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Western Sahara and New Cell of Hezbollah involvement in North Africa

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Tehran’s recent moves against Morocco’s national sovereignty represents its plan to keep on its strategy through global supremacy by undermining and destabilizing pro-Western states. the Kingdom of Morocco decides to disjoin relations with Tehran a week before President Trump announcement of his full decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action. Iran’s existence in North Africa and Maghreb region has been increasing over time and evolve yet more marked as the deadline approached for the expected American withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action.

Morocco and Qatar Relations

Currently, Qatar has been seen as display powerful and growing relationship with the Kingdom of Morocco. Both states signed 12 agreements in March restating their strong and mutual cooperation on a range of domains. Qatar also emerged to hit targeting Morocco’s regional rival, Algeria, the key supporter of Polisario Front, on the international sphere.

For this case, Doha’s illicit support for Polisario Front is seen by some Moroccans as a stab in the back. If double-dealing is, in fact, taking place, it would be another reason of Qatar’s openly criticized style of diplomacy, wherein it has proved to achieve international right by welcoming Western countries while at the same time sustaining relations with terrorist organizations like Hamas and the Taliban.

Relations between Morocco and Qatar may have been tight as early as April when documentation of Qatari individuals’ ties to Polisario Front first surfaced. Besides, according to Saudi sources, Qatar’s charity in Somalia supports and finances Iran-backed terrorists. Iran has also organized a group of Somalian fighters in Saudi-backed Sudan, which is part of the Arab coalition fighting Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen. Sudan is one of the states Qatar has been aiming for military deals jointly with Turkey.

Accordingly, Saudi Arabia vowed Kingdom of Morocco that it would declare Polisario Front a terrorist organization in a major spot of support for Morocco’s territorial integrity. hence, the Western Sahara Conflict became yet another part between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, further provoke the Gulf Dilemma.

Some reports showed that Qatar’s covert support for Polisario Front is another interpretation of its plan to break into North Africa and promote an independent foreign policy. The way out of criticized this move for benefiting militias in Libya at the expense of neighborly state actors. Polisario’s Front link to Hezbollah makes the organization strategy in global terrorism, against which the Anti-Terrorism aggregate has taken a strong stand.

for the time being Qatar fully appreciated Iran for its backing during the Gulf Dilemma, which runs counter that Qatar is held hostage to Iran’s proximity to its gas zone and that it is only the Gulf Dilemma that has pushed Qatar through furthering that relationship. Such public statements likely disturb officials in Morocco who notice Iran’s act as that of a troublemaker, not as a source of support.

Morocco’s disagreement with Iran plans an intimated sitting for Qatar, which currently joined the other Gulf Countries and the US in sanctioning Hezbollah while in the same time admiring Iran’s back its Gulf rivals. It has not yet had to directly acknowledge the strange phenomenon of its coalition with a state that supports terrorist groups like Hezbollah. alike, Qatar’s supporting of the Hamas-led riots – jointly with Iran.

Hezbollah Involvement in North Africa

Hezbollah’s movements in Africa –particularly with the Polisario Front, and with the explicit supporting and assistance of powerful state actors – are a threat to regional stability and US interests. Despite Morocco’s bold move, the risk of Iranian support for radical organizations and separatist groups throughout the African continent is likely to rise in the near future. Under tension from the US and changed about the future of European financial investment as well as facing domestic opposition to costs on foreign military experimentation, Iran will enhance its relationships with South Africa and quest to make new allies, find manners of preventing newly imposed US sanctions and potential losses in profit, and collect “supplemental profit” through weapons, drugs, and human trafficking .

Iran has been engaged in Africa for a long time, and its engagement into North Africa anticipate the current milestone with Polisario Front. Iran has been drilling, training militarily and growing spies, Palestinian terrorist groups (in South Africa), and weapons for its darkness war against the West. In 2014, Kenya, which has an increasing bilateral relationship with Iran, arrested Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) helps with fake Israeli passports who were allegedly preparing terrorist attacks against US, Israeli, and British targets. In 2015, in the same circumstances, two alleged Iranian assets were also jailed. Iran’s rational impact in Africa towards its financing of infrastructures such as hospitals, schools, universities, and mosques increased after Riyadh severed relations with Iran following an attack on its embassy. It has also enlarged its commercial trading with African states twenty percent in just the previous year.

Alike Morocco’s Islamist parties notified, lately on October 2017, of Tehran’s supporting of Shiite militias in Sunni North Africa. Tehran’s foreign minister embark to the region an official visit in June of that year, talking with heads of state in Mauritania, Tunisia, and Algeria – entire states that have been paid off by Sunni extremists and militias and are at endangering of increasing destabilization.

Even it has failed to establish its own infrastructure, Iran has few choices for self-gain other than to attack stable and pro-Western states such as Morocco, imposing security and economic loss however it can. Many observers acknowledged that the Kingdom of Morocco is using this opportunity as an influence to grow its relationship with the US, which would include the US openly embracing Morocco’s autonomy plan to undermine Polisario Front. The US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and pressure on European companies to cease up doing business with Iran might likewise prevent Iran’s financing for involvement in foreign conflicts and involvement with local separatist and terrorist groups in several parts of the world.

Iran’s Northern African Allies

In 2009, Tehran obtains a Mauritanian hospital formerly condescended by Israel. Mauritania is now overrunning with jihadist groups and ripe for the picking, despite having accepted a significant amount of foreign aid from the US over the years for national security and defense. However, Senegal, Guinea, Nigeria, and Mali were also part of the visit. Iran’s Shiite movement has been aiming those countries in different ways for many years.

Additionally, Russia’s supporting of states such as Algeria and its confusion with European investors may give a temporary lifebelt to Iran’s aspiration due to the close alliance between Russia and Iran and their quest of similar goals. A powerful alliance between the US and Morocco will go a long way through countering the plans of these aspiring hegemons.

The Kingdom of Morocco can serve religious training education to African and European Imams, retaliating Iran’s ideological pushing; involve in stronger economic relations with other African countries, as it is fighting to do after rejoining the African Union; and become a cultural link between the US and Africa, initiating an additional support against Iran’s ideological impact and military hegemony. As well as the US, Europe, and the Anti-Terrorism band, Morocco is working to build up a strong reinforcement position that can help protect the African continent from the spread of Iran-backed jihadist groups and criminal activities.

Teheran’s ambitions will look profitable only concerning poor, fragile and failing states. A strong, stable Morocco is a danger to its plans to co-opt Africa and destroy American, European, and Saudi alliances and business potential. It will use Hezbollah group as well as state proxies to enhance Morocco’s adversaries, increase more terrorist entities, and manipulate ideological allies in Morocco’s backyard, as well as in more sensitive areas. And it will search to set up forces similar to Hezbollah that could be used to attack Western objectives and plant discord between allies, all the while using Africa for hidden and illegitimate activities.

Polisario and Hezbollah move

Morocco’s break with Iran came as a slap too much of the international society. Not many have pursed events and circumstances in North Africa and are aware of current illegal manipulates by the separatist group Polisario Front, which claims to represent the Western Sahrawi tribes. Polisario Front has long been known as a smuggler of weapons to Mauritania and other countries in the Sahel region, and in the last decade has been involved in drug smuggling and human trafficking.

Polisario’s Front recent movements in the defensive zone break ceasefire agreements from 1991. In a deeper violation, Polisario Front declared that it is mobilizing its facilities closer to the Moroccan border wall. latest reports about Polisario’s Front role in terrorist attacks against civilians, mostly Moroccan businessmen, fishermen, are further blaming the legacy of the group, which is strongly supported by Algeria, Iran, and Russia. Counterterrorism organizations that run activity in North Africa have decided that Polisario Front has well-established connections with al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM) as well as Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah.

Western Sahara, then, is becoming just another fresh filed for Qatar’s rivalry against Saudi Arabia and others. It seems that Qatar may have been eager to design its foreign policy desire – dominating Africa and dealing a blow to the Saudis – over its clearly intimate relationship with the Kingdom of Morocco.

Conclusion

Tehran’s influence on African foreign politics and security issues can be every part as undermining and destabilizing as its pattern of terror and oppression in the Middle East. The Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) withdrawal is an enormous chance for the United State to strengthen its relationships with allies in Africa and go jointly after backing for Hezbollah, Iran, and their counter partners in Africa and somewhere else.

Jamal Ait Laadam, Specialist in and North African Studies and Western Sahara Issue, a Ph.D. fellow in Jilin University School of Public Affairs

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Middle East

The fallacy of soccer’s magical bridge-building qualities

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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Imagining himself as a peacemaker in a conflict-ridden part of the world, FIFA President Gianni Infantino sees a 2022 World Cup shared by Qatar with its Gulf detractors, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, as the magic wand that would turn bitter foes into brothers.

It may be a nice idea, but it is grounded in the fiction that soccer can play an independent role in bringing nations together or developing national identity.

The fiction is that soccer has the potential to be a driver of events, that it can spark or shape developments. It is also the fiction that sports in general and soccer in particular has the power to build bridges.

Mr. Infantino’s assertion that if foes play soccer, bridges are built is but the latest iteration of a long-standing myth.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Soccer is an aggressive sport. It is about conquering the other half of a pitch. It evokes passions and allegiances that are tribal in nature and that more often than not divide rather than unite.

In conflict situations, soccer tends to provide an additional battlefield. Examples abound.

The 2022 World Cup; this year’s Qatari Asian Cup victory against the backdrop of the Gulf state’s rift with the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt; the imprint the Palestinian-Israeli conflict puts on the two nations’ soccer; or the rise of racist, discriminatory attitudes among fans in Europe.

The Bad Blue Boys, hardcore fans of Dinamo Zagreb’s hardcore fans, light candles each May and lay wreaths at a monument to their comrades who were killed in the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s. They mark the anniversary of a riot during the 1990 match against Serbia’s Red Star Belgrade, their club’s most controversial match, as the first clash in the wars that erupted a year later and sparked the collapse of former Yugoslavia.

Fact of the matter is that sports like ping pong in Richard Nixon’s 1972 rapprochement with China or the improvement of ties between North and South Korea in the most recent Summer Olympics served as a useful tool, not a driver of events.

Sports is a useful tool in an environment in which key political players seek to build bridges and narrow differences.

The impact of soccer in the absence of a conducive environment created by political not sports players, is at best temporary relief, a blip on an otherwise bleak landscape.

The proof is in the pudding. Legend has it that British and German soldiers played soccer in no-man’s lands on Christmas Day in 2014, only to return to fighting World War One for another four years. Millions died in the war.

Similarly, Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites poured into the streets of Iraqi cities hugging each other in celebration of Iraq’s winning in 2007 of the Asia Cup at the height of the country’s sectarian violence only to return to killing each other a day later.

Soccer’s ability to shape or cement national identity is no different. In other words. football can be a rallying point for national identity but only if there is an environment that is conducive.

The problem is that soccer and the formation of national identity have one complicating trait in common: both often involve opposition to the other.

That is nowhere truer than in the Middle East and North Africa where soccer has played and plays an important role in identity formation since it was first introduced to the region in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Qatar has been in some ways the exception that proves the rule by plotting its sports strategy not only as a soft power tool or a pillar of public health policy but also as a component of national identity. That element has been strengthened by the rift in the Gulf and bolstered by this year’s Asian Cup victory.

Qatar’s efforts to strengthen its national identity benefits from the fact that the Gulf state no longer operates on the notion that Gulf states have to hang together. Today its hanging on its own in a conflict with three of its neighbours.

Soccer’s role in identity formation in the Middle East and North Africa was often because it was a battlefield, a battlefield for identity that was part of larger political struggles.

Clubs were often formed for that very reason. Attitudes towards the country’s monarchy in the early 20th century loomed large in the founding of Egypt’s Al Ahli SC and Al Zamalek SC, two of the Middle East and North Africa’s most storied clubs.

Clubs in Algeria were established as part of the anti-colonial struggle against the French. Ottoman and Iranian rulers used sports and soccer to foster national identity and take a first step towards incorporating youth in the development of a modern defense force.

Zionists saw sports and soccer as an important way of developing the New Jew, the muscular Jew. To Palestinians, it was a tool in their opposition to Zionist immigration. And finally, soccer was important in the shaping of ethnic or sub-national identities among Berbers, Kurds, East Bank Jordanians and Jordanian Palestinians.

In other words, soccer was inclusive in the sense of contributing to the formation of a collective identity. But it was also divisive because that identity was at the same time exclusionary and opposed to an other.

The long and short of this is that soccer is malleable. Its impact and fallout depend on forces beyond its control. Soccer is dependent on the environment shaped by political and social forces. It is a tool that is agnostic to purpose, not a driver or an independent actor.

Edited remarks at Brookings seminar in Doha: Lessons from the 2019 Asian Cup: Sports, Globalization, and Politics in the Arab World

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Syrian Coup de Grâce

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The Middle Eastern land has a diverse blend of history with conflicts and developments in knowledge. Where on one hand Baghdad was considered as the realm of knowledge on the other hand Constantinople was a symbol of power and domination. But now it seems that all has been shattered completely with conflicts.

The Middle Eastern landscape is facing its worst time ever: a phase of instability and misery. The oil ridden land is now becoming conflict ridden, from Euphrates to Persian Gulf; every inch seems to be blood stained nowadays.  The region became more like a chess board where kings are not kings but pawns and with each move someone is getting close to checkmate.

Starting from the spring which brought autumn in the Middle Eastern environment, now the curse is on Assyrian land where blood is being spilled, screams have took over the skies. The multi facet conflict has caused more than 400,000 deaths and 5 million seeking refuge abroad whereas 6 million displaced internally.

What began with a mere peaceful civil uprising, has now become a world stage with multiplayers on it. Tehran and Moscow are playing their own mantra by showing romance with Assad while Washington has its own way of gambling with kings in their hand. Involvement of catchy caliphate from 2014 is worsening the complexities of the Syrian saga. The deck is getting hot and becoming more and more mess, chemical strikes, tomahawk show, carpet bombing, stealth jets and many more, Syrian lands is now a market to sell the products exhibiting fine examples of military industrial complex. While to some, Syrian stage seems to be a mere regional proxy war, in reality it seems like a black hole taking whole region into its curse. One by one every inch of the country is turned into altar as the consequence of war. A country is now ripped into different territories with different claimants, but the question still remains as “Syria belongs to whom?”

The saga of Syrian dusk has its long roots in past and with each passing moment it is becoming a spiral of destruction. What is being witnessed in current scenario is just a glimpse of that spiral. It has already winded the region into it and if not resolve properly and maturely it can spread like a contagious disease that can take whole Middle East into its chakra.

With recent development in Iran nuclear deal which left whole world into shock; and house of Sauds forming strong bond with western power brokers and Israel, to counter Tehran (because kings of holy desert have so much engraved hatred towards shiaits, that they prefer to shake hands with Jews and establish an unholy alliance) is making matters worse. This all has the potential to push the region into further more sectarian rifts. With Syrian stage already set. The delicacy of the situation is not secluded from the palette of the world.

Despite the condemnations from across the globe, humanitarian watch remains blind and failed to address the issues in Syria leaving Syrians in long lasting agony and despair The symphony of pain and suffering continues in the Middle Eastern region while world watches like a vicious sadist, the region becomes a playground for major powers as ‘Uncle Sam” has their own interests in engaging, Kremlin have their own concerns same goes for every single actor who is party to the conflict.

The panacea to the Arabian pain is simple “a sincere determined approach” to the disease. Even if every party with draws from the conflict the situation can get worse due to the generated power vacuum and can make Syria a replica of Iraq. The Syrian grieve needs to be addressed through proper management skills, if not the curse is upon whole region.

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The battle for leadership of the Muslim world: Turkey plants its flag in Christchurch

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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When Turkish vice-president Fuat Oktay and foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu became this weekend the first high-level foreign government delegation to travel  to Christchurch they were doing more than expressing solidarity with New Zealand’s grieving Muslim community.

Messrs. Oktay and Cavusoglu were planting Turkey’s flag far and wide in a global effort to expand beyond the Turkic and former Ottoman world support for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s style of religiously-packaged authoritarian rule, a marriage of Islam and Turkish nationalism.

Showing footage of the rampage in Christchurch at a rally in advance of March 31 local elections, Mr. Erdogan declared that “there is a benefit in watching this on the screen. Remnants of the Crusaders cannot prevent Turkey’s rise.”

Mr. Erdogan went on to say that “we have been here for 1,000 years and God willing we will be until doomsday. You will not be able to make Istanbul Constantinople. Your ancestors came and saw that we were here. Some of them returned on foot and some returned in coffins. If you come with the same intent, we will be waiting for you too.”

Mr. Erdogan was responding to an assertion by Brenton Tarrant, the white supremacist perpetrator of the Christchurch attacks in which 49 people were killed in two mosques, that Turks were “ethnic soldiers currently occupying Europe.”

Messrs. Oktay and Cavusoglu’s visit, two days after the attacks, is one more facet of a Turkish campaign that employs religious as well as traditional diplomatic tools.

The campaign aims to establish Turkey as a leader of the Muslim world in competition with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and to a lesser degree Morocco.

As part of the campaign, Turkey has positioned itself as a cheerleader for Muslim causes such as Jerusalem and the Rohingya at a moment that Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other Muslim nations are taking a step back.

Although cautious not to rupture relations with Beijing, Turkey has also breached the wall of silence maintained by the vast majority of Muslim countries by speaking out against China’s brutal crackdown on Turkic Muslims in the troubled north-western province of Xinjiang.

Mr. Erdogan’s religious and traditional diplomatic effort has seen Turkey build grand mosques and/or cultural centres across the globe in the United States, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa and Asia, finance religious education and restore Ottoman heritage sites.

It has pressured governments in Africa and Asia to hand over schools operated by the Hizmet movement led by exiled preacher Fethullah Gulen. Mr. Erdogan holds Mr. Gulen responsible for the failed military coup in Turkey in 2016.

On the diplomatic front, Turkey has in recent years opened at least 26 embassies in Africa, expanded the Turkish Airlines network to 55 destinations in Africa, established military bases in Somalia and Qatar, and negotiated a long-term lease for Sudan’s Suakin Island in the Red Sea.

The Turkish religious campaign takes a leaf out of Saudi Arabia’s four decade long, USD 100 billion effort to globally propagate ultra-conservative Sunni Islam

Like the Saudis, Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) provides services to Muslim communities, organizes pilgrimages to Mecca, trains religious personnel, publishes religious literature, translates the Qur’an into local languages and funds students from across the world to study Islam at Turkish institutions.

Turkish Muslim NGOs provide humanitarian assistance in former parts of the Ottoman empire, the Middle East and Africa much like the Saudi-led World Muslim League and other Saudi governmental -non-governmental organizations, many of which have been shut down since the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.

Saudi Arabia, since the rise of crown prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2015, has significantly reduced global funding for ultra-conservatism.

Nonetheless, Turkey is at loggerheads with Saudi Arabia as well as the UAE over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi; Turkish support for Qatar in its dispute with the Saudis and Emiratis; differences over Libya, Syria and the Kurds; and Ankara’s activist foreign policy. Turkey is seeking to position itself as an Islamic alternative.

Decades of Saudi funding has left the kingdom’s imprint on the global Muslim community. Yet, Turkey’s current struggles with Saudi Arabia are more geopolitical than ideological.

While Turkey competes geopolitically with the UAE in the Horn of Africa, Libya and Syria, ideologically the two countries’ rivalry is between the UAE’s effort to establish itself as a centre of a quietist, apolitical Islam as opposed to Turkey’s activist approach and its support for the Muslim Brotherhood.

In contrast to Saudi Arabia that adheres to Wahhabism, an austere ultra-conservative interpretation of the faith, the UAE projects itself and its religiosity as far more modern, tolerant and forward looking.

The UAE’s projection goes beyond Prince Mohammed’s attempt to shave off the raw edges of Wahhabism in an attempt to present himself as a proponent of what he has termed moderate Islam.

The UAE scored a significant success with the first ever papal visit in February by Pope Francis I during which he signed a Document on Human Fraternity with Sheikh Ahmad al-Tayeb, the grand imam of Egypt’s Al-Azhar, the revered 1,000-year-old seat of Sunni Muslim learning.

The signing was the result of UAE-funded efforts of Egyptian general-turned-president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to depoliticize Islam and gain control of Al Azhar that Sheikh Al-Tayeb resisted despite supporting Mr. Al-Sisi’s 2013 military coup.

To enhance its influence within Al Azhar and counter that of Saudi Araba, the UAE has funded  Egyptian universities and hospitals and has encouraged Al Azhar to open a branch in the UAE.

The UAE effort paid off when the pope, in a public address, thanked Egyptian judge Mohamed Abdel Salam, an advisor to Sheikh Al-Tayeb who is believed to be close to both the Emiratis and Mr. Al-Sisi, for drafting the declaration.

“Abdel Salam enabled Al-Sisi to outmanoeuvre Al Azhar in the struggle for reform,” said an influential activist.

The Turkey-UAE rivalry has spilt from the geopolitical and ideological into competing versions of Islamic history.

Turkey last year renamed the street on which the UAE embassy in Ankara is located after an Ottoman general that was at the centre of a Twitter spat between Mr. Erdogan and UAE foreign minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan..

Mr. Erdogan responded angrily to the tweet that accused Fahreddin Pasha, who defended the holy city of Medina against the British in the early 20th century, of abusing the local Arab population and stealing their property as well as sacred relics from the Prophet Muhammad’s tomb,. The tweet described the general as one of Mr. Erdogan’s ancestors.

“When my ancestors were defending Medina, you impudent (man), where were yours? Some impertinent man sinks low and goes as far as accusing our ancestors of thievery. What spoiled this man? He was spoiled by oil, by the money he has,” Mr. Erdogan retorted, referring to Mr. Al-Nahyan.

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