Voices From The Arab Press: SRI LANKA AND THE 100-YEAR BATTLE

I am convinced that this battle – the battle to eradicate terrorism – is going to be a long one, spanning maybe even an entire century.

May 1, 2019 19:21
Voices From The Arab Press: SRI LANKA AND THE 100-YEAR BATTLE

A MAN purported to be Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi speaks in this screen grab taken from video released on April 29.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Asharq al-Awsat, London, April 23

Here we are again, coming to terms with yet another ghastly terrorist attack waged against innocent civilians. This time, terrorism struck Christian worshipers in Sri Lanka. Prior to that, it struck worshipers in New Zealand. And beforehand, it struck Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, Europe, America and a wide host of other countries.
I am convinced that this battle – the battle to eradicate terrorism – is going to be a long one, spanning maybe even an entire century. The world has been combating terrorism for over three decades, yet the problem persists. Every time we defeat one organization, another one rears its head.
The wars of terrorism are more dangerous than tribal and state wars, because they are rooted in deep-seated ideology. They are the products of antiquated doctrines that have been reinvigorated in distorted ways and have made their way into modern society. The weapons of this war are quotations from holy books, propagated using modern technology that enables these ideas to be published at nearly no cost.
Sadly, without an international coalition fighting terrorism in its ideological roots – nipping it in the bud – radical ideas will continue to spread around the world, threatening the entire future of mankind.
The way we have been confronting terrorist organizations is by trying to defeat them militarily or financially. We destroy their secret hideouts or restrict their ability to pay for their operations. But the strongest fuel that feeds the terrorist engine is the scores of people who promote their radical agendas. Terrorism, therefore, lives in the minds of people. The problem is that we live in denial.
In the aftermath of the attacks last week, Islamist organizations were quick to deny their involvement. They attempted to sow confusion about the perpetrators. Then they sought to justify the attack. Then they claimed responsibility. Throughout the process, they used the same old explanations and excuses: “Islamic State never had a physical foothold in Sri Lanka”; “the attacks must have been foreign nationals”; etc. However, Islamic State does not require a physical infrastructure in Sri Lanka in order to carry out an attack. It simply needs to live in the minds of people.
The battle on the ground may continue, but the ideological battle is just beginning. Unless we change our mind-set, new organizations will come to life as soon as their predecessors are destroyed. – Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Al-Arab, London, April 27

The US administration announced that the exemptions that were in force with regard to the purchase of Iranian oil will end in early May. The exemptions included eight countries – Turkey, India, China, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Greece and Taiwan. While most of these countries are expected to comply with the US move, both Turkey and China have defied the new procedure through a series of statements rejecting it. However, the chances of tightening the screws on the Iranian economy seem very large because of the multiplicity of US pressure cards on countries cooperating with Iran.
Despite speaking out against the decision, Turkey’s wiggle room against the United States is very narrow. Tensions between the countries peaked about a year ago with the detention of an American pastor, Andrew Brunson, by Turkish authorities. Washington responded with a series of diplomatic and economic sanctions against Turkish officials and companies. Later, the administration of President Donald Trump increased tariffs on Turkish imports, forcing Ankara to release the pastor. While Turkey exports about $3 billion [in goods] to Iran, its exports to the US are three times that. These facts point to Ankara’s weak ability to resist the US desire to tighten sanctions on Tehran.
China, for its part, is the biggest importer of Iranian oil, and its commitment to the US decision will be necessary for its success. But this collides with the huge economic role played by Beijing and its refusal to appear as a puppet of the US administration, especially in the midst of intense and complex negotiations on trade between the two countries. This may push it to challenge the US decision and continue to import oil in the coming period. However, in the long term, Washington can exert pressure through multiple channels and raise the cost of noncompliance. We should not forget that US pressure pushed China to agree to Security Council resolutions that tightened economic sanctions on Iran before signing the nuclear deal in 2015.
Ultimately, the chances of success of the American plan seem great because the implementation of the US decision by the countries concerned will not cause major economic damage on the global scale. Iranian oil can be compensated for by the Gulf states, which pledged to increase oil production and cover the deficit created by the absence of Iranian oil. On the other hand, failure to comply with the plan will have significant consequences, as past decades have proved Washington’s ability to employ the weapon of sanctions very effectively and paralyze the economies of noncompliant countries.
The United States has no choice but to press ahead with tougher sanctions. After withdrawing from the nuclear deal, Washington found itself faced with two options: war with all its risks, or escalating sanctions to unprecedented levels. The Trump administration is not looking to sign another Obama-era agreement with Tehran. Rather, it hopes that the sanctions will deepen the crisis for the Iranian regime and lead to major domestic strife that will pave the way for a new Iranian leadership. – Salam al-Saudi

VILLAGERS ARE seen following the March 23 attack by militiamen that killed about 160 Fulani people, in Ogossagou Village, Mali, on March 31. (Credit: Reuters)

Al-Anba, Kuwait, April 27

On Saturday, March 23, two villages in central Mali, home to the Fulani tribes, witnessed a horrific massacre of more than 100 people, described as the bloodiest event in the nation’s history. Authorities are still discovering more bodies in the wake of an attack by groups of unknown insurgents.
Mali has long suffered from political and social turmoil, the spread of armed terrorist groups and ideologies, and political rivalries between competing tribes. In the wake of this chaos, the country has become a hotbed for al-Qaeda terrorists who discovered the remote geographies of the Sahel and Sahara as fertile breeding grounds for their activity. There, the terrorist organization has been able to recruit unemployed youth looking for any source of income. Mali has been suffering for more than seven years from a political and security crisis and tribal conflict. France intervened with its military forces to confront extremist armed groups and suffered a number of deaths in military operations in various parts of the country. The city of Gao in the north has been the scene of many suicide bombings that have led to hundreds of civilian deaths.
The weakness of the country, which has suffered from military coups and global volatility, has made it a vicious circle of instability and the spread of extremism in the Sahel and Sahara. The country has become home to extremists ranging from Boko Haram to Islamic State. These fundamentalists have capitalized on the rural population’s deep-seated religious beliefs to promote extremist Islamic discourse. The lack of water, food and the absence of security have only served to empower radical movements that promise a better future for those living in the desert, especially the youth.
The Sahel and Sahara regions are under true risk of becoming the next global source of terrorists. What is happening in Mali represents a grave threat to international security. The Western world must develop a comprehensive military and economic program to fight the danger extending from Central Africa to both the northern and western part of the continent. While the African Union has been working for years to establish a military intervention force in areas of tension and conflict, it lacks the resources necessary to tackle the problem. The most terrifying question is, will the Sahel-Sahara region be the land to which thousands of terrorists fleeing Iraq and Syria are headed? Will Mali become the next Afghanistan or, even worse, the next Syria? There is certainly reason to fear so. – Abdel-Rahman Shalgam

Al-Ittihad, UAE, April 22

The fire that consumed Notre-Dame de Paris was a tragic event and a great humanitarian shock for everyone who understands the value of human history. It is therefore not surprising that the fire received widespread media attention across the world.
One thing shared by all mankind is our collective care for our history and archaeology, the construction of museums and the preservation of physical and intangible signs of our heritage. No nation that respects itself can ignore its cultural and civilizational symbols.
This has been especially true in the UAE, where history-preservation efforts have been under way for several decades. This national project has been led by Sheikh Zayed, who sought to document and preserve the history of our region.
But preserving cultural and religious artifacts in the Middle East is no easy feat. The political situation in the region has not been serene, to say the least. Fundamentalist religious organizations such as the Taliban movement in Afghanistan have systematically destroyed all artifacts associated with ancient civilizations. For example, the Buddhas of Bamyan, carved into a sandstone cliff in the Hazarajat region of central Afghanistan, were dynamited and destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. Similarly, Islamic State detonated and destroyed the Temple of Bel, a Mesopotamian temple dating back to 32 CE. It also destroyed the Roman theater at Palmyra, which dates back to the second century CE. These sites represented thousands of years of civilization. Losing these monuments is a true loss for humanity.
The important question that arises from the Notre-Dame fire is, therefore, why does the Western world care so much about a cathedral in France but not about monuments located in the Middle East? What about the history that is being erased before our eyes by radical organizations located in our midst? These are no less important than Notre-Dame.
But the responsibility is also ours. We must build a tolerant Muslim society and reshape the cultural discourse surrounding the cultural artifacts found in our countries. The companions of the holy prophet entered many countries in the Arab and Muslim world during the period of the so-called conquests in the era of the caliphs. They did not destroy any statues or monuments. The holy prophet himself passed through many cities that housed non-Muslim monuments. He did not destroy any of their ancient relics. Such barbarity must never be tolerated.
The events in Paris are a stark reminder to all of us. They are a reminder that we must take care of our historical monuments and protect them at any cost – not only as tourist destinations, but also as a fundamental part of our cultural legacy. This is a battle we have no choice but to win, not only for the sake of our past, but also for the sake of our future. – Ali Hussein Bakir

Media Line.

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