December 21/2013


Bible Quotation for today/Cautions & Directions
The Letter from Jude 1/17-23: "But you, beloved, remember the words which have been spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.  They said to you that “In the last time there will be mockers, walking after their own ungodly lusts.”  These are they who cause divisions, and are sensual, not having the Spirit. But you, beloved, keep building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. On some have compassion, making a distinction,  and some save, snatching them out of the fire with fear, hating even the clothing stained by the flesh."


Question: Should Christians celebrate Christmas? The debate about whether or not Christians should celebrate Christmas has been raging for centuries. There are equally sincere and committed Christians on both sides of the issue, each with multiple reasons why or why not Christmas should be celebrated in Christian homes. But what does the Bible say? Does the Bible give clear direction as to whether Christmas is a holiday to be celebrated by Christians?
First, let’s look at the reasons why some Christians do not celebrate Christmas. One argument against Christmas is that the traditions surrounding the holiday have origins in paganism. Searching for reliable information on this topic is difficult because the origins of many of our traditions are so obscure that sources often contradict one another. Bells, candles, holly, and yuletide decorations are mentioned in the history of pagan worship, but the use of such in one’s home certainly does not indicate a return to paganism. While there are definitely pagan roots to some traditions, there are many more traditions associated with the true meaning of Christmas—the birth of the Savior of the world in Bethlehem. Bells are played to ring out the joyous news, candles are lit to remind us that Christ is the Light of the world (John 1:4-9), a star is placed on the top of a Christmas tree to remember the Star of Bethlehem, and gifts are exchanged to remind us of the gifts of the Magi to Jesus, the greatest gift of God to mankind. Another argument against Christmas, especially having a Christmas tree, is that the Bible forbids bringing trees into our homes and decorating them. The passage often cited is Jeremiah 10:1-16, but this passage refers to cutting down trees, chiseling the wood to make an idol, and then decorating the idol with silver and gold for the purpose of bowing down before it to worship it (see also Isaiah 44:9-18). The passage in Jeremiah cannot be taken out of its context and used to make a legitimate argument against Christmas trees.
Christians who choose to ignore Christmas point to the fact that the Bible doesn’t give us the date of Christ’s birth, which is certainly true. December 25 may not be even close to the time Jesus was born, and arguments on both sides are legion, some relating to climate in Israel, the practices of shepherds in winter, and the dates of Roman census-taking. None of these points are without a certain amount of conjecture, which brings us back to the fact that the Bible doesn’t tell us when Jesus was born. Some see this as proof positive that God didn’t want us to celebrate the birth, while others see the Bible’s silence on the issue as tacit approval.
Some Christians say that since the world celebrates Christmas—although it is becoming more and more politically correct to refer to it as “the holidays”—Christians should avoid it. But that is the same argument made by false religions that deny Christ altogether, as well as cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses who deny His deity. Those Christians who do celebrate Christmas often see the occasion as an opportunity to proclaim Christ as “the reason for the season” among the nations and to those trapped in false religions. As we have seen, there is no legitimate scriptural reason not to celebrate Christmas. At the same time, there is no biblical mandate to celebrate it, either. In the end, of course, whether or not to celebrate Christmas is a personal decision. Whatever Christians decide to do regarding Christmas, their views should not be used as a club with which to beat down or denigrate those with opposing views, nor should either view be used as a badge of honor inducing pride over celebrating or not celebrating. As in all things, we seek wisdom from Him who gives it liberally to all who ask (James 1:5) and accept one another in Christian love and grace, regardless of our views on Christmas.


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For December 21/13
Why the U.S. Failed in Iraq,Baghdad at the Crossroads/By: Steve Dobransky/Middle East Forum/21 December/13

Dangerous tactics/The Daily Star/December 21/13

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For December 21/13

Lebanese Related News

Nasrallah warns Israel Hezbollah will avenge commander's killing

Nasrallah: Some Points of March 14 Tripoli Proclamation are Declaration of War
STL Trial Chamber Decides to Try Hassan Habib Merhi in Absentia

Geagea Says Christians Don't Need Protection, Urges them do Distance themselves from Dictators

Jumblat Calls for Keeping Fairuz Out of Political Controversy

Mansour: Lebanon to Take Part in Geneva Talks and Solution to Syria's Crisis Is Political

Lebanese, Israeli Troops Go on Alert over Attempts to Uproot Tree

HRW Appeals to Lebanon over Syrian Spillover in Tripoli

Fitch Downgrades Lebanon's Rating over Political Woes

Report: Suleiman, Mustaqbal Ties Deteriorate over Cabinet Formation Process

MP Youssef Downplays Negligence Charges over Airport Tunnel Flooding

Berri: I Don't Want to be Unjust to Suleiman

Ghosn Warns Against Attempts to 'Finish Off' Army after Latest Attacks

Indecent acts led to border killing of Israeli soldier: report

Army hunts down shooting suspects

Driver of Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya head assaulted in Beirut

Miscellaneous Reports And News

White House vows veto on new Iran sanctions

'Iran has nuclear fuel reserve to last four years'
The Potential for an Assad Statelet in Syria

Brahimi Says No Deal on Iran's Role at Looming Syria Peace Talks

U.S. Not Ready to Budge on Iran Role at Syria Peace

Damascus defiant on Assad re-election

Russia Says Syria's Muallem to Head Peace Talks Delegation

West prefers Assad over Islamists in Syria, Russian FM says
United Kingdom to help destroy Syria’s chemical stockpile

U.N. Appeals for End to Siege of Damascus Palestinian Camp

U.N. Rights Office Protests Treatment of Saudi Reform Activist

Scandal-Hit Turkey PM Presses Police Purge

Obama Says S. Sudan at 'Precipice' amid Growing Violence

Palestinians Recognize Right to Boycott Israel

Internal Islamist feud in Turkey threatens stability of Erdogan’s government

STL Trial Chamber Decides to Try Hassan Habib Merhi in Absentia
Naharnet Newsdesk 20 December 2013/The Special Tribunal for Lebanon said Friday that its Trial Chamber has decided to try the accused Hassan Habib Merhi in his absence. “In issuing this decision on trial in absentia, the judges relied on reports from the Lebanese authorities detailing their efforts to apprehend the Accused and to inform him of the charges against him. They also relied on efforts by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon to publicize the indictment against Mr. Merhi and on its widespread coverage in the Lebanese media,” said a statement issued by STL's press office. An indictment against Merhi was confirmed in July 2013 and served on the Lebanese authorities to search for, arrest and transfer the accused to the custody of the STL. “This is an ongoing obligation,” said the court. “The Trial Chamber has concluded that Mr. Merhi has absconded or otherwise cannot be found and all reasonable steps have been taken to secure his appearance before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and to inform him of the charges by the Pre Trial Judge,” the decision stated. The STL is the only international tribunal that allows for trials in absentia, which is permissible under Lebanese law. “The Prosecution has now applied to join Mr. Merhi's case with the four Accused in the Ayyash et al. Case. If permitted, Mr. Merhi would then be jointly charged and tried in the Ayyash proceedings,” the STL noted. Last week, STL President David Baragwanath on Friday urged Merhi anew to appear before the court and appoint a lawyer to represent him.
“Seven weeks ago, on October 21, 2013, I invited you to consider whether you are prepared to face the Special Tribunal for Lebanon to answer the charges in the indictment,” Baragwanath said in a written statement addressed to Merhi.  On October 21, Baragwanath had announced the confirmation of an indictment accusing Merhi of involvement in the 2005 assassination of former premier Rafik Hariri, for which four other accused are to be tried in absentia. The trial will begin on January 16, 2014. Merhi is charged with a number of crimes including "the crime of conspiracy aimed at committing a terrorist act." He is alleged to have acted in a conspiracy with Hizbullah members Mustafa Amin Badreddine, Salim Jamil Ayyash, Hussein Hassan Oneissi, and Assad Hassan Sabra in relation to the attack on February 14, 2005, all of whom have already been indicted. The accused Merhi is alleged to have coordinated the preparation of the purported claim of responsibility as part of the preparations for and in furtherance of, the attack, said the STL. The STL said Merhi is “a supporter of Hizbullah” who was born on December 12, 1965 in Beirut. “He is the son of Habib Merhi and Latifa Abbas,” it added, revealing that he has resided in Burj al-Barajneh and that “he is a citizen of Lebanon.” Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has rejected the STL, describing it as an American-Israeli conspiracy against his party. He has vowed never to cooperate with the tribunal, saying that the suspects will never be found.


Geagea Says Christians Don't Need Protection, Urges them do Distance themselves from Dictators
Naharnet Newsdesk 20 December 2013/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said Friday that Christians in the region are not foreign communities and don't need anyone's protection, minimizing concerns about the treatment of Christians by hard-liners in Syria. “The Christians in the Orient are part of the social fabric,” Geagea told a conference on the role of Christians in Lebanon and the Orient held in Maarab. “They are not foreign communities,” he said, adding “they don't need protection from anyone.”Geagea was mocking calls by the Free Patriotic Movement, whose officials have warned against the rise of Salafist groups, saying it was the duty of Arab regimes to protect Christians in the Orient. FPM chief Michel Aoun told the Christians of the Orient conference last month that the diminishing role of Christians is tantamount to “racism.” His son-in-law, caretaker Energy Minister Jebran Bassil, also said last month that assaulting churches in Syria and clergymen and nuns required strong diplomatic action. He said the kidnapping of Greek Orthodox nuns by rebels from Syria's Mar Takla convent in Maalula was a “rude” act. The rebels overran the village and the nuns were being kept in the nearby rebel-held town of Yabroud. Lebanese politicians and mainly Christians should take extraordinary action to form delegations to visit the countries that are backing the rebels in Syria and stop the attack on Christians, he said. But without mentioning any of them, Geagea ridiculed the FPM officials, saying “some politicians are making a huge drama about Maalula in an attempt to hint that the conflict in Syria is about Christians.” Some top clergymen are contributing to such efforts, he said. “The conflict in Syria is suffering from chaos but without any doubt it is a conflict to achieve democracy,” he said. Geagea also denied that the conflict in the region is between a Muslim majority and a Christian minority. “Whether we like or not, there are major historic changes in the region that are bringing more freedoms,” he said. “The Christians should remain in the communities of the Orient. That's why we should adopt their causes and the foundations of the Arab Spring,” he said. Also without mentioning the FPM, Geagea slammed “the parties allied with (Syrian President Bashar) Assad” for previously criticizing the LF for holding similar conferences on Christians.“But they are now doing the same,” he said about the Christians of the Orient conference that was backed by the FPM. Geagea mocked what he said were calls for the “minority Christians in Lebanon” to ally themselves with the Assad regime and the Iranian government. “Such a suggestion destroys Christians,” he warned. “Christians make their own fate,” he said, adding “we would vanish if we hold onto dictatorships.”

Indecent act led to border killing of Israeli soldier: report December 20, 2013/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The Lebanese soldier behind the recent killing of an Israeli soldier had probably only planned to deter his victim from engaging in “provocative and indecent” acts on the border, a local Lebanese newspaper reported Friday. Al-Liwaa newspaper, quoting a source, said Lebanese soldiers stationed on the border had been repulsed for weeks by the Israeli soldier who visibly “urinated” in a “provocative and indecent” manner.
The Lebanese soldiers saw the behavior as an affront to them and one of the soldiers, identified in the report as Hasan Adel Ibrahim, decided to shoot at the Israeli “possibly not with the aim of killing but rather terrorizing him.”On Sunday, a Lebanese soldier shot and killed an Israeli soldier on the border dividing the two states, in an act that both the Lebanese government and the United Nations Interim Forces in south Lebanon have said was unsanctioned by the Lebanese military. The Israeli army identified the victim of the border incident as Shlomi Cohen, 31.


Lebanese, Israeli Troops Go on Alert over Attempts to Uproot Tree
Naharnet Newsdesk 20 December 2013/Lebanese and the Jewish state troops went on high alert on Friday after Israeli military tried to cut down a tree adjacent to the border fence from the town of Adaisseh, the state-run National News Agency reported. UNIFIL peacekeepers swiftly deployed in the area to calm down both sides and carried out contacts with the Lebanese and Israeli military. The parties agreed to task the UNIFIL to uproot the tree to end the dispute. A similar incident occurred in 2008 prompting Lebanon and Israel to exchanged fire in a fierce battle that killed a senior Israeli officer, two Lebanese soldiers and a journalist. The incident comes days after an Israeli soldier was killed Sunday in a cross-border shooting. The Lebanese army on Monday described the deadly shooting as "an individual act by one of the soldiers," noting that it will address the repercussions of the incident in coordination with the U.N. peacekeeping force.The Israeli army said in a statement on Sunday that an Israeli soldier was killed by a “Lebanese army sniper” near the Naqoura border post. The shooting, which took place on Sunday evening, was the first time an Israeli soldier had been killed along the border with Lebanon in more than three years, sparking calls for calm from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Jumblat Calls for Keeping Fairuz Out of Political Controversy
Naharnet Newsdesk 20 December 2013/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat on Friday called for keeping Lebanese diva Fairuz out of political controversy, after remarks voiced by her son Ziad Rahbani sparked an uproar in Lebanon and the Arab world. “Fairuz was and will always be one of the icons of Lebanon's national heritage, after her voice carved diverse pictures and scenes in the collective memory of all the Lebanese,” Jumblat said in a statement. “She sang for Palestine and Jerusalem in one of her greatest songs … and she sang for Damascus, which had always been glittering, like the rest of Syria's regions, before the regime's violence and the international conspiring dragged it into the whirlpool of civil war,” the Druze leader added. In an interview with the Hizbullah-affiliated Al-Ahed News Website, the diva's son Ziad, a prominent composer, playwright and leftist political commentator, said “Fairuz admires Sayyed Hassan (Nasrallah) a lot,” in reference to Hizbullah's secretary-general. That line alone was enough to ignite social networking websites with criticism and counterarguments. Some of the critics of Damascus and Hizbullah's intervention in Syria were outraged by the announcement while others strongly defended Fairuz and said she is free to appreciate whomever she wants.
The controversy prompted Ziad to appear in an interview on al-Mayadeen TV, during which he said whoever criticizes Fairuz and Nasrallah would be indirectly “defending Israel.”In his statement, Jumblat stressed that Fairuz must be kept out of criticism and “at the same time must not be categorized as being part of a certain political camp or axis.”

HRW Appeals to Lebanon over Syrian Spillover in Tripoli
Naharnet Newsdesk 20 December 2013/An international human rights organization has urged Lebanon to rein in sectarian tensions that have been on the rise amid a spillover of Syria's civil war. Human Rights Watch said Friday that authorities should better protect minority Alawites — members of an offshoot Shiite sect — who are increasingly coming under attack by Sunnis in the northern city of Tripoli. The New York-based watchdog said Alawites in Tripoli's Jabal Mohsen district have been beaten and stabbed, and the whole community has endured gunbattles and mortar attacks over the past year. Syria's nearly 3-year-old conflict has deepened sectarian tensions in Lebanon, where factions loyal to Syria's warring sides often clash. Sunnis support Syrian rebels trying to topple President Bashar Assad's government, which is dominated by Alawites. “Lebanese authorities should take all feasible steps to protect Tripoli residents by confiscating weapons that have been used to kill residents such as mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, and automatic weapons, arresting and prosecuting gunmen, and maintaining an active security presence in all communities,” HRW said. “With battles going on in Tripoli and with people being targeted, beaten, knifed, and killed, the Lebanese government can’t afford to sit on its hands,” said deputy Middle East director at HRW Joe Stork. “It needs to start arresting and prosecuting the people behind the violence in Tripoli and confiscate their weapons.”The organization also criticized the government’s security plan for the city, saying it was “weak.”Source/Associated Press

Fitch Downgrades Lebanon's Rating over Political Woes

Naharnet Newsdesk 20 December 2013/Fitch, the rating agency, downgraded Lebanon's long-term foreign and local currency issuer default rating (IDRs) to negative, citing political uncertainties, spill-overs from the Syrian conflict on economic performance and slow growth prospects. The report said that Lebanon's outlook was downgraded to negative from stable. Fitch said that the country's long-term foreign and local currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs) have been affirmed at 'B', the issue ratings on Lebanon's senior unsecured foreign and local currency bonds are also affirmed at 'B', the Country Ceiling is affirmed at 'B' and the Short-term foreign currency IDR at 'B'. The ratings agency said that “the involvement of Hizbullah and Sunni groups in the neighboring Syrian conflict has increased sectarian tensions domestically. Violence in Lebanon, though still sporadic, has intensified in recent months,” had an impact on Lebanon's economy, in reference to the conflict in Syria, which erupted in March 2011. The firm also said that the “ever-rising number of refugees” is adding tension and strains on the country's economy, especially on infrastructure and public institutions.  It said that the absence of agreement on the formation of a new government, Lebanon's political life has been paralyzed since March 2013 and presidential elections in 2014 add to political uncertainty. Fitch expected that the public debt-to-GDP ration to rise to 138% at end of 2013 and above 140% by the end of 2015. “No major improvement is to be expected until the Syrian conflict is resolved,” the firm added. Ratings agency Standard and Poor's lowered in November of the ratings on Lebanon to 'B-' over the “deteriorating fundamentals and rising political risks, adding that the outlook remains negative.”
S&P also lowered to 'B-' from 'B' its long-term counterparty credit ratings on three Lebanese banks, Bank Audi SAL–Audi Saradar Group, BankMed s.a.l., and Blom Bank sal. The outlooks on all three banks remain negative, the agency said. Source/Agence France Presse.

Report: Suleiman, Mustaqbal Ties Deteriorate over Cabinet Formation Process

Naharnet Newsdesk 20 December 2013/The ongoing political deadlock destabilized the ties between President Michel Suleiman and al-Mustaqbal movement, al-Akhbar newspaper reported on Friday. According to the daily, tension escalated between Suleiman and head of al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc MP Fouad Saniora after the President voiced consensus over the formation of a cabinet based on 6-9-9 formula, which enraged al-Mustaqbal movement. The newspaper reported that Suleiman tackled the matter with Saniora during a recent meeting between the two officials, which angered Saniora, prompting him to refute the suggestion. “Form a government without al-Mustaqbal movement,” Saniora told the President. Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat recently proposed the formation of a new cabinet in which the March 8 and 14 alliances would get nine ministers each and six ministers would be given to the centrists – Suleiman, Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam and Jumblat. This formula, which Hizbullah agreed on, prevents a certain party from controlling the government by giving veto power to Hizbullah and its team and another veto power to March 14, the Druze leader said. Salam was appointed in April but has so far been unable to put together a government over the conditions and counter conditions set by the rivals parties as fears mount that the differences between the March 8 and 14 camps would lead to a vacuum the presidential post. Suleiman's six-year tenure ends in May 2014, but the constitutional period to elect a new head of state begins on March 25, two months prior to the expiration of the president's mandate.

MP Youssef Downplays Negligence Charges over Airport Tunnel Flooding
Naharnet Newsdesk 20 December 2013/Al-Mustaqbal MP Ghazi Youssef, Chief Executive Officer of MEAS Company, shrugged off on Friday charges of negligence and vandalism regarding the case of Airport road floods.
The lawmaker expressed surprise over the charges, saying that the company provided during the investigation all the necessary documents that prove that MEAS fully carried out its tasks and cleaned out the drains.
“Technically the pumpers were working and were able to take in all the quantity, however, when al-Ghadir river flooder it invaded the tunnel, which cut electricity off the pumps,” Ghazi told local newspaper.
He explained that the depth of water in the tunnel reach 1.6 meters, while the rain height reached 50 ml. “The company had previously demanded the Public Works and Transport Ministry to clean the riverbed of al-Ghadir,” Youssef pointed out. He stressed that pointing fingers will not be useful. On Thursday, Financial General Prosecutor Judge Ali Ibrahim charged MEAS company with negligence and sabotage in the case of Airport road floods that left hundreds stranded for hours earlier this month. Ibrahim had heard the testimony from MEAS officials as well as the private contracting company, South for Reconstruction, in addition to Caretaker Finance Minister Mohammed al-Safadi and Caretaker Public Works and Transport Minister Ghazi Aridi, who gave up his tasks last week after corruption allegations. Aridi and Safadi were both summoned for questioning after both official engaged in war of words over claims of public fund embezzlement. Safadi told reporters on Thursday at the Justice Palace that he handed documents to Ibrahim, saying he didn't have any other session with him.
The state-run National News Agency said that the prosecutor will also question two other people linked to the case. Ibrahim heard on Monday the testimony of Aridi over the same allegations. Aridi briefed Ibrahim on the details of a press conference he made earlier this month to accuse Safadi of withholding funds from his ministry for road maintenance in an effort to pressure him into approving a construction violation by the finance minister. Safadi shrugged off the accusations that the finance ministry was responsible for the failure to perform maintenance on sewage networks. Following his meeting with Ibrahim, Aridi announced that he “would cease his caretaker role from the cabinet and take a break from politics.”

Berri: I Don't Want to be Unjust to Suleiman
Naharnet Newsdesk 20 December 2013/Speaker Nabih Berri said that President Michel Suleiman has not discussed with him about the extension of his mandate, expressing confidence on the formation of a new cabinet before the end of his term. Several local dailies quoted Berri as saying on Friday that he hadn't heard or received a signal from Suleiman that he is after the extension of his six-year mandate, which expires in May next year.
“I don't want to be unjust to him unlike what is being said about the issue,” the speaker said. Berri warned to several officials visiting him on Thursday that the country would enter a “dangerous and difficult stage” if the current government deadlock remained. He reiterated that the formation of a cabinet in which the March 8 and 14 alliances would get nine ministers each and centrists six was the only solution. “There is still time to form it,” he said, adding however that “the more the formation is delayed, the more the time factor diminishes and the formation becomes difficult.” Al-Joumhouria said Friday that serious efforts were being exerted to come up with a line-up but Premier-designate Tammam Salam was facing the same conditions and counter conditions set by the rival parties. The March 8 alliance is holding onto the 9-9-6 formula and rejecting a fait accompli cabinet, while March 14 is calling for a neutral government. Al-Joumhouria quoted Suleiman's sources as saying that the president would not take any step that would affect stability or the ties between the country's different factions.
Their remarks came over fears that he would announce a de facto government along with Salam. Berri reiterated that Lebanon has become “a battleground for jihad,” warning that the assaults on the army should compel all parties to support the military institution. The army has come under several assaults in the southern city of Sidon and the eastern district of Baalbek.

Ghosn Warns Against Attempts to 'Finish Off' Army after Latest Attacks

Naharnet Newsdesk 20 December 2013/Caretaker Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn has warned that extremists are targeting the military in an attempt to finish it off, urging rival parties to deal with it as an institution that works for all the Lebanese and does not target certain sects. The attacks on the military “prove that some extremist groups have taken a decision to hit the Lebanese army to thwart its moves and then finish it off after it became a source of trouble for them and an obstacle to their movements,” Ghosn told As Safir daily in remarks published on Friday. “They only have the objective to kill and tamper with security and stability,” he said.
But the assaults proved that all the Lebanese back the military “except for a few who haven't yet become aware of the dangers confronting the nation.” “There is a firm decision to (fight) terrorism … the army is working and will continue to eradicate it no matter how much sacrifices it makes,” Ghosn told As Safir. “It will also not be dragged behind the suspicious political rhetoric that claims the army is targeting a certain party or sect,” he said.
There were near-simultaneous attacks on the army in the southern city of Sidon on Sunday night. On Thursday, army commandos searched caves and valleys in and around Sidon, and arrested five suspects over the attacks that left a sergeant dead and several soldiers wounded. “The army is for all of Lebanon,” Ghosn said, warning against dragging it to “political bazaars.” Asked about the current deadlock in the cabinet formation process, the caretaker defense minister backed a proposal to form a government in which the March 8 and 14 alliances would get nine ministers each and centrists six. “There is no excuse to reject the 9-9-6 formula,” he said, referring to March 14, which is calling for a neutral cabinet. “The current challenges should compel us to form a strong government that works to lift the country from its crises,” Ghosn added

Mansour: Lebanon to Take Part in Geneva Talks and Solution to Syria's Crisis Is Political

Naharnet Newsdesk 20 December 2013/Caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour announced on Friday that Lebanon will take part in the Geneva II summit, explaining that the solution to Syria's crisis “can only be political.”"As we are keen on finding a solution to this ongoing crisis and its consequences, we decided that Lebanon will participate in the Geneva talks next month,” Mansour said at the opening ceremony of the Association of Local Economic Development Agency of Beirut Southern Suburbs."And the solution can only be political,” he stressed. He revealed that some factions are working on obstructing holding the international talks.
“Information obtained point out to this direction,” he told reporters. "We consider that postponing the summit obstructs the chances of a political solution and increases violence in Syria. This will have negative consequences on the East and on Lebanon in particular, whether politically, economically or on the security situation.”Mansour reiterated that Geneva II must be held on time "to stop the killings in Syria and to avoid jeopardizing stability in the country and the region, and preventing foreign interference in the country's politics." The caretaker minister also noted that Lebanon's representation at the summit will have positive results on the country's security situation, politics and economy. He added: "We have repeatedly called on the international community to share with us the cost of hosting Syria's refugees so that they live a decent life, especially that they are forcibly taking refuge outside their country.”U.N.-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi inaugurated on Friday the preparatory meeting for the Geneva II summit in the Swiss city, with the participation of U.S. and Russia delegations.
Lebanon has officially received an invitation to take part in the talks over Syria's ongoing war, which will take place on January 22, 2014.

Nasrallah: Some Points of March 14 Tripoli Proclamation are Declaration of War
Naharnet Newsdesk 20 December 2013/..Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah criticized on Friday the March 14 camp's accusations against some Shiites in Lebanon of seeking to eliminate other powers in Lebanon. He warned: “Such a proclamation is a declaration of war.” He made his remark in reference to Sunday's March 14 Tripoli Proclamation that accused some Sunnis, Shiites, and Christians of adopting extremist positions in Lebanon.
Nasrallah added: “We do not want to wage a war with the March 14 camp. We have no time for them as our battle lies with Israel.” The Hizullah secretary general made his speech during the commemoration of the assassination of party official Hassan al-Laqqis. He continued: “The other camp is accusing us of seeking to eliminate the other, but its remarks are the ones that seek such goals.”“Their proclamation views us as takfiris and murderers,” he warned. Moreover, Nasrallah interpreted the March 14 camp's refusal to return to the national dialogue table and its rejection of Hizbullah in a new government as attempts to eliminate the party and the March 8 camp. He later noted however that the Tripoli Proclamation could be viewed as part of the March 14 camp's media campaign against Hizbullah. Commenting on recent regional developments, he stressed: “Our resistance takes place at battle and not elsewhere. We are proud of martyrdom, whether in combating Israel or takfiris or whether they were victims of assassinations.”
“We tell those questioning the resistance, its members and supporters, that they have barely scratched the surface of what we are capable of,” he warned. “I could easily make a speech and call for general mobilization, but the recent developments indicate that we have no need for it,” he added. Addressing efforts to form a new government, he said: “There is no such thing as a neutral cabinet in Lebanon as there are no longer any neutral candidates.”
He also warned against the formation of a de facto government, saying: “We do not advise anyone to take such a step.” He therefore suggested the formation of a national unity government, which will ensure Lebanon's salvation. Commenting on the 2014 presidential election, the Hizbullah chief remarked: “We cannot emphasize enough the importance of having a new president on May 25, 2014.”“It is unfortunate however that instead of working to reach an agreement, the political powers are beginning to accuse each other of seeking presidential vacuum,” he added. “I don't think that any side wants vacuum and Hizbullah adamantly rejects it. A new president should be elected on time and we will exert all efforts to achieve this goal.,” he said.
“The political powers can demonstrate their sovereignty through electing a president without relying on foreign forces,” he stressed. “We would be paving the way for a new phase in Lebanon if we succeed in electing a new president without foreign influence. Such a success would mark a new independence day for the country,” he declared. Turning to recent security incidents against the army, Nasrallah stated that “no one should make light of them.” “All will be lost if the army is lost. All will be lost if the army's credibility is destroyed,” he warned. “We must protect and support the army because it is the last remaining state institution that enjoys the consensus of the rival powers,” he added. In addition, the Hizbullah chief warned that some sides, who he refused to name, “have had enough of their failures and frustrations and they now want to lead Lebanon towards chaos.” “Take out your frustrations against Hizbullah, but not the whole of Lebanon,” he commented. “Lebanese leaders and the media should be wary of the new danger facing the country. We must all be patient and avoid getting dragged into plans to lead Lebanon to chaos,” he cautioned. Addressing Laqqis' assassination earlier in December, Nasrallah renewed Hizbullah's accusation that Israel was behind the crime, vowing that the party will “punish” it for it. "The killers will be punished sooner or later... Those who killed our brothers will not know safety anywhere in the world," he said in the televised tribute to Laqqis.
"We and the Israelis have accounts that need settling. There are old and new debts between us," said Nasrallah. Israel has denied involvement in the assassination. Laqqis' "blood has not been spilt in vain... The punishment will come whenever we decide it," Hizbullah's secretary general added. "The Israelis think that Hizbullah is busy (with Syria's war) and with the situation in Lebanon... I tell them: 'You're making a mistake,'" he said.
Thousands of Hizbullah troops are fighting alongside President Bashar Assad's troops, in a bid to crush a massive insurgency. Laqqis was assassinated in the parking of his apartment building on December 4 in the southern suburbs of Beirut, a stronghold of Hizbullah. Nasrallah said the top leader was "one of the brains of Hizbullah," though he refused to reveal his position in the party, though he did say his role was linked to his "work as a jihadist." "He worked to develop (Hizbullah's) capacity," said Nasrallah, adding he was "a brother and a friend." The last time a top Hizbullah leader was assassinated was in 2008, when Imad Mughnieh was killed in a Damascus car bomb blast. Mughnieh's killing was also blamed on Israel, Hizbullah's sworn enemy, which denied involvement.


Nasrallah warns Israel Hezbollah will avenge commander's killing
BEIRUT (Reuters) - Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Friday vowed to avenge Israel for the killing of a senior Hezbollah commander in Beirut earlier this month. Hassan al-Laqqis, who fought in Syria's civil war for the Lebanese Shi'ite militia, was shot dead outside his home on December 4. A previously unknown group, Ahrar al-Sunna Baalbek brigade, claimed responsibility at the time of the attack, but Hezbollah quickly blamed Israel, with which it fought a 34-day war in 2006. "All the indicators and clues points to the Israeli enemy," Nasrallah said, in his first public comments since the attack. "Our killer is known, our enemy is known, our adversary is known When the facts point to Israel, we accuse it," he said in televised remarks to supporters in southern Beirut. Israel has denied any role in the shooting and hinted that the motive may have been Hezbollah's military support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his war with mainly Sunni Muslim rebels. The 2-1/2 year-old civil war in Syria has polarized the Middle East between Sunni Muslim powers, such as Turkey and the Gulf Arab states who support the rebels, and Shi'ite Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah, who back Assad. The president's Alawite faith is an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam. Hezbollah has sent several thousand fighters to Syria, helping to turn the tide in Assad's favor this year. But Nasrallah said on Friday that would not prevent it from avenging the killing of Laqqis. "If the Israelis think ... that Hezbollah is busy and that Israel will not pay the price, I say to them today, 'You are wrong'," he said. "The killers will be punished sooner or later and the blood of our martyrs - whether large or small - will not be wasted. Those who killed will not be safe anywhere in the world. Vengeance is coming."
The open role of Hezbollah fighters in the Syrian civil war and the steady flow of Lebanese Sunnis joining the anti-Assad rebels have fuelled sectarian strife in Lebanon. Car bombs killed dozens of people in Beirut in August and a twin suicide attack on the Iranian embassy in the Lebanese capital killed at least 25 people last month. But Nasrallah mocked critics who he said blamed Lebanon's woes - from sectarian tension to the flooding of a road during winter storms - on Hezbollah's intervention in Syria. "Why isn't there a government? Because Hezbollah entered Syria. Why haven't we held elections? Hezbollah is in Syria. Why is the economic situation like this? Hezbollah is in Syria. Why did the tunnel on the airport road become a lake? Because Hezbollah is in Syria. This of course isn't logical." (Reporting by Laila Basasm and Stephen Kalin; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

Driver of Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya head assaulted in Beirut

Daily Star/BEIRUT: Five gunmen assaulted the driver of the head of Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya in Beirut’s southern suburbs Friday, a security source told The Daily Star. Gunmen intercepted the vehicle of Sheikh Ahmad al-Omari, pulled the driver out of the car and beat him, the source said. Omari and his wife remained inside. The incident took place near Al-Rasoul al-Azam Hospital. The sheikh, a staunch supporter of the Syrian opposition, was on his way to his house from Burj al-Barajneh where he held Friday prayers.


Brahimi Says No Deal on Iran's Role at Looming Syria Peace Talks
Naharnet Newsdesk 20 December 2013/Negotiators failed Friday to reach an agreement on whether Iran should be invited to Syria peace talks in Switzerland next month, but Tehran is not yet "off the list", global peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said. "On Iran, we haven't agreed yet. It's no secret that we in the United Nations welcome the participation of Iran, but our partners in the United States are still not convinced that Iran's participation would be the right thing," Brahimi told reporters after talks with U.S. and Russian officials. "We have agreed that we will be talking a little bit more to see if we can come to an agreement about this," said the veteran Algerian mediator, tasked by the United Nations and the Arab League with brokering peace talks. With a Syria peace conference finally due to start in Switzerland on January 22, there has been persistent wrangling over a role for key player Iran.
Besides lending direct support to Syrian President Bashar Assad, Iran is a leading backer of Hizbullah fighting alongside his forces. "Iran is not off the list for the moment," insisted Brahimi, underlining that talks with Tehran had continued despite the deadlock and that he was convinced it could play a role even without officially attending the conference. "The Iranian authorities have told us ... that yes, they would like to come to Geneva if it is possible, but if it is not possible it is not the end of the world, that they support this process, and they will work with us," he added. Key Assad ally Russia has sought to have Iran at the table. Moscow's strong support of Assad was highlighted Thursday when it blocked a U.S.-sponsored U.N. Security Council statement denouncing his government for its brutal offensive on the northern city of Aleppo, where scores of civilians have been killed in recent missile and "barrel bomb" attacks. Western nations have pushed for Saudi Arabia to take part, and the Sunni kingdom is on the list of two dozen nations invited to the talks, Brahimi said. Saudi Arabia and fellow Sunni monarchies in the Gulf -- such as Qatar -- are major backers of the rebels in the war which has morphed into a sectarian conflict between Islam's two main branches. Brahimi and senior U.S. and Russian officials met behind closed doors at the United Nations in Geneva, then held broader talks with fellow U.N. Security Council permanent members Britain, China and France. He then sat down with envoys from Syria's neighbors Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey -- who are due to attend the talks, and have taken in the bulk of the 2.4 million refugees from a war that to date has claimed over 126,000 lives. Who will represent Syria's sides? Beyond the Iran issue, all eyes are on the potential list of delegates from Syria's warring sides. "The government has officially informed us that they already have formed their delegation," Brahimi said, adding that Damascus was set to make the delegates public soon. Moscow's pointman on the Syria crisis, Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov, met with Brahimi Friday in Geneva, and was later quoted by Russian news agencies as saying Foreign Minister Walid Muallem would lead Damascus' delegation. The opposition, meanwhile, is split between the Syrian National Coalition, which backs the conference, and hardliners who say even talking to the Assad regime is a betrayal. "We met representatives of the coalition and they told us they are reaching out to others, inside and outside of Syria," Brahimi said, with the delegation expected to be formed over coming days. The Western-backed rebel Free Syrian Army, once the country's strongest armed opposition force but now increasingly marginalized by Islamists, called Friday for unity in the rebel ranks. Having begun as a rag-tag collection of military defectors and civilians taking up arms to defend peaceful anti-Assad protesters from a March 2011 crackdown, the rebels have been increasingly torn by ideological differences and conflicting interests. French President Francois Hollande warned that the conference could not be a success if it confirmed Assad in power. The meeting cannot be "an objective in itself", he said on the sidelines of an EU summit in Brussels. The so-called Geneva II conference is a follow-up to one held in the Swiss city in June 2012, where world powers called for a Syrian transition government. But the warring sides failed to agree on whether Assad or his inner circle could play a role in the process, and amid spiraling fighting the plans for Geneva II were repeatedly put on hold. The multinational January 22 opening session will be held in Montreux, a city northeast of Geneva, before talks involving the opposing Syrian delegations and Brahimi are to continue in Geneva from January 24. Source/Agence France Presse/Associated Press.


Cleric Killed in Shelling of Syria Mosque
Naharnet Newsdesk 20 December 2013/Syrian army shelling of a mosque in the central city of Homs killed a prominent cleric Friday, while rebels in Aleppo to the north made a fresh advance, a monitoring group said.
"Two people were killed in shelling by regime troops of the Raees mosque in the Waar neighborhood" of Homs city, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The group's director Rami Abdel Rahman said one of those killed was Sufwan Mashraqa, a Sunni Muslim cleric who was leading Friday prayers in the mosque. Mashraqa was a former head of the city's department for religious affairs. Amateur video distributed by activists showed the cleric giving a sermon. When the sound of shelling begins, scores of worshipers are overtaken by panic. Waar is a majority Sunni district of Homs and is located near a small section of the city still under rebel control. It has become home to tens of thousands of people who have fled other parts of the city. Waar sees daily fighting and shelling. Elsewhere in Syria, rebels battling to topple President Bashar Assad made a fresh advance in Aleppo, taking control of Kindi hospital in the north of the city, said the Observatory. "We have confirmed reports that the Islamists and the (al-Qaida-affiliated) Al-Nusra Front have taken near-total control of the Kindi hospital, and that they killed at least 20 regular troops there," said Abdel Rahman. The fighters have also taken some 30 regulars prisoner, he added. The takeover came after "two Al-Nusra Front fighters detonated themselves at checkpoints guarding the facility", he told Agence France Presse. Once a hospital, the facility was turned into a base for Assad loyalist troops several months ago. Speaking to AFP via the Internet, Abu Omar said "it gives fighters in the north of the city easier access to the nearby countryside." Shahba Press, a network of citizen journalists in Aleppo, said the takeover "comes a year into a (rebel) siege" of the hospital. The advance comes days into what activists have described as an "unprecedented" bombing campaign on Aleppo's city and province. On Friday, air raids struck several villages in the countryside. Dozens were killed in raids over Aleppo in the past week. In southern Syria's Jassem, meanwhile, the number of people killed from a Thursday aerial attack using TNT-packed crude barrels has risen to 17, including four children, said the Observatory. Near Damascus, fresh fighting broke out in Maalula, an ancient Christian town located in the Qalamoun mountains. The fighting pitted rebels and al-Qaida-linked jihadists against troops backed by paramilitary fighters. More than 126,000 people have been killed in Syria's war since March 2011, and millions more forced to flee their homes.Source/Agence France Presse.


Dangerous tactics
December 20, 2013 /The Daily Star
The U.S. has often prided itself on understanding when to practice quiet diplomacy and when to go public, so it should take special notice of the fact that Saudi Arabia has opted to engage in a rare instance of the latter.
An opinion article in The New York Times this week signaled the kingdom’s displeasure with some fundamentally important matters taking place in the Middle East. It was penned by a Saudi prince, Mohammad bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, his country’s ambassador to Britain. Saudi Arabia has historically preferred the road of quiet diplomacy, but policymakers and officials in the United States are now facing open verbal dissent by one of Washington’s closest and most long-standing allies. The article, in short, said the U.S. was pursuing worrying policies vis-à-vis Iran and Syria – the phrase “dangerous gamble” was used – and that the kingdom was fully prepared to act on its own to safeguard security. Washington undoubtedly has its own way of gauging things, but for an administration that has claimed to pride itself on building consensus as it navigates foreign policy challenges, the failure to take into consideration the views of Saudi Arabia is astounding. Some of the armchair analysts are fond of repeating the mantra that the U.S. has weaned itself off of dependence on Middle Eastern oil sources, and is thus less interested in the complex politics of this region. But the rise in American production from several new sources of oil doesn’t cancel out the role of Saudi Arabia. As it’s been said, the kingdom functions like the “World Bank of oil,” and it will remain one of the most important countries in the world when it comes to the global economy. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have grievances, concerns and interests, and Washington’s approach to world affairs can’t act in isolation and pretend that everything will sort itself out. The U.S. and arch-enemy Iran have now begun talking to each other and pursuing a diplomatic solution to Tehran’s nuclear program. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have not been pursuing blind vendettas against Iran and the Iranian people, as a simple look at the economic scene in the Dubai will demonstrate. But Gulf countries have legitimate concerns, such as Iran’s occupation of three UAE islands, and more ominously, its persistent efforts to extend its influence through heavy-handed or violent means in countries such as Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq.
U.S. officials are certainly aware, even if they don’t acknowledge it, that their efforts to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have repeatedly failed because they’re based on appeasing one side and forcing the other side to make unreasonable concessions. Move that template to the Gulf, where attempts are made to placate Iran at the expense of Gulf countries, and it’s easy to see how misguided the current approach is – and the policy has already earned a significant public rebuke.

Why the U.S. Failed in Iraq,Baghdad at the Crossroads/By: Steve Dobransky/Middle East Forum/21 December/13

Why the U.S. Failed in Iraq,Baghdad at the Crossroads
by Steve Dobransky/Middle East Quarterly/Winter 2014
In a quiet and sparsely attended ceremony, the U.S. flag was lowered at Baghdad International Airport on December 15, 2011, marking the official end to the troubled U.S. mission on Iraqi soil. What had begun as an undertaking to remove Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction (WMD) turned into an 8-year mission that was far more costly than most could have imagined. Looking back, few would likely say that the United States should undertake such an enterprise again if given a chance.
There is a serious need to examine the essential strategic components of Washington's initial war planning, as well as the subsequent occupation and surge, in order to shed light on the final outcome and current situation in Iraq and to plan for the future. Regardless of the messaging, the overall operation—and in particular, the surge—was a major failure in significantly altering the Iraqi equation for the better, and it laid the foundations for much worse things to come.
What began as a U.S.-led mission to end the perceived danger of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction ended quietly on December 15, 2011, at Baghdad International Airport, with the lowering of the American flag. A decade-long debate about the purpose and utility of the mission has still not concluded.
Policy Debates on Iraq
Although the Iraq war began on March 19, 2003, the debate over its advisability and rationale started well before that date. Supporters of the war were led by President George W. Bush and others within his administration who argued that in light of the terror attacks on U.S. soil on September 11, 2001, Saddam's presumed possession of weapons of mass destruction and perceived connections to al-Qaeda were too great a danger to the homeland to be ignored. As the United Nations' sanctions regime was seen to be flimsy, if not crumbling, the fear that Baghdad would ally itself with terrorists took on increasing urgency. Congressional leaders, whether convinced of the need for war or merely remembering the political repercussions of having opposed the 1991 Kuwait war, came out relatively strongly in authorizing an October 2002 war resolution.
The war's opponents ranged from leftist peace activists to those who doubted its necessity and the claims that Saddam was a grave threat. Critics pointed out that Iraq had been substantially weakened by the previous war and the destruction of thousands of proscribed weapons and questioned the existence of WMD. Many disputed Saddam's connection with Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, pointing to deep ideological differences between the two leaders. Others argued that containment and deterrence were better means of dealing with Iraq.[1]
Although no caches of WMD were found, and Saddam proved much weaker than war supporters had claimed, there were, at least during the initial period, reasonable concerns about these issues. But whether a long-term occupation was necessary after Saddam's removal and capture is an entirely different argument, which merits serious discussion.
On May 1, 2003, President Bush made a highly publicized (and subsequently criticized) speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln, stating that while major combat operations were over, the "mission continues ... We do not know the day of final victory, but we have seen the turning of the tide." A new and vigorous debate followed, centering on the occupation and governance of Iraq. The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), led by L. Paul Bremer, III, issued orders that led to the firing of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians and security personnel although many of them had been promised safety and the chance to keep their jobs if they did not resist U.S. forces.[2] While some of Saddam's loyalists and others would certainly have continued fighting, most government personnel appeared completely willing to work with the occupying forces and participate in a post-Saddam regime since most Iraqis detested the dictator.[3] This disappointment, if not a broken promise, should be seen as a major cause of the subsequent massive insurgency against coalition forces as the former ruling Sunni minority sought to safeguard its fledgling position vis-à-vis the traditionally downtrodden Shiite majority.
On May 1, 2003, President George W. Bush made a highly publicized (and subsequently criticized) landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln, declaring the end to major combat operations in Iraq. The "turning of the tide" he hailed lasted another eight years, accompanied by more than 4,000 American deaths, a much-debated troop surge, and an Iraq that today seems more firmly in the orbit of Washington's Iranian nemesis.
Most Americans recognized that their government was now responsible for stabilizing Iraq and ensuring a peaceful transition to a new, democratically elected Iraqi government and free society. How it was to achieve these goals and when it should withdraw became the next highly contentious issue.
Many proponents of a continued U.S. presence expanded on the noble ends of establishing freedom and democracy in Iraq with an inclusive government representing all the key ethnic, religious, and tribal groups. They believed that a democracy firmly planted in the heart of the Arab world would become an ally of the West in the perceived fight against Islamist extremism, whether emanating from Iran or non-state actors such as al-Qaeda. They advocated patience during the transition and acknowledged that the new Iraq was an imperfect political system and that its leaders were bound to make mistakes. Many downplayed the serious and longstanding sectarian divisions that bedeviled Iraq and argued that a Shiite-dominated government would be acceptable and would not align itself with Iran.[4]
Opponents of the occupation focused on the ensuing casualties among both Americans and Iraqis and contended that a continued international presence greatly exacerbated the situation. They pointed out that the occupation had too few troops to stabilize the country and root out the growing number of insurgents, especially after the CPA order that disbanded Saddam's military, security, and intelligence infrastructure. Opponents further declared that Washington should have been prepared to do a lot more in the beginning of the operation, which would have allowed a quicker exit, especially after the 2005 Iraqi elections. Policy actions could have included deploying hundreds of thousands of additional troops to maintain stability and secure the borders; making greater efforts to prevent sectarian reprisals and looting; having and implementing a much more efficient transition plan that would have handed over political power sooner; providing the Iraqi security forces with more heavy armor, equipment, and combat aircraft; and making a comprehensive and substantial effort to help Iraq recover from more than a decade of sanctions, especially in terms of getting its oil and utilities industries back on their feet as quickly as possible to pre-sanctions levels. These criticisms became even more pronounced after 2006 with the rapid deterioration of the Iraqi security situation.[5]
Initial Errors
Despite dramatic videos of missiles blasting windows and powerful stories from embedded reporters, one key question about the fighting was rarely raised: How effective was the U.S. military strategy in destroying the bulk of enemy forces? If Washington's military strategy was to achieve a quick and easy victory, then it achieved that goal. But from the outset, the campaign failed to destroy the bulk of the enemy's fighting forces. Relying on the maximum number of estimated enemy kills and captures from a number of military and other sources (in particular those of Gen. Tommy Franks who led the 2003 invasion), U.S. and coalition forces eliminated no more than 30,000 enemy personnel of the one to one and a half million armed Iraqis comprising the regular army, Republican Guards, and other forces. If these figures are accurate, the coalition troops removed no more than 3 percent of enemy forces.[6]
Moreover, U.S. enemies the world over learned two key lessons from the 1991 Kuwait war: 1) Do not mass forces out in the open against technologically superior air and missile forces, and 2) do not remain in any known government or military facilities when the bombs and missiles start coming down. But the 2003 U.S. military strategists ignored these lessons that others had learned well. U.S. ground forces should have been prepared to deal with an enemy that would not endanger the bulk of its forces, intending to survive the initial onslaught in order to fight again another day and in an unconventional manner. Although aware of this, Washington planners used a line of attack and, later, occupation policy that incorporated high-tech, long-distance strikes along with avoidance and low-risk actions on the ground in order to ensure minimal U.S. casualties and the resulting domestic political opposition. Despite the rapid overthrow of the Baathist regime, difficulties soon multiplied.
It appears that Washington's policy was more of a political-geographical strategy than a truly military one. That strategy primarily was to go from point A (Kuwait) to point B (Baghdad) and destroy any enemy forces along the two generally straight lines that coalition forces took. (Some smaller forces came from different directions as well.) The only problem with this approach was that the vast majority of enemy units were either not positioned along these two straight lines or had the opportunity to move out of the way before most of the coalition forces arrived. There does not seem to have been any inclination to pursue and destroy the bulk of enemy forces beyond the designated path or once U.S. forces reached the Iraqi capital. In all, it was politically convenient to declare victory after the capture of Baghdad rather than recognize that most of the enemy was still on the loose and, possibly, could reorganize in the future to fight an unconventional war of attrition. Many U.S. and coalition forces remained outside Iraq waiting to be ordered in but were told to stand down.[7]
Understanding the original 2003 Iraq war strategy is critical to comprehending the occupation, surge, and final results. Political leaders were far more concerned about low casualty counts than achieving a decisive military victory. From a public relations perspective, the war was a success: Saddam was gone; U.S. troops were in Baghdad, and Iraqis praised Allah and Bush. However, the fundamental, underlying problem then—as it remains now—was that U.S. leaders substituted short-term political goals for military success and were able to persuade the general public into accepting this as victory.[8] Today's very precarious and unstable situation is largely a corollary of this failed initial strategy.
Failure of the Counterinsurgency Policy
A further great debate on Washington's role in Iraq centered on the troop surge of 2007. President Bush and the surge's architect, Gen. David Petraeus, declared the surge's strategy and tactics to be sound and the eventual results a great success.[9] Even former war critics kept silent or welcomed a policy intended to end the occupation once and for all, emphasizing its lower-risk approach of winning hearts and minds with a much larger military force to back it up. Ultimately, however, the surge offered nothing dramatic in terms of resolving deep domestic Iraqi differences or eliminating most, if not all, of the insurgents. It essentially continued the policy adopted in 2003 of avoidance and scare tactics intended to suppress enemy forces but not to pursue most of them directly for fear of high casualties and a resulting domestic backlash. Nor did it persuade most insurgents that their lives and goals were in danger if they did not negotiate with Washington. While the surge did succeed in persuading many fighters to go underground, and even some to work with U.S. representatives on some issues, it never dealt with the fundamental issues of political divisions and grievances and, thus, never resolved some of the most pressing issues.[10] Though many of the co-opted fighters were Sunnis, who were showered with praise and material rewards for switching sides or laying down their weapons, the Shiite government never trusted them completely, and their primary demands were never met.[11]
By 2006, the situation in Iraq had deteriorated to such a point that 30,000 more U.S. soldiers were deployed to prevent further collapse. A total of approximately 160,000 troops were to be sent to Iraq as part of a declared "New Way Forward." Originally announced to last twelve months, the surge was similar to the prewar strategy in that it was not based on traditional warfare goals geared to the destruction of the enemy.[12]
Though January 10, 2007—the date President Bush announced his plan to send in an additional 20,000-plus troops—is generally considered the onset of the surge strategy, the policy actually began unofficially in December 2006 when the army's new counterinsurgency manual was released, in which Petraeus and others laid out the details for the upcoming surge.[13] Underlying the new approach was the idea that throwing large numbers of troops into an area would somehow produce victory. Perhaps this can work in a conventional war (albeit in a messy and costly fashion) but not in an unconventional war like the Iraqi one.
Good counterinsurgency strategy requires flexibility and movement, intelligence, and aggressiveness. The plan adopted in 2007 never included any of these elements in a comprehensive and regular manner. It also appears to have operated on the assumption that the enemy was so dim-witted and collectively suicidal that it would not make any adjustments to its own strategy once forewarned of U.S. specifics. As such, the surge strategy was a military failure even before it began, its only success being in the U.S. domestic and media spheres. Petraeus's strategy basically took the extra 30,000 troops, broke them up into small units, and deployed them into fixed positions throughout a few select areas of Iraq, primarily in and around Baghdad. By spreading out and diffusing its military superiority with a constantly moving enemy that mixed in with the local population, failure was guaranteed in the long term. Although the surge enabled U.S. troops to get out to more locations and interact with the Iraqi people, the temporary lull in fighting in those locations did not mean victory. Instead, the enemy merely had enough sense to go underground and relocate to new areas.
The vast majority of insurgents never surrendered or left Iraq and definitely were not removed. Some were killed or captured; others agreed to surrender under promises of a peaceful resolution to their grievances. A number of fighters, such as the Awakening councils and Sons of Iraq from Anbar province, were even paid and armed to stop attacking U.S. forces and to carry out basic, local security duties. These groups took the money and the jobs, but many were not completely reliable and, in the end, were fired by the Shiite-led central government or forced to join with the regular armed forces under Shiite command.[14]
Having produced very little success in Baghdad in terms of the number of insurgents eliminated, the public relations focus shifted elsewhere: to Anbar province. Massive internecine strife continued in Baghdad, and thousands of terrorists remained safe and untouched in Sadr City and adjacent neighborhoods—notably the Duri and Shammar tribal areas north of the capital.[15] But Anbar was out in the middle of nowhere, had a relatively small population (about one quarter of Baghdad's), and was mainly an entry and transit point to other more important areas.[16] It is not surprising then that Anbar and the surge's "success" became intertwined. However, on a national level and over the long term, success there meant relatively little. U.S. policymakers encouraged local tribes and other groups to secure their areas and fight al-Qaeda and any other enemy. These forces did have some success, but since Anbar was far from the primary centers of political power, the impact was relatively small.[17]
The surge strategy produced, beyond a doubt, a reduction in U.S. casualties and enemy attacks. It came, however, at the expense of allowing the enemy to remain relatively safe and grow stronger by the day. Based upon a number of reports, despite the surge, there were an estimated 100,000-plus Sunni insurgents (many of them former Iraqi security personnel that had been disbanded), some 60,000-plus Shiite members in Muqtada al-Sadr's Shiite Mahdi Army, another 60,000-plus members in the Iranian-supported Badr organization, approximately 10,000-20,000 total hardcore terrorists within the organizations listed above laying the bombs and committing suicide attacks, and some 1,000-5,000 al-Qaeda members.[18] Most combat organizations have on average a ratio of two-to-one combat to support personnel. In the case of the insurgency, this would embrace people who provide weapons, safe houses, money, transportation, reconnaissance, etc. Consequently, many more people could be added to the list of supporters and sympathizers.[19] The group most focused on in Iraq for years was al-Qaeda, which appears to have made up no more than 1 percent of this insurgency total.[20] From a public relations perspective, targeting those who perpetrated 9/11 might have made some sense, but when 99 percent of the insurgents appeared to be anything but al-Qaeda, the approach must be seen as ineffective from a military standpoint.
Notwithstanding the vast U.S. superiority over the enemy and the hundreds of billions of dollars spent, most of the estimated terrorists were not killed or captured, let alone tried and convicted during the surge period. Based upon the reported number of enemy killed by the U.S. government through daily media sources such as The New York Times, there were no more than 500 terrorists reported killed in the first year and a half of the surge. When one considers that government and military sources claimed that an average of 50 to 100 foreign insurgents were entering Iraq per month at the same time (supposedly a 50 percent reduction from previous periods, though such estimates usually only counted foreign entry from Syria), the surge's enemy kills did nothing to reduce total numbers.[21]
In the meantime, tens of thousands of suspected terrorists were put in Iraqi jails. However, very few were ever tried and convicted, and most of them were released after six to twelve months. One U.S. Department of Defense report, "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq," acknowledged that very few detainees actually turned out to be terrorists and that in the 18,000-plus cases reviewed between February 2007 and January 2008, more than 13,000 detainees were released without trial, 2,000 were found not guilty in court, and more than 3,000 were waiting to have their cases heard. In other words, no convictions could be declared for an entire year of the surge.[22] In an apparent gesture of cooperation, U.S. officials referred approximately 3,000 of their own detainee cases to Iraqi courts, but every detainee was found innocent. These results are consistent with a number of reports over the years that stated that no more than 2 percent of Iraqi detainees were ever tried and convicted.[23] Washington continues to refuse to disclose the exact number of terrorist convictions, but inferring from the above data, it is likely that the conviction rate is in the single digits and is, most likely, no more than 1-2 percent. When the Iraqi government started applying its own February 2008 amnesty law, more than 100,000 detainees were ordered released by courts by July 2008.[24]
All in all, the surge strategy can lay claim to a grand total of approximately 1,000 actual terrorists killed or captured in the first year and a half of its operation, or approximately 56 terrorists per month. Compared to the simultaneous estimated 50 to 100 foreign terrorists entering Iraq each month, the surge's failure becomes apparent. This assessment does not even include domestic recruitment or the number of Iraqis enraged by the arrests of their family members without substantial evidence.[25] Instead the surge was an unexpected opportunity for insurgents to reorganize, rest, and prepare for the endgame for control of Iraq, making them its most likely beneficiaries.
An Ignominious End?
One of the major (and unintended) consequences of the surge was driving powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr ever closer to Tehran. Rather than the Shiites turning on each as they did in the 1920s, conflicts with Sadr's Mahdi Army and Sadr's subsequent flight to Iran[26] ended up aligning him with Tehran and, in effect, his main Shiite rival, the Iraqi Badr organization. As such, the surge united many of the Iraqi Shiites under the banner of Sadr and, to a lesser extent, Iran, in what may turn out to be one of the most decisive factors in the future of Iraq and the ultimate failure of U.S. policy.
Thus, by the time the surge started to wind down in 2008, the pro-Iranian Shiites were being armed and trained on a large scale by Tehran. This arming had been going on to a lesser extent since 2003, but the Shiites' experience, confidence, and capabilities increased greatly during the surge, especially when the administration declared that it would withdraw most if not all combat forces from Iraq in the near future. This lack of commitment encouraged both Shiite and Sunni forces to substantially increase their weapons' acquisitions, recruitment, and training in preparation for the forthcoming power vacuum.
Obama's promise to leave Iraq by 2011 helped strengthen Sadr and his pro-Iranian forces while Sunni groups' fears became more pronounced. It should be pointed out that the Shiites were never completely united, and there certainly was fighting between Maliki government forces and Sadr's and other Shiite militias. But this was more like a family squabble and never led to any large numbers of deaths or long-term imprisonments. In 2008 in Basra, for example, the Iraqi government sent 30,000 troops to suppress Sadr's group, but Tehran then stepped in and resolved the issue before any substantial losses were incurred.[27]
In any event, in the 2010 elections, a number of U.S. officials including James Clapper, director of national intelligence, and Gen. John Mattis, head of U.S. Central Command, strongly supported the election of Ayad Allawi—Maliki's chief Sunni rival and a former CIA confederate. These officials argued that many regional Arab allies opposed Maliki and thought he was too pro-Iranian. Other officials, including Vice-president Joe Biden, sided energetically with Maliki while President Obama played both sides of the fence and kept his options open.[28] It is not surprising that when all the votes were counted, Maliki may have believed that some U.S. officials had betrayed him and tried to subvert the process in Allawi's favor.
Fiery Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr, seen here in a poster with one of his Mahdi army militiamen, has become a kingmaker in Baghdad thanks in part to the inept U.S. role in Iraq's most recent elections. Sadr was once declared an outlaw by U.S. occupation administrator Paul Bremer but has managed to outlast and outflank most of his opponents.
Allawi's Iraqi National Movement had received the largest number of votes with 91 parliamentary seats while Maliki's State of Law Coalition was slightly behind with 89; with 163 seats necessary to form a majority coalition, neither had won decisively. This left Sadr's National Iraqi Alliance to play kingmaker with 70 seats. Despite some initial efforts by Washington to align Allawi with Maliki, the political outcome was likely sealed before the elections. Maliki probably saw his fellow Shiite Sadr in more favorable terms and, ultimately, decided to co-opt his support. With four votes short of a majority coalition, Maliki and Sadr negotiated with the Kurds and achieved a clear majority.[29]
Thus, a governing coalition was formed that was more unfriendly to Washington's interests and had within its key leadership a former U.S. foe in Sadr. Maliki soon shifted after the new government was created to a more pro-Iranian and staunch Shiite position, alienating Washington even further. This helps explain why Baghdad was unwilling to accept Washington's status-of-forces conditions for maintaining a military presence after 2011 as well as its permission for Tehran to use Iraqi airspace in support of the embattled Syrian government.[30]
In December 2011, the Maliki government targeted its Sunni vice president Tariq Hashemi, charging him with planning terrorist attacks against Shiites. Convicted and sentenced to death in absentia, Hashemi fled to Iraqi Kurdistan and then to Turkey. Many Iraqi Sunnis perceived the charges as trumped up by hostile Shiites and an attempt to weaken and humiliate rival Sunni politicians.[31] The heightened tensions between the two Muslim communities further underscore the failure of the U.S. mission in Iraq.
Could the Iraq equation have been changed to produce a more favorable outcome for Washington, and was it worth all the effort?
The current situation in the country bodes poorly for the United States. A more hostile and skeptical Iraqi government is in place, which presumably will not strongly support U.S. interests in the region. Baghdad is unlikely to allow U.S. military forces to return if needed for a possible attack against Iran and is now more supportive of Tehran and Iranian interests in the region. Moreover, the Iraqi government has been trying to compel American oil companies to give up their operations in Iraqi Kurdistan and appears to be looking for replacements in China and elsewhere for the American companies.[32]
This state of affairs is the culmination of nearly a decade of Washington's failures and lost opportunities. Though the claimed objectives and results were commendable, the actual conduct of the war and its consequences were sub-par. These mistakes began before the outbreak of hostilities with a minimalist military strategy, followed by the self-restrained operations during the occupation and surge phases, and finally by the embarrassingly inept political behavior before and after the 2010 Iraqi elections. These missteps were all indicative of a major disconnect between U.S. leaders' once very powerful and aggressive military doctrine and a new breed of timid and inexperienced leaders forwarding incoherent policies.
Iraq's future trajectory seems to be toward a rising Iran that may one day fully incorporate Baghdad into its orbit. Washington has had more than enough chances to stem this current and future course, but the general passivity and eventual desperation of U.S. leaders turned the Iraqi mission into a tragedy that has yet to end conclusively and comprehensively.
***Steve Dobransky is an adjunct professor at Cleveland State University and Lakeland College. Contact:
[1] Peter W. Galbraith, The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War without End (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2006), pp. 76-84.
[2] James Dobbins, Seth G. Jones, Benjamin Runkle, and Siddharth Mohandas, Occupying Iraq: A History of the Coalition Provisional Authority (Santa Monica: RAND Corp., 2009), pp. 52-61; Thomas E. Ricks, Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq (New York: Penguin Press, 2006), pp. 159-67; George Tenet with Bill Harlow, At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA (New York: HarperCollins, 2007), p. 429; The New York Times, Mar. 20, 2003.
[3] Ali A. Allawi, The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing the Peace (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007), pp. 149-59; Tenet with Harlow, At the Center of the Storm, pp. 426-30; Ricks, Fiasco, pp. 159-67.
[4] George W. Bush, Decision Points (New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2010), pp. 257-61; L. Paul Bremer, III, with Malcolm McConnell, My Year in Iraq: The Struggle to Build a Future of Hope (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2006), pp. 39-45; Douglas J. Feith, War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism (New York: HarperCollins, 2008), pp. 422-3; Dobbins, Jones, Runkle, and Mohandas, Occupying Iraq, pp. xv-xxxix; Douglas J. Feith, "Feith: Iraq Attack Was Preemptive," 60 Minutes, CBS, Apr. 6, 2008.
[5] Charles Ferguson, No End in Sight: Iraq's Descent into Chaos, pp. 146-219; James P. Pfiffner, "U.S. Blunders in Iraq: De-Baathification and Disbanding the Army," Intelligence and National Security, Spring 2010, pp. 1-14; Ricks, Fiasco, p. 168; David L. Phillips, Losing Iraq: Inside the Postwar Reconstruction Fiasco (New York: Basic Books, 2006), pp. 143-5; Richard Clarke, Your Government Failed You: Breaking the Cycle of National Security Disasters (New York: HarperCollins, 2008), pp. 46-73; Naomi Klein, "Baghdad Year Zero: Pillaging Iraq in Pursuit of a Neocon Utopia," Harper's, Sept. 2004.
[6] Bob Woodward, Plan of Attack (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004), p. 407.
[7] Michael R. Gordon and Gen. Bernard E. Trainor, COBRA II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq (New York: Pantheon Books, 2006), pp. 182-5; Tommy Franks, American Soldier (New York: HarperCollins, 2004), pp. 464-77; Ricks, Fiasco, pp. 161-7.
[8] Woodward, Plan of Attack, 326-8.
[9] Bush, Decision Points, pp. 388-94; Michael R. Gordon and Gen. Bernard E. Trainor, The Endgame (New York: Vintage Books, 2013), pp. 19-39; Paula Broadwell and Vernon Loeb, All In: The Education of General David Petraeus (New York: Penguin Press, 2012), pp. 236-42.
[10] Gordon and Trainor, The Endgame, pp. 330-50; Clarke, Your Government Failed You, pp. 62-72; Bush, Decision Points, pp. 372-94; Broadwell and Loeb, All In, pp. 239-42; Anthony Cordesman and Arleigh A. Burke, "Success or Failure? Iraq's Insurgency and Civil Violence and U.S. Strategy: Developments through June 2007," Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, D.C., July 9, 2007.
[11] Kenneth Katzman, "Iraq: Reconciliation and Benchmarks," U.S. Department of Defense, Washington, D.C., June 5, 2008, p. 6.
[12] Bush, Decision Points, pp. 377-8; Clarke, Your Government Failed You, pp. 63-5; Broadwell and Loeb, All In, pp. 239-42.
[13] The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manuel: U.S. Army Field Manual, No. 3-24/Marine Corps War Fighting Publication, No. 3-33.5, United States Department of Army, Washington, D.C.
[14] Katzman, "Iraq: Reconciliation and Benchmarks," pp. 5-6; "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq, Mar. 2008," U.S. Department of Defense, Washington, D.C., pp. 17-28; Bush, Decision Points, pp. 376-88.
[15] Reuters, Sept. 19, 2008.
[16] Katzman, "Iraq: Reconciliation and Benchmarks," pp. 5-6; Bush, Decision Points, pp. 383-5; Gordon and Trainor, The Endgame, pp. 240-63.
[17] "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq, Mar. 2008," pp. 17-28; "Securing, Stabilizing, and Rebuilding Iraq," GAO-08-837, U.S. General Accountability Office, Washington, D.C., June 2008, pp. 20-32; Bush, Decision Points, pp. 383-9; Gordon and Trainor, The Endgame, pp. 333-50.
[18] "Iraqi Insurgency Groups,", 2008, accessed Sept. 16, 2013; "Iraq Index: Tracking Variables of Reconstruction and Security in Post-Saddam Iraq," Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C., Dec. 18, 2008, pp. 24-5; Cordesman and Burke, "Iraq's Insurgency and Civil Violence"; The New York Times, Nov. 22, 2007; U.S. News & World Report, Feb. 6, 2008. xx
[19] John J. McGrath, Boots on the Ground: Troop Density in Contingency Operations (Fort Leavenworth: Combat Studies Institute Press, 2006), pp. 1-212.
[20] "Iraqi Insurgency Groups,"; "Iraq Index," Dec. 18, 2008, pp. 24-5; Cordesman and Burke, "Iraq's Insurgency and Civil Violence"; Karen DeYoung, "Iraq's War Statistics Prove Fleeting," The Washington Post, Mar. 19, 2007; The New York Times, Nov. 22, 2007; U.S. News & World Report, Feb. 6, 2008; Anthony H. Cordesman, "Iraq and Foreign Volunteers," Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, D.C., Nov. 18, 2005.
[21] "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq, June 2008," U.S. Department of Defense, Washington, D.C., pp. 20-32; U.S. Central Command, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request on Enemy/Insurgent Kills and Captures, Case# 08-0169 (MacDill AFB: USCENTCOM, 2009); The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Nov. 22, 2007.
[22] "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq, Mar. 2008," p. 5; "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq, June 2008," p. 3; "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq, June 2010," U.S. Department of Defense, Washington, D.C., pp. 28-37.
[23] Kurt Nimmo, "More than 13,000 Being Held by Coalition in Iraqi Prisons; Less than 2% Have Been Convicted," Nov. 15, 2005,
[24] Aswat al-Iraq News Agency (Baghdad), Apr. 23, 2008 Apr. 23, 2008; The Times (London), May 20, 2008; McClatchy News Agency, Apr. 9, 2008; Ciara Gilmartin, "The 'Surge' of Iraqi Prisoners," Global Policy Forum, New York, May 7, 2008; "War and Occupation in Iraq," Chapter 4: Unlawful Detention," Global Policy Forum, June 2007; Associated Press, May 17, 2008; Morning Edition, National Public Radio, June 15, 2006; text of Iraq's amnesty law, Little Green Footballs, Apr. 23, 2008.
[25] The New York Times, Nov. 22, 2007; U.S. News & World Report, Feb. 6, 2008; Aswat al-Iraq News Agency (Baghdad), Apr. 23, 2008; "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq, June 2010," pp. 28-37; The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Nov. 22, 2007; Ciara Gilmartin, "The 'Surge' of Iraqi Prisoners," Global Policy Forum, New York, May 7, 2008; Associated Press, May 17, 2008; "Iraqi Court Rulings Stop at US Detention Sites," Global Policy Forum, May 17, 2008; "Open Letter to Members of the Security Council Concerning Detentions in Iraq," FIDH and International Federation for Human Rights Global Policy Forum, Apr. 22, 2008.
[26] Knight Ridder Newspapers, Jan. 31, 2004; Michael Knights, "Iran in Iraq: The Role of Muqtada al-Sadr," Policy Watch 1755, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Washington, D.C., Feb. 8, 2011.
[27] Lebanon Wire (Beirut), June 25, 2012; "Iraq Benchmark Report Card: One Year after the Surge," Center for American Progress, Washington, D.C., Jan. 24, 2008; Katzman, "Iraq: Reconciliation and Benchmarks," pp. 4-6; Gordon and Trainor, The Endgame, pp. 312-28.
[28] Gordon and Trainor, The Endgame, pp. 638-50.
[29] The New York Times, Mar. 26, Dec. 21, 2010.
[30] "Iraq: Al-Sadr's Long-Term Plans,", June 25, 2012; "Iran's Interests in Rising Iraqi Oil Production," idem, May 28, 2012; The New York Times, Sept. 4, 2012.
[31] Associated Press, Oct. 15, 2011, Aug. 31, 2012.
[32] Gordon and Trainor, The Endgame, pp. 679-81; The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Dec. 16, 18, 2011.

ASA: To Go From Unknown Group to Media Star, Bash Israel
by Phyllis Chelser/Israel National News
December 17, 2013
The American Studies Association - the organization which just voted to boycott Israeli academics and cultural institutions - did so via a grand total of 1,252 votes. Thus, two-thirds of the voters, or only 826 academics voted to boycott their Israeli counterparts - no, make that their Israeli superiors. The vote represents 21% of all eligible voting members and 17% of their total membership of 5,000.
This group launched no boycotts against Cuba, China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Somalia, Pakistan, Iran, or Afghanistan - all places where dissent is a capital crime and where gender and religious apartheid are practiced; nor did they boycott Sudan, where anti-black slavery is openly practiced.
This is a very small association. It has an Angela Davis Prize. (Who could make this up?) It is also a far-left, "queer"-friendly group.
President-elect Lisa Duggan, of New York University is also the President-elect of the Council, the Chair of the Board of Trustees, the Chair of the Finance Committee, and the Councilor ex officio of the Women's Committee.
Duggan writes for The Nation, is a Professor of gender and sexuality and of lesbian and gay studies at New York University.
Swimming ever-uphill against the tide, allow me to note that I unequivocally oppose this focus as utterly diversionary at a time of rising global misogyny.
Professor Duggan published "Sapphic Slashers: Sex, Violence, and American Modernity", "Sex Wars: Sexual Dissent and Political Culture" and "The Twilight of Equality? Neoliberalism, Cultural Politics and the Attack on Democracy".
I have not read these works. Perhaps they are even better than Judith Butler's oeuvre. Still, the overriding concern with a woman's right to pleasure (which I fully support) will never open a single Iranian prison cell, rescue even one girl who is being publicly gang-raped in Congo or Sudan, or protect any girl or woman from being burned to death for her dowry in India or honor murdered in the West.
Forgive me. I am so old-fashioned.
Pace. If Duggan did not already exist the university would have to create someone just like her. A "queer studies" specialist whose concerns are entirely unthreatening to the misogynists among us.
But why is she - and her cohort - picking on Israel? Well, is there a better or quicker way of getting some attention? The media has been abuzz with this newest boycott on the block, one of thousands. Is there a better way of proving that one is politically correct and oh-so-brave by safely joining the herd in singling out only one country to demonize, isolate, and boycott?
As has been said before, this is pure racism. As I wrote in 2003: Anti-Zionism is also part of what the "new Anti-Semitism" is all about.
American Studies Association: You have just voted to endorse the oldest form of racism on earth. You should be ashamed of yourselves.
The New York Times covered the American Studies Association boycott vote yesterday on page A6. Today, the very same piece was expanded and became a front page (A1) story. The title? "Boycott by Academic Group Is a Symbolic Sting to Israel" and it is co-authored by Richard Perez-Pena and Jodi Rudoren.
This is a clear example of how a newspaper with a bias against Israel/for "Palestine," is trying to drive the news, keep a story alive, a story based on the votes of 826 people (two-thirds of the 1252 who actually voted). While the article notes, in passing, that it is a "small organization," it points out that "the vote is a milestone for a Palestinian movement for BDS, which for the past decade has found little traction in the United States."
This small academic organization is now on the same page with stories about "A Political Deal in a Deeply Divided Tunisia," "Judge Questions Legality of N.S.A. Phone Records," 'Obama's Library, Advisers' Dream," "Glaxo to Stop Paying Doctors To Boost Drugs" and "Secret Bids Guide Hopi Indians' Spirits Home." All these other stories concern many millions of people. Is the Gray Lady hoping to inspire other academic organizations into voting to boycott Israel in the hope that they, too, will make the front page?
Because the American Historical Assn (15,000 members) has no such vote scheduled, but the Modern Language Association (35,000 ? members) does.
**The writer, a Fellow at the Middle East Forum, is the author of fifteen books.

The Potential for an Assad Statelet in Syria/PDF/Press Here
Nicholas A. Heras
Download PDF As the fighting in Syria continues with no signs of decisive victory on the horizon, the Assad regime may decide to abandon parts of the country entirely and form a statelet in the western governorates that remain largely under its control. Such an entity could include as much as 40 percent of Syria's territory and 70 percent of its population. Establishing this statelet and defending it from rebels and al-Qaeda-aligned jihadists could have dire consequences for the Syrian people and the region as a whole, including intractable conflict, forced migration, ethnic/sectarian cleansing, and permanent, restive refugee populations in neighboring countries.
In this Policy Focus, analyst Nicholas Heras assesses the geopolitical, military, and economic implications of such a development, illustrating the various scenarios with detailed maps. As the international community consider negotiations and other options, many Syrians are becoming more fearful of the jihadist threat, more entrenched in their belief that the war is a foreign conspiracy against them, and less likely to support the opposition.
Nicholas Heras is a Middle East analyst with the Jamestown Foundation and a research associate at the National Defense University. An associate editor for the journal Fair Observer, he has significant field experience in all regions of Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan and is a much-sought-after commentator, publishing in CTC Sentinel, UPI,, Asia Times, Small Wars Journal, Long War Journal, and Middle East Report, among other outlets.
164 pages