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The Middle East & The Gulf States

Yemen Faces ‘Total Collapse’ The UN Warns

Read original article on Euro News or read some of the key points below;

  1. The UN Security Council has warned Yemen is in urgent need of a peace accord to avoid “total social, economic and institutional collapse.” However, Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the body’s special envoy for the country says “we are not close” to such an agreement as key parties are unwilling to compromise.
  2. Yemen is in the throes of a humanitarian crisis following years of fighting between pro-government forces and Shia Houthi rebels.
  3. Stephen O’Brien, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator added “Crisis is not coming. It is not even looming. It is here today on our watch and ordinary people are paying the price. What is worse is the threat of famine is driven and exacerbated by conflict. Yemen is not facing a drought. If there was no conflict in Yemen there would be no descent into famine, misery, disease and death.”
  4.  It comes as a quarter of the population find themselves on the brink of famine, a cholera outbreak has killed at least 500 people and a further 150,000 fresh cases are expected by November.
  5.  The UN is negotiating to stop the conflict from spreading to the port city of Hodeidah, where some 80 percent of Yemen’s food imports arrive. An attack there would, it claims, lead to “a devastating loss of civilian life.”

 

Will Turkey and Russia go to War?

Following the death of the Russian embassador to Turkey on 19/12/2016 many people have suggested the potential of a new World War. But the reality is Russia-Turkish relations remain intimately close.

Will SAUDI ARABIA fail or succeed the NEOM CITY project? – KJ Vids

The NEOM city project is born from the ambition of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan which seeks to reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil, diversify its economy and develop public service sectors. NEOM is the world’s first zone to extend across three countries, stretching its borders into neighbouring Jordan and Egypt.

But is this gigantic project likely to materialise? I’m Kasim, this is KJ Vids and in this video, we will look at Saudi Arabia’s plans to build the NEOM city.

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Will IMRAN KHAN face a ROCKY ROAD with IRAN? – KJ Vids

Will IMRAN KHAN face a ROCKY ROAD with IRAN?

Pakistan’s political and strategic significance for Iran began with Pakistan’s emergence as an independent state following the Partition of India in 1947. The Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was the first head of state to pay a State visit to Pakistan in March 1950 and in the same month, a Treaty of Friendship was signed.

But conflicting national security interests and the influence of wider competing powers have always played an important factor in shaping the Iran-Pakistan relationship, especially after the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979. I’m Kasim, this is KJ Vids and in this video, we will look into the relationship between Iran and Pakistan.

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Why Saudi Arabia would rather pay a ransom to Trump than support its own people

Read original article by David Hearst on the Middle East Eye or read just some of the key points below;

  1. “The price tag of an audience with Donald Trump is high, and rising. By Friday Saudi Arabia had stumped up deals and options worth $300bn over the next decade and $40bn in infrastructure investment. By the time Trump landed in Riyadh that figure reached $460bn in contracts  and options alone. The final figure, according to some on Wall Street, could yet rise to $1 trillion of investment in the US economy.”
  2. “There are two possible reasons why the kingdom is prepared to shower their richer American cousins with more riches. The first is a personal one. Mohammed bin Salman is paying a king’s ransom, or at least he sincerely hopes it will be. Long gone are the days when gifts of state were modest. One of the exhibits in the museum of the founder of the kingdom, King Abdul Aziz ibn Saudi, in Riyadh is a modest desk that President Franklin D Roosevelt gave him after their first meeting on board a US destroyer. He also got one of the US president’s two wheelchairs. These days a desk or a wheelchair would be an insult, compared to the kickback for an arms contract.”
  3. “The second is a collective reason. The kingdom got such a shock from an Obama administration which made peace with Iran its main objective, that it never wants to feel exposed to the desert winds again. Saudi Arabia is paying protection money even for arms it is never likely to use.”
  4. “Let us just play a mind game. Let us imagine that, instead of opposing the Arab Spring and the popular uprisings of 2011, Saudi Arabia decided to invest and develop the Arab world. Let us imagine that the House of Saud put $340bn into backing the results of free elections in Egypt, and Libya and Yemen, instead of backing military coups and counter-revolutions. Where would the House of Saud and the Arab world be now? It would not be plain sailing. The first rulers to come to power after dictatorship would long since have been kicked out, but at least a tradition would have been established to use the ballot box rather than the bullet to do so.”
  5. “What is taking place in the region today is a history lesson for slow learners. Trump is looking forward to the welcome he will get in Riyadh, a distraction from the storm clouds gathering at home. But his administration is looking, even to Republican eyes, as one that is spiralling downwards. As it is, 56 Muslim and Arab leaders will gather in Riyadh to listen to Trump giving them a lecture on democracy and preach to them about Islam. What a strange world we live in.”

 

https://youtu.be/LJ52ScsJCzA

Why is Israel cultivating ties with Oman?

In late October the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Oman, the sleepy Sultanate on the south-eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula. Whilst the visit is consistent with Israel’s thawing relationship with a number of Arab countries, including Egypt and the Gulf states, nevertheless the visit to Muscat took observes by surprise.

That is mainly because Oman has been traditionally close to Iran, a deep-rooted relationship which tends to get stronger when Iran comes under severe pressure, as it is now with the re-imposition of tough and far-reaching US sanctions.

Therefore, by embracing Israel, Oman is risking its strong and fruitful ties to Iran, a political and strategic risk which Oman can ill afford in the long term.

The Geopolitics of Oman

Unlike some of her Gulf neighbours Oman has a long and proud history. Back in the 18th century the Sultanate of Oman successfully competed with Britain, Portugal and Iran for influence in the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean. The country has been more or less independent since the middle of the 16th century.

From a political point of view, the country is distinctive by the fact that it was ruled for a long time by an Imamate system based on the al-Ibadiyyah school of Islam. A derivative of the original Khawarij tendency, the al-Ibadiyyah survives only in Oman and small pockets in North Africa, notably Algeria.

Oman’s Ibadi identity is central to the country’s geopolitical profile. It sets Oman firmly apart from her Gulf neighbours which to varying degrees, and at an official level, follow a Wahhabi interpretation of Islam. It also sets it apart from Yemen and the Iranian Shia giant across the Gulf.

The Ibadi faith has also had a profound impact on Oman’s domestic politics and associated socio-economic and cultural institutions. In the popular imagination Oman is often characterised as a sleepy, benign and insular society. Regular travellers to Oman would likely attest to this description of the Sultanate.

Oman’s Foreign Policy

The guiding principles of Oman’s foreign policy was set down firmly in the 1970s. Up to that point and for much of the 20th century Oman was too consumed by internal division and strife to formulate and implement an effective foreign policy. This was a far cry from Oman’s role in previous centuries as a small empire on the edge of the Arabian Peninsula.

The turning point in the late 20th century came in the form of the so-called Dhofar rebellion (referencing the Omani province by that name) spearheaded by Marxist-Leninist rebels. The embattled Omani state finally managed to defeat this determined rebellion primarily with the help of British and more importantly Iranian military support (more on this later).

The most important point about the Dhofar conflict and its aftermath is that it forced the Omani ruling system to undertake deep and far-reaching structural and institutional reforms to elevate it to a level consistent with 20th century standards. For the first six decades of the 20th century Oman was essentially stuck in the past and barely functioning under the burden of obsolete institutions and associated policies.

The defeat of the rebellion in 1976 heralded the emergence of a unified and coherent Omani state which had both the confidence and the means to play an important role in its immediate external environment.

At that point Oman’s ruler Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Said chose to adopt a balancing and mediatory role in regional and foreign policy. By all credible accounts, Sultan Qaboos is a wise and far-sighted leader who has expertly mobilised the resources of his small country to exert maximum influence in the regional environment, notably in relation to Yemen, Saudi Arabia, the wider Gulf region and Iran.

Broadly speaking, there are three important strands to Oman’s foreign policy, namely its membership of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), relationship with Iran and enduring ties to the United Kingdom. To understand Muscat’s place in the world it is vital that we undertake an in-depth examination of these three important dimensions of Omani foreign policy.

Oman and GCC: a reluctant member?

Oman joined the GCC at its inception in 1981 and has been an active member of its various branches and committees since. But this active participation does not necessarily mean full acquiescence to the general thrust of GCC policies. As it is now widely known the GCC has been reduced to essentially a vehicle for the promotion of Saudi Arabia’s, and to a lesser extent, the United Arab Emirates’, positions and interests in the Persian Gulf region.

But Oman dissents from this Saudi-UAE driven agenda in three important respects. Foremost, Oman is opposed to Saudi’s hostile policy on Iran and does not want the GCC to be used as a forum to push this agenda.

Second, Oman is officially neutral in the spat between the GCC (plus Egypt) and Qatar. But privately Oman harbours sympathy for Doha’s position and supports its balancing role vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia. Just like Qatar, Oman has much to lose if Saudi Arabia achieves its goal of establishing primacy in the Gulf region.

Third, Oman is opposed to the Saudi-UAE led war on Yemen both on humanitarian and geopolitical grounds. Oman shares a border with Yemen and stands to be deeply affected if Yemen disintegrates altogether. In order to blunt the effectiveness of the Saudi-Yemeni led war, Oman has reportedly gone to the extent of facilitating arms transfers to the Ansarullah movement, also known as the Houthis.

Oman and Iran: A Special Relationship

As stated earlier, Iran intervened militarily in the early and mid-1970s to help Oman defeat the Marxist-Leninist rebellion in Dhofar. This intervention was made by the former Shah of Iran whose goal was to act as the policeman of the Persian Gulf at the behest of America.

The Shah was overthrown in the 1979 Iranian revolution but the Omani ruler, Sultan Qaboos, never forgot Iran’s decisive military intervention in the Dhofar conflict. The Sultan knew very well that absent that intervention Oman would have likely disintegrated as a cohesive state and he would have lost his crown.

For this reason, Oman continued to maintain warm ties with revolutionary Iran thus qualifying as the only regional state whose relations with Iran were not upset or altered as a result of the Iranian revolution.

Oman’s simultaneously good ties with Iran and the West has enabled it to play a mediating role, particularly between Iran and the United States. For instance, Oman hosted secret talks between Iran and the US in 2013 on Iran’s nuclear programme. These talks sowed the seeds which eventually bloomed into the landmark nuclear accord of 2015.

Oman’s deep links with Britain  

In the modern period British influence in Oman was consolidated by the Treaty of Seeb (1920) which formalised Oman’s partition into two distinct regions, a coastal state and an autonomous interior.

The British continued to maintain influence in the latter part of the 20th century as demonstrated by the UK military intervention in the Dhofar conflict. At that point the British army struck up an enduring partnership with its Omani counterpart. This is foremost embodied by the “Swift Sword” series of manoeuvres, with the latest held in October 2018.

The British influence over Oman’s armed forces is the clearest indicator that ultimately Oman looks to the West for safety, security and survival.

Oman’s ties with Israel

Whilst Netanyahu’s visit to Muscat caught observers by surprise, it is important to note that Oman has had important contacts with Israel for more than two decades. The late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin visited Oman in late 1994, setting off a diplomatic engagement which produced an “agreement” just over a year later.

Moreover, Netanyahu’s visit was preceded by Israeli officials’ visit to Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, leading the BBC to celebrate the “warming up” of Israeli-Arab ties after a “long deep freeze”.

Whilst the symbolism of Netanyahu’s visit to Muscat is important – in so far as it further erodes the taboo surrounding Israel in the Muslim world – in practical terms the Israeli Prime Minister was pursuing a narrow agenda during his eight-hour stop in the Omani capital. Most likely much of the content of his meeting with Sultan Qaboos revolved around Israel’s arch-foe Iran.

Israel is agitating for a full-frontal diplomatic, political, economic and potentially military assault on Iran. Israeli pressure played a decisive role in the Trump administration’s decision to abandon the landmark nuclear accord and by extension to re-impose harsh sanctions on Iran.

Beyond the US-led sanctions regime, Israel is trying to align more and more with Saudi Arabia with a view to creating a regional block against Iran. Oman stands in the way of that potential coalition.

Whilst Netanyahu cannot hope to turn Oman against Iran, but at minimum he aspires to enlist Oman’s help in thwarting Iran’s sanctions busting activities. As sanctions begin to bite Iran traditionally turns to friendly countries to help it evade certain sanctions or act as intermediaries with countries and entities who cannot afford to be seen to be doing direct business with the Islamic Republic.

Oman’s geographic position at the mouth of the Arabian Peninsula and the gateway to the Persian Gulf makes it critical to Iranian sanctions-busting activities, particularly in relation to the sale of oil and other petroleum products.

Conclusion: will Oman cave into Israeli pressure?

The Omani ruler and his inner circle probably view their outreach to Israel as part of their balancing and mediation role in the region. These are the guiding principles of Oman’s foreign policy. Based on these principles, Oman strives to be on good terms with all regional powers.

But the Omani leadership also places a premium on loyalty and longevity. Oman’s special relationship with Iran is nearly fifty years old and as stated earlier the Omani ruler continues to feel deeply indebted to Iran for that country’s decisive role in safeguarding Oman’s territorial integrity and sovereignty back in the 1970s.

Furthermore, the Omani ruler is known to take the long view, a feature cemented by his nearly 50-year rule. It is plausible that he thinks that eventually Iran and the United States are going to strike a “grand bargain” to begin the process of normalisation. In view of its established role as a mediator Oman hopes to play a big role in that reconciliation process.

In the final analysis, leaving Iran aside, there is no getting away from the symbolic importance of Netanyahu’s visit. The symbolism assumes even greater significance when set against the backdrop of Rabin’s visit to Muscat twenty-four years ago. On current trajectory Oman is on course to develop full-fledged ties with the Jewish state.  

Who was behind the Turkish Coup?

On the night of 15th July 2016, roads were blocked on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul and jets were flying over the Turkish Parliament in Ankara.

Tanks brought Istanbul to a standstill as soldiers invaded the headquarters of the ruling party, seized control of the State broadcaster and announced that the army was in charge.

But the next day it was clear that a military coup attempt had failed. More than 250 people including the coup plotters, civilians and loyalist officers were killed and many more injured.

The Turkish government blamed the failed coup attempt on Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish preacher and former Erdogan ally who has long been living in self-imposed exile in the United States.

A state of emergency was declared and anyone who appeared to have the faintest link to Gulen and his supporters was punished swiftly.

In a matter of weeks, tens of thousands of people in the military, police, judiciary, civil service and education were detained, suspended or sacked for alleged links to the Gulen movement.

But Gulen told VOA’s Turkish Service Erdogan had falsely accused him, and that he wouldn’t have returned to Turkey even if the coup had succeeded.

Other observers have speculated that the coup was stage-managed to give Mr Erdogan an opportunity to purge the military of opponents and increase his grip on Turkey.

Ryan Heath, the senior EU correspondent at Politico, used Twitter to share comments from his “Turkish source”, who called the events of Friday night a “fake coup” which would help a “fake democracy warrior” [Erdogan].

It remains to be known who was behind the coup, but one thing for sure is that the coup has been used by both Erdogan and Gulen to cast themselves as victims of repression.

Erdogan highlighted his status as a democratically elected leader under attack by “parallel” (Gulenist) and secularist elements
Gulen also highlighted his victimhood as a political outsider and former political prisoner when he was interviewed during Friday’s dramatic events.

Research suggests that this ratcheting up of victimization rhetoric could have important attitudinal and electoral consequences.

Kimberly Guiler, in a paper recently discussed at the Project on Middle East Political Science (POMEPS) annual conference, finds that voters in Turkey are more likely to feel positively toward candidates who cite experiences of political suffering in their biographies.

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When the Ottoman Caliphate Saved Britain

When the Ottoman Caliphate Saved Britain

From her accession to the throne in 1558, Queen Elizabeth began seeking diplomatic, commercial and military ties with Muslim rulers.

In 1570, when it became clear that Protestant England would not return to the Catholic faith, the pope excommunicated Elizabeth and called for her to be stripped of her crown.

Soon the might of Catholic Spain was against her, an invasion was imminent.

English merchants were prohibited from trading with the rich markets of the Spanish Netherlands.

Economic and political isolation threatened to destroy the newly Protestant country.

Elizabeth responded by reaching out to the Ottoman Caliphate. Spain’s only rival was the Ottoman Empire ruled by Sultan Murad III.

The Ottomans had been fighting the Hapsburgs for decades, conquering parts of Hungary.

Elizabeth hoped that an alliance with the Sultan would provide much needed relief from Spanish military aggression and enable her merchants to tap into the lucrative markets of the East.

The Caliphate was far more powerful than Elizabeth’s little Island nation floating in the soggy mists off Europe.

Elizabeth wanted to explore her new trade alliances, but couldn’t afford to finance them. Her response was to exploit the obscure commercial innovation – joint stock companies.

The capital from the companies was used to fund the costs of commercial voyages.

Elizabeth enthusiastically backed the Muscovy company which traded with Persia and went on to inspire the formation of a company that traded with the Ottomans and the East India Company which would eventually conquer India.

In the 1580s she signed a commercial agreement with the Ottomans that would last over 300 years granting her merchants free commercial access to Ottoman lands.

As money poured in, Elizabeth began writing letters to her Muslim counterparts extolling the benefits of reciprocal trade.

She wrote as a supplicant, calling Murad “The most mighty ruler of the Kingdom of Turkey, sole and above all, and most sovereign monarch of the East Empire.”

She also played on their mutual hostility to Catholicism, describing herself as “the most invincible and most mighty defender of the Christian faith against all kind of idolatries.”

Thousands of English traders crossed many of today’s regions, like Aleppo and Mosul which were far safer than they would have been on a journey through Catholic Europe where they risked falling into the hands of the Inquisition.

Some Englishman even converted to Islam such as Samson Rowlie, a Norfolk merchant who became Hassan Aga.

English aristocrats delighted in the silks and spices of the East, exchanged it for munitions that were shipped out to Turkey.

The sugar, silks, carpets and spices transformed what the English ate, how they decorated their homes and how they dressed.

Despite the commercial success, the British economy was unable to sustains its reliance on far-flung trade.

After Queen Elizabeth’s death in 1604, the new King, James I, signed a peace treaty with Spain ending England’s exile.

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When the Mongols Destroyed Baghdad

For many historians, the arrival of the Mongols in Baghdad is the single most devastating moment in the history of the Muslim Middle East.

It’s easy to see why—and hard to argue otherwise—because the ransacking of Baghdad would mark the end of the Islamic Golden Age.

Baghdad had been established in 762 by the Abbasid Caliph al-Mansur. Throughout its history, it had been the capital of the Muslims, as well as the world in general.

The libraries of Baghdad were unrivaled. The House of Wisdom, established soon after the city was built, was a magnet for the most intelligent scientists, thinkers, mathematicians, and linguists of the world.

But by the mid-1200s, the Abbasid Caliphate was nothing but a shell of its former self, having no power outside of Baghdad.

Most of Persia was disunited as the Khwarazmian Empire had mostly deteriorated by then. The Ayyubid state established by Salah al-Din was only in control of small parts of Iraq and Syria.

The Abbasid army was effectively non-existent, and only served as bodyguards of the caliph. And the scientific achievements of the Muslim world were now centered in places such as Cairo, Muslim Spain, and India.

It was at this historic and landmark city that the Mongols arrived in 1258. Their army, estimated at over 150,000 soldiers, stood before the city that was just a shadow of the great capital of the Muslim world of the 800s.

The siege began in mid-January and only lasted two weeks. On February 10th, 1258, the Mongols entered the city of the caliphs.

A full week of pillage and destruction commenced. The Mongols showed no discretion, destroying mosques, hospitals, libraries, and palaces.

The books from Baghdad’s libraries were thrown into the Tigris River in such quantities that the river ran black with the ink from the books.

The loss of life is estimated that between 200,000 and 1,000,000 people were butchered in that one week of destruction.

Baghdad was left completely depopulated and uninhabitable. It would take centuries for Baghdad to regain any sort of prominence as an important city.

After Baghdad, the Mongols continued on westward. They conquered Syria from the Ayyubids, with help from the Armenians and neutrality from the Crusaders.

In Palestine they reached the extent of their conquests. The new Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt, under the leadership of Baibars defeated the Mongols at the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260.

This prevented a Mongol invasion of the Holy Lands of Makkah, Madinah, and Jerusalem. This also ensured the safety of the only remaining powerful Muslim empire of the time, the Mamluks.

Despite ultimately being unsuccessful in their attempt to destroy Islam, the Mongols left a deep political, economic, and military scar in the heart of the Muslim world.

Entire regions were depopulated. Irrigation canals, fields of crops, and economic infrastructure were destroyed beyond repair.

The political institutions, such as the caliphate, that held the Muslim world together for centuries were simply abolished.

The Mongol Il-Khanate established by Hulagu’s descendants would rule over Persia, Iraq, and Anatolia for over 100 years.

Over decades and centuries, the Mongols in Southwest Asia slowly converted to Islam and became absorbed in a Persian/Turkish culture.

The Mongol invasion is one of the most demoralizing times of Islamic history, but from which we can learn an important lesson.

The Muslim world was largely unable to repel the Mongol invasion due to disunity and weak political and military institutions.

Throughout Islamic history, disunity has always led to invasion and defeat, while unity has led to great Islamic times that benefited the entire world.

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Watch Documentary of the Palestine Nakba Day

In light of the 69 year anniversary of the Nakba Day – The day 700-800,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes, we share a documentary of the event by Al Jazeera published on 8th May 2013.

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