Saturday 29 November 2014

What did Putin say to Rouhani in a historic phone call?

I believe that the two parties, Russia and Iran, could gain profound insight into the strategic relationship that existed between the Soviets and Abdul Nasser’s Egypt. It was a strategic relationship, despite the ideological differences, and was even at times a political one between the two sides. – Nahed Hatar
What did President Putin discuss with his Iranian counterpart President Hassan Rouhani during the phone call that was held between them shortly after agreeing to extend Iran’s nuclear talks in Vienna? Almost certainly, this was the most important event.
According to the Kremlin statement, though it did not provide sufficient details about the phone conversation, the two presidents discussed the “substantial progress” in the last round of talks in Vienna and stressed the necessity of clinching a comprehensive nuclear agreement.
Putin and Rouhani
“They also discussed current issues in key areas of bilateral cooperation, including the implementation of the joint projects”. However, “Al-Mayadeen” News TV quoted some “sources”, most probably Iranians, as saying that Putin assured Rouhani that Russia will not allow the nuclear negotiations to continue for a long time, and will not also allow removal of the sanctions imposed against Iran to be delayed any longer.
As stated by “Al-Mayadden”, Moscow showed readiness to strengthen strategic bilateral alliance, including coordination with China to break the sanctions imposed against the Islamic Republic. Moreover, with reference to President Rouhani’s initiative to call his Russian counterpart, does this initiative in this sensitive time reflect the fact that the Iranian president has a tendency of establishing strategic ties or is it merely a diplomatic step to thank Moscow for its tireless efforts to save the Vienna negotiations? Perhaps the answer to the two aforementioned questions depicts the features of the next phase, regionally and internationally.
Russia is also at present facing Western sanctions which cost the Russians, in a few months, more than one hundred billion dollars. Definitely, they will not accept to go on with this economic and financial attrition. Moscow will thus be in front of two options: either accepting a “subordinate” role to the major Western powers politically that leads accordingly to losing the strategic achievements accomplished during President Putin’s era, or heading hastily towards building a self-reliant global economic and financial system and renouncing the Western one.
Of course, in the context of this option, Iran will most likely play a key role in building a solid trio with Russia and China in the framework of the BRICS group of fast-growing, major non-Western economies, which include also India, Brazil and South Africa. A question remains, why is Iran enjoying this advantage exclusively? This comes because it does not only act as an economic value, but also as a strategic, military and defense-based one; especially regarding its Arab allies in Syria, Lebanon-Hezbollah, and Iraq. It is noteworthy that Syria is Russia’s old ally, and the Russians consider Hezbollah as a regional power and an ally and they are seeking to restore their positions in Iraq.
Possibly, the tendency towards creating strategic alliance with Iran is already settled in Russia, for it is, in essence, an expression of a strategic need for preserving the Russian growing influence. Yet, is this the case in Iran too? It is well known that the current Iranian policy is the product of disagreement between two movements: the Revolutionary movement led by Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei, and the Liberal movement, led by Rouhani. The two movements most prominently disagree on files related to the position on Syria and the Iranian aids to the Syrians.
The Revolutionary movement seeks to provide Damascus with further multi-format support, while the Liberal movement seeks the opposite. Perhaps its aim behind this is not only saving the cost of Syria’s support, so as to improve the domestic spending, but also courting the West to reach an agreement on the nuclear issue, allowing by this the lifting of sanctions on Iran and overcoming the economic and financial difficulties.
Doubtless, it has tactical relations with Moscow and it is benefiting from them to improve the conditions for reconciliation talks with the West. Yet, Russia is facing a complex problem with these two movementsThe Revolutionary movement is a strategic ally with no uncertainty or hesitation in the face of the West, but it disagrees with Moscow on issues related to several files, including, for example, the position onpolitical Islam, on the regime of the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and on the authority in Ramallah. This comes particularly since Moscow believes that the Palestinian authority is its ally and thus it supports its political line.
The dispute over these files would never remain a theoretical or collapsible one, but it would be transformed into a political dispute. However, the Rouhani liberal movement seems to be in harmony with Russia in its way of mastering the world and the era, but it is untrustworthy in terms of looking forward to reaching understanding with the West on the one hand and in terms of supporting Syria, which constitutes the jewel of the Russian crown, on the other hand. At the moment, it is a golden international opportunity for Iran to re-position itself as part of a Russian-Chinese Alliance that would fix the Iranian internal contradiction.
This re-positioning allows Iran, at the same time, to maintain its independence and to preserve its policies regarding the West, as well as to solve its economic and financial problems. Hence, are we going to witness an internal understanding within the Iranian policy that would adopt this approach, or we are going to witness a struggle that paralyzes the possibility of taking advantage of the opportunity instead?
I believe that the two parties, Russia and Iran, could gain profound insight into the strategic relationship that existed between the Soviets and Abdul Nasser’s Egypt.It was a strategic relationship, despite the ideological differences, and was even at times a political one between the two sides. The West does not intend to establish peaceful relations and to cooperate with Russia and Iran, but rather intends to weaken both of them internally. In actual fact, those who do not want to realize this are deluded, and those who do not prioritize the bilateral alliance are waiving the principal interests of the country and its future.

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Israeli forces shoot Italian activist, 11 Palestinians in West Bank demo

Palestinians shout slogans and wave flags on a hill during a protest against the Israeli settlement and Israeli apartheid wall near Maqam Nabi Musa, 11 kilometers south of the West Bank city of Jericho on November 28, 2014. Anadolu / Issam Rimawi

Published Saturday, November 29, 2014

A pro-Palestinian Italian activist was shot and seriously wounded by Israeli gunfire during a Friday protest in the northern West Bank, medics and the activist’s organization said.

Palestinian security sources said Patrick Corsi, a 30-year-old member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), was shot during the weekly demonstration at Kafr Qaddum, west of Nablus.

Eyewitnesses said Corsi, who had participated in last week's protest as well, had been documenting the event with a camera.

ISM, an activist group whose members frequently attend Palestinian protests to monitor the actions of Israeli soldiers, confirmed the shooting in a statement.

"The Italian activist, known as Patrick, was wearing a yellow high visibility jacket when he was shot with .22 live ammunition," the statement said.

The statement added that 10 Palestinian protesters were wounded by rubber-coated steel bullets at the protest, in addition to 18-year-old Sami Jumma who was struck by live fire.

"We were standing with a group of Palestinian demonstrators when Patrick was shot. The military had fired three rounds of tear gas, and then a shot rang out and Patrick stumbled back. There was between five and ten minutes from the last tear gas canister fired and the bullet that shot Patrick."

"He was just standing there, peacefully protesting, wearing a hi-viz jacket, he wasn’t doing anything and they just decided to shoot him," the statement quoted an ISM volunteer at the scene as saying.

"The bullet entered Patrick's chest near a main blood vessel, but thankfully did not puncture it. If God forbid it had, the lengthened journey to the hospital because of the closed road could have cost Patrick his life," ISM media coordinator Ally Cohen was quoted in the statement as saying.

Due to an Israeli closure of Kafr Qaddum's main road to Nablus, the travel time to the nearest hospital is around 30 minutes instead of 10.

Khaldoun Ishtewi, media coordinator for public campaigns in Kafr Qaddum, told Ma'an news agency that the Italian national was taken to the Rafidia Public Hospital in Nablus for treatment.

Ishtewi added that several Palestinians suffered from excessive tear-gas inhalation as a result of canisters fired by Israeli soldiers during the clashes.

An Israeli military spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment.

Palestinian Minister of Health Jawad Awwad told Ma'an that "shooting live fire at the upper part of the bodies of protesters is directly targeting them and is a deliberate attempt at murder."

"Israel does not differentiate between foreign solidarity activists, Palestinians, or even journalists," he added.

An Israeli army spokesman described the event as a “riot” during which 100 Palestinians allegedly hurled rocks at troops and burnt tires.

After failing to disperse people and "due to increased violence," soldiers "fired small caliber rounds toward main masked instigators," the spokesman said.

In the West Bank at the Qalandiya crossing between Jerusalem and Ramallah, Israeli border policemen "fired small caliber rounds toward two main instigators' lower extremities" during a violent clash with some 150 Palestinians, the spokesman said.
There was no immediate report on their condition.

Protests are held every Friday in Kafr Qaddum against Israel's closure of a main road linking the village to its nearest city, Nablus, as well as against the Israeli occupation more generally.
The West Bank and annexed East Jerusalem have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.

(AFP, Ma’an, Al-Akhbar)

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مع الحدث _ اليوم الاعلامي للتضامن مع فلسطين _ ابو عماد رامز مصطفى | المنار

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Jewish Lobby: Obama hates Israel

Obama-Israel-holocaustl[1]On Sunday, America’s top 1,100 Israeli poodle gathered to voice their hatred of US president Barack Obama for his preference to have dialogue rather than use military force to stop Iran becoming a nuclear power in the Middle East. The event was the Zionist Organization of America’s annual dinner party.
Mortimer Klein, president of the ZOA was the first to throw a stone at Obama. He called the president by his African name – “Barack Hussein Obama” – and said “shame on you” for failing to stand strongly with Israel against its enemies (Iran, Syria, and Hamas). Next 20-minutes Klein launched a high-octane condemnation of Palestinians.
The Canadian-born US Senator Ted Cruz, who was introduced by his Jewish professor at Harvard, Alan Dershowitz (Obama supporter), issued a blistering critique of US policy toward Israel and told the Zionist crowd that Barack Obama was endangering Israel by refusing to confront Iran and block its nuclear ambitions. In June 2014, after meeting Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, Cruz told  JINSA meeting that Netanyahu believes Obama is too weak to attack Iran – and Israel might have to do its dirty work alone.
A lot of national politicians court the people in this room. So there must be some value to it,” said Mortimer Zuckerman, the real estate developer and publisher, who sat near Cruz at the head table. He added that Cruz’s command of issues of interest to pro-Israel activists was impressive.
The group also honored John Hagee, pastor of the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio. Miriam Adelson, wife of billionaire casino magnate, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Fox News television host judge Jeanine Pirro, Rep. Michelle Bachmann, Garry Baur, Dr. Daniel Pipes, Jewish businessmen Ken Bialkin, David Brog, Martin Gross, Jack Halpern, Irwin Hochberg, Richard Stone, and Jewish king-maker Sheldon Adelson, who called Hagee “the greatest and most effective Christian Zionist in the world.”
Home Depot founder-chairman Bernard Marcus called Obama, ” a Chamberlain in the White House”. British prime minister Neville Chamberlain (1937-40) was a critic of Jewish power in England – but some historians claim his family had Jewish German roots.
Hagee called Obama
one of the most anti-Semitic presidents in the history of the United States of America.”
And he mocked Obama for calling US-Israeli relations unbreakable, saying:
He knows it’s unbreakable because he’s been trying to break it for the last five years.”
Earlier this month, Hagee told his 1.8 million “Christian sheep” that a US-Irannuclear deal would be anti-Israel and anti-Jews.
As expected, Abraham Foxman, the head of powerful Israel lobby ADL, only criticized pastor John Hagee for his calling Obama “anti-Semite” and demanded an apology. He urged Hagee to reconsider his remarks, calling them “Offensive and misplaced”.
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Salim Zahran: Lebanese negotiations with the Nusra Front and Ali Baraka of Hamas.

الحدث _ سالم زهران | الجديد 29 11 2014

المخابرات اللبنانية تطالب عين الحلوة بتسليم المولوي والأسير وشاكر

شادي المولوي
قال مسؤول حركة «حماس« في لبنان علي بركة، من جهته:
ليس لدينا تأكيدات عن وجود المولوي في المخيم. لكن السؤال المهم: اذا كان شادي المولوي في صيدا او في مخيم عين الحلوة، كيف وصل الى هذه المنطقة. كيف اجتاز 120 كلم من طرابلس الى صيدا ووصل الى هذه المنطقة. هذا الامر برسم كل الجهات المعنية الحريصة على الامن والاستقرار في لبنان. وان الموقف الفلسطيني الموحد هو بعدم استخدام المخيمات من اي جهة لضرب استقرار لبنان ولن نسمح بأن يستهدف لبنان من المخيمات .
قال بركة
ان «الأمن واحد في لبنان سواء كان في المخيمات ام خارج المخيمات ولن نقبل ان تقوم اي جهة باللعب بمصير المخيمات التي هي محطات نضالية على طريق العودة الى فلسطين ولن تكون مأوى للفارين والهاربين من القضاء والعدالة او من المطلوبين للدولة اللبنانية. لن نحرّف بوصلة نضالنا وجهادنا ولن ننجرّ الى اي خلافات او اي صراعات داخلية ولن تكون المخيمات الا عامل استقرار في هذا البلد».
طالبت المخابرات اللبنانية ممثلي الفصائل الفلسطينية في عين الحلوة بتسليمها المطلوبين شادي المولوي وأحمد الأسير وفضل شاكر، بعد التأكد من تواريهم في المخيم.

وطلب مدير الاستخبارات اللبنانية في الجنوب، العميد علي شحرور من وفد "اللجنة الأمنية الفلسطينية العليا"، خلال اجتماع في ثكنة محمد زغيب في صيدا الأربعاء 26 نوفمبر/تشرين الثاني "تحمّل مسؤولياتها وضبط الوضع الأمني في المخيم، بوجود هؤلاء الذين يحتمون بين أهله ويخططون لأعمال إرهابية جديدة بعد أن اعتدوا على الجيش والسيادة الوطنية"، مشددا على أن الأجهزة الأمنية لا تقبل "أقل من التعاون وتسليم المطلوبين".

AFPشاكر والأسير

من جهتها لم تؤكد القيادات الفلسطينية في المخيم ولم تنف وجود المطلوبين فيه. إذ أكد أمين سر قيادة الساحة اللبنانية فتحي أبو العردات أن الموضوع "قيد المتابعة، وأن المخيم لن يكون لا ممرا ولا مقرا لأي فرد يسعى الى الفتنة وسيبقى في إطار السيادة والقانون وهو جزء من الأمن اللبناني"، بينما قال ممثل حركة حماس في لبنان علي بركة إنه "حتى الآن لم يثبت وجود المولوي في عين الحلوة. والمخيم الفلسطيني لن يكون إلا الى جانب وحدة لبنان وأمنه واستقراره ولن نقبل أن تستخدم مخيماتنا من أي جهة كانت للإساءة لأمن أهلنا في لبنان".

AFPداخل مخيم عين الحلوة (صورة من الأرشيف)

في غضون ذلك يعج المخيم بمطلوبين أكثر خطورة من الأسير والمولوي، خصوصا في حي الطوارىء المعروف باحتضانه جماعات متشددة، منها بقايا "فتح الإسلام" أو "جند الشام" ومجموعات قد تكون بايعت "جبهة النصرة" أو "الدولة الإسلامية" أو حتى من قيادة التنظيمين.

ويُطرح هنا سؤال هو كيف تمكّن مطلوب خطير كالمولوي من الانتقال مع عائلته من باب التبانة في طرابلس الى مخيم عين الحلوة مرورا بكل الحواجز الأمنية والعسكرية من الشمال الى الجنوب والدخول الى المخيم بسهولة؟
هذا وما زالت تجربة مخيم البارد ماثلة في أذهان الفلسطينيين الذين يحاولون منع انتقال تجربة البارد الى مخيمات أخرى.

AFPالجيش اللبناني داخل مخيم نهر البارد المدمر (صورة من الأرشيف)
المصدر: RT + وكالات
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Wahhabism at the heart of the controversy

US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (L) greets the Minister of the National Guard of Saudi Arabia, Prince Mitib bin Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz Al Saud(R), as he hosts an honor cordon November 21, 2014, on the steps of the Pentagon in Washington, DC. AFP/Paul J. Richards

Published Friday, November 28, 2014
Within the narrow margin of freedom of expression in the Saudi press, whose scope may vary and/or completely disappear according to internal or external political circumstances, writers are often forced to adapt to the general atmosphere when choosing topics to be critiqued or analysed. This is how they avoid harassment and avoid being suspended or prevented from writing.
The topic of Wahhabism is a case in point. Its criticism in the media was problematic in the past. Touching upon the subject was a red line which, if crossed, individuals and institutions would be subjected to an investigation or suspension. This was the case with writer and academic Khalid al-Dakhil, who was banned from writing in the UAE’s Al-Ittihad newspaper and the Saudi-owned Al-Hayat, after he published a series of articles on Wahhabism. Journalist Abdel-Rahman al-Rashid was alsosuspended for two days from Al-Arabiyanews channel after it broadcast a documentary on the subject. The same happened with Saudi Al-Watan newspaper’s former editor-in-chief, Jamal Khashoggi, who was fired for authorizing the publication of an article that criticized Wahhabism.
Recently, broadcast media and newspapers have seen a wave of public analysis and criticism of Wahhabism. This raises questions about the significance of such a direction at this time, especially as it comes in conjunction with Saudi Arabia’s participation in the US-led international coalition against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The treatment of Wahhabism varied among writers. Some were keen to place Salafi jihadist movements in their historical and political context, and did not just base their analyses on religious explanations, like Khalid al-Dakhil who wrote a series of articles on the issue. In a piece titled, “The Reassessment of Wahhabism Is Overdue,” Dakhil says that the most important result of the emergence of ISIS is the apparent ideological revaluation of Wahhabi literature, adding that such reviews must be persistent and thorough. He criticised most of these reviews, saying they were heavy on religious overtones and disregarded the historical framework and sociopolitical facts.
Other writers attempted to create a distinction between the Saudi ideology and that of ISIS, or denied the existence of a link between Wahhabism and the extremist group. In an article titled, “The Saudis Can Crush ISIS” written by Saoud al-Sarhan and Nawaf Obaid, the authors maintained that Saudi Arabia was not the source of ISIS, but rather the group’s main target since its path towards the caliphate passes through the two holy sites, Mecca and the prophet’s grave in Medina. They expressly denied that ISIS followed the Salafist or Wahhabi doctrine, saying that the group adopts the doctrine of the Kharijism, which completely contradicts Wahhabism.
In the same vein, Abdullah bin Bajad al-Otaibi wrote an article titled, “ISIS between Wahhabism and the Muslim Brotherhood,” in which he aimed to prove that ISIS is not associated with Wahhabism but the Muslim Brotherhood. Such articles could be classified as an extension of the media campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood, which was declared a terrorist organization by the Saudi regime early this year.
Other writers indicated that Wahhabism has become a burden on the Saudi state and called for disassociating from the doctrine. In his article“Salafism on its deathbed,” Hamza al-Salem describes Wahhabism as “extremely backwards in relation to all aspects of human progress,” and the Saudi state as “keeping up with modern civilization.” He added that the discrepancy between the body and soul of the state is the reason for its survival, unlike the demise of the Taliban. He called for abandoning the soul of the state – Wahhabism – since it has negatively affected the makeup of Saudi society, and has thus become a burden on the state while it used to be its
pride and strength. Other writers like Abdul-Salam al-Wayel echoed the same thought in his article, “We and Wahhabism: Between Gratitude and Criticism.” 
Sheikh Hatem al-Awni, a teacher at Um al-Qura University and former member of the Shura Council, spoke about what he described as“fanaticism in Wahhabi thought”on Liqa al-Jumuaon Rotana television. He made a link between the bloodshed committed by ISIS and the [Wahhabi] book al-Durar al-Sunniya. “The biggest threat today comes from groups who misunderstood the doctrine of the forefathers,” he said.
The criticism and reassessment of Wahhabism is not new. The movement has been subject to a lot of internal and external criticisms in the past. However, this new public criticism of Wahhabism does not merely touch on its inherent fanaticism and extremism, but discusses various other aspects like its relationship to the state, and is being made directly rather than under the veil of the “critique of the Sahwa [Awakening]”. Most importantly, it comes in the midst of important regional and international realignments.
Wahhabi thought went through several stages and saw several transformations. It would be a mistake to treat it as a single homogenous current with a coherent ideology in relation to its view of the state and the form of the system of government. Today’s Wahhabism is influenced by various trends and ideas, especially with the introduction of the Muslim Brotherhood ideology and its integration with Salafism, the product of which was currents such as al-Sourouriya and the Saudi Muslim Brotherhood.
Saudi Arabia’s authorization of a US presence on its territories during the Gulf War played a major and substantial role in highlighting such differences and discrepancies within the Islamist environment. The al-Jami current, named after Sheikh Mohammed Aman al-Jami, focused on the importance of total submission to the guardian, and warned that its opposition could lead to “strife” and lawlessness. The Sahwa current, which is a mix between Wahhabism and the Muslim Brotherhoodideology, adopted a discourse of opposition to state policies. For example, one of its prominent figures issued an “advisory memo,” whose main demands were reviving the role of religious scholars in public life as purveyors of justice, fighting corruption, and ensuring the equitable redistribution of the country’s resources among citizens.
Several Sahwa intellectuals announced the establishment of the “Committee to Protect Legitimate Rights” to defend “human rights” endorsed by Islamic law. This put them in confrontation with the regime and its traditional Salafi religious institutions, which see that their mission is to focus on religious reform and leave governance issues to politicians or guardians, while adopting the method of “confidential advice to the ruler” on the basis of “promotion of virtue and prevention of vice.”
On the other hand, jihadi Salafist groups adopt the idea of taking up arms and engaging in jihad as a tool for change. They believe that it revives the true method of the forefathers (or more precisely, the correct version of Wahhabism) through the revival of the rite of jihad for the sake of God. A main characteristic of this current is that it rejects all forms of existing regimes. It engages in jihad against the authorities in Islamic states, on the grounds of apostasy or lack of legitimacy, in addition to fighting the infidels or occupiers. They also reject the current cultural makeup of society, describing it as jahili [pre-Islamic]. This radical creed, which sees armed struggle as the only path for change, is what sets jihadi Salafism apart from other types of Salafi ideology.
Wahhabism is an important source of legitimacy for the Saudi regime, which has spent lavish amounts of money to promote the ideology around the world, by building Salafi schools, community centers, and mosques, in addition to funding an extensive program to help the Afghan mujahideen in their war against the USSR, in coordination with the Pakistani intelligence and the CIA.
Saudi Arabia is today perceived – especially by the US and the West – as a breeder and center of financial and ideological support for so-called Wahhabi “terrorism.”
Thus, whenever the question of jihadi Salafi groups – like al-Qaeda or ISIS – is raised, Saudi is blamed for funding “terrorism” and finds itself compelled to refute and respond to such accusations. This view of Wahhabism, which is synonymous with “terrorism,” is fairly new and appeared after the September 11 attacks. Prior to that, most Western research centers spoke about Wahhabism as a movement of unification and awakening with a puritan character, though they acknowledged its extremism without seeing it as a threat to them or their interests. The reason may have been that the West trusted the ability of their allies, the rulers of Saudi Arabia, to control the movement and prevent its adherents from harming their interests.
After September 11, western politicians and writers came to view Wahhabism as a promoter of hate speech, rather than a unification movement. This was followed by a series of demands and pressures on Saudi Arabia to reform its institutions and educational curricula. Saudi responded to these pressures and accusations in various ways. A large number of adherents to jihadi ideology were arrested, especially after the bombings in Riyadh in 2003. It also launched educational reforms (especially in the Islamic education subjects), in addition to issuing decisions related to women, such as providing them with identification cards, appointing them in senior state positions and the Shura Council, and allowing them to practice law.
The opening of the mixed King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST) carried several connotations, mainly restricting and restraining the authority of the religious institution. A case in point was King Abdullah’s decision to dismiss Sheikh Saad bin Nasser al-Shathri from the Senior Scholars Committee after he called for segregation between sexes at KAUST.
This is on the internal front. Externally, Saudi is trying to show that a divorce has happened between the regime and Wahhabism, and present itself to the world as a model of liberalism, which sponsors dialogue between religions. King Abdullah even took up the name of the “King of Humanity,” in addition to the “Servant of the Two Holy Sites.” However, ending the funding of jihadi groups (publically) contradicts with theactual support being provided to jihadi groups in Syria, for example. The state’s foreign policy statements about the divorce between the political authorities and Wahhabism is inconsistent with news about its assistance to Salafi political groups in some Arab countries.
More importantly, a main component of the anti-ISIS coalition was based on what US State Department spokesperson Marie Harf described as “moderate Islamic voices,” represented by al-Azhar and the Saudi religious establishment, which aims to delegitimize ISISI’ ideology. This pits the traditional religious establishment against ISIS, taking into account that the interest in spreading Wahhabism around the world did not stop. On the ideological level, the official establishment solicited the support of western researchers to carry out studies, in an attempt to present a different image of Wahhabism in the West and exonerate it from the charge of terrorism.
The question remains, could the political and religious establishments be separated on the domestic level in the Kingdom? To provide an answer, it is important to understand the link between the two establishments and what Wahhabism means for the state. Inside the state, Wahhabism is embodied in actual institutions, such as the judiciary, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, the Fatwa Committee, and the Committee to Promote Virtue and Prevent Vice, in addition to the Islamic University in Medina, Imam Mohammed bin Saud University, and others. These institutions are flexible and able to continuously reinvent themselves. If the state wished to get rid of them, it would have to transform them all, along with their army of hundreds of thousands of bureaucrats.
It is not true that Wahhabism and its institutions are a burden on the state. To the contrary, they represent an important source of legitimacy, and the state can resort to them whenever there is a need. When the “Arab Spring” erupted in several Arab countries, the authorities turned to the fatwas of the Senior Scholars Committee, which prohibited demonstrations and warned against disobeying the “guardian.” This came along with a royal decision that banned criticism of the mufti or the Senior Scholars Committee. But the use of these organizations to suppress and crush opposition movements is even more serious. Any type of political opposition will face a trial based on the values of the Wahhabi institution, which are founded on the principle of obeying the “guardian.” Thus, if the state abandons these institutions, it will be abandoning important weapons used as a source of legitimacy and to suppress opponents.
But if Wahhabism is so important for the state, why has criticism of it reached this level? This is where the ISIS challenge comes into play, as it requires that Wahhabism be emptied of its original content, which could be a threat to the state or its image, while it is being used by ISIS to delegitimize Arab governments.
In conclusion, the Saudi state does not seem intent on abandoning or replacing Wahhabism – at least not in the short term – because it represents an important source of legitimacy. Traditional Wahhabism can also be used to suppress and fight the radical direction within jihadi Wahhabism, through the support of state religious institutions like the Senior Scholars Committee. What is happening is mere cosmetic changes, in addition to an attempt to find a Wahhabism with a greater ability to fulfill the requirements of today’s reality.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.
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What the Fake Syria Sniper Boy Video Tell Us About Media Experts

News | 27.11.2014 | 14:40 

Many mainstream media websites helped a fake video go viral this month. The video showing a young Syrian boy running through sniper fire to save a little girl, was exposed as a fake when the Norwegian producer Lars Klevberg made the fact public. One of the stated aims of the Norwegian film makers was to “see how the media would respond to a fake video.” This article examines how that experiment went.

The western press very quickly accepted the video as real and used it to support the US administration’s narrative on Syria. Many top US news sources began to spread the story. Even though the producer said he explicitly added big hints that the video was fake, like the children surviving multiple gun shots.

Propagating false stories on Syria, is nothing new for the western press. In the lead up to the conflict many stories were exposed as frauds, such as the Anti-government activist “Gay Girl in Damascus” which turned out to be a middle-aged American man in Scotland. Syrian Danny Abdul Dayem which was frequently interviewed by CNN was using fake gun fire and flames in his interviews.

The fake sniper video wasn’t enough to support US government narratives by itself, as the now deleted original upload didn’t suggest the identity of the snipers. So the west’s media suggested that it was Syrian military snipers that were targeting the children without any evidence. Journalists failed to mention how they reached the conclusion that an actor in Malta was shot by the Syrian military. It may be that the western press is quick to trust pro-rebel sources, as the video was uploaded by the pro-rebel Sham Times along with their own twist.

The Guardian’s headline for the video was “Syrian boy ‘saves girl from army sniper’” and the Telegraph delicately suggested the Syrian military was responsible for the fake bullets. The International Business (IB) times stated, “the snipers, who reportedly are said to be the government forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.” IB Times never explicitly mentioned who reported this information. They then took it a step further and concluded the article with “the incident certainly is not the first time that Pro-Assad gunmen have targeted children”. Well it is at least not the first time the mainstream media has presented false reports as fact. In 2012, CNN claimed a bullet that killed a four year old girl in Aleppo was shot by government snipers even whilst admitting the bullet came from rebel held buildings.
Other journalists took to Twitter to make unfounded claims about army snipers targeting the boy. Vinnie O’Dowd who has done work for Channel 4 and Al Jazeera tweeted “Syrian Regime Targets kids. Liz Sly of the Washington Post tweeted incredulously that “Soldiers kept shooting” at children.

These tweets were inline with an official State Department Twitter account @ThinkAgain_DOS which blamed Assad for the fictitious bullets in the film. This casts doubt on how deeply the US administration scrutinizes information it bases it’s policy on. In 2013 they relied heavily on video footage provided by rebels to support its planned attack on Syria in the wake the Ghouta chemical attack.

Scrutinising the Scrutinisers (Experts)
But it isn’t just the mainstream media that was easily duped by the convenient propaganda film. The video experts that were asked to scrutinise the video, failed to recognise that the video was a fraud. The Telegraph stated that upon enquiry ‘experts told them they had no reason to doubt that the video is real”. International Business Times went a step further spinning the statement to “experts told The Telegraph that they have no doubts on the authenticity of the footage.”

This is very strange since both children in the film walk away after being directly and repeatedly hit by bullets. The creators of the film said he purposely scripted this as a big hint that the video is fake. The lack of scrutiny the media experts employed suggests incompetence or the same level of bias as the media that employs them .

Heather Saul of the Independent wrote that one of the ‘Middle East experts” she showed the video to was from Human Rights Watch. Indeed, Human Rights Watch European Media Director Andrew Stroehlein, showed no doubt on the authenticity of the film when he tweeted it out to his followers. The New York based human rights organisation is not new at tweeting false information, last month they used an image of the Odessa fire, where US-backed militia’s burned thirty two people to death, as an example of ‘Putin’s repressive policies’. In 2008 Venezuela expelled two HRW staff members accused of “anti-state activities” after producing a report against the Chavez government. Guardian journalist Hugh O’Shaughnessy accused HRW of using false and misleading information in the report, as well as pro-Washington bias. In 2009 HRW received financial donations from the Saudi government which may, in part, explain the anti-Syrian slant.

HRW employed so called video expert Eliot Higgins and his colleague Daniel Kaszeta to investigate the August 21 chemical attack in Ghouta, and quickly reached the conclusion the Syrian government was behind the attack. Daniel Kaszeta was referred to as a fraud by prominent physicist and MIT Professor Theodore Postol. HRW’s CEO Kenneth Roth recently used a report by Eliot Higgins to make unfounded claims about Ukrainian rebels shooting down Malaysian flight MH17. Heather Saul did not respond to questions on whether Eliot Higgins was one of the expert she asked for advice. However the mainstream media’s most often quoted video expert, did not recognise that the video was a
fraud, tweeting  cautiously that he wasn’t sure if it was authentic but gave the video a reaction non the less.

However many viewers who aren’t referred to as video or Middle East experts, immediately recognised the video was a fraud and flooded social media sites Twitter and Youtube with doubts on its authenticity. If Heather Saul had used these individuals as experts rather than HRW, she would have reached the correct conclusion about the video. But perhaps it is this unbias eye that the mainstream media avoids. The vast majority of Higgin’s conclusions support US government narratives and agendas, and that’s the kind of bias the mainstream media prefers.

Blaming the Producer

Instead of humbly accepting blame for spreading disinformation, many western journalists and their experts reacted by blaming the producer of the film. The collective rage of the entire mainstream media forced the film’s producer to delete any trace of this 30,000 dollar experiment. Some journalists took to Twitter to express their rage at being exposed as easily duped by convenient propaganda.

The experts that were fooled by the video also strongly protested. HRW posted a complaint that the fake video “eroded the public trust in war reporting’, in other words blind trust in HRW analysis and war propaganda. Eliot Higgins posted an open letter to the producer of the film on his website Bellingcat, condemning the film.

GlobalPost referred to the film as ‘irresponsible and dangerous’ but not because it could be used to promote wars and make false accusations. What the real danger to the mainstream media and their experts seems to be, is that as a result of the films exposure as a fraud, future video claims may now have to be properly scrutinized and the public may not be so unquestioning in future. However it is the journalists’ lack of scrutiny that is truly what is irresponsible and dangerous. Had the director not admitted the film was fake, these journalists more than likely would have kept promoting the story as an example of Syrian Army war crimes.

Maram Susli also known as “Syrian Girl,” is an activist-journalist and social commentator covering Syria and the wider topic of geopolitics

online magazine  New Eastern Outlook.

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