MIDEAST MIRROR 01.11.18, SECTION B (THE ARAB WORLD)
1-The simple truth
2-Between threats and action
3-The new American scheme
1- The simple truth
The U.S. officials who have suddenly woken up to the war in Yemen and want to end it within a matter of days have not done so out of concern for the Yemeni people's blood and lives. They want to help the Saudi-coalition find a way out of this trap that has destroyed its image around the world, bled its fortunes (the war's cost stands at $9 billion each month), and is beginning to produce negative results, most importantly fragmenting the [Saudi] Kingdom, undermining its security and stability, bleeding it financially, and destroying its and its Emirati ally's economy as a result the increasing number of [Houthi] missiles that are becoming more accurate in striking their [Saudi] targets. We may have exaggerated a little when we attributed this 'rush' to end the war to Khashoggi's murder and its effects on Saudi Arabia. But we attribute the main cause of this to the Yemeni people in particular, who have fought ferociously in defense of their land, dignity, history, and Arabism. Without this heroic steadfastness, this war would not have lasted for almost four years. This is the simple truth that cannot be denied--'Abdelbari 'Atwan on pan-Arab www.raialyoum.com
Let us imagine the state of affairs in Yemen if the Houthi coup had managed to consolidate its legitimacy, take hold of the country's foreign relations, and succeeded in transforming Yemen into an Iranian base and missile launching-pad that would have threatened the entire Southern part of the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa. Saudi Arabia and its allies have prevented Yemen from falling into the abyss of becoming an ideological state led by slogans and ruled by a religious authority that believes that it derives its legitimacy from God. So, when the international community demands an end to the war in Yemen, it must specify the bases on which the war will end--Khaled as-Suleiman in Saudi Okaz
The one positive outcome of Khashoggi's murder is that it may now be used as a gateway to end the war on Yemen, suggests the editor-in-chief of an online pan-Arab daily. But this would not have been possible without the Yemeni people's ferocious defense of their land. Riyadh and its allies would be very happy if a way is found to end the war in Yemen, provided that its causes are addressed, says a Saudi commentator. These have to do with the Iranian-backed Houthis' attempt to take over the country and oust its legitimate government, threatening the entire region.
ONE POSITIVE OUTCOME: "If there is one positive outcome of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's inhuman, bloody and heinous murder, this may lie in the growing likelihood that the Yemen war may end, and that stability and security may return to this country that is overflowing with Arab sentiment, dignity, and a vast reservoir of courage, chivalry, and pride," writes Editor-in-Chief 'Abdelbari 'Atwan on the pan-Arab www.raialyoum.com.
The Saudi leadership has admitted that its officials carried out the crime. It has detained 18 members of the death squad that carried out the murder. After being provided with conclusive Turkish evidence, and after a growing tide of international anger against it, it has admitted that the crime was premeditated. This has forced it into a tight corner, weakened its position domestically and internationally, and driven it from the offensive to the defensive. It is now trying every means to overcome this crisis, no matter what the financial or political cost.
Suddenly, the 'forgotten' Yemeni war is back in the headlines, with rising voices demanding its immediate cessation, and calls for negotiations between the various parties to reach a permanent political solution:
- First, we heard U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis (on Tuesday) calling for a ceasefire within 30 days. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took a similar stance demanding that the Saudi-led coalition should cease all its air raids on inhabited areas immediately.
- Second, Martin Griffiths, the UN Envoy to Yemen, has said that he remains committed to bringing all Yemeni parties to the negotiating table within a month – please note the coordination [with the U.S. talk of 30 days] – because dialogue is the only means of reaching a comprehensive solution.
- Third, French Defense Minister Florence Parly has said that it is time for the war in Yemen to end. She repeated her condemnation of the continuing humanitarian crisis there. Meanwhile, British PM Theresa May has confirmed that she is contact with the U.S. to push for a permanent political solution.
- Fourth, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Marc Lecoq has confirmed that 14 million Yemenis are on the brink of starvation, and that deaths due to malnutrition are doubling, especially among children, against the background of the almost total absence of health care or measures to confront epidemics, primarily cholera.
These Western governments – the American, French, and British, in particular – were among the most prominent supporters of this war, backing the Saudi/Emirati coalition with weapons and ammunition. They all gave priority to billions of dollars' worth of arms deals over human rights and human values. They have now been compelled to back away from these shameful positions because that the war continues to rage and is approaching the beginning of its fifth year without achieving any of its aims.
We took a stance against this war from the very first day and the very first air raid. We confidently predicted its failure at a time when many people disagreed with us and expected it to be won decisively within a matter of weeks because of the incomparable difference between the coalition's military might, backed by the most advanced American warplanes, and the almost primitive power of the targeted Yemeni victims along with the deep divisions in the country that had just emerged from a domestic war of attrition that went by the title of an 'Arab Spring' revolution.
We predicted this war's failure because we know the Yemeni people and the country's history that brims with heroism and victory, and the defeats it has inflicted on invading empires no matter how powerful and mighty. In fact, [Saudi] King 'Abdelaziz bin 'Abdulrahman Al Saud was wise [in the 1930s] when he asked his two sons, Prince Saud and Prince Faisal, to return immediately and not remain a single hour on Yemeni soil. He told his advisor, 'Abdullah Philby, who opposed him: 'Silence. You do not know Yemen. It is the graveyard of invaders.' It is unfortunate that those who lit the fuse of this war had not read history or familiarized themselves with Yemen's geography or demography.
The U.S. officials who have suddenly woken up to the war in Yemen and want to end it within a matter of days have not done so out of concern for the Yemeni people's blood and lives. They want to help the Saudi-coalition find a way out of this trap that has destroyed its image around the world, bled its fortunes (the war's cost stands at $9 billion each month), and is beginning to produce negative results, most importantly fragmenting the [Saudi] Kingdom, undermining its security and stability, bleeding it financially, and destroying its and its Emirati ally's economy as a result the increasing number of [Houthi] missiles that are becoming more accurate in striking their [Saudi] targets.
We may have exaggerated a little when we attributed this 'rush' to end the war to Khashoggi's murder and its effects on Saudi Arabia. But we attribute the main cause of this to the Yemeni people in particular, who have fought ferociously in defense of their land, dignity, history, and Arabism. Without this heroic steadfastness, this war would not have lasted for almost four years. This is the simple truth that cannot be denied.
We were fully convinced that the Saudi/Emirati alliance had lost this war when it totally failed to control the city of Hodeida, despite months of fighting and bombardment from air and land, seeking help from all forces around the globe.
We will continue stand in the same trench alongside Yemen, the whole of Yemen, against this aggression until it ends, and until Yemen returns, stable, healthy, and recovered, reconciled and tolerant based on a uniting and all-inclusive national identity. And we believe that these wishes are not difficult to realize when we speak of the people of Yemen with their wisdom and deep roots in history.
"Anyway, tomorrow is around the corner and it will show that we are right," concludes 'Atwan.
NO ONE WANTS AN ENDLESS WAR: "No one wants the war in Yemen to continue forever," writes Khaled as-Suleiman in Thursday's Saudi daily Okaz.
The aim behind the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen was to pre-empt the conditions that would have led to a greater war whose flames would have consumed the entire region. For let us imagine the state of affairs in Yemen if the Houthi coup had managed to consolidate its legitimacy, take hold of the country's foreign relations, and succeeded in transforming Yemen into an Iranian base and missile launching-pad that would have threatened the entire Southern part of the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa.
Saudi Arabia and its allies have prevented Yemen from falling into the abyss of becoming an ideological state led by slogans and ruled by a religious authority that believes that it derives its legitimacy from God.
So, when the international community demands an end to the war in Yemen, it must specify the bases on which the war will end. It must determine the main features of the future that awaits the Yemeni people so as to ensure that their sacrifices have not been wasted like dust in the wind, as the Houthi coup and its military actions have squandered the lives of their victims in pursuit of power and subjugating their opponents.
The Saudis and their allies are not just passing time in Yemen. They do not aim to remain there or to intervene in Yemen's affairs. They would be happy when the conditions that forced them to intervene in support of the country's legitimate government come to an end, allowing them to devote their resources and energies to fields that are of greater benefit to their people. Consequently, they will back any proposed solution to end the war.
However, that said, the world must bear in mind that the problem never stemmed from the Saudi-led coalition, but always from the other side that adopts the same creed that led Iran to sacrifice the lives of hundreds-of-thousands of Iranians in the [1980/88] Iraq/Iran war.
"Ending the war without dealing with its causes would be no more than a fragile and temporary truce that would not prevent a more painful and longer war from breaking out," concludes Suleiman.
2-Between threats and action
My advice to the PA is to stop posturing and issuing threats that it is unable or unwilling to follow up on. Repeating such practices weakens the PA's credibility and undermines what remains of its image. It does more to highlight its weakness than display its power. I understand that the PA and the presidency's deeper positions are not in alignment with such slogans nor comply with such demands and calls. In light of this, is there any need to continue with such a game? Do such practices help to reinforce the mutual trust between the parties to the Palestinian national project? And is it possible to base the endeavor to revive and resurrect the Palestinian national movement and reinvigorate the PLO on such fragile foundations, typified by mistrust, uncertainty, 'loss of direction,' and mutual accusations of responsibility for the difficult circumstances that the Palestinian national project has ended up in?-- 'Urayb ar-Rintawi in Jordanian ad-Dustour
If there is any fault regarding the implementation of [the PCC's] resolutions, it does not apply to their nature. But their implementation, on the other hand, requires facing some very serious challenges. The cost will be enormous, which is why this entails preparing the proper tools to manage this conflict at the least possible cost. It also demands a different sort of national Palestinian situation in order to bear the consequences. These resolutions are supposed to deal with what has happened over 25 years since the Oslo process began. Many facts have accumulated over these years that are not easy to overcome. The matter requires a roadmap and a gradual vision when it comes to implementing the resolutions... Events have taken dangerous course that is not open to adjustment by the U.S./Israeli alliance after developments on the ground have bypassed the possibility of employing these resolutions as threats--Talal 'Awkal in Palestinian al-Ayyam
This week's Palestinian Central Council's (PCC's) meeting ended with the same resolutions adopted at previous meetings, but with nothing to suggest that the Palestinian leadership intends to implement them this time around, maintains a leading Jordanian commentator. The Palestinian national movement is paying an enormous price for this dissonance between its discourse and practice. Critics of the PCC have failed to detect the new elements in its latest resolutions, argues a Gaza-based Palestinian commentator. These resolutions are also meant to reverse accumulations of 25 years of the Oslo process, which cannot be done overnight, and requires careful action to minimize the cost to the Palestinian people.
'TAKE-3' BUT NO 'ACTION': "The PLO's PCC has adopted the same resolutions for the third time in row," writes 'Urayb ar-Rintawi in Thursday's Jordanian daily ad-Dustour.
For the third time, the president and the PLO Executive Committee have been authorized to follow up on these resolutions and implement them. To use the language of cinema, this is like saying 'Take-3'; but the maestro or director has still not shouted out: 'Action!' for the camera lenses to begin turning and the film to be shot. In fact, we may witness a 'Take-4'; but we are most unlikely to hear anyone shouting: 'Action!'
The demands to implement the resolutions adopted by the PNC (Palestinian National Council) and the PCC have never ceased; but no one has paid any attention to them. This has led a number of factions and independent figures to boycott the two councils' sessions, and the PCC in particular. In fact, the Palestinian leadership barely succeeded in securing a quorum for the PCC meeting, even though its membership was tailored to fit the leadership's size, calculations, and preferences.
It is also worth noting that as soon as those meeting in Ramallah went their separate ways, voices emerged from within the 'Follow-up Committee' calling for realism and rationality, and warning against taking leaps in the void or the unknown. And this means that no one will take the trouble to implement these resolutions or translate them into action.
So, why does the PA/PLO's leadership bother to reproduce the same resolutions, when it has no intention of implementing them? I suspect – and not all suspicion is a sin – that it is doing so in order to achieve two aims:
- First to send a message to Israel and the international community that it will respond to U.S./Israeli escalation with similar escalation.
- Second, in order to offer a means for the complainers, rejectionists, oppositionists, and revolutionaries to let off steam inside the meeting halls, and to express what is on their minds and in their hearts, putting it all in ink on paper but with no intention of implementing it.
But I am sure that this game – or tactic, if one wants to raise the moral level of the debate – no longer fools anyone. There was no shock to Israel's political and security establishments, and it is likely that no one in Israel took these decisions seriously. And the same goes for Washington and the international community.
Moreover, the Palestinian 'factions' and 'figures' are now fully aware of the game's rules and aims. Those who still have the last vestiges of self-respect preferred to boycott the meeting in order not be recorded as 'false witnesses.' As for others, who have no place, except at the back as a member of the chorus, all they had to do was to applaud or passively watch what was happening. And there are always sufficient justifications to market one position or another, and they will never lack the means to do so.
The escalatory resolutions adopted by the latest PNC and PCC meetings are akin to the [the Palestinian leadership's] ceaseless threats to 'hand over the PA's keys to Binyamin Netanyahu'. They have lost their effect as a card to be brandished. And those who may believe that the PA has abandoned its belief in the 'sacred' character of security coordination or is about to withdraw from signed agreements, or 'suspend' recognition of Israel, are deluding themselves. In fact, I do not know what 'suspending' recognition means and whether it has any place in international law or not.
My advice to the PA is to stop posturing and issuing threats that it is unable or unwilling to follow up on. Repeating such practices weakens the PA's credibility and undermines what remains of its image. It does more to highlight its weakness than display its power.
I understand that the PA and the presidency's deeper positions are not in alignment with such slogans nor comply with such demands and calls. In light of this, is there any need to continue with such a game? Do such practices help to reinforce the mutual trust between the parties to the Palestinian national project?
"And is it possible to base the endeavor to revive and resurrect the Palestinian national movement and reinvigorate the PLO on such fragile foundations, typified by mistrust, uncertainty, 'loss of direction,' and mutual accusations of responsibility for the difficult circumstances that the Palestinian national project has ended up in?" asks Rintawi in conclusion.
AN IMPORTANT STATEMENT: "Against the background of the absence of a number of national and Islamist factions whose size and political and popular role in the struggle exceed the number of boycotters and absentees from the PCC's 30th session – 31 members out of 143 – the PCC held its ordinary meeting and produced an important political statement," writes Talal 'Awkal in Thursday's leading Palestinian daily al-Ayyam.
Despite the quorum– which in itself underlines a problem having to do with extent to which it was properly representative even without taking Hamas and Islamic Jihad into consideration – very fact of holding this meeting highlights the extent of the crisis that is taking the Palestinian national institution by storm and threatening the Palestinians' representative bodies' inclusiveness.
I will not here discuss this crisis or the conflicting legitimacies or the question of representation; nor will I discuss the mechanism for reaching decisions in our national institutions that are supposed to be all-inclusive. Many factions and political observers have already offered many criticisms, objections, and remarks on these issues.
But what may be more important is the PCC's final communiqué that has elicited two sorts of criticisms: The first has to do with the claim that its resolutions are repetitive and contain nothing new; and the second focuses on the issue of implementation. Those making these criticisms believe that the PCC's resolutions are repetitions of the same council's 2015 and 2018 resolutions that were confirmed by the PNC and the PLO Executive Committee, but that have not seen the light of day so far.
But we believe that the PCC's 30th session's final statement included new elements over and above the previous resolutions. Moreover, it was formulated in more serious, firmer, and more decisive terms. And the statement's spirit reflects a determined will to continue the struggle against the challenges facing the Palestinians.
Among the new elements was the PCC's description of relations with the racist occupation as one of struggle, and by extension, one of struggle with the U.S. as well, which the PCC's statement describes as the Israeli occupation's partner and a part of the problem and not of the solution. This point in particular should slam the door on the doubters who have pointed to certain expressions in order to demonstrate that the leadership is wagering on the possibility of returning to negotiations based on the [U.S.-sponsored] deal of the century.
This point goes beyond the previously declared positions of rejecting and confronting the deal of the century and ending all contacts and dealings with the U.S. until it rescinds its decisions regarding Palestinian rights. For by describing the U.S. in these terms, the PCC's latest statement places it at the head of the Palestinian people's list of enemies, alongside the occupation state.
Another new thing in the PCC's statement is its firm opposition to the normalization of Arab/Israeli relations: First, by insisting on the need to implement the 1980 Amman summit's resolutions that call for severing relations with any state that recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital or that moves its embassy to the city. Second, by stressing that the PLO clings to the Arab Peace Initiative adopted by the 2002 Beirut summit that is facing determined efforts to turn on its head.
Another new element that emerged from the PCC's session is that the PLO has officially adopted the Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions (BDS) movement for the first time, calling for strengthening it, expanding the areas in which it operates, and promoting international compliance with that movement's aims.
It is also important to note that the PCC's statement failed to mention any punitive measures against Hamas or the people of Gaza. In fact, it even reversed previous measures taken by the PNC by urging the need to rescind them.
This point's importance stems from the fact that almost everyone had expected the PCC to adopt new measures in light of the angry and tense terms used in the [President Abbas's] speech that inaugurated the PCC session and that placed Hamas alongside Israel and the U.S. – when it was better to separate and distinguish between them. Moreover, a few days before the PCC session, Fatah's Revolutionary Council had recommended dissolving the PLC (Palestinian Legislative Council), not to mention the many threats and leaks regarding new sanctions [on Hamas/Gaza].
I believe that the absence of such measures from the PCC's resolutions, as well as other points in its statement that address the internal Palestinian situation – including the readiness for new PNC based on previous agreements and for resolving the crisis between the Palestinian factions – mean that the PCC has opened the door to a new effort to achieve inter-Palestinian reconciliation. In fact, the Egyptian delegation's trip to the Gaza Strip the day after the PCC meetings ended confirms this last point, thereby initiating a new shuttle effort between Gaza and Ramallah centering on reconciliation and tahdi'a [lull or calming down] issues.
As for the other fundamental objections to the PCC's resolutions that raise the issue of impotence and procrastination when it comes to implementing previous PNC resolutions, they fail to take into consideration the following:
- If there is any fault regarding the implementation of these resolutions, it does not apply to their nature. But their implementation, on the other hand, requires facing some very serious challenges. The cost will be enormous, which is why this entails preparing the proper tools to manage this conflict at the least possible cost. It also demands a different sort of national Palestinian situation in order to bear the consequences.
- These resolutions are supposed to deal with what has happened over 25 years since the Oslo process began. Many facts have accumulated over these years that are not easy to overcome. The matter requires a roadmap and a gradual vision when it comes to implementing the resolutions.
We should also not ignore the fact that adopting such resolutions before Trump and his deal was meant to threaten an adjustment in the Palestinians' course, which is permissible in political action. However, the situation is different today.
"Events have taken dangerous course that is not open to adjustment by the U.S./Israeli alliance after developments on the ground have bypassed the possibility of employing these resolutions as threats," concludes 'Awkal.
3-The new American scheme
The U.S.-backed SDF's withdrawal in the face of ISIS, suggests that Washington is concocting a new scheme to foil a Syrian settlement using ISIS as its tool, says Mohammad Kharroub in today's Jordanian al-Ra'i
The Syrian Democratic Forces' (SDF's) rapid withdrawal before advancing ISIS forces East of the Euphrates could not have happened without collusion between the U.S., ISIS, and the SDF, maintains a Jordanian commentator. These developments offer the 'glad tiding' of a new U.S. scheme that is meant to obstruct a peaceful solution in Syria, topple the Syrian president, and cut Russian and Iranian influence there down to size.
COLLAPSED HORSE: "Suddenly, the SDF – the horse on which the American invaders have been betting –collapsed," notes Mohammad Kharroub in Thursday's Jordanian daily al-Ra'i.
The SDF threw themselves into the Americans' lap. They became the cat's claw and the tool by which the Americans established their military bases in Northern and Northeastern Syria; based on the lie they invented, namely, to fight terrorism. But they soon revealed their scheme that is intended to obstruct, or in fact undermine, the attempt to resolve the Syrian crisis by political means. They have said it loud and clear instead that they will be 'staying' in Syria, even after ISIS is defeated and repulsed.
The resounding defeat inflicted on the U.S.-backed Kurdish militias would not have occurred had the 'coalition' air force intervened to support those heavily armed militias. However, as the Syrian 'opposition' media reported, these militias simply withdrew before the attacking ISIS groups only hours after the attack began without putting up a strong fight on the pretext that they failed to secure backing from the coalition due to difficult weather conditions. However, those who have investigated what really happened have said that this claim is unjustified, especially since the attacking groups were not numerous and faced large defending forces equipped with the best weapons.
What is happening is a malicious but self-evident game, especially since the SDF's leaders have said that the reason for the setback was partially due to the 'lack of experience' of the Arab fighters in SDF ranks. This raises the level of suspicion and leads to further questions regarding the secret behind ISIS's 'surprise' return to Eastern Syria after the major strikes and defeats that have driven it to the brink of exhaustion and rendered it unable to rally ranks or carry out any counterattacks.
The justifications provided by U.S.-led coalition Spokesman Sean Ryan give us cause to believe that something is being hatched behind the scenes, and that certain parties have wanted to revive ISIS and renew its role. The aim is to exploit it once more in the coming phase, just as it was wagered on it in the phase that preceded its defeat when the Syrian state recaptured many of its lost positions and governorates. The last governorates to be liberated were in South, where ISIS was forced to retreat. As a result, the Americans embraced it and provided it with a safe haven and protection. In fact, they even helped it to deploy in Deir az-Zour areas. More specifically, U.S. helicopters have provided the mode of transportation that Russia's Hmeimim Base has monitored and declared to the world, and that Washington has never officially denied.
By way of justifying the SDF's suspect withdrawal before ISIS's attack, the international coalition's American spokesman said: 'This battle is give and take sometimes like most military fights and we have been saying from the beginning, this will be a difficult struggle.' And he added: 'ISIS is using experienced foreign fighters with nothing to lose and the SDF will come back with coalition support and continue to degrade and destroy ISIS.'
We are dealing here with a torrent of unconvincing justifications that reek of confusion, indeed, of collusion, something that Turkey as well as Iraq are pointing to as reflected in President Erdogan's statements (or 'threats') to invade the area East of the Euphrates and not only Manbij. For he has threatened to destroy 'the terror structure East of the Euphrates,' and clearly declared: 'We have completed our preparations, plans, and programs regarding this issue,' deeming this to be 'a final warning to those who are threatening Turkey's borders and exposing them to dangers,' and stressing 'Ankara's determination to devote its attention to the area East of the Euphrates and not to Manbij, which is in Aleppo's countryside.'
In Iraq as well, the head of the Iraqi National Preventive Security Agency Qassim al-'Araji, has cast doubt on the SDF militias recent withdrawal in the face of ISIS attacks. He said that this withdrawal and the deployment of ISIS in its place raise more than one question, especially since all this has occurred near the Iraqi/Syrian borders.
Erdogan (as well as the Iraqi official) knows that the SDF enjoys the Americans' protection, sponsorship, and backing. In fact, two days ago, on Tuesday, the Turkish president dropped hints, declaring that 'we know there are efforts to give ISIS a free hand via its members who have received training from well-known circles and who have deployed in the area.'
So, is there any doubt that U.S. forces have the upper hand in this area via its military bases and via its tool that goes by the name of 'SDF'? The latter evacuated its strategic positions, especially in the Hajeen Front, leaving them to ISIS fighters who seem to have secured an American green light to launch their recent attacks and announce their 'return', after a series of defeats and setbacks and the fall of their alleged Caliphate state.
We will have to wait until the facts regarding this sudden return of ISIS have been revealed, and until we know the reasons behind the effort to revive it especially after the Trump administration has made up its mind, backed by some regional –Arab – states to keep its invading forces on Syrian soil so as to obstruct a political resolution and impose its vision on the ground by toppling the Syrian president and cutting Russia and Iran's influence down to size. And it is doing so by threatening to create 'mini-states' in Northern and Eastern Syria.
"Meanwhile, what is happening East of the Euphrates and along the common borders with Iraq suggests that a new American scheme is being prepared whose initial 'glad tidings' are already evident from the green light given to ISIS to return and to the SDF to withdraw in favor of the U.S.'s new/old [ISIS] 'ally'," concludes Kharroub.