Qatar — the terrorist haven

Published in Al Ahram Weekly on 12/7/2017

The Qatari regime has been behaving like the havens that harboured pirates in the Caribbean centuries ago, and it must look forward to a similar fate, writes Hany Ghoraba

In the 17th and 18th-century Caribbean, some ports were controlled by pirates and buccaneers of the Spanish Main and turned into safe havens for pirates from elsewhere. Among these ports were Tortuga, Barataria Bay and Port Royal where wanted pirates found the safety to enable them to repair their ships, sell their loot, and divide up their plunder away from the eyes of the British, French, Dutch and Spanish fleets that were roaming the seas in search of the pirate ships in order to capture or sink them.

The Golden Age of piracy lasted for about two centuries, during which time these safe havens became prosperous ports in the Caribbean. It seems today that history may be repeating itself, as the most pressing issue of the hour is terrorism and just like the pirate havens of long ago there are now terrorist havens where terrorists, especially Islamist ones, can find shelter, protection and financing for their vile activities.

The most notorious terrorist haven in the world today is undoubtedly the rogue state of Qatar where many of the world’s terrorist groups had or have links, offices and financial resources provided through Qatari government-affiliated banks and propagated by the Islamist propaganda machine the Al-Jazeera television network.

Last Friday, a vile terrorist attack on a security outpost in the Egyptian city of Rafah resulted in the killing and injuring of some 26 special forces soldiers who had stood their ground during the attack and managed to kill 40 terrorists. This treacherous attack was not the first to take place in Sinai, and like earlier ones it has led to Egypt and its allies in the region to point the finger at the involvement of the Qatari regime in terrorist activities in Egypt and other countries in the region since the Arab Spring revolutions in 2011.

Terrorist attacks financed by Qatar have become more common since the 30 June Revolution in Egypt. The Qatari government is still defying most of the rest of the world and its Arab neighbours by blatantly harbouring wanted terrorists who are on the blacklists of Interpol along with many national security agencies. However, the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated regime is defying such pressures and has been continuing its blatant financing of terrorist organisations in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the UAE.

The blind support of the Qatari regime for the Muslim Brotherhood group stems from the fact that Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and his family were religiously tutored by none other than the Egyptian-born Qatari radical Sheikh Youssef Al-Qaradawi who is regarded as an influential Muslim Brotherhood scholar. Since the rise of the radical spiritual leader of Iran Ayatollah Khomeini to power in the 1979 Islamic Revolution, hardly any other radical cleric has had the same influence as that exercised by Al-Qaradawi. He sought shelter and political asylum in Qatar in 1961 after being convicted in Egypt of inciting terrorism, and he has since played an integral role in the spread of Islamism across the region.

Al-Qaradawi , who can be nicknamed the “Arab Rasputin” because of his influence over the ruling Al-Thani family in Qatar, persuading it to adopt the twisted beliefs of the Muslim Brotherhood, has been instrumental in turning the Al-Thani family into a blatant political supporter and financier of Brotherhood activities in the region. For nearly two decades, Al-Qaradawi has managed through his weekly broadcast on Al-Jazeera, Al-Sharia wal-Hayah (Life and Islamic Law), to spread the doctrines of the Brotherhood. The 90-year-old scholar today remains one of the most dangerous and influential Islamists in the world, and he has incited violence across the region, even issuing fatwas (Islamic legal rulings) calling for the killing of the region’s rulers.

The Egyptian authorities are urged to file an international lawsuit against Qatari regime figures for aiding in the committing of war crimes and terrorist activities. Qatar should be made to pay reparations to Egypt and other countries in which Qatari intelligence has bankrolled terrorism activities, such as Libya, Syria and Iraq. The Qataris have also orchestrated attempts to overthrow the regimes of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

These countries now possess evidence that should be presented to the United Nations and the International Criminal Court in order that these bodies can thoroughly investigate the involvement of the Qatari intelligence services in terrorism activities.

UNSEEN ENEMIES: In traditional wars, there is usually a clear sense of the combatants as the belligerents are usually easily identifiable. However, in the war against terrorism, battles are marred by treachery and acts of cowardice that are endorsed by regimes such as the one in Qatar.

The Qatari ruling house does not seem to lose any sleep over the hundreds of thousands of casualties it has caused across the Middle East over the past decade as a result of its activities, with millions more being displaced or into forced migration. It certainly does not care about the brave Egyptian soldiers who paid with their lives to defend Egypt’s borders from the raids of Islamic State (IS) group-affiliated terrorists.

It is time for this regime to face international condemnation and for its rulers to be placed on the international watch list of criminals for their role in supporting, financing and propagating terrorist activities that have led to the demise of countless people across the world.

The newly formed Axis of Terror comprised of the Turkish, Qatari and Iranian regimes will not hold for long. Despite their recklessness and hostility, the Turkish and Iranian regimes do not want to be involved in a major conflict in which they will gain nothing but will face economic sanctions and more international condemnation.

Forming an Axis of Terror against the Quartet alliance of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain will not reap them any long-term rewards, especially for the Turks who cannot risk their strong economic ties with the aforementioned countries. Should an economic boycott go into effect as a result of Turkey’s support for the Qataris, the country will lose billions of dollars in export contracts and projects. Similarly, Iran, despite being a menace in the region, will prefer to avoid direct military confrontations as a result of its losses in the Iraq-Iran War in the 1980s.

The Qatari regime still believes that it can bluff its way out of an increasingly tense situation by calling upon the involvement of both the Turkish and Iranian pariah regimes. In so doing, it is stamping itself with the mark of terrorism by calling upon these terrorist-supporting regimes for assistance. There are also tight limits on what these two countries can do in supporting Qatar, presumably stopping at emergency logistical or economic assistance, since neither the Turkish nor the Iranian regime is likely to want to enter a full-scale conflict with regional giants such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia to protect the ailing Qatari regime.

The media war that the Qatari regime is waging in a desperate attempt to save its skin and lift the blockade against it will not reap fruitful results. The joint declaration by the blockading countries and their renewed ultimatum to the Qatari regime on 5 July only confirmed that the Middle Eastern powers are resolute about ending the Qatari’s regime tomfoolery and attempts at destabilisation of the region. The latter has already paid a hefty price for such megalomaniacal actions, including the peaceful people of Qatar itself who have found themselves in the crossfire as a result of their government’s vainglory and greed.

Similar to the Caribbean pirate havens of the 17th and 18th centuries, Qatar is flourishing in terms of money and prosperity, but if history is any guide those same pirates who once lived like kings in pirate havens eventually met their doom. The terrorists that Qatar is harbouring are unlikely to meet a different fate.

Original Post in Al Ahram Weekly


Britain’s enigmatic elections

Published at Al Ahram Weekly on 22/6/2-17

The outcome of the recent parliamentary elections in Britain may signify that the UK is struggling to reformulate its identity after the referendum to leave the European Union, writes Hany Ghoraba

In one of the most surprising outcomes for a British election in a long time, the British public recently stripped the ruling Conservative Party of the majority in the British parliament that it has enjoyed since 2015. The outcome of the elections came as a surprise, as did the shocking vote for the United Kingdom to exit from the European Union in a referendum less than a year earlier. A radical shift from right-wing politics to left-wing ones, one way of reading the results of the recent elections, has left observers baffled about the sudden shifts in British public opinion that have characterised recent voting patterns.

On the one hand, Great Britain voted to exit from the EU in 2016 due to the economically taxing, interventionist and lenient immigration policies adopted by the organisation. These policies have seemingly irked the majority of the British public for years and have now led them to vote for complete independence from European laws and regulations. On the other hand, the same nation in less than a year from the Brexit vote in many cases voted for left-wing Labour Party candidates in the parliamentary elections. Some of these candidates are pro-EU, rendering the task of exiting the union an even harder one for incumbent Prime Minister Theresa May who has pledged to respect the voters’ choice in the Brexit referendum.

There are many explanations as to why British voters did not consolidate May’s powers to finalise a quick exit from the EU. One of these is that there are still many in Britain under the shock of the result of the Brexit vote, which was to them surprising as it was even to some of its own advocates. Apparently, the country was not prepared economically, politically or even socially to exit the EU, which despite its various shortcomings has seemed to be a stabilising factor for the UK. The outcome of the recent elections may signify that the British nation is still struggling to formulate its identity and desired path after the Brexit vote.

Many in Scotland are demanding a new referendum on independence from the UK, for example, similar to that in 2016 which barely missed voting to exit the union. The reason for such a demand is that a good majority of Scots still believe in the EU and may wish to leave the UK in order to rejoin it. If the past few years serve as any indicator, the wishes of the Scots could turn into reality and the world could witness an independent Scotland rejoining the EU while the rest of the UK exits from it.

The biggest winner of the recent elections may be the Labour Party, which has managed to close the gap between its number of seats in parliament and that of the majority Conservatives. The party, headed by controversial leader Jeremy Corbyn, has been celebrating some surprising gains. Corbyn has not been shy about rubbing shoulders with notorious figures including members of terrorist organisations such as Hamas, Hizbullah and the Muslim Brotherhood. His association with these did not deter many British voters from voting for his party’s candidates in the elections even as they risked seeing Corbyn becoming the next prime minister.

There is currently a period of waiting in Britain as British citizens absorb the effects of the surprising Brexit vote and hope that the positive results of it will soon be felt. For the time being, the average British citizen may well feel dismay at having to contribute to paying the hefty Brexit bill charged by the EU to Britain without any immediate or even foreseeable tangible results. This may have encouraged the anti-Brexit camp to gain momentum during the parliamentary elections.

May made the same mistake as former prime minister David Cameron in misreading the British political scene and voter feelings before calling for an early snap election that she thought would strengthen her powers. She believed that she required a reinforced mandate before tackling the tough negotiations for the Brexit from the EU. Unfortunately, the election backfired, and she has weakened her position in the negotiations further.

A year before, Cameron lost the Brexit referendum after rushing into it apparently unaware of its possible consequences. The end result was a political stunt that cost him his position as prime minister and Britain its membership of the EU. Something similar applies to May, who has weakened her position significantly as prime minister and has now been forced to try to rule with a precarious and very limited majority in a coalition with another party. She did not learn from her predecessor’s blunder, and she was overconfident in seeking a larger mandate.

May is now left with few choices to form a stable government that can survive a vote of confidence. The most likely, yet equally undesirable, of these choices is to ally the Conservative Party with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which won 10 seats in the elections, simply to secure a majority vote on upcoming bills in parliament. However, while this move may secure a marginal majority, it has its own political drawbacks.

The possible deal with the DUP represents a challenge and a possible risk to the Good Friday Peace Agreement of 1998, and Northern Irish Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams warned on 15 June that an agreement with the DUP was a breach of the agreement and would jeopardise the peace. A similar concern has been expressed by Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon, who referred to “deep-seated concerns” over the possible deal with the DUP and the impact of any such deal on the future of peace in Northern Ireland. However, the most stark warning came from within the Conservative camp itself, as former prime minister John Major warned that the Conservative-DUP agreement would threaten the hard-earned peace in Northern Ireland.

May might be able to save the Tories their majority even with the loss of seats in the last elections. However, in this process she may open a Pandora’s Box of problems as a result of being perceived as meddling in Northern Ireland in favour of the Unionists who will now be an ally of the Conservatives in the UK parliament. This will remove the impartiality of May’s government on volatile Northern Irish issues. That is one Pandora’s Box that May cannot afford to open, as it might place the UK under the threat of revived violence in Northern Ireland.

The British nation is moving between right-wing policies and far-left ones, rendering the political spectrum unpredictable. Undoubtedly, there are a lot of British voters who now regret voting for exiting the EU despite its shortcomings. That regret stems from the hefty costs that the nation will have to bear as a result of the unforeseen expenses and complications that the exit will entail.

The British public is still struggling to find a pathway to the future as the majority seems dismayed by both left- and right-wing policies and has been seeing no improvement in the overall standard of living. Brexit has not thus far boosted the economy, ended illegal immigration, or stemmed terrorism activities. Moreover, many jobs may now be lost as a result of the Brexit and the loss of European funding for facilities provided to Britain as a member of the EU.

With Article 50 triggered, signalling the beginning of the two-year process for the UK to exit the EU, the world’s oldest democracy is now at a crossroads in terms of redefining its economy, politics and social policies in the light of the Brexit reality that will sever its 44-year membership of the EU. The next two years will witness Britain sailing into uncharted waters, at least until British citizens accustom themselves to the post-EU era which will have its own set of challenges on all levels.

However, things may not be all doom and gloom as some have predicted. After all, Britain has all the necessary tools for survival, including a strong economy, a powerful currency, an industrious population and a large cultural output. If these tools were to be used skilfully by the British nation, it would pass the post-Brexit period with flying colours.

But such challenges will still require a calibre of leadership that Britain has not seen since the resignation of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher in 1990. Thus far, May has yet to prove herself worthy of Thatcher’s seat.

Original Post in Al Ahram Weekly

Curbing the Qatari menace

Published in Al Ahram Weekly on 15/6/2017

Moves by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain against Qatar signal that its meddling in the internal affairs of other countries and support for terrorist activities will no longer be tolerated, writes Hany Ghoraba

The overconfident and impetuous Qatari regime that has played a destructive interventionist role against many Arab League nations is finally witnessing its sunset.

That bizarre role has not deterred the small Arabian Gulf principality from employing terrorist militias to serve its ambitions across the region. Qatar, with a population the size of a small neighbourhood in Cairo, has had the audacity to endorse, finance and host terrorist groups that have created havoc for countries across the region including Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Libya. The Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani has carried on his father’s legacy of directing an army of terrorists and spies across the region in an ill-fated attempt to set up Qatar as a regional player.

Qatar’s endorsement of terrorism was an open secret that every nation around the region and possibly around the world knew about but looked the other way. The financial and media support given by Qatar to Syria’s Jabhat Al-Nusra, Libya’s Fajr Libya, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the Palestinian Hamas group along with Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) group mean that it has supported terror on an international scale.

For the past five years, Egypt has been vehemently attempting to expose the devastating Qatari role across the region. Among these attempts has been its presentation of a dossier to the UN Security Council containing proof of Qatar’s financing of terrorists in many Middle Eastern hotspots. The fruit of these efforts finally appeared in June 2017 as the world is now finally awake to the havoc created by the Qatari regime in the Middle East and worldwide.

Nevertheless, the propaganda and financial machine of Qatar is still at work, and this can be seen in the form of the Al-Jazeera TV network and some pro-Qatari Western media outlets and Qatari-financed think tanks, such as the Brookings Institute in the US, which have attempted to mask the ugly reality of Qatar’s support for many of the most dangerous terrorists worldwide.

For nearly a decade, the Qatari Islamist news network Al-Jazeera has been a hub for dissidents from all over the Arabic-speaking world, acting under the pretext of human rights and freedom of speech. To some, it has seemed that Al-Jazeera has fulfilled the great dream of free speech and a free media. However, time has shown that since 1996 Al-Jazeera has fostered separatist, sectarian and extremist rhetoric when addressing the regional and internal issues of nations across the Middle East. It has managed to distract public opinion through lies by pointing fingers at Egypt and accusing the country’s leadership of “dictatorship”, which according to its twisted logic is a source of terrorism.

Unfortunately, these arguments have found audiences among some members of the Western intelligentsia who have been convinced by them. However, they altered their view when terrorism struck at the very heart of democratic nations. Only then did some Western politicians and pundits along with the broader public start to listen to the Egyptian point of view on the role played by the Qatari and Turkish regimes in the current wave of terrorism afflicting the Middle East and the world as a whole.

Egypt has exercised the kind of patience that would befit a Buddhist monk. However, patience does not change hostile stances but actually encourages enemies to go further and more bluntly. Political analysts in Egypt have been divided on the correctness of severing ties with Qatar, but most of them have been more reluctant to see the postponement of such a move due to various elements. These include the need to ensure good diplomatic relations with the Gulf Cooperation Council and the large numbers of Egyptians working in Qatar. While these reasons are indeed reasonable, it cannot be the case that the interests and security of the Egyptian state are less important than other considerations.

Fortunately, Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have now finally acknowledged the devious schemes of the Qatari regime that were directed against overthrowing their own thrones. Diplomacy has seemed to come to an end as a result, and now there has been a severing of diplomatic ties along with a transportation, financial and commercial blockade on Qatar that has seemed an inevitable step as a result of Qatari breaches of protocol.

A UNITED FRONT AGAINST TERROR: US President Donald Trump on 9 June delivered a speech in which he strongly warned the Qatari regime about its funding of terrorism across the world. That speech may be the last nail in the coffin of the Qatari regime, as it is now left with little choice but to comply with international demands or face tougher sanctions.

Furthermore, a joint declaration by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain has included the listing of 59 persons and 12 entities, mostly Qatari and Iranian-affiliated Bahraini organisations, as terrorist entities. The declaration represents a clear message to Qatar and its allies Turkey and Iran that these nations along with the United States will exercise zero tolerance towards Qatari activities of meddling in the internal affairs of other countries and supporting terrorist activities.

The declaration coupled by the warning to Qatar by Trump places the Qatari regime in a dilemma that may end up with its demise in the foreseeable future. The regime is not doing itself any favours when it attempts to sleep with the enemy, in this case Iran and Turkey.

Both the Turkish and the Iranian regimes have been sources of mayhem in the region and have funded and harboured countless terrorist organisations including the Muslim Brotherhood, Hizbullah, Hamas and IS. The Qatari regime’s attempts to seek protection by utilising these pariahs will only cement its status as a rogue regime and will entail increasing pressures on it and thus significantly shorten its lifespan.

Despite the immense wealth that the gas-rich Gulf state enjoys, this will hardly be sufficient to fend off the wrath of the giants of the region along with that of the United States. The siege is not simply restricted to transportation and the economy, but it also extends to ongoing discussion at the highest levels on stripping the Arabian Gulf state of its right to host international sporting events, among them the Football World Cup in 2022.

Qatar’s most treasured and crowning achievement is the hosting of the Football World Cup, achieved according to many sports analysts by corruption as allegations of this sort have been made against the entire FIFA governing body. It was unfathomable that Qatar, with its limited experience and very modest football record, beat the United States for the honour of hosting this great sporting event. With accusations of corruption and international condemnations of its use of slave labour in constructing the new sports venues ongoing, Qatar could have done without supporting terrorism as well, though this goes to show that the award to Qatar of the sports event was a terrible decision by FIFA.

In the light of current events, it will require a miracle for Qatar to retain its World Cup hosting rights without major reforms or regime change in the country.

For decades to come, historians will be baffled at Qatar’s outrageous attempts to control the fate of much larger nations without even having the basic prerequisites for that task. History may be full of smaller-sized nations controlling larger ones, with the Greek, Roman and British Empires serving as prime examples. However, all of these had elements in common that included large armies, robust economies, and great cultural strength. Qatar has none of these things despite its being a gas-rich country.

Accordingly, Qatar’s attempt to play a major role in the region will be historically deemed to be surreal — the equivalent of the Principality of Lichtenstein attempting to control Europe and the fate of countries such as Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Italy or other European giants.

For nearly two decades, the gas-rich state of Qatar has utilised its resources and the media power that it has garnered over the years in the service of mayhem, destruction, and chaos across the Middle East. There is hardly a country in the Middle East that has not received its fair share of Qatari interventions in its domestic politics, in a best-case scenario, or even having terrorists on its soil funded and supported by the tiny Gulf state, in a worst. For an autocratic country with an absolute monarchy represented by its emir, the Qatari regime’s preaching about democracy and freedom of speech is like a drunkard preaching about the virtues of sobriety.

In 1993, the Colombian authorities with the help of their American counterparts managed to locate and kill the drug-runner Pablo Escobar and dismantle his vast drug-smuggling network that extended from Colombia all the way to the East Coast of the US. Such massive efforts did not end the drug trade in the Americas, but they did represent a major blow to one of the biggest masterminds in the international drug cartels.

Dismantling the Qatari regime’s terrorist networks and their funding along with their media outlets will not end terrorism because Qatar is not the only country harbouring terrorism or promoting extremist ideologies. However, these things will represent a major and critical blow to jihadist groups across the world for which Qatar provided funding, shelter and media support for over a decade. They will thus be a victory in a decisive battle in the long war against terrorism.

Original Post at Al Ahram Weekly

Sealing Libya’s gates of hell

Published in Al Ahram Weekly on 8/6/2017

The cowardly attack on a bus in Minya only succeeded in steeling the Egyptian state to deal decisively with the terrorist threat in Libya, writes Hany Ghoraba

With the fall of the regime of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, many across the world believed that they had accomplished the impossible and that peace would reign the land as Libyans democratically live happily ever after. Unfortunately, there was no happy ending for the Libyan crisis and civil war, as the fall of Gaddafi only marked the beginning of a series of unfortunate events that ruined the lives of Libyans and rocked neighbouring countries, particularly Egypt.

One of the most horrific events to occur recently was the vile terrorist attack on a bus full of Egyptian Christians in the southern city of Minya that took place 27 May 2017. The terrorists left 28 people dead and 22 injured as they were on their way to St Samuel the Confessor Monastery. This barbaric attack didn’t spare the life of six innocent children with the youngest being a two-year-old. The attack sparked waves of anger amongst Egyptians whose Muslim population was on the verge of celebrating the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan, whose festivities are shared by their Christian brethren as well for the past 1,300 years.

This ferocious anger has turned into an unyielding determination within the hearts of Egyptians and their leadership to close the gates of hell that were unsealed after Gaddafi’s demise and the direct intervention of NATO, opening a political void that was filled by terrorists and warring factions.

Undoubtedly a massive and treacherous attack of this magnitude warranted a more massive retaliatory response, which came in the form of waves of air strikes that targeted the headquarters of the terrorists’ activities in the northeast Libyan city of Derna. President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi ordered air strikes that destroyed major sections of the organisational infrastructure of the terrorists in Derna and killed Libya’s Al-Qaeda-affiliated Derna Shura Council group leader “Abou Talha” and four of his lieutenants after wiping out their headquarters. Moreover, on the same day of the air strikes, the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Ansar Al-Sharia group responsible for the death of US ambassador John Christopher Stevens in Libya in 2012 disbanded after suffering huge losses. The Egyptian Armed Forces announced that air strikes will continue till the terrorist threat in Libya is eradicated.

Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, commander of the Libyan army, remains Egypt’s best bet for restoring order in Libya after half a decade of chaos. The successful campaign on which he is leading the Libyan army, in restoring peace and cleaning Libyan towns from terrorist militias, may be slow in pace but definitely is delivering results. Nevertheless, Egypt is not relying entirely on the Libyan army, which is fighting a fierce battle within its borders with limited resources, but is relying on its own air force, navy and counter-terrorism units that decisively strike terrorist camps in Libya while seizing ships that smuggle weapons and ammunition to terrorists in Libya. These military efforts are done in conjunction with the Libyan army that assists the Egyptian air forces and units by locating terrorist concentrations. The unified effort is delivering some positive results and Libya’s second largest city, Benghazi, is expected to be terrorist-free within a short period of time.

On the other hand, the UN role has been very passive in Libya and adopts an unrealistic vision towards the stability of the Libyan state. For nearly six years, the UN and the Security Council have been helpless in the face of the blatant smuggling of weapons to terrorist groups operating in Libya from countries such as Turkey and Qatar, through naval vessels and airlifts. These weapons have continued to fuel the ongoing civil war to this date. At the same time, the UN insists on maintaining a ban on the export of arms and weapons to the Libyan army, that is fighting terrorism handicapped due to this ban — a ban Egypt has been vehemently pressing the UN Security Council to lift immediately.

Furthermore, despite having a relatively small-sized population, Libya possesses a complex and tribal social fabric. Along the vast areas of the Libyan state, any army may find itself overstretched. Accordingly, intelligence activities are essential for maintaining a successful military campaign in Libya. Also, the intertwining nature of the tribes, where allegiance to the state is weaker than to the tribal leadership, creates an even more complex environment for any military operation.

CONCLUSION: While the Qatari and Turkish regimes blatantly support Libyan-based terrorist militias and groups as they take the lives of hundreds of thousands of Libyans, Egypt is assisting the one and only legitimate Libyan army to rebuild its strength and cleanse Libyan soil of terrorism once and for all.

Egypt finds itself tasked to clean up a mess left by the NATO intervention during the early days of the Libyan revolution and the blind dispersal of heavy weapons that eventually fell in the hands of Islamist militants fighting the Libyan army and the Gaddafi regime. At the moment, the majority of these arms have fallen into the hands of Al-Qaeda and Islamic State-affiliated militants in Libya, along with Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated terrorists carrying the name Fajr Libya (Dawn of Libya). Egypt in conjunction with the Libyan army is sweeping the Libyan state to rid it of this infestation of terrorist militias that eventually find their way onto Egyptian soil, as was the case in the Minya terrorist attack. It is a daunting task to fulfil, but it is an inevitable one that serves Libyan state security and of course Egyptian state security in the long run.

The good news is that with Egyptian involvement, supporting the reinstated Libyan army under Field Marshal Haftar’s leadership, the terrorist and Islamist forces are receding significantly as they lose key towns. For instance, on 4 June 2017, Al-Jafra strategic military base and airport was liberated by the Libyan army, marking a significant milestone in cleaning up east Libya of the terrorist presence. The district located in the centre of Libya will represent a great strategic base for the Libyan army to seize the rest of western Libya, including the capital, Tripoli.

Since 2011, the Egyptian leadership was hesitant to get involved in Libya lest Egypt get lured into a labyrinth from which it cannot escape. The Egyptian army is already fighting a ferocious war on terrorism in North Sinai in the same period. However, Egyptian aerial strikes and continuous assistance to the Libyan military became imperative. President Al-Sisi announced that Egypt will attack any terrorist camp in Egypt or any country across the region that represents a threat to Egyptian national security. The current state of affairs in Libya and the ongoing terrorist threats emerging from it remain a clear and present danger to the Egyptian state that has to be decisively eradicated.

More than at any time in history, it is imperative for Egypt to assist Libya on many levels, including militarily, economically and politically. Egypt should approve any requests for assistance with full force to the best of the Egyptian state’s ability. For all intents and purposes, it has been proven that Libya’s safety and security is paramount to Egypt’s safety and security. The Libyan people realise and welcome a long-term Egyptian role in fostering stability and rebuilding Libya from its ashes. The gates of hell that opened in Libya and unleashed all sorts of evil, in the form of terrorism and weapons smuggling into the Egyptian state, must be shut and sealed forever. More importantly, Muslim Brotherhood affiliates in Libya and their Islamic State allies haven’t succeeded in anything by their cowardly attack on the bus filled with Egyptian Christians, except waking a sleeping giant that will not rest till that threat from Libya is vanquished.

Original Post in Al Ahram Weekly

Britain and the wolves within

Published in Al Ahram Weekly on 2/6/2017

Last week’s barbaric attack on concert-goers in Manchester was partly the result of years of negligence by the UK authorities in dealing with terrorists seeking asylum in the country, writes Hany Ghoraba

Britain had one of its longest nights in decades on 23 May when suicide-bomber Salman Abedi detonated a bomb hidden in a rucksack he was carrying in a crowd of young British people attending a concert in the Manchester Arena hall in the city of Manchester.

The attack displayed the high degree of barbarity and the lack of all human feeling of the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates the Islamic State (IS) group and Al-Qaeda worldwide. A lone-wolf theory has prevailed in the media since the bombing was carried out by this 22-year-old man of Libyan descent who had been born in Manchester.

This was a vile attack on innocence, targeting a concert given by young American singing sensation Ariana Grande. The majority of Grande’s fans are from the children and teenage demographic. As a result, most of the casualties of this barbaric terrorist attack were children and teenagers who had simply wanted to watch the American singer live in their own city.

Once again, the country now has to mourn a man-made calamity of a type that has been recurring and that has resulted from policies that have led to the current heinous situation in the United Kingdom. This is a situation in which British people cannot claim with confidence that their country is safe from terrorism and that such events only happen in other countries. There have been failures in the UK’s political and security apparatus for years that have encouraged the ambitions of Islamists who have caused mayhem in their homelands and are now continuing their trail of blood in a country that has hosted them and granted them shelter.

As a result of the terrible attack, British Prime Minister Theresa May has raised the threat level across the country to critical and ordered the deployment of the armed forces across Britain as reports of other imminent attacks have been expected. This is a standard and prudent precautionary measure that any country would take after a terrorist attack such as the Manchester bombing. However, problems remain deeply embedded within the British state, whose policies have paved the way for such terrorism to occur as an inevitable result.

It is a fact that without the blessings of consecutive British governments the Muslim Brotherhood global network would never have survived to date. The security apparatus of the United Kingdom seems to believe that it is important to keep relations strong with the Muslim Brotherhood, even as the group has spread in around 80 countries worldwide. Thus, the Muslim Brotherhood represents a fifth column of turncoats that can be triggered whenever the need arises by British intelligence, which itself contributed to the formation of the group in Egypt in 1928. These policies have opened a Pandora’s Box of terrorism in Britain because the British have harboured these wolves, treating them like pets in recent decades.

For over four decades, Britain has been a European hub for jihadist activities, with terrorists linked to all the major terrorist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda, IS and others, operating freely within it. Many of them have been granted political asylum on British soil, including Al-Qaeda terrorist Jordanian-born Abu Qatada who received asylum based on a forged passport in 1993. Later he found enough loopholes in the British legal system to stay out of jail for years despite his ties to Al-Qaeda.

The same thing has applied to Egyptian-born terrorists Hani Al-Sibai and Abu Ḥamzah Al-Masri, who were allowed for years to preach jihadism in British mosques together with their explicit support for Osama Bin Laden and other terrorists. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Ibrahim Mounir and Mohamed Soudan, among dozens of other wanted Islamist leaders, are still roaming freely in the United Kingdom and in direct contact with British political circles.

The Manchester bombing and the killing and injuring of dozens of innocent British citizens including young girls and boys was not the first and certainly will not be the last such event in Britain. It rests on the heads of successive British governments that have been reluctant to acknowledge the sins they have committed over several generations in aiding and creating a safe haven for wanted terrorists worldwide.

The wolves in sheep’s clothing who have taken advantage of the lax political asylum laws in Britain will continue to represent a clear and present danger to British society along with the rest of the world. British tax-payers are still paying the expenses of internationally wanted terrorists who are on the blacklists of their home countries in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Moreover, the financial hub of the City of London is still utilised by Islamists to transfer funds inside and outside Britain, including by groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood. The British government still shamefully says this is a peaceful group despite the trail of blood is has been leaving in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Syria and across the Middle East.

The horrendous Manchester bombing should be a wake-up call for the British parliament to ban the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates which managed to escape an earlier ban under former UK prime minister David Cameron. If this does not happen, the British will have to brace themselves for further violence as radicalism continues to grow unfettered within Britain.

The United Kingdom has long boasted of being a melting pot for people from different nationalities, races and creeds seeking refuge on its shores. This may be true as far as hosting those who are in genuine need are concerned, such as refugees and those who are oppressed. However, the Islamists and jihadists do not fall into this category. They fled from the hands of the law in their home countries because of their sickening ideologies or the crimes they committed against their compatriots.

Many of these fake asylum-seekers are on the wanted lists of Interpol, though such red flags are ignored by the British authorities for the sake of short-term political gains. Political asylum is granted to these people under the pretext of human rights and at the expense of other British citizens and others who have been harmed across the world.

As a result, a new generation of jihadists or “lone wolves” is now being bred in the very heart of Britain, raised by experienced terrorists that have found shelter through the twisted system of asylum given by the British authorities. The latter still regard the Islamists and jihadists as “victims.” Salman Abedi, the bomber of the Manchester Arena, was one of this new generation of jihadists whose father, Ramadan Abedi, was a prominent member of the banned Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) which had fought to overthrow the late Libyan dictator Muammar Al-Gaddafi. The group’s members were allowed to fight Al- Gaddafi in 2011 and were then allowed to return to the United Kingdom with no questions asked.

It does not require a genius to figure out that terrorist group members are unlikely to produce Rhodes scholar students, but will instead produce further terrorists to carry on their unsavoury work and rhetoric. The repetitive occurrences of which the Manchester bombing was the latest example are a curse on British citizens and particularly on honest and patriotic British Muslims who in some cases have to pay the price of being discriminated against and stereotyped as a result of the heinous work of these terrorists.

As the curtain falls on the wars in Syria and Libya and terrorist attacks recede in the Middle East with the imminent fall of IS, it is expected that many international terrorists will now return to their homelands and cause damage wherever they are hosted or received. It is a fact that there is no such thing as a “lone wolf” as far as terrorist activities are concerned and that all terrorists are linked together by either domestic or international ties from which they receive their instructions and doctrines.

The names may vary from the Muslim Brotherhood to Al-Qaeda, but the end results are the same. It is high time that these wolves were dealt with in order to save the lives of many thousands of people worldwide.

Original Post in Al Ahram Weekly

Why Iran’s presidential elections don’t matter

Published in Al Ahram Weekly on 25/5/2017

While a reformist — Hassan Rouhani — took a second term as Iran’s president, the core of the political regime remains elsewhere, Rouhani’s win but a surface phenomenon, writes Hany Ghoraba

With the fall of the Soviet Union, 26 December 1991, and the peaceful secession of its former republics, most Western political circles dreamt of the rise of an Iranian Gorbachev who would dismantle the Islamic Republic from within. Gorbachev altered history by applying what was known as “perestroika” — a political movement of reform within the Communist Party aiming to reverse decades of failed political and economic policies. These reforms constituted a new policy of openness known as Glasnost, but they were too little and too late to save the ailing Soviet Union from its final descent and dissolution.

Ever since, Western governments and media have been engaged in wishful thinking, hoping that what occurred in the former Soviet Union would take place in Iran, to defuse ongoing conflict with the Iranians since the Islamic regime was formed in 1979. Many do seem to ignore that the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran has to be approved and cleared first by the Guardian Council, which is a high political council that supervises the vetting process of the Iranian presidential nominees. Whenever a nominee seems to stray from the rules set primarily by the Guardian Council, which answers directly to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the nominee is immediately rejected without question. Even former president Ahmedinejad was prohibited from running for president in the 2017 elections. It was believed that Ahmedinejad brought a lot of hardships on the Iranian state and people during his two-term presidency, and the sanctions that befell Iran were mainly his fault. The fact remains that presidents still answer to the supreme leader whose blessings are imperative for any candidate to run. At the same time, no Iranian president can take major executive decisions, domestically or internationally, without the consent of the supreme leader.

The Guardian Council of Iran cleared six candidates for the 2017 presidential elections that ended 20 May in a victory by 57.13 per cent for the reformist candidate and incumbent President Hassan Rouhani who defeated the conservative Ebrahim Raisi who won 38.3 per cent of the votes. Undoubtedly, many within Western political circles will rejoice at this result which, according to their understanding, may spare them an imminent conflict with Iran and its allies. However, that is a delusion that many in the West choose to believe instead of facing the reality of the situation. Iran is not a country ruled by politicians but by religious affiliated ideologues represented mainly by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who enforces his radical vision through multiple state bodies, of which one is the Guardian Council, another the Iranian Expediency Discernment Council, along with the militant scourge that is the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

These are the real players in the Iranian political spectrum and while the Iranian president may have influence within certain domestic issues on reform and the economy, he has little or no control over state policies, especially foreign policies set by the aforementioned institutions. The wishful thinking displayed by Western politicians and pundits have been consistent in hoping that a president such Mohamed Khatami, who was elected in 1994, would change the tide of history and alter the Islamic Republic into a modern state of government. Despite some reasonable reforms within Iranian society, Khatami couldn’t bring what the world anticipated and he never turned into the Gorbachev of Iran. Instead, by 2009, and upon his support for the failed campaign of reformist Mir-Hossein Mossevi, who lost in a controversial and rigged election to radical hardliner Ahmedinejad, he was banned from being mentioned or having his photograph appear in any Iranian media as a form of punishment.


IRANIAN SURVIVAL OF SANCTIONS: For decades, all the way till the Obama administration, the Iranian regime after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, has been under a barrage of economic and political sanctions for its terrible human rights record and military ambitions in the region. These ambitions witnessed their peak with the initiation of the nuclear programme that was aimed at protecting the Iranian regime from possible future invasions by the United States or NATO. The Iranians were relieved to sign the deal with the Obama administration that provides them with breathing space and unlocks over $100 billion sanctioned by the United States. To the Iranians this was a clever tactical move to replenish the losses of their economy and industry. Nevertheless, there are signs that the nuclear deal signed with the United States and five other countries during Obama administration will not hold. Especially that Iran openly threatens to attack its neighbours such as Saudi Arabia as well as other Arab Gulf States such as Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates that has three of its Islands in the Gulf occupied by Iranian forces.

Russia, who lost most of its allies in the Middle East subsequent to the fall of the USSR and all the way to the Arab Spring revolutions, attempts to remain influential by backing the Iranian regime, purely on a pragmatic basis since the Russians wouldn’t normally accept to deal with religious-ideological regimes such as the Iranian one. Now, the Chinese have also entered the fray with projects and investments to counter-balance the United States in the region. The Chinese look beyond human rights issues when assessing economical benefits, and they are successful in doing that so far.

While some may argue that the Shia-affiliated Iranian regime is different from Sunni-based Islamist regimes, they remain one and the same. In fact, the Iranian regime is notorious for supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas terrorist organisations along with many other smaller organisations.

Despite its survival tactics, Iran remains a pariah state on the regional and global stage as a result of its aggressive and interventionist policies for the past four decades. The democratic process in Iran is a charade to say the least run by the supreme leader and the Guidance Council who still retain the upper hand in all procedures. The democratic process in Iran is no more than a catharsis to the Iranian nation that is getting fed up with the ill practices of the Islamic regime. Unlike most countries around the globe, Iran is not run by politicians but religious ideologues who believe in spreading the horrid Iranian Islamic revolution all across the Middle East and preserving it domestically by all means necessary.

For every Iranian reformist politician there are layers upon layers of radically conservative politicians who are blessed and supported by the mullahs and clergymen in the upper echelons of political power. The reform movement hardly stands a chance till the majority of Iranians unanimously stand up for their rights against one of the most notorious and oppressive regimes in modern times that has literally killed, tortured and imprisoned tens of thousands of dissidents since 1978-1979. Till then, whether the president is Khatami, Rouhani or any proclaimed reformist, the end result and policies in effect will remain the same, because the hierarchy and core of the political regime remains intact.

The Iranian revolution was a Pandora’s Box that opened to unleash a swarm of evil on the Middle East, contributing nothing except the further radicalisation and instability of the region. Its effects will not be moderated through the election of a smiling face in Iran, regardless of how liberal he claims to be. Iran has proven to be much more complicated than the wishful thinking of Western pundits gave it credit for. Accordingly, observers may reconsider holding their breath in hope of major change in Iran, despite promises made by consecutive reformist presidents such as Rouhani.


Original Post At Al Ahram Weekly


Europe’s French connection

Published in Al Ahram Weekly on 18/5/2017

Supporters of the European Union everywhere are heaving sighs of relief at the landslide election victory of Emmanuel Macron as the new French president, writes Hany Ghoraba

European Union advocates can breathe a sigh of relief at the defeat of far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and the landslide victory of Emmanuel Macron at 65.8 per cent of the vote in the second round of the French presidential elections that took place on 7 May. The French values of liberty prevailed on that day, and the meteoric rise of alt-right and far-right movements received a major setback in their ambitions for political hegemony across Europe.

After the defeat of the Dutch far-right candidate Geert Wilders, the leader of the amusingly named Party of Freedom, in the country’s elections in 2017, there has come another strike to far-right ambitions in the defeat of head of the French National Front Party Marine Le Pen in the French presidential elections.

Nevertheless, the fact that Le Pen received a whopping 34.2 per cent of the vote in the elections was unprecedented for a far-right candidate in France, signifying a changing of the tides on the political scene and an alarming acceptance of far-right and alt-right political views on the mainstream level. She attained considerable gains despite her party holding no more than two seats in the 577-seat French National Assembly.

The increasing popularity of the far right in France can be measured in terms of the higher percentage of votes in 2017 for Le Pen, which at over 34.2 per cent was much higher compared to her father Jean-Marie Le Pen’s presidential bid in 2002 when he received only 17.8 per cent of the vote against former president Jacques Chirac who won by a historic landslide of 82.2 per cent.

With over one third of French voters voting for Le Pen this time round, amounting to over 10.6 million French citizens, immigration problems in France were the elephant in the room in the elections and a main topic of contention between Le Pen and her opponent President-elect Macron. Le Pen was in favour of tightening the immigration process in France and even expelling many immigrants or naturalised citizens deemed unfit to bear French citizenship.

Le Pen’s severe case of xenophobia did not appeal to the majority of French citizens, however, who are known to believe in intercultural, interfaith and interracial coexistence within France and abroad. This is a practical manifestation of the French revolutionary motto of liberté, egalité, fraternité, or freedom, equality and fraternity.

Le Pen also introduced herself as the vanguard against Islamist terrorism and vowed to ban the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups in France. However, her record as leader of the National Front and her controversial statements over the years have made the French public aware that her stance is not simply against the terrorists of the Muslim Brotherhood group but that she and her party paint all Muslims with the same brush. Furthermore, founder of the party Jean-Marie Le Pen is notorious for his anti-Semitic and Anti-Islamic slurs, and he has become so divisive an agent within French society that even his own daughter cannot bear to handle him.

Her attempts to distance herself from her father’s statements, for example by visiting Al-Azhar in Egypt and appearing more tolerant, have seemed contrived. They have also not erased the racist stains from the party’s record because her stance has been clear from the beginning, especially as she has followed in the footsteps of her racist father. Even the fact that she had an Egyptian-born assistant, Jean Messiha, managing her elections campaign this year was not enough to convince the majority of the population in France that she is a candidate that can represent the whole French nation with its diverse multi-ethnic constituencies.

Le Pen’s radical economic plans have also worried the majority of French citizens, wary of radical and uncalculated shifts based on imprecise statistics. After all, the current standing of France as the world’s top tourist destination is partly owed to the Schengen visa system, which provides great accessibility to the country from all across Europe and to those visiting the Old Continent on a Schengen visa.

Furthermore, the Euro currency has facilitated both European and non-European commercial dealings with France, despite the fact that some French exports may have been negatively affected due to the currency’s high value.

THREATS: Such details are usually intentionally skipped over by European ultra-nationalists who convince their deluded followers that their country can function perfectly well on its own just as soon as it gets rid of foreigners and severs commercial and political agreements with other nations.

But the truth is exactly the reverse: An immediate exit from the European Union would be catastrophic for France more even than for most other European nations. The economy of France has been formulated since 1957 on the basis of the European Economic Community (EEC), later the Common Market, which was the nucleus of today’s European Union. The painful, divisive and costly exiting of the United Kingdom from the European Union, the so-called Brexit, has discouraged French citizens from voting for an anti-EU candidate in their own country who could adopt policies that would eventually lead to an even more painful exit for France.

The Brexit has been helped by the UK’s more independent economy, based on the fact that the UK still utilises the pound sterling and not the euro, as does France. Exiting the Eurozone would necessitate shifting back to the French franc, with all the economic burdens and costs that would entail as a result. Accordingly, the plan to leave the EU has been doomed from the beginning in France, and French citizens are unwilling to gamble everything that has been achieved over past decades for a radical plan with questionable results.

The majority of the French nation believes that while it is imperative to fight back against the Muslim Brotherhood and its terrorist affiliates such as the Islamic State (IS) group and Al-Qaeda while maintaining the secular nature of the French Republic, this is a fight that cannot be fought by bigoted or racist far-right candidates or neo-fascists. Such fascist groups play a huge part in Islamist propaganda and victimisation techniques that cite bigoted and racist rhetoric against Muslims and other minorities in France in order to recruit more deluded young Frenchmen and women to their ranks.

The majority of French people believe that the Islamists should be stripped of that weapon. Moreover, the pillars of freedom, equality and fraternity should be among the weapons of choice in fighting the radicalisation of French society. These pillars, along with tightening security measures, will be the keys to defeating terrorism decisively in France and elsewhere.

It is becoming more evident that EU membership, though tempting for non-EU countries, is becoming less popular within the citizens of the founding members of the Union themselves. Its immigration laws, interventionist policies and overspending, along with unpopular social and economic policies, are becoming more difficult to bear for many European citizens.

Yet, France has displayed to the rest of Europe and the world in the recent elections that despite being under extreme duress fighting terrorism and other domestic issues it has chosen liberty and unity instead of fascism, xenophobia and racism. Solving France’s problems will not be attained through electing radicals and fascists because that would be the equivalent of setting a house on fire to exterminate mice.

President-elect Macron said during his election campaign that Europe’s problems could not be fixed without fixing France’s problems, which he has been quite accurate in describing. As eighth president of the French Fifth Republic, Macron now has an uphill battle to restore the confidence of French citizens in the political system, to defeat terrorism, to kick start an economy in recession and to deal with a range of social and political issues as the successor to incumbent president Francois Hollande. The challenge is immense for the young 39-year-old who upped the ante during his election campaign as the would-be saviour of France.

Macron has five years to deliver on his promises to the French nation and even to the European Union whose sustained existence relies on the victory he has just scored. The EU may have been proven to be a disappointment to many, but it definitely trumps the costs of dismantling it at the hands of ultra-nationalists and other fascists, who, if successful, would not hesitate before pitting each other against each other in a new and unpredictable conflict.

The European Union remains the glue that keeps Europe intact until the wave of neo-fascism recedes. However, EU leaders, especially those in the European Parliament, have their work cut out for them to revise and reverse the policies that have led to its increasing unpopularity and the animosity directed towards it by its own citizens.

Europe has still to witness another crucial test that will affect its unity in the form of the German elections in September. But until then EU advocates may consider that they have dodged a bullet that was aimed at the Union’s very existence in the election of Macron as president in France.


Original Post in Al Ahram Weekly