Excerpts: US-Russia:Syria peace talks.Al-Qaeda born in a tiny office in New
York.Egypt’s Sisi defends tough economic reforms.Assad: Aleppo key to
pushing back terrorists. Iran shifting policy on Saudi. October 15, 2016
+++SOURCE:Al Arabiya News 15 Oct.’16:”Syria peace talks end with no
breakthrough”,by Alexander Winning,and Lesley Waroughton,Reuters
SUBJECT:US-Russia:Syria peace talks
FULL TEXT:Syria peace talks on Syria in Switzerland ended on Saturday[15
Oct]. without any breakthrough, Al Arabiya News Channel correspondent
Earlier, Syria talks with a fresh format but few fresh ideas opened in the
Swiss lakeside town of Lausanne on Saturday[15 Oct], with US Secretary of
State John Kerry seeking a new path to peace after failing to secure a
ceasefire in direct talks with Russia.
Kerry hosted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and seven foreign
ministers from the region – from Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar,
Jordan and Egypt – three weeks after the collapse of a painstakingly crafted
U.S.-Russian ceasefire plan that many saw as the last hope for peace this
Lavrov has said he has “no special expectations” for Saturday’s[15 Oct]
meeting. A senior US State Department official said he foresaw no major
announcement at the end of the day.
“This is going to be, as it has been now for several years, a very difficult
process,” the US official said.
Europe is not represented at the meeting being held in a luxury hotel on
Lake Geneva. But France’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that foreign ministers
of like-minded nations plan to meet to discuss Syria in London on Sunday[16
Since the breakdown of US-Russia cooperation, long the backbone of efforts
to end the war in Syria, US officials have worked on a number of ideas, and
although no breakthrough is expected, the regional format could be the basis
of a new process, the US official said.
A Western diplomat in Lausanne said the meeting appeared ill-prepared and
vague in its goals, and the list of invitees clarified only at the last
“If it is to reach an agreement on Aleppo, countries have to make
commitments: Russia to stop bombing, Iran to withdraw its militia on the
ground supporting Damascus” the diplomat told Reuters.
“That is a lot to obtain in half a day. Especially when people who are
arriving are not happy with the format of the talks,” he said. “If this
format is to be credible, Kerry has to come out of the talks tonight saying
we got something for Aleppo. A ceasefire would be credible.”
Before the talks started, Kerry met separately with his Saudi counterpart
Adel al-Jubeir and with Lavrov to discuss the logistics of the meeting.
It was the first meeting between Kerry and Lavrov since the collapse of a
second attempted ceasefire in September.
The US is expected to once again push Russia to agree to a ceasefire in
Aleppo, and Russia is seen as insisting on separating moderate opposition
groups from those it considers terrorists.
Pressure is rising for a halt to a ferocious, three-week-old Syrian
government offensive to capture the rebel-held eastern zone of the city of
Aleppo, where the United Nations says 275,000 civilians still live and 8,000
rebels are holding out against Syrian, Russian and Iranian-backed forces.
Western powers have accused Russia and Syria of committing atrocities by
bombing hospitals, killing civilians and preventing medical evacuations, as
well as targeting an aid convoy with the loss of around 20 lives.
Syria and Russia counter that they are only targeting militants in Aleppo
and accuse the United States of breaking the ceasefire by bombing scores of
Syrian troops fighting ISIS insurgents, over which the United States has
A senior rebel commander said on Friday[14 Oct] that Syrian government
forces would never be able to capture Aleppo’s eastern sector, but a
military source said the operation was going as planned.
The United Nations has said food, fuel and medicine are running out in
eastern Aleppo and there will be no rations to distribute from the start of
In a gesture of apparent desperation, UN Syria peace envoy Staffan de
Mistura has offered to escort members of an Islamist militant group, Jabhat
Fateh al-Sham, out of Aleppo if that would entice Damascus to forge a
ceasefire with the remaining rebels.
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said Russia wants to
discuss de Mistura’s offer, as well as elements of last month’s failed truce
deal, namely humanitarian aid deliveries and a pullout of both sides’ troops
from the Castello Road, a key supply route, he told Interfax news agency.
+++SOURCE:Al Arabiya News 15 Oct.’16:”How Al-Qaeda was born in a tiny office
in New York”,by Suda Al-Halih
SUBJECT:Al-Qaeda born in a tiny office in New York
QUOTE:”In 1986 Khaled Abu Al Thahab one of Al Qaeda’s members opened the
group’s main branch in New York,Brooklyn”
FULL TEXT:Al-Qaeda’s late leader Osama Bin Laden and another founding member
of the militant group, Abdullah Azzam, established in the 1980s Maktab
al-Khadamat or the Office of Services in Pakistan to recruit an Islamic army
to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan.
The Soviet-Afghan War started in late 1979 and ended in 1989. The insurgent
groups known as “the Mujahideen” fought against the Soviet Army and allied
Afghan forces. During this period, Al-Qaeda saw its formative period during
this time, with many of its members, arrived to Afghanistan from different
countries including those from the Arab world.
With its main headquarters in Pakistan, the office, known later as Al-Kifah
Refugees Center, became key for Al-Qaeda’s fundraising and recruitment. Many
of its branches were later opened in US cities, reaching up to 33 branches.
Al-Qaeda’s first US office opened in Tucson city in Arizona in 1984.
In 1986, Khaled Abu Al-Thahab, one of Al-Qaeda’s members, opened the group’s
main branch in the United States in New York’s Brooklyn.
In late 1987, Al-Qaeda early members: Mustafa Shalabi, Fawaz Damara, Ali
al-Shinawi, officially registered the office as “Al-Kifah Center, Farouq
Shalabi, a US citizen of Egyptian heritage, was in charge of the office in
addition to two other aides: Mohammed Abu Halima, who was later accused for
being involved in bombing the World Trade Center in 1993 in New York, and
Al-Sayid Nasir, accused of killing a Jewish rabbi in New York in 1990.
One of Al-Qaeda’s letters – received by Alarabiya.net dating back to 2003 –
stated that training was undertaken in Al-Kifah Center.
Mac Williams, an FBI agent, said the US embassy in the Afghan capital Kabul
was involved in the recruitment of Arab fighters to fight the Soviets.
Azzam, who was in charge of the recruitment at the time, established an
Office of Services in Afghanistan in 1984. In one of his letters, Azzam said
that he had opened an account in a bank and appointed Shalabi as the manager
of the office.
The CIA was involved in the financing the Arab fighters in Afghanistan,
according to one of the letters by Algerian Abdullah Anas.
Anas, who was a scholar, was the nom de guerre of a man who helped the
Afghanistan Mujahideen fight the Soviet invasion in the northern provinces
Anas was worried about the conflict in Afghanistan and its repercussions on
the Arab fighters, so he suggested the establishment of Office of Services
Azzam used to go to the United States every year to attend conferences and
lecture American Muslims about fighting in Afghanistan. It is worth
mentioning that Anas – Azzam’s brother-in-law – left the Pakistani city of
Peshawar and sought political asylum in Britain.
After Maktab al-Khadamat and the Kifah Refugees Center, Bin Laden
established “Beit al-Ansar”. It was the main destination for those who
wanted to get recruited and trained for fighting in Afghanistan.
The US officials were concerned about the growing radicalism between Arab
and Afghan fighters. According to former CIA director and defense secretary,
Robert Gates, the agency was vigilant regarding the Arab fighters who
started to flow to Afghanistan from all over the world.
(This is an excerpt of translation of the article first published in the
Arabic language website of Al Arabiya News Channel)
+++SOURCE: Naharnet(Lebanon) 15 Oct.’16:”Egypt’s Sisi Defends ‘Tough but
Unavoidable’Economic Reforms”,by Agence France Presse
SUBJECT:Egypt’s Sisi defends tough economic reforms
QUOTE:”Sisi:’the reforms are tough but unavoidable ahead of a $12billion
International Monetary Fund loan to revive his country’s ailing economy”
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has defended what he described as
“tough but unavoidable” reforms ahead of a $12-billion International
Monetary Fund loan to revive his country’s ailing economy.
“The reforms are tough but they’re unavoidable to save the economic
situation,” Sisi said in an interview published on Saturday by state
In exchange for the IMF loan, Egypt is expected to adopt drastic reforms to
increase public revenues and reduce state subsidies, which make up 7.9
percent of government spending.
Sisi described a “programme for real reforms that aims to provide subsidies
to those who deserve them and no one else”, promising “protection for those
with low incomes”.
The former army chief, who became president in 2014 less than a year after
toppling Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, also defended the army’s
participation in large scale projects touted as part of the country’s
“The army is playing an important role in development but this role will
diminish in the coming years when it will have finished its plan for the
reconstruction of state infrastructures,” he said.
For decades, the military — which produced all but one president since
1952 — has played a key economic role, producing everything from washing
machines to pasta, alongside building roads and operating gas stations.
The president also justified military spending including on two Mistral
helicopter carriers from France on the need to defend a recently discovered
gas field in Egypt’s territorial waters.
“We have gas fields more than 200 kilometres (125 miles) off our shores such
as the Zohr field and others. We need to be able to secure and protect
them,” he said.
Italian energy giant Eni in August announced the discovery of Zohr, the
“largest ever” offshore natural gas field in the Mediterranean with a
potential 30 trillion cubic feet (850 billion cubic metres) of gas in about
100 square kilometres (40 square miles).
“The cost of a Mistral is equivalent to one month’s revenues from the Zohr
gas field,” Sisi said.
Egypt’s parliament in August passed a law on value added tax, one of the
reforms promised in exchange for the IMF loan, to be set at 13 percent for
2016-17 and 14 percent for the following fiscal year.
The VAT replaces a sales tax of 10 percent, although the government says
about 50 services and products will be exempt, including bread.
+++SOURCE: Al Arabiya News 14 Oct.’16:”Assad:Aleppo key to pushing back
SUBJECT:Assad:Aleppo key to pushing back terroists
QUOTE:”Syria’s civil war, now in its sixth year, has killed 300,000 people
and left millions homeless while dragging in regional and global powers”
FULL TEXT:Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad said on Friday[14Oct] that the
Syrian army’s capture of Aleppo, which has come under renewed bombardment in
an effort to seize its rebel-held sector, would be “a very important
springboard” to pushing “terrorists” back to Turkey.
Rescue workers said that Syria’s military backed by Russian warplanes had
killed more than 150 people in eastern Aleppo this week, in support of its
offensive against the city.
Rising casualties in Aleppo, where many buildings have been reduced to
rubble or are lacking roofs or walls, have prompted an international outcry
and a renewed diplomatic push, with talks between the United States and
Russia planned for Saturday.
“You have to keep cleaning this area and to push the terrorists to Turkey,
to go back to where they come from or to kill them. There’s no other
option,” Assad said in an interview with Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya
“Aleppo is going to be a very important springboard to do this move,” added
As the air strikes and shelling of the city’s east intensified after a brief
period of relative calm, Syria’s government approved a United Nations plan
to allow aid convoys into the most besieged areas of Syria, with the
exception of Aleppo.
Syria’s civil war, now in its sixth year, has killed 300,000 people and left
millions homeless while dragging in regional and global powers as well as
inspiring extremist attacks abroad.
+++SOURCE: Al Arabiya News 14 Oct.’16’:”OPINION:Iran’s shifting policy on
Saudi Arabia”,by Dr, Majid Rafizadeh
SUBJECT: Iran shifting policy on Saudi
QUOTE:”‘Tehran believes that the geopolitical chessboard of the Middle East
is significantly changing, reasserting its hegemony’. (AFP)
FULL TEXT:Iran believes that the geopolitical chessboard of the Middle East
is significantly changing, reasserting Iran’s hegemony, due to the lifting
of sanctions, Iran’s improving ties with the Eastern and Western powers, as
well as the geopolitical, strategic and economic tilt of Asian nations,
Russia, Europe and the US towards Iran.
Iran also believes that the regional balance of power is significantly
tipping in favor of Tehran. As a result, a fundamental shift in Iran’s
policy toward Saudi Arabia is occurring because, from Iran’s perspective, a
significant change in its policy toward Riyadh is a must at this critical
One critical indication of a fundamental shift in one of Iran’s domestic or
foreign policies is when its political factions – across the political
spectrum – join hands and are on the same page with regard to specific
policy, not only privately behind closed doors, but also publicly.
This has happened with respect to Iran’s policy toward Saudi Arabia. Iran’s
moderates (primarily led by Iran’s President Hassan Rowhani, foreign
minister Javad Zarid and Rafsanjani) are totally and comprehensively on the
same page with the hardliners (mainly Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei,
Iran’s intelligence ministry, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, the
conservative judiciary and the Basij) when it comes to portraying Saudi
Arabia as Iran’s main enemy and increasing resentment towards Riyadh.
This fundamental shift highlights the fact that Tehran’s animosity toward
Riyadh is not only tactical or temporary, but is strategic, geopolitical,
religious, and an enduring one.
Iran needs an “enemy” to survive. This has been the foundational pillar of
the Islamic Republic’s foreign policy since its establishment 1979.
Directing hostility toward Saudi Arabia was the solution
Moderates join hardliners
One of the few policies in which the moderates and hardliners are totally on
the same page, coalesce and find shared interests with the hardliners, is
the Islamic Republic’s shifting policy toward Saudi Arabia.
When Rowhani came to power, he advocated for diplomatic initiatives and
dialogue with other countries, in order to bring Iran out of political and
economic isolation, which was endangering the hold on power.
Rowhani and Zarif followed this tactical shift toward many countries
including Iran’s “Great Satan”, the United States, while the hardliners
persisted on pursuing the same policies. Although in public, Rowhani and
Zarif did not completely and comprehensively join the hardliners when it
came to the US and Western powers, behind the close doors, they were on the
However, Rouhani and Zarif soon changed their private and public agenda and
policy toward one specific country: Saudi Arabia. The harsh rhetoric from
Khamenei and the senior cadre of the IRGC has increased. In almost every
speech, Khamenei is lashing out on Saudi Arabia.
Zarif and Rowhani joined the hardliners agenda. Rouhani’s speech at the 71st
session of the United Nations General Assembly, his speeches in Iran, Zarif’s
statements, his New York Times Op-ed, all reflect this shift in Iran’s
policy toward Riyadh.
For several reasons, the moderates were more than delighted to join
hardliners’ increasing hostility towards Saudi Arabia.
First of all, for the moderates, they needed another state actor to replace
Iran’s Great State, the US. From their perspective, the moderates believe
that rapprochement with US is necessary because it gives Iran global
It not only brings in more revenue through trade with US allies but also
pressures Washington and its allies to turn a blind eye to Iran’s military
adventurism in the region. Finally, it will strengthen the hold-on-power of
the Islamic Republic’s political establishment.
This tactical shift regarding Iran-US ties – whereas the moderates show one
face in the public and another behind closed doors – is essential for them
to better serve their interests.
The bigger picture
The recent rapprochement and communications between Iranian politicians and
their American counterparts was distorting the bigger picture that
Washington is Iran’s “Great Satan”. Moderates were also being criticized by
the hardliners for being soft on the US and for stripping the Islamic
Republic of its powerful tool in having an “enemy”.
Iran needs an “enemy” to survive. This has been the foundational pillar of
the Islamic Republic’s foreign policy since its establishment 1979.
Directing hostility toward Saudi Arabia was the solution.
In addition, for Iran, labeling Saudi Arabia as Iran’s major enemy is a much
more powerful tool. In order to unify its core against the “other”, Iran
capitalizes on the ethnic differences (Arab versus Persian), on the
sectarian platform (Sunni versus Shiite) and on geopolitical differences
(Pro-Assad, pro Hezbollah, pro-Palestine versus the opposite).
This also allows the IRGC to crack down on the Sunni population of Iran or
on the opposition by accusing them of being conspirators, allied with Saudi
Arabia. Iran’s policy toward Saudi Arabia is fundamentally shifting due to
the aforementioned reasons.
Iran’s narrative of who is its “major enemy” is changing as the moderates
and hardliners join hands in their harsh policies, both publicly and
privately, toward Riyadh.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian-American political scientist and Harvard
University scholar, is president of the International American Council.
Rafizadeh serves on the board of Harvard International Review at Harvard
University. He is also a member of the Gulf project at Columbia University.
Rafizadeh served as a senior fellow at Nonviolence International
Organization based in Washington DC. He has been a recipient of several
scholarships and fellowship including from Oxford University, Annenberg
University, University of California Santa Barbara, and Fulbright Teaching
program. He served as ambassador for the National Iranian-American Council
based in Washington DC, conducted research at Woodrow Wilson International
Center for Scholars, and taught at University of California Santa Barbara
through Fulbright Teaching Scholarship. He can be reached at
Sue Lerner – Associate, IMRA