After Nearly a Decade of Ostracization, Arab States Are Making Their Peace with Bashar al-Assad

On Monday, the United Arab Emirates’ national-security adviser visited Tehran, in an apparent attempt to smooth over relations with a country it generally sees as a threat. But three years ago, the UAE took what might be considered a step in this direction by reestablishing diplomatic ties with Bashar al-Assad’s Syria, which is Iran’s closest ally. The Arab league had expelled Syria in 2011 after Assad launched a bloody war against his own people. And the Emiratis are not the only ones interested in reconciliation. Amotz Asa-El explains what has changed:

The role of the global superpowers in the Middle East has transformed dramatically since the [Syrian] civil war’s outbreak. Back then, Russia was on the region’s margins, where it had been since Egypt’s defection from Moscow’s orbit to Washington’s in the 1970s. This configuration ended in 2015, when Russia opened the Khmeimim airbase in western Syria and thrust its air force into the thick of the Syrian civil war—and soon determined that war’s outcome.

The Obama administration’s failure to oppose the Russian move, even verbally, alongside President Obama’s failure to follow through on his threat to punish Assad for launching chemical-weapons attacks on his own people, led Arab leaders to conclude that Washington’s strategic domination of the Middle East was being seriously challenged, and possibly eclipsed, by Moscow. Russia’s agenda therefore won new respect, and the first item on that agenda was the preservation of the Assad dynasty—which has been loyal to Moscow since its establishment in 1971, and provided Russia with a Mediterranean naval base at Tartus, a precious asset from the Russian point of view.

At the same time, Arab governments are also being pushed back toward Assad’s presidential palace by two regional players, Turkey and Iran.

In Asa-El’s view, reconciliation with Damascus doesn’t necessary signal reconciliation with Tehran:

The anti-Iranian dynamic [driving the Gulf Arab states] became glaring [last] month, when Emirati and Bahraini warships joined Israeli and U.S. vessels in a multilateral naval exercise in the Red Sea. This was an Arab-Israeli show of military harmony that until recently was unthinkable—as unthinkable as a renewed pan-Arab embrace of Bashar al-Assad and his regime.

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Read more at Australia/Israel Review

More about: Bashar al-Assad, Iran, Israel diplomacy, Middle East, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy, United Arab Emirates

 

Salman Rushdie and the Western Apologists for Those Who Wish Him Dead

Aug. 17 2022

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder and supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, issued a fatwa (religious ruling) in 1989 calling for believers to murder the novelist Salman Rushdie due to the content of his novel, The Satanic Verses. Over the years, two of the book’s translators have been stabbed—one fatally—and numerous others have been injured or killed in attempts to follow the ayatollah’s writ. Last week, an American Shiite Muslim came closer than his many predecessors to killing Rushdie, stabbing him multiple times and leaving him in critical condition. Graeme Wood comments on those intellectuals in the West who have exuded sympathy for the stabbers:

In 1989, the reaction to the fatwa was split three ways: some supported it; some opposed it; and some opposed it, to be sure, but still wanted everyone to know how bad Rushdie and his novel were. This last faction, Team To Be Sure, took the West to task for elevating this troublesome man and his insulting book, whose devilry could have been averted had others been more attuned to the sensibilities of the offended.

The fumes are still rising off of this last group. The former president Jimmy Carter was, at the time of the original fatwa, the most prominent American to suggest that the crime of murder should be balanced against Rushdie’s crime of blasphemy. The ayatollah’s death sentence “caused writers and public officials in Western nations to become almost exclusively preoccupied with the author’s rights,” Carter wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. Well, yes. Carter did not only say that many Muslims were offended and wished violence on Rushdie; that was simply a matter of fact, reported frequently in the news pages. He took to the op-ed page to add his view that these fanatics had a point. “While Rushdie’s First Amendment freedoms are important,” he wrote, “we have tended to promote him and his book with little acknowledgment that it is a direct insult to those millions of Moslems whose sacred beliefs have been violated.” Never mind that millions of Muslims take no offense at all, and are insulted by the implication that they should.

Over the past two decades, our culture has been Carterized. We have conceded moral authority to howling mobs, and the louder the howls, the more we have agreed that the howls were worth heeding. The novelist Hanif Kureishi has said that “nobody would have the [courage]” to write The Satanic Verses today. More precisely, nobody would publish it, because sensitivity readers would notice the theological delicacy of the book’s title and plot. The ayatollahs have trained them well, and social-media disasters of recent years have reinforced the lesson: don’t publish books that get you criticized, either by semiliterate fanatics on the other side of the world or by semiliterate fanatics on this one.

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Read more at Atlantic

More about: Ayatollah Khomeini, Freedom of Speech, Iran, Islamism, Jimmy Carter