Posts Tagged ‘Muslim Brotherhood’

Saudi Arabia’s Most Outspoken Anti-Hezbollah Minister

November 8, 2017
BY SETH J. FRANTZMAN
 NOVEMBER 8, 2017 06:06

Thamer al-Sabhan personifies Saudi Arabia’s fight against the ‘terrorist militia.’

An outspoken critic: Riyadh’s ‘anti-Hezbollah minister’

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri (R) meets with Saudi Arabia’s Arab Gulf Affairs Minister Thamer al-Sabhan in Beirut, Lebanon February 6, 2017.. (photo credit:REUTERS)

In recent weeks Saudi Arabia’s minister of Gulf affairs, Thamer al-Sabhan, has become the public face of the kingdom’s campaign against Hezbollah and what he describes as Iran and Hezbollah’s threat to the region.

On Monday he was featured on Al-Arabiya televised news slamming the government of Lebanon, which includes Hezbollah: “We will treat the government of Lebanon as a government declaring war on Saudi Arabia due to the aggression of Hezbollah.”

Sabhan met with Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri on October 31, four days before he resigned. Sabhan posted photos on social media of himself with the Sunni leader.

The minister’s recent public statements, including those on Twitter, have had a way of auguring important moves by the kingdom. He told an interviewer on October 30 that “those who believe that my tweets are a personal stance are delusional, and they will see what will happen in [the] coming days.” He has called Hezbollah a “terrorist militia” and “Party of Satan,” a takeoff on the group’s name in Arabic which means “Party of God.”

Sabhan is the latest outspoken Saudi, teaming up with Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir who has been one of the most public opponents of Iranian action in the region over the years.

Al-Sabhan is reported to be traveling to Washington this week to meet senior US officials.

Born in Riyadh in 1967, Sabhan received a degree in military science from King Abdulaziz Military College in 1988 and a master’s in police and security sciences from Naif Arab University for Security Sciences in 2007, according to an online biography composed by Ibrahim al-Jabin at the Al-Arab news website. He served in the army in the 1990s, including a stint working with the US-led coalition during the First Gulf War in 1991, rising through the ranks of the Special Military Police forces. In 2014 he was appointed military attaché to Lebanon and in 2015 he became Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Iraq.

Soon after being appointed, he was involved in a controversy involving his comments about the Popular Mobilization Units, the Iranian-backed Shia militias that have played a major role in Iraq’s war on Islamic State. He accused them of not being welcome in Sunni areas of Iraq. After the liberation of Ramadi from ISIS in December 2015, he met with local Sunni Arab leaders and sought to send Saudi financial aid to help rebuild the area after the war’s devastation.

According to an extensive October 2016 article by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Sabhan became a lightning rod for critique by pro-Hezbollah and pro-Iranian media. The Kurdish media outlet Rudaw reported that Sabhan was harshly critical of “Iranian terrorist personalities,” which he said were involved in the battle against ISIS for Falluja. He took to Twitter in June 2016: “Falluja proves that they want to burn the Arab Iraqis in the fire of sectarianism.”

Pro-Iranian voices in Iraq, including former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, led a campaign of incitement against Sabhan, seeking to have him expelled. After reports that the Popular Mobilization Units’ Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq militia, also known as the Khazali Network, wanted to assassinate the ambassador, he returned to Riyadh.

In October 2016 he was appointed minister of state for Gulf affairs. According to the UAE-based Khaleej Times, King Salman had ordered the creation of this position and Sabhan became its first occupant. It appears that his current portfolio is quite broad, because in May 2017 when he met special representative of the UN for Iraq, Jan Kubis, he discussed the kingdom’s interest in continued efforts to support Iraq.

He also mentioned Israel in a tweet, noting on July 15 that “in the past, we were complaining about Israel’s enmity, but now our brothers have become more hostile and belligerent to us than Israel.” It appears this was a reference to the Qatar crises in which Saudi Arabia and the UAE led a blockade on Qatar, accusing the kingdom of working with Iran and groups like Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Sabhan visited Syria in October alongside US special envoy for the war against ISIS Brett McGurk, where the minister also discussed Saudi Arabia’s support for rebuilding efforts. This fuels speculation that his role in the kingdom is much larger than his title as gulf minister suggests.

The Saudi politician has emerged as one of the most outspoken critics of Hezbollah. On September 4 he tweeted that the “devil’s party” was guilty of inhuman crimes against the Arab nation. On October 8 he praised US sanctions against Hezbollah. On October 13 he said the kingdom would “cut off the hands” of the “terrorism party,” a reference to Hezbollah. And in late October he also tweeted against the “terrorist militia,” calling for it to be punished for its role in global terrorism.

All of this seems to have foreshadowed Saudi Arabia’s increasingly visible discussions about the need to confront Iran and Hezbollah.

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Yemen President Hadi ‘under house arrest’ in Riyadh

November 7, 2017

Al Jazeera and The Associated Press

Image may contain: 1 person, suit

Yemen President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi

Saudi Arabia has barred Yemen’s president, along with his sons, ministers and military officials, from returning home for months, Yemeni officials told The Associated Press.

The officials said the ban was prompted by enmity between President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the United Arab Emirates, which is part of the Saudi-led coalition against Houthi rebels and has come to dominate southern Yemen, the portion of the country not under rebel control.

Hadi and much of his government have been in the Saudi capital Riyadh for most of the war.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are the two main pillars of the coalition, which is ostensibly defending Hadi’s government and is battling the Shia rebels, known as Houthis.

The coalition has waged an air campaign against the rebels since 2015, and the UAE has a strong military presence in southern Yemen – but the Houthis still control the north.

READ MORE

Yemenis denounce Saudi siege as ‘collective punishment’

Saudi Arabia on Sunday intensified its blockade on Yemen on Sunday, closing down all traffic to Yemen’s air and sea ports and closing land crossings. A UN agency warned ships to depart Houthi-controlled ports, and flights to the only functioning airports in southern Yemen were cancelled.

As night fell, prices of fuel hiked in Sanaa with some petrol stations closed and drivers queued to fill in their tanks fearing worsening fuel shortage.

The coalition move came after the Houthis fired a missile toward Riyadh, their deepest strike into the kingdom.

‘A form of house arrest’ 

Hadi’s inability to get back to southern Yemen underscores the president’s loss of authority – even in the south that is nominally under his administration.

Since Hadi last left Yemen in February, he has repeatedly sent written requests to Saudi King Salman asking to return. None was processed, said a Yemeni security commander.

In August, Hadi even went to Riyadh airport, planning to return to his temporary capital, Aden, in southern Yemen – but he was turned back from the airport, the commander said.

READ MORE

‘This is the worst day since the start of the war’

Two other Yemeni officials confirmed Hadi, his sons and several ministers with him in Riyadh have been prevented from going to Yemen. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the situation.

“The Saudis have imposed a form of house arrest on them,” the commander said. “When Hadi asks to go, they respond it’s not safe for him to return as there are plotters who want to take his life and Saudis fear for his life.”

Coalition Spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malaki referred any questions related to Hadi to his own office and government.

Attempts to reach Yemen’s foreign minister and government spokesman were unsuccessful.
Initially, the passports of several of Hadi’s officials were seized – though not Hadi’s – the commander said.

They were given their passports back but they still cannot leave, he said.

READ MORE

Who is Ali Abdullah Saleh?

Hadi’s situation mirrors that of his predecessor, Ali Abdullah Saleh, the powerful former president who was ousted in 2011 and then joined ranks with the Houthis to take over the capital Sanaa in 2014.

Their alliance appeared to fray this year, amid reports the Houthis have put Saleh under house arrest.

Hadi’s weakening has gone hand-in-hand with the UAE’s growing power in southern Yemen.

The Gulf nation has trained, financed and armed militias in Yemen that only answer to it, set up prisons, and created a security establishment parallel to Hadi’s government.

An AP investigation in the summer documented 18 secret prisons run by the UAE or its allies, where former prisoners said torture was widespread. The UAE denied the allegations and says all security forces are under Hadi’s authority.

The Emiratis distrust Hadi, accusing him of corruption and opposing his alliance with the Islah Party, Yemen’s branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, according to the three officials and a politician close to Hadi.

In an attempt to move against UAE, Hadi held a meeting on Novovember 2 to discuss a cabinet reshuffle to push out Emirati-backed members, but so far there have been no results from the meeting. The commander said Hadi is reluctant to defy Saudi Arabia because he “doesn’t want to lose the Saudis.”

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‘UAE on the verge of splitting Yemen in two’

Meanwhile, the coalition blamed Iran for Saturday’s Houthi missile strike toward Riyadh, saying it could be “considered as an act of war.” Iran supports the Houthis but has denied arming them and said it had nothing to do with the missile launches. The Houthis have said their missiles are locally produced.

The coalition’s intensified closure could further limit access for the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Arab world’s poorest country, which has been devastated by more than two years of conflict.

The war has killed more than 10,000 civilians, has driven three million people from their homes, and millions of Yemenis are left without basic necessities.

Yemen’s main international airport, in the rebel-held capital, Sanaa, has been closed since August 2016 by order of the coalition. The rebel-held north has largely relied on the Red Sea port of Hodeida, which is controlled by the Houthis, for delivery of much-needed humanitarian aid and fuel supplies. A full blockade of the port would cut off a crucial lifeline for the Houthis, as well as millions of civilians.

As night fell, Sanaa residents said that several gas stations were shut down while port officials said that ships heading to the port were ordered to leave.

“All vessels must immediately leave holding area”, read an email sent by a UN agency in charge of giving clearance to ships docking in Yemeni ports of Hodieda and nearby Salef.

SOURCE: AP NEWS AGENCY

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/11/yemen-president-hadi-house-arrest-riyadh-171107082638642.html

Prepare Yourself for Jihad 3.0 — The U.S. needs to focus on defeating the ideology.

November 4, 2017

Radical Islamic terrorists will revive their movement.

The rental truck used in Tuesday’s New York terror attack.
The rental truck used in Tuesday’s New York terror attack. PHOTO: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Tuesday’s terrorist attack in New York City, committed by an immigrant from Uzbekistan, is a reminder that radical political Islam won’t end with the recent defeat of Islamic State in Raqqa.

Just as the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan soon after 9/11 did not mark the end of al Qaeda, extremist forces in the Muslim world will continue to resuscitate themselves in other forms, in other theaters. If al Qaeda was Jihad 1.0 in our era, and ISIS was Jihad 2.0, we should now prepare for Jihad 3.0. Islamism will continue to be a U.S. national-security concern for years to come.

The New York attacker, Sayfullo Saipov, did not match the standard profile of a jihadi terrorist. He was likely self-radicalized, did not overtly belong to a major terrorist group, and would not have been denied entry under President Trump’s “travel ban” due to his country of origin.

In trying to re-create an Islamic state, radical Islamists draw inspiration from 14 centuries of history. It is important to understand the various Muslim “revivalist” movements, involving various degrees of violence and challenges to the global order of the time. Contemporary radicals often reach into the past to find models for organization and mobilization

It is not a coincidence that al Qaeda (literally “the base”) tried to establish itself first in Sudan before finding a home in Afghanistan. Both Sudan and the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region had experienced jihad against European powers resulting in short-lived Islamic states in relatively recent times.

ISIS’ choice of Syria and Iraq to declare a caliphate was also a function of the Islamist reverence for historic precedents. Damascus was the capital of the Umayyad Caliphate (661-750), and Baghdad was the base of the Abbasid Caliphate (750-1258).

In Sudan, Muhammad Ahmad declared himself Mahdi (“the reviver”) and established an unrecognized state from 1885-99 before being defeated by the British. The Mahdists terrorized locals, persecuted religious minorities (notably Coptic Christians), revived the slave trade, and challenged Egypt and its protector, Britain. The death of the movement’s founder in 1885 did not mark the end of jihad.

Eventually, the British defeated the Mahdists militarily with an Anglo-Egyptian force. They also used traditional religious and tribal structures and institutions to challenge Mahdist ideology. Today the Mahdists exist as a Sufi order rather than an extremist group.

Similarly, the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area became the base for the jihad movement of Syed Ahmed Barelvi in 1826. Just as Osama bin Laden moved from Saudi Arabia, giving up a comfortable life, Syed Ahmed came from northeastern Indian nobility. He mobilized funds throughout the subcontinent, moved it through the hawala system, and bought arms to use against the British-aligned Sikh empire along the border of modern-day Afghanistan.

Although he was killed in 1831, ending his short-lived Islamic state, Syed Ahmed’s followers continued their random stabbing campaign against the British for another 70 years. Driving cars or trucks into crowds is today’s equivalent of that terrorist campaign.

Eventually, the British deployed military and intelligence means to defeat the jihadists. They also discredited the terrorists’ beliefs by supporting Muslim leaders who opposed radical ideas.

In the Middle East, the Ottoman Empire had less success in dealing with the Wahhabis, who fought the empire for control over the Arabian Peninsula through much of the 19th century. After creating the modern state of Saudi Arabia in 1932, the Wahhabis modified their approach to international relations, though not their theology. Al Qaeda and ISIS manifest the more radical beliefs of the Wahhabis and, though opposed by the modern state of Saudi Arabia, can be construed as a continuation of their Wahhabi teaching.

The U.S. is not capable of whole-scale changes to Islamic theology, nor is it in America’s purview. And portraying the contemporary struggle as a battle with Islam risks making the world’s Muslim population—1.8 billion people—Islamic State’s recruiting pool.

Islam means different things to different people and has been practiced in many ways among various sects across the world and throughout time. The doctrine of jihad is open to interpretation, much like the Christian notion of “just war.” Muslims who consider Islam a religion, not a political ideology, and who pursue piety, not conquest, remain important partners for the U.S.

The U.S. must re-evaluate its alliances in the Muslim world based on whether or not partners encourage extremism. Saudi Arabia’s recent avowal to teach moderation in religion, emulating the United Arab Emirates’ campaign against radical Islamism, deserves American support, as does Morocco’s decision to work with the Holocaust Memorial Museum to educate its people about the Holocaust and teach tolerance.

On the other hand, Qatar’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood and Turkey’s decision to include jihadi teachings in its school curriculum indicate their support of radicalism.

Above all, the U.S. must focus on defeating radical Islamist ideology, not just its periodic manifestation in terrorist attacks.

Mr. Haqqani, director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., was Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S., 2008-11.

Appeared in the November 3, 2017, print edition.

Death toll from Egypt gun battle rises to 52 police and soldiers killed: sources

October 21, 2017

Image result for Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, photos

Egypt’s Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis  terror group

CAIRO (Reuters) – At least 52 Egyptian police and conscripts were killed and six more wounded in a gun battle on Friday during a raid on a suspected militant hideout in the western desert, three security sources said.

Sources had said late on Friday at least 30 police were killed. Egypt is battling an Islamist insurgency concentrated in the Sinai peninsula from two main groups, including an Islamic State affiliate, that has killed hundreds of security forces since 2013.

The interior ministry released a statement on the operation on Friday but has so far not given any details on casualties. At least 23 police officers were killed and the other victims were conscripts, the sources said.

Security sources on Friday said authorities were following a lead to a militant camp in the desert where eight suspected members of Hasm Movement were believed to be hiding. The group has claimed attacks around Cairo targeting judges and police.

A convoy of four SUVs and one interior ministry vehicle was ambushed from higher ground by militants firing rocket-propelled grenades and detonating explosive devices, one senior security source said.

Militants are mostly fighting in remote northern Sinai where the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis group pledged allegiance to Islamic State in 2014. Attacks mostly hit police and armed forces, but militants have also targeted Egypt’s Christians and tourists.

 Image result for rocket-propelled grenades, photos, terrorists

Egypt: Hasm militants kill dozens of police after botched raid — At least 50 soldiers and police killed or wounded

October 21, 2017

A botched raid has left more than 50 soldiers and policemen dead, according to reports. Cairo has struggled to contain an insurgency since its military led a coup against Egypt’s first democratically-elected leader.

Armed Egyptian police (picture-alliance/AP)

More than 50 Egyptian troops and police officers were killed during a raid on a militant hideout southwest of Cairo, local media reported on Saturday, citing security sources.

The firefight occurred in the Bahariya oasis on the Western Desert, about 85 miles (135 km) southwest of the capital, after security forces received information on the militants’ location.

Read more: Sinai branch of ‘Islamic State’ reinvents itself

Image result for Bahariya oasis, photos

Bahariya oasis

The interior ministry said a “number” of policemen had been killed as well as some militants, but did not elaborate.

Militants claim responsibility

Police on their way to a hideout used by the Hasm militant group reportedly came under attack with rocket-propelled grenades.

Hasm claimed responsibility for the attack, saying in a statement that it killed at least 28 members of the security forces and wounded 32 others. The group has claimed responsibility for several attacks around Cairo, targeting judges and police officers over the past year.

Read more: In Egypt, Islamic clerics give out edicts in the metro

Egypt accuses Hasm of being a militant wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group it outlawed in 2013 after bloody crackdown and military coup. The Muslim Brotherhood has denied any involvement in violent attacks against security forces.

Image result for Egypt, militants, RPGs, photos

Growing insurgency

Hasm are not the only militants facing off against Egyptian authorities. “Islamic State” (IS) militants based in the Sinai Peninsula have also increased attacks across the country recently.

Egypt has been under a state of emergency since earlier in the year when IS militants launched a series of bombings and suicide attacks that killed scores of Coptic Christians.

Read more: Egypt’s tourism industry suffers a critical blow

Egypt’s Grand Mufti Shawki Allam, who serves as a state-backed authority on Islam, issued a statement condemning the killings.

The country has been in a heightened state of turmoil and violence since the military overthrew President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s first democratically-elected president, in mid-2013 following mass protests against his rule.

ls,bik/aw (AP, Reuters, dpa)

Analysis: Fighters in Inter-Arab Cold War Dig In For The Long Haul

October 11, 2017
BY BEN LYNFIELD

The Jerusalem Post
OCTOBER 11, 2017 09:50

“This feud has not played out behind closed doors, it is being waged with the biggest public relations and propaganda efforts in the western media.”

Analysis: Fighters in inter-Arab ‘cold war’ dig in for the long haul

A general view taken on September 24, 2017 shows the Navy Special Forces off the coast of the Qatari capital, Doha. . (photo credit:KARIM JAAFAR / AFP)

Four months after first flaring up, the crisis between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates shows no signs of abating.

Indeed, new issues of contention keep opening up in this cold war that started when the four allies imposed a trade and diplomatic embargo on Qatar, accusing it of destabilizing the region and supporting terrorism, including through incitement by its Al Jazeera satellite station. Saudi Arabia closed Qatar’s only land border, and Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE severed air links.

On June 23, Riyadh and its allies issued a 10-day ultimatum for ending the blockade that included 13 demands, among them closing Al Jazeera; scaling back ties with Tehran; and ending contact with the Muslim Brotherhood.

But the pressure has not subdued Qatar and analysts believe the stalemate could continue for some time.

“The fact that it has gone on for so long shows the Saudis are not winning,” said Joshua Teitelbaum, a specialist on the Gulf at Bar-Ilan University’s BESA Center for Strategic Studies.

“Qatar has been able to stand on its hind legs and keep this from totally defeating it.” But, he added: “There’s a long way to go.”

Qatar’s staying power is attributed by analysts to factors including funding effective lobbying efforts in the West; Washington’s need to keep working relations with it on a sound footing due to its hosting a crucial US airbase; and the soundness of its economy, which is based largely on natural gas exports that are continuing.

However, notes Brandon Friedman, a scholar at Tel Aviv University’s Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Doha might be vulnerable if Saudi Arabia and the UAE choose to significantly escalate the crisis by pulling their holdings from Qatari banks.

In recent days, the conflict has expressed itself in a rivalry over who will become UNESCO’s next secretary-general with the field of candidates including Egypt’s Moushira Khattab, a former minister under the regime of Hosni Mubarak, and Qatar’s Hamad Bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari, a former minister of information and culture. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, though not members of the UNESCO board, are lobbying in favor of Khattab to prevent a Qatari victory.

Far more serious is the burgeoning dispute surrounding Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 soccer World Cup.

“This is a huge flagship issue for Qatar. The Saudis and their allies would like nothing better than to take it away,” said Teitelbaum.

The Saudis and their allies have started a lobbying campaign against the Cup being held in Doha, which is expected to focus on allegations of corruption in Qatar’s bidding for the venue. It is also expected to highlight alleged Qatari human rights abuses against workers on the project.

A senior Emirati security official, Lt.-Gen. Dhahi Khalfan of Dubai, tweeted recently that the Gulf crisis will end if Doha gives up on hosting the World Cup.

Meanwhile, a study carried out by the management consultant firm Cornerstone Global made available to the BBC cast doubt on Qatar’s ability to host the competition due to “increased political risk” stemming, in part, from the blockade.

Qatari officials perceive a Saudi hand behind the study, but the founder of Cornerstone Global, Ghanem Nuseibeh, denied that the report was funded by any of the countries mounting the blockade.

Qatari officials, meanwhile, say there is “no risk” that the event will be canceled.

In Friedman’s view, “both sides seem to be settling in for the long haul” in terms of their conflict, but he dismisses the idea that it is interminable, saying there is a possible scenario that could alleviate it in the future, namely “a geopolitical situation that would remind them that they need each other.”

This, he said, could take the form of a confrontation between Iran and the Arab Gulf states.

According to Friedman, one of the reasons the enmity between Qatar and the four allies is persisting is that neither side wants to incur the blow to its honor from backing down. “Honor and shame is something we have to be mindful of, especially with the royal families of the Gulf,” he said. “This feud has not played out behind closed doors, it is being waged with the biggest public relations and propaganda efforts in the western media. This makes it harder for either side to find a face-saving formula.”

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How blood money, diplomacy and desperation are reuniting Palestine

September 29, 2017

Reuters

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing

Palestinians shake hands during a reconciliation ceremony in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip August 31, 2017. Picture taken August 31, 2017. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

GAZA (Reuters) – A decade on, Rawda al-Zaanoun is at last willing to forgive the gunmen who killed her son during the civil war that split Palestine. It has been painful, but she says it is time.

”He was hit with a bullet in the back. He was a martyr,“ the 54-year-old said at an event in Gaza city to mark the public reconciliation of families of people killed in the war. ”The decision was not easy because the blood of our son is precious. But we have given amnesty.

Her son Ala, a married father of two and an officer in the Palestinian Authority security forces, was killed in June 2007 after he rushed out of his house in Gaza City, having heard that his uncle was injured in clashes between rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah.

Since that war a decade ago, Fatah, led by the secular heirs of Yassir Arafat, has run the West Bank, headed the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority and been responsible for all negotiations with Israel.

Its rivals, the Islamist group Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, drove Fatah out of Gaza and has run the tiny coastal strip that is home to 2 million people, nearly half of the population of the Palestinian territories.

The schism is set to end on Monday, when Hamas hands over control of Gaza to a unity government. Although it agreed to the arrangement three years ago, the decision to implement it now marks a striking reversal for Hamas, which is considered a terrorist group by Israel, the United States and most of the most powerful Arab countries.

“Hamas has made big concessions, and every coming concession will be stunning and surprisingly bigger than the one that passed, so that we can conclude reconciliation and this division must end,” the chief of Hamas in Gaza, Yehya Al-Sinwar, said during a meeting this week with social media activists.

If Hamas has swallowed a bitter pill by ending the feud, perhaps bitterest of all is the role played by exiled former Gaza security chief Mohammed Dahlan, once Hamas’s fiercest foe who is now a leading player in regional efforts to pull Gaza back into the Palestinian mainstream.

Officials on both sides of the Palestinian divide and in other Arab countries say Dahlan, based since 2011 in the United Arab Emirates, is behind an influx of cash to prop up Gaza, and a detente between Hamas and Arab states including Egypt.

His office did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Dahlan’s return to prominence could have consequences for Palestinian politics as profound as the reconciliation itself. As hated as he once was in Gaza for trying to uproot Hamas, he is perhaps even more reviled by the Fatah leadership in Ramallah for challenging the authority of President Mahmoud Abbas. Ambitious and charismatic, he has long been suspected of harboring designs to succeed the 82-year-old Abbas.

FOR THE SAKE OF PALESTINE

Among the initiatives Dahlan has promoted in Gaza is the reconciliation program of families like the Zaanouns and 19 others, who each accepted a $50,000 blood money payment from an Egyptian-Emirati charity fund in return for publicly renouncing the demand to avenge the deaths of their sons.

Old wounds will be hard to salve. Activists on both sides hold memories of their enemies shooting out kneecaps or torturing each other in partisan prisons.

Zaanoun said her family took the decision to reconcile, despite their intense grief over the loss of their son, “for the sake of preventing bloodshed, for the sake of blockaded Gaza and for the sake of Palestine”.

Dahlan has raised millions more, financing mass weddings for hundreds of young couples and distributing cash aid for several thousand needy families.

He has also used a close relationship with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in particular to regain his influence. Sisi, who took power by toppling a president from Hamas’s Muslim Brotherhood allies, controls Gaza’s only non-Israeli frontier and the keys to its prosperity.

FILE PHOTO: Mohammed Dahlan, a former Fatah security chief, gestures in his office in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates October 18, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

“Dahlan worked hard, together with his contacts in Egyptian intelligence and sometimes with direct intervention from Sisi,” a Gulf source who asked not to be named told Reuters.

The strategy may be gaining him good will: an opinion poll last week by the West Bank-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey showed that those who still support Fatah in Gaza are shifting their loyalty to Dahlan. His popularity among Gazans, the survey said, has risen over the past nine months from nine to 23 percent.

The handover of Gaza suggests Dahlan’s allies in Egypt and the UAE realize that any bid to put the Palestinian house in order, for now at least, needs unity.

“Every time anyone speaks to (Israeli Prime Minister) Netanyahu, he would say how can you reach a solution when the Palestinians are splintered?” the Gulf source added.

“The reconciliation is an effort by several like-minded countries looking for a comprehensive solution,” he added.

TROUBLED TIES

Short of funds and friends, Hamas may have few options but to make concessions. For years it had modest but stable economic backing by Islamist-leaning Turkey and the wealthy Gulf Arab state of Qatar, where Hamas houses its headquarters.

But in recent months its friends, especially Qatar, have been on the back foot. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have imposed an economic and diplomatic boycott on Doha over alleged support of terrorists, including, in their reckoning, Hamas.

Three conflicts with the Jewish state left many civilian neighborhoods in Gaza pulverized. Rebuilding has been thwarted by the Israeli-Egyptian blockade, which Sisi has the power to ease.

Hamas figures blame Abbas, Fatah and Dahlan for encouraging Egypt and other Arab countries to keep the economic pressure on, forcing Hamas to agree to the reconciliation.

“One of our reasons was to spare our people this suffering which this time was made by Palestinian hands,” Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters.

Senior Fatah official Nasser al-Qidwa praised Hamas’s reconciliation moves and chalked up the group’s sudden change of tack to “the governance crisis that Hamas is living through and the crisis of foreign alliances, as well as the difficult conditions of some of Hamas’ traditional allies.”

Imposing its writ over policing Gaza and its borders will be the main challenge for the non-partisan cabinet of technocrats as it seeks to make this month’s unity initiative a reality.

Setting out a hard line, Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said in a statement on Tuesday that Hamas must eventually cede all “crossings, security and government departments.”

Gaza bristles with hundreds of rockets belonging to Hamas’s armed wing, and the movement insisted that the arsenal it says is essential to confronting Israel will never be given up.

     Hamas deputy political chief Musa Abu Marzooq conceded in an interview this month with pan-Arab newspaper al-Hayat that decisions to fight or make peace with Israel should be in future agreed jointly with Fatah.

But the movement, he suggested, would keep its finger on the trigger: “The subject of the resistance’s weapons … will not be on the table for dialogue.”

Additional reporting by Sami Aboudi and Ali Sawafta; Writing By Noah Browning, Editing by William Maclean

Israelis Express Worry Over Rise of Germany’s Far Right AfD

September 25, 2017
BY LAHAV HARKOV
 SEPTEMBER 25, 2017 13:02

Jerusalem Post

Likud lawmaker Yehuda Glick calls to reach out to AfD Party.

A demonstrator protests against anti-immigration party Alternative fuer Deutschland in Germany

A demonstrator protests against anti-immigration party Alternative fuer Deutschland in Germany. (photo credit:HANNIBAL HANSCHKE/REUTERS)

Israeli opposition lawmakers expressed concern over the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which came in third place in Sunday’s German election.

The far-right has not been represented in the two houses of Germany’s legislature since the 1950s

Israel-Germany Parliamentary Friendship Group chairman MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Union) said he respects the results of Germany’s democratic election, but sees them as a warning sign.

“The rising strength of the extreme Right in Germany teaches us about a growing, dangerous atmosphere. Xenophobia, racism and extremism are conquering a significant portion of the German public, and prove that the democratic layer is fragile and vulnerable,” Shai stated.

Shai added that Merkel, whom he called one of Israel’s greatest friends in the world, must spend the coming term examining the change in her country and blocking its rightward drift.

Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni expressed confidence that “just as [Merkel] knew to courageously stand up for her values, she will also know how to deal with the worrying rise of the extreme, antisemitic Right.”

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid tweeted congratulations to German Chancellor Angela Merkel on her election to a fourth term in office, but added in Hebrew: “An important challenge stands before Germany: To eradicate the strengthening extreme right in their land.”

Zionist Union MK Amir Peretz tweeted in German that “this election is a bad day for Germany democracy, with the entry of xenophobes and open antisemites into the Bundestag.”

MK Dov Henin of the Joint List, who has identified as a communist, said, “The ugly wave of the racist, antisemitic and Islamophobic Right is growing in the whole world and is an expression of a deep crisis in the system. The answer cannot be rallying around a disappointing social order; rather, an alternative of real change in the other direction.”

Likud MK Yehudah Glick courted controversy by saying that the AfD is not as bad as opposition lawmakers have said.

“All those panicking over the election of a right-wing party in Germany should know that Frauke Petry, who stands at the head of the party, is working intensively to remove any suspicion of antisemitism from the party,” Glick tweeted.

Petry, the party’s co-chairperson, said soon after the election that she will not join the AfD faction in the Bundestag.

Glick followed up the tweet by saying that he is concerned that there are “Nazi elements” in Germany, and that racism towards any minority, including Muslims, must be combatted. In addition, he said he was not congratulating the AfD, just commenting on the “panic” over them. Petry, he said, has visited Israel and Yad Vashem and opposes racism and antisemitism.

“Whoever thinks all evil is on the Right and the whole Right is evil, is wrong. There are moderates on the Right like Petry, and there are things that are no less disconcerting in the other parties… including Merkel’s party’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood. Remember the [German] foreign minister’s preference of Breaking the Silence over our prime minister? Remember the speech by the head of the Socialist Party, Martin Schulz, in the Knesset, when he said Israel steals water from the Palestinians?” Glick wrote.

The Likud MK argued that Israel should seek ties with positive factors in all parties and combat negative factors in all parties.

According to Glick, “The growth of the Right throughout Europe comes from deep concerns of many Europeans over a radical Islamic takeover of Europe. Whoever thinks this is an unfounded concern is mistaken. Translating that into racism is worrying.”

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Saudi calls for people to report subversive comments on social media — Human rights watchdog calls this “Orwellian”

September 13, 2017

Image may contain: screen and laptop

A Saudi man explores a website on his laptop in Riyadh February 11, 2014. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser

(Reuters) – Saudi Arabia has urged its people to report subversive comments spotted on social media via a phone app, a move denounced by a human rights watchdog as “Orwellian”.

The appeal, announced on a Twitter account run by the interior ministry late on Tuesday, coincides with an apparent crackdown on potential government critics and a call by exiled opposition figures for demonstrations.

“When you notice any account on social networks publishing terrorist or extremist ideas, please report it immediately via the application #We‘re_all_security”, it said, referring to a mobile phone app launched last year to enable civilians to report traffic violations and burglaries.

Hours later, the public prosecutor tweeted a section of the kingdom’s terrorism law which states: “Endangering national unity, obstructing the Basic Law of governance or some of its articles, and harming the state’s reputation or status are terrorist crimes.”

Exiled Saudi critics have called for demonstrations on Friday to galvanize opposition to the royal family and prominent clerics, intellectuals and activists, including prominent Islamist cleric Sheikh Salman al-Awdah, have been detained this week, activists say.

Image result for Sheikh Salman al-Awdah, photos

Islamist cleric Sheikh Salman al-Awdah

Activists circulated lists of people detained on social media showing the number had risen to around 30 on Wednesday, including some with no clear links to Islamist activity or obvious history of opposition.

Protests are banned in Saudi Arabia, as are political parties. Unions are illegal, the press is controlled and criticism of the royal family can lead to prison.

Riyadh says it does not have political prisoners, but senior officials have said monitoring activists is needed to maintain social stability.

The detentions reported by activists follow widespread speculation, denied by officials, that King Salman intends to abdicate to his son, Crown Prince Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who dominates economic, diplomatic and domestic policy.

There are also growing tensions with Qatar over its alleged support of Islamists, including the Muslim Brotherhood which is listed by Riyadh as a terrorist organization.

Some Twitter users expressed support for the government’s approach, using the “We’re all Security” hashtag.

“No flattery, no silence whether for a relative or friend in securing the homeland,” said one. “Defend your security. Chaos starts with slogans of freedom and reform. Do not believe them.”

Another user called on people to photograph any “low-lifes” protesting on Friday and upload them to the app.

“ORWELLIAN REALITY”

Human Rights Watch, a New York-based watchdog, condemned the government dragnet, saying it called into question the authorities’ commitment to free speech and the rule of law.

“Saudi Arabia is reaching a new level of Orwellian reality when it goes beyond security services’ repression and outsources monitoring of citizens’ online comments to other citizens,” said Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson, referring to English writer George Orwell’s dystopian novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four”.

“Saudi Arabia’s new leadership is quickly showing it has no tolerance for critical thought or speech and is marshalling Saudi society to enforce red lines by spying on itself.”

The government has not clearly acknowledged this week’s detentions or responded to requests for comment.

But state news agency SPA said on Tuesday authorities had uncovered “intelligence activities for the benefit of foreign parties” by a group of people it did not identify.

A Saudi security source told Reuters the suspects were accused of “espionage activities and having contacts with external entities including the Muslim Brotherhood”, which Riyadh has classified as a terrorist organization.

The government toughened its stance on dissent following the Arab Spring in 2011 after it averted unrest by offering billions of dollars in handouts and state spending.

But the Brotherhood, which represents an ideological threat to Riyadh’s dynastic system of rule, has gained power elsewhere in the region.

Since the kingdom’s founding, the ruling Al Saud family has enjoyed a close alliance with clerics of the ultra-conservative Wahhabi school of Islam. In return, the clerics have espoused a political philosophy that demands obedience to the ruler.

By contrast the Muslim Brotherhood advances an active political doctrine urging revolutionary action, which flies in the face of Wahhabi teaching.

The Brotherhood-inspired Sahwa movement in the 1990s agitated to bring democracy to Saudi Arabia and criticized the ruling family for corruption, social liberalization and working with the West, including allowing U.S. troops into the kingdom during the 1991 Iraq war.

The Sahwa were largely undermined by a mixture of repression and co-optation but remain active.

The al-Saud family has always regarded Islamist groups as the biggest internal threat to its rule over a country in which appeals to religious sentiment cannot be lightly dismissed and an al Qaeda campaign a decade ago killed hundreds.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and transport links with Qatar in June over its alleged support for Islamist militants, a charge that Doha denies.

Editing by Timothy Heritage

Rights Group Slams Egypt’s ‘Nationalization’ of Media

September 13, 2017

CAIRO — An international media rights group has voiced alarm over Egypt’s “roundabout nationalization” of once-independent outlets.

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders on Wednesday criticized the state-run Akhbar al-Youm newspaper’s recent acquisition of the English-language Daily News Egypt and Al-Borsa, a financial daily.

Authorities froze the assets of the publications’ parent company last year and placed its chairman on a terrorism list over his suspected links to the Muslim Brotherhood group. Egypt has also blocked the outlets’ websites.

Egypt has blocked hundreds of websites in recent months, including many operated by independent journalists and rights groups, as part of a broader crackdown on dissent.

Virtually all local media outlets in Egypt today are supportive of the government, which came to power after the military overthrew an elected Islamist president in 2013.