Saudi-Qatari Dispute Rising

Front Page Magazine, by Ari Lieberman, June 12, 2017:

The dramatic schism witnessed last week between a significant bloc of Muslim nations led by Saudi Arabia, against the tiny peninsular nation of Qatar, has major regional implications. In addition to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, and the Maldives all severed political and commercial ties with Qatar. Jordan and Mauritania followed suit shortly thereafter. The draconian measures severely curtail Doha’s ability to conduct air and maritime travel. In addition, nations that severed relations with Doha no longer recognize the Qatari Rial as a valid currency which means that Doha must deplete its foreign currency reserves if it wishes to purchase goods and services.

The punishing Saudi-led initiative, though dramatic, was hardly surprising. Qatar has long adopted policies that were incongruent with the Gulf Cooperation Council’s goals. Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states did not look favorably on Qatar’s rapprochement efforts with menacing Shia Iran and neo-Ottoman, meddlesome Turkey. But most irksome for the Sunni states was Qatar’s cynical use of its propaganda media arm, Al Jazeera, to shill for the extremist Muslim Brotherhood.

The issue of Hamas was another sore point where interests between the opposing sides diverged. Qatar is Hamas’ main benefactor. In 2014, it pledged $1b toward reconstruction efforts in Gaza. But much of Qatar’s aid money is skimmed off the top by notoriously corrupt Hamas officials, who maintain rather luxurious lifestyles. Some of the aid money is channeled into military projects, like construction of terror tunnels, rather than legitimate civilian purposes.

Hamas is recognized by the United States and EU as a terrorist organization. During his recent trip to the region, President Trump in an address to several Muslim heads of state lumped Hamas with other recognized terror groups like Hezbollah, ISIS and Al Qaida. The group is a recognized offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, placing it at odds with several moderate Sunni nations like Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Last Tuesday, Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, explicitly stated that Qatar must stop supporting terrorist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. Riyadh and its allies see both groups as destabilizing entities and have repeatedly criticized Doha for paying lip service to the war on terror while at the same time, providing financial, political and logistical support for terrorist organizations.

The Saudi-led effort represents a concerted attempt to squeeze Qatar into making concessions. Undoubtedly, that includes Qatar adopting policies that are more in line with the goals of GCC, namely to thwart Iranian influence and curtail the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The pressure brought to bear by the Saudi initiative is already producing positive results. Qatar has asked several Hamas leaders-in-exile and operatives currently stationed in the country to leave. Hamas has tried to downplay the implications of the Qatari expulsion orders but it’s hard to overlook the ramifications.

But Doha is nevertheless sending out mixed signals.  On Saturday, Qatar’s Foreign Minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, characterized Hamas as “a legitimate resistance movement.” He also said that as an independent country, Qatar had the right to support groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.

Over the years, Hamas’ allies have whittled down to three, Turkey, Iran and Qatar. Of the three, Qatar provides the terror group with the most financial support. It was hoped that Israel’s recent rapprochement with Turkey would translate into concrete efforts by Ankara to scale back its support for the terror group but this has not materialized. Iran, which remains the world’s premier state-sponsor of terror, continues to funnel money to Hamas despite a brief falling out.

The current economic situation in the Gaza Strip is abysmal. This is largely due to mismanagement, graft and rampant corruption by the Islamist governing authorities. There are chronic electricity shortages with four or five hours of reliable electricity supply on a good day. In addition, youth unemployment hovers at an astonishing 60%. A cut-off of Qatari aid would place enormous pressure on Hamas and lead to further economic decline, which could inexorably lead to widespread discontent among the masses within the Strip.

Hamas rules Gaza with an iron fist and maintains a zero tolerance policy for even minimal dissent. The few who dare challenge Gaza’s theocratic rulers are beaten, jailed and sometimes executed under the guise of being collaborators with “the occupation.” Nevertheless, with so many unemployed youth, and chronic electricity and water shortages, open challenge or even revolt is a real possibility.

Hamas may seek to stave off that predicament by deflecting attention away from the dire economic situation to its age-old bogeyman, the Israelis or in Hamas vernacular, the “Zionist entity.” It could create a crisis by launching rockets into Israel, thereby drawing an Israeli response which could quickly escalate to full blown war. Gaza’s population would then be spoon-fed Hamas crafted propaganda and Israel would then be blamed for the inevitable destruction and misery that is sure to follow.  Such cynical exploitation of the masses represents a ruthless Hamas tactic calculated solely on the basis maintaining the group’s survival and governing authority. The welfare of the population is of secondary or even tertiary concern.

But the Hamas wag the dog tactic is a double-edged sword. Since it withdrew from Gaza in 2005, Israel was forced to battle Hamas on three occasions – 2008/9, 2012 and 2014. On each occasion, Hamas drew the short end of the stick and was decimated militarily. Nevertheless, during the 2014 campaign, Israel came under immense political pressure from the Obama administration to cease hostilities.

Obama held up a shipment of Hellfire missiles slated to be delivered to Israel and his Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) briefly ordered the suspension of commercial flights to Ben Gurion airport. Many suspected that the FAA action was implemented under orders from Obama as a pressure tactic against Israel to induce it into accepting a ceasefire. In addition, during the course of the conflict, a disturbing transcript of an exchange between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu surfaced in which the American president browbeat Netanyahu over his reluctance to accept a ceasefire, brokered by hostile Turkey and Qatar, under less than desirable terms. His secretary of state, John Kerry, was picked up on hot mic blasting Israel with sarcastic references to Israel’s “helluva pinpoint operation.”

In sum, Obama’s fiercely hostile attitude toward Israel and his attempts to hamper Israel’s war efforts provided Hamas with some measure of political cover, and prevented an even more severe mauling than already inflicted on the terror group. But there is a new sheriff in town, one not inclined toward appeasing Islamists. Should Hamas begin stirring the pot, expect the administration to give Israel a freer hand to do what is necessary to crush Hamas.

Undoubtedly, Hamas is aware of the fact that it no longer has a sympathetic ear in the White House and many of its former Arab allies, including Egypt, have abandoned it. It is also cognizant of the fact that Israel’s military capabilities are unmatched in the Middle East and any provocation will invite devastating retaliation from which it may not recover.

In sum, if Qatar capitulates, Hamas will suffer and may consequently be forced to wag the dog to preserve its survival but the very war that it provokes may spell its demise. The unfolding drama between Doha and Riyadh has placed Hamas in a bit of a pickle and it’s safe to assume that its leaders are not sleeping well these days.

Ari Lieberman is an attorney and former prosecutor who has authored numerous articles and publications on matters concerning the Middle East and is considered an authority on geo-political and military developments affecting the region.

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EXCLUSIVE – Senior Jihadist: Hamas ‘In Plot Against Islam’ With New Charter

AP/Majdi Mohammed

Breitbart, by  AARON KLEIN AND ALI WAKED, May 6, 2017:

TEL AVIV – Hamas’ new charter, which is being sold as more moderate than its predecessor, proves that “Hamas was never an Islamic movement,” according to Egyptian jihadist Abu Abdullah Almuhajer, who is active in Sinai and the Gaza Strip.

“Hamas was mistakenly considered among the Islamic movements and also falsely among the resistance movements, said Almuhajer, speaking to Breitbart Jerusalem. “The Muslim Brotherhood is part of the democratic method in which political movements treat man-made laws as the foundation of life and fight for control only in order to exchange these laws for different laws while ignoring the laws of Sharia.”

According to Almuhajer, Hamas’ new charter, in which the movement recognizes the 1967 borders, “is proof that Hamas is part of a plot against Islam and Muslims by indirectly saying that Palestine, which is Muslim holy land, can be part of a compromise with the Jews.”

Almuhajer claimed that the entire state of Israel is being “occupied by the Jews.”

He said that the Quran is clear in its commandments and according to the text, “The Muslims must fight infidels in order to put the laws of Sharia into place over the land. Non-Muslims need to pay a poll tax and need to be submissive. Hamas’ announcement, according to which they’re fighting against the Jewish occupation and not the Jews, proves its lack of understanding of the conflict and proves that its mistakenly called an Islamic movement.”

Hamas announced its new charter on Tuesday in Doha, the capital of Qatar. The two most noticeable clauses in the new charter, besides those recognizing the 1967 borders while failing to recognize Israel’s right to exist, stress that the movement has no organizational connection to political movements outside of the Palestinian territories, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, and states that the conflict is not a religious one, but a national conflict over land.

According to Almuhajer, Hamas is trying to appease its members when it says its recognition of the 1967 borders has no impact on its refusal to recognize the Jews. “But it’s clear to all that there is a surrender of principles here and as far as we’re concerned, this is an opportunity for all the brothers who believe in Islam in Hamas. Hamas has abandoned Islam. Hamas has sold out the jihad. We’re the address, the Islamic State is the address. We are not manipulators, we don’t compromise and we have no aspirations to rule, only that Allah’s Sharia rules.”

Almuhajer claimed that immediately following the announcement of the new charter, “three Hamas members joined Wilayat Sinai and that’s in addition to seven Hamas and Islamic Jihad members who joined in the few days prior to the announcement of the new charter.” Wilayat Sinai is the Islamic State’s franchise in the Egyptian Sinai.

According to Almuhajer, “We are expecting an influx from the ranks of Hamas to the Islamic State in Gaza, in Sinai and in every place. This could significantly strengthen the Islamic State as well as the mujahedeen brothers. We hope and we’re sure that the awakening of the brothers in Hamas will lead them to the ranks of the Islamic State. We aren’t happy about the calamity of Hamas, on the contrary; we call on the leadership of the movement to reconcile with Allah, to ask for his forgiveness and to return to the path of jihad and true Islam, not the one that seeks to reconcile with democracy, the West and secularism.”

EXCLUSIVE – Top Jihadist Claims Brussels, Paris Are Terror Rehearsals for ‘Big’ Attack Inside U.S.

afp_810175b0c23b8af46522989762e313048280849b-640x358Breitbart Jerusalem, March 26, 2016:

TEL AVIV – The deadly terrorist attacks in Brussels last week and in Paris last November are dress rehearsals for a coming “big” attack inside the United States, a leading Islamic State-allied militant claimed in an exclusive interview.

Abu al-Ayna al-Ansari, a Salafist movement senior official in the Gaza Strip, made the claim in a pre-recorded, hour-long interview to air in full on Sunday on “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio,” the popular weekend talk radio program broadcast on New York’s AM 970 The Answer and NewsTalk 990 AM in Philadelphia.  Klein doubles as Breitbart’ssenior investigative reporter and Jerusalem bureau chief.

Ansari is a well-known Gazan Salafist jihadist allied with Islamic State ideology.  During the interview with Klein, Ansari seemed to be speaking as an actual IS member, repeatedly using the pronoun “we” when referring to IS and even seemingly making declarations on behalf of IS.

IS has been reluctant to officially declare its presence in Gaza for fear of a Hamas clampdown, but the group is known to be active in the coastal enclave and Ansari is a suspected IS leader.  IS-aligned militants have taken responsibility for recent rocket fire from Gaza aimed at Israel.

Klein asked Ansari whether IS maintains cells inside the U.S. and if the terrorist group is “planning anything in America.”

Ansari responded:

Aaron, the battle with America is a very long one, a very tough one, a very hard one. America has a black record with the mujahedeen, and this black record will not be purified but with blood, and lots of blood. Only blood will cleanse what America did to the mujahedeen. And I can confirm that our leadership made it very clear thatwhat happened in Paris, what happened in Brussels was only a small rehearsal before the big thing that will happen in America.

This is the commitment; this is the engagement of our leadership to the mujahedeen. I cannot give details and the truth is that I don’t know the small details – how many agents we have and where we have them. This depends on our leaders, the Caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and the general military commander, Abu Omar al-Shishani. They will decide when and where to strike in the United States.

But I can tell you that when we are in touch with our different components, with the leaders of the Islamic State.  They confirm, they make it very sure and very clear that it is only a question of time when there will be a strike in America.  And as I said before, what you saw in Paris, what you saw in Brussels will be only a small rehearsal in comparison with what will happen in the United States.

Ansari’s reference to senior Islamic State commander Abu Omar al-Shishani as alive and active comes after the Pentagon announced earlier this month that a U.S. airstrike on March 4 near al-Shaddadi, Syria targeted al-Shishani.  The Pentagon did not make an official statement about whether al-Shashani was killed in the strike, but it told reporters on background that he was “likely killed.”  IS has denied that Shishani was killed.

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Salafi insurgency fermenting in northern Sinai

100053125-least-egyptianBY :

Northern Sinai has long played host to a variety of smuggling networks and jihadi organizations. Since General Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi’s military coup of July 3rd, 2013 in Egypt, however, there has been an exponential increase in attacks emanating from this area.

sinai2This increasingly lawless region is now the home ground for an emergent Islamist insurgency against the Egyptian authorities. Since July, 2013, more than 300 reported attacks have taken place in Sinai. The violence is also spreading into the Egyptian mainland, with attacks in recent weeks on a security facility in Cairo, and the killing of an Interior Ministry official in the capital.

Some of the groups engaged in the fighting are linked to global jihadi networks, including al-Qaeda. Others have connections to elements in Hamas-controlled Gaza. The precise links between the various organizations engaged are difficult to trace.

This emergent reality in northern Sinai has serious implications for Israel. While the main focus of the jihadi activity is directed against Sisi’s administration in Cairo, some of the groups centrally involved have a track record of attacks against Israeli targets. In al-Qaeda’s official propaganda channels, the north Sinai area is described as a new front in the war against ‘the Jews and the Americans.’

The most significant group operating in northern Sinai today is the Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (Supporters of Jerusalem) organization. This organization has been active since 2011. It originated in Gaza, and made its way to Sinai following the ousting of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

The group’s name will raise a wry smile for Israeli and Jewish readers. The Arabic term ‘Beit al-Maqdis’ (House of the Holy) for Jerusalem derives from the older Hebrew name for the Jewish Temple – Beit Hamikdash, with the same meaning.

Contemporary Islamists and jihadis, of course, would fiercely deny that any Jewish Temple ever stood in Jerusalem.

But this absence of logical consistency appears to have little impact on the organization’s energy for violent activity.

But this absence of logical consistency appears to have little impact on the organization’s energy for violent activity.

Ansar Beit al-Maqdis was responsible for repeated attacks on the El-Arish-Ashkelon gas pipeline in 2011-12, which eventually led to the suspension of supplies via this route.

The group also carried out the cross-border terror attack on August 18, 2011, in which eight Israelis were murdered, and an additional strike into Israel on September 21, 2012, which took the life of an IDF soldier.

More recently, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis claimed responsibility for the rocket attack on Eilat on January 20, 2014. The rocket was intercepted by the Iron Dome system.

The organization’s main focus in recent weeks has been on increasingly high-profile attacks against Egyptian targets. These have included an attempt on the life of Egyptian Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim on September 5, 2013, and a series of bomb attacks in Cairo in January,2014. On January 25, 2014, the group claimed responsibility for downing a military helicopter over northern Sinai.

The weapon used in this attack, a Russian Igla air-defense system, was reportedly smuggled out from Gaza, where the group maintains links with Salafi Jihadi elements.

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

So what exactly is Ansar Beit al-Maqdis?

According to a former militant of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad organization, Nabil al-Naeim, the group is funded by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, following a deal brokered with powerful Brotherhood strongman Khairet al-Shater.

Naeim suggested that Ansar Beit al Maqdis is supplied with weapons by the Brotherhood via the Gaza tunnels and Libya. He maintains that the Hamas authorities in Gaza are aware of the deal.

The alleged Brotherhood links were also asserted by Sameh Eid, described in an al-Arabiyya article as an ‘expert on Islamist groups.’ Eid referred to the group as the ‘military wing of the Muslim Brotherhood,’ and said that Shater had threatened the Egyptian authorities with ‘escalation in Sinai and the targeting of the Egyptian Army.’

Read more at Gloria Center

Egypt’s Military Plans for Hamas Confrontation

Turkey: Are Erdoğan’s Days Numbered?

by Harold Rhode:

It appears that the Islamic Gülenists and the secular Atatürkists — not friends in the past — have forged an alliance and are now ascendant.

Major political events have rocked the political scene in Turkey the past two weeks. Turkey’s once seemingly-invincible prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, seems in a tailspin. A few days ago, he lashed out at U.S. Ambassador Frank Ricciardone and threatened to expel him from Turkey. Erdoğan claimed the Ambassador told other Western diplomats that the “empire [Erdoğan and his associates] is about to fall.[1]

Clearly, Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s policy of “Zero Problems With Our Neighbors” — meaning the alliance with Turkey’s Sunni-ruled Arab neighbors — has failed. Turkey now has problems with almost all its neighbors. It appears that the Gülenists and the Atatürkists — not friends in the past — are now ascendant. It is unlikely that they, or whoever might take over in Turkey, would want to continue this failed approach.

 

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (L), and Fethullah Gülen. (Image source: World Economic Forum [Erdoğan] — Diyar se/WikiMedia Commons [Gülen])

Long-brewing political struggles within the ruling AK party have also surfaced. They boil down to two radically different views of Islam. In the first, Erdoğan’s faction identifies and allies itself with the [Arab] Muslim Brotherhood. This faction was strongly supportive of the ousted Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood President Muhammad Morsi, and also of Syria’s fundamentalists. In the second view, supporters of the Fethullah Gülen look down upon “Arab Islam.” To them, “real” Islam is “the Islam of the Turks – meaning the people who live in Turkey, Central Asia, and Western China.”[2] [3]

To the outsider, these differences might seem to be distinctions without differences: supporters of both views understandably want Islam to be a major part of the political order. But for Turks, these differences are seismic: the question is, do they belong to the Middle Eastern Arab and Muslim political camp, or do they belong to the wider Turkish world?

Since Erdoğan and his fellow Islamic fundamentalists took power in 2002, Gülen and his forces have been in the background, building prep-schools and propagating their version of Islam — in Turkey, in the Turkic world, and also in America. It is not surprising that when Gülen faced legal difficulties in Turkey[4] in 1999, he fled to the U.S., ostensibly for medical treatment, apparently still ongoing.[5]

On May 31, 2010, Erdoğan’s government backed and encouraged a flotilla of Turkish ships supposedly to bring needed supplies to the Gaza Strip, ruled by their fellow Muslim Brotherhood fundamentalists, Hamas. Gülen may have seen this as an opportunity indirectly publicly to chastise Erdoğan. In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal[6], Gülen argued that as Israel legitimately controlled the waters off Gaza, the flotilla should have asked for Israel’s permission to land there. Gülen did not criticize Erdoğan directly; people rarely criticize others directly in Turkey. But culturally, his choice of words indicated to Turks that he was blamed Erdoğan for creating the crisis.

Gülen has not been known to be supportive of the Jews, nor for that matter of the U.S. or the West.[7] But now in his battle is evidently to ensure that Turkish Islam defeats the so-called Arab-Muslim Brotherhood type of Islam supported by Erdoğan, the Jews and the West might well seem useful allies. As many Middle Easterners say, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” A friendship, or alliance, might be temporary, but may continue as long as required.[8]

Read more at Gatestone Institute

 

Egypt Declares Muslim Brotherhood a Terrorist Group

Muslim-Brotherhood-Egypt-450x344

The Muslim Brotherhood fulfills all three requirements to be labeled a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. State Department.

There are three reasons why this has not happened: The Brotherhood’s lobby, ignorance and fear.

By Ryan Mauro:

The Egyptian government formally labeled the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group on Christmas, banning all of its activities including protests. The Obama Administration, advised by Brotherhood-friendly groups in the U.S., is unlikely to follow in Egypt’s footsteps in calling a spade a spade.

The announcement came after the government blamed the Brotherhood for the suicide bombing of a police station in Mansoura. No proof was offered of Brotherhood involvement. A pro-Al-Qaeda group named Ansar Jerusalem, based in the Sinai Peninsula, took credit.

That didn’t stop local protestors from immediately rallying against the Brotherhood, s effigies of the group’s leaders and attacking property owned by a Brotherhood member. The Egyptian public as a whole remains hostile to the Brotherhood and loyal to the military, with about half the population wanting the group outlawed. Another poll taken in August showed that almost 70% want it banned from politics.

The Brotherhood may or may not be involved in that specific bombing in Mansoura, but that doesn’t mean it is peaceful. It has threatened to form a rebel armed force. After the Egyptian military’s crackdown on the Brotherhood began, Egyptians outraged by the response of the U.S. government and media posted eye-opening videos showing Brotherhood members threatening violence, attacking Egyptian security forces and churches, and putting children at risk for the sake of propaganda.

In addition, Brotherhood preachers continue to instigate violence in Egypt and abroad. The organization knows what it’s doing. Why officially engage in violence when individual members and Salafist allies will do so on their own accord, leaving room for deniability?

The labeling of the group as terrorists comes as the government prosecutes former President Morsi and many other Brotherhood operatives. Morsi is accused of involvement in a “terrorist plan” begun in 2005 to send Brotherhood fighters to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip for training by Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps.

The Obama Administration has decided to swim against the regional anti-Brotherhood wave, cutting aid to Egypt’s government and siding with the Brotherhood. The result is a realignment in alliances that pushes the Arab world into the arms of Russia.

It is extremely unlikely that the U.S. State Department will similarly designate the Brotherhood as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, even though it meets the qualifications. It is more likely that the administration will condemn Egypt’s latest action.

Read more at Front Page