LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Quotation for today/"In the
beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God
John 01/01-18: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him. But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man's decision but of God. And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth. John testified to him and cried out, saying, "This was he of whom I said, 'The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.'" From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father's side, has revealed him.
Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For December 26/13
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For December 26/13
Lebanese Related News
Miscellaneous Reports And News
Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi
Reiterates Calls For Formation of New Cabinet to
Oversee Presidential Elections
Naharnet Newsdesk 25 December 2013/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi reiterated on Wednesday in his Christmas sermon calls on officials to bridge the gap and exert efforts to form a new cabinet capable of overseeing the upcoming Presidential elections. Al-Rahi stressed during the Christmas mass held at Bkirki the importance of the formation of a new cabinet to end the political deadlock. He also called for the establishment of a new electoral law. Prime Minister-designate Tammam 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. The mass, which was attended by President Michel Suleiman, was preceded by a behind-closed door meeting between al-Rahi and the President. Suleiman's six-year tenure ends in May 2014. The President had recently suggested the formation of a government capable of staging the elections regardless if it does not enjoy parliament's confidence. The March 8 camp however rejected the proposal, deeming it unconstitutional. Al-Rahi called on Suleiman during his sermon to hold on to his stance regarding the formation of a cabinet ahead of March 25, two months prior to the expiration of the president's mandate. "The constitutional and legal truth should be always said," al-Rahi added. Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat and several officials also joined the mass.
Suleiman Urges Forming Govt. before
March 25: Neglecting Rotation of Power Harms Democracy
Naharnet Newsdesk 25 December 2013/President Michel Suleiman urged on Wednesday the need to form a new government before March 25, which marks the beginning of the constitutional period to elect a new president. He also stressed: “Neglecting the rotation of power will harm democracy.” He made his remarks after holding a closed-door meeting with Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi ahead of Christmas mass at Bkirki.
He added that time is running out for the formation of a new government ahead of staging the presidential elections. “I will seek Lebanon's interest,” Suleiman said in response to a reporter on what measures he may take should the constitutional period end amid the political powers' failure to form a new cabinet.
“We must form a new government and come up with a ministerial statement, both of which need at least a month of work,” he warned. “On the occasion of the new year, the Lebanese should remember democracy, bolster and practice it through the rotation of power,” he stated.
On talks over the nature of the new government, he wondered: “What is the definition of an all-inclusive government?” “We have a democracy and constitution. They alone determine Lebanon's political fate,” stressed the president. Suleiman's six-year tenure ends in May 2014. There are growing fears that the presidential elections will not be staged given the political powers' failure to reach an agreement over a new government.
Suleiman had recently suggested the formation of a government capable of staging the elections regardless if it does not enjoy parliament's confidence.
The March 8 camp however rejected the proposal, deeming it unconstitutional.
Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Beirut
Elias Audeh Calls for Respecting Constitutional Deadlines, Resumption of
Naharnet Newsdesk 25 December 2013/Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Beirut Elias Audeh called on officials in his Christmas sermon on Wednesday to respect the constitutional deadlines and resume dialogue among each other. “The country will not be well and will collapse of we didn't exert efforts to find consensus,” Audeh said at the St. George cathedral in downtown Beirut. He called on officials to prioritize the national interest and respect constitution and apply it. “Vacancies in state posts must be occupied , the punishment and reward principle must be applied and regulatory bodies revived,” Audeh pointed out. He called for the swift formation of a new cabinet and the revival of parliamentary work to confront the recent challenges in the country. Audeh warned of sectarian division in Lebanon, expressing fear that the state is breaking down and that constitution is not followed. He pointed out that security chaos is spreading across the country. Prime Minister-designate Tammam 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. President Michel Suleiman's six-year tenure ends in May 2014. The President had recently suggested the formation of a government capable of staging the elections regardless if it does not enjoy parliament's confidence. The March 8 alliance however rejected the proposal, deeming it unconstitutional. Audeh called for the release of bishops Youhanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi, who were kidnapped on April 23 in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo while they were on a humanitarian work. He also urged it to take similar action in ensuring the release of the nuns, who were kidnapped from Syria's town of Maalula. Last week, jihadists and opposition fighters entered the Syrian Christian town of Maalula and took 12 Lebanese and Syrian Greek Orthodox nuns from the Mar Takla Monastery to the Yabrud area in Qalamoun, near Damascus.
Geagea Says 6-9-9 Cabinet Formula
Would Paralyze Country
Naharnet Newsdesk 25 December 2013/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea stressed on Wednesday that talks are ongoing to end the current deadlock in the country, considering that the 6-9-9 cabinet formula would paralyze the country if adopted. “Our stance concerning the government formation is clear,” Gaegea told reporters at Bkirki after hold a behind-closed doors meeting with Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi to offer his congratulations on the occasion of Christmas. He criticized Hizbullah without naming it, saying that the party is “now giving examples concerning the national unity but forgot about it when it took a sole decision to engage in battles in Syria.” Hizbullah, a long-time ally of President Bashar Assad's government, has been increasingly involved in the Syrian conflict now its third year, with fighters battling alongside the Syrian army against the mostly Sunni Muslim rebel fighters. Geagea said that the country need an active cabinet. Prime Minister-designate Tammam 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.
Asked about the upcoming presidential elections, Geagea told reporters that “it's time for the presidency to regain it's role, which has been marginalized during the past 23 years.”
“The term of President (Michel) Suleiman was an exception.” Suleiman's six-year tenure ends in May 2014. The Christian leader called on lawmakers to assume their responsibility and participate in a parliamentary session set to elect a new president. He expressed optimism, saying: “the important thing is to exert efforts to reach safety.”Geagea said “the constitutional life should be rectified,” considering that any constitutional government requires the approval of Suleiman and Salam. The President had recently suggested the formation of a government capable of staging the elections regardless if it does not enjoy parliament's confidence.
The March 8 alliance however rejected the proposal, deeming it unconstitutional. Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat had 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, Salam and Jumblat. This formula, which the March 8 alliance 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, he said.
Report: Suleiman Will Not End His Term
without Forming New Govt.
Naharnet Newsdesk 25 December 2013/President Michel Suleiman is determined to form a new government before the end of his term in May 2014, reported As Safir newspaper on Wednesday. Sources close to the president revealed that he had informed all political powers that he will not end his term before the formation of a new cabinet. In addition, he said that he “will not end his term with a caretaker government viewed by some as being one-sided.” To that end, he will devise with Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam a plan to make all political powers assume their responsibilities in order to avert vacuum in Lebanon, “especially since the president decided to take the decision not extend his term.” Meanwhile, Suleiman's sources revealed that Salam had held talks with the president on a certain cabinet lineup. The president had however requested that he not disclose the lineup before a month. Sources close to Salam told As Safir that he is studying the names of over 50 candidates, of all sects and political affiliations, who could be chosen in the new government. No time has been set to announce the lineup, but it will likely be revealed before March. Since his appointment to form a cabinet in April, Salam has been seeking the formation of a 24-member cabinet in which the March 8, March 14 and centrists camps would each get eight ministers. The conditions and counter-conditions by the rival camps has however thwarted the formation of the cabinet.
Bomb near Church, Attacks Kill 40
Naharnet Newsdesk 25 December 2013/Attacks, including bombs that exploded in a market near a church in Baghdad, killed at least 40 people across Iraq on Wednesday, officials said. The bloodletting comes as Iraq suffers its worst violence since 2008, when it was just emerging from a brutal period of sectarian killings, raising fears that the country is slipping back into all-out conflict. "Two roadside bombs exploded in a popular market in Dura, killing 35 people and wounding 56," interior ministry spokesman Saad Maan told Agence France Presse, referring to a south Baghdad area. Militants frequently attack places where crowds of people gather, including markets, cafes and mosques, in an effort to cause maximum casualties. Security officials had initially said that a car bomb targeted the St. John church in Baghdad in addition to the mark et blasts, but Maan, along with a priest from the area and the Chaldean patriarch, all later denied this. "The attack was against a... market and not a church," Maan said, while adding that "the targeted area is a mix of Muslims and Christians." Archdeacon Temathius Esha, an Assyrian priest in Dura, and Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako both also insisted that the church was not the target. Other attacks on Wednesday left five more people dead. A bombing in south Baghdad killed at least one person and wounded at least three, while gunmen killed three police near Tikrit, north of Baghdad, and bombs on the road between Kirkuk and Tuz Khurmatu, also north of the capital, killed one person and wounded seven. Analysts say widespread discontent among Iraq's minority Sunni Arab community is a major factor fueling the surge in unrest this year. But although the government has made some concessions aimed at placating Sunni Arabs, including freeing prisoners and raising the salaries of Sahwa anti-Qaida fighters, underlying issues remain unaddressed. The bloody 33-month civil war in Syria, which has bolstered extremist groups, has also played a role. Defense ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari told Agence France Presse that aerial photographs and other information pointed to "the arrival of weapons and advanced equipment from Syria to the desert of western Anbar and the border of Nineveh province," referring to Sunni-majority areas bordering Syria. This has encouraged al-Qaida-linked militants to "revive some of their camps that were eliminated by security forces in 2008 and 2009," Askari said, adding that aerial photos showed 11 militant camps near the border with Syria. Iraqi security forces have launched an operation against militants dubbed "Avenge the Leader Mohammed" after a divisional commander who was killed during a raid targeting militants. The defense ministry said in an online statement issued Wednesday that security forces had killed 11 militants in a three-day period, as well as capturing weapons and equipment. But Iraqi forces responded to the rampant violence with military operations earlier this year as well, and the deadly attacks have continued unabated. It took just the first eight days of this month for the death toll to exceed 144 -- the number of people killed in all of December last year. And more than 6,700 people have been killed in Iraq since the beginning of 2013, according to AFP figures based on security and medical sources.
Source/Agence France Presse.
Kerry’s revisions for US troops on Jordan Valley border, Gaza-Hebron express train link
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 25, 2013/In the face of
stiff Palestinian opposition, US Secretary of State John Kerry has stepped back
from the American security plan for Israeli troops to secure the Jordan Valley
border for an agreed period, in favor of deploying US forces, debkafile’s
exclusive Washington sources report. He also gave in to the Palestinians on two
additional security safeguards: one, for corridors through the West Bank through
which Israeli forces would move back and forth from the Jordan Valley; and, two,
for Israel monitors to be posted at Palestinian-Jordanian border crossings as a
Instead, Kerry has come up with the notion of “remote Israeli monitoring” of the border posts by means of electronic gadgets.
The Secretary of State has therefore stripped the US framework for a peace accord of three vital elements for safeguarding Israeli security in a Palestinian state, before submitting it formally to the Israelis and Palestinians in the second half of January.
American and Israeli security experts agree that the revised Kerry security proposals would in practice enlist US soldiers out for the first time to defend Israel’s eastern border, a task for which the IDF is perfectly capable, only to gratify the Palestinian demand to remove any Israeli military presence from its potential territory.
The US would also find itself responsible for monitoring Israel’s border crossings to the new Palestinian state as well Palestinian-Jordanian border stations.
The Secretary appears to be in tune too with the Palestinian demand for the “safe passage” to connect the Gaza Strip to the West Bank to be realized in the form of an express train. This rail link would require Israel to sacrifice a slice of the Negev in the south and turn it over to Palestinian sovereignty, with no stops on the way for Israel security officers to inspect the traffic and freight being ferried between the two Palestinian entities.
Washington has informed Israel and the Palestinian Authority that it has opted for a railroad rather than a tunnel link.
The Palestinians now demand that the train run all the way to Ramallah instead of terminating further south at Hebron. This would take it through Gush Etzion and so create a precedent for one of the Israeli settlement blocks to be bisected by a transport route under Palestinian control.
Our Jerusalem sources report that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has not so far rejected any of these “revisions” of the US security plan; neither has he accepted them.
With so much up in the air, he opted for restraint Tuesday, Dec. 24, in responding to the murder of Saleh Abu Tayel by a Palestinian sniper from Gaza. The IDF strikes in Gaza a few hours later, which were presented as an impressive show of air, armored and infantry might, were in fact low key and minimal. Hamas and Jihad Islami forces were unharmed, and the attack was not attributed to any Palestinian organization - and so none were singled out for punishment. This low-key, evasive response is typical of the Netanyahu government’s attitude toward the surge of terrorism instigated by the Palestinians from the onset of US-sponsored peace talks in July.
Official Israeli spokesmen are fighting all the evidence to prove that the escalating tide of shooting, stabbing, bombing, and rock-throwing are isolated incidents and not orchestrated.
In the week in which a bomb exploded on a bus near Tel Aviv, a policeman was stabbed, and a civilian shot dead, the talk is of “atmospheric attacks.” The message from Jerusalem is that so long as the Palestinians stay on the negotiating track, Israel will allow them to work up an atmosphere of violence without incurring direct Israeli military action on a scale capable of overturning the peace track.
debkafile’s counterterrorism sources warn that letting Palestinian terrorism fly unfettered is a recipe for increased violence, which will end up defeating the whole object of the peace talks – as has happened so many times before.
Think of 'brave men and women in
uniform,' says Canada's PM Harper in Christmas message
By The Canadian Press | The Canadian Press – OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper has issued a brief message to mark the Christmas season. He says it is a time for ‘‘joyful reunions with family and friends, a time to reflect on our good fortune, and a time to remember those in our midst who have less.‘‘Harper adds that as Canadians count their ‘‘many blessings,‘‘ he asks that we also ‘‘give a moment to our brave men and women in uniform.‘‘Harper asks that we offer a ‘‘thought and a prayer for them and their families.‘‘In his Christmas message issued early Wednesday, Governor General David Johnston also aimed his remarks at member of the military and their families. He said the recent deaths of Forces members are a reminder of the stresses in the military and the mental health challenges personnel can face. At least four apparent military suicides occurred this month in different parts of the country, reigniting a debate around how Canada treats returning veterans..
Opinion: The Geneva II Opportunity
By: Ali Ibrahim/Asharq Alawsat
With the Syrian civil war set to enter its fourth year in March, having exacted terrible human losses upon the country which have dwarfed even those of previous civil wars and internal conflicts in the region, and with increasingly more brutal atrocities committed by the Assad regime showing no signs of letting up, the question which must be asked before this year’s ends is: Will the Syrian people and the whole region be able tolerate yet another year of destruction and devastation?
For unless there is real seriousness among all parties influential in the crisis, we will very likely find ourselves facing this same question come the end of 2014.
The conflict has now taken on a dimension and gravity unexpected by anyone watching the events unfold back in 2011, when the Syrian people marched out in peaceful demonstrations calling for more rights, and better social and living standards Very quickly, and before the eyes of the world, this hopeful scene began to transform into a ferocious war in favor of the regime and become a regional and international crisis in which major global players each took their sides, the price of which has been paid, tragically, by the Syrian people.
No one during the first few months—or even during the first year—of the crisis would have envisaged it lasting this long, or that the regime would be able to turn it into a sectarian conflict; all bets were initially on the rapid fall of the regime. But now, many people have accepted the dire possibility that this war could last for a number of years to come, with both sides seemingly unable to end it in their favor.
This may well turn out to be true—unless there is an international intervention which can impose a new reality on the ground and pave the way for a transitional phase which could take the country out of its crisis.
There is a responsibility here, not only moral but also political and strategic, lying squarely on the shoulders of the international community. They must put an end to this crisis, which becomes ever more complicated day after day and which threatens regional security—even international security—through the problems we read about in news reports about the flow of extremist fighters from the region and from Western countries into Syria—extremists who find opportunity in these crises to establish a foothold in the region from which to spread their ideologies. Instead of helping to find a solution to the conflict, they pour oil onto the fire.
This responsibility is now even heavier because the impotence shown by the international community has produced numerous complications in the Syrian crisis—most notably the increase in the ferocity of the regime’s bombardment of towns which are outside its control and the infiltration into the country by extremist organizations through the borders, the latter a situation which many Arab voices have been predicting since the start of the crisis. The clear message was that leaving the conflict as it was without serious attempts to end it would put the whole region in a difficult position, one which has now become an issue for everyone.
Nobody believes that foreign intervention in the affairs of another country is an ideal situation—that would be exemplified by all the internal factions in Syria finding their own solutions. However, the gulf between dreams and reality is interminably wide. So if the crisis deteriorates, and extremist fighters have no other option but to kill all their opponents, there will be a need for external help to impose solutions and provide guarantees, to stop revenge killings and to monitor the flow of weapons—and to give hope that there will be aid available for the reconstruction of the country.
But the Syrian crisis has now been given its first real opportunity to see the light at the end of the tunnel: in the form of the Geneva II conference in January.
The international community must not waste this opportunity. The excuse that the internal parties in the conflict—whether regime or opposition—are the ones at fault is no longer a viable one; the international players in the conflict have cards they can use to apply pressure on whichever side they are supporting, forcing them to accept a political solution which guarantees a genuine transitional phase for the conflict.
Canada Condemns Air Strikes on Syrian Civilians
December 24, 2013 - Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today issued the following statement:
“Canada strongly condemns the ongoing air strikes inflicted by the Syrian regime on Aleppo and surrounding areas that are killing hundreds of innocent civilians, many of whom are women and children.
“The appalling level of violence the Assad regime continues to inflict on the Syrian people will only stoke further violence and brutality on both sides of the conflict.
“Canada’s position has been clear: the only way to end the crisis in Syria is through a Syrian-led political transition. The Syrian people must believe that they have a place in a new, free, democratic and pluralistic Syria.
“This deplorable violence and use of force by Assad will do nothing to bring that political solution closer to fruition.
“Canada calls on all parties to adhere to international human rights obligations and to provide full and unhindered humanitarian access and emergency relief to those in need.”
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Pope Francis's personal appeal rebuilds his flock
CBC – The last Sunday before Christmas was cold and grey in Ottawa, with a storm bringing in snow and freezing rain. Despite the weather, the hearty parishioners at St. Patrick's Basilica downtown filed in, stamping snow off their boots, for morning mass. Outside the basilica, Glen Goss stopped to admire the nativity scene on the front lawn. He also paused to speak about a subject that's caught the attention of Catholics and non-Catholics alike: the new pope. Goss calls him an honest and true man. "The previous pope was a significant intellectual and also a very holy man," Goss said. "But Francis is more a people's man."
That sentiment is common among parishioners. "He's more into the ordinary people and that's what we're striving for in our church," said Jovy Salas as she hurried in for mass. Pope Francis has caused a stir within the church in Canada and around the world. Since becoming Pope in March, Francis hasn't changed church doctrine, but he has set a new tone at the Vatican. He's rejected many of the luxuries that go with his title and focused instead on caring for the poor. He has railed against unbridled capitalism and invited homeless men to breakfast to celebrate his birthday. Observers say the new style is making a difference in the way the church is perceived. "What's most attractive about Francis is the simplicity and the authenticity of his own witness. People get it," said Prof. Catherine Clifford of St. Paul University in Ottawa. "He's cutting through the jargon of things and really communicating the heart of the Gospel message in a very direct way."Francis has become something of a media sensation. Time magazine named him its Person of the Year for 2013. So did The Advocate, a leading gay rights journal. Church leaders are welcoming the good publicity and positive headlines. "I would say it certainly gives us some breathing room," said Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.
"I think what is happening now generally is that there's a more kind of openness to the possibility that the church might have something to offer to this world. And I'm very glad that there's this openness, because I personally believe that the church has much to offer to this world," he said. The question that remains is whether Francis can draw in Catholics who have drifted away. No figures are available for Canada, but some churches in Europe have reported a spike in attendance. For some, though, the numbers are secondary. "I don't think it's just a question of how many people are at mass. You can have a church full of the standing dead," said Mary Jo Leddy, a theologian and lecturer at the University of Toronto. "But it's the sense of joy and sense of life that you get in conversations among Catholics now. There's something fresh. There's something really exciting that's happening. And none of us know quite what it is. We're as surprised by this Pope as anybody. And maybe he's surprising himself." The Catholic Church, of course, still faces significant challenges. They include a legacy of sexual abuse and coverup as well as doctrine and practices that critics say exclude women, gays and other members of society. For now, the focus is on the new face of a new Pope. The fundamental change some are looking for may still be a long way off. Outside St. Patrick's Basilica, however, there's no mistaking a sense of optimism. "I was brought up in the Roman Catholic Church and lots of times I found it very routine," said parishioner Rose Bechamp.
"But since Pope Francis has entered the picture, there is a new vibrancy," she added. "If you came to church on Sunday, you would see for yourself."
Egypt arrests Mursi's ex-prime
minister, Hisham Kandil, on his way to Sudan
CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian security forces on Tuesday arrested the former prime minister of ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi who was sentenced to one year in jail for failing to implement a court ruling to renationalise a textile firm. "Security forces managed to arrest Hisham Kandil, former prime minister, in carrying out a court order issued against him. He was caught in a mountain area with smugglers trying to flee to Sudan," Egypt's interior ministry said in a statement. Kandil was appointed in July 2012 by Mursi after he won Egypt's first truly democratic elections that followed the fall of autocratic President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Mursi was ousted by the army in July after protests against his rule. The judgment against Kandil was issued in April 2012, while Mursi was still in office and was upheld by a higher court in September. The case related to the sale during the Mubarak era of a state-owned firm to a private investor. The army-led government had launched a fierce crackdown on Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood group and its Islamist allies in which hundreds have been killed and thousands injured. It has also banned the Brotherhood group, calling it "a terrorist organisation". At least 15 people were killed in a suicide bomb attack on a security compound in Nile Delta on Tuesday, in the most recent militancy operation that became common in Egypt after Mursi....
Egypt designates Muslim Brotherhood as
By Shadia Nasralla/|CAIRO (Reuters) - The Egyptian
government intensified its crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood on Wednesday,
formally listing the group as a terrorist organization after accusing it of
carrying out a suicide bomb attack on a police station that killed 16 people.
The Brotherhood condemned the attack on Tuesday in the Nile Delta city of
Mansoura, north of Cairo. Earlier in the day, a Sinai-based militant group,
Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis had claimed responsibility for the attack that wounded some
140 people. The move gives the authorities the power to charge any member of
deposed President Mohamed Mursi's movement with belonging to a terrorist group,
as well as anyone who finances the group or promotes it "verbally, or in
writing". The Brotherhood, which was founded in 1928, was Egypt's best organized
political force until this summer's crackdown. It estimates its membership at up
to 1 million people. The government had said it would take harsh measures
following Tuesday's attack, which it said would not stop a political road map,
whose first step before elections is a constitutional referendum due to be held
in January. The army deposed Mursi in July following mass protests against his
rule. The government decision is the latest step in a crackdown that has put
thousands of Brotherhood supporters in jail, including most of the group's top
leadership. Hundreds of Mursi supporters have been killed in the crackdown by
security forces, and the group has already been banned by a court that ordered
its assets to be seized. Since Mursi's downfall, at least 350 members of the
security forces have been killed in bombings and shootings. Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis,
meaning "Supporters of Jerusalem", has claimed responsibility for a number of
the attacks since Mursi's downfall, including a failed bid to kill the interior
minister in September. In its statement claiming responsibility for the Mansoura
attack, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis blamed the army-backed government for fighting
"Islamic legitimacy" and spilling the blood of "oppressed Muslims". Following
Tuesday's attack, Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi described the Brotherhood as a
terrorist group, though Wednesday's move formalizes the step. "All of Egypt ...
was terrified by the ugly crime that the Muslim Brotherhood group committed by
blowing up the building of the Dakahlyia security directorate," an emailed
statement from the interim government's cabinet office said. "The cabinet
decided to declare the Muslim Brotherhood group a terrorist organization." It
reiterated past accusations against the group, including torturing people at it
protest camps set up after Mursi's ouster and attacking churches. In the last
week, Mursi and other top Brotherhood leaders have been charged with terrorism
and plotting with foreign groups against Egypt, crimes that can carry the death
The Muslim Brotherhood renounced violence decades ago.
(Reporting by Tom Perry and Shadia Nasralla; Editing by Ruth Pitchford and David Evans)
The Syrian rebel groups pulling in
by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi/BBC
December 24, 2013
Throughout the Syrian civil war, one of the major concerns of Western powers in particular has been the inflow of Sunni foreign fighters, who come from the wider Arab world, Western Europe, and as far afield as Kazakhstan and Indonesia. According to a recent estimate by Aaron Zelin of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, there could be up to 11,000 of these fighters. It raises the questions of which groups they join, and what the relations between these groups are. By far the two most popular banners for these foreign fighters are al-Qaeda's official Syrian affiliate, the al-Nusra Front, and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS).
ISIS is the result of a unilateral attempt by the leader of Iraq's al-Qaeda affiliate, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, to merge his group with al-Nusra. The move was rejected al-Nusra's leader, Abu Mohammed al-Julani, and by al-Qaeda overall leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, but Baghdadi refused to disband ISIS.
Of the two organisations, ISIS appears to attract more foreign fighters.
They constitute a majority of ISIS's elite fighter corps and are disproportionately represented in its leadership, as opposed to native Syrian majorities on both counts in al-Nusra. However, it would be a mistake to conclude, as is often reported, that ISIS in Syria overall is primarily a group of foreigners. On the contrary, I would estimate at least a 60-70% Syrian majority in ISIS's Syrian branch. This is because the group, bolstered by abundant financial resources, maintains extensive activist and service networks run by locals, such as the Islamic Administration for Public Services, which provides electricity and buses among other services in Aleppo. In any event, ISIS is increasingly recruiting native Syrians to conduct important military operations, and understands that to perpetuate its existence in Syria, it must recruit from the next generation. Hence, outreach to children is a key part of ISIS's modus operandi for consolidating power.
Saudis and Moroccans
Besides al-Nusra and ISIS, there are several other groups to which foreign fighters congregate. They are particularly concentrated in the Latakia countryside, near the Mediterranean coastline. During the summer, these groups - along with al-Nusra and ISIS - played a leading role in an ultimately unsuccessful rebel offensive on Alawite areas, with the aim of scoring a symbolic victory by capturing President Bashar al-Assad's ancestral village of Qardaha. Of these other groups, some are formations independent of both al-Nusra and ISIS, even though they have ideological affinity. For example, primarily based in the Latakia countryside, there are the two groups Suqour al-Izz and Harakat Sham al-Islam. The former, founded at the beginning of this year, is led by Saudi foreign fighters; the latter, established in the summer, is led by Moroccan foreign fighters. Both have attracted fighters of other nationalities, including some Syrians.
Outside of Latakia, the most notable independent formations are the Green Battalion and Jamaat Jund al-Sham. The Green Battalion is based in the Qalamoun area of Damascus province and was founded in the summer by Saudi fighters who are of similar ideological orientation to ISIS and al-Nusra but had personal problems both groups. However, in the recent intense battles in Qalamoun with regime forces and Shia militias, the Green Battalion co-ordinated operations with ISIS and al-Nusra. Jamaat Jund ash-Sham was founded last year by Lebanese fighters in western Homs governorate but has since incorporated many Syrians into its ranks. Ideologically, it is close to ISIS and al-Nusra, and nothing suggests personal tensions with either organisation.
Other foreign fighter groups are or have been mere fronts for ISIS. The most notable case is Jaysh al-Muhajirin wa al-Ansar, based primarily in Aleppo, Idlib and Latakia provinces.
In May, its leader- Omar al-Shishani - was appointed northern commander for ISIS by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, with authority over Aleppo, Raqqa, Latakia and northern Idlib provinces.
From that time until late November, Jaysh al-Muhajirin became synonymous with ISIS, both in its own discourse and in the eyes of other rebels.
Yet since late November, Jaysh al-Muhajirin has split, with Shishani and his followers now only identifying themselves as part of ISIS, and those wanting to operate as an independent group appointing a new commander: Salah al-Din al-Shishani. Also in November, an independent group of foreign fighters in Latakia - the Lions of the Caliphate Battalion, led by Abu Muadh al-Masri - pledged formal allegiance to ISIS.
'World domination' The concluding question that vexes governments is what kind of threat, if any, these foreign fighters may pose to the outside world.
Of all the above groups, ISIS most openly expresses the ultimately global nature of its struggle, in which the end goal is world domination, delusional as that may seem.
Indeed, it is likely for this reason that ISIS appears to be attracting the most foreign fighters, who generally come from global jihadist ideological backgrounds and already had this worldview before coming to Syria.
At the same time, ISIS fighters and supporters make clear to me that a fight against the UK, for example, is destined for the far future, after an Islamic state is established in Iraq and Syria and then extended throughout the Muslim world as a caliphate. Some statements purportedly from ISIS and al-Nusra have appeared with threats to attack Turkey, but these have all been forgeries from pro-Assad circles.
As for the other groups, the testimony of one fighter who went to Latakia has suggested that Harakat Sham al-Islam is using Syria as a training ground to prepare to fight the government in Morocco - something that has otherwise not appeared in the group's discourse. As an official al-Qaeda affiliate, al-Nusra is committed to a transnational project of a caliphate, but its leader and its native Syrian component tend not to talk openly about such a goal. Instead, they emphasise the more immediate objective of establishing Islamic law for the people of Syria.
Given the protracted nature of the conflict in Syria that will likely continue without a meaningful peace agreement for at least 10 to 15 years, the problem of inflow of foreign fighters will remain for quite some time to come.
At present, however, there is little that can be done beyond pressuring Turkey (which it can be argued has for a while turned a blind eye partly in the belief that the foreign fighters are useful proxies against Syrian Kurdish militias seen as the greater threat) to take rigorous measures to crack down on smuggling networks for foreign fighters and adopt more thorough vetting policies at airports. To be sure, Turkey has always denied facilitating the inflow of foreign fighters, but testimony from both foreign fighters and those who run smuggling networks points to neglect on the part of Turkish authorities. To a lesser extent, Iraq and Lebanon have also served as conduits for foreign fighters - both Shia and Sunni. However it is not only lack of central government control over porous border areas which has enabled foreign fighters to reach Syria from Iraq and Lebanon.
Factionalism, sectarianism and dysfunction have also led to a lack of united effort and willpower to deal with the problem.
**Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi is a student at Brasenose College, Oxford University, and a Shillman-Ginsburg Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
Geneva's Impact on Saudi Arabia/A
briefing by Simon Henderson
December 17, 2013
Simon Henderson is Baker fellow and director of the Gulf & Energy Policy Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. A former journalist with Financial Times and a consultant to corporations and governments on the Persian Gulf, he regularly comments on Saudi political dynamics, energy developments, and Pakistan's nuclear issues. He briefed the Middle East Forum in a conference call on December 17, 2013.
With the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon looming over the Middle East, the recent Geneva accord has heightened fears among the Gulf states of Tehran's growing hegemony and Washington's naïve acquiescence in this detrimental development. There is a wide gap between Washington's and the Gulf states' perceptions of the nuclear threat. While the former defines a nuclear weapon as a detonated warhead, the latter see the nuclear threat in terms of a cruder weapon that Iranian technology has already reached. As a quasi-nuclear state with the potential to rapidly weaponize, Tehran has already changed the balance of power in the region.
Both Jerusalem and Riyadh, equally alarmed by the Iranian nuclear threat, would require more conclusive evidence of Tehran's real intentions in order to sway international public opinion to take a firmer position. Absent this, Israel's decision on a preemptive strike will have to weigh the possible damage to its international standing, on the one hand, and the ability of such a strike to dissuade Tehran from sustaining its nuclear quest. For its part, Riyadh may seek to undermine the Geneva agreement through alternative means, from funding insurrections and opposition groups in Iran and Syria, to organizing acts of sabotage against Hezbollah, Tehran's foremost Lebanese proxy.
More importantly, should Tehran gain nuclear power status, Riyadh will seek its own nuclear capability, eyeing Pakistan as a potential supplier. Nuclear proliferation would be disastrous for Middle Eastern stability and an abysmal failure of US foreign policy, and is bound to lead to further escalation whose consequences are too horrific to fathom.
Summary account by Marilyn Stern, Associate Fellow with the Middle East Forum.
Christmas Holiday, Islamic Horror
By Raymond Ibrahim on December 24, 2013 in Muslim Persecution of Christians
As Christians in the West go to church and worship during this Christmas season, it is well to reflect on how these two simple acts—going to church to worship—can be life-threatening for Christians in the Islamic world, especially on Christmas. The following excerpt from my book, Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians (pgs. 42-45), provides a glimpse of the horrors and humiliations Christians throughout the Muslim world can be exposed to whenever they try to meet and worship in church on Christmas and other Christian holidays. One can only hope—perhaps in vain—that this coming Christmas does not add new victims to the list.
Christians in the Islamic world today are suffering attacks motivated by the very same diabolical animus as a thousand years ago under Hakim [Egyptian caliph who ordered the destruction of reportedly 30,000 churches in the 10th –11th century]. Proof of this is that some of the most terrible assaults occur precisely on Christian holidays—Christmas, Easter, and New Year’s Eve (which is a major church day in the Middle East). And no wonder, considering that some Muslim clerics insist that “saying Merry Christmas is worse than fornication . . . or killing someone.”
After some fourteen centuries of church attacks and other persecution—punctuated by a brief Christian Golden Age—Egypt’s Copts began the new year in 2011 once again under assault, at one of their largest churches: during midnight Mass in the early hours of January 1, 2011, the Two Saints Coptic Church in Alexandria, crowded with hundreds of Christian worshippers, was bombed, leaving at least twenty-three dead and approximately a hundred injured. According to eyewitnesses, “body parts were strewn all over the street outside the church. The body parts were covered with newspapers until they were brought inside the church after some Muslims started stepping on them and chanting Jihadi chants,” including “Allahu Akbar!” Witnesses further attest that “security forces withdrew one hour before the church blast.” And a year earlier, Muslims shot and killed six Christians as they were leaving church after celebrating the Coptic Christmas Eve midnight Mass in Nag Hammadi.
December 25, 2011, was called Nigeria’s “blackest Christmas ever.” In a number of coordinated jihadi operations, Reuters reported, Islamic terrorists bombed several churches during Christmas liturgies, killing at least thirty-eight people, “the majority dying on the steps of a Catholic church after celebrating Christmas Mass as blood pooled in dust from a massive explosion.” Charred bodies and dismembered limbs lay scattered around the destroyed church. This attack was simply a reenactment of Christmas Eve one year earlier, in 2010, when several other churches were set ablaze and Christians were attacked, also leaving nearly thirty-eight dead. There was no reprieve for Nigeria’s Christians when the next religious holiday came; some fifty Christians were killed “when explosives concealed in two cars went off near the Assemblies of God’s Church during Easter Sunday services” in April 2012 in a predominantly Muslim region. According to the pastor, “We were in the Holy Communion service and I was exhorting my people and all of a sudden, we heard a loud noise that shattered all our windows and doors.” December 25, 2012, saw a repeat of the last few Christmases: in two separate attacks, Islamic gunmen shot and killed twelve Christian worshippers who had gathered for Christmas Eve church services, including one church’s pastor.
The violence in Indonesia, which has the largest Muslim population in the world, was not so bloody, but Muslims’ hostility was equally clear. In December 2012, more than two hundred Muslims threw rotten eggs at nearly one hundred Christians desiring to hold a Christmas Mass in empty land outside Jakarta, since their church, the Philadelphia Batak Protestant Church, had been illegally closed. A photographer saw angered Muslims—men, women wearing the hijab (the Muslim headscarf), and children—blocking the road and hurling rotten eggs at those attempting to worship. According to the Reverend Palti Panjaitan, the incident followed a Christmas Eve attack when “intolerant people” threw not only rotten eggs but also “plastic bags filled with urine and cow dung” at the Christians. “Everything had happened while police were there. They were just watching without doing anything to stop them from harming us.”
The attack was a repeat of what had happened several months earlier, during an Ascension Day church service in May 2012. Then some six hundred Muslims threw bags of urine, stones, and rotten eggs at the same congregation. The mob also threatened to kill the pastor. No arrests were made. The church had applied for a permit to construct its house of worship five years ago. But pressured by local Muslims, the local administration ordered the church to shut down in December 2009—though the Supreme Court recently overruled its decision, saying the church was eligible for the permit. Regardless, local Muslims and officials demand the church cease to exist.
In the Philippines, during Mass on Christmas Day 2010, a bomb exploded inside a packed Catholic church in the “Muslim-dominated” island of Jolo, injuring six worshippers including the priest. The bomb was planted by the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group, which according to the Daily Mail “has been blamed for several bomb attacks on the Roman Catholic cathedral in Jolo since the early 2000s and for kidnapping priests and nuns.”
While many more examples of church attacks on Christian holidays could be given, the four examples above demonstrate an important point. Egypt, Nigeria, Indonesia, and the Philippines have very little in common. These countries do not share the same language, race, or culture. What, then, do they have in common that explains this similar pattern of church attacks during Christian holy days? The answer is Islam. All four countries have large Muslim populations.
If Islamic jihadis target churches during Christian holidays, Islamic governments exploit the law to oppress Christian worship during those same holidays. For example, in December 2011 in Iran, several reports appeared indicating “a sharp increase of activities against Christians prior to Christmas by the State Security centers of the Islamic Republic.” Local churches were “ordered to cancel Christmas and New Year’s celebrations as a show of their compliance and support” for “the two-month-long mourning activities of the Shia’ Moslems” (activities which culminate with a bloody exhibition of self-mutilation and flagellation during Ashura). Two days before Christmas 2011, state security raided an Assemblies of God’s church. Most of those present, including Sunday school children, were arrested and interrogated. Hundreds of Christian books were seized. As one reporter put it, “Raids and detentions during the Christmas season are not uncommon in Iran, a Shi’a-majority country that is seen as one of the worst persecutors of religious minorities.”
Indeed, such oppression of Christians during Christmas is not uncommon throughout much of the Islamic world. In Iraq, some Muslim school teachers in Mosul’s elementary and high schools scheduled exams on December 25, 2012, forcing Christian students to attend school on Christmas Day and miss Christmas Mass, “even though authorities had identified the 25th of December as an official holiday for Christians.” In December 2011 in supposedly moderate Malaysia, priests and church youth leaders were required to obtain “caroling permits” by submitting their full names and identity card numbers at police stations—always a harrowing experience—simply to visit their fellow church members and sing carols like “Joy to the World” and “Silent Night.” In Pakistan in 2011, Christians lamented that “extreme power outages have become routine during Christmas and Easter seasons.” In Indonesia, December 2011, after “vandals” decapitated the statue of the Virgin Mary in a small grotto days before Christmas, the “embattled” church of GKI Bogor, another Christian church that local Muslims want eliminated, was forced to move its Christmas prayers to a member’s house after Islamic groups warned Christians not to meet at the site of the church.
.© 2013 Raymond Ibrahim | Empowered by Uhuru Network, LLC
Analysis: As Egypt hardliners gain,
scope for conflict grows
By Tom Perry | Reuters –
CAIRO (Reuters) - If there was any hope left that the
generals who overthrew Egypt's elected president six months ago might ease the
state's crackdown on dissent, a suicide bomb that ripped through a police
station on Tuesday may have destroyed it. The most populous Arab country enters
the new year with deeper divisions in its society and more bloodshed on its
streets than at any point in its modern history. The prospects for democracy
appear bleaker with every bomb blast and arrest. The army-backed government says
it will shepherd Egypt back to democracy and points out that the state defeated
Islamist militants when they last launched waves of attacks in the 1990s. But
this time around there are more weapons and harder ideologies, and a bitter
example of a failed democratic experiment to toughen positions on all sides.
Like much of the recent violence, the bombing that killed 16 people on Tuesday
was bloodier than all but the very worst attacks of the 1990s. The tactic of
using suicide bombers to hit security forces is more familiar to Iraq or Syria
than to Egypt, which for all its history of militancy is one of the few big Arab
states that has never experienced a modern civil war. The blast was claimed by a
Sinai Peninsula-based Islamist militant group, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which has
stepped up attacks on government targets in recent months and narrowly failed to
assassinate the interior minister in September. The blast set off mob attacks on
the shops, homes and vehicles of people believed to be supporters of ousted
President Mohamed Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood. "After the funerals of the
martyrs, angry people smashed my pharmacy and my brother's shop," said Mohamed
Heikal, a Brotherhood activist in the city of Mansoura, scene of Tuesday's
bombing. "We had nothing to do with what happened," he said, condemning the
bombing as a terrorist attack.
With much of the public feverishly backing the government's calls to uproot the Brotherhood, talk of political accommodation is non-existent. Analysts see little or no chances of a political deal to stabilize a nation in turmoil since Hosni Mubarak's downfall in 2011. Signs of escalation abound. Mursi and other top Brotherhood leaders have been ordered to stand trial on charges that could lead to their execution. They are charged with conspiring with foreigners to carry out a terrorist plot against Egypt. The government of Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi on Wednesday formally designated the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, accusing it of carrying out the attack.
Meanwhile, the frequency of attacks suggests militants are taking centre stage within the Islamist movement, further diminishing hopes of the state reaching an accommodation with moderates and strengthening the hawks in government. One consequence could be to increase the chances of General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi becoming Egypt's next president. The army chief who deposed Mursi after mass protests against Brotherhood rule has yet to decide whether to run, an army source said. Though Sisi would almost certainly win were he to run, the source said he is hesitant partly due to the mountain of problems awaiting Egypt's next head of state.
But analysts say the increase in violence makes it less likely Sisi and those around him would trust anyone else with the reins of power. "The more dire the situation becomes, the less a second tier civilian candidate will be seen able to take charge of the situation," said Michael Wahid Hanna, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a New York-based think-tank. "This type of deterioration will increase pressure on Sisi to run."
MOST SOLDIERS KILLED SINCE '73 WAR
Crowds that gathered outside the compound hit in Tuesday's attack to show support for the security forces brandished Sisi's portrait.
Egypt has experienced violence for decades including the assassination of President Anwar Sadat by an Islamist gunman in 1981, and attacks on tourist sites in the 1990s that hurt the economy. But civil bloodshed has now reached an unprecedented level. A conservative estimate puts the overall death toll since Mursi's fall at well over 1,500. Most of those killed were Mursi supporters, including hundreds gunned down when the security forces cleared a protest vigil outside a Cairo mosque. At least 350 members of the security forces have also been killed in bombings and shootings since Mursi's downfall. The state has declared them martyrs of a war on terror.
The army has suffered its greatest casualties since the 1973 Middle East war, most of them in the Sinai Peninsula, where the most heavily armed Islamists are based. The blood spilt since Mursi's downfall has evoked comparisons with Algeria - a country pitched into a decade of civil war in 1991 when its army aborted an experiment with democracy because Islamists looked set to win power.Some dismiss that comparison, arguing the past failures of militants in Egypt should dissuade Islamists from following that path. But as the attacks spread beyond the Sinai Peninsula, the risks are compounded by the large quantities of weapons smuggled in from neighboring Libya since the downfall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, in a war that saw his arsenals looted by rebels. "This particular incident shows that the group operating in Mansoura is very organized, well equipped and capable," said Mustapha Kamel Al-Sayid, a professor of political science at Cairo University, referring to the Nile Valley town where Tuesday's attack took place. "This points to the difficulty of any kind of compromise between the government and Islamist groups."
FREEDOMS IN DANGER
The Brotherhood, most of whose leadership are in jail, continues to reiterate its mantra of peaceful resistance and denies turning to violence. It is pressing a campaign of protests on university campuses where its followers routinely clash with the police. But as that strategy fails to make much of an impact, there is a risk of radical logic winning over its supporters, posing a threat to the Brotherhood itself.
Analysts believe the security establishment now has a firm grip over the course of government, reasserting political influence that diminished after the 2011 uprising. Activists say the freedoms won in that uprising are in danger.
The state has widened a crackdown on dissent, on December 22 jailing three leading secular activists to three years in prison for breaking a law that severely curbs the right to protest - a major blow against those behind the January 25, 2011 revolution. "What we see now is a security apparatus that really seems to be out of control, going after individuals and groups it has grudges against," said Nathan Brown, a professor of political science at George Washington University. "You do sometimes hear murmurs that people in the leadership worry that an overly harsh set of actions will make the political divisions in Egypt worse, and there has to be some kind of lessening of the security crackdown. "This bombing puts off that date." Khaled Dawoud, a liberal politician, said the wave of Islamist attacks will make calls for reconciliation even less popular. He has continued to call for a political accommodation even after being stabbed by Mursi supporters in October. "In any country where terrorism takes place, public freedoms and hopes for democracy suffer a retreat. That is the law of gravity," he said.
(Additional reporting by Shadia Nasralla and Yasmine Saleh; Editing by Peter Graff and David Evans