MIDEAST MIRROR 12.06.15, SECTION B (THE ARAB WORLD)
2-End of an era
The success of the 'international' dialogue in Geneva will not only save Yemen; it will also save the GCC states. After all, the continued instability in Yemen and the expansion of the war there pose the greatest threat to the GCC states. The advanced F-16s and F-15s in the Gulf coalition states’ possession have failed to determine the result of the war or force the Houthis and their allies to raise the white flag of surrender, despite over 3000 air raids over a period of 75 days; nor have they succeeded in preventing Katyusha rockets from being fired [from Yemen into Saudi Arabia] or the introduction of Scud missiles into the game. Let the Yemenis talk to each other. The Geneva conference is set to begin without preconditions. And it is always useful to remember that the Yemenis have proven their great ability to talk to each other in a civilized manner, reaching agreements that lead to national reconciliation and gradual stability--pan-Arab www.raialyoum.com
What no one is saying so far is that the Geneva meeting is taking place primarily because of U.S. pressure. For it seems that Washington is in dire need of ending the fighting in this region for numerous reasons, including the fear that it could develop into a large-scale border war between Saudi Arabia and the Houthis—backed by Iran. Second, Washington is seeking calm in this region so that it can proceed with its nuclear agreement with Iran till the end. It is clear that American pressure will be translated into cards for the Houthis and Saleh's followers to be used at the negotiating table and that this cannot provide a solution that is acceptable in Yemeni and regional terms--Bashir al-Bakr on pan-Arab www.alaraby.co.uk
If the [Houthi] putschists were to think rationally, they would realize that the proper option for them is to work for Yemen, not for Iran. It is the Yemenis in all their constituent parts with whom they will have to cohabit. And no matter how hard it may try, Iran will remain alien to Yemen and its people; a people who will never easily surrender to Tehran's politicians’ dreams of reviving the glories of the Persian Empire. Negotiations for Yemen's salvation are around the corner. But the putschists' behavior does not suggest that they are serious about negotiating peace. They must prove otherwise, for this is not a game and what is at stake is the fate of a nation and its future. If they are unwilling to serve Yemen's interest, their only options are either to surrender and accept the return of legitimacy, or to prepare to confront what they are unable to resist--Saudi al-Watan
The Yemeni dialogue that is planned to begin in Geneva in a few days' time will not only save Yemen if it succeeds; it will also save the Gulf states, and Saudi Arabia in particular, from the predicament they find themselves in, maintains the editorial in an online pan-Arab daily. But the signs are that the Gulf states have yet to learn the lesson of their failure in Yemen. It is evident that the Geneva conference is taking place as a result of U.S. pressures that are providing the Houthis and their allies with cards they can use at the negotiations table, argues a commentator on a Qatari-owned pan-Arab website. But this means that the prospects for an agreement in Geneva are dim. Amid reports of border incursions into Saudi Arabia by their militias, the Houthis should realize that they are not powerful enough to confront Saudi wrath, warns the editorial in a Saudi daily. They are clearly being egged on by Iran, which suggests that the Houthis are not serious about the Geneva dialogue.
MAIN ITEM ON THE AGENDA: "The Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC’s) foreign ministers have concluded a ministerial meeting in the Saudi capital, Riyadh," writes Friday's editorial on the pan-Arab www.raialyoum.com.
The main item on the agenda was the situation in Yemen, as well as developments in the Syrian crisis. But the conferees did not forget the Palestinian cause and the peace process; so they mentioned it in passing merely out of 'politeness'.
Stressing peaceful political solutions was the most evident common denominator in the political statement issued at the end of the meeting. But military solutions are still being sought, even if such a solution is still facing a stalemate and is yielding negative results in Yemen. In Syria, by contrast, there has been progress towards a military solution. Syrian opposition forces, backed by the Turkish/Saudi/Qatari triad and as represented by [the Islamist] Jayshul Fateh, Nusra Front, and Ahrar ash-Sham have succeeded in capturing the headquarters of the regular Syrian Army's 52nd Brigade which is considered to be one of the largest military bases in southern Syria.
At a press conference at the end of the meeting, Qatari Foreign Minister Mr. Khalid Al-Attiyah, who headed the meeting, said that the [Saudi-led] Operation Restore Hope coalition would not stop until the relevant UN Security Council resolutions were implemented, including UNSCR 2216. He added that 'the GCC can and will continue to protect its interests.'
It was noticeable that Mr. Al-Attiyah did not use the [military] title Operation Decisive Storm, replacing it with [humanitarian] Operation Restore Hope instead. But he did not tell us how the coalition will maintain course and on what grounds now that the rules of the game in the Yemeni crisis have changed, turning it into a purely Saudi/Yemeni affair as evident from the escalating bloody war raging along the two countries' mutual borders.
The GCC statement (some of whose wordings appeared at the aforementioned press conference) and its strong escalatory tone, comes only three days before the first session of the Yemeni dialogue in which the majority of parties to the conflict are participating under the UN's umbrella.
It is the GCC's right to defend its strategic interests, of course. But it must define these interests precisely, especially with regard to the Yemeni and Syrian files. For the statement’s threatening tone may have a negative impact on the Geneva dialogue, even before it begins. It casts doubt on its results, because it sides with one camp against another.
Mr. Al-Attiyah has stressed that the coalition that aims to restore 'legitimacy' to Yemen has not been dissolved, and that it will remain in action until the UN resolutions are implemented, especially UNSCR 2216 based on Chapter VII of the UN Charter. But the facts on the ground point in a different direction. Most of the Gulf and Arab warplanes that took part in Operation Decisive Storm have returned silently to their bases; and this includes the two Moroccan and Sudanese planes. This is because the crisis has developed into a purely Yemeni Saudi war – or, rather, one between the Houthi/Saleh coalition and the Saudi armed forces. The role of non-Saudi warplanes has become very limited, if not pointless.
The hope was that the GCC would offer its strong support to the international Yemeni dialogue conference that will begin in Geneva on Monday and provide it with all the factors necessary to guarantee its success. This could have been done by adopting a more flexible, moderate and rational position and by steering away from issuing threats.
However, it seems that these ministers cannot see what is happening on the ground, almost three months after Decisive Storm was launched. Or, if they do, they have not studied the situation well enough to derive the appropriate lessons and morals, which would produce a serious review of their current policies. After all, their ineffectiveness has been demonstrated in the field, so far at least.
The escalatory tone, the threat to use force to impose political solutions, and the insistence on the policies of exclusion and marginalization of major political and military parties to the crisis, such as the Houthi Current and the General People's Congress headed by former president Ali 'Abdullah Saleh have all driven the U.S. to bypass and thwart the Gulf states, and to initiate a dialogue with the Houthis in Muscat. This is exactly what it did when it negotiated with the Iranians over their nuclear program behind Saudi Arabia's back.
The success of the 'international' dialogue in Geneva will not only save Yemen; it will also save the GCC states. After all, the continued instability in Yemen and the expansion of the war there pose the greatest threat to the GCC states. The advanced F-16s and F-15s in the Gulf coalition states’ possession have failed to determine the result of the war or force the Houthis and their allies to raise the white flag of surrender, despite over 3000 air raids over a period of 75 days; nor have they succeeded in preventing Katyusha rockets from being fired [from Yemen into Saudi Arabia] or the introduction of Scud missiles into the game.
Let the Yemenis talk to each other. The Geneva conference is set to begin without preconditions. And it is always useful to remember that the Yemenis have proven their great ability to talk to each other in a civilized manner, reaching agreements that lead to national reconciliation and gradual stability.
"But the policy of 'impetuousness,' 'breaking heads,' and personal vendettas is based on an entirely different point of view" concludes the editorial.
UNDER THE UN UMBRELLA: "The Yemenis will meet in Geneva in a couple of days’ time under the UN umbrella after months of fighting and destruction, and amidst doubts about the meeting's precise agenda and an intense conflict between the positions of the parties that will sit at the negotiating table," writes Bashir al-Bakr on Friday on the Qatari-owned pan-Arab www.alaraby.co.uk.
In principle, there are two main parties: Yemeni legitimacy, as represented by President 'Abed-Rabbo Mansour Hadi, and the party that turned against it, consisting of the Houthis and the followers of deposed president Ali 'Abdullah Saleh. But other Yemeni, Arab, and foreign parties will also attend, and the Yemeni parties will include senior figures and major elements that have their weight in the crisis; but they will be divided between the two main sides to the conflict.
The main features of the Geneva process have not been clearly drawn and the UN is primarily responsible for this because it has not adopted a specific agenda for which it has secured prior agreement between the two parties that are separated by a deep abyss. As a result, the UN's position has appeared somewhat confused ever since it took the initiative to call for the conference and set May 28th as its initial date.
In fact, this confusion was already evident the text of the invitation that called for 'talks,' suggesting that the meeting's agenda would be open, and that each side would be free to determine the starting point it finds most appropriate. It also suggested that the UN's main concern was to ensure that the meeting takes place, because it is wagering on the possibility of convincing the two sides to find common denominators that would allow them to turn the dialogue into a solution.
But the first signs indicate that the two sides to the crisis are unlikely to agree on an agenda. The Houthis and Saleh's representatives have decided to head for Geneva, saying that they have agreed to take part without any pre- conditions. On the other hand, the side representing legitimacy has said that the Geneva meeting is not for negotiations, but for reaching an UN-sponsored agreement on the mechanisms for implementing UNSCR 2216, which essentially calls for recovering the state from the Houthis.
When the Houthis say that they oppose any prior conditions for the dialogue in Geneva, what they primarily mean is that the dialogue must begin from the point when Sana'a was stormed [by the Houthi coalition] last September 21st , which resulted in the Peace and Partnership Agreement sponsored by former UN envoy Jamal Benomar. In all their positions, they deem this agreement to be final and nonnegotiable.
The issue that concerns the Houthis more than anything else is the war and the damage it is causing. The leaks from their talks in Muscat with the Americans suggest that they are demanding vast financial compensation reaching some 200 billion dollars in order to agree to a ceasefire and withdraw from specific areas in the south, while preserving their right to intervene again if necessary.
When the Houthis and Saleh entrench themselves behind such demands, they are basing themselves on the fact that they possess two important cards: First, the situation on the ground and their military control of positions in the major cities, especially Sana'a, Aden and Taiz. Second, the understanding with the U.S. that was reached via Iranian participation in Muscat, and one of whose major points is to combat al-Qa'ida.
But what no one is saying so far is that the Geneva meeting is taking place primarily because of U.S. pressure. For it seems that Washington is in dire need of ending the fighting in this region for numerous reasons, including the fear that it could develop into a large-scale border war between Saudi Arabia and the Houthis—backed by Iran. Second, Washington is seeking calm in this region so that it can proceed with its nuclear agreement with Iran till the end.
"It is clear that American pressure will be translated into cards for the Houthis and Saleh's followers to be used at the negotiating table and that this cannot provide a solution that is acceptable in Yemeni and regional terms," concludes Bakr.
DIRE CONSEQUENCES: "Whatever their aims and schemes, the fact that the [Houthi/Saleh] putschists in Yemen have moved towards the borders with the Kingdom will have dire consequences for them," writes the editorial in Friday's Saudi daily al-Watan.
It seems that they have not or do not wish to understand the message affirmed by the leadership of the Arab coalition, namely, that 'Saudi borders are no-go zones,' and that Saudi forces are 'ready to deter any threat from across the borders in Yemen.'
The Houthi putschists and the supporters of the deposed Saleh have tried to draw near the Kingdom's borders before; and they received the punishment they deserve. If they were to repeat the same thing despite the warnings, Saudi forces will be waiting for them. This is what happened a couple of days ago when our forces destroyed a Houthi armored vehicle when it tried to approach Dhahran al-Janoub. This is also what happened yesterday when the militias tried to approach the border area in Jizan. The Saudi forces besieged them.
They are either deluded that they can pursue the confrontation and wage major battles in the belief that outside aid will come to their rescue and enable them to hold their ground; or there are those who – in the hope of achieving part of their agenda – are drawing up plans for them and sending them into the fray with little concern for their loss of life and equipment; or they are suffering from such confusion that they are rushing to take actions that are akin to suicide without calculating the consequences and are merely implementing the scenario that has been written for them.
Tehran's fingerprints on the putschists are clearly visible in all the above cases. They [the Houthis] have said they wish to take part in the Geneva conference, but if they are planning to head there bearing an Iranian agenda, they will only succeed in making proposals that will be totally rejected. For Iran’s games have now been exposed, and the putschists' submission to Tehran is now clear to all and sundry.
If the putschists were to think rationally, they would realize that the proper option for them is to work for Yemen, not for Iran. It is the Yemenis in all their constituent parts with whom they will have to cohabit. And no matter how hard it may try, Iran will remain alien to Yemen and its people; a people who will never easily surrender to Tehran's politicians’ dreams of reviving the glories of the Persian Empire.
Negotiations for Yemen's salvation are around the corner. But the putschists' behavior does not suggest that they are serious about negotiating peace. They must prove otherwise, for this is not a game and what is at stake is the fate of a nation and its future.
"If they are unwilling to serve Yemen's interest, their only options are either to surrender and accept the return of legitimacy, or to prepare to confront what they are unable to resist," concludes the daily.
2-End of an era
While it may seem to be an exaggeration, the weekend vote in Turkey marks the inevitable end of President Erdogan and the ruling AKP’s era, says Mohammad Noureddin in today's Emirates’ al-Khaleej
Although it may appear to be an exaggeration, the results of the Turkish elections indicate the effective end of the era of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, argues a Lebanese commentator on Turkish affairs. The signs have been there over the past three years, and all that remains is to complete the dismantlement of the AKP edifice within the Turkish state.
OBJECTIVE ANALYSIS: "Last Sunday’s Turkish elections ended the AKP era," writes Mohammad Noureddin in Friday's UAE daily al-Khaleej.
Some may see this as an exaggeration; but an objective analysis leads us to this conclusion.
Ever since the Gezi Park Uprising broke out in June 2013, we have been saying that the countdown to the end of the AKP, and more specifically, to that of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has begun. After the [December 2014] corruption scandal exploded, the noose tightened around his neck. It is true that he subsequently won both the municipal and presidential elections; but momentous changes are not measured by incidental developments and do not occur with a simple press of a button.
The fact that civil society rose up in Gezi against Erdogan for the first time two years ago, and that Erdogan responded by repressing the uprising and accusing those involved of implementing a foreign conspiracy, was one turning point. The fact that the corruption scandal exploded and that Erdogan rushed to end his partnership with Fethullah Gulen, his strongest ally outside the AKP, was another turning point. The fact that Erdogan banished his partner and companion [former president] Abdullah Gul from the AKP, represented yet another a turning point. The fact that Erdogan dismissed all the AKP's senior leadership on the pretext that they were not allowed to run three successive times for parliament was another such turning point. The only thing left of the AKP was Erdogan who wanted last Sunday's elections in order to reduce the party, the state and Turkey itself to his own person.
Then came the June 7th parliamentary elections and the protest against Erdogan's policies peaked. The various turning points have come together and produced an earthquake. 60% of Turks voted against Erdogan and his party and against them remaining in power. But the electoral turning point was no mere station on the path to ending the AKP and Erdogan era; it represented its actual end. Erdogan may remain as president of the republic and complete the remaining part of his term, which is four more years. And the AKP may remain as partner in a coalition government. But both are on a certain path towards their inevitable end.
The party now is no longer what it was 13 years ago; it is not even what it was four years ago. 20% of its electoral bloc has decided to abandon it. This is no passing moment or coincidence; it is a structural adjustment to the AKP's body. To lose such a large proportion of their base after 13 years of successive victories means that they are on their way to inevitable breakdown. In this regard, the AKP's path is very similar to that of the [Islamist] Motherland Party that monopolized power throughout the 1980s! In the latter case, Turgot Ozal's desire to become president in 1989 lead to his party's defeat in 1991, forced him out of power, and led to his party's total disintegration ten years later.
Erdogan left the AKP last year to become president. His lust for power led him to try and change the entire political system in order to satisfy his own person alone. But he received the knockdown blow and a slap to his and his party's face instead. And just as the Motherland Party disintegrated, nothing can stop the disintegration of the AKP even if the process were to take a decade. So the end is already here, but it may need some time before it is complete.
The opportunity now exists to change the power structure radically and totally cleanse it of the 'deep state' set up by the AKP, which has confiscated the judiciary's independence, repressed liberties, and elicited major security and economic threats as a result of Erdogan's policies that have sought to impose his sole hegemony over the Middle East. One of the most important manifestations of these policies was his unjustified agitation against Egypt after the Muslim Brotherhood's rule was toppled there. But the only reason for this was the fact that his [regional] design had received a very heavy blow as a result of the change in Egypt.
There is no good reason why the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood should collapse in Egypt, and later in Tunisia, while it remains in place at the Sublime Porte in Turkey. And just as the path to the AKP's extinction is inevitable, it was inevitable that the blows to the bases of the Muslim Brotherhood’s movement would not stop at the borders of Egypt, Tunisia, and the Gulf states. Dismantling this edifice can only be completed by reaching Istanbul. It was inevitable that the Sublime Porte would be defeated and for its protective awning to collapse on everyone’s head.
Turkey voted against one-man rule, against the abolition of democracy, against corruption, against trading in religion, against the policies of denying the identities of others, and against the Ottoman project in the region.
"The Turkish nation lived up to the good things expected of it. What is now needed is to finish the job of bringing down this edifice that threatened the balance in Turkey and stability in the entire region," concludes Noureddin.
The 'Arabs' have replaced their enemy, Israel, who occupies the territories of three of their states, with an illusory enemy fabricated by their imagination: For one side, this is Iran, and for the other, it is Turkey, says, Mohammad Yaghi in today's Palestinian al-Ayyam
It is ironic for the Arabs to be divided between two camps; one that sides with Turkey and the other with Iran, when these two states have maintained excellent economic relations with each other and continue to cooperate where their interests require this, notes a Palestinian commentator. Meanwhile, Israel is the supreme victor, and the Arabs are fighting other powers' battles on their behalf on Arab soil.
DEEP SPLIT: "What attracted my attention most during the past week was the deep split in the Arab world between Turkey's supporters and Iran's supporters," writes Mohammad Yaghi in Friday's leading Palestinian daily al-Ayyam.
Iran's allies shout at the top of their voice on the social media: Here is the Turkish nation saying 'No' to Erdogan and voting in favor of his Kurdish opponents instead. This is met by competing screams from Turkey's supporters: At least Erdogan does not forge elections as the ayatollahs in Iran do; he accepts his people's will.
This miserable dispute between infighting 'Arabs' goes on, as if one side lived under Turkey's rule, and the other under Iran's.
When the Arab peoples rose from their deep slumber at the end of 2010, many of us believed that the revolutions had broken out because the terrible conditions in the Arab world had reached a peak. But the events that occurred after these revolutions showed us that there is no bottom to this pit: Every time one thinks that we have reached rock bottom, we seem to wake up to a deeper abyss.
The 'Arabs' continue to fight among each other over things over which they have no influence. They fight over issues that do not affect their interests: They seem unconcerned about how Turkey has turned from a country in debt, to one that offers loans; from a country run by the military, into a state where the people chooses its leaders; from a state allied with their enemy, Israel, into one at loggerheads with it. But the only thing that concerns these 'Arabs' is the fact that Erdogan and his party support the Muslim Brotherhood.
Nor are the 'Arabs' interested in understanding how Iran has stood its ground in the face of an economic siege that has been imposed on it since 1978 up till now. They are not concerned about how it has become a regional power that the West is trying to contain and appease. They are not interested in its support for Hamas and Hizbollah or its hostility towards Israel. All they see in Iran is the help it extends to the Arab 'Shiites.'
In 1977, Israel was at the height of its power: Egypt had turned from an enemy into a friend; Iran was supplying it with oil; Israeli warplanes were carrying out training exercises over Turkish territories. In 1978, Iran turned into Israel's greatest enemy. Turkey gradually followed suit, and more clearly after the Mavi Marmara [Gaza] incident in 2010. And in 2011, Israel's 'strategic asset' [Mubarak] in Egypt fell.
Logic dictates that in such a situation, Israel should be at its worst, after losing its three most important allies in the region. But the truth is the exact opposite. The occupation state today is living its most glorious moments.
Iran and Turkey did not change; it is the 'Arabs' who have changed!
In less than a year, the 'Arabs' replaced their enemy, who occupies the territories of three of their states, with an illusory enemy fabricated by their imagination: For one side, this was Iran, and for the other it was Turkey. But what the 'Arabs' do not know is that while they are 'committing suicide' for the sake of Iran and Turkey, both states are rapidly developing their mutual economic relations, setting aside their disagreement over Syria.
In April 2014, the two countries signed an agreement raising the size of their annual trade from 15-billion dollars to 30-billion dollars. And they agreed on plans to establish tens of free economic zones between them. In 2015, the two countries agreed to reduce the customs tax between them in order to encourage mutual trade.
Economic relations between Turkey and Iran are old and precede the AKP coming to power in 2002. Perhaps the most important example was the 1996 20-billion dollars gas deal, which also included building a 1600 miles long pipeline to carry gas from Tabriz to Ankara, which has been completed and been operational since 2001.
Erdogan's party continued to develop economic relations between the two countries. [Current Turkish PM] Davutoglu, who was Turkey's foreign minister in 2011-2012, was lecturing Assad and offering him his 'advice,' threatening the regime with dire consequences if it failed to listen to him. Meanwhile, the Turkish Foreign Ministry was signing an agreement with Iran regarding the development of its oil fields and the Turkish Parliament was ratifying a cooperation agreement between the two countries in field of health.
What the 'Arabs' who are fighting each other in the name of Turkey and Iran do not realize is the true extent of trade exchange between the two countries and that it continues to grow each year. 6.5% of Turkey's exports in 2013 were to Iranian markets, while 12% of Iran's exports went to Turkey the same year.
Turkey is not even in agreement with the Arab 'opposition' to Iran’s nuclear program. Turkey has not issued a single statement regarding this program. For example, Turkey has rejected Western pressures to sever its economic ties with Iran because of its nuclear program, and has only implemented the sanctions against Iran that were ratified by the UN Security Council.
And, Turkey did not say – as did some 'Arabs' – that ‘a rational enemy like Israel is closer to us than an ignorant enemy like Iran’. This is because Turkey and Iran are patriotic states. They distinguish between their competition to uphold their interests in the Arab world, and their economic relations that serve them both.
Turkey does not mind allying itself with the Gulf states on the Syrian issue as long as that also strengthens its trade exchanges with them, and as long as this may produce a regime in Syria that is closer to it than the current regime that relies on Iran. But Iran does not feel that this is sufficient reason to be hostile to Turkey. At the end of the day, the war is not raging on Turkish or Iranian territories, but on Arab lands.
When will the Arabs realize that Iran and Turkey's influence in the region stems from the fact there are no states in the Arab world that defend their nations' interests and deal with their citizens equally, regardless of their ethnic or confessional origins?
"When will the Arabs stop fighting others' battles on their own lands?" asks Yaghi in conclusion.
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