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Unique conference reflects unity against Iran’s extremist policies by moderate Muslims and other faithful.

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In an online conference this week political, social, and religious leaders from various Muslim countries, Europe, and the United States stressed the need for a unified response to Iran’s role in regional crises and its practice of fomenting sectarian conflict and threatening its neighbors.

The conference, "Islam, Religion of Mercy, Fraternity, and Equality; Solidarity of All Faiths against Extremism," was chaired by former Algerian Prime Minister Sid Ahmed Ghozali and moderated by the prominent Algerian author Mr. Anwar Malikwas, and was held on the advent of the holy month of Ramadan by the International Islamic Committee in Defence of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (PMOI/MEK) and the Iranian Resistance.

The virtual gathering connected over 2,000 locations in 40 countries and featured dozens of dignitaries, including former government ministers, members of parliaments, and religious leaders from some 30 countries. The joint presence of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish religious leaders underscored the fact that the Iranian regime is an enemy of all these religions.

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Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), who joined the conference from her residence in Auvers-sur-Oise, focused on the notion that “the ruling clerics of Iran are hostile to all Abrahamic religions and all religions of Islam.”

She also noted that this Ramadan is taking place at a time of high prices, mass unemployment, and economic deprivation for millions of Iranians. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has refrained from spending even a tiny portion of his trillions of dollars of assets to the fight against the Coronavirus to provide for public health.

“In reality, the Iranian people simultaneously face two monsters: the virus of religious fascism and the Coronavirus,” Rajavi said.

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Emphasizing the fact that the ruling religious fascism in Iran has stepped into a phase of failures and defeat despite all the bloodshed and clampdown that it has committed, the NCRI President-elect added: “So long as the clerical regime has not been overthrown, it will not abandon repression, religious discrimination, and misogyny. It will not abandon its meddling and crimes in Middle East countries because it relies on these policies for its survival. But there is a solution to this ominous calamity that has taken hostage the destinies of Middle East countries and poses the greatest threat to global peace and security. The solution is to overthrow the mullahs' religious fascism by the Iranian Resistance and the uprising of the Iranian people. And today, the MEK, the people of Iran, and their courageous children have risen up to bring down the rule of religious dictatorship.”

Mrs. Rajavi urged all anti-fundamentalist Muslims, and all countries in Europe and the Middle East, to stand with the Iranian people and their struggle to overthrow the regime. This struggle to establish a democratic and pluralist republic will herald the tolerant and peaceful coexistence of followers of various religions and denominations, she said.

Mr. Ghozali echoed this call to action, concluding that the fight against dictatorship by the Iranian resistance will serve not only the Iranian people but also peoples in the surrounding region. “The Iranian Resistance provides an alternative to dictatorships,” he said. “This is the specific characteristic of the Iranian Resistance. It has enormous experience and has made enormous sacrifices for the Iranian people. Even those who are not Iranian wish success for this noble cause. And this is why we consider it as our shared cause.”

Rt. Rev. Bishop John Pritchard joined the conference from the UK and condemned the Iranian regime for misusing religion to carry out atrocities. He noted that activists of all sorts are being arrested and sentenced to long prison terms or even execution based on vague, religious-sounding charges like “waging war against God.”

“Christians are not allowed to observe their faith in public. Their homes are raided and belongings are confiscated simply because they are Christian,” he said. “We reaffirm our belief in freedom of religion in Iran, which is enshrined in Madam Rajavi’s ten-point plan. We call on the international community to take action for the release of all those who are being held in Iran’s prisons unjustly.”

Rabbi Moshe Lewin, spokesperson of the Chief Rabbi of France stressed the need for inter-religious dialogue, especially at a time when much of the world is threatened by fundamentalism. “You are all dear to me and I know how hard you work to have Iran become a democratic country, and how hard you fight against fundamentalism,” he told the global audience of Iranian activists. “And this is why I will always be at your side. Iran needs a society at peace that enables each Iranian citizen to live decently.”

Azzam Al-Ahmad, head of the Fatah faction in the Palestinian Parliament, said, “Palestinians are paying attention to what you are suffering in Iran because of the killing and arrests that the regime is doing. We are also suffering the same killing and capturing and occupation. We will stand together against the dark forces that spread destruction in the Middle East. We support you and our friends in the Iranian nation to achieve the security and noble values that the MEK represents.”

Elona Gjebrea, Secretary of the Albanian Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee and former Deputy Minister of Interior of Albania pointed out that for decades, the Iranian regime has oppressed its people and stripped its citizens of their rights. “We are concerned about the continued use of torture against Iranian protesters and support the human rights of the Iranian people and to support the cause of the MEK.”

Bassam Al-Omoush, former Jordanian Minister and former Ambassador to Iran raised the question, “Why does the Iranian regime need to kill Syrians and Iraqis and Yemeni people?”   “This is not Islam. They are using Islam to control the people and this is not acceptable.”

Riad Yassin Abdallah, Former Yemeni Foreign Minister and Ambassador to France stressed, “The Iranian regime’s militias show no mercy toward the people. They are not looking for peace. No one can trust them,” he said. “They are butchering thousands of people. They are planting bombs and depriving the people of food. I invite all our brothers and friends to support and pray for our nation. We need to understand that what they are doing is not supporting peace and security and is not related to any religion.”

Dr. Walid Phares, foreign policy expert and Co-Secretary General of the Transatlantic Parliamentary Group, underscored, “The truth is the militias of the Iranian regime are spreading terrorism across the Arab and Islamic countries. The regime is not the protector of Shiites. They are the oppressors of Shiites. After all these decades of bloodshed, how can we say that this regime represents Islam? We must help bring an understanding of the realities on the ground. Most of the people in the region know the danger of this regime. We wish this resistance movement to be successful in bringing peace and stability to the region.”

Marc Ginsberg, former US Ambassador to Morocco and White House Middle East Adviser, pointed out: “The Iranian regime carries out atrocities under the banner of Islam. And we all know this is not Islam. The mullahs do not practice peace. They practice war. They practice vengeance. Those of us who have come to know Madam Rajavi, the MEK, and NCRI know that her leadership is true Islamic leadership. Like all Abrahamic religions, the Islam that Madam Rajavi practices seek to remove the shackles of human bondage. Despite all concessions made by Europe and the U.S. to this regime, the minute that the ink was dry on that agreement, the Ayatollahs were cheating on the commitments that they signed up for.   Madam Rajavi represents the most viable and democratic alternative to this regime.”

Aiham Alsammarae, former Iraqi Minister of Electricity, said, “The Iraqi people will not allow any support of the mullahs and do not endorse concessions to the Iranian regime during the nuclear negotiations. This will only worsen the suffering of the people of Iran and the region,” he said.

Mohamad Nazir Hakim, former Secretary-General of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, expressed a similar sentiment, “The mullahs’ regime has always considered Syria its 35th province to ensure its Shia project overlooks the Mediterranean coast,” he observed. “But the Iranian and Syrian people do not believe the regime’s narrative, and their Resistance movements present hope that goes beyond the regime’s bloodshed.”

According to Cheikh Dhaou Meskine, Secretary-General of Council of Imams in France, “Iran needs its Resistance movement. The whole Middle East needs you so that Iran can live in a democracy and can play its role as the vanguard of civilization.”

Jordanian Member of Parliament Abed Ali Ulaiyan Almohsiri, anticipated the eventual victory of that movement. “[Tehran’s] fascist regime is concerned about this organization and considers them its worst threat,” he said. “This resistance will be victorious and will have support from inside and outside Iran. Iranians agree that this regime has to go. The MEK is moving forward to change this regime to liberate the Iranian people.”

Egyptian MP Ahmed Raafat emphasized that this victory will begin to reverse some of the damage that Iranian imperialism has done to the entire region. “It is spreading its poison all across the world,” he said of the clerical regime. “What the MEK and Madam Maryam Rajavi are doing is a great goal that history will remember.” The movement, he said, represents a meaningful challenge to a regime whose rule “is based on encouraging bloodshed under the banner of Islam. Islam is unconnected with what they are doing.

Africa

Rapprochement between Israel and Arab countries set to drive economic growth in MENA

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Over the past year, several Arab countries have normalized relations with Israel, marking a significant geopolitical shift in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. While the details of each normalization deal vary, some of them include trade and tax treaties and cooperation in key sectors such as health and energy. Normalization efforts are set to bring countless benefits to the MENA region, boosting economic growth, writes Anna Schneider. 

In August 2020, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) became the first Gulf Arab nation to normalize relations with Israel, establishing formal diplomatic, commercial, and security ties with the Jewish state. Shortly after, the Kingdom of Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco followed suit. Some experts have suggested that other Arab nations, such as Saudi Arabia, may also consider fostering relations with Israel. The string of normalization efforts is historic, as hitherto, only Egypt and Jordan had established official ties with Israel. The agreements are also a major diplomatic win for the United States, which played a critical role in fostering the deals. 

Historically, Arab nations and Israel have maintained distant relations, as many were staunch supporters of the Palestinian movement. Now, however, with the growing threat of Iran, some GCC nations and other Arab countries are beginning to lean towards Israel. Iran is investing significant resources in expanding its geopolitical presence by way of its proxies, Hezbollah, Hamas, the Houthis, and others. Indeed, several GCC countries recognize the danger Iran poses to the region’s national security, critical infrastructure, and stability, leading them to side with Israel in an effort to counterbalance Iranian aggression. By normalizing relations with Israel, the GCC can pool resources and coordinate militarily. 

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Furthermore, the trade agreements featured in the normalization deals allow Arab nations to purchase advanced US military equipment, such as the famed F-16 and F-35 fighter jets. Thus far, Morocco has purchased 25 F-16 fighter jets from the U.S. The U.S. has also agreed to sell 50 F-35 jets to the UAE. Although there are some concerns that this influx of weaponry into the already-unstable MENA region could ignite current conflicts. Some experts believe such advanced military technology could also augment efforts to combat Iran's presence. 

Mohammad Fawaz, director of Gulf Policy Research Group, states that “advanced military technology is essential in obstructing Iranian aggression. In today’s military arena, aerial superiority is perhaps the most critical advantage an army can possess. With Iran’s military equipment and weaponry heavily dampened by decades-long sanctions, a formidable airforce will only work to further deter the Iranian regime from escalating provocations.” 

The normalization agreements could also enhance cooperation in the health and energy sectors. For example, during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UAE and Israel developed technology to monitor and combat the coronavirus. The two nations are also exploring collaboration opportunities in the area of pharmaceuticals and medical research. In June, the UAE and Israel also signed a double taxation treaty, citizens to generate income in both nations without paying double tax. Additionally, Bahrain, the UAE, Israel, and the US  have agreed to cooperate on energy issues. In particular, the quartet aims to pursue advancements in petrol, natural gas, electricity, energy efficiency, renewable energies, and R&D. 

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These noteworthy agreements could help boost economic growth and social benefits in the region. Indeed, MENA nations are currently battling with a new outbreak of COVID-19, thanks to the Delta variant, which is severely impacting economies and health industries. In order to improve the region’s critical institutions, such normalization deals are sure to improve the region’s reliance on oil. In fact, the UAE has been working on reducing its own dependence on oil, diversifying its economy to include renewable energy and high tech, such progress is sure to spill over to others in the region. 

The normalization of relations between a handful of Arab nations and Israel will have major benefits on the geopolitical and economic structure of the Middle East and North Africa region. Facilitating cooperation across the Middle East will not only boost economic growth, but it will also foster regional stability. 

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Middle East

Women in the Middle East financial world: An interview with Layal Haykal

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In order for a woman to succeed in a world, where the rules are dictated by men and age-old traditions, she must be a real professional. Today we are interviewing just such a specialist and, using her example, we want to show how professionalism and striving for success help to achieve heights despite unequal conditions.


Layal, please describe the problems women face in the Middle East? How do these problems prevent women from developing and achieving success in their careers?

"Unfortunately, in the majority of the Middle East countries, women cannot have equal rights with men. What is more, development in the professional sphere is complicated for them. All the leading positions in the majority of spheres of life are occupied by men - and it is the main problem and inhibitory factor for women's career progress. As a rule, each woman entirely depends on her husband. Her life is locked in the household. Of course, such a dishonorable role affects the options in general development in social, professional, and cultural dimensions exceptionally negatively. 
You are one of the few who have truly reached impressive heights in your professional career. What qualities do you think have helped you to succeed in the specific world of business and finance, where men traditionally rule?

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Of course, every rule has exceptions. I think I was fortunate to manage the escape from this vicious circle of dependencies and become an example for many women willing to live, work, and develop a fascinating career. Luck is far from a determinant perk here. I work a lot and constantly improve myself as a professional. A woman in the Middle East can be successful if she is head and shoulders above men in a professional dimension. 


Your story is a success story. What are its reasons?

"As I've mentioned before, the fundamental cause of success is persistence. I put back into work and continually learn. In the financial sphere, one must not only know much but swiftly react to the market changes, as the apparent prosperity can give place to a crisis in a moment. 
Tell us about your experience. What challenges did you face in Euromena and how important is your role in the company's operations and its success?

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During the days of employment in Euromena Funds, an international investment company based in Lebanon, I could prove out myself maximally. There I got significant experience in investments and affected mutual success and company development equally with men. 
My duties included the workflow organization within a company and consulting in the field of taxation optimization.

How do Lebanese and international partners and clients rate your work?

"Their feedback was very positive. Their support and appreciation, in particular, have become proof of my professionalism and motivated me to move further in my career and professional knowledge and never stop at what has already been achieved. At the rapidly changing world of finance you always need to move forward.
At the end of 2019, a banking crisis began in Lebanon, from which the country has not yet been able to recover. Tell us how you managed not only to work, but also to maintain high efficiency during this difficult time?

During the October 2019 banking crisis, a pretty severe period for Lebanon, I had to run the financial flows of the whole Euromena Group.
Besides that, in the meantime, I was lucky to cooperate with financial development institutes in the spheres of ecology betterment and social relationships. The institutes still promote the development of the Lebanon private sector forming after a crisis and the region's economic stability.

Answering your question, I can add that the system approach and a habit of learning and work much helped me solve those tasks. Years of practice gave birth to a strong habit not to sit idly even if I had spare time. 

In addition to finance, what other areas have you managed to become a professional and succeed in?

"Yes, finances are not half of it. I conducted the transfer of the data belonging to all 18 companies forming the Euromena Group from old software to new. Despite the significant amount of work, I managed to complete it successfully. That assignment captivated me, as it demanded great attention to detail. I think the more difficulty means the more excitement. 
How do you manage not only to work fruitfully, but also to study in parallel, to combine this with the role of mother and wife?

Here everything is relatively easy. I wouldn't say I like sitting idly so much that any professional or common obstacle cannot frighten me. They are just tasks, and one should fall in love with them. Then, everything is possible! When you feel the responsibility for others, you feel up to do it!
What advice would you give to women in the Middle East and around the world to achieve their goals?

The main peculiarity of women is their ability to create the world around them, change it, and care about it. It concerns the professional sphere completely. Yes, often, a woman has to work twice more than a man to prove her competence. But it will make you a true professional. It will highlight you among other co-workers and let you accomplish all the career goals. 

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EU

The #AbrahamAccords and a changing #MiddleEast

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Whether we call it peace or normalization isn’t very important: The agreements being signed today between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, along with US President Donald Trump’s guarantee, mark a historical transition that not only reflects the great changes underway within Arab societies, but also upends old dynamics and can change the world, writes Fiamma Nirenstein.

It’s very difficult to recognize the deal for what it is, because Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu don’t enjoy the support of the international press. Moreover, the Palestinians received what was for them a totally surprising refusal from the Arab League to their request to condemn it.

Europe, meanwhile, keeps repeating its old stupid mantras of “illegally occupied territories,” and “two states for two peoples.” It can’t fathom calling the current agreements “peace.”

What, after all, is peace without Palestinians?

Paradoxically, many American Jews and Israelis have joined this very same festival of self-humiliation.

Nevertheless, history is in the making in Washington today, and not only for the Middle East. What we are witnessing is the construction of a bridge between the three monotheistic religions.
Like it or not, Israel, the Jewish state, is finally integrated into the positive narrative of the region. With actual smiles and handshakes, it has become a recognized Middle Eastern state—part of the landscape of its deserts, mountains, cities and Mediterranean coasts.
Airplanes will be able to fly freely between Tel Aviv, Abu Dhabi and Manama. Citizens of these countries will travel back and forth. Water will flow. Innovation in medicine, high-tech and agriculture will be shared. It’s a Rosh Hashanah miracle. The Messiah seems to be coming, after all.
“Hope and change” — the empty campaign slogan used by former US President Barack Obama — doesn’t do justice to what is happening before our very eyes. That Saudi Arabia is allowing its airspace to be used for flights between Israel and the Arab world is but one example.
Oman, too, has welcomed the normalization of ties between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain, as has Egypt. Kuwait is looking on with caution. Even Qatar, a friend and ally of Iran and Hamas, is trying to hedge its bets—as the current agreements have shuffled all the cards.
Other Arab countries expected to normalize relations with Israel in the near future include Saudi Arabia, Oman, Morocco, as well as Sudan, Chad and even Kosovo, a Muslim country, which wants to open an embassy in Jerusalem.
All official statements welcoming the agreements express the hope that the Palestinians will eventually become part of the game again. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, decided on the Abraham Accord after Jerusalem and Washington agreed to suspend, at least temporarily, the application of Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and parts of the West Bank as envisaged in Trump’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan.
While the Crown Prince may expect some gratitude from Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, the latter is not complying, preferring, instead, to talk about Arab “betrayal” and “abandonment”—in concert with Iran, Hezbollah, Turkey and any other proverbial pyromaniac who loves fanning the flames of war.
Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh traveled to Lebanon earlier this month to meet with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and discuss a multi-front terror war against Israel. While there, he announced Hamas’s plan to build on-site smart ballistic missiles. Lebanese newspapers denounced his remarks as an attempt to “destroy Lebanon” by making it the base of a war that its citizens don’t want.
Many say that it’s “not too late for the Palestinians” to reverse their rejectionism. Some believe that it is not in their DNA to extricate themselves from their disastrous comfort zone—one that not only has turned them into veto-masters in the nationalist and then Islamist Middle East, but also rendered them the protagonists of both, which are now waning.
It’s the end. The Middle East has lived with myths and legends. But pan-Arabism, tribal and sectarian tensions, corruption, violence and Islamism (that was used as a substitute weapon for defeated pan-Arabism) are now over in a large part of the world.
The entire fortress has been struck by a resounding wave of enthusiasm for a normal future with—and increased knowledge about—this “Martian” from the planet “Evil,” which Israel had become in the collective Muslim-Arab imagination.
Now, on the one hand, there’s normalization, which has been recognized by new Asian and African leaders (even among the Palestinians, according to expert Khaled Abu Toameh, courageous voices are emerging that despise corruption and terrorist incitement); on the other hand, there is the Tehran-Ankara axis and its friends, soldiers and proxies ready for war. Their aspirations have nothing to do with fighting on behalf of the Palestinians. They are locked in an old ideological terrorist spiral.
The Europeans should have learned from history how to distinguish peace from war. Choosing the former clearly is the better path, unless death and destruction have a strange attraction that magnetizes more than peace and prosperity.
This article was translated from Italian by Amy Rosenthal.
All opinions expressed in the above article are those of the author alone, and do not reflect any opinions on the part of EU Reporter.

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