MIDEAST MIRROR 02.06.15, SECTION B (THE ARAB WORLD)
1-Talking in Muscat
2-The Somalization of Syria
3-‘Sherman’s war’ in Iraq
4-In Iran’s service
1-Talking in Muscat
The American negotiators are most likely to face obstinate [Houthi] interlocutors who are ready to cling to their positions including the refusal to withdraw from the cities they have occupied. They also have new demands, including that their names be removed from the terrorism lists and that Saudi Arabia pays a large compensation for the destruction caused by the bombardment of Yemen by Saudi and allied warplanes over the past two months. The fact that the Americans have joined the fray and decided to sit with Houthi negotiators [in Muscat] is effectively a major diplomatic victory for this Yemeni side. It represents an important recognition of the Houthis by the world's major superpower. This is a major achievement that their enemies – especially Saudi Arabia – should recognize--pan-Arab www.raialyoum.com
The scenarios that observers feared in their worst nightmares have begun to raise their ugly heads in Saudi Arabia. Saudi border cities and areas are now battle zones, while terrorism has struck inside the Kingdom twice in a single week against the background of the spreading confessional tension and discourse of hatred, incitement, and sedition. There is no military solution for Yemen no matter how much those who advocate such a solution may deny this. The solution is political par excellence. And it is in the interest of all parties –aggressors and aggressed-- to head towards such a political solution; today before tomorrow. For there will be no winners in this war after all the destruction and the deep rifts that have been carved into the body of relations between the two neighboring countries and brotherly peoples--'Urayb ar-Rintawi in Jordanian ad-Dustour
The Muscat talks between the U.S. and a delegation from the Houthi Ansarullah current represents a major diplomatic achievement for this Yemeni group further underlining the failure of the attempt at a military solution in Yemen, maintains the editorial in an online pan-Arab daily. The net result of the Saudi-led attack on Yemen so far has been to strengthen the Houthis and transform them from an isolated local group into a major constituent of the country, sought by the U.S., Russia, the UN and others, argues a leading Jordanian commentator. It is time for this proxy war to end and for Saudi Arabia and Iran to settle their accounts directly.
OPEN CHANNELS: "The U.S. has been forced to open up a channel of communication in Muscat with the Houthi Ansarullah current to discuss two main issues," writes Tuesday's editorial on the pan-Arab www.raialyoum.com.
- The first issue is the prospect of a political agreement that restores security and stability to Yemen after the attempt at a military solution has failed to force the Houthi current and its ally former president Ali 'Abdullah Saleh to surrender.
- The second issue is the release of a number of American subjects held by the Houthi forces in Sana'a, three of whom work in the private sector and the fourth is an American national of Yemeni origin.
When we say that the U.S. was forced to open this channel of communication, we mean that this came after Washington exerted enormous political and punitive pressures on the Houthi current and its ally president Saleh in the hope of halting their military expansion in Yemen, and in solidarity with the U.S.'s Saudi ally. But it did not succeed in achieving its goals.
These punitive measures included placing the leader of the Houthi current and some of his aides as well as president Saleh and his son Ahmad on the terrorist list, freezing their financial assets in American banks and banning them from travel outside Yemen. But it is clear that the U.S. realized the futility of these sanctions because the Houthi current has no foreign assets and its leader 'Abdelmalik al-Houthi has only rarely left his main headquarters even to the capital Sana'a, let alone travelled outside the country.
[Fugitive Yemeni] President 'Abed-Rabbo Mansour Hadi's government's spokesman, Rajeh Badi, who officially exposed the fact that these talks were taking place from his base in the Saudi capital Riyadh, stressed that they were in response to an American request and that the Houthi delegation led by the Ansarullah's Politburo head Saleh as-Samad arrived in Muscat on a plane provided by the Americans.
It is still too early to pass any definitive verdict on these negotiations or on their prospects of success or failure. But the fact that the U.S. was forced to initiate a dialogue with the Houthis represents a clear attempt to break the stalemate in the Yemeni crisis as result of the fact that the 'Houthi/Saleh' coalition did not surrender to Saudi Arabia's preconditions, the most important of which was President Hadi's return to Yemen, the Houthis' withdrawal from Sana'a and Aden, and handing over the weapons they have captured from the Yemeni army's arsenals.
The Houthis now are in a very strong bargaining position because they are the strongest force on the ground and because their losses have been limited as result of the Saudi aerial bombardment carried out under the banner of Operation Decisive Storm. Most of these losses have been suffered by the Yemeni people and by certain forces loyal to president Ali 'Abdullah Saleh and their weapons’ stocks. But the worst destruction has been inflicted on the already very poor Yemeni infrastructure.
The Houthi's primary source of power seems to stem from soldiers and leading figures’ staying power and their readiness to live in extremely difficult conditions. According to reports, they carry their missiles, rockets, and weapons on the backs of donkeys and mules to areas along the Saudi borders, thereby avoiding being attacked by warplanes, and have succeeded in suspending ordinary life in Jizan and Najran the two most important southern Saudi cities by shelling them with Katyusha rockets and mortars.
The American negotiators are most likely to face obstinate interlocutors who are ready to cling to their positions including the refusal to withdraw from the cities they have occupied. They also have new demands, including that their names be removed from the terrorism lists and that Saudi Arabia pays a large compensation for the destruction caused by the bombardment of Yemen by Saudi and allied warplanes over the past two months.
The fact that the Americans have joined the fray and decided to sit with Houthi negotiators is effectively a major diplomatic victory for this Yemeni side. It represents an important recognition of the Houthis by the world's major superpower.
"This is a major achievement that their enemies – especially Saudi Arabia – should recognize, regardless of the success or failure of the Muscat talks," concludes the daily.
DIALOGUE IN OMAN: "The Houthis are in Muscat to hold a dialogue with the U.S. mediated by Oman," writes 'Urayb ar-Rintawi in the Jordanian daily ad-Dustour.
Ansarullah have denied this, not because the dialogue and the mediation have not occurred, but in order to preserve their 'credibility.' For it makes no sense to demonstrate in Sa'da under the banner of 'Death to America' then talk to it in a neighboring capital.
In short, however, Washington has not adopted its ‘moderate’ allies' reading of the Yemeni crisis. It has decided to take a bypass road and communicate with the Houthis. And there is no doubt that this represents a new political blow to Washington’s allies, as has been its wont.
In this context the statements issued by 'Abed-Rabbo Mansour Hadi's 'legitimate' government do not seem worth the ink that they are written with. They seem closer to letting off steam or a temper tantrum. Moreover, they are most likely to express the views of this government’s sponsors and backers who cannot aim their critical darts at their strategic ally directly, and thus urge their allies to do so.
The Houthis have headed to Moscow at almost the same time, but this time invited by the Russian Foreign Ministry. The aim is to hold a dialogue with the Russian leadership so as to close the file of the Yemeni crisis, based on the two sides' shared fear of ISIS and al-Qa'ida's proliferation and the revival of terrorism against the background of the regional confessional split. And that is an unprecedented development in Moscow's relations with this Yemeni force.
The Houthis are at the UN. They are a major constituent of the Geneva Conference and official participants in it by the UN's invitation. UN Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmad tours Sana'a, moving between [deposed president Saleh’s] General People's Congress party and Ansarullah whom Saleh has said are in charge of political decisions in Yemen today
Anyone who wants a solution for Yemen must also head to Sana'a. But the picture would not be complete without collating its main elements together: Before Operation Decisive Storm, there was no record of any substantial contact between Washington and the Houthis. The latter's relations with Russia, were also confined within strict limits and at low levels. After Decisive Storm and all that has been said of its 'success,' the Houthis have turned from a local/tribal/confessional player isolated on the mountain tops and caves into a major player sought by 'international legitimacy' and the international decision-making capitals. In my view, the Houthis should pray to God that Decisive Storm’s 'successes' should continue and intensify.
Two months (and one week) after it began, it seems that Operation Decisive Storm has entered a phase where the picture has been reversed. The efforts to 'demonize' and exclude the Houthis have not only failed; they have achieved the opposite results. And I also suppose that these developments will leave an indelible imprint on the nature of the political solution sought by the regional and international parties in Yemen, beginning with a ceasefire agreement or a 'long-term truce' that the UN envoy is working on for the near future.
The fact of the matter is that the military operations ran out of targets after very few days, as testified by various political and military observers. The same targets have been shelled and destroyed again and again. Meanwhile, the human cost of the war continues to rise, setting off a wave of international anger, and the burning embers and fall out from the war's wild fires have begun to fall on those who launched as well.
The scenarios that observers feared in their worst nightmares have begun to raise their ugly heads in Saudi Arabia. Saudi border cities and areas are now battle zones, while terrorism has struck inside the Kingdom twice in a single week against the background of the spreading confessional tension and discourse of hatred, incitement, and sedition.
There is no military solution for Yemen no matter how much those who advocate such a solution may deny this. The solution is political par excellence. And it is in the interest of all parties –aggressors and aggressed-- to head towards such a political solution, today before tomorrow. For there will be no winners in this war after all the destruction and the deep rifts that have been carved into the body of relations between the two neighboring countries and brotherly peoples.
Washington is behaving on this assumption. Former U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell revealed some aspects of the covert contacts between Riyadh and Washington. He has also revealed certain interpretations and assessments of what has been happening that lend support to those who said from the very first day of this war that Yemen is the burial ground for invaders throughout history, and that it is a quagmire that should be avoided by all possible means. This is evident from the lessons of history both ancient and modern.
After two months and one week of the war, Decisive Storm has not done away with the Houthis and their allies. The Yemenis have not regained their hope of security at present and prosperity in the future. The time has come to close this file and to leave it to Yemen’s people to manage their affairs by themselves.
As for those keen to settle account with others, they should aim their guns and artillery at each other directly instead of forcing so many regional countries and nations to pay the heavy price of their proxy wars.
"This is equally true of both Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran," concludes Rintawi.
2-The Somalization of Syria
There is no neat solution for the Syrian conflict; the most likely scenario is that of the country’s descent into Somalization, says Amin Qammouriyyeh in today's Lebanese an-Nahar
A review of the current lines of conflict in Syria demonstrates that the fate awaiting this country is even worse than partition into independent states or self-rule entities along sectarian and ethnic lines, argues a Lebanese commentator. It is more likely to be akin to that of Somalia.
HATED REGIME: "There are many who hate the Syrian regime and they all have their reasons for doing so," writes Amin Qammouriyyeh in Tuesday's Lebanese daily an-Nahar.
Quite a few have suppressed their anger at the regime and reluctantly convinced themselves of the need to discuss a solution with it for fear of the unknown alternative. But the majority still wish for its collapse, regardless of the outcome and the fate that awaits the country.
Developments on the ground in Idlib, Tadmur [Palmyra] and Bosra ash-Sham have given the impression that the end is near and that the leaf is about to be turned on the Assad family's rule once and for all. They are clearly wagering on new developments, especially in Homs and its countryside, which should sever contacts between the regime's two strongholds in Damascus and the Syrian coast. Alternatively, they wager on advances in Sahl al-Ghab that would place Latakia within range of fire of the regime's enemies, or a tight siege of the capital that should undermine the government's legitimacy.
There are many wagers on the Assad regime's collapse in the camp of those who hate it, and they are met by the enumeration of numerous counter-options from the opposing camp, such as holding their ground in the western part of the country which is the most densely populated area and that stretches from Der'a to the sea via Damascus, coupled with strengthening their hold over the Homs area and its heart in the Qalamoun. The hope is to consolidate control over these areas from which a renewed counter attack would begin to regain the less densely populated eastern areas. At worst, these options include abandoning Syria as it stands today, accepting a smaller Syria in its place, should partition be imposed as a fait accompli.
The current map of forces and the regional and international powers behind them suggest that Syria will not return to what it was prior to March 2011 [when the anti-regime protests began]. Nor do they suggest that either side can deliver a knockout blow to the other. Iran will not permit the remnants of its ally's regime to collapse, and may not refrain from direct involvement in order to preserve its main bridgehead to the Mediterranean since its fall means the end of its eastern dreams. And Russia, which clings to the Syrian army and what remains of state institutions rather than the person of Assad, will fight to prevent Syria from being transformed into another Libya.
On the other side, the Arab coalition that is in a rush to topple the regime is unsure about the necessary tools to achieve this goal. On the one hand, it is hesitant about encouraging the march of the Islamic State (ISIS) for fear that it may reach the Gulf and Jordan's borders. On the other hand, it is unable to free its 'moderate friends' in Jayshul Fateh and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) from the pincer formed by ISIS in the east and the regime's forces in the west.
Similarly, Turkey is turning a blind eye to the extremists, but is swallowing poison with every advance by the Kurds in al-Hasaka and al-Qamishli, consolidating their new entity along its borders, one that is protected by an American red line. As for Washington, the 'million dollar prize' goes to whoever can answer the following question: What does it want in the Middle East?
The lines of separation in Syria do not resemble those drawn in former Yugoslavia, turning it into independent republics. Nor do they resemble the current lines being drawn in Iraq, which may be consolidated into self-rule provinces on ethnic or sectarian lines.
"More than anything else, they resemble those that emerged in Somalia, turning it into a fictive name for an entity that is fought over by pirates and warlords," concludes Qammouriyyeh.
3-‘Sherman’s war’ in Iraq
Iraq’s Sunni provincial leaders have chosen to follow the Gulf’s racist culture and sectarian wars rather than communal peace and prosperity; just like the American Southern secessionists a 150 years ago, now it is too late, says 'Amer Mohsen in today's Lebanese al-Akhbar
The local leaders of Iraq's Sunni provinces are very similar to the leaders of the South during the American Civil War 150 years ago, argues a Lebanese commentator. They chose the Arab Gulf's rulers' hate-filled sectarian discourse and have thereby forfeited their right to be part of the emerging new Iraq. The only solution is their enforced defeat.
A HARSH AND TERRIBLE WAR: "The course of the war, like that of any war, will be harsh and terrible," writes 'Amer Mohsen in Tuesday's left-leaning Beirut daily al-Akhbar.
It is a war against an enemy fighting to the finish without no horizon for a settlement or any intention to cohabit and live peacefully within Iraqi society.
Coming events are certain to provide the Gulf media with the propaganda material that they have been broadcasting in ISIS's favor for some time. In fact, many of their correspondents are ISIS sympathizers in reality. Suffice to look at their personal accounts on the social media to realize their hateful sectarian extremism. (In fact, in some cases their bosses have forced them to deny public access to their accounts in order to maintain appearances at least.) These are the people supplying us with reports and analyses from Iraq. But apart from the propaganda spread by Iraq's enemies, Iraqis cannot be happy about the transformation of their cities into war zones and ruined neighborhoods. There is no doubt that every Iraqi cares for his or her country and fate more than the Gulf emirs and their propaganda tools.
There is a clear comparison between the current course of events and a controversial historical incident going back to the American Civil War, when the North’s General Sherman's army moved deep into the South and burnt down its economic capital, Atlanta. (An incident immortalized in the classic film Gone with the Wind.)
On the 150th anniversary of Sherman's army's march to the sea, setting fire to the farms of white land-owners all the way to Atlanta en route, a southerner wrote to The New York Times complaining about the general's harsh treatment and the collective punishment he inflicted on the city. A military correspondent using the pseudonym 'Gary Preacher' responded to the article, explaining that Sherman's actions – the destruction of the main port and the Confederate Army’s lines of communication-- were not only militarily justifiable, they were also necessary to shock the South’s white supremacist slave-owner society, forcing its elite to understand that their view of the world was no longer possible or capable of survival.
Sherman, says Preacher, was not bloody by nature; on the contrary, he abhorred war, expressing this repeatedly in his writings and speeches. He was a professor at a military college in Louisiana deep in the South before the Civil War, and tried to warn his southern colleagues against collision with the North, stressing that the Northerners would not permit them to destroy their common homeland without a fight. He also stressed that they were bound to fail: 'only in your spirit and determination are you prepared for war. In all else, you are totally unprepared, with a bad cause to begin with.'
Sherman's colleague in the North’s army command, General Grant, described the Confederate cause as 'one of the worst for which a people ever fought.' It is as if he were talking about the cause of the [Sunni] 'revolution' in Iraq today, ever since that began with the hatred-filled protests in public squares in Fallujah and al-Ramadi – protests with which the Gulf's media of course identified – and stretching all the way up the dark rule of ISIS and the Sunni 'clan rebels.'
Like the American Southern elite a century-and-a-half ago, this elite – which stretches from the Euphrates to the Gulf's sheikhdoms, and which has built its world on sectarian hatred has failed to recognize the base character of its discourse and its unacceptability in today's world. It has failed to acknowledge the clear realities of the balance of power and the potential consequences of its actions. For this elite's entire society bases its behavior on false narratives and on the refusal to accept reality as it is.
What the American South's leaders failed to comprehend was that Sherman aimed to end the war/slaughter launched by the separatists, using the only possible means for doing so. He did not aim to punish or seek revenge against them. (This is similar to a case of people suffering from paranoia or schizophrenia, who cannot be convinced that no one is persecuting them, as Preacher notes). The war would not have ended had the Northern army not penetrated deep into the strongholds of this ruling elite to prove to it by military force, that its culture, ideology, and way of life did not belong to this world.
The confrontation with the human monsters controlling Mosul, Fallujah, and al-Ramadi, and their extensions in culture and the media, is similar to Sherman's war. A quick look at the detestable world in which these monsters live would be sufficient to convince any Iraqi and anyone living in the Arab Levant of this war's necessity. It must put a final end once and for all, to the Wahhabi invasion that wants to settle in our land with its leaders, media, and sponsoring states, and its sheikhs and their culture.
Ordinary people are paying the price, and the majority of the people of Western Iraq are now forcefully displaced refugees after their cities and villages have been destroyed in battle. As for Iraq’s politicians and elites who have implicated themselves and their country in this war, they will have no place in this country and they are fully aware of this.
The local leaders in al-Anbar, Mosul, and Salahuddin could have opted for a totally different path. They could have benefited from Iraq's riches and their provinces' position to promote development, construction and prosperity, living honorably on their country and land's resources. Instead, they chose to follow the Gulf and its racist culture and sectarian wars. Now it is too late.
A century-and-a-half ago, General Sherman spoke of people similar to these local Iraqi leaders, the masters of the American South, highlighting the dire consequences awaiting them: 'Three years ago, by a little reflection and patience, they could have had a hundred years of peace and prosperity, but they preferred war; very well. Last year they could have saved their lives, but now it is too late … Next year their lands will be taken … and in another year they may beg for their lives in vain’," concludes Mohsen.
4-In Iran’s service
By attacking Shiite targets in Saudi Arabia, ISIS is performing an invaluable service to Tehran, says Mashari adh-Dhaidi in today's Saudi Asharq al-Awsat
ISIS’s recent attacks on Shiite targets in eastern Saudi Arabia will not be the last of their kind, warns a Saudi commentator. ISIS aims to ignite a sectarian sedition in Saudi Arabia, and it is the country's fate to face up to this challenge. The irony is that Iran is the main beneficiary of ISIS's claims to be defending the Sunnis.
ABHORRENT AIM: "Will ISIS end its attacks in Saudi Arabia that aim to sow sedition and confine them to one or two incidents?" asks Mashari adh-Dhaidi in Tuesday's Saudi-owned pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.
Will the terrorist attacks on the Dalwa Husseiniyya and the mosques in al-Qudaih and al-Ahsa', al-Qatif and ad-Dammam in eastern Saudi Arabia be the last of their kind?
The answer does not augur well. I hope I am mistaken, but ISIS's planners and murderers' determination to proceed with trying to ignite sectarian sedition between the Shiites and the Sunnis in Saudi Arabia is very clear. We must not delude ourselves into believing anything else; for ISIS's propaganda and its murderers are declaring that they will not refrain from pursuing their abhorrent aim.
The picture thus becomes clear and the confrontation is now an open one. War plans must be developed and resources must be mobilized to fight this disease. The Saudis must accustom themselves to an extensive and open confrontation with this dark group that has made barbarism as well as deception and dissimulation its profession.
There is no need to repeat what has often been said before. The main beneficiary if ISIS's plans were to succeed (God forbid), will be Iran. It will weaken the Saudi home front and disperse the power of Saudi military and security forces. For the Saudi state is fighting an open war with Iran in Yemen; so by its attacks, ISIS is providing Iran with untold services even as it claims to be defending the Sunnis. How can all this be reconciled together?
Be that as it may, Saudi Arabia and the Saudis have faced confrontations with al-Qa'ida in the past. They fought an open war with its local cells for years. At the same time, development programs proceeded unabated without allowing one battle to overshadow another. At the time, the late King 'Abdullah said that we would fight al-Qa'ida for thirty years if need be.
A few days ago, when receiving ambassadors to Saudi Arabia in the presence of Deputy Crown-Prince Mohammad bin Salman, Saudi Crown-Prince, Interior Minister and the 'Tsar' of the war on terrorism Prince Mohammad bin Nayif said: 'The Kingdom is taking a strong stance against terrorism, and such incidents will not shake us. We have experienced worse and thank God, the situation is under control. If anything happens, we shall deal with it as appropriate.' The prince also revealed that many terrorist attacks were forestalled, noting that if anything happens it would be dealt with severely but in a balanced manner so as to ensure that it does not affect the lives of the rest of society.
For this reason, panic and despondency should not take hold of our spirits; nor should impatience and haste lead some people to take what is happening lightly. Those who are patient, determined, and have vision and the stronger will, will prevail.
Many major countries in the world have witnessed extensive wars against terrorist groups or mafia gangs or even wars with other states, for around half-a-century without allowing these confrontations to dominate the public sphere or to affect people's morale.
The war on ISIS's scheme to ignite sectarian sedition has begun. And we can expect ISIS to diversify its crimes to achieve its aim of stirring sedition.
"But this is our fate. And we shall face up to it," concludes Dhaidi.
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