Friday, November 20, 2015

Madonna - La Isla Bonita

Video Report - New Zealand flag referendum under way


As the terrorist groups dared to strike the depth of the Western security in Paris on November 14, the Euro-American stance towards the Saudi-produced terrorism reached a major turning point, removing a basic card from Riyadh in its double-faced game.
The kingdom of the Saudi regime has always attempted to employ the terrorist groups as a main weapon in its political disputes, especially in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, benefiting from the Western full support to its policy; whereas, Paris attacks have established new anti-terrorist rules that Riyadh has to respect in its strategic policies.
The Arab-Western coalition which has supported the terrorist groups and employed them in its Middle East scheme was shaken by the severe blow that France suffered last week at the hands of ISIL militants and suicide bombers.
The European endeavor to confront the terrorist organization met the Russian announcement that a terrorist act was behind the plane crash two weeks ago, which meant that Moscow would intensify its anti-terrorist campaign in Syria. This contradicts with the Saudi regime's interests and plots.
The LebFaisal Abdul Sateranese political analyst Faisal Abdul Sater said, in an interview with Al-Manar website, that although the change in the Western stance towards the terrorist groups is not drastic, Paris terrorist attacks shook the principles of the Western policy which was based on supporting terrorism against the adversary regimes, which will certainly force the Saudi regime to undergo a considerable political alteration.
"We will witness several modifications in this concern. The issue has started to augment."
Abdul Sater noted the Saudi regime has always blackmailed France by the billion-dollar deals to gain the French help in its unjust policies and wars, adding that France is no longer able to approve such an approach as terrorism struck its capital.
"As an indication to that change, Riyadh ordered all the Saudis in France to reduce their movement across the French territories after Paris attacks because KSA knows that its nationals are undesirable in Europe since they are viewed as the main producers of terrorism."
Being the main producer and employer of terrorism, the Saudi regime tried, during the recent Vienna conference, to promote some terrorist groups as "moderate"; however, the world powers, especially Russia, rejected that categorically.
In the context of Riyadh's frustrated plots, Abdul Sater added that Saudi also failed to instigate the Western countries against Iran and its nuclear program as the relations between Tehran and major European capitals, mainly Paris, are witnessing a remarkable progress in light of the Iranian president Hasan Rouhani’s scheduled visit to France that was postponed after Paris attacks.
The Saudi stalemate is being intensified as the battlefield situation in Yemen indicates that the Yemeni army and popular committees are heading to achieve a major victory since the Saudi-led terrorists failed to attain a remarkable progress on the ground, according to Abdul Sater who pointed out that there must be a political solution in Yemen regardless of the Saudi will.
The Lebanese political writer considered that terrorism will backlash at Saudi as its internal conditions are disturbed by power-sharing conflicts, financial corruption and the religious fanaticism which has always produced, embraced and supported terrorism.
Saudi will be forced to stop playing its double-faced game so that the Saudi Emirs will no longer wear the traditional dresses in KSA and instruct the terrorists to strike the world cities while wearing suits and neckties as they pay visits to the Western capitals lecturing on democracy and human rights.
The Saudi regime is facing a deadlock whether it keeps on backing terrorism and defies the West or changes its stance towards the terrorist groups and challenges the monster on its territories.
"The Saudis can never defy the Western will and that they are ultimately going comply with the Euro-American orders," Faisal Abdul Sater concludes.


Thousands of Yemeni people have once again flooded the streets of the capital, Sana’a, to denounce Saudi Arabia’s relentless military aggression against their country.

The protesters gathered in the Bab al-Yemen region in Sana’a on Friday to voice their outrage at Saudi’s airstrikes against their country as well as a recent decision by the United States to sell more arms to the Riyadh regime.
The rally was held as one person was killed and several others were injured in Saudi airstrikes on a neighborhood in the town of Khadir in southwestern province of Taizz on Friday.
Also on Friday, 10 civilians, including children, lost their lives and several others were injured during Saudi bombings on Sa’ada Province in northwest of Yemen.
Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world, has been under relentless airstrikes by Saudi Arabia since March 26. The military aggression is supposedly meant to undermine the Ansarullah movement and bring fugitive former Yemeni president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, back to power.
Meanwhile, al-Qaeda terrorists have also stepped up their acts of violence in Yemen amid Saudi Arabia’s military campaign.
According to the Yemeni Civil Coalition, which monitors the crimes committed during the Saudi aggression against Yemen, nearly 7,500 people have lost their lives and over 16,000 others wounded in the Saudi raids since late March. The UN has, however, put the death toll at 5,700, including 830 women and children.
The Saudi strikes have also destroyed the impoverished country’s facilities and infrastructure.

Pakistan - Senior PPP leader Amin Fahim passes away

Senior Pakistan People's Party (PPP) leader Amin Fahim passed away early Saturday morning, aged 76. He had been battling blood cancer. Fahim passed away in a local hospital in Karachi. 
Fahim, who had been under intensive care treatment in Dubai for his cancer, returned to Pakistan last month. He was flown to Karachi in an air-ambulance, was shifted to a private hospital located in Defence Housing Authority.
He had been diagnosed with cancer a few months back, after which he flew to Germany for an unsuccessful lump surgery. He was then treated in a Boston hospital in United States, but his condition had increasingly deteriorated. He then went through post-surgery treatment in London, after which he shifted to Dubai.
Fahim, a veteran politician, started his political activism in 1970,
successfully contesting in the 1970 general elections. He was a close ally of Benazir Bhutto during the 1990s. After being successful n the 2008 general elections, he notably stepped down from the PM candidacy for Yousaf Raza Gillani.
Tributes started pouring in on social media early morning.

Video Report - Putin talks of 'next phase' in Syria

US: Reject Bomb Sales to Saudi Arabia

Coalition Failure to Investigate Civilian Deaths in Airstrikes on Yemen.
The Obama administration should not sell aerial bombs to Saudi Arabia in the absence of serious investigations into alleged laws-of-war violations in Yemen
On November 17, 2015, the United States Department of Defense announced that the State Department had approved a sale of US$1.29 billion worth of air-to-ground munitions such as laser-guided bombs and “general purpose” bombs with guidance systems. “The purchase replenishes the Royal Saudi Air Force’s current weapons supplies, which are becoming depleted due to the high operational tempo in multiple counter-terrorism operations,” the statement said.
“The US government is well aware of the Saudi-led coalition’s indiscriminate air attacks that have killed hundreds of civilians in Yemen since March,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director. “Providing the Saudis with more bombs under these circumstances is a recipe for greater civilian deaths, for which the US will be partially responsible.”
The US Congress has played a role in opposing sales of US weapons used in violation of the laws of war and should do so in this case, Human Rights Watch said.
A Saudi-led coalition of Arab countries has been conducting military operations in Yemen against Houthi and allied forces since late March. The United Nations reported that the fighting in Yemen has killed more than 2,500 civilians, most of them in air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition. Human Rights Watch has documented numerous airstrikes that unlawfully failed to discriminate between civilians and combatants or in places such as crowded markets in which there was no evident military target, causing hundreds of civilian casualties.
The US has played a direct role in coordinating coalition air operations, US military officials have said. The participation of US forces in specific attacks may make them responsible for possible laws-of-war violations by the coalition. The United Kingdomand France have also made recent military sales to Saudi Arabia.
Also on November 17, the US Defense Department announced State Department approval for the sale of $380 million worth of Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) to the United Arab Emirates, which is part of the Saudi-led coalition conducting military operations in Yemen.
“Until Saudi Arabia investigates apparently unlawful strikes by coalition warplanes and takes appropriate action, the US should not be supplying them more bombs,” Stork said. “Saudi disregard for the requirements of the laws of war makes enablers of those countries providing the weapons.”
Under the laws of war, warring parties must take all feasible precautions to avoid harming civilians. Parties to a conflict are also required to investigate credible allegations of laws-of-war violations and hold accountable those found responsible for such violations. Human Rights Watch is unaware of any investigations of airstrikes by Saudi Arabia or other coalition members. Saudi officials have not responded to repeated requests from Human Rights Watch for information about specific airstrikes causing civilian loss of life and property.

Saudi court sentences poet to death for renouncing Islam

Friends of Palestinian Ashraf Fayadh believe he is being punished for posting video showing religious police lashing a man in public.
 A Palestinian poet and leading member of Saudi Arabia’s nascent contemporary art scene has been sentenced to death for renouncing Islam.
A Saudi court on Tuesday ordered the execution of Ashraf Fayadh, who has curated art shows in Jeddah and at the Venice Biennale. The poet, who said he did not have legal representation, was given 30 days to appeal against the ruling.
Fayadh, 35, a key member of the British-Saudi art organisation Edge of Arabia, was originally sentenced to four years in prison and 800 lashes by the general court in Abha, a city in the south-west of the ultraconservative kingdom, in May 2014.
But after his appeal was dismissed he was retried last month and a new panel of judges ruled that his repentance did not prevent his execution.
“I was really shocked but it was expected, though I didn’t do anything that deserves death,” Fayadh told the Guardian.
Mona Kareem, a migrant rights activist from Kuwait who has led a campaign for the poet’s release, said: “For one and a half years they promised him an appeal and kept intimidating him that there’s new evidence.
“He was unable to assign a lawyer because his ID was confiscated when he was arrested [in January 2014]. Then they said you must have a retrial and we’ll change the prosecutor and the judges. The new judge didn’t even talk to him, he just made the verdict.”
Fayadh’s supporters believe he is being punished by hardliners for posting a video online showing the religious police (mutaween) in Abha lashing a man in public. “Some Saudis think this was revenge by the morality police,” said Kareem.
Kareem also believes that Fayadh has been targeted because he is a Palestinian refugee, although he was born in Saudi Arabia.
The religious police first detained Fayadh in August 2013 after receiving a complaint that he was cursing against Allah and the prophet Muhammad, insulting Saudi Arabia and distributing a book of his poems that promoted atheism. Fayadh said the complaint arose from a personal dispute with another artist during a discussion about contemporary art in a cafe in Abha.
He was released on bail after one day but the police arrested him again on 1 January 2014, confiscating his ID and detaining him at a police station until he was transferred to the local prison 27 days later. According to Fayadh’s friends, when the police failed to prove that his poetry was atheist propaganda, they began berating him for smoking and having long hair.
“They accused me [of] atheism and spreading some destructive thoughts into society,” said Fayadh. He added that the book, Instructions Within, published in 2008, was “just about me being [a] Palestinian refugee … about cultural and philosophical issues. But the religious extremists explained it as destructive ideas against God.”
The case went to trial in February 2014 when the complainant and two members of the religious police told the court that Fayadh had publicly blasphemed, promoted atheism to young people and conducted illicit relationships with women and stored some of their photographs on his mobile phone.
Fayadh denied the accusations of blasphemy and told the court he was a faithful Muslim. According to the court documents, he said: “I am repentant to God most high and am innocent of what appeared in my book mentioned in this case.”
The documents also state that he admitted that he had relationships with the women. But Fayadh said his words had been twisted: the women were fellow artists and the photos on his phone, some of which he posted on Instagram, were taken during Jeddah art week, Saudi Arabia’s most important contemporary art event.
The case highlights the tensions between hardline religious conservatives and the small but growing number of artists and activists who are tentatively pushing the boundaries of freedom of speech in Saudi Arabia, where cinema is banned and there are no art schools. Abha, which has become a hub for contemporary Saudi art, has been a focal point for these disputes in recent years. An anonymous collective of film-makers who set up a secret cinema in the city in October 2012received death threats from hardliners.
The kingdom’s best known contemporary artist, Ahmed Mater, who lives in Abha and testified in Fayadh’s defence at his first trial, said: “Ashraf is well known in Abha and the whole of Saudi Arabia. We are all praying for his release.”
Stephen Stapleton, co-founder of Edge of Arabia, said Fayadh had been a key figure taking Saudi contemporary art to a global audience.
“He was instrumental to introducing Saudi contemporary art to Britain and connecting Tate Modern to the emerging scene,” said Stapleton. “He curated a major show in Jeddah in 2013 and co-curated a show at the Venice Biennale later that year.
“I’ve known him since 2003. He’s a truly wonderful, kind person. He’s an intellectual and creative but he’s not an atheist.”
Adam Coogle, a Middle East researcher for Human Rights Watch, said Fayadh’s death sentence showed Saudi Arabia’s “complete intolerance of anyone who may not share government-mandated religious, political and social views”.
“The trial records in this case indicate clear due process violations, including charges that do not resemble recognisable crimes and lack of access to legal assistance,” he said.
“This case is yet another black mark on Saudi Arabia’s dismal human rights record in 2015, which includes the public flogging of liberal blogger Raif Badawi in January and a death sentence for Ali al-Nimr, a Saudi man accused of protest-related activities allegedly committed before he was 18 years old.
“If Saudi Arabia wishes to improve its human rights record it must release Fayadh and overhaul its justice system to prevent all prosecutions solely for peaceful speech – especially those that result in beheading.”
The Saudi monarchy regularly executes people over drugs, even while its own princes are caught with more than 4,000 pounds of illegal drugs in foreign airports. Every four days, on average, Saudi Arabia kills someone for drug-related offenses.
Despite the Saudi regime’s well-documented, heinous human rights violations, the U.S. State Department said it “welcomed” the news that Saudi Arabia would be heading a U.N. human rights panel, noting “We’re close allies.”
Western countries see extremist and repressive Gulf monarchies like Saudi Arabia as important allies primarily because of their enormous oil reserves, even while theyimprison or sentence to death anyone who challenges the regime.

After Paris and Beirut, It’s Time to Rein in Saudi Arabia


After the carnage in Paris, Western governments turned immediately to debating the usual tactics for “bringing the terrorists to justice.” Should we employ drone strikes, they wonder? Boots on the ground? Police?
The much more important matter, however, is identifying and stopping the source of the nihilism, misogyny, and sectarian animus that’s found fertile breeding grounds in the civil wars of the Middle East. Unless the source is addressed, there will be an endless supply of terrorists wreaking havoc. And we in the West will continue wringing our hands and responding impulsively rather than strategically.
While virtually all Islamic scholars dispute the theological soundness of the ISIS ideology, the group’s roots lie in fundamentalist Sunni Islam, specifically the Wahhabi strain officially espoused by Saudi Arabia — our “ally” — which views Shiites as apostates and seeks to turn Islamic societies back to an intolerant (and imagined) medieval past where women are stoned for adultery and reporters are lashed. Since the 1970s, the Saudi government and its allied religious establishment have exported their extremist version of Sunni Islam around the world — all financed by their oil money.
During the 1970s and ‘80s, Saudi Arabia financed Pakistan’s ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) in support of the anti-Soviet insurgents in Afghanistan that became the Taliban. The U.S. matched the Saudi contribution to ISI, but abdicated its responsibility to see where the money was going. Anxious to avoid overt provocation of the Soviets, Washington allowed Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to choose the recipients of American taxpayer dollars, and these were the most fundamentalist insurgent factions — like the Haqqani network, which plagues Afghanistan even today and has targeted American soldiers serving there.
Saudi money financed the Pakistani madrassas that provided the only available “schooling” for a generation of young Afghan male refugees. In camps devoid of women, the extreme separation of the sexes resulted in young males detached from any experience of women or family life. They were taught to memorize the Koran (in Arabic, having no idea what it said), use weapons, and hate the West. They were otherwise illiterate about both secular subjects and Islamic jurisprudence.
Since the 1990s, Saudi money has similarly financed mosques and Wahhabi-inspired teaching throughout the Balkans as well, contributing to the instability of that region.
It appears that the connection between Saudi Arabia and the Paris bombings is even more direct. Many of the plotters came from the Molenbeek neighborhood in Brussels. In the 1970s, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries funded Wahhabi religious schools there, displacing or taking over the more moderate mosques founded by the Turkish and Moroccan immigrants in the district and helping to thwart their children’s potential for cultural integration.
ISIS’ extreme misogynistic worldview was starkly on display in its statement after the Paris massacre. It referred to a “profligate prostitution party” at the Bataclan Conference Center. This should be a red flag. The equation of women out to a concert and prostitution reflects the same mindset animating the Saudi insistence that women cannot drive, cannot leave the house unless escorted by a male relative, and must be covered head to toe. (In fact, I would argue there’s an insufficiently explored thread of distorted sexuality in hardline Wahhabi belief and practice.)
Our “ally’s” religiously mandated intolerance was displayed to the world in the hatred that we witnessed on Nov. 13th, with hundreds dead and many more maimed in Lebanon and Paris. Why do we put up with this aggressive medieval proselytizing from Saudi Arabia? With allies like this, who needs enemies?
Well, the simple answer is oil: We’ve chosen to buy our oil from Saudi Arabia and boycott the Shiite Iranian source.
But cheap oil may have been purchased too dearly when the mayhem in the Middle East and now Europe is the result. Accepting higher oil prices in the interests of containing Sunni nihilism could be a worthwhile bargain.
We’ve also boxed ourselves in diplomatically by a generation of demonizing and isolating Iran, the major Shiite power, leaving no counterweight to the Saudi Sunni ideology. Yes, we cite the 1979 takeover of the American embassy in Tehran, but forget that Iranian anti-American sentiment was a predictable result of the CIA overthrowing the elected and more or less democratic government of Prime Minister Mossadegh in 1953. (The U.S. acted at a British request; they wanted to control Iranian oil and Mossadegh nationalized it.) We condemned Iran to a generation of brutal dictatorship under the Shah’s notorious secret police. Should we have been surprised when the revolution that came in 1979 brought payback to the Americans?
While Iran does indeed support violence in other countries, its efforts seem rationally related to political objectives (supporting Hezbollah against the Israeli occupation, and Assad as a fellow Shiite power) and might be resolved as such. They have thus far not included assaults on uninvolved civilians and barbarism for its own sake.
So what to do at this point? We have leverage over Saudi Arabia if we choose to use it. We should stop supplying weapons — which are currently being used to attack Shiite factions in Yemen — and insist that Saudi Arabia cease financing fundamentalists throughout Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, and the Balkans. It’s pointless to apply tactical solutions to the problems of the Middle East while Saudi Arabia is free to (almost literally) pour oil on the fires.

Saudi Arabia, an ISIS That Has Made It


Black Daesh, white Daesh. The former slits throats, kills, stones, cuts off hands, destroys humanity’s common heritage and despises archaeology, women and non-Muslims. The latter is better dressed and neater but does the same things. The Islamic State; Saudi Arabia. In its struggle against terrorism, the West wages war on one, but shakes hands with the other. This is a mechanism of denial, and denial has a price: preserving the famous strategic alliance with Saudi Arabia at the risk of forgetting that the kingdom also relies on an alliance with a religious clergy that produces, legitimizes, spreads, preaches and defends Wahhabism, the ultra-puritanical form of Islam that Daesh feeds on.
Wahhabism, a messianic radicalism that arose in the 18th century, hopes to restore a fantasized caliphate centered on a desert, a sacred book, and two holy sites, Mecca and Medina. Born in massacre and blood, it manifests itself in a surreal relationship with women, a prohibition against non-Muslims treading on sacred territory, and ferocious religious laws. That translates into an obsessive hatred of imagery and representation and therefore art, but also of the body, nakedness and freedom. Saudi Arabia is a Daesh that has made it.
The West’s denial regarding Saudi Arabia is striking: It salutes the theocracy as its ally but pretends not to notice that it is the world’s chief ideological sponsor of Islamist culture. The younger generations of radicals in the so-called Arab world were not born jihadists. They were suckled in the bosom of Fatwa Valley, a kind of Islamist Vatican with a vast industry that produces theologians, religious laws, books, and aggressive editorial policies and media campaigns. One might counter: Isn’t Saudi Arabia itself a possible target of Daesh? Yes, but to focus on that would be to overlook the strength of the ties between the reigning family and the clergy that accounts for its stability — and also, increasingly, for its precariousness. The Saudi royals are caught in a perfect trap: Weakened by succession laws that encourage turnover, they cling to ancestral ties between king and preacher. The Saudi clergy produces Islamism, which both threatens the country and gives legitimacy to the regime.
One has to live in the Muslim world to understand the immense transformative influence of religious television channels on society by accessing its weak links: households, women, rural areas. Islamist culture is widespread in many countries — Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Mali, Mauritania. There are thousands of Islamist newspapers and clergies that impose a unitary vision of the world, tradition and clothing on the public space, on the wording of the government’s laws and on the rituals of a society they deem to be contaminated.
It is worth reading certain Islamist newspapers to see their reactions to the attacks in Paris. The West is cast as a land of “infidels.” The attacks were the result of the onslaught against Islam. Muslims and Arabs have become the enemies of the secular and the Jews. The Palestinian question is invoked along with the rape of Iraq and the memory of colonial trauma, and packaged into a messianic discourse meant to seduce the masses. Such talk spreads in the social spaces below, while up above, political leaders send their condolences to France and denounce a crime against humanity. This totally schizophrenic situation parallels the West’s denial regarding Saudi Arabia.
All of which leaves one skeptical of Western democracies’ thunderous declarations regarding the necessity of fighting terrorism. Their war can only be myopic, for it targets the effect rather than the cause. Since ISIS is first and foremost a culture, not a militia, how do you prevent future generations from turning to jihadism when the influence of Fatwa Valley and its clerics and its culture and its immense editorial industry remains intact?
Is curing the disease therefore a simple matter? Hardly. Saudi Arabia remains an ally of the West in the many chess games playing out in the Middle East. It is preferred to Iran, that gray Daesh. And there’s the trap. Denial creates the illusion of equilibrium. Jihadism is denounced as the scourge of the century but no consideration is given to what created it or supports it. This may allow saving face, but not saving lives.
Daesh has a mother: the invasion of Iraq. But it also has a father: Saudi Arabia and its religious-industrial complex. Until that point is understood, battles may be won, but the war will be lost. Jihadists will be killed, only to be reborn again in future generations and raised on the same books. The attacks in Paris have exposed this contradiction again, but as happened after 9/11, it risks being erased from our analyses and our consciences.

Video Report - CrossTalk: Talking Syria

Video - Russia - Blocking ISIS' financing key to defeating monster of terrorism-Chairperson of the Federation Council

If Russia, the West refuse to cooperate in Syria now, it will be insanity


Foreign policy experts believe that Russia and the West should give up their differences over the crisis in Syria and start working together, even if it means sacrificing some of their vital interests in the Middle East.
Shortly after the Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris, another round of diplomatic talks on Syria took place in Vienna. Then, just a day later, the Russian and American presidents had an opportunity to talk for about 20 minutes on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Turkey, with Syria and terrorism reportedly topics of discussion.
Following these high-profile meetings, the Russian security services admitted that the crash of a Russian passenger airliner in Egypt was the result of a terror attack. Given numerous threats emanating from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Greater Syria (ISIS) that they will commit even more terror attacks throughout the world, including in Europe and Russia, cooperation between countries to fight terrorism and increase the chances of a political settlement of the Syrian conflict becomes vital.   

Also read: Russia Direct Report: 'Russia's New Strategy in the Middle East' 

However, skeptics point to the many differences that hamper global leaders’ attempts to come up with a compromise. Even the Kremlin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, admitted that there is no reason to be overly optimistic about the impact of the brief meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his American counterpart Barack Obama during the G20 summit.
The Middle East has only become more complicated and more unpredictable
The Middle East is so turbulent and brings together a number of geopolitical stakeholders with competing interests, which only complicates the situation and makes it more unpredictable. 
There is a total mess and unpredictability in the Middle East,” well-known Middle East expertVitaly Naumkin, the director of the Institute of Oriental Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, said during the Nov. 9 presentation of his new book Conflicts and Wars of the 21st Century at the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) in Moscow.
Naumkin argues that the world needs new approaches for how to deal with the Middle East and makes no bones about the fact that global stakeholders have been increasingly manipulating the region in their own interests. 
One of Naumkin’s co-authors, Dina Malysheva, an expert from the Russian Academy of Sciences, argues the long history of failed states in the Middle East has brought to the geopolitical scene non-state actors such the Islamic State of Iraq and the Greater Syria(ISIS) and has created a fertile soil for terrorism.   
“The transnational agenda make these conflicts [in the Middle East] multilayered: they are rooted in local realities, but manipulated by external players and under the influence of transnational ideologies [such as that of ISIS],” she added.
Given the fact the more than 16 million Muslims live in Russia, the problem of transnational ideologies becomes increasingly relevant for Russia, because the ISIS ideology is seen by many Russian Muslims as “a viable idea, said Malysheva, adding that the challenge is not only to destroy physically ISIS, but also to withstand its ideological, economic and political influence.
Two dangerous movements in the Middle East
Today there are too many time bombs in the Middle East, argues Veniamin Popov, an experienced diplomat and former ambassador to Yemen, Libya and Tunisia, who also took the floor during the RIAC discussion.

Recommended: The Kurds could bring Russia and the US together in Syria

According to him, there are two dangerous movements that are driving events forward in the Middle East. The first is the appearance of ISIS as an idea that is impossible to destroy with weapons alone. The second is the political longing of the Kurds, who cannot help jumping at the opportunity to create their own independent state [Kurds are living in four Middle East states: Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey – Editor’s note]. But the Kurdish aspirations for independence and their attempts to cerate a state will be very painful, given the fact that not all countries of the region are interested in this.
Veniamin Popov
We’d better be ready for the worst-case scenario of development of events,” warns Popov. At the same time, he proposes promoting Russian diplomacy in the region and using the idea of Russia saving the Muslim world in the Middle East.
However, Irina Zvyagelskaya, professor at the Russian Academy of Sciences and one of the authors of Russia Direct’s recent report on the Middle East, argues it will be a challenge to persuade many Arab countries now that Russia is saving the Muslim world. She believes that Russia’s policy in this region is very ambivalent, because some Arabic countries are very unfriendly toward Russia. 
“The problem is that we have never fought with the Arab countries,” she said, putting into question Russia’s recent diplomatic and military activism in the region. 
Likewise, another Russian Academy of Sciences expert on the Middle East, Vladimir Akhmedov, sees Russia as a “newcomer in the Middle East,” because it doesn’t know the region well. Moreover, Moscow doesn’t have the experience of the colonial powers, which were fighting for influence in the Middle East. Yet it doesn’t mean that Russia doesn’t project its influence in the Middle East, he concludes. But it should take into account the experience of others.    
Sergei Markedonov, associate professor at the Russian State University for the Humanities in Moscow, echoes Akhmedov and warns that Moscow should not repeat the mistakes of the United States. That means Russia should shy away from idealism.
“It is necessary to clearly understand certain risks and vulnerabilities,” he said during the RIAC discussion. “If we are talking about a pan-Islamic project without an understanding of the factors that make Muslim ideas attractive, we could make a lot of mistakes. Saving the Islamic world is idealism, but in this situation, one should be realistic. This problem requires a complex approach.”
ISIS and terrorism
The Middle East turbulence is now being echoed in the new day-to-day routines of ordinary citizens in Russia and Europe, as indicated by two recent terror attacks: the crash of the Russian passenger aircraft in Egypt and the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris. All this leads to the question: If the influence of ISIS is so great, to what extent does it pose a threat to the world?
Akhmedov argues that the role and the status of ISIS are exaggerated. According to him, ISIS is just a project, with no clear understanding of strategic goals.
However, Moscow Carnegie Center’s Alexei Malashenko believes the ISIS is not just a project - it is a decisive attempt to create a state, a certain structure, which could be attractive for outsiders. And this may pose a serious challenge. According to him, ISIS is a radical idea that poses a global threat and this threat is impossible to destroy with just weapons and military intervention.
“The Islamic State [ISIS] is forever,” said Moscow Carnegie Center’s Alexei Malashenkoduring a Nov. 10 discussion at the Sakharov Center in Moscow, pointing out that the idea of creating the global caliphate is perennial and “it will never disappear.” As long as this radicalism exists and penetrates people’s minds, it will always be a challenge for governments, which do not have a clear understanding of how to fight it.   
ISIS brings together not only radicals, but also pragmatists, who have aspirations to build the state, said Malashenko. If ISIS is destroyed, its supporters will scatter around the world to implement their ideas, which will only aggravate the Syrian standoff and the problem of international terrorism.
Likewise, Grigory Kosach, a scholar and professor at the Russian State University for Humanities, and Vasily Kuznetsov, an expert at the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), who also spoke at the Sakharov Center, agrees that ISIS is an idea that is impossible to root out in the near future.
The problem is that ISIS presents a robust idea of alternative political governance, argues Kuznetsov. But the paradox is that ISIS embodies the crisis of this political governance in the entire region. As long as the crisis exists, the idea of ISIS as “a sort of black hole will dominate and fill the vacuum,” he said during the discussion at the Sakharov center.   
Cooperation in Syria is possible despite differences    
Despite many challenges between global stakeholders in the Middle East, some experts agree that cooperation between some countries is possible. For example, Kuznetsov believes that nothing should prevent Russia and the U.S. from fighting together against ISIS in Syria, because generally their interests don’t contradict each other.
However, Arkady Dubnov, an international observer who moderated the discussion in the Sakharov Center, points out that the rhetoric between the Kremlin and the White House is not only “discouraging,” but also “shocking,” which might hamper any future cooperation.
Likewise, Malashenko seems to be skeptical about the full-fledged and extensive cooperation in the Middle East between Russia and the West.     
“The problem is that those in Russia who deal with foreign policy, they do improvisation,” he said, pointing out many are under the influence of political rhetoric and not mindful of the implications of such dangerous improvisation. Amidst such ideological confrontation, any partnership is unlikely.      
The challenge for such cooperation is distrust. After all, some Western experts are also raising their eyebrows at Russia’s airstrikes against ISIS and see the Kremlin in this context rather as a troublemaker than problem-solver.
They doubt that Russia is really sincere in its declared goals in Syria to fight ISIS and team up with the West, which hampers the possibility of a reliable and long-lasting cooperation between the Kremlin and the West. For example, Michael O’Hanlon, senior fellow and director of research at Brookings Institution's Foreign Policy Department, argues that Russia's major goal is to back Syrian President Bashar Assad. 
"I don't admire Russia's role in Syria so far," he told Russia Direct. “I think the declared purpose of fighting ISIS is not sincere, and that in fact Russia is interested primarily in propping up Assad… How sad I am over the loss of life resulting from the aircraft bombing.  My thoughts and prayers are with those individuals and their families; this was a terrible tragedy.
At the same time, O’Hanlon admits that, "There may be a way to reconcile Russian and American interests” to find ways just "to minimize the dangers of working at cross purposes with each other, or even coming into direct accidental conflict with each other.”
“It's too soon to know if Russia's role in Syria and also the [Russian] plane crash [in Egypt] can in any way help us towards a resolution of the problem,” he said. “It's possible but hardly guaranteed.”
Robert Legvold, professor emeritus in the Department of Political Science and the Harriman Institute of Columbia University, is also skeptical about cooperation between Moscow and Washington.
Robert Legvold
Because the United States and Russia are aiding opposite sides in a civil war, mere logic says that their military assistance guarantees that it will make the Middle East violence worse,” he told Russia Direct. “At best, the Russian leadership may calculate that by saving the Syrian regime — if not necessarily Assad personally — they are contributing to a military stalemate that will force the warring parties to the table and start a political process.”
Nevertheless, Legvold believes that the third round of the Vienna process “gives some hope for progress” in boosting U.S.-Russian cooperation against ISIS. Yet it remains to be seen if other stakeholders in the Middle East will be ready to cooperate. 
“While the United States and Russia have now reached common ground on the basic principles to govern the outcome sought, they continue fight over the process by which they get there,” he said. “Add Paris to Egypt and the message is clear: the United States and Russia are in a global war with ISIS, not a regional war where they can afford to muck about in a proxy war over the niceties by which the warring parties in Syria sit down and begin talking to one another. On both the Russian and U.S. sides, refusing to go the extra length to reconcile their positions on Syria—and both have to compromise—is insanity.”