America Should Get Behind Saudi Arabia’s Revolutionary Crown Prince

MBS [Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman] is a Saudi revolutionary, and the success of his policies will be felt not just in Saudi Arabia. So would their failure.

I have just returned from my second trip to Saudi Arabia since Mohammed bin Salman, the 32-year-old crown prince, became the driving force for change in the kingdom. His efforts to transform Saudi society amount to a revolution from above. Many seem to equate him with the shah of Iran, who thought he could Westernize his country without modernizing its social, religious roots and was ultimately swept away in the revolution that produced the Islamic Republic of Iran. I see him as more like Mustafa Kemal Ataturk — a leader who revolutionized Turkey by taking away the power of the religious base and secularizing the country.

To be sure, “MBS,” as he is known, is not trying to secularize Saudi Arabia. In his words, he is trying to “restore” Islam to its true nature and turn it away from those who sought to spread an intolerant, austere faith that created a justification for violence against all non-believers. Part of his challenge is that the Wahhabi interpretation of Islam — which guided the clerical establishment in the kingdom from its emergence in the late 1920s — promoted that very “us vs. them” belief system. The clerics were allowed by the royal family to run the educational system, enforce strict social mores within the kingdom and, especially after the revolution in Iran in 1979, finance madrassas internationally to spread its toxic worldview. Perhaps, that is why there is a cottage industry of skeptics of MbS’s mission and prospects for success.

Ironically, the skeptics are primarily outside Saudi Arabia and not in it…

The drive for change in Saudi Arabia is more credible because it is homegrown, not a response to outside pressure. It is being driven by an understanding that Saudi Arabia cannot sustain governance based on the lowest common denominator among all the factions of the royal family, the approval of the Wahhabi clerics, an economy dependent almost exclusively on oil for revenue, and 80% of Saudi households dependent on the government.

Interesting comment on Dennis Ross’s article by ali al qarni:

Dennis Ross’ piece did some justice to Saudi Arabia and its leadership and their genuine efforts to reform and modernize the country. Mr. Ross sees HRH the Crown Prince as Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, but we (Saudis) see him as more like his grandfather, King Abdulaziz, the founder of the most successful unification experience in modern times; the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Crown Prince is a young leader who is fully aware of the social, economic, political and technological changes around the world, and he knows what needs to be done to bring his country to the forefront of the developed world. He also knows that two-thirds of the population of his country is below the age of 30, and he further knows that this is an asset and a challenge at the same time. His vision for the country carries all the answers to a better prosperous future for the country. The young leader is working day and night focusing on the real job, which needs time and patience. It is in the interest of the US to support his efforts and make sure regional evil forces do not slow those efforts. And yes, Dennis Ross is correct when he ended by saying “MBS is a Saudi revolutionary, and the success of his policies will be felt” around the world. WaPo

Saudi Arabia Nuclear Program

Saudi Foreign Minister Al-Jubeir said that the world’s largest oil exporter was exploring the use of nuclear energy as part of its transition away from an oil-based energy system.

Saudi Arabia plans to construct 16 nuclear power reactors over the next 20 to 25 years at a cost of more than $80 billion. It has invited U.S. firms to take part in the program but acceptance from Washington requires a country to sign a peaceful nuclear cooperation pact. Known as a 123 agreement, it separates civil and military nuclear facilities and aims to block the steps from nuclear fuel production to potential bomb-making applications. Countries like India have already signed up to such agreements with the U.S.

Riyadh has previously stated it wants to tap its own uranium resources for “self-sufficiency in producing nuclear fuel,” according to Reuters, and is not interested in diverting nuclear technology to military use. Its regional rival Iran is already one step ahead and is allowed to enrich uranium.

Speaking to CNBC at the Munich Security Conference, Adel Al-Jubeir told CNBC that Saudi Arabia was looking at a number of countries that have nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

“We are looking at the issue of the viability of building nuclear reactors in order to produce energy so that we can save the oil and export it in order to generate revenue,” the foreign minister said.

“The countries that we are talking to are probably roughly 10 countries or so around the world and we have not made a decision yet with regards to which path we will take and which country we will be focusing on more.”CNBC

Nuclear weapons?

The crown prince is determined to alter the status quo by moving towards a westernized model of greater individual freedom and economic diversification. As he undertakes these reforms, bin Salman seems to believe his regime’s security requires an independent nuclear program. And while the Saudis are unlikely to weaponize their nuclear program unless and until they view Iran as committed to that same course, the kingdom has an ace card up its sleeve: Pakistan.

Having supported Pakistan with tens of billions of dollars over the decades, the Saudis are convinced that the Pakistani government would, on request, transfer nuclear weapons technology to Riyadh. That gives bin Salman confidence that he has time on his side to first develop a purely peaceful nuclear program.  WashingtonExaminer

Open Doors Has Rebuilt Nearly 700 Homes In A Christian Community That Was Destroyed By ISIS

Christian charity Open Doors, that offers support to persecuted Christians, is helping restore almost 700 homes  destroyed by ISIS in Iraq in the Nineveh Plains.

After the region was liberated from ISIS, many Christians are returning to find their homes and communities destroyed.  Open Doors USA has partnered with ministries in Iraq to help restore and bring hope to these displaced Christians.

Open Doors:  “After three years of Islamic State occupation and devastation in the wake of the ISIS war, our local partners are sharing stories of continued hope for the Nineveh Plains and the believers who were forced to flee when militants issued their ultimatum: “Convert, leave or die.” For more than two years, occupying Islamic jihadists tried to erase any evidence of Christianity from the city–burning churches, destroying crosses, toppling bell towers.”

Online:  Read more about the families at  In Iraq’s Ninevah Plain, God is Doing A ‘New Thing’ – 678 Homes Restored With Your Help

Many Christian groups and organizations are helping Christians restore and rebuild as they return to Iraq.

Father George Jahola, a Syriac Catholic priest, manages and organizes the reconstruction of the houses in Qaraqosh with money from the church. Silvestri said various Catholic organizations, such as Aid to the Church in Need, are involved in the rebuilding process, but that more funds must be raised. The Iraqi government has so far provided no resources.

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Qaraqosh, about nine miles from the edge of Mosul, was once a thriving Christian commercial town of 50,000 people. The Islamic State damaged the famed bell tower of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and decapitated its many statues. CatholicPhilly

Along with bigger organizations like Knights of Columbus and Aid to the Church in Need, smaller organizations, such as Taimoorazy’s Iraqi Christian Relief Council, have carried out fundraising efforts to not only provide humanitarian assistance to those displaced but to also help restore Iraqi Christian villages. CP

U.S. aid monies was going through the UN

Last October, VP Pence “announced that the Trump administration was going to change U.S. policies so that aid could go directly to groups that are working to rebuild religious minority communities in Iraq without having to go through the U.N.” CP

Senior Saudi Cleric: Abaya Is No Longer Necessary Attire For Saudi Women

A signal to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to press further on modernizing Saudi Arabia, that the cleric are not going to object?

The cleric supports modesty in women but not a required wearing of the abaya.  He cites examples of Muslim women worldwide who do not wear abaya’s,  a global outlook instead of insular.

The abaya is a black outer garment that covers the whole body except the face, feet, and hands.

Saudi women need not wear the abaya – the loose-fitting, full-length robes symbolic of religious faith – a senior member of the top Muslim clerical body said, another indication of the Kingdom’s efforts towards modernisation.

On his radio programme, Sheikh Abdullah al-Mutlaq, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars, said Muslim women should dress modestly, but this did not necessitate wearing the abaya.

“More than 90 per cent of pious Muslim women in the Muslim world do not wear abayas,” Sheikh Mutlaq said on Friday (Feb 9). “So we should not force people to wear abayas.”

While not necessarily signalling a change in the law, the statement is the first of its kind from a senior religious figure.

It follows the recent pattern of freedoms the Kingdom has been witnessing with the ascent of young Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to power.

Only the government-appointed clerics associated with the Council of Senior Scholars are allowed to issue fatwas, or Islamic legal opinions. Their interpretations of Islamic law form the basis of Saudi Arabia’s legal system.

Saudi women have started wearing more colorful abayas in recent years, the light blues and pinks in stark contrast with the traditional black. Open abayas over long skirts or jeans are also becoming more common in some parts of the country.

The trend marks a major change in the last couple of years. In 2016, a Saudi woman was detained for removing her abaya on a main street in the capital of Riyadh. Local media reported that she was detained after a complaint was filed with the religious police.

The Kingdom has seen an expansion in women’s rights recently, such as the decision passed to allow women to attend mixed public sporting events and the announcement that Saudi Arabia would grant them the right to drive.  StraitsTimes

The abaya is an all-enveloping garment worn over clothes, it has been ridiculed as looking like walking black garbage bags.  It is widely considered a mark of oppression.

History:

The abaya is a long, voluminous robe worn over other clothing by many Muslim women, particularly in the Arab Gulf states. It covers from the neck to the feet, covering even the  wearer’s shoes from view, with sleeves extending to the wrists. The abaya is traditionally black in color, and is usually worn with a light, matching veil called a shayla. According to Al-Qasimi,
“the ‘abaya is the predominant form of female dress throughout the Arab Gulf states,” and “donning the ‘abaya constitutes a veiling practice and is an institutionalized form of dress that is socio-legally implemented by the state” (46). Saudi Arabia has the strictest policy toward veiling, in keeping with its Wahhabi religious police, effectively requiring women in most regions of the country to wear an abaya in public spaces (Ambah). Other countries, such as the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, do not require women to wear the abaya, although it is the official national dress and women are encouraged to dress conservatively (Sharp).

Conflicting accounts of the abaya’s origins exist in current writing. Many authors claim the abaya is a centuries- or millennia-old Saudi Arabian tradition (al-Qasimi 46; Kaur-Jones). However, other experts offer a different story, describing the abaya’s ascendance in Saudi culture as a relatively new trend, emerging only in the twentieth century. Leila al-Bassam, a professor of traditional clothing and textiles at Riyadh University, explains that the black abaya “came to Saudi Arabia from Iraq or Syria more than 75 years ago, as did most textiles and goods at the time” (qtd. in Ambah). Abayas became popular when King Abdul-Aziz al-Saud distributed them as gifts to tribal leaders around the kingdom in the early 1930’s, when the country was first united under the al-Saud monarchy. Gradually, the abaya supplanted regional costumes as the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Vice began to enforce a strict interpretation of the Islamic dress code across Saudi Arabia (Ambah).

Al-Bassam is not the only woman to describe these events; her account of the abaya’s rise is echoed in interviews with elderly Saudi women in Rima Al-Mukhtar’s Sayidaty article, “Saudi Women are Expressing it Through an Abaya Evolution.” The black abayas “came from Turkey, Iraq, or Syria 80 years ago,” the article explains (36). Seventy-eight year-old Nazeera Sadek relates that women never wore the abaya when she was a child, but they also rarely left home (qtd. in al-Mukhtar 37). When they did, “they used to wear a special cloth designed especially for men which we call meshlah” (37). Another woman, Fatima, 82, of Mecca, said that “women used to wear conservative colored local costumes and covered their hair with a veil” (37). When Fatima’s mother would visit friends or the mosque, she would go “in a normal robe, only adding a scarf on her hair,” but as Fatima grew older, “we started wearing a semi-abaya which was like a big scarf that we wrapped around our bodies when we left the house” (37).  LawrenceEdu

Photo by Lars Plougmann

Iranian Drone Entered Israeli Airspace

As the war in Syria winds down, Iran is shifting  its emphasis toward Israel.  Iran, through its proxy Hezbollah, can now use resources (Iran deal billions) and forces that were being used in Syria against Israel.

The peaceful and quiet skies that so often accompany Shabbat in the Holy Land were shattered by the infiltration of enemy aircraft into Israeli territory.

The aircraft, an Iranian drone that was launched from a Syrian base located near the ancient city of Palmyra in the Homs desert,  approached Israel in the wee hours of the morning. It successfully entered Israeli airspace and flew for over a minute before it was intercepted near the Sea of Galilee by the Israeli Air Force (IAF).  BreakingIsraelNews

After the Iranian drone was shot down near the Sea of Galilee.  This triggered an immediate Israeli military response. Israeli planes were sent to destroy the command center piloting the drone.  An  Israeli fighter was jet shot down with Syrian missile (crashed after its two-member crew ejected – one taken to the hospital).  Israel launched a devastating aerial assault in Syria.

The Israel Air Force hadn’t lost a fighter jet to enemy fire in 34 years, until Saturday, when Iranian and Syrian forces downed an Israeli F-16 over the Galilee.

The plane in question was part of a strike force on a retaliatory mission into Syria after an Iranian drone entered Israeli airspace during the early morning hours.

The drone was promptly shot down, and then a squadron of Israeli fighters entered Syria to destroy the command center from which the infiltrator had been remotely piloted.

The Israeli planes faced overwhelming anti-aircraft fire. The downed F-16 was hit either directly by an Iranian-supplied Syrian missile, or by shrapnel resulting from an explosive anti-aircraft shell.

Either way, the injured pilots managed to return to Israeli airspace before crashing near a kibbutz in the Jezreel Valley.

That sparked a full day of devastating Israeli aerial assaults on Iranian and Syrian military installations.

According to IDF officials, four Iranian and eight Syrian bases were hit, including Syria’s main command and control bunker.  Many of those installations were covert in nature. IsraelToday

Saturday’s violence was the worst military confrontation on Israel’s northern border since the 2006 Lebanon war, and risked putting the Jewish state and Iran on a collision course, former military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin said on a conference call Saturday night. The Israeli military said it struck 12 targets in Syria, including four belonging to Iran, in a “large-scale attack.”

“As long as Iran continues building its military presence in Syria, they’re definitely bringing the region closer to an escalation,” Conricus said. “We don’t think a war is in our interest, not the IDF’s and not the State of Israel’s interest, and that’s why we’re not looking to escalate the situation.” StarsAndStrips

PM Netanyahu:

“Yesterday we dealt a serious blow to the armies of Iran and Syria,” Netanyahu told ministers at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting. “We made it unequivocally clear to everyone that our rules of engagement have not changed in any way.”

“We will continue to strike back at any attempt to harm us,” Netanyahu said,  according to a statement. “This has been our policy and will remain our policy.” Times OfIsrael

President Trump’s Envoy Tells Palestinians To Stop Denying Jewish History

As far as Israel is concerned, denial of the Jewish historical and religious connection to this land, and especially to Jerusalem, is the primarily roadblock to peace at present.

Finally, it would seem that the American government agrees.

US President Donald Trump’s special Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt, on Thursday blasted Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas for failing to mention that Jerusalem’s connection to the Jewish people.

On Tuesday, Abbas addressed a Palestinian youth festival and repeatedly told the young Arabs that Jerusalem is and always has been a city for Muslims and Christians. No mention of Jews.

According to Greenblatt, that kind of rhetoric only pushes peace further away.

“Pres. Abbas states about Jerusalem: ‘it is Arab, Muslim, and Christian.’ And makes no mention of any Jewish ties. Nothing peaceful or productive can come from statements like this,” Greenblatt wrote on Twitter.

“Lasting peace will not be achieved by denying Judaism’s thousands of years of ties to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is holy to Muslims, Christians, and Jews,” he added.

All of the Palestinian Authority’s most hard-line positions are based on the premise that the Jews have no right to be here.

Furthermore, Israel believes that a genuine, long-lasting peace can only be achievable if it’s built upon a foundation of truth and acceptance of documented historical fact.

PHOTO: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (R) meets with Jason Greenblatt in Ramallah, March 14, 2017. (Flash90)

Article courtesy of Israel Today magazine, www.israeltoday.co.il

Secret Alliance: Israel Carrying Out Airstrikes In Egypt, With Cairo’s O.K.

This unusual alliance is targeting ISIS in the Sinai.  It is remarkable that this has remained secret for two years, although there have been rumors.

For more than two years, unmarked Israeli drones, helicopters and jets have carried out a covert air campaign, conducting more than 100 airstrikes inside Egypt, frequently more than once a week — and all with the approval of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

The remarkable cooperation marks a new stage in the evolution of their singularly fraught relationship. Once enemies in three wars, then antagonists in an uneasy peace, Egypt and Israel are now secret allies in a covert war against a common foe.

Egyptian military were failing to stop ISIS in the Sinai.

For Cairo, the Israeli intervention has helped the Egyptian military regain its footing in its nearly five-year battle against the militants. For Israel, the strikes have bolstered the security of its borders and the stability of its neighbor.

Their collaboration in the North Sinai is the most dramatic evidence yet of a quiet reconfiguration of the politics of the region. Shared enemies like ISIS, Iran and political Islam have quietly brought the leaders of several Arab states into growing alignment with Israel — even as their officials and news media continue to vilify the Jewish state in public.

American officials say Israel’s air campaign has played a decisive role in enabling the Egyptian armed forces to gain an upper hand against the militants. But the Israeli role is having some unexpected consequences for the region, including on Middle East peace negotiations, in part by convincing senior Israeli officials that Egypt is now dependent on them even to control its own territory.

Iran throwing its weight around the Middle East has Sunni Arab countries seeing Israel in a different light and useful.

Spokesmen for the Israeli and Egyptian militaries declined to comment, and so did a spokesman for the Egyptian foreign ministry.

Both neighbors have sought to conceal Israel’s role in the airstrikes for fear of a backlash inside Egypt, where government officials and the state-controlled media continue to discuss Israel as a nemesis and pledge fidelity to the Palestinian cause…

Some American supporters of Israel complain that, given Egypt’s reliance on the Israeli military, Egyptian officials, diplomats and state-controlled news media should stop publicly denouncing the Jewish state, especially in international forums like the United Nations.

“You speak with Sisi and he talks about security cooperation with Israel, and you speak with Israelis and they talk about security cooperation with Egypt, but then this duplicitous game continues,” said Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Relations Committee. “It is confusing to me.  NYTimes

Video: The Brewing Conflict along the Red Sea

Video: The Brewing Conflict along the Red Sea

While international observers are rightfully looking at serious questions in the Middle East like the future of Syria and Iran’s interests in taking over that country, there is a crisis brewing to Israel’s south that has not gotten sufficient attention. I’m speaking about the Red Sea where at least a half a dozen countries are scrambling for influence, seeking bases throughout the area, and positioning themselves for perhaps even a future conflict.

Sometimes we forget if we look back 50 years that the spark which really ignited the Six-Day War came also from Israel’s south, when Egypt imposed a naval blockade at the Straits of Tiran, closing off Israeli shipping through the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean. The Red Sea still has the potential of generating conflict in the future. It requires that we be very aware of what is going on there.

The first development that is causing a vast increase in tensions throughout this area is the struggle over the sources of the Nile River. For most of recent history, Egypt was the dominant actor over the Nile and, through various treaties negotiated by the British, the Egyptians also dominated the tributaries of the Nile. But now several things have happened. First, the countries along the White Nile, which goes deep into Africa up to Lake Victoria, in the past were underdeveloped and their water needs were very limited. Now they are insisting on a greater share of water, which will affect the ultimate flow of water to the Nile River and to Egypt.

But far more serious is what’s going on with the other tributary of the Nile known as the Blue Nile. It flows through Ethiopia. There, Ethiopia is planning what is called the “Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam, and by damming the Blue Nile, despite all the guarantees that Ethiopia can offer, Egypt is very concerned that its principal source of water for the Nile River may be denied.

While the struggle over the sources of the Nile is transpiring, Iran is seeking positions of strength along the entire Red Sea, from the Suez Canal in the north down to Bab-el-Mandeb, the outlet of the Red Sea into the Indian Ocean. Back in the 1990s, the Iranians, in fact, deployed their Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Port Sudan, the most important of the Sudanese ports in the Red Sea. Sudan became a conduit for moving Iranian weapons up into Egypt, to the Sinai Peninsula, and ultimately to the Gaza Strip, where they were used by Hamas and other pro-Iranian organizations.

As a result of the Yemen war, which placed Iran and its proxies in conflict with Saudi Arabia and the forces that it supported, Sudan was given a choice – to stay with Iran and continue the supply of weapons to Hamas, or to enter the pro-Saudi camp in the Yemen conflict. Sudan chose Saudi Arabia. It cut diplomatic relations with Iran and kicked the Iranians out of Port Sudan. An unintended side effect of this shift in Sudanese policy was that Israel benefited since the supply line of Hamas from the south was clearly cut.

Since that time, Iran has been seeking alternatives to its Sudanese supply line, and one of the countries the Iranians have been active in is Eritrea. But in Eritrea as well, the Saudis have been active, seeking to limit the Iranian presence.

In the critical Bab-el-Mandeb straights, the naval choke point at the bottom of the Red Sea, Iran has been using the Houthi militias, which are its proxies in the Yemen war. And it may get to a point where the Iranians will seek to block the flow of naval traffic through this sensitive point.

While all this has been going on, Turkey has imposed itself as a new factor in the Red Sea and in the Horn of Africa. The Turks have been active in Somalia, where they’ve built a north-south highway and a major military base. More recently, the Turks have leased Suakin Island from Sudan and they intend to build a naval base right in the Red Sea. This was, of course, once an Ottoman fort which allowed Ottoman navies to dominate the Red Sea a long time ago. But, nonetheless, perhaps Turkey is seeking to recover its glories from its Ottoman past.

Of all the nations that are positioning themselves in the Horn of Africa, like Iran, the U.S., Turkey, France, the United Arab Emirates, and Russia, careful attention should be given to the presence of China in Djibouti where China has constructed one of its first naval bases at the gateway to the Middle East. Given the interests of all the actors appearing now in the Red Sea, the whole region has become far more combustible than it was in the past. With all the focus on Syria and Iraq in recent years, it may be necessary to give greater attention to the theater of the Red Sea which in the next decade could become a serious source of international conflict.

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Ambassador Dore Gold has served as President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs since 2000. From June 2015 until October 2016 he served as Director-General of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Previously he served as Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN (1997-1999), and as an advisor to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

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“Diplomatic Dispatch” is a new series of video briefings on strategic issues that Israel faces today by Jerusalem Center President Dore Gold, produced by the Center’s Institute for Contemporary Affairs, founded jointly with the Wechsler Family Foundation.

Israeli Families Find 1,500-Year-Old Jug During Hike

IAA archaeologist Dr. Walid Artash stated the Byzantine jar, preserved in its entirety since the 6th-7th centuries CE, was likely used in ancient times to store wheat and legumes.

When the Avidor and Armon families set off for a hike this week in the Nahal Harod river bed in the Beit She’an National Park, they were likely expecting to enjoy the greenery and perhaps see some wildflowers. But the nature walk became a lot more memorable after children Nir and Matan spotted something unusual made out of clay

“We were hiking and stopped to rest on a slope. All of a sudden, we noticed a kind of ‘ear,’ which was the clay handle protruding from the earth,” said mother Tamar Armon. “We were surprised and excited to discover a complete, heavy and beautiful pot.”…

The Beit She’an area is well-known for its archaeological richness. The national park showcases one of Israel’s most spectacular tourist sites, with well-preserved Roman and Byzantine-era ruins, including an impressive 2nd century CE theater, roadway, mosaics and bathhouse.

According to Nir Distelfeld, head of the Israel Antiquity Authority’s theft prevention unit in the northern region, the strong weekend rains in the Beit She’an region must have turned up earth at the vessel’s site of origin. TimesOfIsrael

Hamas Co-Founder Dead After “Accidentally” Shooting Himself

Accident?

A senior member of the Hamas terrorist organization has died, a Hamas spokesman said Tuesday, three weeks after he suffered what the terror organization claimed was an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound in the head.

On January 9th, Fawzy Barhoum, spokesman for the Gaza-based Islamist terror group, said that Imad al-Alami, one of the movement’s most senior officials, was critically wounded when his personal firearm accidentally discharged.

Al-Alami, 61, was “inspecting his personal weapon in his home and is in critical condition,” Barhoum said at the time.

The Hamas leader was rushed to a Gaza City hospital.

On Tuesday, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem reported that Al-Alami had succumbed to his wounds, dying in Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital.

Outlawed by the US in 2003 for his position in Hamas, al-Alami was considered one of the Gaza terror group’s most important assets, due to his extensive ties with the Iranian government – a major sponsor of Hamas – and his personal relationship with Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, himself a client of the Tehran regime.

In recent years, al-Alami operated out of Turkey, where he received medical treatment.

A founding father of the Hamas terror group, al-Alami returned to the Gaza Strip in 2012, where he previously served as deputy chief of Hamas’ Political Bureau, and once chaired its “Intifada Committee”.

In November, 2016, al-Alami was reportedly selected as Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh’s designated successor.

The shooting incident fueled a variety of conspiracy theories within the Palestinian Authority, ranging from claims al-Alami was assassinated, to suggestions he may have committed suicide following years of serious health problems.  INN

Don’t Ignore Jarad Kushner’s Quiet Mideast Gains

A unique historic opportunity?

    • In recent years, the scope of common interests between Israel and the Sunni Arab world has widened. Given the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS), chaos stemming from stateless Libya, and civil wars in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, the Arab states – which are a pragmatic lot – can no longer claim that the Palestinian issue is the region’s top priority…
    • Current geopolitical conditions have created a critical mass of new and overlapping interests between Israel and the Arab countries, and there is now a historic opportunity to promote a process of normalization. ForeignAffairs

Jarad Kushner recognizes that Iran now matters more to the Arabs than Palestine.

Still, his frequent visits and stray public remarks reveal a surprisingly sophisticated understanding of the region. Behind the scenes, he is making surprising progress…

Second, Kushner realizes that younger Arab generation has a fundamentally different perspective from that of its elders. More than 60 percent of Arabs are too young to remember the 1967 and 1973 wars with Israel, and many more regard them as ancient history. Consider an American equivalent; how many millennials are outraged at the fate of South Vietnam? As a result, younger Arabs largely accept Israel’s existence as a settled fact, and generally see trading with its prosperous economy as essential to their own economic growth. I know. I have heard them tell me these things in the privacy of their living rooms. Their septuagenarian leaders do not share their views, and punish younger leaders who try to independently engage with Israelis—which only deepens the divide.

The generation gap is based on practical economic concerns. Young Arabs want well-paying jobs that allow them to marry and start families. They want good schools for the children. Many see no issue with taking an ambulance across the border to an Israeli hospital, unlike their retirement-age relatives who say that they would rather die…

Key relationships

Second, he is liked and trusted by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and its influential ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer. Obama administration officials often publicly faulted Israel’s elected leaders, and the relationship was, at best, lukewarm.

Third, Kushner has befriended Saudi Arabia’s thirty-one-year-old deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. Both are seen as tech-savvy, young disrupters of the status quo, and both favor practical solutions over symbolic displays. Saudi pressure on Qatar to end its funding of Hamas, the Palestinian terror group, would not have happened with earlier generations of Saudi leadership.

Other Gulf Arab leaders that I have met with tell me that they have heard positive things about Kushner, and are eager to work with him….

In short, Kushner’s correct reading of this unique moment in Arab politics as well as the strong relationships with key players that he has fostered position him, and the United States, to make historic progress in the Middle East.  NationalInterest

A Historic Holocaust Awareness In Saudi Arabia

Holocaust Remembrance Day January 27, 2018 – Saudi Arabia’s Muslim World League participated.

Muslim World League (MWL), is an international organization founded in 1962 to propagate  Saudi Wahabbi Islam.  It is headquartered in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and maintains offices in countries throughout the world.

Saturday, the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The UN resolution that established the commemoration urges all countries “to develop educational programs to instill the memory of the tragedy in future generations to prevent genocide from occurring again.” To its credit, Saudi Arabia has taken an important first step toward fulfilling that charge…

In early December, I led a delegation of lay leaders of the foreign policy think tank I direct on a visit to Riyadh, the Saudi capital. Among the high-ranking officials we met during our three-day visit was Dr. Mohammed Al Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League.

This is the organization that has long been cited as the key facilitator of Saudi Arabia’s global effort to export a radical, hate-filled, anti-West, anti-Semitic version of Islam. Just last year, a prominent British research institute labeled Saudi Arabia the main source of Islamic extremism in the United Kingdom and cited the MWL as a critical linchpin in that project…

Taking his lead from Muhammad bin Salman, the current crown prince who has vowed to cleanse his country of extremism and return it to “moderate Islam,” Al Issa seems to have a specific mandate to transform the MWL from an organization synonymous with extremism to one that preaches tolerance…

I was skeptical. In Saudi Arabia, where the royal family counts protection of the holy sites of Mecca and Medina as main sources of legitimacy and public expression of non-Muslim prayer is prohibited, religion and politics are inherently connected…

A few days later, I had another “why not?” idea. With January 27 approaching, I wrote Al Issa asking whether he would send a letter to Bloomfield on the occasion of International Holocaust Remembrance Day that she could make public. The letter, I suggested, might reflect his and the MWL’s approach toward the Holocaust and the broader battle for tolerance and moderation.  MyDailyNews – Robert Satloff

Statement on Holocaust Remembrance from Head of Saudi-Based Muslim World League

Washington, DC – The following letter to Sara Bloomfield, director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, was sent via email on January 22, 2018. It is posted here – in the original English and in Arabic translation — with full permission from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. For background on this landmark letter, read Dr. Robert Satloff’s related op-ed.

Ms. Bloomfield,

It’s my pleasure to write to you this letter on the occasion of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, celebrating the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp. On this occasion, I confirm to you what I have already told my friend Robert Satloff, the executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, about our great sympathy with the victims of the Holocaust, an incident that shook humanity to the core, and created an event whose horrors could not be denied or underrated by any fair-minded or peace-loving person.

This human tragedy perpetrated by evil Nazism won’t be forgotten by history, or meet the approval of anyone, except criminal Nazis or their genre. True Islam is against these crimes. It classifies them in the highest degree of penal sanctions and among the worst human atrocities ever. One would ask, who in his right mind would accept, sympathize, or even diminish the extent of this brutal crime. However, our solace is that the memory of history is fair and vivid; and a justice, free of any other inclinations, would mourn this crime on behalf of all humanity. The victims have sacrificed their innocent lives to pen a memorable reminder of freedom and determination, an example of the extent of Nazi hate which has sunk the world into wars and disasters.

History is indeed impartial no matter how hard forgers tried to tamper with or manipulate it. Hence, we consider any denial of the Holocaust or minimizing of its effect a crime to distort history and an insult to the dignity of those innocent souls who have perished. It is also an affront to us all since we share the same human soul and spiritual bonds.  Read full statement at WashingtonInstitute