‘Trump-Modi nexus’ could spell disaster for regional peace: AJK president

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTANI NEWSPAPER DAWN)

Azad Jammu and Kashmir President Sardar Mohammad Masood Khan in a statement on Tuesday warned that a “Trump-Modi nexus” could spell disaster to regional peace.

The statement follows a meeting between US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in the run-up to which the US State Department had designated Hizbul Mujahideen leader Syed Salahuddin a global terrorist and slapped sanctions on him ─ a move slammed by the Foreign Office today as ‘completely unjustified’.

Read more: Unjust to designate supporters of Kashmiri struggle as terrorists: FO

The White House had called on Pakistan to ensure that its territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries, a statement from the White House said.

Sardar Khan, who retired from the foreign service of Pakistan as a career diplomat, claimed that the US had always deceived Pakistan and its latest decision was yet another example of it.

“The US has never acknowledged Pakistan’s sacrifices despite the latter’s being a frontline state in the war against terrorism,” he said.

Khan questioned the justification of the US decision, claiming that the Hizbul Mujahideen had been struggling solely for freedom of India-held Kashmir (IHK), and was neither linked to any terrorist group nor had resorted to any action outside IHK.

“In fact, it’s the Indian army committing terrorism in occupied Kashmir. Ignoring the genocide of Kashmiris by Indian army and declaring freedom fighters as terrorists is a criminal departure from international humanitarian and democratic norms by the US,” he claimed.

Kashmiris protest US move

Hundreds of people from different walks of life staged a rally in the capital of Azad Jammu and Kashmir to condemn the US administration’s decision of designating Salahuddin a terrorist.

Demonstrators started the rally from Muzaffarabad’s famous Burhan Wani Chowk, named after a Hizbul Mujahideen commander who was killed by Indian forces in IHK last year.

Just in front of them, a large Indian tricolour flag was also placed on the ground with two young children standing on it.

Amid loud anti-India and pro-freedom slogans, it was later torched by the demonstrators.

Representatives of separatist groups and political parties took strong exception to the decision which they termed a reprehensible attempt by the Trump administration to please India.

Speaking at the rally, Khawaja Farooq Ahmed, a senior leader of the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and a former AJK minister, claimed it was the weak foreign policy of the PML-N led government in Islamabad that had encouraged the Trump administration to take this step during Modi’s visit.

“If you are serious in your avowals of extending diplomatic, political and moral support to the Kashmiris, then you should show some strength and as a first step summon the US and Indian envoys in [the] Foreign Office to lodge [a] protest over this unfair decision,” he said, addressing the federal government.

Ahmed also asked the AJK government to give a strike call on both sides of disputed Kashmir, like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had given for February 28, 1974, to express rejection of the US decision.

“All political parties and mujahideen groups should be taken on board to make this strike a historic one,” he said.

PPP leader Shaukat Javed Mir and several others also spoke on the occasion.

Anger from Qatar

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Anger from Qatar

In May 2014, Bloomberg published statements of former Qatari prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim: “It is our right to make Qatar seem as the most important country in the world. But the problem is that some Arab countries did not play their role properly so when we played our role some thought that we are taking theirs.”

These statements were reiterated since the former emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa took over the rule in the country in 1995 – they brief the strategic targets of the Qatari foreign policy but the political reality says that no state can do the role of another.

Bahrain, for example, can’t do Egypt’s role and Saudi Arabia can’t do the role of UK. Doha continued through its endless provoking and throughout the past twenty years it was in a quest to achieve its goal in becoming a regional power even if at the expense of the Gulf countries and the region’s security and stability.

Aside from statements claimed to be said by Emir of Qatar and that Doha is denying, they actually represent the Qatari policy since Qatar has always used contradictions as a way to deal with brotherly countries.

The Gulf countries – including Qatar – take strict stances towards Iran during the meetings of the GCC to stop its intervention and to face its expanding project. In October 2015, Doha signed with Tehran a military security agreement. Qatar participates in the Decisive Storm in Yemen that has a major goal to put an end to the Iranian power.

Few months later on, the emir said in the UN that the relation with Tehran is developing and growing continuously based on common interests and good neighborliness. When the Gulf summit was held in Doha, leaders were surprised by the attendance of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad upon a Qatari invitation as an honor guest.

Bahrain is suffering turbulence that has exceeded demands of reforms and constitutional kingship into aborting it and establishing a republican regime in the country. The Gulf countries refuse these acts because any chaos in a country would sure transfer to the neighboring ones.

But Doha is being impartial and is suggesting initiatives that go in favor of the militias supported by Iran. Al Jazeera, the diplomatic media arm of Qatar, has continued to support the chaotic forces in Bahrain and described them as a “national revolution”.

The Gulf countries fight terrorism fiercely while Doha – unfortunately – has a different agenda. It hosts the Muslim Brotherhood and funds it. It granted al-Qaeda leaders a media platform they used to dream of. It also presented al-Nusra Front as a “moderate force” and promoted for its separation from the terrorist al-Qaeda group.

Recently, the agreement to release Qatari captives from Iraq took place and displaced four Syrian towns as a price.

Guarantors of the agreement included Iran and Nusra Front. In 2014, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain summoned their ambassadors from Doha after accusing it of threatening the security and political stability of the Gulf countries through supporting Muslim Brotherhood figures in the Gulf.

Also, the Qatari funds have threatened the whole region after reports that have proven Qatar’s support to Nusra Front. It also backed the anti- Saudi, Emirate and Bahraini media through transforming Qatari institutions into platforms to attack them. Qatar also funded figures that object over the ruling regime in these countries in addition to recruiting political funds and public relations companies in the US and West to damage the Gulf interests.

After Qatari pledges, the three ambassadors returned after nine months under one condition that Doha abides by Riyadh Agreement. However, Qatar did not – a Gulf official told me that the former Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiyah considered that the agreement was over with the death of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud who sponsored the agreement.

The justifications that pushed Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain to summon their ambassadors then still exist today, nothing has changed.

Every state has the right to follow policies that comply with their interests and there is no condition in the international policy that imposes identical stances among countries. However if these policies damaged the regional security, led to chaos and shook stability then no state would be as patient as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.

If Doha doesn’t change its policies that are damaging its neighbors and threatening their national security then any return would be useless and a dead end would be reached.

Salman Al-dossary

Salman Al-dossary

Salman Aldosary is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

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Peace for Israel, Palestine Requires Breaking The ‘Zero-Sum’ Game

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Peace for Israel, Palestine Requires Breaking The ‘Zero-Sum’ Game

Negotiations around a settlement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, whether within a framework of one state or two states, have historically tended towards what is commonly referred to as ‘zero sum’ game – where the gains of one party are directly proportional to the losses of the other. A one-state solution would provide stability, civil rights, equality, and recognition for Palestinians, but in light of their rising population it threatens the very existence of a “Jewish State”; similarly, the establishment of a sovereign Palestine along 1967 lines neighboring Israel would require the eviction of over 600,000 Israeli settlers currently in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Today, in the words of Palestinian Ambassador to the UK Manuel Hassassian, “both Palestinians and Israelis are stuck between the historically inevitable and the politically impossible”.

Yet the struggle for peace seems rooted in the false premise that “a solution” exists and that we need only decide which to choose. In reality, however, the failure to resolve the conflict to date comes about not primarily as a result of the content of the plans, but rather the need for a shift in attitudes. Throughout over 70 years of conflict, three perpetual obstacles have lain on the path to peace: trust, security, and justice. Complicating matters, the longer these remain issues, the more difficult they become to resolve.

Fostering trust is an integral key to any peace negotiations; without this all efforts are wasted energy on fruitless diplomacy; central to the trust-building exercise is the dispelling of myths, prejudices, and misinformation. Over the decades and throughout numerous Israeli and Palestinian leaderships, positions have become entrenched based upon what each group thinks about “the other”: today, many Israelis believe Palestinians do not want peace, or at a stretch the borders of 1948 Palestine; on the other side, many Palestinians believe that Israel wants all the territory from the Nile to the Euphrates. Conversely, the truth is both sides actually have similar desires: stability, peace, prosperity, and a viable deal to facilitate these.

Such misunderstandings are, naturally, politically useful for scapegoating both among an increasingly right-wing Israeli government and within the militant Gazan leadership. Moreover, they are perpetuated by the daily lives of both peoples: unlike Arab Israelis in Haifa or Jaafa, Palestinians in the Occupied Territories are not permitted to mingle freely with their Israeli neighbors. Beyond entire generations that have grown up under occupation, the result is that a majority of Palestinians have never had personal contact with an Israeli outside of IDF uniform – one must question what psychological impact of such limited experience has upon a people; likewise, many Israelis have rare personal interactions with Palestinians, who are generally tarred with the same brush as not only personal threats – bombers, terrorists, knife-wielders – but also existential ones – anti-Zionists and revolutionaries. Against this backdrop, it becomes evident that there is simply no environment or opportunity for the necessary trust-building: economic, cultural, and even political.

In this respect, there are lessons that can be learnt from Northern Ireland, where a fundamental part of success was the refusal to concede to binary narratives of Catholics or Protestants. Leadership on both sides in Israel and Palestine must be willing to move closer – a Trimble for every Paisley, a De Klerk to each Mandela, a contemporary Rabin to every Arafat. Leadership on both sides are responsible for building bridges; it is only through this that communication can improve and a sense of solidarity can be built. The intellectual wherewithal to disbelieve propaganda about a group in a vacuum is a difficult task, yet it becomes easier through the lived experience of interaction with them and seeing firsthand that information being spread is erroneous. As US President Abraham Lincoln once famously said, “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.”

One of the by-products of this misinformation has been the Israeli focus on security, resulting in much despair: a security wall deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice; checkpoints that exacerbate already prohibitive employment opportunities for Palestinians; and a policy of “defensive borders” that is a thinly veiled cover for further appropriation of Palestinian land, despite its failure to end rocket and mortar attacks by Hamas. Gaza has, since Israeli exit, been used as justification that Palestinians cannot be left to their own devices and to underline the need for a continued, hard military presence. To focus on Gaza, however, belies the reality that intricately-woven security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has been a continuing success for many years. Ultimately, the Israeli government must heed the bottom line recognized by its own military: nothing will provide lasting security for Israel, Iron Dome included, more than peace.

Finally, the issue of justice – a matter that can only begin to take shape once ongoing crimes come to an end and with the recognition of historical wrongs; history, however, teaches us that it is rarely swift. Over a century passed between the beginning of the practice of the Stolen Generations in Australia and an acknowledgement of government wrongdoing by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd; following the lengthy Saville Report in the UK, former Prime Minister David Cameron issued a formal apology for the actions of the British Forces on Bloody Sunday, over 40 years after the massacre; and, only weeks ago, France’s President Emmanuel Macron referred to French colonization of Algeria – which gained independence in 1962 – as a “crime against humanity”. The day will come, also, when a future Israeli government must apologize for wholesale crimes: forced evictions, extra-judicial killings, land grabs, severe curtailment of human rights, and economic suffocation of the Palestinian people – the reconciliation of Palestinians and Israelis depends upon it.

Incidents such as the free BBQ organised by Ichud Leumi outside Ofer military prison to taunt detained Palestinians on hunger strike highlight not only a visceral lack of humanity shown by some Israelis towards their fellow human beings but the chasm that is yet to be overcome between parties. Extremist views are held on both side in the vain hope that hammering can fix what requires a screwdriver. Such behavior ignores a core fact all-too-often neglected for its inconvenience and unpalatability to some: Israel and Palestine, for better or worse, are in a symbiotic relationship; neither state can ever achieve peace or security without the assistance, cooperation, and complicity of the other the assistance and complicity of the other.

Breaking the cycle of a ‘zero-sum’ game requires that Israel and Hamas realize that the promotion of rights for one party does not lessen those of the others – there is no finite quantity of rights or privileges that must be apportioned between the two sides. Searching for deep-rooted trust, lasting security, and meaningful justice are key to peace for all citizens, whether in one state or two. The sooner this is realized by both the general public and politicians in Israel and Palestine, the sooner they can begin the transition towards a much-needed more inclusive, constructive type of national and personal politics.

Palestinians welcome Trump’s talk of peace but offer lessons in two-state demands

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Palestinians welcome Trump’s talk of peace but offer lessons in two-state demands

President Trump discussed how to fight terrorism and improve international relations during a speech alongside Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on May 23 in Bethlehem. (The Washington Post)
May 23 at 9:40 AM
President Trump told Israelis and Palestinians on Tuesday that he knows they are eager to reach a peace agreement with each other and that he is committed to helping them “make a deal.”In a speech at the Israel Museum as he prepared to end his four-day trip to the Middle East and depart for his next stop in Rome, Trump repeated his call for Arab countries and Israel to form a grand coalition with the United States to “drive out the terrorists and the extremists from our midst” and “defend our citizens and the people of the world.”

“This trip is focused on that goal,” he said.

Trump recognized that Israeli-Palestinian peace is a key component of cooperation in the region, although he has not outlined how he hopes to achieve an agreement that has eluded many presidents before him.

Trump on Middle East peace deal: ‘We’re going to get there eventually, I hope’
Speaking in Jerusalem, May 22, President Trump lauded Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “commitment to pursuing the peace process.” (The Washington Post)

In some respects, his effusive praise for Israel during his two days here — which also included a Tuesday morning visit to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank — appeared to endorse Israeli claims to a united capital in Jerusalem.

Noting that Jerusalem is a “sacred city,” and that “the ties of the Jewish people to this holy land are ancient and eternal,” Trump recalled his Monday visits to the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, sites sacred to Jews and Christians in East Jerusalem, part of the West Bank, and claimed by Palestinians as the capital of their envisioned state.

To sustained applause, Trump cited the “unbreakable bond” between the United States and Israel, a place he called “a testament to the unbreakable spirit of the Jewish people.” He spoke of “a future where Jewish, Christian and Muslim children can grow up together in peace.”

“America’s security partnership with Israel is stronger than ever,” he said. “Under my administration, you see the difference. Big, big beautiful difference, including the Iron Dome missile defense program . . . [and] David’s Sling,” an aircraft interception system. The former was established here under the Obama administration, the latter under President George W. Bush.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Trump, who introduced him and praised “the leadership that you bring,” condemned Monday night’s terrorist attack in Britain, claimed by the Islamic State.

But in describing the authors of global terrorism, Trump focused nearly all his attention on Iran and the anti-Israel organizations it supports, Hezbollah and Hamas. Iran’s leaders, he said, “routinely call for Israel’s destruction. Not with Donald J. Trump,” he said. “Believe me.”

Key moments from Trump’s news conference with Netanyahu
Here is President Trump’s May 22 joint news conference in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in less than two minutes. (The Washington Post)

“The United States is firmly committed to keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon and halting their support of terrorism and militias,” Trump said to sustained applause as Netanyahu stood and pumped his fist.

The audience included U.S. and Israeli officials, as well as prominent citizens from both. Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, who donated millions of dollars to support Trump’s campaign and then his inauguration, were seated just behind the stage, near first lady Melania Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Before his speech, Trump and his delegation visited the World Holocaust Remembrance Center at Yad Vashem, where he said the Jewish people had built the state of Israel out of the “depths of suffering” as “a testament to [their] unbreakable spirit.”

Earlier, he had traveled to Bethlehem for a private meeting with Abbas to discuss the peace process and his vision for anti-terrorism cooperation.

In joint remarks afterward, Abbas said he welcomed Trump’s efforts, which had “given all the nations across the region so much hope and optimism of the possibility of making a dream come true.”

“Our commitment is to cooperate with you in order to make peace and forge a historic peace deal with the Israelis,” Abbas added.

But while Trump spoke in generalities about the goal, Abbas laid out the specifics of Palestinian demands — which have been supported by the Arabs and rejected by Israel through decades of unsuccessful peace negotiations shepherded by American presidents.

“We reassert to you our positions of a two-state solution along the borders of 1967, a state of Palestine with its capital in East Jerusalem, living alongside of Israel,” he said, referring to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank following a war against three Arab armies.

During the presidential campaign, Trump pledged to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but the plan has been shelved, at least temporarily.

Abbas said he had also drawn Trump’s attention to more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel who have been on a hunger strike for over a month, led by Marwan Barghouti, whom supporters call the Palestinian Nelson Mandela.

Abbas delivered to Trump a letter from the families of the strikers, who have demanded more family visits, access to telephones, medical care, the freedom to study and cessation of isolation as a punishment.

Israel and some U.S. lawmakers have objected to American aid to the Palestinians, claiming the money is used to make payments to the families of prisoners, who are considered “freedom fighters” among many Palestinians. Trump did not mention the aid or the payments in his public remarks.

Abbas also spoke of Palestinian insistence that all “final status issues” be resolved “based on international law” and United Nations resolutions, as well as the Arab Peace Initiative first offered more than a decade ago. It promised Arab recognition of Israel in exchange for a Palestinian state.

Escorted by Israeli police and helicopters, Trump and his delegation sped down Hebron Road and found themselves, just minutes from their Jerusalem hotel, at the gates of Bethlehem in the West Bank.

The closeness of Bethlehem — the physical proximity between Israel and the Palestinian territory — surprised most first-time visitors in the entourage.

Trump and the convoy passed through the 26-foot-tall concrete wall with watch towers that is Israel’s barrier and past “Checkpoint 300,” where thousands of Palestinian workers cross into Israel each morning to reach their jobs on construction sites.

Trump has cited the Israeli barrier as an example of the kind of wall he wants to build between the United States and Mexico, but many Palestinians view it as a symbol of oppression.

Bethlehem is lively and crowded, home to Palestinian Muslims and Christians and the Church of the Nativity, the Byzantine-era sacred site built over the grotto where the faithful believe Jesus was born.

The city is also surrounded by hilltop Jewish settlements on three sides, built in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, communities that most of the world considers illegal, though Israel disputes this.

Later, Trump told his museum audience that after his meeting with Abbas, “I can tell you the Palestinians are ready to reach for peace … I know you’ve heard it before. I’m telling you, they are ready to reach for peace.

“My good friend Benjamin [Netanyahu], he wants peace.” Both sides, he said, “will face tough decisions. But with determination and compromise … Israelis and Palestinians can make a deal.”

There was no applause from the audience.

Ruth Eglash in Jerusalem contributed to this article.

Leaders Begin Arriving in Riyadh for Arab-Islamic-US Summit

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Saudi Arabia

Leaders Begin Arriving in Riyadh for Arab-Islamic-US Summit

The leaders and heads of delegations of Arab and Islamic countries began arriving in Riyadh on Saturday to attend the Arab-Islamic-US summit that will be held in the Saudi capital the next day during US President Donald Trump’s visit.

Trump and the Arab and Muslim leaders will meet on Sunday to address ways of building more robust and effective security partnerships to counter and prevent the growing threat of terrorism and violent extremism around the globe through promoting tolerance and moderation.

Among those who arrived were Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, President Adama Barrow of Gambia, President Roch Marc Christian Kabore of Burkina Faso, the head of the Libyan National Accord, Fayez al-Sarraj, President Alpha Conde of Guinea, President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, President Alassane Ouattara of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire, Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia, Omani Deputy Prime Minister Fahd bin Mahmud Al Said, President David Arthur Granger of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, President Patrice Talon of the Republic of Benin, President Macky Sall of the Republic of Senegal, Suriname’s Foreign Minister Yildiz Pollack, and President Emomali Rahmon of Tajikistan.

Trump and First Lady Melania arrived in Riyadh earlier Saturday. The Custodian of the two Holy Mosques welcomed the US president at the King Khalid International Airport.

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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Is President Trump Bluffing Again? Or, Does He Actually Know Something?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Opinion

If Trump has a Strategy on Israeli-Palestinian Peace, it’s Remaining a Secret

If President Trump has a real strategy to make progress on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, it’s such a tightly held secret that even the parties involved don’t seem to know what it is. When Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visits the White House this week, that mystery will be on full display.

“I want to see peace with Israel and the Palestinians,” Trump said last week. “There is no reason there’s not peace between Israel and the Palestinians — none whatsoever.”

Setting aside the patent absurdity of that statement, what’s clear is that the White House is willing to devote time and attention to new Middle East negotiations and the president wants to be personally involved.

The problem is there’s a glaring gap between Trump’s high-flying rhetoric and his still-unexplained strategy. As the Abbas visit approaches, there’s no clarity in sight.

Last week, a high-level Palestinian delegation led by chief negotiator Saeb Erekat traveled to Washington to prepare for the visit. The group met with Trump’s envoy on Middle East peace, Jason Greenblatt, as well as with White House and State Department officials.

Both sides are keeping expectations for the Trump-Abbas meeting low. Palestinian officials tell me the Trump team doesn’t seem to know exactly what Trump wants to discuss or propose. White House staff declined to say anything at all about their goals for the meeting. Some experts think that’s because there’s no depth to Trump’s approach.

“How you deal with Abbas is directly related to a broader strategy, which unless they haven’t announced it, they simply don’t have,” said former Middle East negotiator Aaron David Miller. “It’s hard to see that this is going to turn out to be much more than a stage visit.”

In truth, there really isn’t much Trump and Abbas can agree to. There’s little hope that Abbas will give Trump what the US side wants, namely a promise to address the issue of incitement in the Palestinian territories or a pledge to curb the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s policy of paying families of terrorists who have attacked Israelis and Americans.

Likewise, there’s no prospect that Trump will deliver what Abbas wants — a commitment to press the Israelis into a freeze of settlement-building that would meet Palestinian standards. The United States has secured an informal agreement with the government of Benjamin Netanyahu to place some limits on building new settlements, a version of the “build up, not out” framework from the George W. Bush administration. But that falls short of what Abbas says is needed before negotiations can begin.

The meeting could be significant by itself, if Trump and Abbas can establish a personal rapport to build on in the future. But therein also lies a risk.

“The president has never met Abbas and that makes it an important meeting,” said former White House and State Department official Elliott Abrams. “But if he forms the opinion that Abbas is not strong enough to do a deal and then implement it, that will have a real impact on American policy.”

Sure to be present at the meeting is Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is overseeing Greenblatt’s work. Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, will reportedly join Donald Trump for a trip to Israel in late May.

Administration officials sometimes talk about an “outside-in” approach whereby a framework for peace negotiations would be arranged with Arab states and then folded into the Israeli-Palestinian dynamic. Details of that plan are hazy, and the Trump team has yet to explain how it plans to incentivize Arab states to buy in.

Martin Indyk, who served as President Barack Obama’s special envoy on this issue, said Trump’s approach of trying to find avenues to pursue is positive but cannot overcome the inability of Israeli and Palestinian leaders to make the political compromises necessary for real progress.

“Based on experience, there’s one principle that I operate on. By American willpower alone, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be resolved,” he said.

There are things the Trump team can do constructively, including bolstering Abbas by promoting economic development in the West Bank, Indyk said. Making small progress on the margins could improve the chances for peace down the line.

But by going for headlines, not trend lines, Trump is raising expectations and putting his administration’s already-thin credibility at risk. There can be dangerous consequences in the Middle East when high-stakes diplomacy fails. The new administration would be better off recognizing that peace is not in the offing.

The Washington Post

History Made in South Africa as #NationalDayofPrayer Draws Over a Million Believers

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN CHRISTIAN NEWS AGENCY)

History Made in SA as #NationalDayofPrayer Draws Over a Million Believers

IT’S TIME!!!

A crowd of over a million believers from across the country made their way to Free State on Saturday for the National Day of Prayer, organized by Evangelist Angus Buchan.  People from all walks of life were gathered at the Wilde Als farm just outside Bloemfontein for what has been dubbed as the biggest prayer meeting in the history of South Africa.

The multiracial crowd united to pray for justice, peace and hope in South Africa. Buchan began by teaching on prayer, citing the passage about Jesus praying at the Garden of Gethsemane before going to the cross. He also reminded the crowd of the words spoken by Moses before God parted the Red Sea to make way for the Israelites.

“Today, we are witnessing history.  History is in the making today. This gathering is a prayer meeting, it is not a gospel concert. It is not even an evangelistic outreach, it is a prayer meeting.  We are going to pray together and as individuals,” the evangelist added.

The Shalom Ministries Founder told the crowd his vision to host the event was born after he received a video from a Christian leader to get believers together in one place and pray to God to heal the land. However, it was only after God gave him confirmation that he heeded to the call. The words given to him by the Almighty, regarding the event, were simple: “It’s Time” and “One Million”.

“We say there is no other God save Jesus Christ and Him alone.  We will not serve any other God save the Lord Jesus Christ.  Please forgive us for compromising our nation, our family and our future.  From today onwards, we promise to stand up for truth and righteousness at all costs,” said Buchan, leading the crowd of a million in prayer.

Political leaders including Kenneth Meshoe, leader of the ACDP and Mmusi Maimane, leader of the DA, also attended in their personal capacity.

Before descending the stage, Buchan said that he was waiting for a day when Parliament will be opened with prayer every morning.

“Through prayer, this country will change in one day.  We want to see love and peace prevail in the new government,” he concluded.

www.thechristiannews.co.za

Sadr Delegation Holds Talks with Kurdistan Leadership

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Middle East

Sadr Delegation Holds Talks with Kurdistan Leadership

Sadr

Headed by Ahmed al-Sadr, son of the movement’s leader Moqtada, the delegation was welcomed in Irbil by President Masoud al-Barzani.

The president’s media officer Kifah Mahmoud told Asharq Al-Awsat that the two sides discussed the political situation in Iraq and the ongoing war against ISIS in the city of Mosul.

They also tackled the post-ISIS phase, especially in Iraq, he revealed.

The Sadr delegation said that they are making preparations for the upcoming elections, he said.

Meanwhile, Kirkuk governor Najm Eddine Karim announced that Baghdad is not offering any aid to the city.

He told reporters during a celebration in honor of Kurdish journalism: “There are over half a million refugees in Kirkuk, including 30,000 families that have fled al-Huweija district.”

“This is posing a major burden on the city and the residents are sharing medicine, water, electricity and other services with these refugees. Their patience will not last long,” he warned.

He therefore demanded that Baghdad work on allowing the displaced to return to the liberated areas “as soon as possible.”

“The delay in liberating al-Huweija does not serve Kirkuk or Iraq,” Karim said.

He said that Baghdad’s aid to refugees in Kirkuk is so slim that it is bordering on nonexistent, urging the Iraqi government and Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi to seriously address Kirkuk’s demands.

“Everyone in Baghdad and anywhere else should know that the residents of Kirkuk will not accept this attitude,” he warned.

There Is A Video War Being Played Out In Kashmir

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

Video vs Video: The other war playing out in Kashmir

INDIA Updated: Apr 17, 2017 07:39 IST

Toufiq Rashid, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Kashmir unrest

Protesters clash with police and paramilitary soldiers during a protest after Friday prayers in Srinagar.(Waseem Andrabi/HT Photo)

A grainy short video shot with a cellphone shows Wali Mohammed Bhat, a supporter of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), apologising profusely and shouting anti-India slogans at gunpoint.The petrified Kashmiri man is heard saying he has long quit all political activities.

In another similar video, a group of security men are seen pinning a youth in a red vest to the ground. His hands are tied behind his back, and the men are beating his legs with sticks.

He screams: “Paani … maafi (water… mercy).”

Read more

The two clips were uploaded on social media on Sunday and quickly became the most shared, watched and commented items online in militancy-riddled Jammu and Kashmir as well as the rest of India.

These are from a long line of videos showing the two stark realities of Kashmir — alleged atrocities of a hardnosed establishment trying to bulldoze the insurgency, and the threats, brickbats and stones that people on the non-separatist side of the political divide face in the Valley.

This is Unacceptable ! Cant do this to our CRPF jawaans .This rot has to stop. Badtameezi ki hadd hai.

The troubled region’s pro- and anti-separatist battle is fought through videos — a quick-reaction psychological weapon that is exploding on social networks more often lately, especially after the protest-blighted by-elections to the Srinagar parliamentary seat on April 9.

At least eight people died in the unrest and hundreds were wounded as security forces fired at and caned crowds that tried to disrupt the bypoll in response to a separatist call to boycott the democratic process.

The video of an armed CRPF trooper being kicked and booed by a group of youth when he was returning from bypoll duty with his colleagues became a nationwide television debate.

Another Socking & Outrageous Video from occupied . Indian Brutality & oppression on its peak

The men in uniform do nothing to the hecklers. They walk on. Their action is peddled on the loop in national television as an epitome of restraint shown by the armed forces.

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The tide turns on April 13 as another explosive clip surfaced. It shows security forces firing at a group, mostly children, throwing stones. The soldiers are seen moving behind a wall, bending, locating the position of the stone-throwers, and firing at a boy. Netizens called it targeted killing.

A day later, a video showed a Kashmiri youth tied to the bonnet of a military jeep as a human shield against stone-throwers. The background audio warns people that “this will be the fate of stone-pelters”.

Here’s the video as well. A warning can be heard saying stone pelters will meet this fate. This requires an urgent inquiry & follow up NOW!!

The video was supposedly shot in Budgam district on April 9 during the bypoll.

Another clip emerged, showing Kashmiri youth protecting a security man who allegedly fell behind from the rest of his troop.

It rained videos last Saturday. One of them shows a child screaming his lungs out as four men in army fatigues beat him mercilessly with sticks. Another one has three Kashmiri youth shouting “Pakistan Murdabad”, allegedly at the behest of a security man, half-visible in the video.

Hindustan Times could not authenticate where and when these videos were shot. But these are having an effect.

5 Things We’re About to Learn About Syria, Putin and Trump

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Opinion

5 Things We’re About to Learn About Syria, Putin and Trump

As a result of the US airstrikes against the Syrian regime forces last week, we are all about to learn a great deal. It is, surely, too soon to know precisely what impact the strikes ordered by President Donald Trump will have on the regime and where the Syrian civil war is heading. This is largely because key players including the head of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad, Russia, Iran and the Syrian opposition — not to mention the US — are still plotting their next moves.

But it seems certain that the events of the coming weeks will help answer five crucial questions about the civil war and the various actors that are now struggling to shape the outcome of that conflict.

First, how much of a gambler is Vladimir Putin? The Russian president has gained a reputation over the past three years as a shrewd risk-taker, able to outmaneuver his opponents with the well-timed coup de main.

Now, the Trump administration has demonstrated that it is willing to use force against Putin’s ally in Damascus, and that it is prepared to risk significantly higher tensions with Moscow. During the Barack Obama presidency, in other words, Putin confronted a US that was predictably — if perhaps understandably — prudent. Now he faces a president whose risk calculus is far harder to discern.

So how will Putin respond? Will he double down on support for Assad — perhaps by helping the Syrian regime harass or target US aircraft — in hopes that he can still out-escalate the Americans? Or will he seek to reduce tensions — perhaps by shoving Assad toward renewed negotiations with the opposition — in hopes of avoiding a sharper showdown with Washington?

Second, how crafty is Assad? The Syrian leader was once seen as the mild-mannered ophthalmologist and a would-be reformer; now he is perhaps the greatest butcher of the young 21st century. Yet brutality aside, Assad’s strategic acumen has so far remained difficult to discern. He has proven a far more skillful survivor than nearly anyone would have predicted in 2011, but his heavy-handedness also helped turn what were at first peaceful protests into a zero-sum civil war; and he has now managed, through ghastly chemical attacks, to turn the initially friendly Trump administration against his remaining in power. So is Assad a shrewd if morally abhorrent statesman, or simply another dictator who substitutes savagery for strategy?

What he does next will tell us a great deal. If Assad confines himself to a symbolic and non-escalatory response, if he desists from using chemical weapons, if he at least feigns a willingness to negotiate with the opposition, he may be able to escape the noose once again — and perhaps even return to the less spectacular forms of murder that the international community has proven willing to tolerate for more than six years. If, however, he lashes out, whether by continuing to use chemical weapons or by seeking to extract revenge on the US, he may succeed in eliciting the decisive international intervention the has so far managed to avoid.

The answers to these first two questions will also bear heavily on the answer to a third: How slippery is the slope? The Obama administration’s go-to argument against military intervention was always that the options that could be executed at a tolerable cost were unlikely to alter the trajectory of the civil war in any meaningful way — and that a first step was thus likely to lead inexorably to pressures to take a second step and then a third.

Proponents of military intervention, in contrast, argued that a bold but limited American stroke could dramatically shift the psychology of the conflict and put Assad and his patrons on the defensive. No second or third step would be necessary, this argument went, because the first step — if executed with sufficient skill and resolve — would be sufficient.

We are about to find out which thesis is correct. Perhaps even the very limited American intervention undertaken to date will force Russia to rethink its support for Assad, or force Assad to accept that he cannot use the only weapons — his chemical arsenal — that might allow him to reconquer remaining rebel-held territories. Perhaps Trump’s limited engagement will thereby create a new strategic equilibrium more favorable to an acceptable political settlement or some other tolerable outcome.

Alternatively, perhaps the psychological impact of the strikes will be equivalent to their military impact — which is to say, not much. Perhaps the strikes will even cause Russia and Iran to redouble their own efforts to checkmate US intervention. In that case, Trump would soon be confronted with the question of whether to double down or risk looking the paper tiger, and the slope may come to seem slippery indeed. The first scenario would make Obama’s caution from 2011 through 2016 look excessive in retrospect; the latter would make it seem fairly wise after all.

These questions, in turn, relate to a fourth key issue: Is a negotiated settlement even possible? Over the past six years, myriad diplomatic and political processes have been launched in hopes of bringing about an end to the civil war. Every single one has failed. In the weeks preceding Assad’s latest chemical weapons attack, it did seem that the conflict was perhaps reaching a new equilibrium, with the regime largely having consolidated control over the western spine of the country, and various opposition forces controlling their own chunks of territory in other areas. But with Assad still determined — at least rhetorically — to retake the entire country, and with many opposition groups still vehemently opposed to his remaining in power, the prospects for turning that equilibrium into a sustainable settlement remain uncertain at best.

The question now is whether the strategic shock of US strike can create a new diplomatic context in which the parties — particularly the regime — are more amenable to compromise. Or, alternatively, will the aims of Assad and the opposition — not to mention the outside parties supporting them — remain so divergent and intractable that no negotiated settlement is possible?

Finally, as these issues come into sharper focus, we will also learn more about a fifth crucial question: Is the Trump administration capable of effective strategy?

Crises can be clarifying moments. They can cast new light on the contours of an ongoing conflict; they can lay bare the characteristics — and competence — of the parties involved. The Syria crisis is the acid test of the Trump administration: We are about to find out whether the president and his advisers can make the grade. Given the outsized role that the US plays not just in Syria but around the world, this may well be the most important question that the Syria crisis will help us answer.

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