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Egypt

Full text of the list of demands submitted by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, and Egypt to Qatar

Full text of the list of demands submitted by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, and Egypt to Qatar

ISR comment: Four Arab States want Qatar to close down Aljazeera, a sign that the current crisis is in fact a reaction to and fear of the protest movements popularly known as the Arab Spring. It was on the pages of ISR that the role of Aljazeera in galvanizing social change in the Arab world was thoroughly explained and it was on the pages of ISR that the first prediction that the Gulf States will implode from the inside as a result of the change initiated by the protest movement that overthrew Ben Ali (now living in Saudi Arabia) and Mubarak (now back from prison after Sisi regained power).
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A summary of the demands submitted by the Saudis, Bahrainis, Emiratis, and Egyptians to Qatar through Kuwait:
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1. Reduce diplomatic ties with Iran and close its diplomatic missions there. Expel members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard from Qatar and cut off any joint military cooperation with Iran. Only trade and commerce with Iran that complies with U.S. and international sanctions will be permitted.


2. Shutting down the Turkish military base in Qatar and stop any military agreements with Turkey inside Qatar


3. Announce the cutting of ties to “terrorist organizations,” including the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic State, al-Qaida, and Hezbollah. Formally declare those entities as terrorist groups.


4. Stop providing financial support to entities and individuals list on the list previously provided by the four nations.


5. Handover all persons accused of terrorists and seize their property.


6. Shut down Al-Jazeera and its affiliate stations.


7. Stop interfering in the affairs of neighboring states, stop offering citizens to persons from neighboring states, and provide a list of citizens of neighboring states who were offered Qatar citizenship.


8. Pay for all damages caused by Qatar policy and practices in neighboring states.


9. Assure full compliance with Arab decision and agree to honor the Riyadh agreements with Gulf nations of 2013 and 2014.


10. Submit a list of documents by and about opposition figures supported by Qatar.


11. Shut down news outlets that Qatar funds, directly and indirectly (i.e., Arabi21, Rassd, al-Araby Al-Jadeed, and Middle East Eye).


12. Agree to all these terms within 10 days or it will be considered void.


13. the agreement shall consist of clear mechanism of compliance, including monthly audits for the first year after agreeing to the demands, then once per quarter during the second year, and annually for ten years thereafter.

Is Qatar training Egyptian fighters in Idlib, Syria?

Is Qatar training Egyptian fighters in Idlib, Syria?

Qatar’s global media outlet, Aljazeera, reported that 200 Egyptian military officers and experts are now in Syria. The report, is based on a Lebanese source, came days after the Egyptian president, Abdulfattah al-Sisi, in an interview to Portuguese media, said that he supported the Syrian national army in its war on terrorists. This seemingly new position has angered the Gulf States, especially Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who back the Syrian opposition fighters and have been pushing for the removal of the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
Some sources, however, have also revealed that Qatar is training Egyptian Islamists in Idlib, Syria. This revelation could explain the increased collaboration between the Syrian and Egyptian governments. Egypt, like Syria, has been battling Salafi and other Islamist militants. If these elements are being trained in Syria and supported by Qatar, Egypt will be forced to collaborate with the Syrian and Libyan governments who are facing the same threats. 
Fath al-Sham, formerly known as al-Nusra front, which is backed by Qatar, controls Idlib, and has released multiple videos showing individuals engaged in war games, with indication that some of these fighters are not training for the war in Syria, which could support the assertion that Idlib is turning into training grounds for fighters from other countries, including Egypt, China, Tunisia, France, and Algeria.
It should be noted also that when al-Julani, the leader of al-Nusra, announced the name change of his group’s name into Jabhat Fath al-Sham, sitting next to him was a known Egyptian Salafist, another reason for Egypt to be concerned about the role of Qatar in supporting groups that might pose a security threat to Egypt.
 al-Julani, announcing the name change of al-Nusra Front
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Saudi and Qatari dilemma: Can they support al-Sisi in his war on ISIL and support ISIL in its war on Assad?

Saudi and Qatari dilemma: Can they support al-Sisi in his war on ISIL and support ISIL in its war on Assad?

 

GCC

When Prince Salman became King Salman, world leaders wanted to know about the man now controlling the country that exports more oil than any other, Saudi Arabia. Several leading publications claimed that the 79 year old king suffers from serious chronic illnesses. The Economistproposed that his predecessor, King Abdullah, had concerns about handing the crown to Salman because Salman may be suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.  The Atlantic, too, reported in 2010 that Salman suffered from dementia. The official reaction of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the intergovernmental organization that is supposed to represent the wealthy Gulf States but actually serves to promote Saudi interests and point of view, to Egypt’s claim that Qatar supports terrorism, suggests that the King might be indeed suffering from dementia. The background for this story is as follows:


Last week, ISIL’s branch in Libya killed, in its trademark revolting ways, 21 Egyptian workers. The next day, Egypt, ostensibly, in coordination with the Libyan government—or at least one of the Libyan governments, attacked ISIL in Libya. The government of al-Sisi sought political cover from Arab countries. The Arab League issued a statement of “understanding,” to which Qatar objected. The Egyptian representative in the Arab League, Tariq Adil, responded by accusing Qatar of supporting terrorism. Qatar recalled its top diplomat from Cairo and the GCC secretary, Abd al-Latif al-Zayyani, issued a harsh response saying that “the accusations against Qatar are untrue” and that “Qatar, along with its sister countries in the GCC, has made sincere efforts to fight terrorism and extremism.” 

Hours later, the GCC issued a second statement, this time saying that the GCC “reaffirms its full support to Egypt and its president Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi to fight terrorism inside and outside Egypt… and that the security of Egypt is important for the security of the GCC.” In a sense, this statement is a retraction of the first one. Since the GCC generally represent the Saudi point of view, these conflicting statements in the span of 24 hours suggest that the King of Saudi Arabia is either suffering from dementia or is trying to have his cake and eat it. He wants to be a friend of both Egypt and Qatar, despite that Qatar and Egypt have serious differences.

In the end, it would seem that the GCC chose not to escalate their conflict with Egypt. But this is clearly a temporary fix. Around the world, the frequency of statements and publications critical of the GCC, especially Saudi Arabia and Qatar, is increasing. The public too see Saudi and Qatari roles unfavorably. The first GCC statement of support to Qatar generated nearly 46 million reactions on social media, most of which critical to Qatar. Leaders of Qatar and Saudi Arabia are spending more time denying their support to terrorist groups. In the long run, these two countries must confront the fact that they are indeed enablers of terrorism by virtue of their privileging of Salafism over all other interpretations of Islam. Regionally, Qatar and Saudi Arabia must abandon their foolish distinction between ISIL in Iraq and Syria and other ISIL’s in Egypt, Libya, and Lebanon. They are all natural growth of violent Salafism, which branched out of the kind of conservatism these two countries espoused and promoted around the world for more than 70 years.
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* Prof. SOUAIAIA teaches at the University of Iowa. His most recent book, Anatomy of Dissent in Islamic Societies, provides a historical and theoretical treatment of rebellious movements and ideas since the rise of Islam. Opinions are the author’s, speaking on matters of public interest; not speaking for the university or any other organization with which he is affiliated.

“This is What the Arab Spring Looks Like”

“This is What the Arab Spring Looks Like”


Tunisia’s transition to representative governance brings hope to Arab Societies


Four days after the fourth anniversary of the spark that ignited the fury of protests widely known as the Arab Spring, Tunisian voters reminded the world about what the Arab Spring is supposed to look like. The election of a new president this week capped four years of hard work that involved politicians and leaders of civil society institutions. In four years, Tunisians elected a constituency assembly primarily tasked with forming a transitional government and writing a new constitution. Those goals, despite many setbacks, were finally achieved. In the past three months, Tunisian voters elected a parliament, narrowed the field of presidential candidates (of more than 24 candidates) during a first round of presidential elections, and finally chose Beji Caid Essebsi, giving him 55% of their vote over the interim president, Mohamed Mouncef Marzouki.


Without doubt, attempts to explain the outcome and meaning of the results of these elections are numerous. Some commentators described the outcome as “buyer’s remorse,” suggesting that the Arab peoples are having second thoughts about the uprisings that overthrew many of the most authoritarian, yet effective, rulers in the region. Other observers contended that the vote in Tunisia, like the one in Egypt, which brought al-Sisi to power, is repudiation to Islamists. Other analysts charged that outside money and influence is behind the counter-revolutionary movements that are repackaging old regimes in order to slow down or undo the radical changes the Arab Spring had set in motion. Indeed, there is some truth in all of these and other theories. However, the constitution that the Tunisian people approved and the process by which they transitioned towards representative governance are remarkably impressive and Tunisians, from all spectrum of social and political life, should celebrate with pride and relief.

Generally, Tunisians have succeeded in keeping outside influence to a minimum. They trusted civil society institutions with mediating political dissent. They supported the interim government in its efforts to isolate violent elements who want to impose their genocidal agenda. In the end, thanks to the people’s sacrifices and commitment to non-violence, Tunisia emerged victorious in many areas. It stands proudly free from the Gulf States’ money-driven half-solutions that stalled progress in Yemen. Tunisians avoided the power grab and political opportunism like the ones that took place in Egypt. And above all, Tunisians succeeded in deliberately silencing the genocidal groups who use knives and guns to slaughter their way to power as is the case in Libya and Syria. 
Tunisians reaffirmed their commitment to the initial cry for dignity.

Importantly, Tunisians have reminded those who claim sole ownership of the revolution for themselves that the uprising was not about replacing one authoritarian regime with another or rewarding a political party over another. By voting for Nida Tunis (and its leader), which has roots in the old bureaucracy, and offering Ennahdha a significant number of seats in the new parliament, Tunisian voters seem to declare that they hold no indiscriminate prejudice against all and anyone who worked or might have worked with or for the old regime. They simply have a problem with incompetence, corruption, cronyism, and abuse of human dignity.

Today, Nida Tunis, the coalition of political parties and civil society entities’ representative that was created as a counterweight to the post-revolution ruling collation, is celebrating; just as did Ennahdha and its allies three years ago. Nida Tunis and its allies should remember that the people, now, have a say in who governs and for how long. More importantly, they should remain mindful not only of the interest of the 55% of the people who voted for them, but also of the concerns of the 45% of Tunisians who voted for Marzouki and the 66% (3.5 million people) of all registered voters who did not vote at all or voted for Marzouki—not for their candidate, Essabsi. Regardless, the 36% of the all registered voters who actually voted for him did not nostalgically vote to bring back the neo-Bourguibists, they voted out those who failed, in their judgment, to govern… again.

The world community should do more than congratulate the Tunisian people and their newly elected officials. They should support them economically, politically, and morally without any strings attached. Indeed, the Tunisian model for transitioning towards representative governance is the most convincing rebuttal to genocidal groups who believe in nothing but their own narrow worldview and tolerate none but themselves.
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* Prof. SOUAIAIA teaches at the University of Iowa. His most recent book, Anatomy of Dissent in Islamic Societies, provides a historical and theoretical treatment of rebellious movements and ideas since the rise of Islam. Opinions are the author’s, speaking on matters of public interest; not speaking for the university or any other organization with which he is affiliated.

Obama in Saudi Arabia to talk security and terrorism; the Saudis seem prepared, but are they really?

Obama in Saudi Arabia to talk security and terrorism; the Saudis seem prepared, but are they really?


The new Saudi anti-terrorism law is anti-dissent, anti-civil rights draconian law?
For weeks even before President Obama’s arrival in Saudi Arabia, the rulers of Saudi Arabia have worked hard to make the summit successful. They knew that extremism, regional stability, and the Middle East peace process are high on the U.S. administration’s agenda. The Saudi rulers wanted to show that they are trustworthy, that they are fighting terrorism, and that they are a reliable and stable ally. Specifically, they will be showing President Obama two things: a new law that is supposedly aimed at fighting extremism and an unprecedented designation of an heir to the heir to the throne (Prince Muqrin—half-brother of the King).


Let’s begin with the latter. The King’s designation of a third-in-line underscores the nervousness the ruling family is experiencing. For the first time, the ruling family is divided and some fear that they could lose power, which they exclusively enjoyed for nearly 80 years. The ruling family feel threatened from within and from without the Kingdom. From within, the aging monarch (the third in line will be 70 in weeks, the second in line is 79 and the sitting king is 90 years old) is threatened by young Saudis who want to move towards a constitutional monarchy. The conservative Islamists want to replace the clan rule with an Islamic theocracy. From without, they are threatened by Iran and Sunni Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood. The new anti-terrorism law is expected to address both sets of problems. They will be telling President Obama that extremism, the crisis in Syria, and Iran’s nuclear program are existential threats and the new law and the designation of a successor to the successor are meant to deal with these challenges.

Since the 1979 revolution in Iran, the rulers of Saudi Arabia have come to see Iran through sectarian and security lenses. Consequently, the Saudi rulers are threatened by Iran’s real or perceived ties to Shiites in Bahrain, Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan; and by Iran’s influence over Sunni Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, HAMAS, Islamic Jihad, and similar groups. The new Saudi anti-terror law is, therefore, aimed at addressing these fears and preserving the privileged position of the ruling family while taking the global anti-terror sentiment as a cover. The explicit language and implicit implicationsof the law clearly expose the real intent.   

On March 9, and responding to a directive from King Abdullah, the Saudi Interior Ministry announced the terms of the new law. Most Western analysts and commentators focused on the unprecedented step of placing the Muslim Brotherhood on the list of terrorist organizations. They ignored the more important aspects of the new law: a dangerous minefield aimed at protesters, civil rights activists, minorities, and human rights advocates. 

The problem with the law is that it is flawed in every aspect. The law is conceptually flawed as it prosecutes offenders for acts committed even before the enactment of the law. The law is draconian because it equates between an academician attending a colloquium where criticism of the Saudi government might be voiced and a terrorist who kills civilians on sectarian, religious, or ideological grounds. It is punitive because it practically criminalizes any act or statement of dissent. In short, this is not an anti-terror law; it is a law of terror: it terrorizes students, academicians, activists, human rights advocates, minorities, dissenting voices, and anyone who dares to challenge the established order.

Those who think otherwise must look at the first targets (victims) of this law. During the week immediately after the law went into effect, the court sentenced two activists who (re)tweeted messages supporting peaceful demonstrations to 8 and 10 year prison terms each. As of this writing, none of the Saudi extremist fighters who actually participated in the wars in Syria, Iraq, or Afghanistan appeared before a court and prosecuted under this law. Returning fighters are likely to be sent to the so-called “rehabilitation programs” instead.

Protesters, civil rights activists, students, and civil society institutions will receive no reprieve. Predictably, Aljazeera satellite television and other channels that do not report within government guidelines (reflecting the foreign policy of Saudi Arabia) or that challenge the Saudi rulers’ authority and power will be barred. Foreigners suspected of sympathizing with the Muslim Brotherhood will be expelled. Discrimination against minorities will increase and become systemic. The law will also be applied to shut down centers of research like the Brookings Center and Arab Center for Research and Politics Studies (both in Qatar) or to prosecute anyone who attends events held by these or similar entities.

This law will not bring stability to the Kingdom and it will not promote peace in the region because it does not address the root problem: Saudi tolerance of and reliance on sectarian extremism. The Saudi rulers and some of their Western allies used a brand of Islam to recruit, train, and send warriors to fight an “ungodly” government and its backers in Afghanistan. They have applied the same prescription in Syria, which is geographically closer to the Kingdom than Afghanistan. Using religious extremism as a political and military tool legitimized a deadly brand of religious discourse that is now threatening it from within. A cosmetic law that ignores the culpability and complicity of some of the Kingdom’s rulers in creating and sustaining extremism only manages the symptoms; it does not cure it.
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* Prof. SOUAIAIA teaches at the University of Iowa. His most recent book, Anatomy of Dissent in Islamic Societies, provides a historical and theoretical treatment of rebellious movements and ideas since the rise of Islam. Opinions are the author’s, speaking on matters of public interest; not speaking for the university or any other organization with which he is affiliated.
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