New Age Islam Edit Bureau
20 August 2015
International Readiness for War in Libya
By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
With Antiquities Scholar's Killing, ISIL Steps Up War On History
By James Denselow
Reviving Practice Of Slavery
By Sabria S. Jawhar
Why The AKP Supports Erdogan’s Gamble
By Manuel Almeida
Hezbollah Sleeping Cells in Kuwait Are a Wake-Up Call
Byu Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor
The Questionable Legality Of Military Aid To Egypt
The Editorial Board
International Readiness for War in Libya
By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
19 August 2015
Inaction against extremist groups makes confronting them more difficult and costly later. This is Libya’s situation today, as ever since fighting began, there were many indications of the spread of extremist groups affiliated with al-Qaeda.
Ansar al-Sharia threatened to slay Burma’s ambassador in mid-2012, but no one addressed these threats. A month later, it attacked the U.S. consulate, killing the ambassador and three others. The reaction was a limited U.S. commando operation raiding an al-Qaeda affiliate’s house in Tripoli and arresting him. Four months passed before Washington put Ansar al-Sharia on the terror list. Meanwhile, the Europeans did not act.
Extremist groups’ activities increased, and they kidnapped the Libyan prime minister in 2013. Then at the beginning of last year, another group kidnapped employees at the Egyptian embassy. Despite all this, the desire to confront terrorists was lacking, perhaps in the hope that they would just vanish! Worse, the Europeans did not support the only power that dared declare its willingness to end chaos: the Libyan army, through General Khalifa Haftar.
Perhaps this was a chance to develop and manage a Libyan military power that assumes the task of uniting the county, eliminating militias and imposing a political solution, which was already available but unprotected. Since such a plan was not supported, the crisis grew and the cancer of extremist groups spread.
Finally, speaking on behalf of the Europeans, Italy’s foreign minister said in a few weeks they would have to militarily intervene if the Libyans did not agree a political solution. The minister brought up the possibility of expanding the international alliance against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to include Libya. Why did they not do so earlier when the task was easier?
Chaos in the Middle East requires international rules of engagement. There are countries on which it may be difficult for the international community to impose itself, no matter how weak they are and unless the relevant governments request this intervention, such as Yemen in the past or recently Iraq.
A few years ago, when Ali Abdullah Saleh was still president of Yemen, the Americans gave his government two choices: fight Al-Qaeda or they would intervene to do so. Yemen approved the presence of U.S. drones. Iraq rejected intervention until ISIS took over Mosul then Ramadi. As for Syria, since there is no central government, intervention happened regardless of the regime’s objections. The problem is that military intervention to fight terrorist groups has always come late.
Libya is vital to European security and interests, and is a close neighbour to Europe. The European Union (EU) could have had a clear stance that in the absence of a strong system, it was willing to intervene in neighbouring conflict zones that affect its security.
No one favours going back to the time of foreign interventions, but this may be the only solution amid dangerous circumstances when systems collapse or weaken, and after approval by the U.N. Security Council.
Libya is on its way to becoming another Somalia, as the Italian foreign minister put it. However, the Europeans have not taken the initiative for a military arrangement like the Americans did in Syria.
Worse, some European countries wanted an amended political model based on quotas by imposing Islamic groups instead of fully resorting to elections and despite these groups’ poor electoral performance. The Europeans think this will improve the security and political situations. This submission to extremists and their financial funders is what prolonged chaos and caused the spread of ISIS.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.
With Antiquities Scholar's Killing, ISIL Steps Up War On History
By James Denselow
19 Aug 2015
In the shadow of the terrible air strikes that rained down on a marketplace in the Damascus suburb of Douma earlier this week killing and maiming hundreds, came another death on Tuesday that added to Syria's death toll of a quarter of a million.
Khaled Asaad was an 82-year-old antiquities scholar and expert in Palmyra's past. We will likely never know the details of the story that led to his decapitated body being hung on a column in the city's central square, his head resting between his feet with an ISIL placard strung around his chest.
Asaad, who'd spent more than 50 years working on the Palmyra, one of UNESCO's World Heritage sites, had been in ISIL's custody for over a month. There is a perverse irony that upon capturing the city, the militant group filmed the inside of the regime's notorious Tadmur prison before blowing up the structure. ISIL appears to have replaced one torture-death facility with another.
Why was Asaad killed? The trade in antiquities is one of ISIL's main sources of funding. In the retreat from the city, valuable items were moved or hidden, and ISIL perhaps suspected that Asaad was the man who knew where the loot was.
Interestingly, unlike so many of ISIL's killings that are promoted by the group via slick press releases and stage-managed videos, Asaad's death was reported to the world via Syrian state antiquities chief, Maamoun Abdulkarim, who'd had the news relayed to him by the family.
Despite the international horror to ISIL tactics, its local face has always been more important to maintaining control over such a large territory and population, and it appears that the murder of Asaad was meant to send a message locally rather than internationally.
ISIL may be struggling to win hearts and minds in Palmyra, and the killing of one of the city's best known scholars is part of what Abdulkarim described as the group's "curse" on the place.
The killing, however, fits a wider narrative of ISIL's "war on history". Asaad's death may have been primarily an extortion attempt, but the group's control of past is an important part of their narrative of present and vision of future. Relics, ruins and history are components of ISIL's strategy of imposing a "Year Zero" on the territory they have defined as a "caliphate".
International concern around Palmyra has focused largely on the heritage rather than the people. When ISIL entered the city, the potential loss of one of the region's premier historical and tourist sites saw people who'd previously ignored the bloody conflict crying out across the airwaves for something to be done.
This February the UN passed Security Council Resolution 2199 that looked to crack down on ISIL's funding streams, including "banning all trade in looted antiquities from Iraq and Syria".
History and Historians
In April, the director-general of UNESCO reminded the world that "the deliberate destruction of heritage is a war crime” and a national campaign has been launched under the banner: "Save Syria's History".
Yet, Syria's history is not just its buildings and relics, but also those historians such as Asaad who've dedicated their entire lives to preserving and protecting the past.
So, while new mechanisms have made it harder - but not impossible - to smuggle antiquities and this may have had an impact on ISIL's budget, the mechanisms, ironically, may trigger larger destruction of ruins and items that have lost their trading value.
In June, Palmyra resident Nasser al-Nasser told Al Jazeera that ISIL fighters have assembled explosives around several heritage sites in the city: "We have seen them put the explosives around several sites; we all fear they might blow these ruins up. We can confirm that two sites have been mined."
An ancient city rigged to explode, with one of its greatest minds butchered and on display in its central square, and yet, international action to resolve the Syrian crisis and potentially save Palmyra still appears to be a distant prospect.
Despite the market bombings and the killing of Asaad, the only positive to emerge this week was rare agreement at the UN where the Security Council has urged "a Syrian-led political process leading to a political transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people".
More must be done to protect the history that Asad gave his life for and protect the future of this battered country.
James Denselow is a writer on Middle East politics and security issues and a research associate at the Foreign Policy Centre.
Reviving Practice of Slavery
By Sabria S. Jawhar
20 August 2015
Daesh, the gangster thugs who intend to destroy Islam with its pretzel logic of employing murder and fear as the cornerstone of its alleged caliphate, has now hijacked our religion to justify raping preteen girls after kidnapping and selling them into slavery.
The stunning Aug. 13 article in the New York Times outlining the practice of sex slavery as a recruitment tool for men to join Daesh should give Muslims pause to consider the ramifications that these barbaric acts will have on our religion.
Daesh military leaders are claiming that it is reviving the Islamic practice of slavery. The Times put it this way: “The systematic rape of women and girls from the Yazidi religious minority has become deeply enmeshed in the organization and the radical theology of the Islamic State in the year since the group announced it was reviving slavery as an institution.”
While the Times should be praised for exposing this obscene practice, it unfortunately provides a clumsy and inadequate explanation of the context of slavery in Islam.
The article does little to support the inflammatory headline “ISIS Enshrines a Theology of Rape.” It quotes two very wishy-washy Islamic scholars who provide vague explanations of slavery in Islam.
Daesh may very well believe it’s “reviving the institution of slavery,” but the institution of slavery they are practicing does not exist in Islam. Slave owners in the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) were forbidden from dishonouring anyone let alone slaves.
According to the article, Daesh soldiers kidnapped more than 5,000 Yazidis for the purpose of enslaving them for sex. The practice is codified through Daesh’s alleged Islamic courts that notarize sales contracts of slaves. They use the practice to recruit men as soldiers “where casual sex is taboo and dating is forbidden.”
The article sheds little light on how Daesh has perverted Islamic jurisprudence. Slavery was a worldwide practice during the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) 1,400 years ago. The difference between slavery in Muslim communities and that of Europe was that in Islam slavery was a temporary solution during and after wartime and an alternative to imprisonment and killing. It was never a recruitment tool to enlist men into war.
A Muslim army that had won battle or conquered a land was encouraged to take slaves instead of killing them in a war zone or putting them in prison. The goal was to eventually set them free. This was a highly regulated practice that required slave owners to treat slaves with dignity, provide them food from their own tables and dress them as owners would dress their own family. Slaves were taken from the battlefield during war, not their homes during peacetime.
The female slave was protected and was entitled to freedom if, in case, she became pregnant. A slave who is beaten must be set free. Freeing slaves is seen as an act of purification and for the sake of Allah.
While it is difficult today to wrap our heads around the fact that there is any humane version of slavery, this system was seen at the time as preferable to the kind of slavery practiced without those protections in Europe and later in America. To be clear, sex slavery did not exist.
Slavery was eventually phased out in Muslim communities. It didn’t end instantly with legislation, such as in England in 1833 and in the United States in 1865. In Muslim countries, changes in practices do not occur suddenly because they will be resisted in society.
We see this today in the similar reactions to same sex marriage and the banning of the Confederate flag in some parts of the United States and just about every Muslim country that went through the Arab Spring. For example, alcohol in Islam was banned on a gradual basis. First, it was prohibited before prayer, but since Muslims pray five times a day, alcohol consumption was limited until after Isha (night) prayer. Later it was forbidden altogether.
Muslims, as with the rest of the world, have been engaged in many wars since the time of the Prophet, yet they took no slaves and never considered “reviving” the practice of slavery. Yet Daesh implemented a regulated system that sanctions rape and slavery, although the practice has no precedent in Islam. Rape as a weapon is all too common in any war. But we can examine the conduct of Muslim soldiers in the Iran-Iraq war, the uprisings in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt, and the Saudis’ battle against the Houthis in Yemen and find no instances of government-sanctioned rape or sex slavery.
So, does Daesh possess some special insight and the divine right to institute sex slavery while no other Muslim state has? No, it doesn’t. Daesh have made it no secret that it wants to strike terror in the West. It wants revenge for the Iraq war and the kidnapping of Muslims worldwide to be held indefinitely and without trial. They say they want the West to have a taste of its own medicine.
The actions of Daesh are the extreme in every sense of the word. But variations of the Daesh mentality are found in other governments. Israel kidnaps Palestinian men, women and children by hundreds and holds them without trial. Israeli government-sanctioned killings have been well documented and supported by anecdotal evidence from Israeli soldiers.
Israeli settlers have claimed Palestinian homes as their birthright without fear of government intrusion. The United States has all but abandoned the constitutional right to due process. The global community, at least in the West, does not ascribe these atrocities as inspired by Judaism or Christianity, although elected officials often make such pronouncements. Yet the global community labels Daesh’s atrocities as inspired by Islam although there is no basis in Islam for its conduct.
Instead of creating a “caliphate,” the Daesh leaders have created a state in which their sole purpose is to inflict terror on the rest of the world.
Why the AKP Supports Erdogan’s Gamble
By Manuel Almeida
20 August 2015
Among Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s characteristics is the ability to issue provocative statements guaranteed to trigger the wrath of his political opponents. Yet last weekend in the Black Sea’s Rize province, the words of the President of Turkey and co-founder of the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) struck a crucial nerve with the opposition: “Whether it is accepted or not, Turkey’s system of government has changed. What needs to be done now is to clarify and confirm the legal framework of this de facto situation with a new constitution.”
Erdogan’s remarks about a de-facto presidential system may be a fairly accurate reflection of his first year in office, during which the president chaired cabinet meetings for the first time in the history of the AKP. But it was quite a blunt move to admit the rules that have governed the Turkish Republic will be shaped to suit his own ambitions. It was also an anticipated confirmation Erdogan’s long standing goal to transform the largely ceremonial presidential post into an executive one is at the distance of a new election, which could give the ruling AKP a renewed majority in parliament, or so the president hopes.
Most likely, Erdogan’s intention was to steer even more controversy days before the last attempts to form a coalition government, which if successful could work against his plans. As a senior government official told Reuters, Erdogan “is getting what he wants after a masterfully managed two months. It was clear since the beginning that in no way did he consider any other option than single AK Party rule.”
Opposition leaders reacted vigorously. Devlet Bahceli, leader of right-wing Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), said “we cannot tolerate a home-product Hitler, Stalin or Qaddafi. Turkey is bigger than one person.” Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), accused Erdogan of staging a coup the same way military officer and then President of Turkey, Kenan Evren, prepared the ground for the 1980 military coup he led by deposing Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel.
On Monday, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu confirmed the failure of the talks with Bahceli to form a coalition government. This followed last week’s unsuccessful talks between the leaderships of the AKP and the CHP. Then on Tuesday evening, it was announced Davutoglu would hand over the mandate to form a new government back to Erdogan. According the constitution, if the prime minister is unable to form a government by August 23, the president has to dissolve the cabinet and call for the formation an interim power-sharing government until autumn’s election.
Period Of Instability
The boldness of Erdogan’s comments is even more striking when considering Turkey is going through its worst period of instability in recent years. To the political deadlock add the rising violence between the Turkish army and Kurdish militants and the ensuing collapse of the peace process with the Kurds, as well as the growing threat from ISIS now being bombed from Turkey’s Incirlik airbase.
However, the president clearly believes this instability can play to his advantage. The logic is that at a time of great uncertainty, many voters will reconsider their choice in June’s election and recast their vote in the coming autumn election in favour of the AKP, the party that guided Turkey toward years of prosperity and stability via consecutive parliamentary majorities. There is also the hope among AKP ranks that the resumption of the conflict with the Kurds can affect the electoral results of pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP). In June’s election, the HDP won 13.1 percent of the vote, surpassing for the first time in its history the 10 percent election threshold and preventing the AKP from winning another majority.
Given the potentially huge negative impact of Erdogan’s high risk bet, reliant on instability, uncertainty and polarization, do AKP’s high cadres remain united around the president’s strategy?
The divergences in both style and substance between Erdogan and former president and co-founder of the AKP, Abdullah Gul, are well known and the latest episodes are only likely to deepen their differences. But despite his popularity among party cadres, Gul has largely kept away from the party’s spotlight. Nevertheless, various Turkish analysts believe there is growing discontent within the AKP about the impact the president’s personal ambitions have had on the party’s poor electoral result in June.
Earlier this year, the influential Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc made a series of public comments quite critical of Erdogan’s meddling in the government-led peace process with the Kurds and the polarizing effect of the president’s approach. Another possible sign of rifts within the AKP came in February this year, with the resignation of Turkey’s intelligence chief, Hakan Fidan. Erdogan reacted negatively to Fidan’s resignation, which was defended by Davutoglu. Fidan’s intention was to run for parliament, but he ended up withdrawing his resignation in March.
Nevertheless, the AKP seems the have closed its ranks in recent months, a move that the clout Erdogan wields helps to explain. Above all, a public split within the AKP at this point could be fatal for its ambitions in autumn’s election. At stake is nothing less than the AKP’s dominant position in Turkish politics, the lure of government jobs in a new cabinet, and the survival of the patronage network that grew around AKP’s hegemony in Turkey. However, it is far from guaranteed that the strategy of pushing for a new electoral round will bring the result Erdogan eagerly expects.
Manuel Almeida is a writer, researcher and consultant on the Middle East. He holds a PhD in International Relations from the London of Economics and Political Science and was an editor at Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.
Hezbollah Sleeping Cells in Kuwait Are a Wake-Up Call
By Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor
19 August 2015
Kuwait’s discovery of a massive secret weapons cache, including rocket launchers, machine guns and grenades, in the hands of one of Hezbollah’s sleeping cells allegedly plotting to overthrow the government should be viewed as a harbinger of Tehran’s future malicious intentions. An immediate response, beyond mere verbal condemnation, is needed from GCC States.
Apparently such cells have been in existence for 16 years awaiting the moment to strike. The Arab Times reveals that all 25 Kuwaiti, Lebanese and Iranian suspects were trained in Lebanon and reports that a foreign intelligence service had warned the Ministry of Interior almost a year ago of an upcoming terror plot “against Kuwait by a sleeper cell belonging to Hezbollah.”
Together, Gulf states make-up one interlocking body formed on the basis of geography, common history and ties of blood. When one of its extremities is injured the others are more vulnerable. Therefore, all GCC member states must take the toughest measures possible to protect their borders and to use every available tool to root out those who would harm us.
Many expressed their surprise at Kuwait’s lack of decisive action to thwart these kinds of threats, and I could not agree more, given Iran’s destructive meddling in Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere.
Iran is the mastermind behind many regional troubles, but Hezbollah is the implementer. Kuwait needs to get tough but its democratic system of governance and constitution may be restraining the authorities. Kuwaitis tend to treat their constitution with reverence but it is not a holy book. If its civil liberties provisions endanger the country, it should be changed to give the government a free hand to deal with individuals or parties having dubious links to foreign governments and organisations.
Muna al-Fuzai, a Kuwaiti journalist, hit the nail on the head when she wrote, it is imperative to “put an end to the intervention of pro-Iranian parties in Gulf states, whether in Kuwait or other states and those who support them...”
Indeed, if democratic freedom means opening up ones house to enemies, however they are disguised, then who needs it! Let us not be fooled by the illusion of western-style democracy. In my view, Kuwait’s parliament is holding the country back from political stability, economic growth and from adopting stringent security policies. The democratic process permits infiltration by parties covertly serving an Iranian agenda.
Years ago, some Kuwaiti lawmakers displayed their loyalty to Hezbollah during visits to Lebanon, appalling when one recalls Hezbollah’s multiple attacks on targets and assassination attempts in Kuwait during the 1980s. Kuwait should purge parliament of treasonous representatives too cosy with Iran.
Kuwait was one of the first countries to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization, yet the organization still manages to remain active on Kuwaiti soil. No citizen should be allowed to jeopardize Kuwait’s national security and anyone who does so, should face the death penalty.
Kuwait’s experiment with democracy needs fine-tuning. In the meantime, I would ask GCC member states, in particular Saudi Arabia and the UAE, to respectfully urge Kuwait to call for a State of Emergency in the first instance. Moreover, every Gulf State must be on alert for Iranian plots.
Iran’s Thirst for Hegemony
Most of this region’s troubles are rooted in Iran’s thirst for hegemony. That is known! So, the Obama administration’s portrayal of Iran as a benign entity insults our intelligence.
We are not safer just because Iran’s nuclear ambitions are curbed for 10 years - on the contrary, the ayatollahs will soon be flush with $80 billion to fuel Tehran’s troublemaking regional proxies and affiliates. Here is the evidence straight from the horse’s mouth.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran will always support the current resistance front and of course, with the nuclear agreement, it will have more power to side with its friends in the region, said Ali Akbar Velayati, a high Iranian official who is also the Secretary General of the World Assembly of Islamic Awakening.
Iran and its Iranian satellite Hezbollah have a single goal, ideological and physical domination of the Arab World, its prime target being oil-rich GCC States. Why do Gulf countries maintain diplomatic relations with a country that has boasted its control of Arab capitals and used proxies to attempt to overthrow our leaderships?
The call by Qatar’s Foreign Minister Khalid al-Attiyah for a dialogue between the GCC and Iran, was backed by Oman but rightly met with deep reservations from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain. Iran is not seeking reconciliation but rather supremacy and Gulf States should not engage with its game that amounts to a PR exercise for western consumption.
The GCC should cut all diplomatic and economic ties with Tehran and Beirut starting with the withdrawal of ambassadors from both Iran and Lebanon, which has recently benefited from billions in aid from the countries Hezbollah is attacking. Its ingratitude is astounding!
Kuwait dodged the bullet this time. Together, our leaderships must do all in their power to ensure there won’t be a next.
Khalaf Ahmad al-Habtoor is a prominent UAE businessman and public figure. He is Chairman of the Al Habtoor Group - one of the most successful conglomerates in the Gulf. Al Habtoor is renowned for his knowledge and views on international political affairs; his philanthropic activity; his efforts to promote peace; and he has long acted as an unofficial ambassador for his country abroad. Writing extensively on both local and international politics, he publishes regular articles in the media and has released a number of books. Al-Habtoor began his career as an employee of a local UAE construction firm and in 1970 established his own company, Al Habtoor Engineering. The UAE Federation, which united the seven emirates under the one flag for the first time, was founded in 1971 and this inspired him to undertake a series of innovative construction projects – all of which proved highly successful.
The Questionable Legality of Military Aid to Egypt
The Editorial Board
Aug. 19, 2015
Egypt’s rising authoritarianism has been met with a collective shrug in Washington, which sends Cairo $1.3 billion in military aid each year.
One notable exception is Senator Patrick Leahy, who is raising alarm about human rights abuses Egyptian security forces have committed as they battle militants in the Sinai Peninsula. He recently asked Secretary of State John Kerry in a letter whether Egypt had run afoul of a federal law he sponsored that bars military units that have committed human rights abuses with impunity from receiving American aid.
“According to information I have received, the number of militants has steadily increased, due, at least in part, to ineffective and indiscriminate operations by the Egyptian military and the lack of licit economic opportunities for inhabitants of the Sinai,” Mr. Leahy wrote in the July 20 letter.
Mr. Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, is asking a rhetorical question. It is abundantly clear to the senator and Egypt experts in the American government that Egypt’s security forces have committed abuses with impunity in recent years. In May, the State Department told Congress in a report that security forces have “committed arbitrary or otherwise unlawful killings during the dispersal of demonstrators, of persons in custody and during military operations in the northern Sinai Peninsula.”
Mr. Leahy’s point is that continuing to enable a despotic government by shipping over American Apache helicopters, missiles and ammunition is not only unwise but almost certainly unlawful. Mr. Leahy points out in his letter that the Egyptian government has prevented American government officials, journalists and human rights organizations from traveling to Sinai to investigate because of safety concerns. The real reason is likely that it wants to keep the evidence of its scorched-earth approach to fighting militants hidden.
That will become even easier for Egypt now that President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt granted his government sweeping powers to continue cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood, a political movement, and other opponents under the guise of fighting terrorism.
The new counterterrorism law, which was formally adopted on Sunday, codifies the harsh and counterproductive approach the government has taken toward the political opposition and establishes new tools to stifle dissent. It will also make getting credible news about Egypt even harder. Publishing information that is at odds with the government’s account of military activities can now be punished with a fine of at least $25,000.
The Leahy law compels the State Department to ensure that military assistance and aid is withheld from foreign troops that have committed abuses without being held to account. Over the years, it has been applied rigorously in some parts of the world and largely ignored in others.
Mr. Leahy’s letter, by calling attention to the fact that the law is being flouted in Egypt, should compel the Obama administration to rethink its feckless Egypt policy. It may also prompt other lawmakers to consider whether their continued largely unconditional support of the Egyptian government is backfiring.
While Egypt undoubtedly faces a genuine terrorist threat, its current approach may well be producing more militants than the government is able to execute or lock up. The implications of that should be of grave concern to the American government.