Sunday, December 22, 2013

Iranians: Geneva is ‘Treaty of Hudaybiyyah’

by CLARE M. LOPEZDecember 22, 2013

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says the deal brokered in late November 2013 in Geneva between the P5+1 allows Iran to "continue its [nuclear] enrichment" activities. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says that the deal does not recognize a "right to enrich." (Here's the text of the so-called "Joint Plan of Action - - the Iranians are right.)

President Obama hailed the Geneva agreement as the most "significant and tangible" progress to date toward ensuring that Iran "cannot build a nuclear weapon." Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Marzieh Afkham said "There is no treaty and no pact." (It's a "letter of intent," say the Iranians.) For his part, the Iranian negotiator, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, exulted that the document explicitly recognized the inclusion of an Iranian enrichment program in the final deal (it does).

There's at least one major point of agreement, however, for both Americans and Iranians (although it's doubtful the U.S. negotiating team actually understands what it means). That single point of agreement is about the temporary nature of the pact/letter/Joint Plan of Action: first it was going to be for six months, then it would be for six months after a few more details were worked out, then the technical discussions in Vienna collapsed on 11 December, then Secretary Kerry said the talks would continue in a few days. And then Mohammad Sadeq Al-Hosseini, formerly a political advisor to Iranian President Khatami and now a TV commentator, clarified everything.

"This is the Treaty of Hudaybiyya in Geneva," he said, speaking on Syrian News TV on 11 December 2013. Although it is doubtful that any of Kerry's advisers is even remotely familiar with this key episode in the accounts about Muhammad and the early Muslims, the Center for Security Policy explained the story in its 2010 book, "Shariah: The Threat to America." The context is about situations in which Muslim forces might lawfully enter into a treaty or truce with the enemy. With troubling ramifications for current day negotiations, those situations demonstrate the centrality and importance of deceit in any agreement between Muslims and infidels. As it is recounted, in the year 628 CE, Muhammad (whose forces already controlled Medina) agreed to a 10-year truce with the pagan Quraysh tribe of Mecca, primarily because he realized that his forces were not strong enough to take the city at the time. Islamic doctrine in fact forbids Muslims from entering into a jihad or battle without the reasonable certainty of being able to prevail. In such cases, as with Muhammad, Muslims are permitted to enter into a temporary ceasefire or hudna, with the proviso that no such truce may exceed 10 years (because that's the length of the agreement Muhammad signed). And so, Muhammad agreed to the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah. But just two years later, in 630 CE, now with some 10,000 fighters under his command, Muhammad broke the treaty and marched into Mecca.  

The authoritative ahadith of Bukhari provide context for Muhammad's actions: "War is deceit," is a saying Bukhari attributes to Muhammad (52:269). Another says "By Allah, and Allah willing, if I take an oath and later find something else better than that, then I do what is better and expiate my oath." (Bukhari: V7B67N427)  Yasser Arafat, head of the jihadist Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), provided one of the clearest examples in modern times for how this works. He understood his Islamic obligations well, as demonstrated by his repeated public references to the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah following the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. And while Western political leaders missed the significance entirely, Arafat's Arabic-speaking audiences understood perfectly that his Camp David agreement meant nothing more than a temporary hudna or ceasefire that would give the PLO the time it needed to build up its forces to renew the jihad against Israel...which is exactly what happened. 

The shariah (Islamic Law) in general discourages Muslim forces from making a truce, citing Qur'anic verse 47:35, which says, "So do not be fainthearted and call for peace, when it is you who are the uppermost." The main reason Islamic forces are to avoid ceasefires, treaties and the like is that "it entails the nonperformance of jihad, whether globally or in a given locality..." Of course, the Iranians know all of this doctrine and history very well. The country's constitution, in fact, dedicates its armed forces (the Army and the IRGC-Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) to "the ideological mission of jihad in the way of Allah..." So, when a senior political commentator such as Mohammad Sadeq Al-Hosseini, who lives and works in Tehran, appears on an international TV broadcast interview and refers to the agreement (however tentative) reached by the P5+1 and Iran in Geneva as a "Treaty of Hudaybiyya," we may be sure that he has chosen his words carefully. We also may be fairly certain that the Iranian regime and its sly and smiling Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, at least tacitly agree with Al-Hosseini's characterization.

We can only hope that someone tells senior Western leaders what the reference means, because there is no doubt that the Muslim world, especially the Sunni Muslim world, got it immediately. The Saudi royal family in particular clearly is under no illusions about Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions-and is deeply alarmed, as much over the millennialist zeal of the arch rival Shi'ite Persians as the perceived perfidy of an American administration that has just switched sides, leaving Riyadh scrambling to cobble together a new defense policy. Thus the deliberate leaks about possible discussions with Pakistan concerning a nuclear weapons capability for the Saudis and the astonishing sight of a senior member of the Saudi royal family publicly shaking hands with a top Israeli diplomat.

As Ilan Berman notes in a 17 December 2013 piece entitled "The Real Cost of Geneva," the balance of power in the Middle East is shifting, even before Iran has demonstrated a deliverable nuclear weapons capability. The U.S. pivot towards the Shi'ite jihadis (Iranians and Hizballah) leaves erstwhile allies among the Sunni jihadis (Saudi royals) aghast. Recognizing the new rising "strong horse" in the region, smaller Sunni sheikhdoms like the United Arab Emirates already are seeking to normalize relations with Tehran. All trends are not towards stability, however. The collapse of American leadership and acquiescence to Iranian hegemony in the region instead are encouraging Israel and others to pursue their own defense strategies in ways that soon could prove deeply destabilizing. 
Whether or not the nuclear negotiations with Iran yield clear results in coming weeks or drag out inconclusively for months or more, the U.S. already has signaled its willingness to allow (and even facilitate) a dangerous realignment of power in the Middle East that favors the Shi'ite axis over the Sunni one. Reactions and counter-reactions already have been set in motion that could change the geo-strategic landscape, not just in the region, but globally. The Iranian commentator Mohammad Sadeq Al-Hosseini may have been projecting from a distinctly Shi'ite perspective, but as the Iranians see it, first comes the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah in Geneva, and then "it will be followed by a conquest of Mecca."       
Clare M. Lopez a senior fellow at the Clarion Fund, writes regularly for, and is a strategic policy and intelligence expert with a focus on Middle East, national defense, and counterterrorism issues. 

Here again the West is being bamboozled because of its ignorance of Islam.
For those unfamiliar with Islamic terms like hudna here is an explanation:

Raphael Israeli
The impact of Nakba, hudna and tahdiah on Israel

05/23/2011 16:13   By RAPHAEL ISRAELI 

Israel must first learn the meanings of these Islamic terms and then alert the West to the dangers inherent in their unilateral imposition. The West must denounce any Arab efforts that are not part of universally accepted rules of engagement.

A few days prior to “Nakba Day,” Yuval Diskin, chief of the Shin Bet, predicted that hudna or tahdiah  (he used the two terms interchangeably) would not last but that “Nakba Day” could escalate beyond what we had experienced in previous years. The prodigious Chief of Security was proven to be correct in his forecasts. However, his use of the above terminology was not accurate and could confuse uninitiated audiences.

“Nakba,” the Arabic term for catastrophe, was first appropriated by the Arabs following the 1948-9 war with
Israel. They lost their national foothold in Palestine and as a result of their bitter opposition to share the land with the Jews under the November 1947 UN partition plan, many of them became refugees. The concept of “Nakba” was then institutionalized in Muhammad Nimr al-Hawari's seminal book “The Mystery of the Catastrophe (Nakba)” in 1955. This, together with “Land Day” (launched by Arabs in Israel  on March 30, 1976) signaled the evolution of the Palestinian issue from a socio-economic/religio-cultural one into a politico-national one.

The Palestinian and larger Arab community’s partaking of the commemorative “Nakba Day” is of more recent memory, following the growing influence of the 22-member Arab League and the 57-member Organization of Islamic countries in the UN. In many Muslim and Arab countries it is marked with ceremonies and processions. But only in the countries directly adjacent to Israel
 (apart from Iran), did this event witnessed outbursts of violence and garner any significance.

This year, in preparation for September’s UN climax - mistakenly promoted by Palestinians and Arabs as a showdown with Israel
 - Nakba’s significance seems to have peaked. The apparent purpose of this year’s “Nakba Day” was to delegitimize Israel and hail the "right of return" of Palestinian refugees.

In recent years Hamas invented new international terminology to impose on its enemies. This is because Hamas is not a state and therefore does not recognize or use internationally accepted norms and concepts like contractual peace, cease fire, exchange of prisoners, agreed boundaries, and peace process. And because Hamas is enmeshed within civilian populations (getting protection from human-shields), no one can retaliate or respond to their challenges without raising the wrath of the world. So Hamas plays the game on their terms and with their terminology. Two examples of terms that Hamas has introduced to the international arena are hudna (cease-fire) and tahdiah (calm).

While in the past the PA might have displayed a certain degree of readiness to sign a peace treaty 
even one that they may renege on at a later date), Hamas, along with other radical groups like Hizbullah, straightforwardly declare that no peace is possible with the Jews/Israelis, and only a war of extermination to the finish could resolve the conflict.

Since a peace plan is out of the question, Hamas resorts instead to the Hudaybiyya precedent set by the Prophet himself, when, constrained by his weakness at the gates of Mecca, Muhammad consented to a 10-year hudna. Unlike Western ceasefires, which hinge on consent from both parties, hudna is unilateral and the party implementing it can reverse it anytime they like.

Yet an open-ended hudna might, Allah forbid, imply a recognition of Israel
, as indeed may have been the case during the 19 years of truce/cease fire in 1948-67. To combat this, our creative terrorists then introduced the term of tahdiah which doesn’t assume any permanence and usually lasts up to one year. Only if Israel withdraws from all of Palestine and agrees to the full right of return, would Hamas consider instituting a longer hudna (which Islamic Sharia still limits to ten years at most).

It should then become clear to Israelis
 that while the PA and the rest of the Arabs may have despaired of their own ability to defeat Israel militarily, they have also discovered that Israel can be made to either yield to its demise via the current lawfare geared to delegitimize it, or be intimidated by the Islamic alternatives embraced by Hamas, Hizbullah and other fundamentalist movements throughout the Arab world.
Israel's only way to resist then, is to alert the West to the dangers inherent in the security arrangements that are forced on them by Islam, and to insist that no international arrangement or settlement is possible unless it is based on the universally accepted rules of engagement.

The writer is a professor of Islamic, Middle Eastern and Chinese history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem  and a member of the steering committee of the Ariel Center for Policy Research.