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"Has Biden cooled on Iran nuclear talks return?"

Die Anhörung der ersten Kandidaten für die neuen Regierungsposten vor dem US-Senat lässt Raghida Dergham vermuten, dass US-Präsident Biden von seinem erklärten Ziel einer Rückkehr zum Atomabkommen mit dem Iran abrücken könnte. "Mr Blinken and Mr Biden’s National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan, had previously expressed their keenness to pursue a two-track strategy of reviving the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – or JCPOA – and lifting sanctions against Tehran before negotiating with the regime over their ballistic missiles programme. The Biden team has since sought to tamp down expectations. There are signs that they will, instead, build on the Trump administration’s pressure tactics against Iran with a view to curb its destabilising activities in various parts of the Middle East, as Mr Blinken himself recently put it. He said returning to JCPOA is predicated upon Tehran’s compliance, while confirming that these conditions are not being satisfied at present."

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"Are we seeing more realistic geopolitics in the Middle East?"

Michael Young meint, dass der Nahe Osten in den kommenden Jahren von einer "realistischen Geopolitik" geprägt werden könnte. "(…) the primary driver of relations is flexibility and cool calculation in the pursuit of regional power and gains, in a political climate where Washington has left behind a vacuum that everyone wants to fill. States are not pretending to adhere to larger principles to justify their actions, they are boldly holding up national interest as validation for their choices, which often explains their sudden turnarounds. (…) a new politics of axes, based on a realistic reading of the limits of one’s power, may one day indeed lead to a measure of regional calm. That won’t happen soon, however, because all the main regional actors are still testing how far they can go, facing setbacks that oblige them to constantly recalculate."

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"The fallout from the Capitol riot will extend to the Middle East"

Donald Trump habe es mit seiner Rolle bei den Randalen in Washington geschafft, das Erbe seiner durchaus erfolgreichen Außenpolitik zu entwerten, meint Raghida Dergham vom Beirut Institute. "Future generations will not remember Donald Trump for standing up to China in international trade to serve his domestic interests. They will not remember him for putting a spanner in the wheels of a flawed nuclear deal his predecessor had signed with Iran – a deal that allowed its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to expand militarily in Syria and dominate countries like Iraq and Lebanon. They will not remember him for brokering the launch of unprecedented diplomatic relations between many Arab states and Israel. And they will not remember him for contributing to a reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which could see GCC relations restored. Rather, future generations will remember Mr Trump for that dark day, when he yielded wisdom to his temper and vindictive tendencies, losing the respect of millions of Americans and much of the world."

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"The RCEP trade deal proves Asia need not be led by the US or China"

Sholto Byrnes meint, dass das große Freihandelsabkommen für Asien und den Pazifik im Westen zu Unrecht als klarer Sieg für China dargestellt werde. "What many commentators fail to mention, either from ignorance or, more likely, an insistence on viewing all news about China as a 'win' or a 'lose' in a zero-sum competition with the US, is that RCEP has not been a Beijing-led process. It was from the start an Asean initiative – as its Secretary General, Lim Jock Hoi, is keen to make clear. 'The signing of the RCEP agreement is a historic event as it underpins Asean’s role in leading a multilateral trade agreement of this magnitude, despite global and regional challenges and eight years of negotiations,' he said after the signing on Sunday."

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"Two steps Europe must take to deal with Islamist terrorism"

Bei der Bekämpfung des radikalen Islamismus in Europa warnt Con Coughlin die europäischen Regierungen vor einer innenpolitischen Überreaktion. "(…) the uncompromising attitude of some European leaders to the latest terrorist incidents also raises fears that they might be in danger of over-reacting to the scale of the threat. (…) It is, however, important that leaders maintain a sense of proportion. After all, the overwhelming majority of the estimated 20 million Muslims residing in the EU are law-abiding citizens who have no interest in supporting the radical agenda espoused by militant groups. Any attempt to crack down on the extremists, therefore, must be done in a manner that does not alienate or disrupt the lives of this majority. And, if Europe is about taking effective measures to stem the activities of extremists, then it should concentrate its focus on countries that support and encourage militant activities. Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Hezbollah would struggle to survive without the backing they receive from Turkey, Qatar and Iran. So Europe must start by holding these countries accountable for their actions."

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"US condemns Turkey’s redeployment of survey ship Oruc Reis to eastern Mediterranean"

Die Türkei hat ihr Forschungsschiff Oruc Reis nach einem zwischenzeitlichen Rückzug erneut in das östliche Mittelmeer geschickt. Die US-Regierung hat diesen Schritt als "Provokation" verurteilt. "State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said the move would damage efforts to resolve Turkey's maritime dispute with Greece. 'Turkey’s announcement unilaterally raises tensions in the region and deliberately complicates the resumption of crucial exploratory talks between our Nato allies Greece and Turkey,' she said. 'Coercion, threats, intimidation, and military activity will not resolve tensions in the eastern Mediterranean. We urge Turkey to end this calculated provocation and immediately begin exploratory talks with Greece. Unilateral actions cannot build trust and will not produce enduring solutions.'"

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"Mali's French connection risks becoming tenuous"

Jean-Loup Samaan analysiert das schwierige Verhältnis Frankreichs zur Militärregierung in Mali. "Much like with the Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan, the French military strategy in Mali – and more broadly in the Sahel – has put an emphasis on strengthening local partners, either through joint counterterrorism operations or training missions. At the same time, French officials have repeatedly stressed that long-term security would be possible only if it is accompanied by socio-economic reforms. In fact, the two pillars of the G5 Sahel, founded in 2014, are security and development. However, the military coup in Mali represents a rebuttal of this strategy. By ignoring the rule of law, it has compromised the aspirations for better governance. Moreover, by stirring up political instability in Bamako, it risks jeopardising national security against terrorist organisations."

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"The world's great powers will soon face off in Lebanon"

Der Libanon könnte bald zur Bühne des Iran-Streits zwischen den USA, China und Russland werden, schreibt Raghida Dergham. Die Hisbollah könnte demnach versuchen, den Wiederaufbau Beiruts mit chinesischer Hilfe zu beschleunigen und ihre politische Position als "Retter" der Stadt zu stärken. "Russia, which has an expensive alliance with Iran in Syria, has declined to take on the same level of involvement in Lebanon. Iranian allies in Beirut – namely, Hezbollah – have therefore eyed eyeing Chinese funds and expertise to restore the city and its port after this month’s devastating ammonium nitrate explosion demolished them. The speediness and lack of conditionality that comes with Chinese support would provide a shortcut for Hezbollah to pre-empt any other powers stepping in as the city’s saviour and to bring its dominance of Lebanese politics to the level of a monopoly. Iran’s leadership is seizing the period running up to the US presidential elections to consolidate its agenda in Lebanon, Iraq and the wider region by imposing new facts on the ground while Washington is distracted."

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"Coronavirus provides opportunity for terrorists, says UN chief"

UN-Generalsekretär Antonio Guterres hat gewarnt, dass die Corona-Pandemie Terroristen, Rechtsextremisten und anderen "Hass-Gruppen" neuen Aufschwung verschaffen könnte. "Antonio Guterres said it was too early to fully assess the implications of the pandemic on terrorism, but all these groups sought to exploit divisions, local conflicts, failures in governing, and other grievances to advance their aims. Mr Guterres told the launch of United Nations Counter-Terrorism Week that ISIS, which once controlled vast territories in Syria and Iraq, was trying to reassert itself in both countries, 'while thousands of foreign terrorist fighters battle in the region'. 'The pandemic has also highlighted vulnerabilities to new and emerging forms of terrorism, such as misuse of digital technology, cyber attacks and bio-terrorism,' he said. (…) Former American diplomat Richard Haas, who heads the Council on Foreign Relations, said he believed Covid-19 'will add to the challenges of counter-terrorism'. 'It will perhaps create an environment where more countries become weak or fail,' he said. Recruitment for terrorist organisations, he said, would quite possibly go up."

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"The US and EU are competing to play peacemaker in the Balkans"

Der kürzlich abgesagte Serbien-Kosovo-Gipfel im Weißen Haus bestätige, dass die US-Regierung eigene strategische Ziele auf dem Balkan verfolge und die EU dabei demonstrativ an den Rand dränge, schreibt Rashmee Roshan Lall. "Opinions are divided about the Trump administration’s motivation in pushing dialogue in a divided corner of Europe. Some say that Mr Trump wanted to appear statesmanlike before the November 3 US presidential election. Having failed to secure any worthwhile foreign policy successes on North Korea and Iran, a photo opportunity as the Balkans’ peacemaker-in-chief would have been handy for his re-election. But there is also the possibility of a more strategic calculus. US re-engagement would go some way towards pushing back China and Russia’s own efforts to expand their influence in the Balkans. The EU has less sway than it might want. Despite years of trying, the bloc has had little success in shepherding Serbia and Kosovo towards the gradual 'normalisation' of their relationship. (…) Two years ago, both Mr Thaci and Mr Vucic had mooted a land swap as a way to finally end decades of wrangling. The Trump administration expressed openness to exploring the idea. However, some European leaders, led by German chancellor Angela Merkel, opposed it. The argument goes that such a redrawing of borders would normalise ethnic divisions. Europe also fears that any land swap could become a destabilising template for the region."

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"How the coronavirus could force Benny Gantz to shake Benjamin Netanyahu's hand"

In Israel könnte der Coronavirus zur Bildung einer Regierung der nationalen Einheit führen, berichtet Jonathan Cook. "(…) the coronavirus crisis appears to be coming to Mr Netanyahu’s rescue. Last week he ordered a raft of emergency measures, including the effective closing of the country’s borders, and the shutting of schools and colleges, and large parts of the economy. Tens of thousands of Israelis have been required to quarantine themselves at home, and gatherings of more than 10 people are banned. Given Israel’s self-proclaimed status as a sanctuary for Jews, following the trauma of the Holocaust, these precautions have been readily accepted by the public. But they are also playing to Mr Netanyahu’s talent for manipulating a crisis. (…) What does Mr Gantz fear most: Mr Netanyahu exploiting the coronavirus crisis to evade justice and stay in power, or damaging his own public image by seeking temporary assistance from the Joint List? The next few days should provide the answer."

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"Munich Security Conference could present new hope for Libya"

Die Diskussionen während der Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz lassen Damien McElroy etwas hoffnungsvoller in die Zukunft Libyens blicken. "The task of engineering a new start for Libya has been an important discussion point this weekend at the Munich Security Conference, the premier European forum for international security. Delegates agree that Libya is at an 'incredibly sensitive' moment. Niels Annen, a German foreign minister who has led the Berlin mediation process on Libya, has been at pains to point out the Libyan conflict’s African context. (…) a well-resourced Islamist-run state in Libya is a risk that many in the European security establishment are not prepared to countenance. But on the sidelines of the Munich gathering, there was no uniformity on the question of how to avoid this. Italy continues to seek its own agenda gains, while British policies have not really shed their Arab uprising alignments. Germany’s diplomats, on the other hand, have done more than most to provide a much-needed boost for what had been a flagging role for diplomacy. Nonetheless, holding the line against Libya succumbing to the control of ideologues remains an important strategic goal for everyone. The prize – a unified, stable Libyan state – will not happen merely by devolving control to whoever happens to occupy Tripoli. Fighting in Libya is an open sore. At the Munich Security Conference, there are signs that it may yet heal."

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"Burkina Faso is playing with fire by arming its civilians"

Die Regierung in Burkina Faso hat sich entschlossen, im Kampf gegen dschihadistische Terrorgruppen auf bewaffnete Bürgerwehren zu setzen. Stephen Rakowski hält diesen verzweifelt wirkenden Schritt für gefährlich. "Burkina Faso’s descent into militant violence is hard to overstate. According to available data, the landlocked country has faced an eye-popping 7,000 per cent increase in terrorist attacks over the past few years. At the same time, its neighbours Mali and Niger have grappled with 300 and 500 per cent increases, respectively. (…) For its part, the Burkinabe military has proven woefully incapable of addressing the rising tide of brutality. The army is seriously under-funded, suffering from rock-bottom morale and overstretched as it tries to secure increasingly large amounts of its territory from militants. (…) The arming of poorly trained civilians will almost certainly lead to more human rights breaches, such as settling scores between rival ethnic groups. It could also spark friendly-fire incidents, as separating civilian vigilantes and militants during the fog of conflict will be difficult. The consequences will be dire, contributing to further deterioration of the country’s social fabric. Militants seeking to exploit fissures with a view to recruiting disaffected youths to their cause will look upon the situation with glee."

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"Iraq will use 'new level of force to destroy' anti-government protests"

Die irakische Regierung will diesem Bericht zufolge noch härter gegen die Massenproteste im Land vorgehen. "Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi has taken the decision to use a new level of force against mass rallies opposing his rule and 'completely destroy the protesters,' according to an Iraqi intelligence official. The country has been gripped by protests since the beginning of October that called for the removal of a political class seen as corrupt and beholden to foreign interests, above all Iran. 'Baghdad are really going to crack down on the protesters, they have made a decision,' the official said. 'It looks like the prime minister has made a decision that he’s going to use force. He’s going to completely destroy the protesters.' The official said that the Iraqi leader will give 'free rein' to the security services to 'dismantle the protesters and clear them from the buildings and the bridges', which they have been occupying to rail against corruption and economic hardship."

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"Is the US facing a growing terror threat – from Canada?"

Während sich die Debatte über Grenzsicherheit in den USA vor allem auf den Süden konzentriert, macht Stephen Starr darauf aufmerksam, dass US-Behörden in der ersten Hälfte des vergangenen Jahres 48 Terrorverdächtige an der Grenze zu Kanada gestoppt hätten. An der Grenze zu Mexiko seien im gleichen Zeitraum nur sechs Verdächtige registriert worden. "While much has been made of the apparent security threat emanating from beyond America’s southern border by the White House and elsewhere, recent events show that it may actually be Canada that presents a greater terror concern to US soil. (...) while the terrorist threat may not be a significant concern for some, the broader picture shows that the number people detained while trying to illegally enter the US from Quebec has almost trebled in the last four years."

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"A rising tide of anti-Syrian xenophobia is sweeping through Turkey's cities"

In türkischen Städten habe sich die öffentliche Stimmung deutlich gegen die syrischen Flüchtlinge gewandt, berichtet Kareem Shaheen. "For the most generous of Syria’s neighbours in terms of hosting refugees, patience is wearing thin – the result of politicians fuelling and exploiting flames of communal hatred and an economic downturn that has hit ordinary Turks hard. Turkey hosts the highest per capita number of refugees in the world. Very few experience the kind of destitution seen in Lebanon, where most refugees are forced to live in crowded tent settlements that flood every winter. Nevertheless, anti-Syrian xenophobia is growing. This sentiment is more dangerous than the kind of prejudice seen in the West, because its aim is the forced return of dispossessed civilians to a barbaric regime. (...) There are only two possible solutions. The first is for Europe, other western powers and Arab nations that do not border Syria to shoulder their responsibility for refugee resettlement. It is unconscionable that Turkey hosts four million Syrian refugees and tiny Lebanon a million, while the UK has taken in fewer than 14,000. Second, Turkey needs to be honest about its strategic objectives in Syria, and push for an inclusive peace settlement that creates genuinely safe conditions for refugees to return to."

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"United states of Europe could spell the end of the western alliance"

Con Coughlin vom konservativen britischen Daily Telegraph erwartet von der neuen EU-Führungsriege Initiativen zur Schaffung eines europäischen Bundestaats. Dies werde für neue Probleme im transatlantischen Bündnis sorgen, so seine Erwartung. "(...) many European politicians regard the creation of a European superstate as a welcome and necessary alternative to America’s long-standing global dominance. But if the new round of EU appointments will lend encouragement to those who seek closer European integration, they will do little to improve the effectiveness of the western alliance to deal with global security issues, particularly in the Middle East. (...) A renewed attempt by the EU to develop its own defence capabilities could also severely undermine the West’s ability to deal with threats from rogue states such as Iran and North Korea. The most likely outcome from any such initiative would be to persuade Washington to withdraw from the Nato alliance, thereby ending an alliance that has for seven decades proved vital to keeping the peace in Europe and the world beyond."

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"US Afghan envoy Zalmay Khalilzad wants peace deal before July vote"

US-Unterhändler Zalmay Khalilzad strebt eine Einigung bei den Friedensverhandlungen mit den Taliban noch in diesem Jahr an. "The US envoy charged with negotiating a potential peace deal with the Taliban has said that he hopes to seal an agreement before Afghan voters go to the polls in July. Zalmay Khalilzad, a former ambassador to Afghanistan who has spoken extensively with the Taliban in recent weeks, also stressed that any US troop withdrawal would be dependent on conditions on the ground, and not on any particular timetable. In an honest account of his view about the prospects for peace, delivered to an audience at the US Institute of Peace in Washington, he cautioned he did not trust America's long-time adversary. 'We are in the early stage of a protracted process,' he said. 'We have a long way to go.'"

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"What happens in Idlib has become entirely a question of balancing the interests of great powers"

Nach Ansicht von Faisal Al Yafai wird der Ausgang des Konflikts in der syrischen Provinz Idlib vom Interessenausgleich zwischen den beteiligten ausländischen Mächten bestimmt werden. Im Fall der Türkei könne dies dazu führen, dass sich Ankara gegen die radikalislamische HTS-Miliz stellt, um verbündete Rebellen vor russischen Luftangriffen zu schützen. "That would certainly spark a war with extremist groups, targeting civilians inside Turkey, but Ankara might judge that to be a better outcome than another million refugees."

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"For the Syrian regime, Idlib is crucial to taking back control of the country – and even Ankara won't be able to stop it"

Faisal Al Yafai ist nahezu sicher, dass die syrische Regierung trotz türkischer Warnungen nicht auf die Eroberung der von Rebellen kontrollierten Provinz Idlib verzichten wird. "Idlib province stretches from the outskirts of Aleppo to the mountains of Latakia. The main Damascus to Aleppo highway passes for 100km through it. Re-opening that road was one of the major, tangible achievements of the Russia-led Astana process. To allow Idlib to remain outside the control of the regime would be to allow a Turkish hand – or, worse, that of a rebel or militant group – at the throat of the country's most vital highway. The same applies to Russia's military base of Khmeimim, nearby in Latakia province. Already, the Russians have complained of drone attacks on the base from Idlib. To allow Turkey so close to Khmeimim or to the Alawites in Latakia, the Assad regime's heartland, would be politically reckless. Both Mr Al Assad and Vladimir Putin know how quickly alliances can turn into a complicated battleground and neither is likely to countenance the risk. An assault on Idlib, then, is almost inevitable, whether it comes in the next few weeks or much later, and whether Turkey succeeds or not in rooting out ISIS."

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"Unesco chief alarmed by rise of 'cultural cleansing' by extremists in Middle East"

Extremisten im Nahen Osten seien dabei, das historische und kulturelle Erbe der Region in einer Welle "kultureller Säuberungen" zu zerstören, so eine eindringliche Warnung der Unesco-Chefin Audrey Azoulay. "The head of Unesco has warned that extremists cannot be allowed to carry out 'cultural cleansing' as part of attempts to drive religions and communities apart. Audrey Azoulay said the physical destruction of religious and historical buildings and attempts to 'erase' recent history alike harms and increasingly divided world. 'In recent years, we have seen, in this region as well, an increased attempt at cultural cleansing by those who wish to erase traces of our shared history,' she said. 'But culture is more than buildings, documents and traditions, it is how we see ourselves, how we see this world, how we learn about ourselves and about the others.'"

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"Brutally put, the Rohingya are pawns in a big power game"

Regierungen spielten die Rohingya-Krise in Myanmar in der Öffentlichkeit weitgehend herunter, konstatiert Alan Philps. Dies habe vor allem geopolitische Gründe: "A few years ago it seemed that Myanmar – the poorest country in Southeast Asia – was destined to become an economic colony of China, which was interested in its minerals and timber and its location as a land route giving access to the Indian Ocean, bypassing the maritime bottleneck of the Strait of Malacca. For the military, falling into the clutches of China was a damaging prospect. The generals decided to deploy Ms Suu Kyi and announce a free election, which had the miraculous effect of bringing western support including a visit by President Barack Obama. India no less than China has an interest in the future of Myanmar. For India and the West, Ms Suu Kyi is key to balancing Chinese influence. To condemn her might drive her into the arms of China. (...) Brutally put, the fate of the Rohingya is a compromise that Ms Suu Kyi must make to stay in power. Pawns in a big power game, no one apart from the UN seems to care about them."

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"What ISIL's rise in 2014 tells us about Al Qaeda's potential in Syria today"

Angesichts der Rückschläge für den "Islamischen Staat" in Syrien und Irak fragt Hassan Hassan, welche Bedrohung künftig durch die besonders in Syrien aktive Al-Qaida ausgehen könnte. "Inheriting an insurgency is not limited to winning recruits or to even being popular. It is also about being seen as the only viable force with the resolve to carry on the cause. (...) In Syria (...) the potential to inherit and absorb an insurgency exists, and Al Qaeda is better positioned than ISIL to do so. (...) With its rebranding, forceful acquisition and expansion, the group took a leaf out of the book of ISIL’s predecessor after 2005. Its current approach focuses on a combination of weakening and eliminating rivalry, steadily controlling local resources and presenting itself as the uncompromising force against the regime of Bashar Al Assad. The group’s chances of echoing ISIL’s successes in recent years will depend on whether policy makers grasp the fact that the conflict in Syria, and in Iraq before it, cannot be ended with mere military gains and rosy data."

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"Why the North Korea crisis has serious implications for the Middle East"

Die Nordkoreakrise wird nach Überzeugung von David Rothkopf, CEO der Rothkopf Group, großen Einfluss auf den Umgang der USA mit dem iranischen Atomprogramm haben. "But, North Korea has had the effect of reawakening America to the palpable threat of nuclear war. At no time since the Cuban Missile Crisis has US media focused so much on the possibility of a nuclear strike against America by a rogue state. (...) The result is not just a heightened level of anxiety but a much greater public awareness of the dangers of nuclear proliferation. For better or for worse, this will work to Mr Trump’s advantage when he seeks to undo the Iran deal and apply more pressure on Tehran. He may be doing it out of a reflexive desire to erase Mr Obama’s legacies. But, ironically, in part because of Mr Trump’s intemperate reaction to the actions of Kim Jong-un, the US people are in the midst of a crash course in what happens if a hostile regime gains the ultimate destructive power of atomic weapons."

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"The profound ideological clash at the heart of the rift between the Gulf and Qatar"

Hussein Ibish vom Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington erläutert den ideologischen Hintergrund des Konflikts zwischen Katar und den Golfstaaten um Saudi-Arabien. "At issue is nothing less than the character, role and future of the Muslim Brotherhood and similar Islamist groups across the region. (...) Qatar’s deep-pocketed soft power and media empire, featuring Al Jazeera, serves as the Brotherhood’s bankroll and megaphone. Hamas’s rule in Gaza is the Brotherhood’s last de facto government and primary territorial enclave. And Brotherhood affiliates in Libya remain potent fighting and political forces. But all three are now being simultaneously challenged by non-Islamist Arab powers. Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, for example, are involved in pressuring both Qatar and Hamas, and combating radicals in Libya."

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"The crisis is only just beginning for Qatar"

Hussein Ibish vom Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington glaubt nicht, dass sich Katar dem Druck seiner Nachbarn und des amerikanischen Verbündeten lange widersetzen kann. Die Unterstützung durch die Türkei und Iran werde nicht ausreichen, um den wirtschaftlichen Schaden der arabischen Blockadepolitik monatelang auszugleichen. "Qatar may drag this out to share the pain, but it knows it is going to have to capitulate eventually. And just as it is openly working with Turkey and quietly with Iran to maximise its options and minimise the damage it sustains during the confrontation, it is simultaneously now taking steps to reach out and seek a resolution. Qatar also knows that it cannot end the crisis without agreeing to a series of measures the Arab bloc is demanding, especially insofar as they are also insisted on by Washington. Doha is therefore visibly moving towards negotiating the terms of its coming inevitable climb down, and limiting the price it must pay. Doha cannot endure current circumstances, let alone an additional significant escalation. Qatar has no choice."

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