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Sadly, ISIS will re­main alive as long as its fund­ing and well-oiled me­dia ma­chine con­tinue to op­er­ate


Al-Masry Al-Youm,

Egypt, Oc­to­ber 30

Is the Is­lamic State ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion near­ing its end with the death of its leader and caliph, Abu Bakr al-Bagh­dadi? Bagh­dadi had been wanted by Amer­i­can au­thor­i­ties for a long time. The me­dia al­ready re­ported in the past about his sup­posed in­jury, poi­son­ing and even death. The United States gov­ern­ment even al­lo­cated a $25 mil­lion re­ward for any­one pro­vid­ing in­for­ma­tion about his where­abouts.

We now know, based on ev­i­dence col­lected from in­ter­ro­ga­tions and the field, that Bagh­dadi was wor­ried for his safety and re­frained from us­ing tech­nol­ogy at any time. He was trav­el­ing with only five peo­ple he trusted and spend­ing mil­lions of dol­lars on his per­sonal se­cu­rity. One of his com­pan­ions, ar­rested by the Iraqi in­tel­li­gence ser­vices two months ago, re­vealed that the ISIS leader moved be­tween Syria and Iraq and lived in a se­cure un­der­ground com­pound that he rarely left.

How ironic that the man who spread ter­ror­ism around the world, who once con­trolled the fate of seven mil­lion peo­ple across Syria’s vast ter­ri­tory (and nearly a third of Iraq), lived in a con­stant state of fear and hid­ing. He was a para­noid man pre­tend­ing to a ruth­less leader.

Now, fol­low­ing Bagh­dadi’s death, we must ask our­selves what the fu­ture of his or­ga­ni­za­tion holds. Will it con­tinue to ex­ist? In­deed, the sur­vival of the or­ga­ni­za­tion depends on far more than the fate of its leader. Is­lamic State has long been a de­cen­tral­ized or­ga­ni­za­tion with dif­fer­ent branches and off­shoots around the world.

The hope within its lead­er­ship ranks is now to in­cite as many sym­pa­thiz­ers around the world as pos­si­ble to tar­get and kill Western­ers, es­pe­cially in coun­tries be­long­ing to the anti-ISIS coali­tion. Spon­ta­neous, lone-wolf at­tacks would have a tremen­dous im­pact on the ISIS pro­pa­ganda ma­chine. It is there­fore likely for such at­tacks to con­tinue un­fold­ing, even in Bagh­dadi’s ab­sence.

Sadly, the or­ga­ni­za­tion will re­main alive so long as its fund­ing and well-oiled me­dia ma­chine con­tinue to op­er­ate. Ac­cord­ing to sev­eral ex­perts, ISIS is the rich­est ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion in the world, with a for­tune es­ti­mated at over a tril­lion dol­lars. It con­tin­ues to bring in mil­lions of dol­lars a year in rev­enue, mostly through the sale of oil and gas, as well as from pro­ceeds of taxes and fees im­posed by the or­ga­ni­za­tions on ar­eas it oc­cu­pied in Syria and Iraq.

The smug­gling of an­tiq­ui­ties, along­side ran­som money re­ceived in ex­change for hostages, is yet an­other source of in­come en­joyed by the group. The big­gest fear at the mo­ment is that th­ese sleeper cells, which have been dor­mant for months, will sud­denly wake from their slum­bers and carry out at­tacks. Bagh­dadi may have been elim­i­nated, but his legacy will cer­tainly en­dure among his fol­low­ers.

– Sa­har al-Jaeara



The Turk­ish in­cur­sion into north­east­ern Syria and the agree­ment be­tween Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin and Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan are se­ri­ous el­e­ments of con­cern to Wash­ing­ton. In­formed sources in Congress and among US-based ex­perts on Tur­key claim that the ground is still shak­ing un­der the feet of Er­do­gan and US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

I ar­rived in Wash­ing­ton in mid-Oc­to­ber and soon no­ticed that the me­dia was seek­ing an­swers. Why is Trump con­sis­tently pur­su­ing Er­do­gan? What is the mo­tive be­hind the US pres­i­dent’s ac­qui­es­cence to his de­mands? The an­swers are not yet clear, but they may very well be­come clear in the up­com­ing weeks or months, un­cov­er­ing even more scan­dals and du­bi­ous busi­ness ties be­tween the Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion and its al­lies in Tur­key.

The more we ex­am­ine US-Turk­ish re­la­tions, the more con­fus­ing they be­come. Amer­ica’s key in­sti­tu­tions have fallen into a re­mark­able state of si­lence on Ankara. Pe­ri­odic brief­ings at the State Depart­ment have stopped, leav­ing jour­nal­ists to guess what the fu­ture of th­ese bi­lat­eral re­la­tions hold.

The cur­rent po­lar­iza­tion in Congress is re­flected by the daily zigzag of mem­bers torn be­tween prin­ci­ple-based ac­tion and tac­tics based on per­sonal in­ter­ests. Rapid shifts in the tone of Re­pub­li­can Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham, the main driver of Tur­key sanc­tions in Congress, are a clear ex­am­ple of this dilemma: Should Repub­li­cans main­tain their loy­alty to Trump or chal­lenge him with tougher sanc­tions on Tur­key?

An­other source of con­fu­sion is the series of sharply con­tra­dic­tory Twit­ter tirades launched by Trump on a daily ba­sis. “Any­thing is pos­si­ble at any mo­ment,” one source told me. Will there be sanc­tions? If so, how far-reach­ing will they be? Is Er­do­gan’s an­nounced visit to the White House a fore­gone mat­ter? What about invit­ing Gen. Ma­zloum Kobani, the Kur­dish com­man­der of the SDF, to Wash­ing­ton? Even the most ex­pe­ri­enced Tur­key and White House ex­perts can­not say any­thing for sure.

While some sug­gest that the Gra­ham-Van Hollin bill on Turk­ish sanc­tions has lost mo­men­tum, a con­gres­sional source cited an­other bill – pre­pared by Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee chair­man [and Re­pub­li­can] Jim Risch, and Demo­cratic Sen­a­tor Bob Me­nen­dez [the com­mit­tee’s rank­ing mem­ber] – as a mea­sure that could be po­lit­i­cally vi­able.

Un­til then, Er­do­gan is likely to have com­pleted his visit to Wash­ing­ton, and as the sources pre­dict, the two pres­i­dents will em­bark on a new phase to re­pel their op­po­nents. Based on th­ese ex­pec­ta­tions, ob­servers also con­clude that sanc­tions will not be forth­com­ing any­time soon.

What will Er­do­gan ask Trump? This ques­tion con­cerns many. Ob­servers agree on one is­sue: Er­do­gan will firmly de­mand that his coun­ter­part can­cel all pro­ceed­ings

against Halk­bank, the Turk­ish fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tion sub­jected to a crim­i­nal case for vi­o­lat­ing US sanc­tions on Iran.

Er­do­gan may also re­quest fi­nan­cial sup­port for his trou­bled econ­omy, and in re­turn may prom­ise to with­draw his troops from Syria and re­lease some US em­bassy staff held in Turk­ish jails. Will there be any change in the rules of the game that would spoil the re­mark­able co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the two pres­i­dents and pre­vent them from grow­ing closer?

The only fac­tor, ob­servers agree, will be to un­cover the mys­te­ri­ous deal that binds them to­gether. Un­der such cir­cum­stances, Congress will have no choice but to pass ag­gres­sive sanc­tions on Ankara and pur­sue Trump’s im­peach­ment with even greater vigor. – Yawiz Bi­dar



Saudi Ara­bia, Oc­to­ber 31

The up­ris­ings we are wit­ness­ing in Iraq and Le­banon may very well suc­ceed, but what is clear from the very out­set of th­ese demon­stra­tions is the fol­low­ing: Regimes in so­ci­eties that are torn apart by sec­tar­ian ten­sions are doomed to fail.

This is one of my well-es­tab­lished con­vic­tions that I have writ­ten about ex­ten­sively in the past: Those who ad­vo­cate for demo­cratic re­forms in so­ci­eties plagued by deep par­ti­san and sec­tar­ian di­vi­sions are rush­ing to put the cart be­fore the horse. Sadly, it is my be­lief that while many politi­cians in the Arab world are well-aware of this re­al­ity, they rush to pur­sue the lofty ideas of de­moc­ra­ti­za­tion and lib­er­al­iza­tion as an ex­cuse to con­sol­i­date their own power.

If his­tory has taught us any­thing, it is that the force­ful im­po­si­tion of democ­racy in en­vi­ron­ments that are not ready to deal with this type of po­lit­i­cal cul­ture will in­evitably lead to ram­pant ad­min­is­tra­tive and fi­nan­cial cor­rup­tion. What ap­plies to Le­banon’s pol­i­tics also ap­plies to Iraq’s pol­i­tics, where law­mak­ers pro­tect them­selves from in­ves­ti­ga­tions thanks to sec­tar­ian im­mu­nity.

In ad­di­tion to be­ing plagued by cor­rup­tion, both Le­banon and Iraq are pro­tected by the guardian state in Iran, where cor­rup­tion, theft and crony­ism are the modus operandi. Iran’s sys­tem of clien­telism al­lows Tehran to wield its power in other coun­tries by brib­ing pow­er­ful politi­cians in re­turn for their sup­port of pro-Iran agen­das, even when th­ese agen­das un­der­mine the sovereignt­y and in­de­pen­dence of the very states the politi­cians claim to pro­tect.

The only way to en­sure the de­vel­op­ment of so­ci­eties plagued by sec­tar­ian strife is to avoid the pit­fall of rapid de­moc­ra­ti­za­tion. Democ­racy, im­ple­mented hastily, will only hold th­ese so­ci­eties back and cre­ate a breed­ing ground for cor­rup­tion and theft. – Muham­mad al-Sheikh



What is hap­pen­ing in the re­gion – from the fail­ure of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood in Egypt and Tu­nisia to the cur­rent anti-cor­rup­tion demon­stra­tions in Iraq and Le­banon – should leave us ask­ing: Will po­lit­i­cal Is­lam grad­u­ally dis­ap­pear from our re­gion?

Egyp­tians are still trau­ma­tized by the rule of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, un­der which fi­nan­cial mis­man­age­ment and po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence reached un­prece­dented lev­els. The fall of Broth­er­hood pres­i­dent Mo­hammed Morsi sent shock waves across the Arab world, par­tic­u­larly among pro­po­nents of po­lit­i­cal Is­lam such as Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan and his Jus­tice and De­vel­op­ment Party.

Just as the Egyp­tian peo­ple con­fronted po­lit­i­cal Is­lam in Egypt, so did the peo­ple of Al­ge­ria and Su­dan in their own coun­tries. The Al­ge­rian peo­ple en­dured hun­dreds of thou­sands of deaths dur­ing the 1990s at the hands of Is­lamist mili­tias, but did not lose hope. Even­tu­ally, san­ity pre­vailed, and the Is­lamic Sal­va­tion Front (FIS) was forced to dis­arm and dis­band. In Su­dan, demon­stra­tors were able to sack their pres­i­dent, Gen. Omar al-Bashir, a sym­pa­thizer and ally of the Na­tional Is­lamic Front, af­ter 30 years in power.

There was also the se­ces­sion of South Su­dan. Even in Iraq, af­ter the fall of the Sad­dam Hus­sein regime and his Baath Party, demon­stra­tions have re­volved around op­po­si­tion to a gov­ern­ment backed by po­lit­i­cal par­ties of Is­lam.

Even in Le­banon, for the first time, the Lebanese peo­ple re­al­ized that their main en­emy was the en­emy from within, which did not pro­vide them with a de­cent life and min­i­mal well be­ing. Pro­test­ers have shown a high de­gree of unity re­gard­less of sec­tar­ian and po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tion.

For the first time since the for­ma­tion of Hezbol­lah in the 1980s, Lebanese Shi’ites have turned against it. In Na­batiya, a Hezbol­lah strong­hold, Shi’ite pro­test­ers burned the of­fices of Hezbol­lah lead­ers. In Tu­nisia, too, the re­cent elec­tions re­flected the de­cline of po­lit­i­cal Is­lam. In the first round of the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, the can­di­date en­dorsed by the En­nahda move­ment, the lo­cal Mus­lim Broth­er­hood af­fil­i­ate, came in third, mak­ing him inel­i­gi­ble for the fi­nal round. Tu­nisians have grown deeply dis­trust­ful of En­nahda, es­pe­cially af­ter rev­e­la­tions of the party’s in­volve­ment in the es­tab­lish­ment of a spy net­work tar­get­ing cit­i­zens, politi­cians and se­cu­rity per­son­nel.

The end of po­lit­i­cal Is­lam depends on the adop­tion of an al­ter­na­tive project by na­tional lead­ers. Lead­ers of the Arab world must pro­mote poli­cies that meet the needs of their peo­ple and pro­vide them with ba­sic ser­vices, jobs and anti-cor­rup­tion mea­sures. They must also in­vest in eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, es­pe­cially among youth. The era of empty slo­gans is near­ing its end. The time has come for real po­lit­i­cal ac­count­abil­ity in the Mid­dle East. – Na­jat al-Saeed

The more we ex­am­ine USTurk­ish re­la­tions, the more con­fus­ing they be­come

(Alaa al-Mar­jani/Reuters)

IRAQI YOUTH watch the news of Is­lamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Bagh­dadi’s death, in Na­jaf, Iraq, on Oc­to­ber 27.

(Kevin La­mar­que/Reuters)

US PRES­I­DENT Don­ald Trump at­tends a bi­lat­eral meet­ing with Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan dur­ing the G20 lead­ers sum­mit in Osaka, Japan, on June 29.

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