MIDEAST MIRROR 9.10.18, SECTION B (THE ARAB WORLD)
1-Iraq joins the list of Israeli targets
2-Smoldering under the ashes
4-Saleh and Barzani at odds
1-Iraq joins the list of Israeli targets
Those who desire to emerge from the [Syrian] crisis will need to introduce a series of changes across the entire Middle East that begin with the center of the conflict moving from Syria to other countries. And in doing so, these decision-makers will have to take two issues into account: First, that there must be some justification for choosing the new site of the conflict; and, second, that the tactics for withdrawing from it in the future should be more straightforward and less costly [than in the case of Syria]. Washington and its main instrument in the region – Israel – understand that Russia's Middle Eastern policy will become more active and crucial after Moscow's series of strategic steps in Syria, the most recent of which was to deploy the S-300 missile system only days after the Sochi agreement regarding Idlib was announced; all of which sends a message to the world that Washington has become a secondary party to the Syrian dossier, and is not a major active partner to all its various extensions--Mazin Jabbour in Syrian al-Watan
[Israel's leaders have] added Iraq to the list of countries – which includes Iran, Syria, and Lebanon –where they are threatening to strike at the [anti-Israeli] resistance's weapons' sites. From the podium of the UN General Assembly in New York, the occupation entity's PM Binyamin Netanyahu renewed his threats to Iraq, adding the country to the list of Israeli targets. It is no coincidence that this threat overlapped with Russia's decision to deploy the S-300 missile systems and deliver them to the Syrian army. Nor was it a coincidence that this came shortly after Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah's announcement that 'the mission has been accomplished' and that precise missiles are already in the [Hezbollah's] resistance's hands. And this was followed, in turn, by the photographs brandished by Netanyahu, which he claimed were missile sites near Beirut Airport in a performance that was akin to a farce, and that was made a mockery of after the Lebanese Foreign Ministry took foreign ambassadors on a tour of the alleged sites--Nasser Qandil in Lebanese al-Bina'
As the Syrian crisis heads towards its end, the Middle East is on the brink of a number of radical strategic changes, maintains a commentator in a pro-regime Damascus daily. Moscow has asserted its role as the main player in Syria, the center of conflict in the region will move towards Iran and the Gulf, the Arab countries are beginning to open up to Damascus, and the U.S. may gradually end its presence in Syria. Iraq has joined Iran, Syria, and Lebanon on Israel's target list in an attempt to prevent qualitative weapons from being transferred from Iran to Hezbollah, maintains the editor-in-chief of a pro-Damascus Lebanese daily. This follows the deployment of Russian S-300 missile systems in Syria and Israel's fears that a tactical strike in Lebanon could develop into a major war that Israel would be unable to extract itself from.
ENTERING AND EXITING THE CRISIS: "Exiting the Syrian crisis will not be as straightforward as getting into it," writes Mazin Jabbour in Tuesday's pro-regime Syrian daily al-Watan.
Those who desire to emerge from the crisis will need to introduce a series of changes across the entire Middle East that begin with the center of the conflict moving from Syria to other countries. And in doing so, these decision-makers will have to take two issues into account: First, that there must be some justification for choosing the new site of the conflict; and, second, that the tactics for withdrawing from it in the future should be more straightforward and less costly [than in the case of Syria].
Washington and its main instrument in the region – Israel – understand that Russia's Middle Eastern policy will become more active and crucial after Moscow's series of strategic steps in Syria, the most recent of which was to deploy the S-300 missile system only days after the Sochi agreement regarding Idlib was announced; all of which sends a message to the world that Washington has become a secondary party to the Syrian dossier, and is not a major active partner to all its various extensions.
Moreover, the U.S. and Israel both realize that deploying the S-300 is no mere act of revenge or retaliation for the loss of the IL-20, but is part of a strategic plan to ensure Russia's security in Syria and Syria's security at the same time. The loss of the IL-20s only speeded up Russia's moves.
There are also two intentional American attempts to aggravate the tension in the Arab Gulf: The announcement of Washington's plans to withdraw two Patriot missile systems from Kuwait, and one each from Jordan and Bahrain, and to return them all to the U.S. on the pretext of improving them. But the missiles' final destination after they have been upgraded has yet to be determined, bearing in mind that that their withdrawal was followed by Washington's provocation of Saudi Arabia, demanding that it pays the cost of U.S. protection for the Saudi regime.
We should also take into consideration the U.S.'s repeated, renewed, and urgent calls on Britain, France, and Germany in particular to contribute more to NATO's defense operations. Berlin has responded by hinting that it may establish strategic military bases in the Middle East, while the public French and British presence in Eastern Syria has been growing recently. These are all indications of the changes that the U.S. is pushing for in the Middle East so as to fill the vacuum it may soon create there.
All of this is consistent with two major changes in the Middle East: First, Syria and its allies' major victories in their war on terrorism; and second, the U.S.'s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. The latter move contributes to the Americans' effort to create a new center for the conflict in the Middle East, which would allow it to withdraw calmly from the Syrian dossier on the pretext of having fulfilled its mission of fighting terrorism there, and turn its attention to the more important and greater Iranian threat by reviving the question of Iran's nuclear program.
The Middle East is entering a phase of strategic transformations to the pace of developments in the Syrian crisis. The first results will be reflected in this crisis itself, and then across the entire region. And signs of these transformations have already begun to loom on the horizon in fact, starting with [last week's] meeting between Deputy-PM and Foreign Minister Walid al-Mu'allem and Bahraini Foreign Minister Khaled bin Ahmad Al Khalifa in the UN's corridors, moving onto the visit to Syria by a Kuwait media delegation headed by a member of the Kuwaiti ruling family that met with President Bashar al-Assad, and the subsequent praise of this visit by the Kuwaiti journalists, and ending with Saudi Arabia's U-turn on Syria, and the positive positions it expressed, that Damascus has welcomed.
But these new Middle Eastern transformations will not end here; they will develop further in the near future and cast their shadows over the Syrian crisis. And the immediate results will take the form of new Arab political and economic steps; the first of which will be Arab initiatives regarding [Syrian] reconstruction, while the second step will be a renewed discussion of Syria's return to the Arab League. Both these results will be proposed over the few remaining months of this year.
The abovementioned developments are all at the Arab level. At the international level, the most important result that the Syrians wish to achieve may be an American withdrawal from Syria, which is achievable gradually and in the short term.
"Finally, all these developments suggest that the Middle East is on the verge of radical changes in its main actors' regional and international alliances," concludes Jabbour.
RENEWED THREATS: "More than a month ago, the leaders of the occupation entity [Israel] added Iraq to the list of countries – which includes Iran, Syria, and Lebanon –where they are threatening to strike at the [anti-Israeli] resistance's weapons' sites," writes Editor-in-Chief Nasser Qandil in Tuesday's pro-Damascus Lebanese daily al-Bina'.
From the podium of the UN General Assembly in New York, the occupation entity's PM Binyamin Netanyahu renewed his threats to Iraq, adding the country to the list of Israeli targets. It is no coincidence that this threat overlapped with Russia's decision to deploy the S-300 missile systems and deliver them to the Syrian army. Nor was it a coincidence that this came shortly after Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah's announcement that 'the mission has been accomplished' and that precise missiles are already in the [Hezbollah's] resistance's hands. And this was followed, in turn, by the photographs brandished by Netanyahu, which he claimed were missile sites near Beirut Airport in a performance that was akin to a farce, and that was made a mockery of after the Lebanese Foreign Ministry took foreign ambassadors on a tour of the alleged sites.
The occupation state's leaders believe that the time required to fill the gap that the Israeli air force will have to fill as a result of the Russian move in Syria – which has enabled the Syrian army to acquire weapons that tip the balance of power, according to the Russian military – is to be measured in months, not weeks. And this is according to whether readjusting the balance of power will come via mending Russian/Israeli relations and agreeing on new rules of engagement that will grant Israel new margins of maneuver (although this is unlikely), or via operating advanced American warplanes that have been modified to handle the S-300 systems, such as the F-35 (or Stealth) aircraft. For the Americans have said that these warplanes need to be modified before they are ready, and that the occupation army will need months before they can rely on them and test their effectiveness.
There is also consensus among the occupation entity's leaders that the balance of deterrence that determines Israel's relationship with its Northern front with Lebanon is changing, in light of the growth of the resistance's qualitative capabilities, and that Israel is unsure whether this includes air defense systems. These new deterrent measures are sufficient to ensure that any attempt by Israel to stage a tactical operation will turn into a project for a possible war that Israel may be unable to extract itself from. Moreover, there is a consensus among Israel's leaders that the mere admission that the pursuit of the resistance in an attempt to ensure that qualitative weapons' development will be conducted outside Lebanon, amounts to an admission of Israel's growing anxiety when it comes to taking any provocative actions against Lebanon or its resistance since the results cannot be guaranteed.
The occupation entity's leaders are also unanimous that if the occupation army remains in a state of warlike silence for months to come, this would be tantamount to an Israeli defeat in a war that did not take place. Moreover, the occupation army's self-proclaimed deterrent image will be shaken. Furthermore, the period during which the occupation army will remain silent will be one in which the resistance forces will ceaselessly raise their level of readiness and preparedness. Moreover, this would mean that the resistance would be able to develop a more effective infrastructure for the new technically advanced systems that it will acquire. And, of course, resuming the psychological and material war that Israel has been waging on the resistance forces is an Israeli morale need as much as it is a military and logistical one.
In his latest speech, Netanyahu for the first time offered an ambiguous answer to the question regarding the means that Israel may use to prevent the resistance from continuing to raise its level of readiness and to accumulate more qualitative weapons. Contrary to the past when he used to say that his army would continue to pursue Iranian weapons' shipments to Hezbollah via Syria, Netanyahu spoke from the Golan Heights for the first time, and left his threats somewhat general. He said: 'Iran and Hezbollah are ceaselessly attempting to form a force that will operate against us, against the Golan and against the Galilee. We are preventing them from entrenching themselves and we will continue to act with determination to counter attempts to provide Hezbollah with lethal weapons.'
In short, Netanyahu is going along with what the Israeli newspapers have been publishing and paving the way for by speaking of qualitative Iranian weapons crossing into Iraq as the first step to transferring them to Lebanon.
"This is a prelude to an act of aggression that will target the resistance forces in Iraq," concludes Qandil.
2-Smoldering under the ashes
The lesson to be learned from the Barkan attack is that Israeli repression will only lead to an inevitable explosion and that continued occupation is not the path to coexistence, says Rajab Abu-Siriyyeh in today's Palestinian al-Ayyam
The attack on the Israeli settlement of Barkan near Nablus sends a strong signal that the fires in the West Bank and Jerusalem are smoldering under the ashes, and that the situation in those areas is akin to the calm before the storm, warns a Palestinian commentator. But Israel's rightwing government seems unable to recognize these signs, which renders an explosion all the more likely.
ONE-SIDED LOGIC: "At the time when Gaza was holding the funeral of three martyrs who fell last Friday, three Israeli settlers were falling – two killed and one wounded – in Barkan in the North of the West Bank," notes Rajab Abu-Siriyyeh in Tuesday's leading Palestinian daily al-Ayyam.
This means that the logic that the Israeli government has been pursuing to ensure that the victims who may fall because the door has been slammed shut in the face of political solution would be from one side alone cannot last forever.
The total absence of any moral constraints inside the Israel's political system makes it acceptable for victims to fall on the Palestinian side without batting an eyelid, and without considering for one moment that its soldiers and settlers' deliberate killings of unarmed Palestinian civilians makes them savages. With the passage of time, this will make these soldiers and settlers Israel's own enemies. For the settlers' extremism and the growth of rightwing and extremist tendencies is ensuring that Israel will be an isolated and hated state, even if it seems that many parties are seeking to curry favor with it in the short run. With such savagery, Israel will find itself in a war with the entire world in the long run.
As it their wont, Israel's occupation forces imposed a blockade on the towns of Shuweika and Beit Lid in Tulkarm, with claims that attacker started out from the latter town. And as is their wont, as well, the occupation forces stormed the young man's home in Shuweika as a prelude to destroying it – which is what they do whenever such an attack takes place. But drunk on the ecstasy of power, Israel's security officers do not for one moment consider that dealing with a problem requires addressing its causes first; and that there is no moral logic in punishing those who have nothing to do with planning or carrying out an attack even if they happen to be the assailant's father, mother, brother, or sister. Such action can only be described as collective punishment, which is what Israel has always meted out to the Palestinians anyway.
And because extremist parties have ruled Israel for almost two decades now, reason and prudence have no role in determining its policies, especially as regards its relations with the Palestinian side. Otherwise, it would have thought a thousand times before giving free rein to all forms and modes of provocation, repression, and humiliation against its Palestinian citizens. The result is that it has turned the occupied lands into a tightly sealed and boiling cauldron, and the only result will be an explosion, which is now certain, if not today, then tomorrow.
The truth is that the current 'calm' in the West Bank and Jerusalem is deceptive. A more accurate description would be the 'calm before the storm.' True, Gaza has long displayed a greater readiness to react and perhaps more violently; but one should beware the anger of the forbearing when they lose heir patience. Over the past years, the West Bank and Jerusalem have sent many signals of their anger; but Israel has shown no interest in addressing the causes and confined itself to security measures in which it arrested 2500 Palestinians during the months of August and September alone, and confiscated monies and weapons, of which 80 were locally made.
As long as there is discrimination between human beings, as long as no concern is shown for the lives of human beings living 'here' and excessive concern is shown for human beings living 'there', the coexistence that Israeli President Reuven Rivlin spoke of when he said that the Barkan attack 'harms the possibility of coexistence between the Palestinians and the Israelis' – will remain a risible and false delusion.
Unfortunately, the Palestinians will come to the conviction that the Israelis are uninterested in what happens to them, and only show interest when Israelis fall victim. This has always been their wont and this is how it will remain. It is as if they were saying that the only thing that will force Israel to recognize the Palestinians is when the latter succeed in inflicting victims on Israel.
An entire quarter of a century has passed since the peace negotiations and Oslo Accords were signed calling for a five years interim phase to be followed by a permanent solution that ends the occupation and realizes the Palestinian people's minimal aspirations of establishing an independent state on less than a quarter of historical [pre-1948] Palestine. By insisting on maintaining its occupation, blockading Gaza, closing off Jerusalem, and waging a destructive offensive on the refugees' file, Israel is pushing the situation with great force towards an explosion. It leaves the Palestinians – the truly moderate as well as the hardliners among them – with no option but to head to the battlefield and resist.
The situation on the ground is one of great tension. An explosion is inevitable and is on its way. It is only a matter of time before what Israel does not want ton happen will happen. But it is important to ensure that it is not too late to avoid another bloody chapter between the Palestinians and Israelis.
"It is important for the Israeli government to think in a rational and prudent way, if only for once," concludes Abu-Siriyyeh.
What happened to Saudi journalist Khashoggi on the territories of another state is a terrifying instance of the practices of the new Saudi regime, says Ahmad Theban in today's Qatari al-Rayah
Riyadh is clearly responsible for Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance, despite the Saudi authorities' non-credible denials, insists a Jordanian commentator in a Qatari daily. This is the sort of behavior that has come to characterize Saudi Arabia under Crown-Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
A 'TERRORIST CRIME': "I do not know the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi personally," writes Ahmad Theban in Tuesday's Qatari daily al-Rayah.
Everything suggests that he may have been killed inside his country's consulate in Istanbul. But whether he was killed or only kidnapped, this is a 'terrorist' crime that sickens any independent journalist since it targets freedom of expression and the free press everywhere.
What has happened takes us back to the age when police states used carry out assassinations outside their borders, in addition to the repression of any voice that criticizes or opposes the policies of the wali al-amr [ruler of the people] at home.
Khashoggi was not an opposition figure in the literal sense. He did not subscribe to any radical ideology. In fact, he served for many long decades within the Saudi regime's media and diplomatic institutions. The only new thing is that he recently began to 'softly' criticize some of the Kingdom's policies and positions after Mohammad bin Salman became crown-prince.
Moreover, Khashoggi did not rebel against wali al-amr. The most that his writings demanded were gradual and 'gentle' reforms. He was not a 'terrorist' or 'an ISIS man.' Consequently, what happened to him was state terrorism no matter how one may look at it, an act no less heinous than Israel's Mossad's assassinations of Palestinian freedom-fighters outside Palestine, as in the case of leading Hamas figure Mahmoud Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel in 2010.
The Saudi authorities, however, seem to have invented new means of seeking revenge against a Saudi journalist inside its diplomatic consulate in Turkey. According to information leaked from the Turkish security authorities, Khashoggi was detained inside the consulate where he was tortured, killed, and dismembered, after which he was taken to a site outside the consulate – which enjoys diplomatic immunity according to international laws and conventions!
Khashoggi was lured into the consulate to get some documents. What happened was akin to an ambush. Two private planes arrived in Istanbul carrying fifteen Saudis who it later transpired were security men, and who entered the Saudi consulate when he was still inside. They then left Turkey the same day. Nothing has been conclusively proven so far; but the imagined scene of how the liquidation took place according to leaked reports – torture, killing, and dismemberment – recalls ISIS's  burning alive and execution of Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh. Moreover, reports suggest Khashoggi's liquidation was videotaped to be used later to intimidate any critical or opposition voice!
The Saudi authorities seemed confused. Their denial that they had committed the crime appears as risible. The Saudi consul in Istanbul says that it has cameras monitoring what happened in and around it, but that they do not record what they see!
Even was more risible was the permission granted to a Reuters correspondent to enter the consulate and photograph parts of it, which resembled a naïve theatrical act. After all, Khashoggi entered the consulate on his feet, as the Turkish security authorities found out. He did not come out, but disappeared – like 'a grain of salt that melted.' He most likely did get out, but in diplomatic briefcases and in the form of 'chopped meat.'
This operation offers new and conclusive proof of the nature of the Saudi regime and the shocking changes in its policies since Mohammad bin Salman became crown prince. The regime's most dangerous acts have had to do with the Yemen war and the blockade on Qatar. Meanwhile, Riyadh raises the slogan of 'reform' and views its permission for women to drive as its greatest 'historic achievements' – a decision that comes tens of years behind the rest of the world.
This is a regime that remains silent and swallows President Trump's repeated insults regarding America's protection, and his repeated demands for it to pay the price of this protection without which it would not survive for two weeks. Even the trade and armament deals it struck with the U.S. to the value of more than $700 billion have proven to be useless in appeasing the U.S. president.
By contrast, the wali al-amr's regime acted like a brave lion against Canada, a peaceful and civilized country. It lost its composure and declared a diplomatic and economic war against it because of the Canadian embassy in Riyadh's Tweet criticizing the Kingdom's violations of human rights after the detention of civil society and women's rights activists. And the irony was that the angry reactions to Canada were themselves human rights violations: Halting air travel between the two countries, ordering Saudi patients receiving medical treatment and students studying there to return and move to other countries, without even consulting them.
What happened to Khashoggi on the territories of another state is a terrifying instance of what could happen to anyone who criticizes Saudi policies, whether Saudi citizens or other nationalities.
"Their lives are all in danger, even if they are only carrying out an 'umra pilgrimage or the regular hajj," concludes Theban.
4-Saleh and Barzani at odds
Barham Saleh's election as Iraqi state president has highlighted the depth of the inter-Kurdish split, and has further jeopardized the Kurds' fading dreams of independence, says Khurshid Dalli on pan-Arab www.alaraby.co.uk
The split between the two main Kurdish parties has deepened due to Barham Saleh's election as Iraqi state President, with Mas'ud Barzani's party going as so far to hint that it may boycott Saleh, notes a Syrian Kurdish commentator. The Kurds are now far from achieving their national aspirations, after having failed to exploit changes in the region that were in their favor until recently.
DEEPENED SPLIT: "Barham Saleh's election as Iraqi state President has deepened the inter-Kurdish split," notes Khurshid Dalli on the Qatari-owned, London-based, pan-Arab news portal www.alaraby.co.uk.
No sooner was he elected than the two major Kurdish parties, the KDP (Kurdish Democratic Party) headed by Mas'ud Barzani with Irbil as its headquarters and the PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) based in Sulaimaniyya, began to level accusations at each other.
The KDP's supporters insist that Saleh's election took place without securing a Kurdish accord, contrary to customary conventions. They believe that the presidency rightfully belongs to their party since it is the largest [Kurdish] parliamentary bloc. As a result, accusations of treason and conspiracy theories were bandied about, linking Saleh's election to what happened to Kirkuk [the Kurds' 2017 withdrawal]. KPD supporters claim that they were betrayed by an agreement between PUK leaders and Baghdad sponsored by Iranian Revolutionary Guard Qods Force Commander Qassem Soleimani, as a result of which peshmerga forces were withdrawn from the city at midnight without the KDP's knowledge, which led to the loss of Kirkuk and the rest of the disputed areas.
For their part, PUK supporters have had no qualms accusing Barzani's party of monopolizing power in ruling the Iraqi Kurdistan Province. They add that the Iraqi presidency is the PUK's share anyway, according the 2005 agreement between the two parties, which allocates this position to the PUK in return for offering Kurdistan Province's presidency to the KDP. Moreover, they add, the KDP's argument that Mas'ud Barzani resigned Kurdistan Province's presidency after the [2017 independence] referendum's failure is unconvincing, since his powers were automatically transferred to his nephew Nechirvan Barzani, Kurdistan Province's PM – which demonstrates that the KDP's true aim is to consolidate its hold on the Province.
Saleh's election as Iraqi state president has once again highlighted the depth of the inter-Kurdish split. Each side has entrenched itself behind its party-political, local, and clan authorities, asserting that it is the other's peer on the basis of these powers. But the main element that has been absent from the ongoing argument between each side's supporters is an understanding of where the Iraqi presidency stands in the regional and international intersections, polarizations, and conflicts over Iraq.
Amidst all this, the one apparently sure point is that Iranian Saleh's election did not take place in the absence of an Iranian/U.S. accord. The man previously served as the PUK's representative in London and Washington, before returning to Iraq to become Kurdistan Province's PM and President of American University of Iraq, Sulaimani. He then broke off from the PUK, before returning to it on the eve of his election as Iraq's president. At the same time, he has good relations with Iran, which views Barzani as Turkey and the U.S.'s ally and in whose eyes Barham Saleh remains closer to its strategy in Iraq.
But Barzani's frank hints that he may boycott Saleh on the grounds that what happened was illegal, may be the most serious aspect of the inter-Kurdish split. This could aggravate inter-Kurdish divisions in the coming phase, possibly leading to a boycott between the Sulaimaniyya and Irbil administrations, not to say to a clash between them, as has happened before. At the very least, it could transform the Kurdistan Province into two separate de facto administrations.
The inter-Kurdish crisis could also produce closer relations between Sulaimaniyya and Baghdad, and further estrangement between Irbil and Baghdad. All of which would deepen the chronic Kurdish problem – the split that could nip the Kurds' nationalist aspirations and ambitions in the bud, despite the circumstances and changes that have served their cause.
"But this may have become a Kurdish rule that goes beyond Iraq's Kurdistan Province to affect the other Kurdish areas in the region," concludes Dalli.