A round table “Sunni-Shia divide: the roots of the phenomenon and the ways to overcome it” on the situation in the Middle East took place at MGIMO-University (Moscow State Institute of International Relations) on the 14th of April. The leading experts (from MGIMO, Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, of the Institute of the General History of the Russian Academy of Sciences, of the Diplomatic Academy, Institute of International Relations and World Economy of the Russian Academy of Science, Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs representatives and from other political and scientific institutions were brought together. The eminent Russian diplomat Veniamin Popov, who leads the Center for Dialogues of Civilizations at the MGIMO-University and holds IMESClub membership, chaired the meeting.

The participants of the meeting have discussed the Shia-Sunni clash on the current historical moment, the origins of this clash in the historical perspective, the reasons of the regional conflicts. Yemeni, Syrian and Iraqi crises were in a special focus.

In the opening address to the audience Alexander Orlov, the director of the Center of international Studies of MGIMO, shared his thoughts over the current destabilization in the Middle East that he links with international crisis having brought the global system to the state of a deep imbalance. 

George Mirsky, famous Russian expert from IMEMO, has noted among other important issues an aspect, that there is a dangerous trend of simplification of all the processes in the region to the level of Saudi Arabia vs Iran clash, that is irrelevant for the understanding of the processes we witness now, as there are numerous inner processes that rather often form the core of the ongoing developments. 

Andrey Fedorchenko, the director of the Center of the Middle Eastern Studies, IMESClub member, has mentioned in his speech, that the tradition of compromises is not well developed in the Middle East, particularly in the religious field. Maria Dubovikova, President of IMESClub, has stressed that there is a dangerous trend of politicization of the religion and instrumentalisation of the existing discords, that is often used by the external and non-regional players as well serving their national interests they have in the region. All these trends, according to Ms. Dubovikova, lead to the extreme aggravation of the regional situation.

Nikolay Soukhov, researcher of the Institute of Oriental Studies, IMESClub member, has focused in his speech mostly on the Russia's role in the current discords and the role the Russia's expats and children from the mixed marriages can play as a factor of mediation and harmonization of the processes, and has also shared the observation, based on the Pew Research Center report over how Sunnis and Shia's percept each other, that the farer the country is situated from the Shiite concentrated region, the less positive attitude the Sunnis have towards the Shiites, even considering them as non-Muslims. And the nearer the country is to the Shia concentrated region, the more neutral attitude to Shiites is.

During their speeches the experts have noted taking into consideration the controversial interests of both regional and external players, the solution of the existing problems seems rather unlikely in the near future.



We will start by re-establishing relations on a consular level or with a charge d'affaires. <...> They will be restored in a progressive manner. <...> We do not believe that our interests are served by cutting off relations with Syria. <...> We will not have an ambassador there, but Tunisia will open a consulate or put in place a charge d'affaires, and a Syria ambassador is welcome to Tunisia, if Syria wishes so. 

– Taieb Baccouche, Tunisia's Foreign Minister


The situation in Yarmouk is an affront to the humanity of all of us, a source of universal shame.<...> Yarmouk is a test, a challenge for the international community. We must not fail. The credibility of the international system itself is at stake

– Chris Gunness, U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) spokesman 

We won't get to a political transition without slowly giving and taking. 

– Randa Kassis, President of the Movement for a Pluralistic Society  

We'll see what the government delegation comes up with, including on the humanitarian front, but I am not hopeful for anything special. It'll be more of a continuation of dialogue at best.

– Anonymous Syrian opposition representative



Medical supplies need to be here yesterday. The situation is difficult.<...> We need to save the lives that can be saved.

– Marie-Claire Feghali, a spokeswoman for the ICRC

For the wounded, their chances of survival depend on action within hours, not days.

– Robert Mardini, head of the ICRC's operations in the Near and Middle East

All air, land and sea routes must be opened without delay for at least 24 hours to enable help to reach people cut off after more than a week of intense air strikes and fierce ground fighting nationwide.

– The ICRC statement

There is little point in putting an embargo on the whole country. It doesn’t make sense to punish everybody else for the behavior of one party that has been the aggressor in this situation.

– Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, Saudi Arabia’s representative to the UN 

We still stand by our position on dialogue and we demand its continuation despite everything that has happened, on the basis of respect and acknowledging the other. <...> We have no conditions except a halt to the aggression and sitting on the dialogue table within a specific time period <...> and any international or regional parties that have no aggressive positions towards the Yemeni people can oversee the dialogue.

– Saleh Ali al-Sammad, senior political figure of the Houthi movement.

We got to this position because the Houthis, over and over again, violated cease-fires, took military action, took action by force instead of engaging in a genuine way in political talks. <...> The only way out of this crisis is through a return to genuine political talks on an equal basis, and not using force.

– Peter Wilson, Britain's deputy U.N. ambassador

Throughout the Yemeni national dialogue, which lasted a year during which I served as a rapporteur on the military committee, the Houthis tried to convince us in the south that we were victims of injustice within the framework of unification. Yet now they come to us as belligerent occupiers.

General Nasser Al-Tawil, spokesman for the Retired Servicemen’s Front in Aden



A better deal would roll back Iran’s vast nuclear infrastructure, and require Iran to stop its aggression in the region, its terror worldwide and its calls and actions to annihilate the state of Israel. That’s a better deal. It’s achievable.

– Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's Prime Minister

Do you really think that this verifiable deal, if fully implemented, backed by the world's major powers, is a worse option than the risk of another war in the Middle East?

– Barak Obama, United States President 

Iran needs cash and will not agree to hold back as part of an OPEC [oil] supply–reduction deal. <...> While a deal with Iran regarding its nuclear program will open up the country's energy sector for investment and eventually lead not only to a restoration of the 1 million barrels of daily output lost since sanctions were tightened against Tehran, but will also lead to a longer-term rise in both oil and gas output. 

– Chris Weafer, the founding partner of Macro Advisory

If the (final) agreement is signed in June, Russia will be the loser. Now, Iran will be more inclined toward the West. For Russia, that’s a problem.

–  Alexey Malashenko, an analyst at the Moscow Carnegie Center 

Moscow looks at its role in the Iran talks not so much in its own terms but in how it can play into issues of more central interest to itself. <...> The West is forced to recognize Moscow's status as a global power; Iran can feel it has been a good ally; and other current or potential Russian allies can be reassured.

– Mark Galeotti, Professor of global affairs at New York University


Tweets of the week


We still believe that there is no purely military solution to the situation in Yemen.  And we, along with the GCC ministers whom the Secretary spoke to today, support political negotiations as the best way to resolve the crisis.  However, we also understand the Saudis’ concerns, especially given the Houthis’ failure to engage meaningfully in the political dialogue process.  And so in that regard, we understand and we support the action that they’ve taken.

– Jeff Rathke, the US State Department Spokesman

Interference by foreign militaries is very dangerous and deepens the crisis. 

– Hassan Rouhani, Iranian President

The United Nations continued to be engaged with the parties in a manner that neither gave legitimacy to those who used force to disrupt the political process nor diminished the legitimacy of the president and Government. 

– Jamal Benomar, special adviser of the UN Secretary General on Yemen.

The Saudi-led air strikes should stop immediately and it is against Yemen's sovereignty.<...> We will make all efforts to control crisis in Yemen.

– Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iranian Foreign Minister.

The Saudis cannot accept the idea of an Iranian-backed regime in control of Yemen, which is why they felt compelled to intervene the way they have.

– Philip Hammond, British Foreign Minister.

They might lead to some kind of confrontation between Iran and the Gulf. <...> Secondly, Yemen [could] be the second Syria in the region and it may even be divided again into west Yemen, dominated by the Shia population, and east Yemen, dominated by the Sunni. This is the worst scenario that could happen in the region. <...> Air strikes cannot determine the future of the war,” he said. “What would be decisive is the engagement of ground forces which are not at the scene yet. Air strikes can only harm the civilian population but not the Houthi militants who are applying asymmetric war tactics such as guerrilla warfare.

 Dr Firuz Yasamis, director of diplomacy at the American University of the Emirates


The Arab League Summit

He speaks about the problems in the Middle East as though Russia is not influencing these problems. <...> They speak about tragedies in Syria while they are an essential part of the tragedies befalling the Syrian people, by arming the Syrian regime above and beyond what it needs to fight its own people. <...> I hope that the Russian president corrects this so that the Arab world's relations with Russia can be at their best level. 

Prince Saud al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister in response to the Vladimir Putin's letter addressed to the participants of the Arab League Summit

I call for the continuation of Operation Decisive Storm until this gang [the Houthis] announces its surrender, exits all occupied territories in the provinces, leaves state institutions and military camps," Hadi said.

– Yemen's President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi

This nation [Yemen], in its darkest hour, had never been faced a challenge to its existence and a threat to its identity like the one it's facing now. <...> This threatens our national security and [we] cannot ignore its consequences for the Arab identity. 

– Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi.

I call upon everyone to end military operations and stop the killing. <...>I call on everyone to resort to reason and initiate a ceasefire. I ask our sons not to be excited and to stop all violence in all provinces.

– Yemen's former-President Ali Abdullah Saleh 

I say to those who oppose or delay the arming of the Libyan army that you are giving an opportunity to Daesh terrorists to flourish in Libya and to spread beyond it.

– Aqila Saleh, President of Libya's internationally-recognised parliament.

I want to congratulate the Arabs in Israel, who united for the first time and received 13 seats. <...> This is a positive and important development which we support, despite the fact that we do not intervene in Israeli elections.

– Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority

Russia will continue contributing to the attainment of this goal [Palestine’s independence], working through bilateral channels and through multilateral channels, including in the ‘Quartet’ of international mediators.

– Vladimir Putin, Russian President (in his address to the participants of the 26th Annual Summit of the Arab League)


Six-party talks on the Iranian nuclear programme.

All unjust sanctions against the Iranian nation should be lifted. Lifting all sanctions is the main issue that can help us reach the final solution.

– Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (asserting that any nuclear deal must end in lifting sanctions). 

Unfortunately, we are seeing that the tragedy that is happening in this country [Yemen] is having an impact on the atmosphere of the negotiations.<...> We hope that the situation in Yemen will not bring about a change in the position of certain participants.

– Sergei Ryabkov, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister  

Thursday, 19 March 2015 18:00

The Week in Quotes (16 March-22 March 2015)


As we have long said, there always has been a need for representatives of the Assad regime to be a part of that process. <...> It would not be, and would never be – and it wasn't what Secretary Kerry was intending to imply ­– that that would be Assad himself.

 – Jen Psaki, State Department Spokeswoman

The only way to put an end to the violence is via negotiations for a political solution, even if that makes talks with the Assad regime necessary.

– Frank-Walter Steinmeier, German Foreign Minister


Israeli Elections 

The results of the Israeli elections show the success of a campaign platform based on settlements, racism, apartheid and the denial of the fundamental human rights of the Palestinian people,

– Saeb Erekat, a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s executive committee

Palestinians do not trust Israel on statements. They trust Israel on practice, and Palestinians have concluded much earlier that Netanyahu and his coalition are not at all interested in the concept of two states, regardless of what they say.

– Ghassan Al Khatib, a West Bank politician

Against all odds, we achieved a great victory for the Likud . . . I am proud of the people of Israel, who in the moment of truth knew how to distinguish between what is important and what is peripheral, and to insist on what is important.

– Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli PM


Terrorist Attack in Tunisia

Every Tunisian should feel directly threatened by what happened today. <...>And I think the people of Tunisia will respond as one man.

­– Beji Caid Essebsi, President of Tunisia 

 This deadly attack, which is quite deplorable, should not allow to derail from what many consider the transition from authoritarianism to a system of justice and respect for human rights, the most successful in the region.

– Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of Middle East and North Africa program at Amnesty International.

Extremist terrorist groups seek to undermine the experience of democratic transition in Tunisia and in the region and create the climate of fear among the citizens who yearn for freedom, democracy and peaceful participation in the democratic construction.

– The organizing committee of the World Social Forum.




On the 4 March, 2015 in the «Ritz Carlton» Hotel a solemn ceremony of awarding an honorary doctorate (honoris causa) of the Institute of Oriental Studies with handling of the diploma and the mantle to the prominent Lebanese figure – Mr. Amal Hikmat Abou Zeid took place.

The ceremony was attended by notorious political figures, scientists, representatives of the diplomatic corps of the foreign countries and also by Mitropolit Niphon Saikali (Russia),  Representative of the Patriarch of Antioch in Moscow.

The congratulatory addresses  were delivered by Vitaly Naumkin (Director of the Institute of Oriental Studies, corresponding member of RAS), Shawki Bou Nassar (Lebanese Ambassador in Moscow), Vladimir  Sautov (Vice president of JSC "SPC Irkut", orientalist, Ph.D., Alexander Panov (Deputy director of the Department of the Middle East and North Africa, the Russian Foreign Ministry), Alexey Sarabiev (Head of Research and Publications of the Institute of the Oriental Studies, Ph.D.).

In his acceptance speech, Mr. Amal Hikmat Abou Zeid thanked the audience and the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences in the person of its Director Vitaly Naumkin for the honour to become its honoris causa.

LBC Group TV release on the event


Article covering the event on

أكاديمية العلوم الروسية تكرمّ أبو زيد .بانوف: لمساته واضحة في تطوير العلاقات ..بو نصار: ثروة لبنان في ابنائه المبدعين


Article covering the event on :

بالصور: أكاديمية العلوم الروسية تكرمّ أمل أبو زيد


Article covering the event on :


أكاديمية العلوم الروسية تكرم أبو زيد


Article covering the event on :

الاكاديمية الروسية كرمت ابو زيد ومنحته الدكتوراه وتقديراً لنجاحه في تطوير العلاقات بين البلديــــن


Article covering the event on :

بالصور - أكاديمية العلوم الروسية تكرمّ أبو زيد


The speech of his excellency  Doctor Amal Hikmat Abou Zeid in English:


Ladies and Gentlemen,

In such a moment, we realize the true concept of the “honorary doctorate”. The Latin roots of word PhD mean that we master knowledge, and who would be more worthy than your prestigious academy to be the great guardian of science and learning. And all the pride isn’t but being among you. Such Pride isn’t equaled unless by my feeling of gratitude and thanks.

Having said so, I’m here today, simply because I was and will remain a diligent assiduous student, walking on the path of historical communication and interaction, between the Great Russia and the country of Cedars. I say a simple student, because the relationship history of our two countries is so great that not only one person or people can preserve it. It belongs to History itself.

Nestorius tells in his history, that our relationship dates back to more than a thousand years. He says that Prince Vladimir of Kiev, and upon wanting to be guided to the upright religion, sent his envoys to various countries of the World. They went to the Volga Bulgarian people, where they found their faith, but without joy. They visited the countries of the Germanic and Rome, where they discovered their faith was deprived of beauty. Finally, they reached Byzantine, a neighbor of both your and our countries, and the twin of our Antiochian Church. They attended mass at “Hagia Sophia of Constantinople Church”, and wrote to Vladimir, telling him: “We did not know whether we were on Earth or in Heaven! All we can say that God was there among humans and that moment is unforgettable.”  This is how our life age extends back to more than one thousand years. Historian Platonov says about Russia Holy Church: “We owe it all to St. Mikhail, he was the first who established Christianity among us, and the first to build a monastery on our land. And St. Mikhail comes from Syria, and was the pupil of Patriarch John.”

Over thousand years, friendship, cooperation and solidarity ties went growing and consolidated between our region and your great country. Patriarchs, coming from our countries, participated in the synagogues of Moscow, since 1661.  Afterwards The Russian Government had a Consulate in Jerusalem, in 1819, aiming to surround with care the largest number possible among the Russian faithful people, who were going to pilgrimage in the holy land, through Syria and Lebanon. Hence, Russia became the owner of many properties in those territories: the Monastery of St. Theodora, the Monastery of Abraham (Ibrahim), as well as the Monastery of Tulkarem. Additionally, the Russian Church missionaries contributed in rooting our people in our home and surroundings. Our histories even remember that thanks to a Russian monk, Ospjanski, who due to his merit, the Arabic was adopted as the language of the Church of Antioch in 1891. Few years later, in 1895, the Russian Imperial Palestinian Association was established for providing free education, in Palestine, Lebanon and Syria. Its spreading went on increasing till having founded more than hundred schools. From Cairo in Egypt to Beit-Jala in Palestine, reaching Shoueifat and Baskinta in Mount Lebanon, Amyoun , Tripoli and Bayno in northern Lebanon, and ending in  Homs, Syria.

What is even more important than our common history is the fact that Russia did not only provide our children with school and education, but it gave them even more than this: It gave them freedom, especially the freedom of faith and belief. After Russia’s victory over the Ottomans and the imposition of Kucuk Qanarjh Treaty, 1774, Russia did not ask the Ottoman State for any properties or lands. But it imposed and obliged it to guarantee the religious freedom of the Christians living in the Sultanate territories. According to the terms of that treaty, Istanbul was committed to provide Christian religion, and churches with permanent protection. The Minister of the Russian Court was empowered to object, whenever he wanted to, before the Sultanate, about any violation of the freedom of the latter, additionally to having imposed the construction of the Church of the Embassy of Russia, and other church in the city of Galati, called the Russian Greek Church. This treaty between Russia and the Ottoman Empire formed the first evolution in our history, resulting some 65 years later and leading to the beginning of the establishment of the State of Lebanon, with the first international protection regime of Mount Lebanon, in 1841.

Today, Russia, the “Third Rome” is back as Soloviev wrote, the Holy Russia, with the two-headed Eagle. And thus its relationship with our country has become more important and strategic, because, the basic holder of  the Russian external and international dimension nowadays is nurtured on the global level, by the principle of freedom to groups and communities. Russia the Great in its people, land, history, economy and wealth, is even greater today, because it is the only superpower in the World, carrying the banner of defending those freedoms.


In contrast, the unique Lebanon shows to be the only place in the world, where Christians and Muslims live equally together despite all their ethnic differences. In the entire Islamic world, there are some Christian minorities living, while bowing under the yoke of their incomplete rights, threatened with their presence and existence, dying and gradually disappearing, either through self-immigration or forced displacement. In the entire Western world, there are Muslims living in a complete inner struggle on keeping their identity and integrating in their new societies. They even live the contradiction between themselves and the other ones, until often reaching rejection, violence and terrorism. Only Lebanon, among all the countries of the earth, is a different model. It is the place where Christians and Muslims, share equally their duties and obligations, with accurate and complete calculations, in one state and under the same one authority and power. It is a model that deserves to succeed, and the whole world needs its success, because if Christians and Muslims fail to live together in Lebanon, it will inevitably mean the failure of coexistence together on earth.

However, the threats to our unique Lebanese model are more than a few. The first one refers to the terrorism expiatory groups on our borders. The Second one refers to some policies of the West that care for their interest only, regardless of any values or moral dimension. The third one refers to the failure to establish a just solution to the Palestinian Cause. Russia, alone, understands these imminent threats against us. Only Russia can and is able to help us, through its resistance or Veto, because you also encountered terrorism, you knew as well the negative impacts of Western interests and disadvantages. You were and still are the first to commit, to find a just solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

A sovereign, strong and independent Lebanon is not only a need for his surroundings, region and to the world, but it is also a necessity and element of attraction. Democracy cannot be transferred to the Arabic region without the Lebanese model. There can be no concept of pluralism to the Middle Eastern societies, without the Lebanese model.  No lasting peace can be established in the Orient, without the stability of the Lebanese model. In exchange, Such Lebanon, being a friend of Russia, is the main partner of your great country, in cultural communication, human interaction, political and economic integration, between you and the entire Arab world. This world who is living today a state of anxiety, as an expression of undergoing some transition era, between a fallen past regime, and an alternative but not yet found one.

On this occasion, and before closing, let me first thank my family, especially my wife, for her support and understanding of the tasks that I accomplished and which sometimes required from me a long absence.

Second, let me also thank the Unknown Soldier, my friend Vladimir Sautov and his friends who believed and supported me in my endeavor.

Third, I address my thanks to the representative of the Antiochian Orthodox Church in Moscow Metropolitan Nifon Seikaly, for his support and help in all that would strengthen cooperation between the Eastern and Western Church.

The fourth thanks and last one is attributed to the Embassy of Lebanon in Russia, today represented by Ambassador Shawki Bou Nassar and his predecessors who played a helpful role in all visits of the  Lebanese officials to Russia and vice versa.

The Prophecy of an old Russian hermit says: “Rome I and II have fallen. The third one is Moscow, and the fourth will never show”. Our hope and trust, as we are today in Moscow, that “The Third Rome” will never fall, and shall remain for our people and our countries a beacon on top of the hill. Long live Lebanon, Long live Russia.




The text of the speech in Arabic:

(Recommendation: open the previews in another window of your browser for a full size view)

Thursday, 08 January 2015 02:00

The MidEast World: best of 2014

IMESClub presents you the 40-pages-length issue of "The MidEast Journal" – collection of the 2014 brilliant pieces of our eminent members.

The issue besides other pieces includes:

❖The IMESClub interview of the year: Interview with Bakhtiar Amin, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Foundation for Future, Former Human Rights Minister of Iraq. The interview was devoted to the Iraq, its fate, on the US role and etc.

❖Brilliant dossier on Russia-Algeria relations by Mansouria Mokhefi, Special Advisor on the Maghreb and the Middle East at Ifri, Research Associate at ECFR.

❖Another one interesting dossier on Russia-Iran relations by Lana Ravandi-Fadai 

The issue is available in PDF in one click.

▲(click the pic).


IMESClub recommends you Global Terrorism Index 2014:

This is the second edition of the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) report which provides a comprehensive summary of the key global trends and patterns in terrorism over the last 14 years beginning in 2000 and ending in 2013.

Produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), the GTI is based on data from the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) which is collected and collated by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). The GTD is considered to be the most comprehensive dataset on terrorist activity globally and has codified over 125,000 terrorist incidents.

The report summarises trends in terrorism over time and analyses its changing patterns in terms of geographic activity, methods of attack, organisations involved and the national economic and political context. The index has also been compared to a range of socio-economic indicators to determine the key factors most closely associated with terrorism. 

Available in one click:




The first part of Alastair Crooke's historical analysis of the roots of ISIS and its impact on the future of the Middle East: 

You Can't Understand ISIS If You Don't Know the History of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia

BEIRUT -- The dramatic arrival of Da'ish (ISIS) on the stage of Iraq has shocked many in the West. Many have been perplexed -- and horrified -- by its violence and its evident magnetism for Sunni youth. But more than this, they find Saudi Arabia's ambivalence in the face of this manifestation both troubling and inexplicable, wondering, "Don't the Saudis understand that ISIS threatens them, too?"

It appears -- even now -- that Saudi Arabia's ruling elite is divided. Some applaud that ISIS is fighting Iranian Shiite "fire" with Sunni "fire"; that a new Sunni state is taking shape at the very heart of what they regard as a historical Sunni patrimony; and they are drawn by Da'ish's strict Salafist ideology. 

Other Saudis are more fearful, and recall the history of the revolt against Abd-al Aziz by the Wahhabist Ikhwan (Disclaimer: this Ikhwan has nothing to do with the Muslim Brotherhood Ikhwan -- please note, all further references hereafter are to the Wahhabist Ikhwan, and not to the Muslim Brotherhood Ikhwan), but which nearly imploded Wahhabism and the al-Saud in the late 1920s. 

Many Saudis are deeply disturbed by the radical doctrines of Da'ish (ISIS) -- and are beginning to question some aspects of Saudi Arabia's direction and discourse.


Saudi Arabia's internal discord and tensions over ISIS can only be understood by grasping the inherent (and persisting) duality that lies at the core of the Kingdom's doctrinal makeup and its historical origins. 

One dominant strand to the Saudi identity pertains directly to Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab (the founder of Wahhabism), and the use to which his radical, exclusionist puritanism was put by Ibn Saud. (The latter was then no more than a minor leader -- amongst many -- of continually sparring and raiding Bedouin tribes in the baking and desperately poor deserts of the Nejd.)

The second strand to this perplexing duality, relates precisely to King Abd-al Aziz's subsequent shift towards statehood in the 1920s: his curbing of Ikhwani violence (in order to have diplomatic standing as a nation-state with Britain and America); his institutionalization of the original Wahhabist impulse -- and the subsequent seizing of the opportunely surging petrodollar spigot in the 1970s, to channel the volatile Ikhwani current away from home towards export -- by diffusing a cultural revolution, rather than violent revolution throughout the Muslim world. 

But this "cultural revolution" was no docile reformism. It was a revolution based on Abd al-Wahhab's Jacobin-like hatred for the putrescence and deviationism that he perceived all about him -- hence his call to purge Islam of all its heresies and idolatries.

To read the whole article :

And the second part of the historical analysis of the roots of ISIS and its impact on the future of the Middle East: 

Middle East Time Bomb: The Real Aim of ISIS Is to Replace the Saud Family as the New Emirs of Arabia

BEIRUT -- ISIS is indeed a veritable time bomb inserted into the heart of the Middle East. But its destructive power is not as commonly understood. It is not with the "March of the Beheaders"; it is not with the killings; the seizure of towns and villages; the harshest of "justice" -- terrible though they are -- that its true explosive power lies. It is yet more potent than its exponential pull on young Muslims, its huge arsenal of weapons and its hundreds of millions of dollars. 

"We should understand that there is really almost nothing that the West can now do about it but sit and watch."

Its real potential for destruction lies elsewhere -- in the implosion of Saudi Arabia as a foundation stone of the modern Middle East. We should understand that there is really almost nothing that the West can now do about it but sit and watch.

The clue to its truly explosive potential, as Saudi scholar Fouad Ibrahim has pointed out (but which has passed, almost wholly overlooked, or its significance has gone unnoticed), is ISIS' deliberate and intentional use in its doctrine -- of the language of Abd-al Wahhab, the 18th century founder, together with Ibn Saud, of Wahhabism and the Saudi project:

Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the first "prince of the faithful" in the Islamic State of Iraq, in 2006 formulated, for instance, the principles of his prospective state ... Among its goals is disseminating monotheism "which is the purpose [for which humans were created] and [for which purpose they must be called] to Islam..." This language replicates exactly Abd-al Wahhab's formulation. And, not surprisingly, the latter's writings and Wahhabi commentaries on his works are widely distributed in the areas under ISIS' control and are made the subject of study sessions. Baghdadi subsequently was to note approvingly, "a generation of young men [have been] trained based on the forgotten doctrine of loyalty and disavowal." 


And what is this "forgotten" tradition of "loyalty and disavowal?" It is Abd al-Wahhab's doctrine that belief in a sole (for him an anthropomorphic) God -- who was alone worthy of worship -- was in itself insufficient to render man or woman a Muslim?

To read the whole article:

To know more about Alastair Crooke click the photo.
Alastair Crooke is IMESClub friend.

In the framework of IMESClub-CDCD partnership we publish the new paper: "Realising Peace and Security in the Middle East: The prospects and potential of a regional envelope to comprehensive peace". 

Executive Summary:


                                                                                        By Apo Sahagian


As one of the longest running conflicts in modern history, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has attracted much attention from the international community due to its importance for regional and global stability and prosperity. Indeed countless initiatives were undertaken over the decades to bring the conflict to a conclusion, however one after the other the initiatives faced various obstacles that made their implementation rather difficult. As recent as June 2013, yet another initiative was rekindled by the Obama Administration under the supervision of US Secretary of State John Kerry. However the Kerry Initiative included within its framework a valuable feature that holds potential compared to many other initiatives conducted within the past decade: that was the regional envelope that appreciated the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the broader picture of the whole Middle East region and its subsequent integration within the negotiations aimed at establishing not only peace between Israelis and Palestinians, but also peace and security for the region.

The Kerry Initiative is significantly based on the Arab Peace Initiative (API), which was presented by the Arab League promising normal relations with Israel if the latter withdrew from the Arab territories occupied during the 1967 Six Day War, and if it came to a solution- concerning the Palestinian refugees agreed- with the Palestinian leadership. All the 57 Arab League member states and Islamic states represented in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) endorsed the API though Israel until present day has refrained from giving an official response to the incredible offer represented by the API-gesture of the Arab world.

However, the Kerry Initiative adopted the concept of the regional envelope as a reminder of the 1991 Madrid talks which were likewise operated in multi-lateral fashion involving Israel and its neighboring countries. These regional talks testified to the fact that due to the countries’ intertwined links in geography, economy, and future, it was better to approach the search for a solution in a collective manner in which each country’s needs would serve the region’s interest. More than a decade later, the Kerry Initiative resuscitated the notion of a regional envelope based on the API. The negotiations occurring as of January 2014 involve the participation of the Arab League and the API Follow-Up Committee that include Arab countries such as Egypt, Qatar, and Jordan which has asserted its own security and prosperity within the solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The involvement of the region’s players has given more impetus to the current negotiations’ ultimate goal.

These policy papers, prepared by the Center for Democracy & Community Development (CDCD), are an in-depth study of the role, contribution, and aptitude offered by the regional envelope. From its base in Jerusalem, the CDCD has for the past 7 years- since 2007- actively promoted the chance extended by the API and its acceptance by not only the political echelons of the region, but also by the societies that will engage each other under circumstances of mutual recognition, understanding, and advantage. In its capacity, the CDCD build a far-reaching network spanning the globe that has within its ranks academics, politicians, former politicians, civil societies, and business men from not only Israeli and Palestinian backgrounds, but also from every country in the Middle East and even from the core of Europe and the West. And certainly the expanding of the API network continues day by day with constant communication with local, regional, and global civil societies, politicians, and also diplomatic missions that have invested their energies into resolving the conflict.

Solidifying its status as the prime address for the API in the civil society arena, the CDCD is proud to expound comprehensive research relating to the regional envelope and the API. Each article within this booklet formulates ideas that bear with fresh exceptional caliber. The CDCD conducted its work with their partners: the Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace & Development based in Beer Sheba, and the IKVPax Christi based in Amsterdam. Accompanied with a new partner, the United Religions Initiative based in Amman, the CDCD will focus on furthering the crucial application of comprehensive peace as an essential need for all the region, including within each country and between the regions’ countries.

This publication includes several policy papers about respective roles to be assumed by countries whom yield significant influence and transnational institutions that have vested weight in the region. Naturally the elemental role of the US is analyzed in detail and recommendations offered to enhance the effectiveness of it. Similar methodology has been tasked with the examination of the Quartet’s role. In the first section, Walid Salem & Nimrod Novik shed inclusive light on these issues of the US and the Quartet by also laying out alternative plans to compliment the current negotiations.

But of course for any negotiations to have a semblance of success, a supplementary track that provides accompanying courses of action running parallel to it. This is accomplished in section two by Walid Salem with the assistance of Miles Mabray as they configure the means of creating a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem.

Subsequently, Scott Rattner scrutinizes the status and stance of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon vis-à-vis a comprehensive peace based on a regional envelope. His paper delves into the improvement that can be achieved regarding the refugee issues and Lebanon’s own standing strategic needs that can be accommodated with a regional framework.

Following the theme of permanent status issues between Israelis and Palestinians, Cate Bush and Walid Salem dissect the current socio-political situation in Gaza, its functions in the negotiations, and guidelines that will progress the conditions there to bring forth a sustainable stability for a framework of peace.

Next Laura Petrack outlines specific recommendations meant for the regional countries and global players involved in the Middle East, and how with their joined efforts would succeed in a comprehensive framework of regional peace and security. Successively, Jannie Kuik and Apo Sahagian tackle the EU’s role furthermore in highlighting resolutions and stances upheld by the EU and how its role can be of immense importance in advancing the negotiations forwards and simultaneously assisting the situation on the ground by acting on its resolutions and commitments.

While it is demandingly necessary to read and understand the policies in their entirety, the main recommendations concluded by these policy papers are as follows:

Israel must officially respond to the API offer of the Arab League and appreciate the historic potential it can bestow on not only Israel’s security and prosperity, but to also the entire region’s security, prosperity, and ultimate peace. On the other hand, the realization of a truly independent Palestinian state alongside Israel will further enhance the viability and future of Israel and its incorporation into the region when it will no longer need to perceive its neighbors in suspicion and threats. And as the Kerry Initiative states, Israel should allow an economic building of Palestinian statehood including lifting all the restrictions on the Palestinian Economy including Area C, East Jerusalem, rebuilding Gaza strip and creating the link between West Bank and Gaza.

Palestinians must methodically integrate developmental dimension into their non-violent struggle. By using the opportunity presented by the Kerry Initiative, they must build a Palestinian Statehood in a bottom up approach must be embarked , regardless of the status of negotiation and establish link between Area C, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Simultaneously, engaging with the Israeli public should be considered so that the upper governmental echelons of Israel can take heed of the wave of support for peace.

Jordan can play an essential role in security matters relating with Israel and Palestine. It can help the Israeli and Palestinian to create a security strategy and agreement for the Jordan Valley, also by security arrangements from the Jordanian side. Being one of the two states (with Egypt) that were delegated to communicate the Arab peace initiative (API) by the Arab League, Jordan should keep communication the initiative and should have a plan for systematic actions, while also actively help to keep the region peaceful making sure that both sides are secure and motivate the other Arab and Islamic countries to have normal relations with Israel once it has withdrawn from the Palestinian and Arab territories occupied in 1967 as the API states. In the economic sphere, Jordan should encourage Israelis to remove the restrictions on Palestinian economy; encourage in- and export of goods to and from Jordan and via Jordan to the other Arab countries and to the other world countries; and if Israel accepts the API trilateral mega economic projects can be developed between Jordan, Israel and Palestine.

As for Egypt, it should use its peaceful relations with Israel to help with developing security arrangements between Gaza, Israel and Egypt including providing trilateral arrangements in this regard. Similar to Jordan, Egypt is one of the two states that were delegated to communicate the Arab peace initiative (API) by the Arab League. So they should keep communicating the initiative and develop a plan for systematic action. Moreover, for the betterment of Egypt’s stability, Egypt must think of improving Gaza’s economy as part of a neighboring country and opening the border crossing for transferring resources and goods; and encourage Israelis to remove the restrictions on Palestinian economy and encourage in- and export of goods from and to Egypt with Palestinian people.

For the case of Lebanon, there must be means of formalizing and institutionalizing a relationship between the Lebanese and the Palestinian refugees there based on symmetry of rights, responsibilities, and improving the living conditions of the Palestinian camp and non-camp residents. The Lebanese state and the PLO must therefore formalize their relationship, preferably through a specialized body in the PLO (see section below for further details) dedicated to the Palestinians in Lebanon.  Optimally, such a reinvigorated relationship between the two sides would include working with the United Nations Reliefs and Works Agency to improve service provision (particularly with regard to education and reconstruction of the overcrowded and dilapidated refugee camps) and ensure their orderly administration.  Only through strengthening the presence of the PLO and their interaction with Palestinian actors and organizations in the camps can material accomplishments be made and assurances given to the Lebanese people that they will not be expected to bear the social and financial costs of Palestinian resettlement

Saudi Arabia must utilize its regional and global position to on one hand define their responsibilities to support the Palestinians and provide incentives to Israel via back channels, and on the other hand play an essential role in moving the process of peace forward through its role in the G20, OIC, Arab League and in the API follow up committee.

Using its position as head of the API follow up committee Qatar can actively work on ideas how the two state solution can be achieved peacefully. Furthermore its position in the Arab League can be used to present achievements made by the API follow up committee work.

The Arab League should first and foremost maintain the offer of the API on the table while addressing Israel directly via media campaigns. Additionally, it should work together with the EU, BRICS, OIC, nonaligned countries, African Union and other international bodies to present a more united position towards the negotiations which would drive for consensual and reasonable solutions. The Arab League should promote the fact that if Israel accepts the API that economic cooperation will come into existence in the whole region and therefore create a stronger economy in the whole Middle East.

The API Follow-Up Committee should offer incentives to both parties if API is accepted and develop a grand plan to build the Palestinian economy and create normal relations between the Arab countries and Israel. And due to Qatar’s headship in the committee, it can host track 2 and track 1, 5 back channel meetings as parallel to official channels to fasten progress.

Serving as one of the more crucial pillars of the international community’s involvement in the region, the Quartet can support to Kerry Initiative to develop peace between the two sides including by giving feedback and creating a process of regular meetings in order to insure a participatory decision making process. And by also developing permanent contact with LAS (League of Arab States), Israel and OIC and other international bodies in order to broaden the process of participation for finding Israeli- Palestinian peace. The Quartet should also encourage the other regional and international countries and the private sector worldwide to take the responsibilities on supporting and investing in the Palestinian economy.

The UN should alert the international community that status quo is unacceptable. Help with communicating the API to Israel and initiate more open talks to Israeli officials. Active pushing for Resolutions 242 and 338 is needed. And the UN should create a new UN resolution that includes mechanisms for the API implementation towards a Middle East comprehensive peace draft. Playing an active role in the Quartet by providing suggestions and feedback to move the Palestinian Israeli negotiation forwards, and by following the implementation of the international community programs of building the Palestinian statehood.

The EU should support the current negotiations by ongoing support for state building in Palestine. This state building should also concentrate on East Jerusalem and  C-areas. Next, the Eu should explore  what its own strategic interest are in order to build its own credibility (based on commitment to human rights, rule of law and non-recognition of legal violations)  in the case of a peace deal. Given the changes in the Middle East, the EU should actively promote a common civil peace building agenda in the Middle East based on the Arab Peace Initiative  and the eventual outcomes of the current peace negotiation.  The new ENP Civil Society Facility and the new Eastern and Southern Endowment for Democracy should focus on peace and democracy.  The EU should look for ways to officially involve the regional players  in the ME into a multi lateral framework dealing with conflict resolution mechanisms.

With its long history of mediating between Israel and the Arab world, the US must alert the international community that the status quo is unsustainable. To that end, it must stress the API to the Israeli public and political arena on one hand, and engage the Arab world in the negotiations on the other. To compliment potential success, they must utilize their wide influence to neutralize any spoilers, while supporting the development and sustainability of a Palestinian Statehood financially and linking Gaza, East Jerusalem and Area C to the West Bank.

All these aforementioned recommendations highlight the crux of what roles must be adopted by the global and regional players to achieve sustainable regional peace and security. Of course, the booklet will emphasize with greater details and even more policies that resound in their efficiency and applicability.

The CDCD and its partners is dedicated to a better future that will hold peace and security for the coming generations that will call the Middle East their home. 


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Director of the Middle East/North Africa program at IFRI (French Institute for International Relations), Mansouria Mokhefi, has recently published her new great paper "The Magreb in the arab policy of Turkey".

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