Social Media and Trump: a relationship Bound for Disaster?

The following is from a Lebanese contributor to the NCF, Ragheb Malli. The Next Century Foundation prides itself on adhering to the four freedoms: Freedom of Religion, Freedom from Fear, Freedom from Want, and last but not least, Freedom of Expression. The following article is therefore key in our view. It is a subject which we shall address again later this week:

To the shock of many, last week Trump was banned from major social media platforms: Twitter, Facebook, Twitch, Snapchat and Instagram; with YouTube removing various videos and claiming his channel was treading on eggshells. This of course, following the Capitol Hill incident. Ironic as it maybe, considering his success was a result of creative social media campaigning and where he rallied a huge number of supporters, the idea remains that we -the people – have the power to plug and unplug those who, supposedly, have the ultimate power – or do we? EU commissioner Thierry Breton described the events on Capitol Hill as “the 9/11 moment of social media” and, “the fact that a CEO can pull the plug on Potus’ (President of the United States) loudspeaker without any checks and balances is perplexing” . The ethics behind the silencing of Trump is up for debate, but what is not, is the very fact that social media played an immense power in the rise and fall of Trump. Although what’s even more powerful than social media’s role in his downfall, is his very own use of social media that initiated his downfall to begin with.

There is no denying that Trump was a brilliant, and still is, user of social media. The whole orchestration of his account united huge numbers in a call to “make America great again” – in other words, the elevation of white supremacy – a notion nobody thought would have prevailed. He created phrases and words his followers, as well as ‘haters’, incorporated with their own phrases- “fake news”, “Sad!”, “haters and losers”, always making sure that every character of every tweet was impactful despite all those who called out his lunacy and child-like demeanour. “The fact that I have such power in terms of numbers with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc… I think it helped me win all of these races where they’re spending much more money than I spent, ” said Trump after he won his candidacy. Most notably Twitter was his preferred outlet, most successful outlet and an outlet to finally silence him after years of standing by.

However, much like Franz Reichelt – the tailor who created the first coat parachute and died testing it from the first deck of the Eiffel Tower – Trump destroyed himself in his attempt to further push that which he had already achieved. Most politicians Twitter accounts can be described as grey, yet what made Trump’s account colourful was the very fact that he decided to use Twitter just as ordinary people use Twitter, including spelling errors, long child-like rants, informal tones, outright insult of others and constant repetition of the same conceptions that obviously annoyed him. This was completely negligent as it ended in an assault that got several people killed. Although we all took light of the things he said as if they had no impact; we finally saw that actually they did. Unfortunately, it was too late, yet to prevent any further harm, he was shut down – something this social media genius could have avoided – which ultimately concluded his gradual descent into insanity.
To blame or praise social media in his demise is questionable. However, it would be more accurate to blame the man himself. Yes – we have the power to unplug even the highest of the high, but only if the plug is handed to us.

Ragheb Malli

Walid Al-Muallem dies

The Arab uprising that swept across the Middle East, took hold in Syria on March 28th 2011.  Ten years on, half a million have lost their lives and 13 million have become refugees, half of these internally displaced as what the UN euphemistically calls IDPs and 5.6 million refugees have fled across Syria’s borders, predominantly to the neighbouring countries of Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.  So the news of the death of Walid Al-Muallem, Syria’s foreign minister, who died on this Monday 16th November, will evoke a chasm of emotions.

Born to a Sunni Muslim family in Damascus, Mr Walid Al-Muallem’s professional career saw him work his way up through the foreign ministry.   Walid Al-Muallem was appointed Foreign Minister in 2005, at a time when Damascus was isolated by some Arab and many Western nations, as the Syrian government was accused of being behind the assassination of the Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Harriri.  This lead to Syria withdrawing its 25,000 troops from Lebanon, its small neighbour it had occupied for 29 years, initially as a peacekeeping force in the aftermath of the terrible and murderous Lebanese civil war.  Ironically that same neighbour is today home to 1.5 million Syrian refugees who have now fled the Syrian civil war. 

Though Walid Al-Muallem took the post of Foreign Minister, at a difficult time when Syria was being ostracised by many governments in the Western World, it was only six years later that he became recognised more widely, as he held regular news conferences from Damascus informing the world of his government’s position in regard to the uprising that was unfolding in the streets of Syria – soon to develop into a full blown civil war.  As the civil war escalated, Walid Al-Muallem used his considerable diplomatic experience to foster allegiances with Iran and Russia and shore up support for President Bashar Assad’s government.

Walid Al-Muallem studied in Cairo University before returning to Syria to start his diplomatic career in 1964.  His missions took him to Saudia Arabia, Madrid, London, Romania and the US.  Despite being the US attaché for nine years, Walid remained sceptical of the US role in peace talks with Israel.  The career diplomat was not been shy in berating the US for their involvement in the current crisis, accusing them of encouraging the turmoil in the country through their support for anti-government forces.

In 2015, Walid Al-Muallem became the first high ranking Syrian diplomat to say the government was prepared to talk to the opposition, in an attempt to reconcile and bring peace. 

Walid Al-Muallem, passed away on Monday, his ailing health having been a contributing factor.  The 79 year old was an openly staunch defender of Syria’s Government of which he was a part. The government has not revealed the cause of Walid Al-Muallem’s death.

As a footnote, now that Walid is no longer with us, we at the NCF can add that he was, in his years as Deputy Foreign Minister, a stalwart worker behind the scenes for a peace with Israel that would involve the return of the Golan. He was engaged in proxy discussions through the NCF’s auspices initially with Deputy Defense Ministers Silvan Shalom and Efraim Sneh c.1996. Sadly the talks came to nothing through no fault of Walid’s, nor, let it be said, of Silvan or Efraim.

Jonathan Sacks, a great thinker, a great man

The Next Century Foundation is deeply sadened to report the death of former Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks. He was one of the world’s most remarkable of men. In the public arena he was known as a great and visionary thinker, whilst privately behind closed doors, he engaged in incisive political dialogue with more than one of the leading figures of the Islamic World. Indeed his dialogue with one key Islamic leader, arguably changed the course of history in some degree though it was never publicised in any way. His work in the cause of justice and peace is little known and will probably always remain unheralded.

Jonathan Sacks was a remarkable man in so many ways. He always had time for you, and he would make time if he had no time. He treated prince and pauper with equal magnanimity and graciousness. He was a believer in inclusivity but controversially in the eyes of some, he none the less valued our differences. He was a true multiculturalist in the best of ways.

I well remember my first meeting with him when Rabbi Herschel Gluck brought him to Lord Alliance’s home for the first in a short series of world changing private dialogues with one of his most prominent counterparts in the Islamic World, the leader of the Safavid Sufi movement, Seyed Safavi (now generally known as Ayatollah Safavi). I remember the then Chief Rabbi’s gentle thoughtfulness, his inspirational assertion that we should all place an equal value on one another, that we are all of us, saints, sinners, rich and poor alike, of equal value in the eyes of God, and that all religions shared common threads though we should respect the differences.

Those dialogues, held in both London and Paris, most of which were hosted by the Next Century Foundation, were secret at the time but we were today given permission by key participants to mention at least something of them. The men involved made commitments to one another to take public stances that were world changing at great personal risk. For example this from Jonathan Sacks the then Chief Rabbi, who really went out on a limb himself to ensure that corresponding steps were taken on the part of prominent Muslims: https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2002/aug/27/israel.religion – and then in turn and in direct response, and blazing a trail in the Islamic World, this statement was issued by his friend and interlocutor:
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/1434489/Suicide-bombings-are-against-Islam-says-leading-Iranian-cleric.html

Over the years I would meet Jonathan Sacks here and there. On more than one occaision those meetings would be at Israel’s national day receptions. He would always have time to argue some fine point of philosophy. I was more of an integrationalist than he, believing in the melting pot approach so prevalent in the sixties. In that respect I think we both represented opposite poles of the magnet, and I now begin to think that there is a middle road in philosophy, that represented by Kwami Appiah’s “cosmopolitanism”.

All I can say for certain is that Jonathan Sacks was one of the greatest minds I have ever had the priviledge to meet. More than a great mind. There are great thinkers that never change the world because they are neither great communicators nor do they have the courage to take risks. Jonathan Sacks could communicate. I would listen out for his messages and thoughts on Radio Four in the early morning from time to time. His dulcet tones helped make it a safer world as he reached millions with his broadcasts.

Jonathan Sacks was a man much loved. The world is a poorer place for his passing, but it is a far far better place, and indeed a safer place, for his having lived.

The situation in Afghanistan – a personal perspective

This article expresses the views of Paramount Chief and senior member of the NCF, Ajmal Khan. The Next Century Foundation’s Summer Conference includes a session on Afghanistan. Should you wish to attend click here for full details and the chance to register. The Taliban say that “with the exception of the Presidency or high ranking positions in the judiciary, there will be no restrictions on a woman’s career prospects” in the new Afghanistan.  But when asked to differentiate between themselves and ISIS, the Taliban say that the main difference is that they are Afghan and ISIS are not. Can this really be the way to go? To surrender control of Afghanistan to one of the most feared and dangerous groups on the planet? After years of losses in blood and treasure is there no better outcome for much mauled over Afghanistan? To listen to the personal views of the Next Century Foundation’s Secretary General on the subject click here. The views of Paramount Chief Ajmal Zazai Khan are as follows in his words. Neither his words nor those of the NCF Secretary General represent the views of the trustees of the Next Century Foundation:

ISIS

The so-called ISIS of Afghanistan has no connection with the one in Iraq or Syria. The Afghan ISIS, which declare itself as the ISIS wing of Khorasan, has two parts. One part is based mainly in the eastern parts of Afghanistan, consists of the Pashtun tribes of Waziristan and Khyber agency, and is fully run by the Pakistani ISI. Only recently did the US carry out thorough operations against them, which wiped out much of the group. The other part of ISIS is based in the north and north-eastern parts of Afghanistan, and mainly consists of Chechens, Daghistanis and Chinese Muslims. This part of the Khorasan ISIS was created by the FSB and, according to some reliable sources, anywhere between 25,000 to 35,000 fighters are based inside Afghanistan. They are living among the villagers in the most remote parts of the country. This deadly group was created to take the insurgency to a second phase, which would be far deadlier than what we witness right now.

Al-Qaeda

After spending nine years in Iran, Hamza Bin Laden (the son of Al-Qaeda’s late leader, Osama Bin Ladin) returned to Afghanistan, and this shaped Al-Qaeda strategically. The US claimed that they had killed Hamza bin Ladin in a drone strike in Waziristan some four years ago, but it is confirmed that the US missed.
Hamza Bin Laden is now the leader of most elite terrorist organization that stretches across many countries. Hamza bin Laden is working closely with Sarajuddin Haqani in the southern and south-eastern parts of Afghanistan. All fighters of Al-Qaeda are North African Arabs, from Libya, Mali, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco.

The insurgency against the US & NATO

The forces are divided into three groups:

  1. The Pakistani ISI is running the Taliban & Haqani Network.
  2.  The Russian FSB is running ISIS.
  3.  Irani Al Quds is running Hamza bin Ladin Al Qaida.

The US Intel are aware that a peace deal with the Taliban will not guarantee total peace or an end to the war in Afghanistan. The US military believe that they would have to maintain their presence in Afghanistan to fight Al-Qaeda, ISIS and Hezb-i- Wallayat (Taliban), but the regional powers believe these are just excuses made by the US in order to prolong its military presence in Afghanistan.
Regional powers believe the US’ prolonged military presence in Afghanistan has something to do with regional powers (Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan & Turkey) and not with ISIS or Al-Qaeda, as claimed by the US & NATO.

The concerns of Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan

Russia: Kremlin believes that the US is driven to curb the vast influence of Russia on Central Asia by bringing western-style democracies to the region, and empowering westernized leaders to free them of Moscow.

China: Beijing treats Afghanistan as it’s backyard and they are certain that the US’ prolonged presence in Afghanistan seeks to stop China’s huge economical “One Belt, One Road” project, which connects 118 countries and costs $3 trillion. China believes that from their positions in Afghanistan, the US and U.K. have tried to create an uprising inside China using the Chinese Muslims to create a civil war which could eventually weaken China from within.

Iran: The Iranian regime openly accuses the US and U.K. for interfering in their country by creating unrest within Iran. The Iranian regime fears that the US might send Iranian armed militants through the Afghan border in order to topple its regime in Tehran.

Pakistan: Although Pakistan was considered a friend and an ally by the US for a long time, it has been over 25 years since Pakistan tightened its ties with China and no longer trusts the US. Pakistan is a nuclear state and they feel threatened by deepened US-India relations and, of course, by Kashmir. The Taliban and other Islamic militant groups (Jaish Mohammad, Lashkar Tayba) are the core of ISI. Maybe at a later stage these groups will fight Pakistan’s holy war in Kashmir. The US’ prolonged military presence in Afghanistan might have some severe consequences for Pakistan as well, as Pakistan think that the US and NATO might begin supporting the separatists of Pashtunistan and Baluchistan. The separation won’t stop there, however, as Sindh also wants freedom and this could mean the end of Pakistan’s existence.

The above-mentioned countries, plus Turkey, are also part of the inner circle of the Shanghai summit. They make up one block and are all tied into a strategical alliance, doing anything in their power to turn Afghanistan into a second Vietnam for the US forces.

Qatar’s Peace Deal

The main objective of Qatar’s Peace Deal was to minimize insurgency by shutting down the Taliban, but this has not worked because the Taliban insist on the complete withdrawal of the US from Afghanistan. The Taliban leadership is well aware that the US is not going to fully withdraw its forces, as they are making excuses of Al-Qaeda and ISIS being active in Afghanistan. The Taliban have categorically assured the US that Al-Qaeda and ISIS are their problem and that they will deal with them, but the US will not listen and instead blames the Taliban for having ties with Al-Qaeda. The UN Security Council’s report that the Taliban has deep ties with Al-Qaeda and other militant groups made  the US’ claim even stronger.

Ever since this peace deal was signed in Qatar back in February, the insurgence has escalated by more than 300% throughout Afghanistan, and Afghans continue to be killed. It does not appear that the Taliban will adopt a ceasefire in the near future.

About a month ago, Sarjuddin Haqani (the military commander of  the Haqani Networka, deputy of Taliban spiritual leader Mullah Hibatullah, and the son of late Mullah Mohammad Omar) openly expressed their determination for carrying JIHAD against the US invaders in a propaganda video. They conveyed a message to their fighters to carry on fighting and discredited the Qatar peace deal.

Right after the Qatar peace deal was signed between the US and Taliban, a large number of Taliban formed another group called Hezb-i- Wallayat, and it is believed that many who oppose the Qatar peace deal will join this new Taliban resistance.

Conclusion of the Qatar deal

It seems that Trump’s administration will somehow bring the (approximate) 500 Taliban leaders to Kabul to make them part of the current Kabul regime, or perhaps form a new interim government where these Taliban leaders will be part of it. Then Trump will show to the American public that he has ended America’s longest war in Afghanistan and brought soldiers home. According to some reliable information from within the US government, the US will always maintain around 4,000 troops in Afghanistan, regardless of any treaty they have signed with Taliban. That is why regional powers are skeptical of the US and have planned for a prolonged war with the US on Afghan soil.

Afghan partners

Although the US is juggling the insurgency in Afghanistan and larger regional issues, the US and NATO are currently backing the most corrupt regime in Kabul. Ashraf Ghani has lost control of Afghanistan’s government. He is incompetent and weak, and he is driven by individuals within his regime who carry other agendas (those of the FSB, Al Quds, ISI & RAW). Sadly, the US and NATO are fully aware of his incompetence but continue supporting his disastrous regime, which Afghans dislike at large.

At least if the US and NATO could bring about cleaner Afghan government that works for the welfare of the Afghans, more Afghans may resist from joining the Taliban, Al-Qaeda or ISIS.

 

So What’s the Story on Iran?

Issues of the Week

Iran has many decisions to make about the way forward in view of this year’s Presidential election in the USA. One of which is who are likely to be the mainstream candidates for Iran’s own Presidential elections next year. Some names are being touted. And there is not an extremist among them – but then nor is there a liberal. They are all pragmatists belonging to what Iran calls the “Principalist” party. For William’s podcast on this and other matters regarding Iran click here.

 

If Black Lives Matter – where do you stand?

Issues of the Week

We all have something to answer for – from God in his Heaven to you as you sit there in lockdown. What do you care when it comes down to it? To listen to William’s podcast click here.

HOWEVER MORE IMPORTANTLY: Everyone seems to be busy campaigning to tear down statues and blue plaques – alienating some in the process as well as obliterating part of our history. Instead why don’t they campaign to celebrate the greatest British warriors to end slavery?

William Wilberforce for instance. Where is his statue? Well there is one in his home city of Hull and there is a smaller one tucked away in Westminster Abbey. But there should be a proper one out of doors in Central London don’t you think?

You could argue that John Newton, the ex-slaver that became an abolitionist (and incidentally wrote the hymn Amazing Grace after he shifted over to the side of the great and the good) deserves a statue. After all he was the one that mentored William Wilberforce. But all he has is a large bronze bust somewhere in Ireland.

However this Cornish warrior against slavery nobody celebrates. Stick him on the empty plinth in Trafalgar Square I reckon. He at least deserves a statue somewhere. Barrington Reynolds, the Cornishman who helped put an end to international slavery. Now there’s an unsung hero.  Looks a little strange but – What a guy. In fact forget the statue, they should make a movie about him:

BArrington-Reynolds

Thinking again about Israel and Palestine

Annexation does what?

Next Century Foundation Secretary General William Morris writes:

I was not so happy with my last podcast on Israel and Palestine. It was not respectful enough of the Mid East Peace Process issue – and though it covers all the bases in detail – it misses the point when it comes to the heart of the matter. This is perhaps more honest to the actual situation these two great nations living cheek by jowl now find themselves in:

To listen to William’s thoughts on the subject click here.