Oubai Shahbandar, Arab News

Oubai Shahbandar

Arab News

Washington, DC, United States

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Past articles by Oubai:

How Trump may have set a trap for Iran

To understand why the Iranian government is worried about President Donald Trump taking a harder line with sanctions against the Revolutionary Guards, we first must take a look back at how the 2015 nuclear deal intersected with the IRGC and its regional activities and interests. → Read More

Iran’s nuclear deal must be fully enforced or scrapped

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday succinctly captured the essence of the global danger posed by the Iran nuclear deal, when he told the UN General Assembly that the agreement was “one sided” and an “embarrassment.” His administration is due to review whether to recertify the deal next month. If Iran is found to be in violation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Trump has the… → Read More

Horrific echoes of Assad from the bloodshed in Myanmar

A military official in Myanmar described it as a “clearing operation.” The Nobel Peace laureate, State Counsellor of Myanmar and the country’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, refers to it as counter-terrorism. Buddhist nationalists call it self-defense against a people who do not belong in their country. But there is another word that aptly captures what is being done today to the Rohingya… → Read More

Can Gen. Joseph Votel avoid the mistakes of his predecessors?

In a recent interview, Gen. Joseph Votel, chief of US Central Command — which oversees military operations from the Horn of Africa to Central Asia — discussed his vision for the Middle East’s future amid various armed conflicts. He said the new powers granted to the defense secretary allow field commanders fighting Daesh to be “more agile and more responsive to a very complex, developing… → Read More

Closer US monitoring of illicit Qatar finance a good first step

The announcement by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) that it will deploy officials to Doha to more closely inspect terror-related illicit finance is clearly due to the pressure exerted by the Anti-Terror Quartet (ATQ), comprising Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt. The announcement, and Doha’s decision to amend its anti-terrorism law, were hailed by ATQ officials as a sign that Qatar is… → Read More

Saudi Arabia and Turkey must maintain strategic partnership

Since Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Riyadh in 2015, bilateral trade and investment have steadily increased. Hundreds of Turkish companies operate in the Kingdom, with well over $1 billion in investments. The value of Saudi investments in Turkey is estimated at nearly $2 billion. Bilateral trade is valued at approximately $8 billion. → Read More

Tehran’s road to Damascus

Iran-backed militias reached a new milestone this week, managing to advance to the Iraq-Syria border. Rudaw, the main media outlet of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), said of this development: “The Hashd (Shiite militia) could soon resemble the Iraqi version of Hezbollah in Lebanon, or the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Iran.” → Read More

Qatar’s deal with the devil

On the same day that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had a weekend phone conversation with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei issued his latest broadside against Saudi Arabia and the Arab coalition. → Read More

New era of US-Arab partnership inaugurated by Trump

The red, white and blue (and of course the Saudi green) were on full display as President Donald Trump made his maiden trip to the land of Islam’s two holiest cities in a watershed moment in US relations with the Islamic world. The grand welcome he received by King Salman is front-page news all over the US media. The Drudge Report, America’s most widely read online news aggregator, ran the… → Read More

Closer US-Saudi defense ties more crucial than ever

Tens of billions of dollars of advanced weapons sales are expected to go ahead between the US and Saudi Arabia as President Donald Trump gears up for his historic visit. The approval and timing of these deliveries are part of a broader “reset” in the strategic partnership. While close ties date back to the era of President Franklin Roosevelt, the impetus for strengthening them has never been… → Read More

A possible political solution for Syria

Syria's religious and ethnic minorities are faced with difficult choices as the Syrian conflict shows no sign of abating. They, along with the rest of the country, have suffered at the hands of the Assad regime, which has unrelentingly assaulted the civilian populace and persecuted any political, religious or intellectual figure that dares question the Assad family’s legitimacy to rule Syria. → Read More

Iran’s covert nuclear activity continues

Tehran is still pursuing research and testing that could lead to a weaponized nuclear device, the Iranian opposition said Friday. One military site in particular, Parchin, has come under scrutiny for allegedly continuing covert nuclear weapons work despite Iran’s commitment to end such activity as part of the nuclear deal. → Read More

Pentagon needs to double down in battle for Syria’s Badia

With Gen. James Mattis making his first official visit as secretary of defense to Saudi Arabia, one particular point of commonality is the matter of Arab tribal forces (many from the Shammar tribal confederation) fighting against Daesh in eastern Syria. These forces are increasingly under attack by the Syrian regime’s air force, yet they have made impressive battlefield gains that have rattled… → Read More

Trump makes the right call in Syria

Great leaders are often made by the decisions and paths they embark upon when faced with circumstances that shape history. In Syria, US President Donald Trump’s bold decision to strike the Bashar Assad regime has now brought him to the forefront of leadership on the global stage. The Assad regime made an egregious strategic error in attempting to test President Trump’s mettle. Unlike his… → Read More

Time to end Assad’s WMD

A new mass chemical weapons attack in Syria seems to have been launched against civilians on Tuesday morning, according to initial reports from medical workers and first-responders. In a scene eerily reminiscent of the regime’s sarin gas attack in Damascus in 2013, video and pictures emerged following the attack of the lifeless bodies of children, still in their pajamas, who had suffocated to… → Read More

Pakistan’s reckoning, six years after the Bin Laden raid

An old controversy regarding former Pakistani Ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani recently resurfaced following an Op-Ed he penned for The Washington Post. In the column, Haqqani discusses the importance that ambassadors in Washington often place upon building and nurturing professional and personal relationships with the White House. The controversy, however, arose when he wrote: “The… → Read More

Iran’s Soleimani must be brought to justice

Tehran is now sending advanced weaponry and seasoned advisers to support Houthi extremists in Yemen, according to recent revelations first reported by Reuters. The effort is led by Iran’s Qods Force, which has overseen the training and arming of Shiite extremist proxies in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Using that expertise and lessons learned in the battlefield, Qods Force operatives are now… → Read More

Wider war inevitable as Iran continues to expand its proxies

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corp. (IRGC) has been successfully expanding its weapons-smuggling network and steadily enhancing the number of Shiite militant proxies from the Arabian Gulf to the Mediterranean, according to recent reports. If this continues unchecked, a wider and much deadlier conflict is almost inevitable. → Read More

Oscar win for White Helmets highlights Syrian regime brutality

The violence in Syria is another world away for your average American and others in the West. But the world now has a chance to re-examine and understand more viscerally what is truly happening in Syria following Monday’s big Oscar win for Netflix’s “The White Helmets” documentary, which details the day-to-day travails of ill-equipped Syrian rescue workers digging victims out from the rubble of… → Read More

Trump calls to Arab leaders a positive sign

Despite the ongoing mass hysteria among Washington’s punditry on the potential foreign policy fallout of President Donald Trump’s recent executive orders, the recent phone call between him and Saudi King Salman seems to have been warm and substantive. Trump’s call with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan was characterized by both Washington and Abu Dhabi as reinforcing… → Read More