MIDEAST MIRROR 18.05.15, SECTION B (THE ARAB WORLD)
1-The ironies of the Egyptian scene
2-Keep out the PMU
3-A necessary and tiresome ally
4-Determining Yemen’s future in Riyadh
1-The ironies of the Egyptian scene
It is astonishing to see Western states, with the U.S. in the lead, intervening in the court's decision [passing a death sentence on former Egyptian president Mursi] and going even further and commenting on the justice system's rulings. Such interventions are no longer acceptable. In fact, they raise doubts concerning the West’s intentions. And this is to say nothing of the Egyptian people being fed up with such blatant interference in the country’s domestic affairs … it remains that Egypt’s judicial system knows its path and is not susceptible to intimidation. Therefore, any wager based on 'coercing the judiciary' whether on the part of the terrorist groups or the 'Western circles' that facilitate terrorism, treason and espionage via their intervention – will be futile. –Egyptian al-Ahram
The Egyptian regime is putting on trial rebels who broke their shackles and escaped the prisons of tyranny during a major popular revolution to which that same regime still claims to belong. It is putting on trial people accused of kidnapping and killing members of the security forces, while it totally ignores the current regime’s leading figures’ responsibility for the assassination of hundreds of unarmed [Muslim Brotherhood] demonstrators in Rabi'a and an-Nahda squares. The ironies of the Egyptian scene in the aforementioned cases happen to coincide with a widespread Arab silence. This only highlights the erosion of the Arab political elite's moral values; an elite whose statements appear or disappear in accordance with the political leanings of the current that happens to be persecuting it --pan-Arab al-Quds al-Arabi
We cannot rule out the possibility that the death sentences passed against Brotherhood leaders will be carried out. [Brotherhood leader] Sayyid Qutb was executed in 1966 on similar charges, namely, that of conspiring against the state. And the current political climate is similar and could lead the senior figures sentenced to death to the gallows…each of the two sides is now in a state of defiance, challenging the other. The Egyptian regime feels that the Brotherhood continues to wage war against it, while Brotherhood leaders living outside Egypt want a new Sayyid Qutb whom it can use in its political battle. It is also possible that the Brotherhood is no longer able to control the statements and practices of its external leaders’ who have become hostage to foreign powers that are seeking to deepen the conflict among the Egyptians--'Abderrahman ar-Rashed in Saudi Asharq al-Awsat
This weekend’s preliminary death sentence passed against former Egyptian president Mohammad Mursi and a number of other Muslim Brotherhood members in an alleged espionage and 'jailbreak' case is an independent judicial decision based on the country's existing laws, insists the editorial in Egypt’s leading daily. Any Western intervention in this or any other domestic Egyptian affair is unacceptable. The Egyptian court's decisions are politicized and defy all logic, argues the editorial in a Qatari-owned pan-Arab daily. What is equally reprehensible is the Arab elite’s silence in response to such actions. The death sentences passed against Muslim Brotherhood leaders are the result of the movement and the Egyptian state’s mutual entrenchment in their positions, maintains a veteran Saudi commentator. The Brotherhood may also have turned into a headless organization that is being exploited by foreign powers in their war against the Egyptian state.
OPEN BATTLE: "Egypt is in the midst of an open battle with terrorism," writes Monday's editorial in the authoritative Cairo daily al-Ahram.
It has never felt weak or fearful, nor will it do so in the future, when it comes to the 'difficult cost' of excising this dangerous ailment that not only threatens Egypt’s society and stability, but that of the region and its peoples and their prospects for a prosperous future as well.
In the near past, the terrorists' hands had reached Egypt's judiciary. Terrorists attacked policemen, soldiers, and innocent citizens, and before them, Media City and the journalists working there. Everyone has been affected by these threats.
However, despite the ferocity of these attacks, Egypt will not be divided. The overwhelming majority of people and the political elite are united against terrorism and the terrorists. Moreover, the Egyptian judiciary remains as splendid as ever, never wavering or being affected by threats. It provides the appropriate climate and upholds the correct procedures so as to ensure that the accused will get a fair trial.
The Cairo Criminal Court has referred to the Mufti for approval of the preliminary sentence passed on 16 people accused in an espionage case, in which the main charges are directed against deposed [president] Mohammad Mursi and ten cadres and members of the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood. The court has set a June 2nd hearing as the date for passing a final sentence based on the Mufti’s recommendation.
It is astonishing to see Western states, with the U.S. in the lead, intervening in the court's decision and going even further and commenting on the justice system's rulings. Such interventions are no longer acceptable. In fact, they raise doubts concerning the West’s intentions. And this is to say nothing of the Egyptian people being fed up with such blatant interference in the country’s domestic affairs despite the recent Christian Science Monitor report showing that the judiciary is independent from the Egyptian government, and that it operates in accordance with Egypt’s fixed laws.
It remains that Egypt’s judicial system knows its path and is not susceptible to intimidation. Therefore, any wager based on 'coercing the judiciary' whether on the part of the terrorist groups or the 'Western circles' that facilitate terrorism, treason and espionage via their intervention – will be futile.
"It seems that Washington and the West’s capitals will have to review their position and refrain from intervening in the justice system's rulings and Egypt’s domestic affairs," concludes the daily.
REFERRED TO THE MUFTI: "The Cairo Criminal Court has referred the preliminary sentence passed in the 'jailbreak' case during the [anti-Mubarak] January 25th 2011 Revolution to Egypt’s Grand Mufti who will express the shari’a view regarding the execution of 102 accused, including deposed president Mohammad Mursi, [Qatari-based] Islamist preacher Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, and the Muslim Brotherhood's General Guide Mohammad Badi'e," notes the editorial in Monday's Qatari-owned, London-based, pan-Arab daily al-Quds al-Arabi.
The court also set June 2nd as the date for passing the final sentence in these cases. It also referred the preliminary sentence in the case of 16 other defendants to the Mufti. These include the Brotherhood's Deputy General Guide Khairat ash-Shater, and Sundus 'Assem, the external media coordinator on Mohammad Mursi's team, on charges of 'communicating with foreign organizations.'
The court's decision defies both logic and reason before that of law and justice. The court has passed its sentence as a service to the ruling military and security authorities before anything else.
The first case concerns a collective jailbreak by political detainees in which acts of violence were committed and policemen were killed. But accusing an elected president and political organizations, forces, and figures of 'escaping prison', contradicts the very notion of a revolution. That obviously entails toppling a political regime and replacing it with another, something that is not possible without a conflict between the masses and the police and security forces that are trying to protect the existing tyrannical order. This has been the norm in every revolution all over the world, including the so-called 'velvet' ones.
The second sentence concerns 'communicating with foreign organizations' (the sentence specifically mentions Hamas and Hizbollah). But this is simply irrational, even when measured by the criteria of the current regime, which is also communicating with Hamas. Moreover, this regime has maintained warm relations with Iran and Iraq, and even with the Yemeni regime during its Houthi phase. These regimes' policies and practices cannot be distinguished from Hizbollah, which is linked to them ideologically and which represents them and receives financial, armament, and ‘communication support’ [intelligence] from them.
Each of the two legal sentences is self-contradictory. There is no need for any lengthy discussion of their legal shortcomings. (Those sentenced to death include six Palestinian martyrs, four of whom died before escaping prison. They also include a sentence passed against a Palestinian who has been in prison in Israel for the past twenty years). And their political logic is also risible.
The Egyptian regime is putting on trial rebels who broke their shackles and escaped the prisons of tyranny during a major popular revolution to which that same regime still claims to belong. It is putting on trial people accused of kidnapping and killing members of the security forces, while it totally ignores the current regime’s leading figures’ responsibility for the assassination of hundreds of unarmed demonstrators [Muslim Brotherhood] in Rabi'a and an-Nahda squares.
The ironies of the Egyptian scene in the aforementioned cases happen to coincide with a widespread Arab silence. This only highlights the erosion of the Arab political elite's moral values; an elite whose statements appear or disappear in accordance with the political leanings of the current that happens to be persecuting it. It complains loudly when it is subjected to repression itself, but holds its tongue when its political opponents are being subject to the same repression. And this is an appropriate title for the current state of Arab political misery.
Apart from the UN secretary-general, the U.S., and Germany's 'concern,' and apart from the denunciations by international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, we have seen no popular action in protest at the Egyptian judiciary's decisions, except in Turkey. In fact, the leader of the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), which is a secular party, has said: 'Political executions have not and will not bring anything good to any society; on the contrary, they inflict deep and lasting wounds on it.'
Such strong moves and statements stem from Turkey’s experience of the secular elite’s attempt to cancel out the current of political Islam. For this state, which went to extreme in excising the Islamist current and keeping it out of public life ever since the declaration of the republic, has ended up witnessing that current’s sweeping popular return as successive elections have repeatedly confirmed.
We cannot fathom what messages the Egyptian regime is seeking to send via its strict death sentences and the systematic targeting of its people – not only a specific political group. But it seems that it views force as the sole root of legitimacy.
"That is a terrible idea whose horrible cost the Egyptian people will continue to pay from their flesh, unless something happens to restore some logic to this great country," concludes the daily.
ESCALATION ON BOTH SIDES: "Escalation was both sides' choice," writes 'Abderrahman ar-Rashed in Monday's Saudi-owned pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.
The Muslim Brotherhood's leaders, who escaped the country, resorted to defiance and justifying the [ISIS inspired] killings in Sinai, issuing threats against the current Egyptian regime. For its part, Egypt’s Prosecutor General decided to file a suit against the Brotherhood's imprisoned senior leaders based on two charges, each of which is certain to invoke the death sentence: espionage and armed jailbreak.
As we wait for the Mufti's verdict and the final court session, the question remains as to whether these sentences will be carried out and whether deposed president Mohammad Mursi, the Brotherhood's General Guide Mohammad Badi'e, and the Brotherhood's strongman Khairat ash-Shater, along with a large number of senior Brotherhood figures and ministers when it was in power, are really going to be executed.
We cannot rule out the possibility that the death sentences passed against Brotherhood leaders will be carried out. [Brotherhood leader] Sayyid Qutb was executed in 1966 on similar charges, namely, that of conspiring against the state. And the current political climate is similar and could lead the senior figures sentenced to death to the gallows. Similarly, the calls for mercy and the mediations that are expected to begin after the sentences are endorsed may fall on deaf ears.
Each of the two sides is now in a state of defiance, challenging the other. The Egyptian regime feels that the Brotherhood continues to wage war against it, while Brotherhood leaders living outside Egypt want a new Sayyid Qutb whom it can use in its political battle. It is also possible that the Brotherhood is no longer able to control the statements and practices of its external leaders’ who have become hostage to foreign powers that are seeking to deepen the conflict among the Egyptians.
This is the view of one Arab Muslim Brotherhood member at least. He believes that the Brotherhood lost its real leadership when it rose then fell as part of its project to take over the Egyptian presidency, but ended up in Egyptian jail instead. When in power, the movement's leaders abandoned the caution for which they were famous; they joined the political fray and ended up as easy targets.
He also believes that the Brotherhood now is a headless organization which has allowed it to be exploited by governments that deem themselves to be at war with Egypt, and are pushing the Brotherhood into a political, military, and media confrontation with the Egyptian regime. As a result, the chances of managing the disagreements and heading towards a semblance of reconciliation or reduced judicial sentences have all but disappeared.
"No one wants to see blood in Sinai or Cairo whatever the reasons for that. But it seems that matters are now out of control, unless President 'Abdelfattah al-Sissi intervenes at the last moment and grants an amnesty, which is his constitutional right," concludes Rashed.
2-Keep out the PMU
ISIS's new expansion comes at the expense of the Iraqi parties that colluded with it last June, and the U.S. and the states that are in partnership with it in the region, more than at the expense of the [largely Shiite] PMU and its allied forces. For those being killed and displaced in Anbar Province – whether they are citizens or members of army and police – are supporters of the parties that cooperate with the U.S. and the region's states. This faces these parties with a difficult choice: Either to bring in foreign forces to confront ISIS, which is impossible for many reasons, or to lose the whole of al-Anbar, or to ask for the PMU's help, thereby consolidating its logic and policies, and reducing the U.S. and the regional governments’ influence--Hamidi al-'Abdullah in Lebanese al-Bina'
It is odd, illogical, and totally irrational for the [Sunni] people of [Anbar] to sit back and watch as if they were unconcerned about ISIS's locust-like invasion of their area, while [Shiite] strangers come to fight and die in the place of these young observers and bystanders. This is why we strongly object to the deployment of PMU forces to these areas where they may face traps and ambushes set up with the aim of killing large numbers of them via well-known deceptions and ruses that have a rich historical legacy behind them. Moreover, the plan may be to ruin the PMU forces' reputation by committing a small massacre here or there then trying to pin false charges on them, or accusing them of looting refrigerators or TV or satellite dishes, and so on--Mahdi Qassem on Iraqi www.sotaliraq.com
ISIS's capture of al-Ramadi, the capital of the largest Iraqi province is different from the organization’s advances last June, argues a commentator in pro-Syrian Beirut daily. This time round, these advances come at the expense of the very forces that colluded with ISIS last year, which will only reduce their influence in favor of those who are opposed to them. It makes no sense to deploy the largely Shiite Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) in al-Anbar to fight ISIS, when the mostly Sunni population of the province is hostile to these units and when there are sufficient numbers of Sunni youths who should be fighting to liberate their own areas, warns an Iraqi commentator. In fact, the aim behind deploying the PMU in al-Anbar could be to entrap it on hostile grounds.
NEW GAINS: "ISIS has achieved new gains in al-Anbar Province," writes Hamidi al-'Abdullah in Monday's pro-Damascus Lebanese daily al-Bina'.
It has taken control of most of Ramadi, the province's capital, including the most important government compound in what is the largest of Iraq's provinces with an area of some 150-thousand square kms along the borders with Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. ISIS's new expansion, which some Iraqis say threatens Baghdad and Karbala, is different from its previous expansion last June, 11 months ago. That expansion was the fruit of three basic factors:
- First, some civilian or military Iraqi government officials’ collusion with ISIS.
- Second, U.S. backing for this expansion in an effort to use it in order to force the Iraqis to agree to two major demands: first, toppling [former PM] Nuri al-Maliki and preventing him from returning to the premiership after he won the largest bloc in parliament; and second, securing Iraq's agreement to the revival of U.S. influence via the return of hundreds of military experts.
- Third, the backing that ISIS received from some regional governments, specifically, from Saudi Arabia and Qatar in the Arab world, and the Turkish state.
One can say that ISIS's new expansion in the Anbar Province is the fruit of its efforts alone. It is true regional backing for ISIS has not ceased. And it is also true that the U.S.-led coalition's air strikes have been much less effective than expected. But what is certain is that the gains achieved this time around were the result of ISIS leaders' deep conviction that they had to consolidate their positions in al-Anbar so as to foil any likely attack that aims to liberate the province soon – especially since the commanders of the [largely Shiite] Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) had declared that their next step would be to liberate Anbar Province, after the liberation of Tikrit.
In this sense, and as one American general has said commenting on ISIS's advances, these gains do not mean that ISIS has once again moved from the defensive to the offensive. And in this sense as well, ISIS's new gains threaten the Iraqi government's policies and the parties that refuse to ask for the PMU's help; but they pose no real threat to the existing strategic scene in Iraq.
In other words, ISIS's new expansion comes at the expense of the Iraqi parties that colluded with it last June, and the U.S. and the states that are in partnership with it in the region, more than at the expense of the PMU and its allied forces. For those being killed and displaced in Anbar Province – whether they are citizens or members of army and police – are supporters of the parties that cooperate with the U.S. and the region's states.
"This faces these parties with a difficult choice: Either to bring in foreign forces to confront ISIS, which is impossible for many reasons, or to lose the whole of al-Anbar, or to ask for the PMU's help, thereby consolidating its logic and policies, and reducing the U.S. and the regional governments’ influence," concludes 'Abdullah.
NO OBJECTION: "We fully understand it when Iraqi army units, brigades or even policemen, fight ISIS gangs in al-Anbar and elsewhere," writes Mahdi Qassem on Monday on the Iraqi www.sotaliraq.com.
There is no objection or anything strange about this, since it lies at the heart of the army and security forces' duties to fight wherever necessity, duty, and exceptional or urgent circumstances require them to do so.
But the PMU forces have nothing to do in al-Anbar, not only because they are hated and not wanted by the province's people, but also because they cannot fight in areas that are hostile to them and more sympathetic to the ISIS gangs than they are appreciative and grateful for the PMU's sacrifices, even though the latter are offering their lives to liberate their areas from the new Mongol invasion.
And this is to say nothing of the fact that these areas have thousands of young men whom we have seen in the arenas of 'honor and dignity' [anti-government protests before ISIS's takeover of Mosul in June 2014]. We saw endless lines and huge youthful gatherings. They are capable of taking up arms and fighting ISIS's gangs if they so wish or want. But they do not wish, or want, or desire to do so.
We say this because it is odd, illogical, and totally irrational for the people of the area to sit back and watch as if they were unconcerned about ISIS's locust-like invasion of their area, while strangers come to fight and die in the place of these young observers and bystanders.
This is why we strongly object to the deployment of PMU forces to these areas where they may face traps and ambushes set up with the aim of killing large numbers of them via well-known deceptions and ruses that have a rich historical legacy behind them. Moreover, the plan may be to ruin the PMU forces' reputation by committing a small massacre here or there then trying to pin false charges on them, or accusing them of looting refrigerators or TV or satellite dishes, and so on.
Of course, we realize that those who are deciding to deploy PMU forces to Anbar to fight ISIS gangs have nothing to lose, no matter how many massacres these forces may suffer – just as they had nothing to lose when the Speicher massacre [of Shiite police recruits by ISIS last June] or other massacres occurred.
"A small signal is sufficient for a wise man to understand what is going on-- as the [Arab] saying goes," concludes Qassem.
3-A necessary and tiresome ally
The Camp David summit has made it clear that while the U.S. will offer support to its allies, it will not fight the Arab Gulf states’ wars on their behalf, says Ghassan Charbel in today’s pan-Arab al-Hayat
The GCC member states have come to a better understanding of the difference between how their U.S. ally actually operates and how they may wish it to act, maintains the editor-in-chief of a Saudi-owned pan-Arab daily. The recent Camp David summit has shown them that the U.S. will back their efforts but will not fight their wars on their behalf, and that they should accumulate the cards that would allow them to build a coalition that confronts Iran’s ambitions in the region.
A GIANT POWER: "The U.S. is a giant power with very complex calculations," writes Editor-in-Chief Ghassan Charbel in Monday's Saudi-owned pan-Arab daily al-Hayat.
This is what both its enemies and friends know. Every state in the world feels that the U.S. is almost at its borders, that its shadow is present in its calculations, that it collides with the U.S. when it tries to expand its role, or that it relies on it to protect itself against the covetousness of a powerful neighbor. It is as if the world's countries seek American recognition of their roles or what resembles an American statement of good conduct. And it is no exaggeration to say that U.S. prestige has been the reason for deterring many adventures and adventurers.
For this reason, the world's countries try to build friendly relations with it. But this friendship is neither simple nor easy, especially in light of the decision-making process in Washington. Visitors have often found it strange that the master of the White House who commands the strongest army in the world cannot offer the kind of commitments that the leaders of the smallest countries can rapidly make. This is why friendship with the U.S. is subjected to persistent tests, especially as administrations change and as strong regional or international winds may blow. Friendship with this sort of strong power is both useful and costly.
The GCC member states have succeeded in ensuring that the ‘bomb’ of Iran's regional role was present at the Camp David summit. Before this summit they feared that the American side's concerns would be confined to Iran’s nuclear bomb. Their success was evident from what Barack Obama said during the summit to [Saudi] al-'Arabiyya TV station. It is true that the GCC states did not get all they wished for; but they did get what would help them deal with Iran’s policy of undermining stability from a position of strength. The summit showed that relations with the U.S. require continuous maintenance and a realistic reading of mutual interests and the winds that influence the White House's master. That is no easy task.
Over the past years, it was clear that Obama does not want any commitment that would bring the U.S. back into the heart of conflicts whose outcome it cannot decide. He does not wish to add new burdens or cause new wars. For this reason, he did not refrain from being frank with some of his visitors that the U.S. does not have a magical solution for the world's problems on its own, and that the states in the arenas of crises must not wager on an American role to do their work. In other words, Obama has presented the U.S. as a backer and guarantor, and not as a fighter and intervener.
The region's states have observed Obama's behavior in dealing with a number of files: Withdrawal from Iraq and the situation in this country after the U.S.'s departure. The Arab Spring and the hopes and pains it gave rise to, as well as Obama's attitude towards its various manifestations. The Syrian ‘Spring’ episode that witnessed a popular uprising that was later transformed into a civil war and a regional and international duel distinguished by the wholesale violation of Syrian territories by foreign fighters on both sides of the confrontation. Iran’s role in the region and the fears it gives rise to in the GCC. And it is no exaggeration to say that the GCC states concluded that it was their right to be concerned because of Obama's unguaranteed wager on bringing about a change in Iran’s behavior and because of his pursuit of an uncertain policy that they deem to be contributing to prolonging the Syrian tragedy.
After Camp David, the GCC states have a realistic picture of what the U.S. ally is prepared to do and its role in the coming phase. The largest burden falls on the shoulders of the GCC states to produce policies that will serve their interests and are consistent with American calculations. The main battle is over the region and the limits of the various players' roles there. This includes Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and other arenas. The Gulf states must act together and develop the largest possible regional weight to set limits to the Iranian role. They must establish a balance of deterrence that allows a search for a new regional order.
The Camp David summit was an important station. The more difficult phase starts now. Has Iran conceded on its nuclear bomb so as to secure the ‘bomb’ of a regional role? And how should the GCC states respond? And what is Egypt's position and Turkey's role in this? Is it possible to create a regional framework that forces Iran to reconsider its offensive that has contributed to undermining some of the region's maps, which were anyway lost between Tehran’s appetite and ISIS's avarice?
"In collecting the cards that will provide influence, it is inevitable to turn to a necessary and tiresome ally that goes by the name 'U.S.,' especially when its president's name is Barack Obama," concludes Charbel.
4-Determining Yemen’s future in Riyadh
Today’s conference for ‘Saving Yemen and Building a Federal State’ that begins in Riyadh will set the agenda for Yemen’s reconstruction as a sovereign federal state free from outside interference, says today’s Qatari Asharq
The Riyadh conference that brings together the Yemeni parties that support the Saudi-led coalition begins its proceedings today (Monday) with the aim of laying the foundations for and independent and sovereign federal state that is safe from foreign schemes and interventions, claims the editorial in a Qatari daily.
STRONG ATTENDANCE: "The Conference for ‘Saving Yemen and Building a Federal State’ began in Riyadh yesterday with a strong attendance of representatives from south Yemen and the participation of senior figures from deposed president Ali 'Abdullah Saleh's party," notes the editorial in Monday's Qatari daily Asharq.
This confirms the conference's importance and the fact that it is representative of a broad Yemeni spectrum that thirsts for the return of legitimacy to the capital Sana'a as embodied by President 'Abed-Rabbo Mansour Hadi, and where he can exercise his powers and exert efforts to restore security and stability to this brotherly country. He will be backed in this by Operation Restore Hope launched by the [Saudi-led] Arab coalition after Operation Decisive Storm.
The Riyadh meeting is no ordinary conference. It is an exceptional political achievement for Saudi Arabia and the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) member states that have responded to the call of legitimacy in Yemen and President Hadi's call to hold this conference. It brings together over 400 patriotic, political, and party-political Yemen figures that wield great influence amongst the various sectors of the Yemeni people. It will be crowned with success and produce the results expected from it, backing the march to peace in Yemen, as well as dialogue based on constitutional legitimacy, and an accord that aims to complete the national dialogue based on the  Gulf Initiative that is also backed by the international community as evident from UNSCR 2216. Furthermore, this conference represents a historical opportunity for all Yemeni parties and forces to determine their country's future and achieve its security, stability, and sovereignty without any external pressure or intervention.
Based on a quick review of its agenda, it is clear that it will be discussing a constructive and positive roadmap that will ensure Yemen's future. It addresses three major issues: The political file and the implementation of the Security Council's resolutions; the economic file that concerns reconstruction of the damaged areas; and the security file that concerns the means of creating a national Yemeni army that is not loyal to any specific figure or group.
The conference also aims to work towards a draft constitution for the country that can be presented to the Yemeni people with the aim of holding a referendum on the outcome of the national dialogue.
"In this way, the conference lays the grounds for an independent and united republic that is safe from foreign schemes and interventions," concludes the daily.
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