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MIDEAST MIRROR 11.06.15, SECTION B (THE ARAB WORLD)

 

1-‘Democracy storm’

2-No room for arrogance

3-How not to wage war

 

1-‘Democracy storm’

 

The tripartite Qatari/Saudi/Turkish alliance, which has failed to topple the Syrian regime, failed in its support for the moderate Islamists in Libya, and failed to contain the expansion of Iranian influence in the region, will be among the leading victims of Turkey’s 'democracy storm'... The 'Erdogan model,' which performed the miracle of affecting a marriage between Islam and democracy against the background of unprecedented economic growth (7% per annum), is drawing close to its end. There is one basic reason for this, namely, that the main engine behind this project – the 'zero problems' policy with Turkey's neighbors – was dropped, totally undermined, in fact, leaving Turkey surrounded by few friends and many enemies--'Abdelbari 'Atwan on pan-Arab www.raialyoum.com

 

Any reduction in [Turkish] support offered to the terrorist groups or in opening the borders to these groups should have a positive effect on the balance of power on the ground in favor of the Syrian state and army. This is especially true at the current delicate juncture when preparations have been underway to escalate the terrorist organizations' assault on various fronts in Syria. The AKP's priority today, is to focus on the domestic situation even if it fails to review its policy and draw the proper lessons and morals from its electoral defeat. And all this assumes that it will maintain its unity while there are those who expect it to suffer from internal splits. The party's ability to deliver aid to the terrorist groups by forcing the state’s institutions to do so has also been weakened. And this will have a major impact on what is happening in Syria and Iraq--Hamidi al-'Abdullah in Lebanese al-Bina'

 

One of the most important facts confirmed by the recent Turkish elections is that 'democracy' is the most effective cure for all outstanding problems and that resolving these problems via 'ink-stained fingers' [after casting votes] is a thousand times better than resolving them with our teeth. And another important fact confirmed by these elections is that there is no room left today for describing Turkey's Kurds as 'mountain Turks.' Moreover, this Kurdish nation should assume the place it deserves in this region, just like the Arab nation, the Turkish nation, and the Iranian or Persian nation. For there is no difference between any of these nations--Saleh al-Qallab in Jordanian al-Ra'i

 

The main reason Turkish President Erdogan has failed to implement his overall project of a marriage between Islam and democracy against a background sustained economic growth is because he veered away from his initial policy of 'zero problems' with the country’s neighbors, maintains the editor-in-chief of a pan-Arab online daily. The electoral setback suffered by Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is sure to affect the country’s foreign policies, especially the aid and facilities it has been providing to terrorist groups in Syria, anticipates a Lebanese commentator in a pro-Damascus Beirut daily. One of the most important facts confirmed by the recent Turkish elections is that the Kurds can no longer be ignored and that it is time for their national identity to be recognized when drawing the region's new maps, asserts a former Jordanian information minister.

 

ERDOGAN’S DISAPPEARING IMAGES: "The images of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have disappeared from the front pages of newspapers and Turkish news bulletins, at least for the past three days," writes Editor-in-Chief 'Abdelbari 'Atwan on Thursday's pan-Arab www.raialyoum.com.

Turkey seems both divided and in a state of shock. The split is clear between Erdogan's supporters, who have held undisputed power for 13 years, and his opponents who came together and succeeded in blocking his momentum and clipping some of his political and popular wings. As for the shock, it stems from concern across the country as to what may happen in the future, and the fear of instability and anarchy.

President Erdogan, who had become addicted to victory over a period of two decades whether as head of Istanbul's Municipal Council or as leader of the ruling AKP (Justice and Development Party) was not defeated in last weekend’s parliamentary elections. But the fact that his party won around 40% of parliamentary seats was no victory compared to previous elections, all of which he won with a large majority. The fact that he did not secure a parliamentary majority in the face of an opposition that comes from almost the same shade of the spectrum and all of which is united against him and has put toppling him at the top of its list of priorities, amounts to a major defeat.

The majority of opposition parties – or, more accurately, the three main parties: the People's Republican Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), and the Peoples' Democratic Party [HDP] – have all stressed that they will not join a coalition government with Erdogan and his party. These three parties now control 60% of parliament seats between them, which enables them to form a coalition that can win a vote of confidence. Therefore, Erdogan has only two options: Either to become an honorary president with no power, and to deal with a prime minister from the opposition; or to call for new parliamentary elections.

Everyone you meet in Istanbul tells you that democracy has been the main winner in these elections. People compete in recounting what they view as Erdogan’s mistakes over the past three years. On the other hand, his supporters speak bitterly of a 'conspiracy' against Islam and Turkey led by the same powers accused of a conspiracy by their leader's enemy, Bashar al-Assad. For when you ask them who these conspirators are, they very confidently respond: Israel, the U.S., and France.

It is true that democracy has won in Turkey. When the turnout stands at a high and unprecedented 86% that reflects the extent of democratic political awareness. It also reflects a desire for change, whether we agree with it or not. But the second main winner is the Kurdish HDP, which has brought all shades of the political spectrum together in opposition to the AKP's hegemony – women, leftist intellectuals, environmental activists, and liberals. For this party, which has turned Turkish political life upside down, has raised the slogan of 'cohabitation,' which has been absent, or been forcefully absented, in recent years.

President Erdogan committed a series of mistakes. They began with his attempt to change a prime ministerial system of parliamentary government that has lasted for one hundred years, into an American-style presidential system that places most powers in the president's hands. He also chose a weak prime minister (Ahmet Davutoglu) based on his personal loyalty even before his party political loyalty. And he accused his opponents of atheism, homosexuality, terrorism, and treason; brandishing the Qur'an at the peak of the elections, and using religion to pursue political aims, most importantly, to remain in power while accusing others of apostasy.

By the normal measure of countries other than Turkey, one could say that President Erdogan is still strong. He has planted his supporters and loyalists in the critical stations of the state over a period of 13 years; and will remain president till 2019. But his power remains merely formal. The man has grown accustomed to be sole ruler. Through his party, he controls the four main powers – parliamentary, presidential, executive and judicial. But he q2r`DSWfailed to impose full control over the fifth power, the media, which has played a major role in undermining the basis of his rule by exposing corruption and his weapons’ smuggling to jihadi groups in Syria, as well as the [summer 2013] suppression of protests by environmental activists in Taksim Square.

Turkey today faces an uncertain future. The countdown to the end of the Erdogan phenomenon has begun. It also faces three main challenges: First, that of the Islamic State (ISIS), which now lies at its borders. Second, the two million Syrian refugees, whose numbers continue to rise, and third, an economy characterized by depression and slow growth.

At the AKP conference in 2012, which was the last held with Erdogan as the party’s head according to its bylaws, the most prominent foreign invitees were then Egyptian president Mohammad Mursi and Hamas Politburo Head Khalid Mish'al. Mish'al in particular received a standing ovation when he delivered his speech before over five thousand people crowding the basketball pitch where the conference was held.

Mursi now is behind bars after he was toppled by a military coup, and is facing the death sentence. As for Mr. Mish'al, he currently resides in the Qatari capital, Doha, close to withdrawal from public life after most Arab doors have been slammed shut in his face.

At that same conference, to which I was invited, Erdogan delivered a momentous speech in which he enumerated the names of all Ottoman caliphs, one after the other, amidst wide applause. Perhaps he was optimistic that he would be one of them; but the results of the latest elections appear to have put paid to that dream, at least for the foreseeable future.

Erdogan's Islamist project has faced a major setback, and at an inopportune moment. This project was initially based on legitimate Arab popular revolutions that would bring moderate political Islam (the Muslim Brotherhood) to power via the ballot box. Many people believe that one of Erdogan's biggest mistakes was his failure to assess the size and power of the opposing camp correctly, as well as his failure to create the grounds for cohabitation with the other shades of the political spectrum, specifically the non-Islamist ones. He relied on confessional sectarianism as a means of attracting supporters, and as the foundation for this project instead.

The shakeup suffered by President Erdogan's center of power will cause headaches for his Islamist allies, especially in Syria, Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia. It may cause them a great shock that never crossed their leaders’ minds. There is no doubt that Hamas will be among those harmed most, at least temporarily, because President Erdogan was one of its most prominent backers, if not its only one. He fought to break the siege imposed on it and the Gaza Strip, the movement's sole base of government.

The tripartite Qatari/Saudi/Turkish alliance, which has failed to topple the Syrian regime, failed in its support for the moderate Islamists in Libya, and failed to contain the expansion of Iranian influence in the region, will be among the leading victims of Turkey’s 'democracy storm.' The satisfaction reflected in Damascus and President Sissi's media and in the statements of Iraqi officials, perhaps best summarizes the extent of the predicament that this alliance may face in the coming days and months.

The 'Erdogan model,' which performed the miracle of affecting a marriage between Islam and democracy against the background of unprecedented economic growth (7% per annum), is drawing close to its end.

"There is one basic reason for this, namely, that the main engine behind this project – the 'zero problems' policy with Turkey's neighbors – was dropped, totally undermined in fact, leaving Turkey surrounded by few friends and many enemies," concludes 'Atwan.

End…

 

EVERYONE KNOWS: "Everyone knows that the AKP's Turkey has been playing a major role in the war on Syria, whether by opening its borders to foreign terrorists, or by supplying them with arms, or by hosting a joint international/regional operations room that directs and leads the terrorist war on Syria," writes Hamidi al-'Abdullah in Thursday's pro-Damascus Lebanese daily al-Bina'.

Moreover, Turkey has played a major role in foiling any political solution for the Syrian crisis, obstructing all attempts to seek a political resolution that would spare the Syrians' blood and end their country’s destruction.

The results of the Turkish elections will undoubtedly have a major influence on the course of events on the ground. This is especially true at this point in time, when the international and regional [anti-regime] wager is on Turkey's role in the current escalation in Idlib Province, and the preparations for a similar escalation in the Aleppo Province.

The elections’ results have delivered a strong blow to such schemes, regardless of how the situation will develop in Turkey. For the AKP is now under strict surveillance by all three opposition parties, all of which oppose Erdogan's policy in Syria, specifically his support for the terrorist organizations, whether those internationally classified as terrorist or moderate.

Moreover, the Turkish state's security and military agencies have always had their reservations about the AKP governments' policies in Syria, exerting a great effort to obstruct them. In fact, they were hounded as a punishment for their stance. But it is now no longer possible to proceed with these same policies towards the police or with the arrest of a large number of the policemen under various excuses. For there is no legitimate government or authority to provide cover for these sorts of actions by the AKP government, even if covert and covered by a thick cloud of statements from AKP leaders and government members claiming a foreign conspiracy. The charge that the AKP government was sending weapons to Syria was dismissed as part of this conspiracy.

By remaining in power for over 13 years, the AKP may have succeeded in infiltrating Turkey’s military and security agencies to a large degree. And the party may still be able exploit its supporters in these agencies to continue to provide the aid it offers to terrorist groups in Syria. But this will not be as open, bold and extensive as it has been in the past when the AKP was in power alone.

Any reduction in the support offered to the terrorist groups or in opening the borders to these groups should have a positive effect on the balance of power on the ground in favor of the Syrian state and army. This is especially true at the current delicate juncture when preparations have been underway to escalate the terrorist organizations' assault on various fronts in Syria.

The AKP's priority today, is to focus on the domestic situation even if it fails to review its policy and draw the proper lessons and morals from its electoral defeat. And all this assumes that it will maintain its unity while there are those who expect it to suffer from internal splits.

The party's ability to deliver aid to the terrorist groups by forcing the state’s institutions to do so has also been weakened. And this will have a major impact on what is happening in Syria and Iraq.

"And it is especially true of those policies that are the subject of disagreement between the various political parties that are now represented in parliament," concludes 'Abdullah.

End…

 

UNRECOGNIZED NATION: "The most important truth confirmed by the recent Turkish elections is that there is a Kurdish nation in this Middle Eastern region that was 'overlooked' by the notorious [1916] Sykes/Picot agreements," writes Saleh al-Qallab in the Jordanian daily al-Ra'i.

This is a nation that has remained unrecognized. Its members are scattered between Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and also Syria. Since World War I, and for an entire century, and on more than one occasion, they were subjected to repression, alienation, violence, and massacres, and were hung from electricity poles, as happened in Iranian Kermanshah.

Perhaps what needs to be said after this extraordinary victory by Turkey's Kurds, is that 'democracy' offers the best solution to the Kurdish problem. The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) led by Abdullah Ocalan may have drawn the world attention to the existence of the problem, but that particular experiment [‘armed struggle’] ultimately proved to be a failure. The reason was that it became a tool in the various regional conflicts used by different regimes, including the Assad Sr. and Assad Jr. regime, for dealing with issues that have nothing to do with the Kurds or their cause.

What may also need to be said after this victory is that the manner in which the successive Turkish regimes that came to power after the Ottoman state's collapse up till the beginning of the democratic era dealt with the Kurds was not only strange; it was also counterproductive and unjust. It produced violent reactions, with the PKK and Abdullah Ocalan representing one of them. For it is both unreasonable and unacceptable for an entire nation of over 15 million people (according to some assessments) to be defined as 'mountain Turks' and to be denied the use of their national language or national dress.

Today, there are numerous indications that the Sykes/Picot borders are no longer held sacred, and that new maps may be in the process of being drawn for the region. In fact, this is an issue that needs to be considered very seriously, whether in Turkey or Iraq or Syria – and before that in Iran which, on the pretext of being an Islamic state that opposes nationalist tendencies, rejects any move towards independence and continues to persecute this [Kurdish nation] and hang its members from the electricity poles.

It is an injustice of historical proportions for the Kurds to continue to live in the painful conditions imposed on them since the days of Sykes/Picot; an unjust and unfair era in their history. We Arabs should certainly be more enthusiastic in support of this nation's independence. It has participated alongside us in defending this Arab region against all colonialists. The heroism of Saladin [a Kurd] is still taught in all our schools and universities. Moreover, we should all now recognize that our Kurdish brothers– whether in Syria or Iraq or Palestine or Jordan – have been part of our patriotic and even nationalist movements, and that the greatest Arab poet of the twentieth century – Ahmad Shawqi – was a member of this Kurdish nation that is truly a sister nation to the Arabs.

One of the most important facts confirmed by the recent Turkish elections is that 'democracy' is the most effective cure for all outstanding problems and that resolving these problems via 'ink-stained fingers' [after voting] is a thousand times better than resolving them with our teeth. And another important fact confirmed by these elections is that there is no room left today for describing Turkey's Kurds as 'mountain Turks.' Moreover, this Kurdish nation should assume the place it deserves in this region, just like the Arab nation, the Turkish nation, and the Iranian or Persian nation.

"For there is no difference between any of these nations," concludes Qallab.

Ends…

 

 

2-No room for arrogance

 

Both the Syrian regime and the opposition in all its shades have no choice but to forgo their arrogance and seek common ground towards a political transition, says 'Urayb ar-Rintawi in today's Jordanian ad-Dustour

 

One of the main problems with the recent Syrian opposition conference held in Cairo was the fact that it excluded the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood in compliance with Egyptian demands, says a leading Jordanian commentator. But a serious possible breakthrough has appeared via the decision not to insist on President Assad's departure as a precondition for any dialogue with his regime. The question is whether Cairo, Moscow and Riyadh can find common ground in pursuit of a Syrian solution.

 

GAME OF OPPOSING AXES: "The Syrian patriotic opposition conference that recently ended in Cairo failed to avoid the game of opposing regional axes and camps," writes 'Urayb ar-Rintawi in Thursday's Jordanian daily ad-Dustour.

It seems clear that the exclusion of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood was in response to Egypt’s desire to cut the Turkish and Qatari 'arms' that have infiltrated the Istanbul coalition (i.e. the Syrian National Coalition-SNC), down to size.

The conference included 'the cream' of Syrian opposition figures and groupings that we know of. The majority of those who took part can easily be classified as independent Syrians who have patriotic agendas. Possibly because of the host country's influence, the conference also tried hard to include opposition figures that are close to Saudi Arabia. For Cairo is trying to steer the Syrian opposition away from Doha and Ankara, but is not doing the same when it comes to its ally, Saudi Arabia, the most important donor for the ailing Egyptian economy and the main source of support for the current Egyptian regime.

The conference concluded with mostly positive results. It spoke of political solution as the sole way out of the Syrian predicament. It drew a roadmap that begins with a transitional ruling council with full powers, an interim government and an interim military council for rebuilding and rehabilitating security and military institutions. It also proposed dialogue and negotiations with the regime, which is a daring idea that the various Syrian oppositions have been trying to avoid mentioning in public for fear of being driven into the 'bazaar' of bids and counter-bids for which they have become famous.

Assad's fate was a contentious point at the conference. The pro-Saudi opposition current in particular spoke loudly in favor of Assad's departure as a gateway and precondition for launching the process of political transition in Syria. Most participants shared its views and demands, but without making them a precondition for dialogue; rather, as an item to be discussed and as goal that would crown the negotiations and dialogue with the regime within the framework of a roadmap and a reasonable timeframe. In both structure and content, the conference was thus closest to Egypt’s view of the Syrian crisis. Without offending any of them, one can describe most participants as representatives of the 'Egyptian line' in the Syrian opposition.

The conference and conferees' point of weakness was that the meeting dealt with the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria as absolute evil. In fact, it accepted negotiations with the regime, but not with the Brotherhood. This is a major landmine that could explode at any moment, and that may undermine the effort to build a broad national accord, whether between the various opposition forces, or between these forces and the regime. The Cairo conferees should not have submitted to Egypt’s calculations. For Cairo under Sissi is obsessed with a Brotherhood complex, even in its foreign policy. This does not befit Egypt, and ultimately does not serve its interests.

The insistence on excluding the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood is akin to talk of 'Palestinian national reconciliation' without Hamas. It is true that the Brotherhood does not play the same role as Hamas in Palestine; but anyone who wishes to confront ISIS, the Nusra Front and terrorism, and who hopes to build a pluralistic Syria by opening the door to a political transition, should not exclude certain forces or submit to such calculations.

A second opposition conference in Cairo with the participation of a larger number of forces and figures under intensive Egyptian sponsorship and with the participation of pro-Riyadh opposition figures and groups, will raise many questions, such as: What remains for the Riyadh conference that is planned under Saudi sponsorship? Will it build on what was begun at the Cairo conference? Or will it, if held, aim to denude the Cairo conference’s results of their content, placing the conferees along the same track as the political and military escalation that is consistent with the aggressive tendency that has recently come to characterize Saudi foreign policy?

And what of the Moscow-3 conference? Is there any coordination between Cairo and its ally Moscow regarding this matter? Or is each side working alone, perhaps against the other? And does the Cairo conference pave the path to expanding the Moscow conference and extending its participation, especially since the conferees in the Egyptian capital have publicly declared that they wish to negotiate with the regime? If so, what objection might there be against them taking part in Moscow-3?

Cairo and its Syrian conferees say that their conference does not lay the grounds for a movement or entity that is meant to replace or act as a parallel entity to the SNC on the grounds that a number of leading SNC figures participated in their personal capacity. But does it make sense for all these efforts and accords to end merely because the meetings are over, and the participants have returned to the capitals from whence they came? And how will the SNC members who took part in Cairo deal with the issues over which there is a difference between the SNC's hard-line demands and the conference's more modest proposals?

And finally, what attitude will the [Syrian] regime take towards the Cairo conference? Will it view it as a potential gateway towards a broad Syrian national dialogue, even if it has its reservations or rejects some of its conclusions? Or will it choose to denounce what has happened, viewing it as uncoordinated with Damascus and beneath further discussion or comment, and not worth the ink with which it was written?

If I could advise the regime in Damascus, I would have asked Foreign Minister Walid al-Mu'allem to take the initiative and contact his Egyptian and Russian counterparts asking them to help coordinate an open debate without prior conditions with all those who attended the Cairo conference. Once it convenes, all issues can open for discussion, including Assad's fate, the terms for a political transition, the nature of the transitional period, and so on. And Mu'allem could also ask Russia and Cairo to coordinate a joint regional effort in which Iran and Saudi Arabia would also take part, as well as the five permanent UN Security Council members, to sponsor this dialogue, guarantee its results, and provide a security net for the conferees.

"There is no room for arrogance, diktats, and conceit on the part of any of the Syrian parties. Time, in their case, is measured in terms of further blood and destruction. And there can be no victor in this futile and destructive war. Any victor will be defeated, defeated, defeated," concludes Rintawi.

Ends…

 

 

3-How not to wage war

 

The Saudi experience in Yemen suggests a lack of knowledge of the most basic principles of warfare, says Luqman 'Abdullah in today's Lebanese al-Akhbar

 

The course of the war on Yemen has so far demonstrated that those who planned the war know nothing of the basic rules of warfare, maintains an Arab commentator in a left-leaning Beirut daily. In particular, they have failed to formulate an exit strategy should the war go wrong, as is now happening for Saudi Arabia, whose well-equipped army's weakness has been exposed by a few committed Yemeni tribe members willing to sacrifice themselves.

 

WAR IS NOT AN END: "The decision to go to war is usually taken by states after all other political and diplomatic means of negotiation and dialogue over a contentious issue have been exhausted," writes Luqman 'Abdullah in Thursday's left-leaning Beirut daily al-Akhbar.

For war is not an end in itself. It is the final resort for achieving political aims or improving the terms for negotiations. But in both the Israeli and Saudi cases, war only seems to be the means for imposing surrender, hegemony, and occupation.

Former UN envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar’s testimony before the Security Council has confirmed the claim that the Saudi regime is 'waging war for war's sake.' He said that the Yemenis were close to reaching a final formula agreed through dialogue for ruling their country, and that the party that foiled that agreement at the last moment was Saudi Arabia.

One of the most obvious first steps by a country’s supreme command whenever the decision is taken to go to war is to formulate a comprehensive strategy based on an assessment of all possible scenarios and the required reactions to each possibility. But in the case of the Saudi aggression on Yemen, no rational person would believe that the 'boys' [in reference to the young age of Saudi Defense Minister Mohammad bin Salman] who took the decision to wage war knew anything about the most basic military axioms that call for plans and alternative plans for dealing with potential scenarios.

The best evidence of this comes from the fact that they ran out of targets after the first week of the war. They had to seek the help of the U.S. which announced via State Department and Defense Department sources that it was a partner in the aggression by supplying the Saudi authorities with targets and intelligence and logistical aid, taking it upon itself to refill Saudi Arabia's arms and ammunition depots, as well as providing it with political cover.

Western diplomatic and press leaks, especially former U.S. foreign secretary Colin Powell’s statements, have confirmed that when Saudi Arabia informed Washington of its decision to wage its aggression on Yemen, it gave itself a period of ten days to complete the mission and destroy the [Houthi] Ansarullah. Anyone reviewing the manner in which the aggression's aims were formulated would see that the decision was taken at a moment of rash political stupidity; one when Al Saud felt frustrated by the Yemeni people's ability to rid themselves of the Saudi hegemony that they have been suffering from for decades.

A war such as that that Al Saud are waging on Yemen required a prior study based on an extensive store of information at every level regarding Yemen's historical, religious, geographical, social, and economic conditions, and the Saudi army's own capabilities, especially its ground forces. For air superiority on its own cannot determine the outcome of battle, as evident from many precedents in this regard. Such a war should also have been preceded by an examination of regional relations and the extent to which the various regional states can influence the struggle.

The TV images of the Saudi army, heavily armed with the most advanced weapons, fleeing from its border posts before a few fighters from the Yemeni tribes armed with light or medium weapons, highlights the extent of the humiliation that the Saudi leadership has inflicted upon itself. It also exposes this army's weak sense of patriotic loyalty as well as its lack of commitment to sacrifice in order to protect its homeland.

The [Saudi] Border Guard, ground forces, and National Guard forces have all taken turn in being deployed along the borders with Yemen. What is peculiar in this regard is the Saudis need to seek the help of ground forces from allied states, even if brought in from Bahrain. Yesterday, units from the Bahraini ground forces arrived at the border posts and were deployed in support of Saudi ground forces.

The border operations have exposed Al Saud's army's slack condition and its inability to hold its ground in confrontation against a ferocious Yemeni army that relies on a cohesive popular support coupled with a boundless readiness to remain steadfast and offer sacrifices. And this demonstrates that those who planned this war know nothing about strategy because they failed to develop strategies for exiting from the quagmire if they were to be mired in it, which is exactly what is happening today.

"This is something that the American side now realizes, but without a clear U.S. response, bearing in mind that past experience demonstrates that Washington has a long history of buying and selling at its friends' expense," concludes 'Abdullah.

Ends…

 

 

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