Qaradawi through The European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR) which al Qaradawi controlled. Although the arch-bigot Qaradawi was eventually banned from Ireland, Halawa not only remains at large but his children, who were arrested on Muslim Brotherhood related terror charges in Egypt, became a cause célèbre amongst Ireland’s media and large sections of Ireland’s political class, despite Halawa being a leading supporter of Qaradawi and his cut throats. If Halawa was just an otherwise parasitical, functionally illiterate Egyptian blow-in and if female Irish “reverts” were not ending up in accident and emergency wards after “honor beatings”, some of this idiot’s utterances might be tolerable but the fact that his children felt compelled to rush to aid Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood as they persecuted Copts and lynched Shias should be definite warning flags even if an alarmingly large number of Irish politicians and other useful idiots opportunistically support him.

In an earlier piece on MI5 subversion in Iran, I cited the great Gamal Nasser mocking the Muslim Brotherhood over their attempts to destroy secular Egypt. Qaradawi and the Muslim Brotherhood could claim to have got the last laugh both in Egypt and Syria, thanks both to their outright terrorism and the massive support they have received from the intelligence agencies of the United States, Canada, Britain, Israel, Ireland and a host of other countries with no more regard to the harm they do than have any other comparable bunch of sociopaths. Although Syria’s current President has repeatedly warned the West against the spill over effects of Muslim Brotherhood terrorism, Western leaders do not care because it is not how they are hard wired.

As long as the Biden, Obama, Clinton, Cheney, Blair and Bush families, together with their minions, can benefit from promoting the Zelenskys and Qaradawis of this world, innocents will continue to die in Armenia, Syria, Yemen, Russia or anywhere else, Western Europe included, they choose to make a wasteland. So, to conclude, grieve not for Qaradawi but only that the Muslim Brotherhood and all its obnoxious tentacles have survived him.

‘Regime change’ in Hamas and a return to Syria

The removal of Khaled Meshaal from power was necessary for normalization with Damascus to occur

September 26 2022

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By The Cradle’s Palestine Correspondent

In mid-September, Palestinian resistance movement Hamas issued a statement indicating that it had restored relations with Syria after ten years of estrangement, effectively ending its self-imposed exile from Damascus.

After the outbreak of the Syrian crisis in March 2011, at the height of the so-called Arab Spring, Hamas – in line with its parent organization, the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan) – turned its back on its once-staunch Syrian ally and threw its support behind the mostly-Islamist “revolution.”

As governments collapsed in key Arab states, the Ikhwan felt the time was ripe for their organization to ascend to a leadership role from Gaza to Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Syria.

Yet the decision by Hamas’ leadership to leave Damascus was met with strong opposition from influential circles within the movement, especially in its military arm, the Al-Qassam Brigades.

Despite Hamas’ official position toward Syria, internal opposition to the break in relations remained for years, most notably from Hamas co-founder Mahmoud Al-Zahar, and a number of Al-Qassam Brigades leaders such as Muhammad al-Deif, Marwan Issa, Ahmad al-Jabari and Yahya al-Sinwar.

Today, that balance has shifted notably. Sinwar is currently Hamas’ leader in the Gaza Strip, and his alliance is in strong ascendence within the movement.

From Amman to Damascus to Doha

But back in 2011, the person with the final say over the decision to abandon its Syrian ally was the then-head of Hamas’ Political Bureau, Khaled Meshaal.

Meshaal was the director of the Hamas office in Amman in 1999 when the Jordanian government decided to expel him. He travelled between the airports of a number of Arab capitals, which refused to receive him, under the pretext that there were agreements with a superpower requiring his extradition.

Only Damascus agreed to receive him. Despite the tension that historically prevailed in the Syrian state’s relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood, Meshaal was given freedom to work and built a personal relationship with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. In the years that followed, Hamas was granted facilities and resources that it did not enjoy in any other Arab capital.

Syria opened its doors to train hundreds of resistance fighters from the Al-Qassam Brigades and to manufacture quality weapons, such as missiles and reconnaissance drones.

One Syrian source told The Cradle that the privileges enjoyed by Hamas leaders and members in Syria were not available even to Syrian citizens. In addition to the high cost of Meshaal’s residence and security in Damascus, the state provided him and his associates with dozens of luxury homes in the capital’s most affluent neighborhoods.

Syria was also at the forefront of countries that facilitated the arrival of high-quality weapons into the besieged Gaza Strip. A source in the resistance tells The Cradle that the first Kornet missile to reach Gaza between 2009 and 2011 came from Syria with the approval of President Assad, and was received by then-Chief of Staff of Al-Qassam Brigades Ahmed al-Jabari.

Also crucial to the Palestinian resistance was the arrival of Iranian and Russian missiles that entered Gaza via Syrian arms depots.

Meshaal chooses Doha

It is important to recognize that while the decision to leave Damascus was not by any means unanimously agreed upon within Hamas, as political bureau chief, it was ultimately Meshaal’s call.

A Hamas source informed The Cradle that in September 2011, six months after the outbreak of the Syrian crisis, Meshaal received an invitation from the Qatari Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time, Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, to visit Doha. Recall that Qatar was one of the first states to fund and arm the Islamist opposition in the brutal Syrian war.

According to al-Thani’s estimates, the “Syrian revolution” was likely to end in the overthrow of the Assad government. He is reported to have advised Meshaal to abandon the sinking ship, so to speak, because if the rebellion is successful, “those who stayed with him [Assad] will drown, as happened with the late President Yasser Arafat, when Saddam Hussein was defeated in Gulf War,” the source described.

In an attempt to win over Hamas from Iran’s patronage, al-Thani offered to financially support the movement and to provide a geographical space for operations in the Qatari capital and in Turkish territory.

Meshaal is said to have informed his host that such a decision could not be taken unilaterally, and that he needed to refer to Hamas’ Political Bureau and Shura Council for buy-in.

Internal dissent 

On his way back to Damascus, Meshaal made pit stops in a number of regional countries to inform Hamas’ leadership of the Qatari offer. Suffice it to say, the deal was rejected by the majority of members of the Political Bureau and the Al-Qassam Brigades.

The Hamas source says: “The second man in Al-Qassam, Ahmad Al-Jabari, rejected the treachery against the Syrian leadership, along with Mahmoud al-Zahar, Ali Baraka, Imad al-Alami, Mustafa al-Ladawi, and Osama Hamdan.

On the other hand, Meshaal had the support of Musa Abu Marzouk, Ahmed Yousef, Muhammad Ghazal, Ghazi Hamad and Ahmed Bahr, in addition to a number of the movement’s sheikhs such as Younis al-Astal, Saleh Al-Raqab, and Ahmed Nimr Hamdan, while the head of the Hamas government in Gaza at the time, Ismail Haniyeh, did not have a decisive position.

Meshaal’s opponents were of the opinion that as Hamas is a resistance movement, it would be ill-advised to sever ties with the region’s Axis of Resistance – Iran, Hezbollah and Syria – and that leaving this alliance left little options other than to join the “Axis of Normalization” [with Israel].

Meshaal then received a call from Kamal Naji, Secretary-General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), in which he was informed that the Syrians “are aware of all the details of your visit to Qatar, and of the discussion taking place in the Hamas leadership.”

According to the source, Naji advised Meshaal that Hamas “will not find a warm embrace like Syria, and that despite its historical disagreement with the Muslim Brotherhood, Damascus will not ask Hamas to take any declared position on the Syrian crisis.”

The source in Hamas told The Cradle: “The Qataris felt that Meshaal was unable to take such a fateful stance.” At this point, Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi (considered to be the spiritual guide of the Ikhwan) intervened to pressure both Haniyeh and Abu Marzouk, who had not yet made up their minds.

Fateful meetings

Meshaal was later invited to visit Turkey, where he met leaders of Syrian armed groups, accompanied by the Qatari Minister of Intelligence and officers from Turkish intelligence.

They convinced him that “a few steps separate the opposition from the Republican Palace in the Mezzeh neighborhood of Damascus, and that the days of the Assad regime are numbered.”

The meeting of Hamas’ political bureau in Sudan was the turning point. In that gathering, to the surprise of some participants, both Haniyeh and Abu Marzouk weighed in to side with Meshaal, and it was decided to “discreetly” withdraw from Damascus.

After the decision was taken, the Qataris worked to further enhance Meshaal’s position within Hamas, through an extraordinary visit by the Emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, to the Gaza Strip – the first for an Arab head of state. During this visit, al-Thani provided generous support with more than $450 million provided for reconstruction and the implementation of development projects.

Hamas’ fateful decision to abandon Damascus, however, was not met with the same enthusiasm by the movement’s military wing, who believed the move made little strategic sense.

Back to Damascus

In the following years, major regional changes contributed to the downfall of Khaled Meshaal and his removal from his position leading Hamas’ Political Bureau.

The Syrian state remained steadfast in the face of collective NATO-Gulf efforts to unseat Assad; Russian military intervention altered the battlefield balance of power; the Syrian political and armed opposition began to disintegrate and suffer heavy losses; the Ikhwan’s rule in Egypt and its control over Libya and Tunisia began to collapse; and a stand-off with Qatar caused Saudi Arabia and the UAE to alter their position on Syria.

With these stunning regional setbacks, it quickly became apparent that neither Qatari nor Turkish support offered any real strategic value for Hamas’ resistance model – nor could they hope to fill the void left by the reduction in Iranian and Syrian military support.

Moreover, Al-Qassam Brigades found itself facing severe financial difficulties, unable to secure the salaries of its members, let alone sustain any meaningful armed resistance against Israel’s continuous assaults and occupation.

At the time, Hamas’ revenues were derived mainly from taxes imposed on Gaza’s residents, while Qatari support, under US supervision, was limited to providing the expenses of the Hamas leadership in Qatar, and providing seasonal financial grants to government employees in Gaza.

Meshaal’s fall from power  

Cumulatively, these events and the stagnation of the Palestinian resistance convinced Hamas’ leadership of the need to reshuffle its regional cards. The freed prisoner, Yahya al-Sinwar, was the initial spark to revamp a fresh new agenda, following his sweeping victory as the new Hamas leader in Gaza.

Sinwar, one of the historical leaders of Al-Qassam Brigades, decided to reset relations with Iran and Hezbollah, and work toward the movement’s eventual return to Damascus.

Meshaal, realizing that regional changes were no longer in his favor, tried to flatter the Syrian state more than once in media statements. But a firm decision had already been taken across the Axis of Resistance that Meshaal was no longer a welcome or trustworthy figure.

This was especially the case after it became clear to the Syrian security services that Meshaal was involved, along with dozens of Hamas members, in supporting armed groups, exposing secret sites of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Lebanese resistance Hezbollah, smuggling weapons to armed opposition in the strategically-located Yarmouk refugee camp and eastern Ghouta region, and providing them with expertise in digging secret tunnels.

Meshaal’s isolation became crystal clear at the end of December 2021, when Hezbollah refused to receive him during a Beirut visit, even though he was officially the external relations officer for Hamas.

According to the Hamas source, Meshaal tried to disrupt the consensus of the leadership of the Political Bureau and the Shura Council on restoring relations with Syria, when he “leaked, at the end of last June, the decision taken in the Political Bureau meeting to return to Damascus.”

Hamas, post-Meshaal

Meshaal’s leak caused media chaos, followed by attempts to pressure Hamas to reverse course. A statement issued by eight of the most important Muslim Brotherhood scholars, advised Hamas to reconsider its decision because of the “great evils it carries for the Ummah.”

Meshaal meanwhile, remained busy trying to restore relations with Jordan, in parallel with Iran, Lebanon and Syria. However, with the recent announcement by Hamas that it would return to Syria, “the efforts made by Meshaal and the Qataris behind him have gone unheeded,” says the movement’s source.

The normalization of relations between Hamas and Syria is significant, not only for the military dividend it could reap for the Palestinian resistance, but also because it can pave the way for Turkey and Qatar to re-establish their Syria ties, although Doha would do so very reluctantly.

With the decision to sideline the Meshaal camp within Hamas, it would seem that Hamas – and not Syria – has ultimately been the subject of regime change in this regional geopolitical battle for influence.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

Dismantling ‘Israel’

20 Sep 2022 23:52 

Source: Al Mayadeen English

Liberal Zionists, unhappy with the fascist brand, already working on a post-apartheid regime is clear proof that the dismantling of Apartheid “Israel” may come sooner than expected.

Tim Anderson 

Director of the Sydney-based Centre for Counter Hegemonic Studies.

The future of the Apartheid Israeli regime in Palestine is often seen as either (1) maintenance of the racist “state”, with more than half the population excluded and brutally repressed or (2) complete collapse of the regime and Palestinian liberation – a simple dichotomy. 

However, tensions among Zionist elites and the historic unraveling of previous racist regimes suggest that the dismantling of Apartheid “Israel” may come sooner than expected but in a more complicated manner. Racist states have often been dismantled with serious compromises. 

The combined forces of steadfast Palestinian Resistance and the plummeting “international legitimacy of Israel” are certainly powerful agents working toward a democratic Palestine. Yet, liberal Zionists, unhappy with the fascist brand, are already working on a post-apartheid regime. This group does not currently have the upper hand in occupied Palestine, but they do have greater say with the colony’s chief sponsor, the USA. 

Meanwhile, the disunity of Palestinian factions – actively encouraged by the Zionist regime – undermines their bargaining position. That leaves the door open for dirty deals.

Let’s remember that the ‘abolition’ of mass slavery in the USA was followed by another century of brutal ‘Jim Crow’ racial discrimination, a system which has often been called ‘slavery by another name’. This next stage racist system was given a legal blessing by the ‘separate but equal’ Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), a decision not overturned until Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision (1954). So ‘abolition’ did not mean emancipation.

Correctly pointing to parallels with the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa, Omar Barghouti calls for an increase in boycott and sanction initiatives against “Israel”. Yet, he does not refer to the compromises involved in the South African transitional process, which led to extreme economic inequality and post-apartheid South Africa becoming one of the most unequal countries on earth.

Perhaps even more relevant are the compromises made when the racial regime in Zimbabwe (formerly ‘Rhodesia’) was dismantled at the end of the 1970s. Talks hosted in Britain led to the ‘Lancaster House Accords’ with the following features.

First ‘equal citizenship’ was created, but it was accompanied by several protective provisions. A ‘white roll’ was created to maintain ten (of 40) ‘white’ senators and 20 (of 100) ‘white’ reps in the Assembly. There were then requirements for a 70% parliamentary agreement for constitutional changes. A unanimous requirement to change “the separate representation of the white minority in parliament” gave that group veto power. 

Second, under the “freedom from deprivation of property” provisions, the compulsory acquisition of property was banned and consensual compensation provisions were required. Protective provisions to privilege white minority representation and ban state acquisition of land could, for a period of ten years, only be carried out “by the unanimous vote of the House of Assembly”. That ‘froze’ white colonist control of most of the country’s arable land.

Nevertheless, the Lancaster House agreement went on to claim that “the question of majority rule … has been resolved”. Britain promised to provide capital for land buyouts but failed to do so. Twenty years after independence, as the Mugabe government attempted to ‘fast track’ land reforms, Britain and the USA imposed coercive ‘sanctions’ on the country. 

The land question is particularly important in Palestine, where steady land grabs, house thefts, and demolitions committed by “Israel” have economically marginalized the indigenous population, and in the process exposed the seven-decade-long myth of the ‘two states’. 

Yet, the cost of destroying that myth, for the Zionists, is the naked reality of apartheid, now recognized by six independent reports. Two former Israeli leaders, both of the ‘liberal zionist’ faction, have warned of the existential threat the apartheid brand poses to their dream of a ‘Jewish state’. In 2007, Ehud Olmert warned that “Israel” faces an “apartheid-like struggle” if the “two-state” myth collapses. Similarly, in 2017, Ehud Barak warned that his “state” was “on a slippery slope” toward apartheid.

This matter is of less concern for the more openly fascist Zionists, who dominate the regime these days. However liberal Zionists, with greater influence in the USA, have not been sitting on their hands. They are alarmed at the damage to the reputation of their ‘Jewish state’, by being labeled an apartheid regime and therefore, by the 1973 UN Convention, a crime against humanity and a regime that must be dismantled. 

For these reasons, we see influential former liberal Zionists openly agitating against the apartheid regime. They are not prepared to live with that “shame” and are looking for their own type of restructure. For example, former Israeli negotiator Daniel Levy, now President of the US-based Middle East Project, told the United Nations Security Council that the notion of an ‘Arab state’ was dead and that apartheid in Palestine was a reality. Similarly, Peter Beinart, an editor at Jewish Currents and contributor to The Atlantic and CNNwrote in the New York Times about fake Zionist claims of ‘anti-Semitism’. He said that Zionist groups were “abandoning a traditional commitment to human rights out of blind support for Israel”. 

These developments have important implications for the dismantling of the Zionist regime. The liberal Zionists will use their influence with Washington and London to get sponsorship for talks over a deal with compliant and property-owning elements of the Palestinian community. Almost certainly, the emerging deal will involve the protection of ‘settler rights’, Zionist privileges, and a freeze on property relations. The ‘right to return’ will also be subject to a deal.

Palestinian collaborators in this will not be the small-time agents who acted as informants and later sought refuge in “Tel Aviv” with temporary residence permits which do not allow them to work or get health benefits. Washington and “Tel Aviv” will abandon them.

The likely Palestinian collaborators for a ‘New Israel’ will be those linked to the Arab monarchies, with both property and embedded interests in the Palestinian Authority, which has long functioned as a municipality of the Apartheid “regime”. Religion will be no barrier, as secular collaborators will be joined by those who threw in their hands with the Muslim Brotherhood players, notably Qatar and Turkey, leading ‘false friends’ of the Palestinian cause. 

The Palestinian Resistance and its allies face new challenges. There is a real risk that a coalition of Washington, liberal Zionists, and Palestinian collaborators will begin to cut a deal behind closed doors, regardless of the legacy of Palestinian sacrifice and resistance. Such struggles are often betrayed at the last moment. 

That deal could include a last-minute grab for land, the freezing of property relations, and transitional provisions to protect the colonists. If deep divisions persist among Palestinian resistance factions, that deal will be easier to sell to an unsuspecting Palestinian and world audience. The dismantling of the ‘Old Israel’ will be so dramatic that few will pay attention to key details of the ‘New Israel’. But those details will be very important for the long-suffering Palestinian population.

The opinions mentioned in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Al mayadeen, but rather express the opinion of its writer exclusively.

Saad Hariri and the collapse of Lebanon

The Syrian regime-change war and Lebanon’s economic collapse happened under Saad Hariri’s watch, but the Future Movement leader is seldom mentioned for the pivotal role he played in Lebanon’s unravelling

Photo Credit: The Cradle

September 12 2022

By William Van Wagenen

In 2005, US neoconservatives centered around then-Vice President Dick Cheney’s office began collaborating with Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, defected former Syrian Vice President Abd Al-Halim Khaddam, and the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood to topple the Syrian government.

Washington did so as part of an effort to topple the governments of seven countries in five years, including Libya and Iran, using the so-called ‘War on Terror’ as a pretext.

However another crucial, though overlooked collaborator in the regime change effort was pro-Saudi Lebanese politician Saad Hariri. And his actions would soon see massive repercussions unfold in his own country.

The dynastic Hariris

In 2005, Saad’s father, former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, was assassinated in a massive car bombing, which a highly-politicized UN-backed court pinned on two individuals affiliated with Lebanese resistance group Hezbollah. In the wake of Rafiq’s death, Saad came to head not only the Saudi-supported Future Movement – Lebanon’s leading Sunni political party – but also the multi-billion-dollar Hariri business conglomerate established by his father in Saudi Arabia.

Initially, the US, French, and Israeli governments quickly blamed Syria for Rafiq’s killing. Presumably, Saad was motivated to participate in the US-led regime change effort in Syria as a result.

But business interests also played a role as Saad wished to gain control over Syria’s telecommunication sector. This is something his father had previously tried, but failed to accomplish.

As French journalist Georges Malbrunot details in his book The Road to Damascus, Syria first launched its mobile phone industry in the early 2000’s, and Lebanon’s prime minister at the time, Rafiq Al-Hariri, wanted to invest in one of the two Syrian companies that had just been created for this purpose.

But Rami Makhlouf, cousin of Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad and the dominant investor in the sector, blocked Rafiq’s efforts. Malbrunot notes further that according to a lawyer close to the Syrian government, “there was an immediate veto from the intelligence services against Hariri.”

While the Baath Party may have considered the telecommunications sector to be of strategic importance – and therefore not open to outsiders – Assad would have also been concerned about Hariri’s direct role in bribing top Syrian officials, including then-Vice President Abdul Halim Khaddam, prior to his defection, among a broad slate of other grievances.

In the wake of Rafiq’s assassination, Saad was quick to pick up his father’s baton. At the time the Christian Science Monitor reported that:

“[Saad Hariri] may be a newcomer to Lebanese politics, but Hariri is no neophyte. He ran his father’s massive construction company, Saudi Oger, for over a decade and has extensive financial interests in telecommunications in the Middle East. He is ranked at 548 in Forbes Magazine’s annual list of billionaires with an estimated fortune of $1.2 billion. His father was ranked 108th with $4.3 billion. Hariri has adopted his father’s globe-trotting existence, holding talks with Jacques Chirac, the French president and a close family friend, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Middle East leaders.”

Saad’s support of Salafi-jihadists

In addition to running his deceased father’s business conglomerate, Saad was active in protecting Al-Qaeda affiliated militant groups in Lebanon.  Journalist Seymour Hersh notes that according to a 2005 International Crisis Group (ICG) report, Hariri had helped release four Salafist militants from prison who had previously trained in Al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and were arrested in Lebanon while trying to establish an Islamic state in the north of the country.

Hariri also used his influence in parliament to obtain amnesty for another 29 Salafist militants, including seven suspected of bombing foreign embassies in Beirut a year prior. Hersh notes that according to a senior official in the Lebanese government, “We have a liberal attitude that allows Al-Qaeda types to have a presence here.”

In the wake of the radical Fatah Al-Islam’s 2007 battle with the Lebanese army, which destroyed the Nahr Al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp, Charles Harb of the American University of Beirut (AUB) observed that Saad was giving “political cover” to “radical Sunni movements” that could be directed and employed against the Resistance Axis of Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah.

Harb also noted the involvement of Saudi intelligence in cultivating these groups. He explained that “Several reports have highlighted efforts by Saudi officials to strengthen Sunni groups, including radical ones, to face the Shia renaissance across the region. But building up radical Sunni groups to face the Shia challenge can easily backfire.”

Start of the ‘Syrian Revolution’

In early 2011, US planners exploited dissatisfaction among certain segments of Syrian society – not only pro-western liberals but also the country’s Salafi community – to spark initial ‘Arab Spring’ type protests in the country.

Saad Hariri’s interest in gaining control of the Syrian telecommunication network via any successful regime-change operation was hinted at during the first protest in Daraa, a predominantly Sunni governorate, on 18 March, 2011.

As Syrian sociologist Muhammad Jamal Barout revealed, protestors in Daraa chanted against Rami Makhlouf and demanded that his businesses be expelled from the province (recall that Makhlouf held the dominant position in Syria’s telecommunications sector).

Salafist militants, including from Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), quickly began attacking Syrian security forces under the cover of the early protests. US planners facilitated these attacks (with the help of Prince Bandar), in the hope of unleashing a sectarian civil war on the country comparable to that which had destroyed Iraq starting in 2003.

The Future Movement and Salafi terror

Prominent opposition and human rights activist Haitham Manna provided evidence that elements close to Saad Al-Hariri were among those funneling weapons to the Salafist militants in Syria, including in Daraa, in part to secure financial interests.

According to Muhammad Jamal Barout, Manna’ publicly disclosed in an interview on Al-Jazeera on 31 March, 2011, that “he had received offers to arm movements from Raqqa to Daraa three times by parties he did not identify in the interview.”

Barout additionally writes that, according to Manna, there were secret communications between some Syrian businessmen abroad who found themselves bent on revenge against the Assad government because their interests had been harmed by the network of the pro-government businessman Makhlouf.

Furthermore, these groups were willing to fund and arm opposition movements throughout the country. Barout notes that these businessmen apparently had relations with professional networks capable of delivering weapons to any location in Syria and that some members of the Future Movement in Lebanon were among those arranging these weapons shipments.

One name pops up more than others: Okab Sakr, the MP from Hariri’s Future movement made infamous in phone conversations leaked to Lebanese media outlet Al Akhbar, in which he directly discusses large weapons transfers to Syrian militants.

Writes The Guardian of Hariri’s close confidant: “Every time Okab is in town the weapons start to move across the border,” said a rebel colonel from the Jebel al-Zawiya region, who calls himself Abu Wael.

Sakr eventually fled the country to avoid repercussions for his illicit activities, and admitted to his role in arming the Syrian conflict, which dragged Lebanon into the messy and dangerous fray.

Within no time, Fatah Al-Islam and other militants previously under the protection of Hariri and Saudi intelligence in Lebanon were soon identified on the battlefield in Syria. Dr. Haytham Mouzahem, director of the Beirut Center for Middle East Studies explained that, “When the uprising in Syria began in 2011, many of the remaining Fatah al-Islam members crossed the border and joined groups in the Free Syrian Army [FSA].”

This provided one indication among many that the FSA – as it was known then – was not secular, democratic, or comprised primarily of army defectors, as is often claimed, but rather consisted primarily of Salafist militants, including many affiliated with Al-Qaeda.

The role of Al-Qaeda militants from Lebanon came further into focus in the summer of 2011, when Der Spiegel reported that a prominent Salafist cleric in Tripoli was sending fighters into Syria as early as summer 2011 because, in his view, “Assad is an infidel” and “There is a holy war in Syria and the young men there are conducting jihad. For blood, for honor, for freedom, for dignity.”

According to one of the fighters interviewed by the German magazine, around 60 percent of the Lebanese fighters crossing the border from Tripoli to Homs had previously fought in Iraq.

Syrian fallout: Refugees flood into Lebanon

As the months and years passed, more and more jihadists flooded into Syria. As they did, and as fighting with the Syrian army and its allies intensified and became more brutal and sectarian, more and more Syrian civilians flooded into Lebanon to flee the conflict back home.

With the onset of war in Syria in 2011 and subsequent US sanctions, the Syrian economy began to massively contract, which in turn caused the closely connected Lebanese economy to gradually slow as well.

Given that Lebanon is a small country facing its own disastrous economic crisis, it has been unable to provide decent living conditions for even its own 5.5 million residents, let alone for the 1.7 million Syrian refugees present in the country.

Because US planners, along with their many regional collaborators including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Lebanon and others, launched a dirty war on Syria in 2011 causing millions of Syrians to flee their homes and seek refuge in bordering states, it is the US and its close allies that bear most of the responsibility for the current refugee crisis Lebanon now faces.

Accommodating such a large number of refugees would always be difficult, but this became near impossible after the October 2019 Lebanese banking crisis, which in turn caused what the World Bank described as a “brutal” economic contraction of a magnitude “usually associated with conflicts or wars.” Even relatively prosperous and middle-class Lebanese were plunged into poverty, losing most of their life savings, as the Lebanese lira quickly plunged.

A Hariri legacy: Lebanon’s economic collapse

The origins of the crisis can be traced to the creation of a banking infrastructure based on efforts to maintain a currency peg between the Lebanese lira and US dollar.

This system was established by Lebanese central banker Riad Salameh in the 1990’s in the wake of the Lebanese civil war, presumably to restore economic stability needed after the wild currency swings seen throughout the conflict.

Then-prime minister Rafiq Hariri had appointed Salameh – his personal money manager at US brokerage firm Merrill Lynch – as governor of Lebanon’s Central Bank.

To maintain the peg, Salameh effectively established a Ponzi scheme that enriched wealthy Lebanese as well as the bankers themselves. As the New York Times explained:

“Lebanon’s Central Bank promised that 1,507 Lebanese lira would be worth exactly $1 and that Lebanese banks would always exchange one for the other. That policy brought stability, but it also required Lebanon’s banks to hold a large store of U.S. dollars . . . so the banks could make good on the promise to exchange 1,507 lira for $1 at any point. Lebanese firms also needed dollars to pay for imported goods, a large part of the economy in a country that produces little of what it consumes. . . . To keep dollars flowing in, the head of Lebanon’s Central Bank developed a plan: Banks would offer very generous terms — including an annual interest of 15 percent or even 20 percent — to anybody who would deposit dollars. But the only way for banks to make good on these terms was by repaying the initial depositors with money from new depositors. Of course, there is a name for this practice: a Ponzi scheme.”

The receipt of such high interest rates on deposits allowed wealthy Lebanese both at home and abroad to slowly loot the country. Commercial bankers benefitted as well, by receiving a handsome spread on the interest rate paid by the central bank and forwarded to depositors. The Hariri family benefited directly from the system, both as owners of huge US dollar deposits as well as owners of their own commercial bank, Bankmed.

Riad Salameh personally benefitted from the system as well, setting up a brokerage firm with his brother, Forry Associates, that took some $330 million in fees for brokering the sale of government bonds between 2002 and 2015, $200 million of which were allegedly transferred to Salemeh’s personal accounts with various Lebanese banks, including with Hariri’s Bankmed. These transfers led to the ongoing investigation of Salemeh by European officials on charges of money laundering and embezzlement.

As the protracted Syrian war – aided by Hariri and his allies -across Lebanon’s only viable land border tore into Lebanon’s fragile economy, and the flow of new US dollars entering the Lebanese banking system also began to slow, Salameh’s Ponzi scheme became unsustainable, and finally began to collapse in October 2019.

Lebanese banks began to restrict US dollar withdrawals for small depositors to minor amounts, while secretly allowing wealthy and connected clients to pull out huge sums for transfer abroad. Soon, small depositors, who had themselves deposited dollars, were restricted to withdrawing an unreasonable equivalent in Lebanese liras instead.

The value of the lira quickly dropped by some 90 percent, wiping out the life savings of many and causing mass poverty as prices of everything, including essential goods, skyrocketed. According to banker and political commentator, Ehsani, the total losses for depositors amount to roughly $111 billion.

According to Syria’s President Assad, some $40 billion of those frozen deposits may be of Syrian origin, with huge negative ramifications for the country’s finances and reconstruction efforts.

The October 2019 economic collapse was accompanied by wide-spread protests expressing anger against Lebanon’s broader political class, pressuring Saad Hariri to step down as prime minister.

Despite the key role played by the Hariri-Salameh political clique in establishing, benefitting from, and finally collapsing the Lebanese banking system, and subsequently the entire economy, both Hariri and Salameh continue to enjoy diplomatic and political support from their backers in Washington.

In February 2020, amidst criticism of Salameh’s role in precipitating the crisis, US ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea suggested to Lebanese TV it was “a mistake to scapegoat any one person or institution for Lebanon’s economic collapse” and that Salameh, still “enjoys great confidence in the international financial community.”

The reason for this was provided, at least in part, in April 2019 when Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar published minutes of a meeting between the US Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism Financing and Financial Crimes, Marshall Billingsley, and the (former) Lebanese Economy Minister, Mansour Bteish. The minutes cite a US official saying:

“We need a governor of the Banque du Liban [central bank] and a deputy governor who we can trust, and who is sensitive and with whom confidential information about terrorist financing and money laundering can be exchanged. The situation today is that we trust Governor Riad Salameh and (former) Deputy Governor Muhammad Baasiri.”

As US planners have not been fighting terrorism, but rather funding and arming al-Qaeda affiliated groups to use as proxies in their war against Syria between 2011 and 2017, this suggests Salameh continues to enjoy US protection to avoid details of terrorist financing, in particular Saad Hariri’s role in arming terrorist groups in Syria on behalf of US planners, from coming to light.

It is difficult to imagine that Lebanon can emerge from its current crisis, or deal with corruption and poor governance plaguing the country, while US influence over Lebanese affairs remains dominant and oppressive US sanctions against Syria remain in place.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

العدوان الإسرائيلي المُبيَّت ودور عرب التطبيع

 الخميس 11 آب 2022

أليف صباغ 

كان لا بد لحكومة الاحتلال أن توجّه عيون الرأي العام الإسرائيلي إلى موقع آخر، وأن تقوم بعمل يرفع أسهم الحكومة أمام الناخبين اليمينيين. إذن، لا بد من القيام بضربة استباقية لإضعاف الجبهة الجنوبية.

العدوان الإسرائيلي المُبيَّت ودور عرب التطبيع

ليست أول مرة، تتعاون فيها الرجعية العربية و”إسرائيل” على الشعب الفلسطيني، وعادة ما يأخذ هذا التعاون شكلاً خبيثاً، ظاهره “حماية” الفلسطينيين وباطنه كسب ودّ الاستعمار لمصالح ضيقة.

هل كان العدوان على غزة مخططاً مسبقاً؟ وما أهدافه؟

مذ اعتُقل الشيخ المجاهد بسام السعدي، ولاحظنا الحملة العسكرية الكبرى التي شنّت لتحقيق ذلك، والتي استخدمت فيها قوات الاحتلال الإسرائيلي طائرات مروحية وأخرى مسيّرة، ومصفحات وقناصين وكتيبة من الجيش والمستعربين وكلاباً بوليسية، لاعتقال شخص واحد، فهمنا أن هذه العملية العسكرية ليست عادية، إنما تشكل نموذجاً أو تجسيداً ميدانياً حقيقياً لعمليات من هذا النوع جرى التدرّب عليها من قبل. وعندما رافق ذلك حشد عسكري قرب السياج المحيط بقطاع غزة المحتل، واجتمع لبيد بالقيادات الأمنية يوم الأحد الماضي، وقرّر قطع إجازته المقررة سلفاً، وتذكرنا أن الإعلام الإسرائيلي سبق ذلك، بأسبوع، بحملة إعلامية اتّهم فيها المقاومة الفلسطينية باستخدام المدارس والمستشفيات في تخزين الصواريخ، فهمنا، يقيناً، أنه يجري الاستعداد لعملية عسكرية ضد السكان المدنيين والمقاومة في قطاع غزة، وأن المدنيين سيكونون هدفاً للعدوان. وكيف لا نفهم، ونحن من يتابع كل عدوان بما يسبقه، وما يجرى خلاله، وما يتبعه من تلخيصات ودروس وكشف ما كان مستوراً؟!

أما عن الأهداف فهي كثيرة ومتعددة الاتجاه، منها المُعلن، ومنها غير المعلن، وفق الحاجات الإعلامية السياسية. 

في الأسابيع الأخيرة شنت وسائل الإعلام اليمينية، مع اليمين الإسرائيلي المعارض حملة على حكومة لبيد-غانتس، واتهمتها بالجُبن والتقاعس عن مواجهة التحدي الذي أبدته المقاومة اللبنانية، وفق المعادلة الجديدة، التي أطلقها سماحة السيد، “ما بعد “كاريش” وما بعد بعد “كاريش”، و”إما أن نستخرج غازنا ونفطنا من البحر وإلا فلن نسمح لأحد بأن يستخرج”! هذه المعادلة شغلت الحكومة الإسرائيلية والرأي العام، وسرّعت وتيرة نشاط المبعوث الأميركي الصهيوني، أموس هوكستين، للوصول إلى حل لترسيم الحدود، وبدأت الحكومة الإسرائيلية ترجو من كل ذي صلة أن يتوسط لدى حزب الله بألا ينفذ تهديداته.

وفي الأجواء يحلّق سؤال مُلِح ومقلق، ماذا لو حصلت الحرب المتوقعة مع المقاومة اللبنانية؟ هل تستطيع “إسرائيل” أن تصمد في هذه المواجهة؟ لا سيما أن كل التقديرات تقول إن المقاومة الفلسطينية قد تنضم إلى كل حرب بين “إسرائيل” والمقاومة اللبنانية، فتكون حرباً على جبهتين على الأقل.

في مثل هذه الحالة السياسية والأمنية، كان لا بد لحكومة الاحتلال أن توجّه عيون الرأي العام الإسرائيلي وأذهانه إلى موقع آخر، وأن تقوم بعمل يرفع أسهم الحكومة أمام جمهور الناخبين اليمينيين، والرأي العام الذي يزداد يمينية وتطرفاً. إذن، لا بد من القيام بضربة استباقية لإضعاف الجبهة الجنوبية ومنعها من المشاركة في أي حرب مع حزب الله. لتحقيق ذلك كان لا بد من تقييم وضع المقاومة في القطاع المحتل. هل تستطيع قوات الاحتلال أن تشن حملة عسكرية محدودة على الجهاد الإسلامي من دون تدخل سائر الفصائل، وحماس تحديداً؟ ومن يضمن ذلك؟ 

كما اعتادت حكومات “إسرائيل” السابقة، لا بد من سفك الدماء الفلسطينية على مذبح الانتخابات، ولا بد من إزهاق الأرواح الفلسطينية وتهديم الأبراج السكنية في غزة، لأن هذا ما يرضي الناخب الإسرائيلي الصهيوني المتعطّش إلى ذلك. لكن المشكلة التي كانت تواجه حكومة الاحتلال وجيشها، كيف ستخرج من المعركة؟ وهل تستطيع أن تستفرد بفصيل صغير تلقي عليه حممها البركانية لتشعر بالقوة بدلاً من الضعف، تعيد ثقة الجيش بنفسه وترضي جمهور الناخبين اليمينيين؟ ومن يضمن ذلك؟

أما الأهداف المعلنة، التي صرحت عنها الجهات الرسمية بعد اجتماع لبيد بالكابينيت الأمني، واستبعاد السياسي، يوم الأحد 31 تموز/يوليو، فتتمثل “بالاستعداد لمنع الجهاد الإسلامي من تنفيذ عملية رد عسكرية على اعتقال القيادي بسام السعدي من مخيم جنين”. وادعت الجهات الأمنية والسياسية أن لديهم معلومات بالتخطيط للرد، ولذلك قاموا بإجراءات منع تجوال للمستوطنين في مستوطنات “غلاف غزة”، المقامة على أراضي اللاجئين الفلسطينيين الذين يعيشون ببؤس في القطاع المحاصر منذ 15 سنة. وفي الحقيقة كان كل ذلك ضمن حلقات الاستعداد النفسي والسياسي لسيناريو العدوان المُبيّت.

في تقييم الظروف الملائمة للقيام بعدوان غادر

لتقييم الظروف المناسبة للعدوان وشق صف المقاومة، اعتمدت سلطات الاحتلال على ثلاثة مصادر من المعلومات: 

أولاً: خبرة ومتابعة وتقييم مراكز الأبحاث الإسرائيلية، ومنها مركز أبحاث الأمن القومي، وضمن ذلك، التمييز بين مصالح حماس من جهة، والجهاد الإسلامي من جهة ثانية، إضافة إلى مصلحة مصر والاستخبارات المصرية تحديداً في تقليم أظافر “الجهاد” من دون تدخل “حماس” وسائر فصائل المقاومة المسلحة، معتمدة في ذلك على دور الاستخبارات المصرية في معركة “سيف القدس”، وما تبعها من معارك صغيرة، الأخيرة فيها مسيرة الأعلام الاستفزازية في القدس القديمة، واقتحامات المستوطنين في حزيران/يونيو الماضي، ودور مصر وقطر في منع تدخل المقاومة من غزة. 

ثانياً: أما المصدر الثاني، فهو ما تستخلصه الاستخبارات من خلال مئات المحادثات غير المباشرة التي تجرى مع عمال فلسطينيين تم السماح لهم دخول “إسرائيل” والعمل فيها خلال الشهر الماضي، وبلغ عدد التصاريح 14 ألف تصريح. هذه المحادثات لا تجري من خلال تحقيق يجريه الشاباك مع العمال، إنما هي أحاديث، تبدو عادية، تجري بين المشغل الإسرائيلي والعامل الفلسطيني، أو بين صحافي إسرائيلي وعامل فلسطيني، لتصل إلى الباحثين في صفوف الشاباك مادة تضاف إلى التقييمات والأبحاث، تعزز فرضية أو ترفضها.

ثالثاً: الأهم من هذا المصدر وذاك التقييم المشترك مع الاستخبارات المصرية للأوضاع في غزة، وعلاقات الفصائل فيما بينها وقدرة الجمهور الفلسطيني على احتمال التضحيات، وقدرة مصر على ضبط إيقاع وردود المقاومة من غزة، وتدخلها في الوقت الملائم، لمنع تدحرج المعركة واتساعها وتورط قوات الاحتلال تالياً بما لم تكن مستعدة له. من هنا قال البيان الإسرائيلي الرسمي إن العدوان جاء بناء على توصيات القيادة العسكرية والشاباك، والمقصود هنا هم الباحثون الذي يتواصلون مع نظرائهم المصريين. وعليه، جاء التواصل الإسرائيلي المصري من اليوم الأول بعد اعتقال السعدي، وشن العدوان ضمن الأهداف المحددة له، كما راقب الطيران المسيّر تحركات القادة الفلسطينيين خلال لقائهم الاستخبارات المصرية حتى الساعة الأخيرة قبل العدوان، ويقول رئيس تحرير صحيفة “الأهرام”: “إن إسرائيل وعدت الاستخبارات المصرية أن تكون العملية العسكرية محدودة، وموجّهة ضد “الجهاد الإسلامي” فقط”.

دور الاستخبارات المصرية وغيرها

للتفصيل أكثر، يتمثل دور الاستخبارات المصرية وجهات عربية أخرى في ثلاثة مستويات ومراحل

أولاً: في تقييم مشترك مع الاستخبارات الإسرائيلية والباحثين المختصين بالظروف الداخلية في القطاع، وفي العلاقة بين قوى المقاومة ومصالح كل منها، لمعرفة ما إن كانت الظروف ملائمة لشن العدوان وإمكان تحقيق أهدافه. ولا يتورع “الخبراء”، العسكريون والأمنيون المصريون عن الإدلاء بتقييماتهم هذه على شاشات التلفزة الإسرائيلية أيضاً.

ثانياً: في ضبط إيقاع الرد من المقاومة، من خلال الضغوط والتهديدات.

ثالثاً: في الوصول إلى وقف إطلاق النار أو تهدئة، حين تحتاج “إسرائيل” إلى ذلك، وفق الشروط الإسرائيلية، لكن إخراج هذه النهاية يتطلب أن تبدو وكأنها مبادرة مصرية، تقوم بموجبها الاستخبارات المصرية بتقديم “ضمانات” إلى المقاومة، وقد ثبت من تجربة المعارك السابقة، أنها ضمانات فارغة، وهي مجرد تضليل للرأي العام العربي عامة والفلسطيني خاصة، لأن “إسرائيل” لا تقدم إلى مصر إلا الفتات الذي يحفظ ما وجهها. في النهاية، هي جهود مصرية تهدف إلى إرضاء السيد الأميركي والإسرائيلي، بحثاً عن مصالح مصرية ضيقة أو مصالح شخصية لهذه الشخصية أو تلك. 

ليس صحيحاً أن “إسرائيل” خدعت الاستخبارات المصرية، وهي تدعي في كل جولة أن “إسرائيل” خدعتها، وأن “إسرائيل” لم تفِ بوعودها، وفي تنفيذ الاتفاقيات، أين هي الاتفاقيات؟ إذا كان الأمر كذلك فلماذا تعلنون اتفاقيات وتفاهمات، وتعودون إلى تقديم الضمانات الفارغة؟ إن المشاركة الفعلية في تقييم الظروف الملائمة لشن العدوان يحتم المعرفة المسبّقة لنيات “إسرائيل” العدوانية.

من يراجع تصريحات المسؤولين الإسرائيليين والمصريين قبل العدوان وخلاله، وغداة وقف إطلاق النار، والتعبير عن رضاهم عن الدور المصري، لا بد أن يصل إلى هذه الحقيقة. وكان أكثر التصريحات توضيحاً ودلالة على الدور المصري، هو المديح الذي كاله الرئيس بايدن، بعد بضع ساعات من وقف إطلاق النار، للدور المصري والقطري في الوصول إلى وقف لإطلاق النار، مع التذكير بأن أميركا هي من أعطى “إسرائيل” الضوء الأخضر لشن هذا العدوان من خلال الإعلان عن إبلاغ غانتس نظيره الأميركي، أوستن، بذلك، ووقوف بايدن إلى جانب “إسرائيل” في عدوانها منذ اليوم الأول، بذريعة “الدفاع عن النفس”. فلو كانت أميركا محبة لوقف إطلاق النار، أو منع سفك الدماء الفلسطينية فعلاً، لما أعطت الضوء الأخضر للعدوان؟ 

في تقييم النتائج

الحقيقة أن “سرايا القدس” لم “تنتصر”، بالمعنى التكتيكي لجولة واحدة، على “إسرائيل”، لكنها أثبتت أن “الجهاد الإسلامي” قادر على الصمود، وعلى إدارة معركة دفاعية ومعنوية تحفظ وفاءه لأرواح الشهداء ودماء الجرحى وعذابات الأسرى في معتقلات العدو الصهيوني، ووحدة الساحات الفلسطينية. الجهاد كانت وحدها في وجه جيش قوي يتمتع بقدرات عسكرية كبيرة، بل يدّعي أنه من أقوى الجيوش في العالم، وهذا الصمود هو ما يقلق الخبراء الإسرائيليين في الوقت الحاضر. وتساءل عدد منهم، على شاشات التلفزة الإسرائيلية، كيف ستواجه “إسرائيل” حزب الله، وهو يمتلك قدرات عسكرية ولوجستية أضعاف أضعاف ما تمتلكه سرايا القدس؟ كيف ستواجه حزب الله، وهو غير محاصر من دولة “شقيقة”، ولا يخضع لأي ضغوط من استخبارات عربية موجَّهة من الولايات المتحدة و”إسرائيل”؟

في غضون ثلاثة أيام، وعلى الرغم من الخسارات الكبيرة التي تكبدها “سرايا القدس”، باغتيال القادة العسكريين الكبار منذ اللحظة الأولى للعدوان، وعلى الرغم من ضغوط “الأشقاء” العرب، وقدرات الطيران الحربي الإسرائيلي، إلا أن سرايا القدس استطاعت أن تطلق ما يقارب 1000 صاروخ باتجاه قوات العدو، أي بمعدل 300 صاروخ يومياً، وهذا يساوي المعدل اليومي لما أطلقته قوى المقاومة مجتمعةً في غزة إبّان العدوان الإسرائيلي في أيار/مايو 2021 المسمّى إسرائيلياً “حامي الأسوار”. ولم يكن هذا منتظراً قطّ.

علينا أن نفهم، أنه لم يحن وقت الانتصار بعد، وأننا ما زلنا في حدود الصمود في وجه العدوان الصهيوني المدعوم من الاستعمار والرجعية العربية التابعة للبيت الأبيض. ومع ذلك، على منظمة الجهاد الإسلامي أن تراجع تجربتها بموضوعية ومسؤولية لتجنب نقاط الضعف، وتعزيز نقاط القوة، وبذل جهود أكثر لفهم مخططات العدو وخطر علاقاته بالأنظمة العربية المطبّعة، وخصوصاً الاستخبارات المصرية. على المقاومة الفلسطينية عامة أن تراجع مواقفها من هذه المعركة تحديداً، ومن معارك أخرى، وأن تحذر كل الحذر من التعاون القائم بين الاستخبارات العربية والإسرائيلية برعاية أميركية، على العامل الفلسطيني في “إسرائيل” أن يحذر أحاديث تبدو بريئة، وهي في الحقيقة أحاديث خبيثة تهدف إلى استطلاع الراي العام الفلسطيني وظروف المقاومة، وعلى قوى المقاومة أن تتخذ كل الخطوات التي من شأنها التحرر من ضغوط وقيود “الأشقاء”… 

“من جرّب المجرّب كان عقله مخرّب”.

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MBS: Despot in The Desert

July 31, 2022 

Nicolas Pelham- The Economist

No one wanted to play football with Muhammad bin Salman. Sure, the boy was a member of Saudi Arabia’s royal family, but so were 15,000 other people. His classmates preferred the company of his cousins, who were higher up the assumed order of succession, a childhood acquaintance recalls. As for the isolated child who would one day become crown prince, a family friend recounts hearing him called “little Saddam”.

Home life was tricky for bin Salman, too (he is now more commonly known by his initials, [MBS]. His father, Salman, already had five sons with his first wife, an educated woman from an elite urban family. MBS’s mother, Salman’s third wife, was a tribeswoman. When MBS visited the palace where his father lived with his first wife, his older half-brothers mocked him as the “son of a Bedouin”. Later, his elder brothers and cousins were sent to universities in America and Britain. The Bedouin offspring of Prince Salman stayed in Riyadh to attend King Saud University.

As young adults, the royals sometimes cruised on superyachts together; MBS was reportedly treated like an errand boy, sent onshore to buy cigarettes. A photo from one of these holidays shows a group of 16 royals posing on a yacht-deck in shorts and sunglasses, the hills of the French Riviera behind them. In the middle is MBS’s cousin, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a billionaire investor dubbed “the Arabian Warren Buffett”. MBS, tall and broad-shouldered in a white t-shirt, is pushed to the farthest edge.

Fast forward to today, and MB has moved to the center of the frame, the most important decision-maker in Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter. Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy but MBS’s 86-year-old father, though nominally head of state, is rarely seen in public anymore. It has been clear for several years that MBS is in charge. “In effect,” a former Saudi intelligence agent told me, “King Salman is no longer king.”

At first glance the 36-year-old prince looks like the ruler many young Saudis had been waiting for, closer in age to his people than any previous king – 70% of the Saudi population is under 30. The millennial autocrat is said to be fanatical about the video game “Call of Duty”: he blasts through the inertia and privileges of the mosque and royal court as though he were fighting virtual opponents on screen.

His restless impatience and disdain for convention have helped him push through reforms that many thoughts wouldn’t happen for generations. The most visible transformation of Saudi Arabia is the presence of women in public where once they were either absent or closely guarded by their husband or father. There are other changes, too. Previously, the kingdom offered few diversions besides praying at the mosque; today you can watch Justin Bieber in concert, sing karaoke or go to a Formula 1 race. A few months ago, I even went to a rave in a hotel….

But embracing Western consumer culture doesn’t mean embracing Western democratic values: it can as easily support a distinctively modern, surveillance state. On my recent trips to Saudi Arabia, people from all levels of society seemed terrified about being overheard voicing disrespect or criticism, something I’d never seen there before. “I’ve survived four kings,” said a veteran analyst who refused to speculate about why much of Jeddah, the country’s second-largest city, is being bulldozed: “Let me survive a fifth.”

The West, beguiled by promises of change and dependent on Saudi oil, at first seemed prepared to ignore MBS’s excesses. Then, in late 2018, Saudi officials in Istanbul murdered a Washington Post columnist, Jamal Khashoggi, and dismembered his body with a bone saw. Even the most pro-Saudi leaders turned away.

…. After Putin invaded Ukraine in February, the price of crude shot up. Boris Johnson was on a plane within weeks. Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, previously a sworn enemy of the crown prince, embraced MBS in Riyadh in April. War even forced America’s president into a humiliating climbdown. On the campaign trail in 2020 Joe Biden had vowed to turn Saudi Arabia into a “pariah”. But on July 15th he went to make his peace with MBS– trying to avoid shaking MBS’s hand, he instead opted for a fist bump that left the two looking all the chummier. Even critics at home acknowledged MBs’s victory. “He made Biden look weak,” said a Saudi columnist in Jeddah. “He stood up to a superpower and won before the world.”

For MBS, this is a moment of triumph. His journey from the fringe of a photograph to the heart of power is almost complete. He will probably be king for decades. During that time, his country’s oil will be needed to sate the world’s enduring demand for energy.

A kingdom where the word of one man counts for so much depends utterly on his character. The hope is that, with his position secure, MBS will forswear the vengefulness and intolerance that produced Khashoggi’s murder. But some, among them his childhood classmates, fear something darker. They are reminded of the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, a one-time modernizer who became so addicted to accumulating power that he turned reckless and dangerous. “At first power bestows grandeur,” a former Western intelligence officer told me, of MBS. “But then comes the loneliness, suspicion and fear that others will try to grab what you grabbed.”

During the early years of MBS’s ascent, I was vaguely aware of him as one prince among many. I probably wouldn’t have paid him much attention if an old contact of mine hadn’t joined his staff. His new boss, my contact said, was serious about shaking things up. He arranged the meeting at a faux-ancient mud-brick village on the outskirts of Riyadh in 2016. As my Economist colleagues and I approached, the gates of MBS’s compound suddenly slid open, like a Bond-villain’s lair. In the inner chamber sat MBS.

Reform has often been promised in Saudi Arabia – usually in response to American hectoring – but successive kings lacked the mettle to push change through. When the Al-Saud conquered Arabia in the 1920s, they made an alliance with an ultra-conservative religious group called the Wahhabis. In 1979, after a group of religious extremists staged a brief armed takeover of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the Al-Saud decided to make the kingdom more devout to fend off a possible Islamic revolution, as had just happened in Iran. Wahhabi clerics were empowered to run society as they saw fit.

The Wahhabis exercised control through the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, otherwise known as the religious police. They whacked the ankles of women whose hair poked through their veil and lashed the legs of men who wore shorts. The arrangement suited the House of Saud. Wahhabism provided social control and gave legitimacy to the Saudi state, leaving the royals free to enjoy their oil wealth in the more permissive environments of London and Paris, or behind the gates of their palaces.

I’m loth to admit it now, but as the prince talked in Riyadh about his plans to modernize society and the economy, I was impressed by his enthusiasm, vision and command of the details. He gave what turned out to be accurate answers about how and when his reforms would happen. Though he was not yet crown prince, he frequently referred to Saudi Arabia as “my” country. We arrived at around 9pm. At 2am, MBS was still in full flow.

MBS was affable, self-assured, smiling. His advisers were more subdued. If they spoke at all, it was to robotically repeat their master’s lines. Yet when MBS left the room to take a call, they started chatting animatedly. As the prince re-entered, silence fell.

Like many in those early years, I was excited about what MBS might do for the kingdom. When I returned to the capital a few months later I saw a number of men wearing shorts. I kept looking over my shoulder for the religious police, but none came – they had been stripped of their powers of arrest.

As crown prince, MBS introduced a code of law so that judicial sentencing accords with state guidelines, not a judge’s own interpretation of the Koran. He criminalized stoning to death and forced marriage. The most overt change involved the role of women. MBS attacked guardianship laws that prevented women from working, travelling, owning a passport, opening a business, having hospital treatment or divorcing without approval from a male relative. In practice, many Saudi women have found these new rights hard to claim in a patriarchal society, and men can still file claims of disobedience against female relatives. But MBS’s reforms were more than cosmetic. Some clerics were jailed; the rest soon fell into line.

For foreigners, Riyadh is less forbidding these days. “I’m afraid I’ll be caught for not drinking,” a teetotal businessman told me. “There’s cocaine, alcohol and hookers like I haven’t seen in southern California,” says another party-goer. “It’s really heavy-duty stuff”.

When MBS first entered public life, he had a reputation for being as strait-laced as his father, rare among royals. That quickly changed. Many of the people interviewed for this article said that they believe MBS frequently uses drugs, which he denies. A court insider says that in 2015 his friends decided that he needed some r&r on an island in the Maldives. According to investigative journalists Bradley Hope and Justin Scheck in their book “Blood and Oil”, 150 models were recruited to join the gathering and were then shuttled “by golf cart to a medical center to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases”. Several international music stars were flown in, including Afrojack, a Dutch dj. Then the press blew MBS cover.

Thereafter, the prince preferred to unwind off the Red Sea coast. At weekends his entourage formed a flotilla by mooring their yachts around his, Serene, which has a driving range and a cinema. According to a former official, “dj MBS”, as his friends called him, would spin the discs wearing his trademark cowboy hat. The yacht is only one of the luxuries MBS has splurged on. He also bought a £230m ersatz French chateau near Versailles, built in 2008 (the meditation room doubles as an aquarium). He is said to have boasted that he wanted to be the first trillionaire.

We put these and other allegations in this article to MBS’s representatives. Through the Saudi embassy in London, they issued a broad denial, saying “the allegations are denied and are without foundation.”

MBS’s loosening of social mores reflects the values of many of his youthful peers, in Saudi and beyond – as does his taste for the flashier side of life. Yet despite the social revolution, the prince is no keener than Wahhabi clerics on letting people think for themselves. Shortly before lifting a ban on women driving in 2018, MBS’s officials imprisoned Loujain al-Hathloul, one of the leaders of the campaign for women’s rights. Her family say jailers waterboarded and electrocuted her, and that Saud al-Qahtani, one of MBS’s closest advisers, was present during her torment and threatened to rape her. [A un investigation found reasonable grounds to believe that Qahtani was involved in the torture of female activists. Qahtani allegedly told one of these women: “I’ll do whatever I like to you, and then I’ll dissolve you and flush you down the toilet.”] Hathloul was charged with inciting change to the ruling system. The message was clear: only one person was allowed to do that.

MBS is ruthlessly ambitious – he reportedly loved reading about Alexander the Great as a teenager – but he also owes his rise to some extraordinary twists of fortune. Succession can be an unpredictable affair in Saudi Arabia. The monarchy is only two generations old, founded in 1932, and the crown has so far moved from brother to brother among the founding ruler’s sons. That has become harder as the prospective heirs age. MBS’s father wasn’t tipped to be king, but after his two older brothers died unexpectedly in 2011 and 2012, he was catapulted up the line of succession.

When Salman became the heir-designate aged 76, he needed a chief of staff. Most courtiers expected him to choose one of the suave, English-speaking children of his first wife. Instead he appointed a son who spoke Arabic with a guttural Bedouin accent. [MBS has learned English fast since then: when we met in 2016 he sometimes corrected his translator.]

The choice to elevate MBS was less surprising to those who knew his father well. Salman had dedicated himself to his job as governor of Riyadh rather than chasing more lucrative commissions, and was a stickler for 8am starts, even in his 70s. He was known as the family disciplinarian, not averse to giving wayward royals a thwack with his walking stick or even a spell in his private prison. He clearly saw something of himself in his sixth son. MBS might love video games, but he was also a hard worker and keen to advance.

MBS put few limits on what he was prepared to do to achieve control. He earned the nickname Abu Rasasa – father of the bullet – after widespread rumors that he sent a bullet in the post to an official who ruled against him in a land dispute [Saudi officials have previously denied this rumor]. He was fearsome in private, too. “There are these terrible tempers, smashing up offices, trashing the palace,” says a source with palace connections. “He’s extremely violent.” Several associates describe him as having wild mood swings. Two former palace insiders say that, during an argument with his mother, he once sprayed her ceiling with bullets. According to multiple sources and news reports, he has locked his mother away.

It’s hard to say how many wives he has; officially, there’s just one, a glamorous princess called Sara bint Mashour, but courtiers say he has at least one more. MBS presents his family life as normal and happy: earlier this year he told the Atlantic magazine that he eats breakfast with his children each morning [he has three boys and two girls, according to Gulf News – the eldest is said to be 11]. One diplomat spoke of MBS’s kindness to his wife. But other sources inside the royal circle say that, on at least one occasion, Princess Sara was so badly beaten by her husband that she had to seek medical treatment.

We put this and other allegations in this piece to MBS’s representatives, who described them as “plain fabrication”, adding that “the kingdom is unfortunately used to false allegations made against its leadership, usually based on politically [or other] motivated malicious sources, particularly discredited individuals who have a long record of fabrications and baseless claims.”

MBS finally got a taste of political power in 2015 when Salman became king. Salman appointed his son deputy crown prince and minister of defense. One of MBS’s first moves was to launch a war in neighboring Yemen. Even America, the kingdom’s closest military ally, was told only at the last minute.

There was an obvious obstacle in MBS’s path to the throne: his cousin, the 57-year-old heir-designate, Muhammad bin Nayef. Bin Nayef was the intelligence chief and the kingdom’s main interlocutor with the CIA. He was widely credited with stamping out al-Qaeda in Saudi after 9/11. In June 2017 bin Nayef was summoned to meet the elderly king at his palace in Mecca.

The story of what happened next has emerged from press reports and my interviews. It seems that bin Nayef arrived by helicopter and took the lift to the fourth floor. Instead of the monarch, MBS’sagents were waiting. Bin Nayef was stripped of his weapons and phone, and told that a royal council had dismissed him. He was left alone to consider his options. Seven hours later, a court videographer filmed the charade of MBS kissing his cousin, then accepting his abdication as crown prince. King Salman kept a back seat throughout. Bin Nayef is now in detention [his uncle, who also had a claim to the throne, apparently intervened to try and protect bin Nayef, but was himself later detained]. The staged resignation – an old trick of Saddam Hussein’s – would become MBS’s signature move.

That was just the warm-up act. In October 2017 MBS hosted an international investment conference at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh. At “Davos in the desert”, the likes of Christine Lagarde, Son Masayoshi and other business glitterati listened to MBS’s pitch for Saudi Arabia’s post-oil future, including the construction of Neom, a new $500bn “smart city”. The event was a hit. Diplomatic grumblings about the war in Yemen or the fate of America’s security partner, Muhammad bin Nayef, faded.

The gathering was also an opportunity to invite back royals who were often abroad. Once the foreigners had left, MBS pounced. Hundreds of princes and businessmen were swept up. According to a biography of MBS by Ben Hubbard, a New York Times journalist, one of them realized something was amiss only when they got to their hotel room: there were no pens, razors or glasses – nothing that could be used as a weapon.

MBS held the detainees in the Ritz-Carlton for several weeks [the Marriott and other hotels were also commandeered to house the overflow]. Prisoners’ phones were confiscated. Some were said to have been hooded, deprived of sleep and beaten until they agreed to transfer money and hand over an inventory of their assets. All told, MBS’s guests at the Ritz-Carlton coughed up about $100bn.

Even royals previously thought untouchable, such as the powerful prince who ran the national guard, got similar treatment. Princess Basma, the youngest child of the second king of Saudi Arabia, was jailed for three years without charge or access to a lawyer; after being released she still had to wear an electronic ankle bracelet, according to a close associate of hers.

The crushing of the royals and business elite was billed as a crackdown on corruption – and undoubtedly it netted many corruptly acquired assets, which MBS said would be returned to the Saudi treasury. The methods, however, looked more like something from a gangster film than a judicial procedure.

Interrogations were overseen by Saud al-Qahtani, who reported directly to MBS whenever a detainee broke and gave out their bank details. [All the allegations in this piece concerning Qahtani were put to him via his lawyer. No response was given.] Qahtani had installed himself as one of MBS’s favored henchmen, though earlier in his career, he’d plotted against Salman and his son, trying to sideline them with rumors that Salman had dementia. Qahtani was so loyal to the former faction that he’d named his son after his then boss. According to a former courtier, on the day of the old king’s funeral the two men had it out: MBS slapped Qahtani in the face. Later, MBS let Qahtani prove his worth and brought him on to his staff. Qahtani duly named his younger son Muhammad.

On paper, Qahtani was a communications adviser, a former journalist who understood Twitter and used an army of bots and loyal followers to intimidate critics on social media [his office included giant screens and holograms that staff used for target-practice with laser guns]. In practice he was entrusted with MBS’s most important and violent missions – the ones that established his grip on power.

His remit extended far beyond Saudi’s borders. In 2016 he kidnapped Prince Sultan, a minor royal who had been bad-mouthing MBS. MBS offered his jet to fly Sultan from Paris to Cairo – instead, the plane was diverted to Saudi Arabia. According to Hope’s and Scheck’s book, Qahtani posed as Captain Saud, an airline pilot, though surprisingly one who had an expensive Hublot watch.

Even people who have nothing to do with politics have become afraid to speak near a functioning mobile phone

With rendition strategies like this, and the cash tap shut off, even royals who weren’t inside the Ritz-Carlton felt the pressure to divest themselves of ostentatious assets. The father of the Saudi ambassador to Britain put Glympton Park, his beloved 2,000-acre estate in the Cotswolds, up for sale. Riyadh’s jewellers did a roaring trade pawning the diamonds of lesser royals. “It’s like the Romanovs selling their Fabergé eggs,” said an adviser to an auction house.

Many commoners rejoiced at the downfall of their entitled elite. Princes and princesses who once lived off huge handouts began looking for jobs. Their titles became irrelevant. Unable to afford the cost of irrigation, their green ranches became desert again. Banks turned them away. One financial adviser recalled his response to princes trying to get credit on the strength of their royal status: “You call yourselves princes, but they say there’s only one prince now.”

The Ritz-Carlton episode was just one element of an extraordinary project of centralization. MBS yanked control of various security services back from the princes. He took charge of Aramco, the semi-autonomous state oil company. He installed himself as boss of the sovereign-wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund. “He destroyed all the powerful families,” says a retired diplomat. By late 2017, law, money and security in Saudi all flowed directly from him.

Among those who lost out were the fellow princes who had pushed a young MBS to the edge of the family photo on the yacht all those years ago. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, in the center of that shot, surrendered part of his $17bn wealth. As the shakedown widened, MBS’s elder half-siblings put up their yacht for sale. Many of his cousins were locked up. “Payback time,” one victim said.

While MBS was squeezing the elite at home, he was forging some important friendships abroad.

MBS and Donald Trump, who was elected president in 2016, had a lot in common. Both had the hunger of the underdog and loathed the snooty policymaking establishments in their countries; they reveled in provocation. The historic compact, by which Saudi Arabia provided oil to American consumers and America guaranteed the country’s security, had frayed in recent years. Barack Obama’s hurried exit from Iraq in 2011 and his nuclear deal with Iran in 2015 had left Saudi Arabia worried that it could no longer rely on American protection. America’s development of its own shale-oil reserves had also reduced its dependence on Saudi oil. Then Trump and MBS got cozy.

With the Trump administration’s tacit [and sometimes explicit] support, MBS set about treating the entire Middle East much as he did Saudi Arabia, trying to push aside rulers whom he found to be inconvenient. He announced a blockade of Qatar, a tiny gas-rich state to the east of Saudi Arabia. In 2017, angered by Lebanon’s dealings with Iran, MBS invited the prime minister, Saad Hariri, a long-time beneficiary of Saudi patronage, on a starlit camping trip. Hariri turned up, had his phone confiscated and soon found himself reading out a resignation speech on tv.

Both moves ultimately backfired. But Trump’s Middle East adviser, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, did little to discourage such antics. Together, he and MBS dreamt up a new regional order over WhatsApp, calling each other “Jared” and “Muhammad”. Their rapport was so great that, at Kushner’s prompting, MBS started the process of recognizing “Israel”. His father, still officially king, put a stop to that.

MBS visited America in March 2018, hanging out in Silicon Valley with Peter Thiel and Tim Cook, and meeting celebrities, including Rupert Murdoch, James Cameron and Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson. Many people were keen to meet the man who controlled a $230bn sovereign-wealth fund. To his frustration, they were less willing to reciprocate by investing in the kingdom.

That October the intercontinental bonhomie came to an abrupt halt. I was due to go to a conference in Turkey that month. A Saudi journalist I knew, Jamal Khashoggi, got in touch to suggest meeting up: he was also going to be in Istanbul, for an appointment at the consulate. Khashoggi was a court insider whose criticisms of MBS in the Washington Post and elsewhere had attracted much attention. He seemed to be making more effort than usual to stay in touch. While I was at the conference a friend of his phoned me: Jamal still hadn’t emerged from the consulate, he said. By the time I got there, Turkish police were cordoning off the building.

The full story soon came out in leaked intelligence reports and, later, a un inquiry. A Saudi hit squad, which reportedly coordinated with Saud al-Qahtani, had flown to Istanbul. As they waited for Khashoggi to enter the consulate, they discussed plans for dismembering his body. According to tapes recorded inside the consulate by Turkish intelligence, Khashoggi was told, “We’re coming to get you.” There was a struggle, followed by the sound of plastic sheets being wrapped. A CIA report said that MBS approved the operation.

MBS has said he takes responsibility for the murder, but denies ordering it. He sacked Qahtani and another official implicated in the intelligence reports. The fallout was immediate. Companies and speakers pulled out of that year’s Davos in the desert; the Gates Foundation ended its partnership with Misk, an artistic and educational charity set up by the prince. Ari Emanuel, a Hollywood agent, cancelled a $400m deal with the kingdom.

The crown prince seems to have been genuinely surprised at the animus – “disappointed”, says an associate. Hadn’t he committed to all the reforms the West had been asking for? Perhaps he had underestimated the outcry provoked by going after a well-connected international figure, as opposed to a royal unknown outside Saudi Arabia. Or perhaps he understood Western governments’ priorities better than they did themselves. They had done little when Muhammad bin Nayef, their partner in battling terrorism, had disappeared; they had shrugged at reports of torture in the Ritz-Carlton, and at MBS’s reckless bombardment of Yemen. Why did they have so much to say about the killing of a single journalist?

Three years after the Khashoggi killing, Davos in the desert opened with the singer Gloria Gaynor. As images of smiling children flashed up on a giant screen behind her, she broke into her disco anthem, “I Will Survive”, asking the audience: “Did you think I’d crumble? Did you think I’d lay down and die?”

The chief executives of private-equity giants BlackRock and Blackstone were back, as were the heads of Goldman Sachs, SocGen and Standard Chartered. Even Amazon sent a representative despite the fact that its boss, Jeff Bezos, owns the Washington Post, the paper that employed Khashoggi. Meanwhile, Qahtani was creeping back into favor at the royal court – although he had been implicated by the un for Khashoggi’s murder, a Saudi court took the decision not to charge him.

MBS revitalized the near-dormant sovereign-wealth fund, pumping tens of billions of dollars into tech, entertainment and sports, to create a softer, more appealing image of Saudi and co-opt new partners. In April 2020, the fund led a consortium to buy Newcastle United, a premier-league football team [the deal took 18 months]. The following year it launched an audacious bid to create Saudi’s own golf tour, the LIV series, hoping to lure players with a prize pot of $255m, far larger than that of American tournaments. At the first LIV tour this year, some top players boycotted the event, others went for the cash.

Joe Biden has proved tougher to woo. Soon after becoming president, Biden withdrew American military support for the war in Yemen. He wouldn’t talk to MBS, insisting that communications go through King Salman instead. He didn’t even nominate an ambassador to Riyadh for 15 months. The chat everywhere was that Saudi-American relations were in a deep freeze. Then, in February 2022, MBS had a stroke of luck: Russia invaded Ukraine.

In the days after war broke out, Biden himself tried to call MBS. The crown prince declined to speak to the president. He did take Putin’s call, however. The two men were already close. MBS had personally brought Russia into an expanded version of the OPEC cartel in order for Saudi Arabia to keep control of global oil production. Putin cemented the friendship in 2018 at the g20 summit in Buenos Aires, which took place weeks after the Khashoggi killing. While Western leaders shunned MBS, Putin gave the Saudi ruler a high-five before sitting down next to him.

MBS’s defiance of America seems to have paid off. After months of evasion, Biden reluctantly agreed to meet MBS in Jeddah in July, on the prince’s own turf and his own terms. The visit gave MBS recognition but did little to rebuild relations. There wasn’t even a concrete assurance of increasing oil production.

Some in the American foreign-policy establishment remain hopeful that MBS could become a helpful partner in the region, pointing to his recent retreat from confrontation with Qatar and his eagerness to find a diplomatic exit from Yemen. Perhaps, they say, he is maturing as a leader.

This seems optimistic. MBS’s disastrous campaign in Yemen was ostensibly in support of the country’s president but in April, hours after being summoned to a meeting and offered Arabic coffee and dates, Yemen’s president was reading out a resignation speech on tv. MBS took it upon himself to get rid of him personally – suggesting that his mode of international diplomacy remains as high-handed as ever. “What they’ve learned”, says one foreign analyst, “is don’t murder journalists who dine regularly with congressmen in the United States.”

The West has taught MBS something else, too – something that autocrats the world over may draw comfort from. No matter the sin, they would argue, if you sit tight through the odium and fury, eventually the financiers, the celebrities, even the Western leaders, will come running back. At 36, MBS has time on his side. Some observers fear that he may become only more dangerous as oil reserves start to decline and the treasure trove shrinks. “What happens when he’s a middle-aged man ruling a middle-income country and starts to get bored?” asks a diplomat who knows MBS personally. “Will he go on more adventures?”

Earlier this year, I visited an old friend in his office in Saudi Arabia. Before we started talking, he put his phone in a pouch that blocks the signal, to prevent government spies from listening in. Dissidents do that kind of thing in police states like China, but I’d never seen it before in Saudi Arabia. It isn’t just people involved with politics who are taking such precautions: most Saudis have become afraid to speak near a functioning mobile phone. People used to talk fairly openly in their offices, homes and cafés. Now, they are picked up for almost nothing.

As we chatted over the whir of his office air conditioning, my friend reeled off a list of people he knew who had been detained in the past month: a retired air-force chief who died in prison, a hospital administrator hauled away from his desk, a mother taken in front of her seven children, a lawyer who died seven days after his release from prison. “These people aren’t rabble rousers,” my friend said. “No one understands why.”

Officially, the government says it has no political prisoners. Rights groups reckon that thousands have been swept up in MBS’s dragnet. I’ve covered the Middle East since the 1990s and can’t think of anywhere where so many of my own contacts are behind bars.

Few ordinary Saudis predicted that when MBS was done trampling on the elites and the clerics, he would come for them next. Bringing Saudis into the modern, networked, online world has made it easier for the state to monitor what they are saying. A Red Crescent employee called Abdulrahman al-Sadhan used to run a satirical Twitter account under a pseudonym. In 2018 MBS’s agents arrested him and held him incommunicado for two years. American prosecutors later charged two former Twitter employees with allegedly handing over the real names behind various accounts to a Saudi official – al-Sadhan’s family believes that his name was among them. [The trial of one employee is ongoing; he denies passing on information to Saudi officials.]

On the face of it, MBS has nothing to worry about. Public opinion polls – if they can be trusted – suggest he is popular, particularly with younger Saudis. But there is a growing sense that discontent is brewing beneath the surface. MBS has broken crucial social contracts with the Saudi populace, by reducing handouts while, at the same time, dispensing with the tradition of hearing the feedback of ordinary people after Friday prayers.

It isn’t hard to imagine some of the issues they’d raise if they had the chance. Many people are struggling as the cost of living rises. When other governments were cushioning their citizens during the pandemic, MBS slashed fuel subsidies and tripled vat. Unable to afford the cost of pumping water, some farmers left crops to wither in the field. Fees for permits and fines have spiraled, too. Though MBS speaks eloquently about the country’s youth, he is struggling to find them jobs. Unemployment remains stubbornly stuck in double digits. Half of the jobless have a university degree, but most white-collar workers I met on MBS’s mega-projects were foreign.

Saudi Arabia’s attempts to diversify its economy – and so compensate for the long-term decline of oil reserves – isn’t going well either. The pandemic delayed plans for a rapid increase in international tourism. Extorting billions of dollars from your relatives may not be the best way to convince investors that the kingdom is a liberal haven.

The young prince has reversed even the baby steps towards democracy taken by previous kings. Municipal elections have been suspended – as a cost-cutting exercise, explains the supine press. The Shura Council, a consultative body of 150 people, has only met online since the pandemic [other institutions have gathered in person for months]. “I wish I had more of a voice,” said one member. Whenever I mentioned the prince, his leg twitched.

A frequent visitor to the royal court says MBS now gives the impression of someone who’s always thinking that people are plotting against him. He seems to be preoccupied with loyalty. He fills key posts either with young royals, foreigners with no local base to threaten him or people he has already broken. A government minister, Ibrahim Assaf, was one of those locked up in the Ritz-Carlton – two months later MBS sent him to the World Economic Forum as his representative. A senior executive on one of his construction projects is someone who says he was tortured in one of his prisons. “He went from being strung naked from his ankles, beaten and stripped of all his assets to a high-level project manager,” says a close acquaintance of the man.

All remain vulnerable to MBS’s tantrums. Saudi sources say he once locked a minister in a toilet for ten hours. [The minister later appeared on tv blabbering platitudes about the prince’s wisdom.] A senior official I’ve spoken to says he wants out. “Everyone in his circle is terrified of him,” says an insider. And that could make it hard for him to govern a country of 35m people effectively. Former courtiers say no one close to MBS is prepared to offer a truthful assessment of whether his increasingly grandiose schemes are viable. “Saying no”, says one, “is not something they will ever do.”

If MBS has a mission beyond extending his power, you might expect to find it in Neom, the city he promised to build in the desert. Neom would be nothing less than “a civilizational leap for humanity”, he said in 2017. Head-spinning details followed. The city’s food would be grown on hydroponic walls on a floating structure. It would be powered by the world’s largest green-hydrogen plant. Thousands of snow-blowers would create a ski resort on a nearby mountain. One day it would have driverless cars and passenger drones.

According to the official timetable, the main city would be completed by 2020. Further districts would be added by 2025. The prince’s tourism minister, Ahmed al-Khateeb, dismissed rumors that the timetable was proving over-ambitious. “Come see with your eyes and not with your ears,” he urged. So, I went.

Finding Neom was the first problem. There were no road signs to it. After three hours’ drive we came to the spot indicated by the map. It was bare, but for the odd fig tree. Camels strolled across the empty highway. Piles of rubble lined the road, remnants of the town bulldozed to make way for the mighty metropolis.

The designated area is nearly the size of Belgium. As far as I could tell, only two projects had been completed, MBS’s palace, and something Google Earth calls “The Neom Experience Centre” [when I drove to see it, it was obscured by a prefabricated hut]. The only other solid building I could see was a hotel constructed before Neom was conceived: The Royal Tulip. A poster in the lobby urged me to “Discover Neom”. But when I asked for a guide the hotel manager cursed my sister with Arabic vulgarities and tried to shoo me away. There was no sign of the media hub with “frictionless facilitation”, “advanced infrastructure” and “collaborative ecosystems” promised by the Neom website. Neom’s head of communications and media, Wayne Borg, said he was “out of Kingdom at present”.

The hotel restaurant was teeming with consultants – all the ones I met were foreign. I later found a Saudi project manager. “We think we’re about to start working, but every two months the consultants coin a new plan,” he told me. “They’re still doing plans of plans.” There was a kind of manic short-termism among these foreigners. Many were paid $40,000 a month, plus handsome bonuses. “It’s like riding a bull,” one of the Neom consultants told me. “You know you’re gonna fall, that no one can last on a bull longer than a minute and a half, two minutes, so you make the most of it.”

Despite the high salaries, there are reports that foreigners are leaving the Neom project because they find the gap between expectations and reality so stressful. The head of Neom is said by his friends to be “terrified” at the lack of progress.

Eventually, I found a retired Saudi air-force technician who offered to drive me around the city for $600. He took me to a sculpture standing in the desert with the words, “I love Neom”. A short way farther on we found a new stretch of tarmac, said to mark the edge of the dream city. Beyond it, the lone and level sands stretched far away.

Iran Will Respond in Kind to Any Measure Against Its National Security

July 18, 2022 

By Staff, Agencies

A senior Iranian diplomat said the Islamic Republic will respond in kind to any measure against its national security from any neighboring country, in a veiled reference to the countries that have normalized their relations with the ‘Israeli’ occupation regime.

“Targeting our security from neighboring countries will be met with a response to those countries and a direct response to ‘Israel’,” Kamal Kharrazi, the head of Iran’s Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, warned in an interview with Al Jazeera news network published on Sunday.

Tehran has emphasized that it pursues a policy of improving relations with neighboring countries, while at the same time making it clear that the countries, which are normalizing their relations with ‘Israel’ and allowing the occupying regime to establish a foothold in the region, are betraying the Palestinian cause and bringing instability to the region.

Kharrazi, however, said ‘Israel’ is in a phase of weakness and US President Joe Biden’s support for the regime would fail to bring it back to the fore.

Kharrazi said Iran has carried out extensive military drills to demonstrate its capability to hit targets deep inside the ‘Israeli’ occupation entity in the event “Iran’s vital and sensitive facilities are targeted.”

During the interview, Kharrazi, an ex-foreign minister, also said Tehran calls for launching regional talks to be attended by important countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, Qatar, and other states.

He noted that Qatar has made important proposals on holding dialog among regional countries and that Tehran has expressed its full readiness in this regard.

The sole solution to regional crises, according to the senior diplomat, is the formation of a regional dialog forum in order to find settlements to political and security disputes among regional countries.

Kharrazi also welcomed recent remarks by Saudi officials about extending a hand of friendship to Iran, saying Tehran is ready to enter into dialog with Riyadh in order to restore bilateral relations to normalcy.

he also rejected allegations that Iran has intentions to make nuclear weapons, saying this is while the Islamic Republic possesses the technical capabilities, such as increasing the level of uranium enrichment from 20 percent to 60 percent.

The diplomat dismissed any possibility of talks about “our missile program and our regional policies,” saying any negotiation on the two subjects would mean submission to the enemy.

Regarding the indirect negotiations with the United States to revive the 2015 Iran deal, he said it is difficult to conduct a direct dialog with Washington in light of a thick wall of mistrust due to hostile US policies toward the Islamic Republic.

He added that there are no guarantees that the US would continue to honor the Iran deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA], if the deal is restored, and “this prevents any possible agreement.”

Iran and the US concluded two days of indirect talks, mediated by the European Union, in the Qatari capital of Doha late last month in an attempt to break the stalemate in reviving the JCPOA.

At the end of the talks, Iran and the EU, which plays a mediatory role, said they would keep in touch “about the continuation of the route and the next stage of the talks.”

The talks in Doha followed seven rounds of inconclusive negotiations in the Austrian capital of Vienna, as the US insisted on refusing to undo its so-called maximum pressure policy against Tehran.

Iran Demands ‘Strong’ Economic Guarantees in JCPOA Revival Talks – FM

July 15, 2022

By Staff, Agencies

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said it is a “necessity” for Iran to gain economic benefits from the 2015 agreement and thus wants “strong” guarantees in talks on a potential revival of the deal, which the US abandoned unilaterally three years after its conclusion.

“We seek strong economic guarantees. If a Western company signs a contract with its Iranian counterpart, it must rest assured that its project will be implemented and it will receive compensation in case new sanctions are imposed,” Amir Abdollahian, who is on a visit to Rome, said in a Wednesday interview with Italian newspaper la Repubblica.

The top Iranian diplomat added that the issue of guarantees is one of the biggest obstacles in the talks aimed at restoring the 2015 deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA].

Elsewhere in his remarks, Amir Abdollahian was asked about reports on Washington’s refusal to remove the Islamic Revolution Guard [IRG] from its blacklist.

He said during last month’s indirect talks between Iran and the US — mediated by the European Union — in the Qatari capital of Doha, Tehran proposed putting off the issues related to Washington’s so-called list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations [FTOs].

“But we must be certain that the Iranian companies enjoy the economic benefits and their own share of the agreement. Making economic benefits in the JCPOA is a necessity. We do not ask for anything that goes beyond the nuclear agreement,” Amir Abdollahian said.

He also noted that Tehran and Washington are in contact through the EU on possible ways to remove anti-Iran sanctions, saying both sides should have flexibility and initiatives.

Iran and the US concluded two days of indirect talks, mediated by the European Union, in the Qatari capital of Doha, late last month in an attempt to break the stalemate in reviving the JCPOA.

At the end of the talks, Iran and the EU said they would keep in touch “about the continuation of the route and the next stage of the talks.”

The talks in Doha followed seven rounds of negotiations in the Austrian capital of Vienna between Iran and the five remaining parties to the JCPOA since April last year.

They were put on hold as Washington insists on its refusal to undo its past wrongs through measures such as removing the IRG from its foreign terrorist organization list.

Iran maintains that the IRG’s designation in 2019 was part of former President Donald Trump administration’s so-called maximum pressure campaign against Iran, and, therefore, it has to be reversed unconditionally.

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Anti-normalization Countries Resist The Arab-‘Israeli’ Alliance

July 9, 2022 

By Staff, Agencies

Amid a push by the US and the ‘Israeli’ occupation regime to build an anti-Iranian coalition in the region, a report suggested that a number of Arab countries are against such an alliance.

Washington and Tel Aviv are pushing Arab countries for the realization of a military pact to counter alleged threats from Iran.

Citing unnamed sources, Reuters said the plan is on the agenda of US President Joe Biden’s upcoming visit to the occupied territories and Saudi Arabia in mid-July.

According to the sources, the plan seeks to “build a network of radars, detectors and interceptors between Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Jordan and Egypt, with the help of ‘Israeli’ technology and US military bases.”

However, it highlighted the resistance of some Arab countries, including Iraq, Qatar, and Kuwait, against such a plan due to their relations with Iran and also because of rejecting any ties with the ‘Israeli’ occupiers.

Starting from the tenure of former President Donald Trump, Washington has tried to convince a number of Arab countries to publicly announce the normalization of ties with the ‘Israeli’ regime.

The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco were among the first countries to toe the line, facing strong condemnations from Palestinians who denounced the move as a “stab in their back.”

Using baseless accusations against Iran, Washington is now trying to force some other regional states to side with the Zionist entity.

Iraq, however, is one of the countries that has clearly voiced its opposition to ‘Israel’ as it recently adopted a law criminalizing any sort of ties with the regime.

In late May, Iraq’s parliament approved a law making it illegal for the country to ever normalize its relations with the Zionist occupation regime.

Back in 2020, the UAE and Bahrain entered United States-brokered so-called “peace deals” with the ‘Israeli’ regime. Some other regional states, namely Sudan and Morocco, followed suit.

Reports suggest that Saudi Arabia is the next country that may embark on normalization. Analysts suggest the direct flight of Air Force One from Tel Aviv to Jeddah during Biden’s upcoming trip as a symbolic act can be interpreted within this framework.

Israeli military officials sent to Qatar as US works to bolster security cooperation

Arrival of officials in Qatar underscores how normalisation impacts Arab states that have not formally established ties to Israel

A general view shows US Air Force C-17 Globemaster aircraft at al-Udeid Air Base, Qatar (AFP/File photo)

8 July 2022 

By Sean Mathews

Israeli military officials have secretly been dispatched to Qatar as part of a security reshuffle that places Israel in US Central Command’s area of responsibility, current and former US and Gulf officials have told Middle East Eye.

At least one location where Israeli officials have travelled is al-Udeid, a US air base and the forward operating headquarters of all US forces in the Middle East, also known as Centcom, the sources said.

Israel was absorbed into Centcom last year, in a move that built on the 2020 normalisation agreements which saw Bahrain and the UAE establish full diplomatic relations with Israel. Morocco and Sudan normalised relations with Israel soon after.

A Gulf official with knowledge of the matter who spoke with MEE on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive topic did not say how many Israeli personnel were currently in the country.  

The Abraham Accords and Israel’s inclusion in Centcom ‘are forcing all Arab capitals to reassess what their relationship with Israel looks like’

– R Clarke Cooper, former US official

Despite lacking formal relations, Israel and Qatar – two key US allies – maintain ties, and are known to engage on issues including the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

“There is dialogue, and it is a good dialogue,” said the Gulf official.

Qatar publicly acknowledges what it calls a “working relationship” with Israel. Those ties came to the fore during Israel’s offensive on Gaza last year when Defence Minister Benny Gantz reportedly met with Qatari officials in an unnamed country to negotiate aid for the besieged Gaza Strip.

However, the disclosure, not previously reported elsewhere, of Israeli military officials travelling to Qatar underscores how ties are extending beyond traditional areas such as Palestine, particularly as the US works to bolster security cooperation between its Arab partners and Israel.

“The Abraham Accords, as well as the inclusion of Israel into the US Central Command, are forcing all Arab capitals to reassess what their relationship with Israel looks like,” R Clarke Cooper, former assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs under the Trump administration and currently at the Atlantic Council, told MEE.

“Current considerations of military integration to address shared threats like Iran is a real-time example of such reassessment,” he added.

‘Exploring greater security coordination’

In March, Qatari military officials – along with those from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Jordan – reportedly held a meeting with US and Israeli counterparts in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm al-Sheikh to discuss a plan for joint missile defence.

The meeting took place against a backdrop of rising tensions with Iran, as talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal stall. 

In contrast to other Gulf states, Qatar is seen as more supportive of a return to the deal. Qatar shares the world’s largest natural gas field with Iran. Its leader, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, travelled to the Islamic Republic in May in a push to jumpstart stalled talks. Last month, the US and Tehran held indirect negotiations in Doha aimed at reviving the accord.  

Biden Middle East visit: Why an Israel-led security pact is a paper tiger
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But Qatar’s geographic position also means that it would be vulnerable to any escalation in the region, analysts say.

“The Qataris, like other smaller countries between Saudi Arabia and Iran, are open to exploring greater security coordination with other actors, whether that be Turkey, whether that be Israel as well,” Anna Jacobs, a senior analyst on Gulf states at the International Crisis Group, told MEE.

Asked about the stationing of Israeli military officials at US bases in Qatar, Centcom referred MEE to the Israeli military. The Israeli military refused to comment on the topic.

Lt Col Dave Eastburn, US Central Command spokesman, told MEE in a written response that the “easing of tensions between Israel and its Arab neighbors subsequent to the Abraham Accords has provided a strategic opportunity for the United States to align key partners against shared threats in the Middle East, including our partners in Israel”.

‘Working relationship’

Qatar, a gas-rich country of 2.8 million people, of which only 300,000 are Qatari nationals, has had a complex relationship with Israel.

Qatar was the first country in the Gulf to establish trade relations with Israel. During the Second Intifada, it was reportedly pressured by Saudi Arabia and other states to close its trade office there. A reopened office was subsequently shuttered when Israel launched its 2009 invasion of Gaza.

Qatar has long positioned itself as an advocate of the Palestinian cause. The Al Jazeera Media Network and its affiliates, which are funded by the Government of Qatar, are viewed by many as critical of Israel.

Doha is also close to Hamas, the group that governs the besieged Gaza Strip, and provides hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Palestinians in both the West Bank and Gaza in coordination with the UN, and with the backing of Israel.

Doha’s leverage with Hamas helped it negotiate a ceasefire to last May’s fighting which saw more than 260 Palestinians killed in Gaza and the occupied West Bank, and 13 in Israel. Following the truce, Qatar pledged $500m in support of Gaza’s reconstruction.

A few months after the ceasefire, Qatar announced new measures to provide aid to impoverished families in Gaza. Defence Minister Benny Gantz praised Doha, stating: “I would like to thank Qatar for taking a positive role as a stabilising actor in the Middle East.”

“The Qataris have a win-win situation,” Yoel Guzansky, a Gulf expert at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv, told MEE.

“They are appreciated on the Palestinian street for not normalising. They have good relations with the US and good relations with Israel.”

Navigating the grey zone

Biden is scheduled to embark on a four-day trip to the Middle East next week, where he will first visit Israel and the occupied West Bank. The visit will then culminate with a major gathering of regional leaders in the Saudi Arabian port city of Jeddah.

Ahead of Biden’s trip, US officials have hinted that new states could take steps to normalise relations with Israel. The US is believed to be negotiating a deal to transfer two Red Sea islands from Egypt to Saudi Arabia, in a move that could eventually pave the way for Riyadh to normalise in the future.

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Few expect Qatar to take similar measures.

The State Department denied MEE’s request to discuss Qatar and US normalisation efforts. Qatar also didn’t respond to requests for comment by the time of publication. 

In an interview earlier this year, Qatar’s foreign minister ruled out normalising ties with Israel “in the absence of a real commitment to a two-state solution” between the Israelis and Palestinians.

“If I was the Qataris, I would not normalise. And if I was the Israelis, I don’t know if I would want them to,” Guzansky said, explaining that both sides were so far apart on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that it was likely in each’s favour to keep bilateral ties in a “grey zone”.

Navigating that grey zone amid signs that normalisation in the region is proceeding will likely continue to test Qatar’s ability to balance the relationship. 

Hamas’ return ticket to Damascus won’t come cheap

The Palestinian resistance movement’s complicated relationship with Syria is headed for a reset, but it won’t be on their terms.

July 06 2022

Photo Credit: The Cradle

Despite excited media reports of a Hamas-Syria rapprochement, nothing is finalized: the Palestinian resistance movement has much more to prove still.

By The Cradle’s Palestine Correspondent

On 21 June, two unnamed Hamas sources told Reuters that the Palestinian resistance movement had decided to restore ties with Damascus following a decade-long rift after Hamas expressed support for the Syrian opposition.

The news caused a row, and it seems that this may have been the purpose behind its leak.

Shortly after the report, dozens of websites, satellite channels and media commentators in Turkey, Qatar, and the UK who are sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood – the political Islamist group to which Hamas belongs ideologically – distanced themselves from Hamas, which has neither confirmed nor denied the reports.

However, comments made by the head of the Political Bureau of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, has added credence to these claims.

In a speech before the National Islamic Conference in Beirut, on 25 June, Haniyeh said, “The time has come after ten years to make historic reconciliations in the Islamic nation.”

“What is happening in the region today is very dangerous as Israel is paving the way through military and security alliances to fight Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas,” he added.

So how accurate are the reports about “high-profile” secret meetings between Hamas and the Syrians? Is there a relationship between Haniyeh’s visit to Beirut and the timing of these revelations?

The heavy legacy of Khaled Meshaal

When Hamas left Syria over a decade ago, the office of Khaled Meshaal, who was the head of the movement’s Political Bureau at the time, justified the decision as stemming from “moral premises.”

They contended that the Hamas movement stands with the people in deciding who will rule them, saying “even if the ruler supports our right, we will not support his falsehood.” This reverberated within the movement, and the majority of its popular base supported “Syrian revolution” in the face of “the regime that is slaughtering its people.”

That was back in 2011, when the so-called Arab Spring helped sweep the Muslim Brotherhood (MB or Ikhwan) and its affiliates into power in Egypt and Tunisia, and paved the way for the MB-aligned Syrian armed opposition to take control of the outskirts of Damascus. .

But only four years later (2015), the picture was completely reversed: Egypt’s Mohammed Morsi was ousted in a Gulf-backed military coup; Tunisian President Kais Saied turned against the Brotherhood’s Ennahda party and removed it completely from the political scene. And Damascus gradually regained control over the vital parts of Syria.

In the wider region, the regime of Omar Al-Bashir fell in Sudan, and the Muslim Brotherhood’s influence in Libya, Yemen, Jordan and Kuwait was severely diminished.

New leadership, a new direction

It was inevitable that these significant region-wide changes would also transform Hamas’ leadership to reflect the new political scene. In 2017, Ismail Haniyeh was appointed head of the Political Bureau, while that same year, Yahya Al-Sinwar, who was released from Israeli prisons in 2011, became the leader of the movement in Gaza.

Seen as a hawk, Sinwar relies on the absolute support of the movement’s military arm, the Al-Qassam Brigades, and as such, introduced a new political approach to Hamas’ regional relations.

Although Sinwar’s first move was to reorganize relations with Cairo after a four-year estrangement, by far his most important change was to revive Hamas’ relations with the Axis of Resistance, making it the movement’s top foreign policy priority.

Within a few years, the Hamas leader in Gaza had re-established full relations with Iran and Hezbollah, but its return to Damascus still remains the biggest obstacle.

In order to thaw the ice with Syria, Iran mediated first, followed by Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and more recently, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). This deadlock was not broken until after the Hamas operation “Sword of Jerusalem” in May 2021.

Testing the waters

In that same month, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad responded to a greeting from Al Qassam Brigades, conveyed by the Secretary General of PIJ Ziad Al-Nakhaleh, with a corresponding greeting. After that, contacts began to increase between Syrian officials and Hamas leaders.

Syrian sources informed The Cradle that a year ago it was decided to “reduce security measures against a number of Hamas members in Syria, release a number of detainees, and reveal the fate of other missing persons.”

But that didn’t achieve normalcy between Syria and Hamas either. There are those within the latter, it appears, who continue to sabotage progress made with Damascus.

To understand the dynamics of this particular relationship – present and its future – it is necessary to review its stages throughout the years.

From Amman to Damascus

Hamas began paving the way for its relationship with Syria in the early 1990s through visits made by its official Musa Abu Marzouk. In 1992, Mustafa Al-Ledawi was appointed as the head of an unofficial office for the Hamas in Damascus.

The great leap occurred with the visit of the founder of Hamas, the late Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, to Damascus in 1998. This official visit, and the warm reception accorded Yassin, constituted a huge breakthrough in relations, after which the late President Hafez Al-Assad authorized Hamas’ official presence in Syria, providing it with political and security facilities and logistical and material support.

Despite previous bad blood between Damascus and the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, notably in regard to the Hama massacre in 1982, there were several prudent reasons for the Syrian government and Hamas to collaborate.

One reason can be traced to the rivalry between Hafez Assad and the late Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Yasser Arafat, who sided with the late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War (1990–91) after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait on 2 August, 1990.

On 21 November, 1999, a plane carrying Hamas’ then-political bureau chief Khaled Meshaal landed at Damascus airport, after being expelled from Jordan and refused a reception by many Arab capitals.

Since then, a number of political bureau members relocated to Damascus, and Hamas’ activities in Syria intensified. Between 2000 and 2010, the relationship further strengthened over several events, including the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, the 2005 withdrawal of the Syrian army from Lebanon, the 2006 July war between Israel and Hezbollah, and most importantly, the Israeli aggression against Gaza in 2008.

Syrian support

Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Zahar, who was interviewed by The Cradle in Gaza, talks about an important detail that the media did not mention at the time. When Hamas formed its first government in Gaza in 2007, in which Zahar was foreign minister, “Syria was the only Arab country that recognized the diplomatic red passport issued from Gaza.”

Zahar says: “The Syrian leadership gave us everything. On my first visit to Damascus, we were able to solve the problem of hundreds of Palestinian refugees stuck on the Syrian-Iraqi borders, and Syria adopted the Palestinian calling code (+970), and expressed its willingness to provide support to the elected Palestinian government. For that, it faced an Arab, international, and American war.”

Today, Zahar is the designated official tasked by Sinwar to revive the relationship with Damascus. This was confirmed by sources in Hamas, who said that he traveled to Mecca for the Hajj pilgrimage, and may head from there to Damascus.

These details are meaningful: it means Egypt is spared the censure of allowing Zahar to travel to Syria, and would avoid an awkward situation for Cairo in front of the US, Israelis and Gulf Arabs.

From Damascus to Doha and Ankara

The Syrian crisis that erupted in March 2011 put Hamas in a unique bind of its own making. Fellow Palestinian Islamists in PIJ, for example, did not take a radical position on the “revolution” from 2011 to 2017, and were content with maintaining their offices in Damascus, although its political and military leadership relocated to Beirut due to deteriorating security conditions.

On the other hand, Hamas issued its first statement regarding the Syrian crisis on 2 April, 2011, in which it affirmed its support for the Syrian people and leadership, and considered that “Syria’s internal affairs concern the brothers in Syria… We hope to overcome the current circumstances in order to achieve the aspirations of the Syrian people, and preserve Syria’s stability and its internal cohesion, and strengthening its role in the line of confrontation and opposition.”

This wishy-washy statement did not hide the hostile stance of the movement’s members and elites, who all adopted the anti-Syrian narrative. On 5 November, 2011, the Syrian security forces stormed the offices of Hamas, confiscated its assets, and shuttered them.

In early 2012, Meshaal traveled to Doha, Qatar, before holding a scheduled meeting with Bashar Al-Assad. Hamas declared that the meeting “will not be useful.”

Hamas and the opposition

On 8 December, 2012, the movement burned bridges with Damascus when Meshaal and Haniyeh raised the flag of the “Syrian revolution” during a celebration marking the movement’s launch in the Gaza Strip in front of tens of thousands of their supporters.

In a parade held during the celebration, a number of members of the Al-Qassam Brigades wore the opposition flag on their backs.

The Syrian government’s reaction was no less restrained. Assad accused Hamas of actively participating in the war against the Syrian state by supporting Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate Jabhat Al-Nusra, and by providing instructions to opposition factions on ways to dig tunnels and fortify them to withstand aerial bombardment.

Other opposition militant groups such as Bait Al-Maqdis, Faylaq Al-Rahman and Army of Huda announced that they were affiliated with Hamas.

Once an Ikhwani, always an Ikhwani

In 2016, Assad said in an interview with Syrian newspaper Al-Watan: “We supported Hamas not because they are Muslim Brotherhood, but rather we supported them on the grounds that they are resistance. In the end, it was proven that the Ikhwani (member of Muslim Brotherhood) is Ikhwani wherever he puts himself, and from the inside remains a terrorist and hypocrite.”

All this may seem a thing of the past, but it still affects the formation of a new relationship between the two parties, especially after the return of turncoat Meshaal and his team a year ago to important leadership positions in Hamas.

Although the majority of the movement’s leadership has changed, the old legacy of Meshaal still weighs heavily on everyone, especially in Damascus. There are many in Syria who still warn the “wound is open;” that Hamas has not yet closed it, but rather wants a “free return.”

Understanding Hamas’ structure

Before explaining Hamas’ recent decision to restore ties with Syria, it is necessary to know how the movement is run to ensure representation and accountability. Hamas has a Shura Council of 15 members, chosen in elections in which cadres of certain organizational ranks participate.

These cadres choose their representatives in the local advisory councils from different regions (West Bank, Gaza, Jerusalem, territories occupied in 1948, and prisons). As for members of Hamas’ base, they elect their representatives in the General Consultative Council, which in turn elects the Political Bureau.

Despite this ‘healthy democracy,’ the position on Syria produced two contradictory currents:

The first current is led by Meshaal, who was head of the Political Bureau until 2017. It includes Ahmed Youssef, a former adviser to Haniyeh, and Nayef Rajoub, one of the most prominent leaders of Hamas in the West Bank.

The second current has no specific leader, but Zahar was the public face before Sinwar joined him.

Between these two viewpoints, Ismail Haniyeh and Musa Abu Marzouk maintain a state of ‘pragmatism’ by taking a middle position between the Qatar-Turkey axis and the Axis of Resistance.

Although the decision to leave Syria was taken with the full approval of the members of the Shura Council and members of the Political Bureau, the entire burden of the decision was placed on Meshaal. The man, who was a personal friend of Assad and Secretary General of Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah, became blacklisted by the Axis of Resistance.

Meshaal’s influence

All prior efforts to restore relations between Hamas and Syria were a “waste of time” as long as Meshaal was at the helm of the movement. This was not only the opinion of the Syrians, but of many Iranians as well.

In 2015, for example, when there were media reports about efforts to restore Hamas-Syrian relations, the Iranian Tabnak website (supervised by General Mohsen Rezaei, a leader in the Revolutionary Guards and currently one of the advisors to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei) launched a scathing attack against Meshaal.

At that time, Meshaal had refused to visit Tehran if he was not received at the highest levels – that is – to meet specifically with Khamenei. The Tabnak website wrote: “Meshaal and the Hamas leaders lined up two years ago on the side of the international terrorists in Syria… They are now setting conditions for the restoration of relations between Hamas and Iran as if Iran did not have any conditions.”

Since that time, Meshaal and his team have remained staunchly reluctant to even talk about restoring relations with Damascus. In addition to their loyalty (to some extent) to Turkey and Qatar, they were aware that reviving relations would weaken their organizational position within Hamas, and contribute to increasing the influence of their rivals.

On the other hand, these rivals remained weak until 2017, as Meshaal managed to marginalize Mahmoud Al-Zahar who did not receive any influential positions.

Re-joining the Resistance Axis

The formation of the new Political Bureau meant there were now a large number of officials who were not involved in any public positions on the Syrian crisis – such as Sinwar, Saleh Al-Arouri, and Osama Hamdan, who maintained a balanced relationship with all parties.

Zahar told The Cradle that Sinwar was “convinced” of his theses about the shape of the “last battle with Israel.” He added: “I spoke with Abu Ibrahim (Sinwar) for a long time about restoring the bond with the components of the nation that have hostility to Israel, specifically Hezbollah, Syria and Iran, and this is the pillar of Hamas’ foreign policy in the future.”

Nevertheless, Zahar believes that Damascus “will refuse to deal with the movement’s leadership, which took the lead during the war.” But it is likely that the Syrians will accept to deal with him personally, which he will seek during his forthcoming visit.

What’s Next?

Well-informed sources in Hamas revealed to The Cradle that the movement’s Political Bureau met this month and made the decision to return to Syria, despite Meshaal’s objection.

The resolution has two aims: first, to build a resistance front in the “ring countries” surrounding Palestine; and second, to establish a maritime line of communication between Gaza and the port of Latakia, in Syria.

The sources also revealed that Jamil Mezher, who was recently elected deputy secretary general of the PFLP, conveyed a message from Sinwar to the Syrian leadership calling for the restoration of relations between the two parties.

After his visit to Damascus, Mezher met with Haniyeh in Beirut to discuss the results. Haniyeh also met Nasrallah, as well as Ziad Al-Nakhaleh in an expanded meeting of the leaderships of Hamas and the PIJ in the Lebanese capital. All these events took place in one week.

According to Hamas sources, Haniyeh informed Nasrallah that the movement has unanimously taken an official decision to restore relations with Damascus. The two sides also discussed the demarcation of the maritime border between Lebanon and Israel.

The sources confirm that “Hamas is ready to simultaneously target gas-stealing platforms from the Gaza sea, in the event that Hezbollah targets an exploration and extraction vessel in the Karish field.”

Hamas sources, as well as an informed Syrian source, however, deny holding any recent new meetings between the two parties. The Syrian source reveals that meetings sponsored by Islamic Jihad were held last year.

What does Syria stand to gain?

On the other hand, Damascus has its reasons for postponing the return of this relationship. Of course, internal reasons can be overlooked if Bashar Al-Assad himself makes the decision.

But it is the current regional situation and the re-formation of alliances that worries the Syrian leadership the most.

It is true that Assad the son, like his father, has learned the ropes in dealing with the MB, but now he has no need for a new headache caused by the return of Hamas. There is no great benefit from this return except in one case: the normalization of Syrian relations with Turkey, Qatar, or both.

On Syria’s terms

Only in this scenario, can bridges be re-built with Hamas. But the conditions for this are currently immature, as this normalization will be at the expense of Syria’s relationship with its ally Russia, whether in the issue of gas supplies to Europe or stopping the military operation that Ankara is threatening against Kurdish terrorists in northern Syria.

Syria, which has already improved its relations with the UAE, and is currently working to improve its relations with Saudi Arabia and Jordan, will not include a “losing card” in its stack of cards now.

It will also not compete with Egypt over a file – the relationship with Hamas – which Cairo considers its monopoly in the region.

Also, Damascus is not in the midst of a clash of any kind with the Palestinian Authority and the Fatah movement, which took advantage of the exit of Hamas to consolidate their position in the Syrian capital and improve their relationship with Assad.

However, when news broke about the possible resumption of Hamas-Syrian relations, this time Damascus did not launch an attack on the movement and did not comment negatively on the news of the rapprochement and the restoration of the relations – as it did previously.

There is no doubt that the battle of the “Sword of Jerusalem” and the presence of a new leadership in Hamas’ Political Bureau has thawed the ice significantly. But the answer to when full rapprochement will be achieved is a decision likely to be made between Assad and Nasrallah.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

من رمال الصحراء إلى القوقاز العين على الصين…

محمد صادق الحسيني

كلّ الأنباء التي تلفّ الكون في هذه الأيام تشير الى حقيقة واحدة باتت أوضح من الشمس…

الأميركيّ الذي كان يوماً القطب الأوحد في العالم والآمر الناهي وشرطي الجهات الأربع في الكون غدا مأزوماً ومهزوماً في كلّ جبهاته وميادينه، ولكن بخاصة على الجبهة الأوروآسيوية، حيث المستنقع الأوكراني او الحفرة التي حفرها بنفسه ظناً منه أنه قادر على تشتيت الاتحاد الصيني الروسي الاستراتيجي الجديد من جهة وجعل أوروبا تخضع له دون شروط!

لكن هذا الأميركي المتعجرف ولشدة عناده ومكابرته، وانغماسه في المستنقع الأوكراني لم يجد خلاصاً له على ما يبدو بعد كلّ جهوده التي ذهبت هباء لهزّ عرش بوتين إلا أن يفعل خديعة تحالف الناتو المزعوم بين أصحاب التيه وأصحاب ما بعد التيه في الرمال العربية المتحركة مغرياً إياهم بأنظمة دفاع جوي حديثة تقيهم خطر إيران المزعوم ويحقق لابنه «الإسرائيلي» المدلل لعبته المفضلة وحلمه بقيادة تحالف «شرق أوسطي» ليدمج وجوده المؤقت الزائل بكيانات مصنوعة من الشمع مثله…

فيما عقل واشنطن البراغماتي، لا يزال مشدوداً نحو التهديد الصيني وكيفية ضرب البيئة الحيوية للصين وطريقها وحزامها الواحد الممتدّ من شنغهاي مروراً بالجغرافيا الحيوية لروسيا ـ آسيا الوسطى والقوقاز، ومن ثم إيران، وصولاً إلى المياه الدافئة يعني بحر الشام وخليج فارس…

لذلك لا بدّ من النظر بريبة شديدة الى خططهم وحشدهم الحقيقي هناك ودور كلّ واحد من لاعبيهم الصغار في منطقتنا وهم البيادق المتحركة بأوامر الشيطان الأكبر…

وفي هذا السياق، يفيد مصدر ديبلوماسي إقليمي مطلع، تعليقاً على الحملة الدعائية لما يُسمّى «حلفاً دفاعياً عربياً إسرائيلياً»، بما يلي:

أولا ـ ان لا وجود لهذا التحالف إلا في عقلية المسؤولين «الإسرائيليين» الأمنيين والعسكريين وأسيادهم في الدولة العميقة الأميركية وليس إدارة بايدن، وهو طرح بعيد عن الاستراتيجية الأميركية العملية.

ثانيا ـ انّ الهدف الاستراتيجي الحالي للولايات المتحدة الأميركية (ادارة بايدن)، في «الشرق الأوسط» ودول أواسط آسيا، هو استكمال الحشد الاستراتيجي ضدّ الصين الشعبية وروسيا وإيران.

ثالثا ـ انّ ادوات واشنطن لتحقيق ذلك هي التالية:

ـ نظام أردوغان، الذي يقدّم التدريب العسكري والإمداد والتزويد، لكلّ العناصر التي تخدم الاستراتيجية الأميركية في المنطقة المشار إليها أعلاه.

والذي سبق أن درّب المجموعات الإرهابية المسلحة، التي عاثت خراباً واسعاً في جمهورية كازاخستان السوڤياتية السابقة، بداية العام الحالي. وهي التي أشرفت الاستخبارات العسكرية التركية على تنفيذ عمليات تسلل وإنزال جوي لها، من خلال طائرات نقل مستأجرة ولا تحمل شارات أيّ دولة، في مطار ألماآتا (العاصمة القديمة لكازاخستان) بعد أن سيطر المخرّبون المسلحون الإرهابيون على هذا المطار في اليوم الأول من الموجة الإرهابية التي ضربت البلاد.

ـ النظام السعودي، الذي يقوم بتمويل ثمانية عشر ألف منظمة غير حكومية، في جمهوريات آسيا الوسطى السوڤياتية السابقة، وهي قوات احتياط بيد الولايات المتحدة جاهزة للاستخدام، إما في ثورات ملوّنة أو في هزات مسلحة وتخريبية، عندما يصلها أمر العمليات من واشنطن.

ـ مشيخات قطر والإمارات، بالتعاون مع حركة طالبان، من خلال إدارة المطارات الأفغانية الرئيسية الثلاثة، حيث وقعت الإمارات العربية اتفاقية خاصة بذلك، مع حكومة طالبان، بتاريخ ٢٤/٥/٢٠٢٢، وهو الأمر الذي يعني سيطرة أميركية غير مباشرة، على تلك المطارات، وما لذلك من أهمية قصوى في نقل الأفراد والمعدات الى أفغانستان، خاصة في ضوء تمركز تركي قطري «تقني» في تلك المطارات، منذ بداية العام الحالي، وذلك بناءً على اتفاقيات موقعة مع حكومة طالبان.

ـ حركة طالبان نفسها، والتي تجري معها الولايات المتحدة محادثات متواصلة تتعلق بمجموعة طلبات أميركية للحركة وعلى رأسها السماح للمسلحين الإيرانيين، سواء من «مجاهدي خلق» الإرهابية المقيمة في ألبانيا، أو غيرهم، بالعمل من الأراضي الأفغانية مقابل رفع تدريجي للتجميد الأميركي المفروض على الأموال الأفغانية.

ـ فلول تنظيم داعش، الذين نقلت منهم القيادة المركزية الأميركية، من العراق وسورية، ما يزيد على ثلاثة آلاف مسلح تمّ نشرهم في محافظة:

*بدخشان/ شمال شرق أفغانستان/ بالقرب من الحدود الصينية والطاجيكية.

*محافظتا تخار وقندوز/ في شمال أفغانستان/ والمحاذيتان لحدود طاجيكستان.

وهنا لا بدّ أن نستذكر موجة التحركات التخريبية المنظمة التي تجتاح محافظة: كاركال باكستان الأوزبيكية، منذ عدة أيام، والتي حاول فيها المشاغبون الاستيلاء على الأسلحة من المباني الحكومية الرسمية.

رابعا ـ انّ الولايات المتحدة الأميركية هي من يقف وراء الحملة الدعائية، التي يروّج لها الإعلام «الإسرائيلي» وبعض الإعلام العربي، بما في ذلك للأسف الشديد بعض وسائل إعلامنا، حول التحالف المزعوم والمشار إليه اعلاه. وذلك لحرف الأنظار عن ساحة الفعل الحقيقي الأميركي، في جمهوريات آسيا الوسطى، بهدف السيطرة عليها واستخدامها كمنصات هجومية او رؤوس جسور استراتيجية، ضدّ جمهورية الصين الشعبية من جهة الشرق، وجمهورية روسيا الاتحادية من جهة الشمال، والجمهورية الإسلامية الإيرانية في الغرب، لزعزعة تحالف الشرق الصاعد هذا…

واحلوا قومهم دار البوار

بعدنا طيّبين قولوا الله…

Talks on Iran’s Nuclear Program to begin on Tuesday in Qatar – Reports

27 Jun 2022

Source: Agencies

By Al Mayadeen English 

Iran’s Foreign Ministry revealed that JCPOA talks would resume on Tuesday in Doha, Qatar.

Negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program to lift US sanctions will begin on Tuesday in Qatar.

Negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program will begin on Tuesday in Qatar, according to the IRNA news agency, citing an Iranian Foreign Ministry source.
 
“Negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program to lift US sanctions will begin on Tuesday in Qatar,” the source told IRNA.

Since 2018, when then-US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from it and began reimposing harsh economic sanctions on Iran, the nuclear deal has been hanging by a thread.

Although US President Joe Biden’s administration has sought to return to the agreement, saying it is the best way forward with the Islamic republic, it has expressed growing pessimism in recent weeks.

The talks, according to Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh, will take place “in an Arabian Gulf country in the coming days, later this week” and will focus on the lifting of US sanctions.

Separately, Iran’s Tasnim news agency reported, citing an unnamed foreign ministry source, that Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri would visit Qatar on Tuesday for “negotiations on lifting sanctions,” and that the US-Iran indirect talks would take place there.

A State Department spokesperson in Washington confirmed that the talks would take place this week in the Gulf.

“We are prepared to immediately conclude and implement the deal we negotiated in Vienna for mutual return to full implementation of the JCPOA,” he said, referring to the deal’s formal name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Khatibzadeh voiced hope for “positive results” from the talks.

Exclusive: Qatar may host indirect talks between Washington and Iran

Seyed Mohammad Marandi, A media advisor to the Iranian nuclear team, said earlier to Al Mayadeen on Monday, that Qatar will host indirect talks between Iran and the United States regarding reviving the 2015 nuclear agreement.

Speaking with Al Mayadeen, Marandi stated that Qatar is one of the options offered to host indirect negotiations between Iran and the US.

During EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell’s visit to Iran, Tehran and Brussels are discussing the location for the coming JCPOA talks.

According to reports, Borrell had stated that Vienna would not host the next talks. “Talks between Iran, the United States, and European Union will not take place in Vienna because talks will not happen in US+P4+1 format,” Borrell said.

He explained that the negotiations will be held in the coming days and that they will be similar to the indirect negotiations between Iran and the US in Vienna.

حماس في قلب محور المقاومة

الثلاثاء 28 حزيران 2022

فلسطين 

ابراهيم الأمين 

الضغوط التي تتعرض لها حركة حماس من جهات فلسطينية أو عربية أو دولية تكاد تكون الأولى من نوعها في تاريخ الحركة. ورغم أن التنظيم الإسلامي الفلسطيني لم يكن بعيداً عن التأثيرات السلبية لانهيار تجربة الإخوان المسلمين في الحكم في عدد من الدول العربية، إلا أن تثبيت حماس قاعدة تفكيرها ونشاطها وبرنامجها على أساس أولوية المقاومة ضد الاحتلال، ساعدها على البقاء في قلب المشهد، وفتح لها الأبواب لترميم شبكة واسعة من العلاقات العربية والإسلامية وحتى الدولية من باب المقاومة.

في السنوات العشر الماضية، غرقت الحركة في موجة من المواقف السياسية التي أدت الى تضرّر صورتها كحركة مقاومة. ومثلما تعرّض حزب الله في لبنان لحملة بسبب وقوفه الى جانب الدولة السورية في مواجهة الحرب عليها، تعرضت حماس لحملة من التيار المقابل، واتُّهمت بمجاراة برنامج الإخوان المسلمين الهادف الى الاستيلاء على الحكم في عدد من الدول العربية، حتى إن قواعد من الحركة دعمت الحروب الأهلية التي وقعت في أكثر من بلد عربي؛ منها سوريا.
لكنّ تبدلاً جدياً طرأ منذ ما بعد حرب عام 2014، وتطور الأمر بعد انتخاب قيادة جديدة للحركة عام 2017. وبعد استرداد كتائب القسام المبادرة وجعل الأولوية المطلقة للمقاومة، بدا أن الحركة تتقدم خطوات سريعة باتجاه الخروج نهائياً من دائرة التجاذبات حيال ما يجري داخل كل دولة عربية، وهو ما سهّل لها استئناف التواصل مع مصر ومع حكومات عربية أخرى في بلاد الشام أو الخليج أو المغرب العربي. ورغم أن تركيا سهّلت للحركة إقامة مريحة لقيادتها السياسية، إلا أن حماس بدت أكثر تصميماً على الانخراط في الجبهة التي تعدّ المقاومة خياراً وحيداً وإلزامياً ومجدياً لتحقيق التحرير.

سيكون محور المقاومة أمام وقائع جديدة بعد التفاهمات التي توصّل إليها هنيّة ونصر الله


خلال العامين الماضيين، تقدمت حماس خطوات كبيرة الى الأمام في سياق التموضع ضمن محور المقاومة. وجاءت معركة سيف القدس لتختبر التفاعل العملاني مع القوى الأساسية في المحور. وأظهرت تطورات الأشهر القليلة الماضية أن السعي الأميركي – الإسرائيلي – السعودي – الإماراتي لبناء جبهة سياسية واقتصادية وأمنية وإعلامية تعمل على مواجهة محور المقاومة، أن على حماس تعزيز خيارها وموقعها داخل محور المقاومة. وهي اتخذت قرارات كبيرة، لا تدخلها في صدام مع أحد، وخصوصاً مع تركيا وقطر، ولكن لا تمنعها من تعزيز علاقتها مع قوى المقاومة بدءاً بإيران، وصولاً الى حزب الله في لبنان وأنصار الله في اليمن، وحتى إطلاق اتصالات أولية مع فصائل المقاومة في العراق. ولكن الخطوة الأهم تمثلت في قرار المكتب السياسي استئناف العلاقة مع سوريا، وإفساح المجال أمام الوسطاء الذين ينشطون بين القيادة السورية وقيادة حماس للتقدم أكثر صوب تحقيق المصالحة التي تقول قيادة الحركة إنها تحتاج إليها من أجل تعزيز المقاومة.

حماس اليوم أمام تحديات جديدة. وكلما زاد تمسكها بخيار المقاومة، ستجد أنها أكثر ثباتاً داخل فلسطين وأكثر حضوراً وفعالية في المنطقة العربية، وسيكون محور المقاومة أمام وقائع جديدة بعد الزيارة الأخيرة لرئيس الحركة إسماعيل هنية لبيروت وطبيعة المناقشات والتفاهمات التي توصّل إليها مع الأمين العام لحزب الله السيد حسن نصر الله بعد سلسلة من اللقاءات بينهما…

ELON MUSK IS NOT A RENEGADE OUTSIDER – HE’S A MASSIVE PENTAGON CONTRACTOR

MAY 31ST, 2022

By Alan Macleod

Source

AUSTIN, TEXAS – Elon Musk’s proposed takeover of Twitter has ruffled many feathers among professional commentators. “Musk is the wrong leader for Twitter’s vital mission,” read one Bloomberg headline. The network also insisted, “Nothing in the Tesla CEO’s track record suggests he will be a careful steward of an important media property.” “Elon Musk is the last person who should take over Twitter,” wrote Max Boot in The Washington Post, explaining that “[h]e seems to believe that on social media anything goes. For democracy to survive, we need more content moderation, not less.” The irony of outlets owned by Michael Bloomberg and Jeff Bezos warning of the dangers of permitting a billionaire oligarch to control our media was barely commented upon.

Added to this, a host of celebrities publicly left the social media platform in protest against the proposed $44 billion purchase. This only seemed to confirm to many free speech-minded individuals that the South African billionaire was a renegade outsider on a mission to save the internet from authoritarian elite control (despite the fact that he is borrowing money from the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia in order to do so).

Musk has deliberately cultivated this image of himself: a real life Tony Stark figure who thinks for himself and is not part of the established order. But behind this carefully constructed façade, Musk is intimately connected to the U.S. national security state, serving as one of its most important business partners. Elon, in short, is no threat to the powerful, entrenched elite: he is one of them.

TO UKRAINE, WITH LOVE

Musk, whose estimated $230 billion fortune is more than twice the gross domestic product of Ukraine, has garnered a great deal of positive publicity for donating thousands of Starlink terminals to the country, helping its people come back online after fighting downed the internet in much of the country. Starlink is an internet service allowing those with terminals to connect to one of over 2,400 small satellites in low Earth orbit. Many of these satellites were launched by Musk’s SpaceX technologies company.

However, it soon transpired that there is far more than meets the eye with Musk’s extraordinary “donation.” In fact, the U.S. government quietly paid SpaceX top dollar to send their inventory to the warzone. USAID – a government anti-insurgency agency that has regularly functioned as a regime-change organization – is known to have put up the cash to purchase and deliver at least 1,330 of the terminals.

Starlink is not a mass-market solution. Each terminal – which is, in effect, a tiny, portable satellite dish – has a markedly limited range, and is useful only in hyper-local situations. Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s Minister of Digital Transformation, estimated that the 10,000 Starlink terminals were allowing around 150,000 people to stay online.

Such a small number of people using the devices raises eyebrows. Who is important enough to be given such a device? Surely only high-value individuals such as spies or military operatives. That the Starlinks are serving a military purpose is now beyond clear. Indeed, in a matter of weeks, Starlink has become a cornerstone of the Ukrainian military, allowing it to continue to target Russian forces via drones and other high-tech machinery dependent on an internet connection. One official told The Times of London that he “must” use Starlink to target enemy forces via thermal imaging.

“Starlink is what changed the war in Ukraine’s favor. Russia went out of its way to blow up all our comms. Now they can’t. Starlink works under Katyusha fire, under artillery fire. It even works in Mariupol,” one Ukrainian soldier told journalist David Patrikarakos.

The reference to Mariupol alludes to the infamous Nazi group, the Azov Battalion, who have also reportedly been using Musk’s technology. Even in a subterranean cavern beneath Mariupol’s steelworks, Azov fighters were able to access the internet and communicate with the outside world, even doing video interviews from underground. In 2015, Congress attempted to add a provision to U.S. military aid to Ukraine stipulating that no support could go to Azov owing to their political ideology. That amendment was later removed at the behest of the Pentagon.

Dave Tremper, Director of Electronic Warfare at the Pentagon, sang SpaceX’s praises. “How they did that [keeping Ukrainian forces online] was eye-watering to me,” he said, adding that in the future the U.S. military “needs to be able to have that agility.”

ROCKETMAN

Such a statement is bound to get the attention of SpaceX chiefs, who have long profited from their lucrative relationship with the U.S. military. SpaceX relies largely on government contracts, there being almost no civilian demand for many of its products, especially its rocket launches.

Musk’s company has been awarded billions of dollars in contracts to launch spy satellites for espionage, drone warfare and other military uses. For example, in 2018, SpaceX was chosen to blast a $500 million Lockheed Martin GPS system into orbit. While Air Force spokesmen played up the civilian benefits of the launch, such as increased accuracy for GPS devices, it is clear that these devices play a key role in global surveillance and ongoing drone wars. SpaceX has also won contracts with the Air Force to deliver its command satellite into orbit, with the Space Development Agency to send tracking devices into space, and with the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) to launch its spy satellites. These satellites are used by all of the “big five” surveillance agencies, including the CIA and the NSA.

Thus, in today’s world, where so much intelligence gathering and target acquisition is done via satellite technology, SpaceX has become every bit as important to the U.S. war machine as more well-known companies like Lockheed Martin and Boeing. Without Musk’s company, the U.S. would not be able to carry out such an invasive program of spying and drone warfare around the world. Indeed, China is growing increasingly wary of this power, and is being advised to develop anti-satellite technologies to counter SpaceX’s all-seeing eye. Yet Musk himself continues to benefit from a general perception that he is not part of the system.

From its origins in 2002, SpaceX has always been extremely close to the national security state, particularly the CIA. Perhaps the most crucial link is Mike Griffin, who, at the time, was the president and COO of In-Q-Tel, a CIA-funded venture capital firm that seeks to nurture and sponsor new companies that will work with the CIA and other security services, equipping them with cutting edge technology. The “Q” in its name is a reference to “Q” from the James Bond series – a creative inventor who supplies the spy with the latest in futuristic tech.

Michael Griffin, left, meets with Musk, right, in 2005 at NASA Headquarters in DC. Renee Bouchard | NASA

Griffin was with Musk virtually from day one, accompanying him to Russia in February 2002, where they attempted to purchase cut-price intercontinental ballistic missiles to start Musk’s business. Musk felt that he could substantially undercut opponents by using second-hand material and off-the-shelf components for launches. The attempt failed, but the trip cemented a lasting partnership between the pair, with Griffin going to war for Musk, consistently backing him as a potential “Henry Ford” of the rocket industry. Three years later, Griffin would become head of NASA and later would hold a senior post at the Department of Defense.

While at NASA, Griffin brought Musk in for meetings and secured SpaceX’s big break. In 2006, NASA awarded the company a $396 million rocket development contract – a remarkable “gamble” in Griffin’s words, especially as it had never launched a rocket before. As National Geographic put it, SpaceX, “never would have gotten to where it is today without NASA.” And Griffin was essential to this development. Still, by 2008, SpaceX was again in dire straits, with Musk unable to make payroll. The company was saved by an unexpected $1.6 billion NASA contract for commercial cargo services. Thus, from its earliest days, SpaceX was nurtured by government agencies that saw the company as a potentially important source of technology.

NUKING MARS & BACKING COUPS

Like Henry Ford, Musk went into the automobile business, purchasing Tesla Motors in 2004. And also like Henry Ford, he has shared some rather controversial opinions. In 2019, for instance, he suggested that vaporizing Mars’ ice caps via a series of nuclear explosions could warm the planet sufficiently to support human life. If this was done, it would arguably not even be his worst crime against space. During a 2018 publicity stunt, he blasted a Tesla into outer space using a SpaceX rocket. However, he did not sterilize the vehicle before doing so, meaning it was covered in earthly bacteria – microorganisms that will likely be fatal to any alien life they encounter. In essence, the car is a biological weapon that could end life on any planet it encounters.

Musk also attracted attention when he appeared to admit that he worked with the U.S. government to overthrow Bolivian President Evo Morales in 2019. Bolivia is home to the world’s largest easy-to-extract lithium reserves, an element crucial in the production of electric-vehicle batteries. Morales had refused to open the country up to foreign corporations eager to exploit Bolivia for profit. Instead, he proposed developing sovereign technology to keep both the jobs and profits inside the country. He was overthrown by a U.S.-backed far-right coup in November 2019. The new government quickly invited Musk for talks. When asked on Twitter point blank whether he was involved in Morales’ ouster, Musk responded, “We will coup whoever we want! Deal with it.”

The South African has a long history of trolling and making inflammatory statements, so this “confession” might not be as cast-iron as it seems. Nevertheless, any hope of Musk profiting from Bolivia was shot after Morales’ party returned to power in a resounding victory one year later.

WORLD’S RICHEST MAN, FUNDED BY TAXPAYERS

In addition to the billions in government contracts Musk’s companies have secured, they also have received similar numbers in public subsidies and incentives. Chief among these is Tesla, which benefits greatly from complex international rules around electric vehicle production. In a push to reduce carbon emissions, governments around the world have introduced a system of credits for green vehicles, whereby a certain percentage of each manufacturer’s output must be zero-emission vehicles. Tesla only produces electric cars, so easily meets the mark.

However, the system also allows Tesla to sell their excess credits to manufacturers who cannot meet these quotas. In a competitive market where each manufacturer needs to hit certain targets, these credits are worth their weight in gold, and net Tesla billions in profit every year. For example, between 2019 and 2021 alone, Stellantis, which owns the Chrysler, Fiat, Citroen and Peugeot brands, forked out nearly $2.5 billion to acquire Tesla U.S. and European green credits.

This bizarre and self-defeating system goes some way to explaining why Tesla is worth more by market cap than Toyota, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, GM, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, and Volvo put together, despite not being even a top-15 car manufacturer in terms of units sold.

Musk’s company also received significant government backing in its early stages, receiving a $465 million low-interest loan from the Department of Energy in 2010, at a time when Tesla was on the rocks and its future was in doubt.

Like many giant companies, Tesla is able to play states off against each other, each job-hungry location bidding against the others to give the corporation as much free cash and tax incentives as possible. In 2020, for example, Austin gave Tesla more than $60 million in tax breaks to build a truck plant there.

This, however, was small fry in comparison to some of the deals Musk has signed. The State of New York handed Musk over $750 million, including $350 million in cash, in exchange for building a solar plant outside of Buffalo – a plant that Musk was bound to build somewhere in the United States. Meanwhile, Nevada signed an agreement with Tesla to build its Gigafactory near Reno. The included incentives mean that the car manufacturer could rake in nearly $1.3 billion in tax relief and tax credits. Between 2015 and 2018, Musk himself paid less than $70,000 in federal income taxes.

Therefore, while the 50-year-old businessman presents himself as a maverick science genius – an act that has garnered him legions of fans around the world – a closer inspection of his career shows he earned his fortune in a much more orthodox manner. First by being born rich, then by striking it big as a dot-com billionaire, and finally, like so many others, by feeding from the enormous government trough.

Perhaps more seriously though, SpaceX’s close proximity to both the military and the national security state marks it out as a key cog in the machine of U.S. empire, allowing Washington to spy, bomb or coup whoever it wants.

It is for this reason that so much of the hysteria, both positive and negative, over Musk’s ongoing purchase of Twitter is misplaced. Elon Musk is neither going to save nor destroy Twitter because he is not a crusading rebel challenging the establishment: he is an integral part of it.

هل تكون دماء الشهيدة شيرين أبو عاقلة نقطة تحول؟

 ناصر قنديل

شهادة شيرين أبو عاقلة ليست موضوع نقاش، فهي بصدق التزامها بقضية شعبها ورفع صوته تحوّلت على مدى ربع قرن الى أيقونة، وما عبر عنه الفلسطينيون ومقاومتهم من مواكب التشييع الى البيانات والمواقف وما حفلت به وسائل التواصل خير مصداق وشاهد، وحال الحزن والغضب التي عمّت الكثير من بيوت العرب بكبارهم وصغارهم ورجالهم ونسائهم خير تعبير عن أن صدقها أوصل الرسالة التي كانت تحرص على إيصالها بكل قوة في كل مناسبة، بأنها لم تغادر وباقية لتوصل صوت هذا الشعب الى كل العالم. وقد كان حملها للجنسية الأميركية والعروض التي تلقتها من مؤسسات إعلامية غربية يخوّلانها هجرة القدس وفلسطين مراراً، وما يرويه أهالي الأسرى وعائلات الشهداء عن صداقة ربطتهم بها ومودة زرعتها في قلوبهم تأكيد لذلك النبض الصادق الذي عبرت عنه، واستحقت معه مرتبة الشهادة، سواء كانت تعمل في قناة الجزيرة أو في قناة السي أن أن.

شهادة شيرين أبو عاقلة وموجة الغضب والحزن التي أطلقتها، قدّمت فرصة لتفحص الوهم الذي تروج له بعض الأوساط الفلسطينية والعربية، وهو إمكانية أن يؤدي شعور قادة كيان الاحتلال بضعفهم داخل الكيان وضعف كيانهم داخل معادلات المنطقة إلى التعقل وإقامة الحسابات، والتجربة قالت مراراً وهي تقول اليوم إن هذا الكيان كلما ضعفت قيادته فهي تضعف أمام المتطرفين والمستوطنين وتتماهى مع توحشهم، وإن هذا الكيان كلما ضعف أمام معادلات المنطقة، سواء صنعتها دول أو حركات مقاومة، يوسّع دائرة القتل أملا بتضييق دائرة الضوء على جرائمه وردع الشرائح الفلسطينية والعربية المتردّدة عن أي إعادة نظر في تموضعها إلى جانبه، ولا يجب أن يراود الشك أحد في أن ما حصل في جريمة إعدام شيرين ابو عاقلة مراسلة قناة الجزيرة هو رسالة موقعة من قيادة الكيان، موجهة إلى دول التطبيع، وإلى السلطة الفلسطينية ومسؤوليتها عن التنسيق الأمني، والقائمة العربية المشاركة في الحكومة ودورها في الحفاظ على الحكومة، بأن القتل يشكل الجواب على أية محاولة للتأقلم مع المعادلات الجديدة وعدم احترام الخطوط الحمراء للكيان.

شهادة شيرين أبو عاقلة، سواء فهمتها حكومة قطر وقناة الجزيرة كرسالة مباشرة إليهما أو لم تفهماها كذلك، فهي كذلك، وقطر التي شاركت دون كل دول الخليج في اجتماع وزراء الدفاع للدول الحليفة لواشنطن من أجل تسليح الجيش الأوكراني، وقناة الجزيرة التي تولّت دون كل قنوات العالم الفضائية مهمة الإعلام الحربي للحكم الأوكراني في شيطنة روسيا وعملياتها العسكرية، وحكومة قطر وقناة الجزيرة قد تشاركتا في ريادة نهج التطبيع النفسي مع كيان الاحتلال من بوابة تصنيفه رأياً آخر، واعتبار الانفتاح عليه والتعامل معه يخففان من غلوّه وعدوانيّته، وصنعتا نظرية أولوية العداء للحكومات العربية المناوئة للكيان على العداء للكيان نفسه أملاً باسترضائه بخوض حروبه بالوكالة، كما تقول كل وقائع مواقف قطر والجزيرة من الحرب على سورية؛ هل تفهمان اليوم الرسالة، ومضمونها أن الاحتلال ليس رأياً آخر، وأن التعامل معه ليس وجهة نظر، وأن التحول الى موقع الحليف المميّز عند الأميركي ليس حصانة بوجهه، وأن العداء لكل من يعادي الكيان لا يحتسب لأصحابه عندما يستدعي جدول أعمال الكيان المزيد من التوحش، بل قد تكون أولى الرسائل الدموية موجهة لهم بدماء شهداء أنقياء من أمثال شيرين ابو عاقلة، رسالة مضمونها أن المنطقة عشية حرب ستكون غزة طرفاً مباشراً فيها فاختاروا موقعكم الإعلامي من الآن وإلا..!

أن تكون دماء شيرين ابو عاقلة نقطة تحول، يعني أحد أمرين أو كليهما، الأول أن يتوقف العالم الغربي بمؤسساته الحكومية والقانونية عن معاملة جرائم الاحتلال بمعيار الحماية، أو المواربة، والثاني أن تغسل دماء شيرين أبوعاقلة عار التطبيع عن الإعلام العربيّ، وفي المقدمة منه قناة الجزيرة، وأن يرد الاعتبار لمعيار العداء لكيان الاحتلال في رسم صورة المشهد العربي السياسي والإعلامي، ورغم الحزن والغضب والمرارة ليس ثمّة ما يقول أن شيئا من هذا سيحدث قريباً أو أنه على وشك الحدوث.

رحم الله شيرين شهيدة فلسطين وقد احتضنها القلوب ورفعتها الأكتاف، وبكتها العيون، وشيعها المقاومون، قبل أن يتسابق الانتهازيون إلى التقاط الصورة التذكارية!

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Beyond Seif Al-Quds: “Israel’s” Upcoming War

Posted by INTERNATIONALIST 360°

Karim Sharara

If a wider war breaks out, “Israel’s” strategy will be an offensive one that will feature the use of ground forces.

The battle of Seif Al-Quds introduced a shift in the Resistance’s operations and the future of the Axis of Resistance. What changed during the battle, and how does “Israel” plan on tackling the next war?

Much has been said in the aftermath of the Battle of Seif Al-Quds, what the Israelis termed “Guardian of the Walls” (the name did not age well). Seif Al-Quds, or Al-Quds Sword, was no less than a game-changer in terms of developments in the region, which introduced another chink into Israeli armor, an introduction to a paradigm shift in regional and international relations.

As the events of Sheikh Jarrah were unfolding, and anger mounting against “Israel’s” inhumane, illegal, and shameless colonial practices, so were Israeli attacks against the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and with them, popular resistance and confrontations against Israeli occupation forces picked up. For the first time, with the beginning of the Resistance’s ultimatum for Israeli forces to withdraw from Sheikh Jarrah and the Al-Aqsa Mosque’s courtyard, ending with the Resistance launching rockets after the occupation failed to comply and leave the occupied territories, there was a complete unity between the Resistance and the people.

While Palestine’s Resistance factions operated in complete unison, so did the people of Palestine take to the streets and riot against their oppression by the IOF.

The significance of these happenings wasn’t just limited to Palestinian unity, which was translated into a renewed hope for liberation. For the first time, we also saw statements by Resistance leaders signaling unison among regional Resistance factions as well.

In simple terms, a prolonged war on Gaza and continued violation of the Al-Aqsa Mosque may end with “Israel” having to contend with more than one front.

This wasn’t a simple development that Israeli decision-makers had to contend with, because the very pillars to which “Israel” owns its continuity as a political entity were at stake: Migration, settlement, and security. In order to prepare for the upcoming, inevitable battle, Israeli pundits and decision-makers had to formulate strategies in order to remedy the weaknesses revealed by the battle of Seif Al-Quds.

The Narrative

The battle over narratives is a very important one in fostering support or criticism for a certain event. In this instance, pro-Palestinian youth around the world made use of their social media presence to raise awareness regarding “Israel’s” oppression of the Palestinian people and their forced displacement of the people of Sheikh Jarrah.

Despite the very obvious attempts by Western social media to limit pro-Palestinian accounts from spreading their narrative, with Instagram and Facebook reducing the reach of pro-Palestinian content, the consensus around Israeli brutality during the battle, and “Israel’s” targeting of foreign media reporting on the battle shifted the balance toward Palestine.

This success was also in part due to the fact that people around the world had begun using TikTok, a Chinese platform that the West had no control over, and thus could not use to shape an anti-Resistance consensus. Thus, video and photographic content of the IOF’s targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure could no longer be ignored and shifted world popular opinion against the Israeli war machine.

As a result of this shift in world public opinion, recommendations were made to Israeli decision-makers to further enhance “Israel’s” presence on social media and organize it as a “force multiplier”.

Security strategy

One of “Israel’s” main concerns is the perpetuation of security, and for Israelis living on the occupied territories to sense this security. Without said security, there would be no migration toward the occupied territories, “Israel” could neither build settlements on occupied territories and expand its colonial presence, nor could it afford to maintain its existence.

One of the main pillars of Israeli strength is for it to give off the impression of it being an impregnable fortress, either by way of building walls, or surrounding itself with the figurative Iron dome, so that any targeting is rendered futile, thereby allowing it to perpetuate its existence by sheer awe factor.

The Resistance’s main takeaway from the Seif Al-Quds Battle was that the myth of the Iron Dome, and the sense of security felt by Israeli settlers, especially those living in the Gaza envelope, were both dissipated. The Resistance’s use of rocket volleys in order to land actual hits on Israeli settlements and cities located deep in the occupied heartland meant that settlers had to contend with something new: rockets landing near them, and the possibility of dying or facing gravy injury at any moment; the Iron Dome could no longer protect them, and in their eyes, their government and military had failed them.

A second threat that Israeli decision-makers had to contend with was two-fold:

–          Prolonging the battle amid depleting Iron Dome reserves and an unwillingness to launch a ground incursion because of the risk of suffering heavy losses.

–          The possibility of developments ensuing on the northern front with Lebanon and Hezbollah joining the battle.

Multiple fronts

Faced with the prospect of “Israel” having to contend with multiple fronts, the IOF has decided to launch its largest-ever military drills, which were supposed to take place last May, but were delayed on account of the battle of Seif Al-Quds.

Put simply, even according to Israeli military minds, the occupation cannot withstand a multiple front approach and has had a hard enough time dealing with either the Lebanese or the Gaza front alone. One main problem faced by Israeli decision-makers is that the occupation cannot sustain a battle for an extended amount of time, not to mention the prospect of having to contend with multiple fronts.

If a wider war breaks out, “Israel’s” strategy will be an offensive one that will feature the use of ground forces, making high casualty rates in the IOF inevitable. In the words of the IOF’s Chief of General Staff, Aviv Kochavi, the strategy “Tel Aviv” will employ will be one of “widely expose, widely strike, and widely destroy.” This means Israeli occupation forces will be seeking high-intensity, simultaneous attacks on multiple fronts in order to inflict maximum civilian losses using air superiority so as to establish deterrence.

Non-military strategy

Other than “Israel’s” military strategy, its immediate concern is the Resistance factions in Gaza, who can mobilize the occupied territories. As such, one of its aims is to use the tools and influence at its disposal in order to weaken Resistance factions operating in Gaza by using a three-pronged approach:

1-     Halting the transfer of funds from Qatar to Gaza: Since it cannot use any of its influence against Iran, “Israel” is seeking to use its influence with Qatar in order to restrain the Gaza front, limit Hamas’ influence outside of Gaza, and stop using its media arm to fan the flames.

2-  Enlisting the help of Egypt to place pressure against Resistance factions by obstructing reconstruction in Gaza and closing crossings into the Sinai Peninsula.

3-     Preventing people from Gaza from being allowed to work in other parts of the occupied territories.

Aside from Gaza, its other main concern is the Lebanese Resistance. One strategy that Israeli pundits have been adopting over the past few months rests in applying internal pressure on the Resistance in order to weaken its popular foothold, or as one Israeli Reserve Forces Major put it: the “solution” to Hezbollah’s possession of precision missiles no longer lies in military threats, but “in the ability of the international community and ‘Israel’ to take advantage of the unprecedented internal crisis in Lebanon in order to succeed in fatally damaging the organization’s status (or force it to take over Lebanon and pay a very high price).”

As things are headed, with the promise of a unified answer to the violation of Palestine and Al-Aqsa by the leaders of the Axis of Resistance, there is a probability that the upcoming war will not be only limited to the Palestinian theater. An end to the illusion of Israeli and settler security is one that can prompt a reverse migration from Palestine, and an end to the misery suffered by its people for the past seven decades.

There is an old adage that says, the land’s owner is the one who defends it. Perhaps the coming battle will reveal to the world who the land’s true owners are: those rooted in it and are prepared to give their lives defending it, however possible.

‘Israel’ Preparing Teams to Assassinate Hamas Leaders Abroad

May 9, 2022

By Staff, Agencies

The Zionist occupation regime has reportedly told foreign allies that it is readying teams to carry out the targeted killing of leaders of the Palestinian Hamas resistance movement group who live abroad.

Unnamed intelligence sources told Britain’s The Times newspaper in an article published Monday that a “clear message” needed to be sent to Hamas.

While the resistance group has not taken responsibility for most of the operations carried out since March 22 that have left 19 ‘Israeli’ occupiers killed, Hamas leader in Gaza Yehya Sinwar has repeatedly called for Palestinians to retaliate in the form of operations targeting the ‘Israeli’ occupiers. Hamas then has publicly praised the perpetrators, encouraging more operations.

The report said that any potential targeted killings are more likely to take place in other countries in the region where Hamas leaders live, with Lebanon and Qatar given as examples.

The report said targets could include Saleh al-Arouri, a deputy leader of Hamas who splits his time between Qatar, Turkey and Lebanon and is in charge of West Bank operations.

The newspaper also named Zaher Jabarin, a senior figure in Hamas.

The report said that Hamas is thought to have been warned of the potential resumption of targeted killings, by the intelligence agencies of a number of countries in Europe and the Middle East.

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