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Bible Quotation for today/God
01 John 01/05-10: "Now the message that we have heard from his Son and announce is this: God is light, and there is no darkness at all in him. If, then, we say that we have fellowship with him, yet at the same time live in the darkness, we are lying both in our words and in our actions. 7 But if we live in the light—just as he is in the light—then we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from every sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us. But if we confess our sins to God, he will keep his promise and do what is right: he will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our wrongdoing. If we say that we have not sinned, we make a liar out of God, and his word is not in us.
Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For November 14/13
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For November 14/13
Disciplinary Authorities to Deal with Violations in State Institutions
Naharnet Newsdesk 13 November 2013/President Michel Suleiman on Wednesday called on the country's regulatory and disciplinary bodies to carry out their role regarding violations taking place in state institutions and municipalities. Suleiman headed a meeting for the disciplinary committee for municipalities, which was attended by Caretaker Premier Najib Miqati, Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel, the director-general of the presidency, Dr. Antoine Shuqair, and head of the Higher Disciplinary Committee Judge Marwan Abboud. A Baabda palace statement said Suleiman was briefed on the work that the disciplinary committee for municipalities has carried out since its establishment almost a year ago.The president urged the body, in addition to the other disciplinary committees, to carry out their duties. He said the adoption of an administrative decentralization law, along with the prerogatives that it gives to local authorities necessitates efforts to put municipal officials in the picture of accountability. The conferees agreed to follow up the implementation of a circular issued by the caretaker PM on the necessary measures to implement the law against violators. The meeting was preceded by closed-door talks between Suleiman and Miqati who discussed the latest developments and the president's visit to Saudi Arabia on Monday. Meanwhile, Charbel issued a circular on Wednesday, saying the monitoring of construction and the end of building violations lies on both the municipalities and the Internal Security Forces.
He called for disciplinary measures against officials who issued illegal licenses without technical inspection. Charbel had previously said it was the duty of the municipalities not the police to deal with construction violations. He later issued a circular to allow the ISF to take over the task of cracking down on illegal construction after municipalities failed to do so and several of them gave licenses to builders that the police deemed illegal. But the measures led to protests in several areas and to disagreements whether some buildings under construction were legal or not, resulting in Wednesday's circular.
Senseless criticism For President Michel Sleiman's Saudi Visit
November 13, 2013/The Daily Star
Even before President Michel Sleiman had landed in Saudi Arabia Monday, before the purpose or outcome of his talks with King Abdullah were apparent, he had faced a torrent of abuse from the March 8 coalition, an orchestrated campaign that also accused the kingdom of blocking the formation of a new Cabinet. It was a direct and aggressive assault on the visit, and seemed to represent a new level of criticism from the bloc. It is one thing to slam talks after they have taken place, but to do so before they have even opened smacks of blind opposition, of taking a contrarian stance just for the sake of it. This is not a position that is guided by Lebanese principles or interests, but rather by those of external powers. This dangerous stance, which threatens ties between the two countries and the position of Shiites in the kingdom, comes from a position of obedience to Iran and a differing stance on the Syrian regime. Since the 1950s, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Lebanon have enjoyed consistently close ties, on levels ranging from the economy to tourism and industry. Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese have made their fortunes in Saudi Arabia: Indeed, around 80 percent of Lebanese millionaires achieved such success thanks to such a warm reception in the country. And in Lebanon’s greatest times of need, Saudi Arabia has always stood by to support the country, both politically and financially. After so much essential infrastructure was destroyed by Israel in the 2006 war, the kingdom was there to hold up the country and to inject gravely needed reserves into the Central Bank, steps that helped the entire country, regardless of political affiliation or religious sect. The outcome of Sleiman’s talks with Abdullah were as supportive as to be expected. Saudi Arabia promised strengthened support for the country and stressed the need for political stability. It committed itself to increased aid for Syrian refugees in Lebanon and to a political solution to end the civil war across the border. In the region, and certainly among the Gulf Cooperation Council, Saudi Arabia is an essential leader. The decisions that the kingdom makes, others follow. As such it is clearly not in Lebanon’s interests to attack Saudi Arabia, even were it not such a close friend. The petty, but deep-seated and bitter, political squabbling and bickering between Lebanese groups must be kept out of the country’s regional partnerships. The security and stability of Lebanon – governmentless and fragile – depends upon these relationships. The Lebanese people, battered daily by the corrupt and directionless workings of local politicians, must be allowed to be spared the further damages of a weakened position in the region. Let the country keep these windows wide open. For we need the fresh air these partnerships can bring. Until Lebanon is a self-sustaining island unto itself, attacks on our neighbors will do nothing to help the country.
Sleiman asks for Hariri’s help in Cabinet formation
November 13, 2013 /By Hussein Dakroub/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman has asked former Prime Minister Saad Hariri for help in facilitating the formation of a new government, sources at Baabda Palace said Tuesday, as the Cabinet crisis has entered its eighth month, deepened by national divisions over the conflict in Syria. Sleiman met Hariri at the Guest Palace in the Saudi capital Monday shortly after he had talks with Saudi King Abdullah and other top Saudi officials at the king’s palace in Riyadh on the Lebanese crisis, regional developments, the 31-month war in Syria and its repercussions on Lebanon’s security and stability. Before returning to Beirut Tuesday, Sleiman met in Riyadh with a delegation from the Lebanese Business and Investment Council in Saudi Arabia. “President Sleiman consulted with Hariri on the internal situation in Lebanon, particularly the Cabinet crisis,” a source at Baabda Palace told The Daily Star.
“The president asked Hariri for help in facilitating the formation of a new government by underlining the importance of all the parties to soften their conditions over the shape of the Cabinet,” the source said.
“Sleiman stressed the importance of all the parties participating in the government regardless of the number of ministers,” he added. “The president also stressed the need to resume dialogue between the rival factions.”
Hariri’s response was not immediately known. As the head of the Future Movement, which leads the March 14 coalition against the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance, Hariri’s stance on Sleiman’s request is deemed crucial concerning the Cabinet deadlock.
Future MP Nouhad Mashnouq said Hariri’s participation in the Sleiman-Abdullah meeting was “a clear message” from Saudi Arabia to all Lebanese that it supported moderation, rather than religious extremism, in Lebanon.
Through Hariri’s participation in the Riyadh talks, “the Saudis sent a clear message to all the Lebanese about their support for moderation. The Saudis’ declared political choice is moderation and this moderation is represented by [former] Prime Minister Saad Hariri,” Mashnouq told OTV in an interview Tuesday night. He said Hariri’s participation in the talks was also intended to refute rumors of a political rift between the kingdom and the head of the Future Movement. Political sources described Sleiman’s visit to Saudi Arabia as “highly important,” saying the visit had given Lebanese-Saudi relations a new boost. Hariri’s participation in the Sleiman-Abdullah meeting amounted to a Saudi signal of its intention to facilitate the president’s mission on the Cabinet formation, the sources said.The Baabda source said Sleiman’s talks with Saudi officials did not touch on the Cabinet crisis or next year’s presidential elections.
The parliamentary Future bloc praised Sleiman’s visit to Saudi Arabia, hoping the outcome of the talks in Riyadh would serve the cause of state building in Lebanon.
“The bloc hopes that this [Sleiman’s] visit, with its facts, results and connotations, will be a major landmark on the road to boosting the state building, applying the law and supporting the official security and political institutions,” the bloc said in a statement issued after its weekly meeting. A statement issued after their meeting in Riyadh said Sleiman and Abdullah stressed the importance of maintaining security and stability in Lebanon in the face of growing threats linked to the war in Syria. They also urged the March 8 and March 14 parties to abide by the Baabda Declaration to protect the country from the repercussions of the Syrian turmoil.
Sleiman’s visit to Saudi Arabia coincided with a fierce campaign launched by Hezbollah against the kingdom and its key ally in Lebanon, the Future Movement, which the party blames for the Cabinet deadlock and paralysis in Parliament. Hezbollah’s deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem said he did not expect positive results from Sleiman’s visit to Saudi Arabia, describing it as “a normal visit.”
But Speaker Nabih Berri disagreed, saying he hoped that the president’s visit would carry positive developments concerning the Cabinet stalemate, whereby all the parties would accept the March 8 alliance’s proposal for a 9-9-6 Cabinet lineup. He said that the 9-9-6 Cabinet proposal gives the March 14 coalition an “absolute majority.”
“A 9-9-6 government is a golden opportunity for the March 14 alliance that should not be missed,” Berri told Al-Joumhouria newspaper. The Future Movement and its March 14 allies have rejected the 9-9-6 Cabinet proposal, which grants veto power to both the March 8 and March 14 camps. Instead, the Future Movement has demanded the formation of a neutral, nonpartisan government as a way out of the Cabinet impasse.
In addition to praising the president’s visit to Riyadh, the Future bloc renewed its call for Hezbollah to withdraw its fighters from Syria and abide by the Baabda Declaration.
The bloc lashed out at Hezbollah’s escalation of its political campaigns against the March 14 coalition and the group’s accusation of treason against its rivals.
While some Hezbollah officials and MPs have escalated their verbal attacks against their rivals in the March 14 coalition, others called for dialogue and the adoption of solutions that would bring parties closer, the Future statement said. “This reflected the deep confusion and contradictions through which the party is going at this stage,” it added. The bloc condemned Hezbollah’s approach that is based on “arrogance, conceit and threats” in dealing with its Lebanese rivals. “Hezbollah should offer proof of its seriousness [for dialogue] by issuing a clear and honest declaration expressing its full commitment to the Baabda Declaration and an immediate withdrawal of its fighters from Syria,” the statement said. The bloc said Hezbollah should also affirm that Lebanon’s unity and sovereignty can only be safeguarded “if it stops playing the role of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ regional arm and abandons its insistence on being a military organization independent from the state.” The Future Movement has said that Hezbollah’s withdrawal from Syria and its commitment to the Baabda Declaration were essential for any partnership government with the party. Qassem ruled out the formation of a new government without Hezbollah’s participation, saying the Cabinet ball was in March 14’s court.
“No government [could be formed] without Hezbollah. We will not seek to form a government without our [March 14] partners in the nation. The ball is in your court and we are waiting,” Qassem told an Ashoura gathering in Beirut’s southern suburbs.
Resistance to Emerge 'Stronger' if Iran Deal Sealed, Warns of Targeting Ashura
Naharnet Newsdesk 13 November 2013/
..Hizbullah Chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah assured on Wednesday that the resistance will emerge stronger in case a deal was struck between Iran and international powers.
Nasrallah surprised his supporters on Wednesday evening when he made a rare public appearance in the Beirut neighborhood of Rweiss, on the tenth night of Ashura.
A day before the annual popular procession is expected to take place, he warned that “bombings, bloodshed and booby-trapped car explosions” could take place, but he stressed, however, that nothing will stand between “people and (Imam) Hussein.”
"If after the negotiations with Iran things head towards a war, everyone must get worried, although others will become more preoccupied than us,” Nasrallah said in his speech.
"But if an accord was reached, our party will become stronger and with a better presence locally and regionally,” he added.
He elaborated: “When negotiations take place, usually allies of the communicating poles get worried but we are not. Our allies do not worry us and we have two allies only, Syria and Iran that have never abandoned us.”
“Do you expect that Iran will ask Hizbullah to abandon its rights, resistance and hand over the country to the other faction? Those who know Iran's history know that this will not happen.”
Iran and world powers failed to agree a deal on Tehran's disputed nuclear program at talks in Geneva at the weekend but are planning to meet again on November 20 for further negotiations.
Western diplomatic sources say the two sides were close to a deal, but that Iran backed away because it was unhappy with some of the wording in the text presented by the six powers.
The P5+1 is made up of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany.
They have been negotiating with Tehran for years over its nuclear program, which some suspect is aimed at developing a nuclear weapon -- a claim Iran vehemently denies.
Nasrallah had started his Wednesday speech by pointing out to Israel's “efforts to push for a war in the region.”
He said: "There is no doubt that Israel is pleased to observe what is happening in the Arab and Islamic world, and to see the killing and the disputes between nations and inside each country and each society.”
Nasrallah continued: “It used all its power lately to prepare for an attack on Syria and today while the P5+1 are negotiating with Iran, (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu gets furious and tries to obstruct an accord and reaches out to his Arab allies.”
“Any accord that prevents a war in the region is rejected by Israel. It wants a war that secures its power and security.”
Nasrallah accused some Arab countries of acting similarity to Israel by rejecting any political solution in Syria and and an international agreement with Iran.
Addressing Saudis, Qataris, Omanis, Kuwaitis and Emiratis, asked: “Where would a war in the region lead to? Israelis know very well, and their allies as well, that they can start a war anywhere but they cannot limit it to a certain region.”
Regarding reports saying Israel has installed devices to spy on Lebanese communications, Nasrallah remarked that Lebanon “has always been under threat.”
“The Lebanese must know that everything, from phone calls to things shared on the internet, is spied on,” he said.
The Hizbullah chief announced his readiness to confront this issue, if the Lebanese state fails to do so.
“If the state does not do anything to deal with this mater, the resistance would do so many things,” he stated.
“When the state is incapable, the resistance will not give up its responsibility and it is ready to assist in this respect.”
Speaker Nabih Berri revealed last Wednesday that Israel had set up a number of espionage stations along its border with Lebanon, starting from al-Naqoura passing by Khayyam all the way to Sheba.
The biggest espionage station is allegedly installed in al-Abbad and Jan al-Alam areas, which are located near the U.N. demarcated Blue line.
Tackling local political concerns, the Shiite leader accused Saudi Arabia of obstructing the formation of a new cabinet.
“There is a Saudi decision that calls on the March 14 alliance not to form a new cabinet,” he said
He continued: “We have advised them (March 14) to separate Lebanese matters from the Syrian crisis and not to bank on the developments of the neighboring country's war.”
“All facts indicate that things are heading towards a direction that is not desired by Saudi Arabia. All those waiting for a victory in Syria to form a cabinet, we tell them you will not win in the Syrian war.”
Nasrallah urged the formulation of a new cabinet that is composed of 9 ministers from the March 14 coalition, 9 ministers from the March 8 alliance, in addition to 6 figures associated with President Michel Suleiman and premier-designate Tammam Salam.
He warned: “The collapse of the state's bodies and institutional vacuum cannot be dealt with by a caretaker cabinet.”
“We want a 9-9-6 council of ministers that preserves the rights of everyone.”
Rejects Lifting Legal Warrant against Ali Eid, Freeing Ahmed Ali
Naharnet Newsdesk 13 November 2013/State Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr rebutted on Wednesday pleas submitted by Arab Democratic Party leader's attorney, citing their “illegality” as a reason. "Saqr examined a report of defenses submitted by Ali Eid and (detained suspect) Ahmed Ali's lawyer Huyam Eid and rebutted them for failing to conform to legal conditions,” the state-run National News Agency said. The NNA added that a request to free Ali and another to lift the investigation and search warrant issued against former MP Eid were also rejected. Saqr referred the documents to First Military Investigation Judge Riyad Abu Ghida to take the necessary decision in this matter. On Tuesday Eid evaded a summons to undergo questioning by a military tribunal judge over his alleged aid to a suspect in the mosque bombings of the northern city of Tripoli. Eid's attorney handed Abu Ghida a report claiming that the suspect cannot attend the questioning session for medical reasons. Lawyer Eid submitted the alibi to Abu Ghida, who referred it to the military prosecutor, Judge Saqr, for the appropriate response. Abu Ghida had issued on Thursday a subpoena against Eid and his drives Ali, on charges of helping Ahmed Merhi escape justice by smuggling him to Syria.
Merhi is the suspected driver of the explosive-laden vehicle that blew up near al-Taqwa mosque. Huyam Eid called on Tuesday for Ali's release and said the military tribunal should withdraw the arrest warrant issued against the Arab Democratic Party leader. The twin car bombings that targeted the Sunni al-Taqwa and al-Salam mosques on August 23 have left hundreds of casualties.
Geagea: March 14
Adamant to Hold Presidential Polls on Time, No One is Capable of Imposing
Naharnet Newsdesk 13 November 2013/The March 14 alliance will work hard to hold the presidential elections at the end of President Michel Suleiman's mandate in May next year, Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea said.
There will not be a repeat of previous elections in a sense that the mandate expires without being able to elect a new president, Geagea said.
“The Lebanese Constitution is very clear when it says that if a new president was not elected ten days before the end of the current head of state's tenure, then the parliament would meet automatically to elect a new president,” he told the Saudi Okaz daily in an interview.
Geagea rejected vacuum in the country's top post and reiterated that he wasn’t “currently” a candidate.
“But I will say it out loud when I decide to announce my candidacy, which will be accompanied by a very clear program because the campaign will not be a hobby,” he said. Asked about the cabinet that Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam is seeking to form since his appointment in April, Geagea said: “The government should be made up of personalities from outside the March 8 and 14 alliances.”He said it should be a technical cabinet that deals with the people's daily affairs.
“Currently neither March 8 or March 14 are capable of imposing their agenda,” he added.
Geagea also slammed Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, wondering “what victories he has achieved.”
“I believe that in the past 13 years and specifically since Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon, Hizbullah has been defeated,” he said, adding “its latest defeat was its involvement in the fighting in Syria against the Syrian people.”Hizbullah members are fighting alongside President Bashar Assad's troops against the rebels that are trying to topple him.
Hizbullah and Nasrallah “have become the enemies of the Arab and Islamic people,” Geagea told Okaz. “Is that called victory?” the LF chief asked in reference to the latest remarks made by the party's secretary-general in a speech last week.
Geagea reiterated that Nasrallah is following “an ideology whose authority is outside Lebanon … and whose interests contradict Lebanese interests most of the time.”The LF chief lauded Suleiman's one-day visit to Saudi Arabia on Monday, describing Riyadh as “the heart of the Arab and regional politics.”
Saudi Arabia had always supported Lebanon and its leaders did no harm to the Lebanese people and their interests, he said.
The trip came at the appropriate timing, Geagea added, after several local parties criticized Suleiman for making the visit during bad circumstances.
Saniora Slams Hizbullah, Urges its Withdrawal from Syria to be Included in Cabinet Lineup
Naharnet Newsdesk 13 November 2013/Head of al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc MP Fouad Saniora reiterated on Wednesday that Hizbullah should withdraw from the neighboring country Syria before it participates in any cabinet lineup.“There are only two options either Hizbullah returns from Syria and we agree on a cabinet formation together or a non-political government would be formed and we resume the all-party talks,” Saniora said in comments published in the Kuwaiti al-Rai newspaper.He stressed that the 9-9-6 formula, which was proposed by Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat, will only inflict further division and chaos among the rival parties.“We have already seen the results of such a cabinet lineup,” Saniora stressed.The Mustaqbal lawmaker pointed out that the main point of contention is “Hizbullah's military involvement in battles in Syria, shifting away from the Baabda Declaration that the party described as merely ink on paper.”Saniora stressed that “two wrongs don't make it right.”Asked if a cabinet that doesn't represent the March 14 and 8 alliances would survive, the ex-PM said: “such cabinet could deal with the people's daily interests and security, while we (March 14 and 8 coalitions) resume the national dialogue.”Endeavors are ongoing to end the cabinet deadlock amid reports that President Michel Suleiman insists on forming it ahead of the Independence Day on November 22 based on any distribution of portfolios as long as the rival parties agree.Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam continuously said that conditions and counter-conditions set by the rival sides have brought his efforts to form a cabinet to a stalemate. 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. However, Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah expressed support to Jumblat's proposal to form 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 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.
Berri Assures Will Follow Up on Israeli Espionage Activities 'Until the End'
Naharnet Newsdesk 13 November 2013/ Speaker Nabih Berri expressed his relief on Wednesday over the conclusions reached at the telecommunications committee's meeting on the Israeli spying report, praising also parliamentary “consensus” to confront Israel's activities. Berri urged during his weekly Wednesday talks with parliamentary blocs “continuing to exert necessary efforts” in this matter."The parliament will follow up on this issue until the end,” Berri assured, according to the state-run National News Agency. "This is a purely national case and it concerns the state, its institutions and all the Lebanese,” he said. The parliamentary telecommunications committee denounced on Monday the Israeli espionage stations along the border as violation of Lebanon's sovereignty, pointing out that it is happening despite the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 and the presence of the UNIFIL. The committee's meeting came after the speaker revealed on Wednesday that Israel had set up a number of espionage stations along its border with Lebanon, starting from al-Naqoura passing by Khayyam all the way to Sheba.The biggest espionage station is allegedly installed in al-Abbad and Jan al-Alam areas, which are located near the U.N. demarcated Blue line.Source/Agence France Presse.
Nasrallah: Killing shows country on dangerous path
November 13, 2013/By Antoine Amrieh/The Daily Star
TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah condemned the killing Tuesday of pro-Hezbollah Sunni Sheikh Saadeddine Ghiyyeh, warning that the assassination was blatant proof of the dangerous path events in the country and in Tripoli in particular were taking. “This assassination is a dangerous indicator and proof of the ominous path events are taking in Tripoli, in particular, and Lebanon in general,” Nasrallah said in a video addressing supporters in the Beirut southern suburbs, who were gathered for an Ashoura ceremony. March 8 parties and officials also condemned the killing arguing that violent rhetoric in Tripoli incited a masked gunmen to assassinate Ghiyyeh. Nasrallah described the killing as an act directly targeting the resistance. “This targets everyone who has the courage to express a view that is different than the ideas of the takfiri groups of Lebanon and the region,” Nasrallah said. He also voiced surprise that some political groups in Lebanon ignored the crime. The Hezbollah leader called on the state to deal with the assassination of Ghiyyeh just as it dealt with the explosions that rocked Beirut’s southern suburbs and Tripoli in July and August. A security source told The Daily Star that one of two gunmen on a motorcycle shot Ghiyyeh in the head, neck, shoulder and chest. Ghiyyeh was later transferred to Sayidet al-Hayat Hospital in Zghorta, where he died of his wounds, a source at the hospital told The Daily Star.
The security source said the gunman shot Ghiyyeh at close range as he attempted to get into his car parked outside his house in Buhsa, Tripoli. Ghiyyeh is an official in the Islamic Action Front and is close to pro-Syrian regime Sheikh Hashem Minqara, the head of the Islamic Tawhid Party. Several months ago, Minqara was briefly arrested after he was accused of withholding information about the August bombs in Tripoli that killed at least 47 people and wounded hundreds more. Hezbollah and the Islamic Action Front also have a history of close ties. Hezbollah also condemned the killing in a statement, saying such a murder was a product of the divisive sectarian rhetoric in the country, particularly in Tripoli. On Tuesday, Minqara spoke publicly about Ghiyyeh’s killing and called on the government to “uncover the criminals so that they get maximum punishment.”
“The state should put an end to the deteriorating and unprecedented security situation before it’s too late,” Minqara said in a televised news conference, reading a statement by the Islamic Tawhid Party. “Who will stop this madness in Tripoli?” he asked. Tuesday’s killing was the result of fiery speeches by political and religious figures, and this violence will continue to escalate against both supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime, he said.
“I hope everyone recognizes the danger of this critical phase,” he said.
Security agencies cordoned off the assassination scene and forensic teams stepped in. The crime sparked fears among Tripoli residents of possible retaliation by supporters of Minqara and the Islamic Action Front. Some shops shut down as a result. Reaction from the Future Movement was limited. Commenting on the assassination, Mustafa Alloush, a Future Movement official, said he did not know Ghiyyeh, but he opposed the “logic of killing, regardless of who it targeted.” The former MP said that people committing such acts of violence actually served the Syrian regime’s ends. He did not elaborate on how. Following its weekly meeting, the Future parliamentary bloc did not comment on the matter. For his part, caretaker Sports and Youth Minister Faisal Karami condemned the killing in a statement.
“I can only say that stopping the bloodshed is a patriotic and religious obligation in these difficult days,” said Karami, who hails from Tripoli. “Everyone involved in any criminal act is punishable under the law.”
Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun said the assassination of Ghiyyeh indicated that Tripoli was under the control of terrorists. “There is no security decision to stop problems in Tripoli – this is a joke,” Aoun told reporters after chairing the weekly meeting of the FPM bloc at his Rabieh residence. Sheikh Abdel-Amir Qabalan, vice president of the Higher Shiite Council, also condemned the crime as a terrorist act. Qabalan said the killing of Ghiyyeh, whose stances he described as moderate and open, aimed to kill wisdom, cooperation and openness. “It is the result of incitement to kill and spreading takfiri ideas that are sweeping the region and not sparing Lebanon,” Qabalan said in a statement. Qabalan called on the Army, other security bodies and the judiciary to punish the perpetrators to set an example.
Participation in Suleiman-King Abdullah Meeting a Point of Contention
Naharnet Newsdesk 13 November 2013/Conflicting reports emerged on Wednesday over whether President Michel Suleiman was aware that former Prime Minister Saad Hariri would be present during his meeting with Saudi King Abdullah in Riyadh. According to As Safir newspaper, Suleiman wasn't informed about Hariri's participation, wondering in a report about the aim of such a move by Saudi Arabia.
Diplomatic sources told the newspaper that Saudi Arabia deliberately invited Hariri to attend the meeting as a message to local and foreign parties that settling the Lebanese political crises will not happen without Hariri. The newspaper reported that during the meeting, which took place in Riyadh on Monday during Suleiman's one-day official visit to the Saudi capital, Hariri had a brief 10 minutes address.
Presidential Palace sources considered in comments published in As Safir that the royal will regarding Hariri's participation can not be “rejected.” the sources noted that the President wasn't annoyed by the matter as the point behind his visit to Saudi Arabia was to bridge the gap between the rival parties. However, al-Joumhouria newspaper reported on Wednesday that Suleiman was not dismayed by Hariri's participation in his meeting with King Abdullah. According to the daily, the Saudi Royal Diwan previously informed the Baabda Palace about the matter. Sources close to al-Mustaqbal movement, which is led by Hariri, told the newspaper that Riyadh wanted to stress by Hariri's participation on his key role in the local Lebanese affairs. “The matter isn't to target PM-designate Tammam Salam, who already has the support of Saudi Arabia and Hariri, but rather to stress on his role,” the sources pointed out. The president returned on Tuesday from Saudi Arabia, where a day earlier he held talks with King Abdullah during a meeting attended by Hariri, top Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Salman and the Saudi ministers of foreign affairs, interior and information. For his part Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awadh Asiri said in comments published in the Saudi newspaper Okaz that the meeting between King Abdullah and Suleiman was “fruitful and positive,” without mentioning Hariri. He pointed out that the two officials addressed the bilateral ties and ways to boost cooperation between the two countries. “Suleiman's visit reflects the depth of the Saudi-Lebanese ties,” Asiri told the newspaper, stressing that it was a perfect opportunity to respond to those who decided to forget the fundamental role played by the kingdom. According to As Safir newspaper, Suleiman didn't receive any clear answers about the cabinet crisis. A member in Suleiman's delegation that the President agreed with the Saudi officials on the importance of resolving the government deadlock, stressing that the details weren't discussed. “Saudi Arabia doesn't interfere in the matter but blesses the steps taken to end the dispute,” the source said.
Syria War Leads to Rise of Kidnappings in Lebanon
Naharnet Newsdesk 13 November 2013/For nearly three weeks, kidnappers held Lebanese pharmacist Wissam Khatib, threatening to kill him and his children if his family didn't pay a ransom of tens of thousands of dollars.
During his captivity, Khatib — often shackled and blindfolded — went through depression, terror, pain. But, he says, the trauma was not a surprise. A well-to-do pharmacist in the eastern city of Zahle, the 40-year-old Khatib knew he was a target. He had escaped one kidnapping attempt in August, when he saw masked gunmen approaching his pharmacy and fled before they saw him. He expected them to return, knowing that Lebanon's weak security forces couldn't help him. "The state knew, security forces knew, but they didn't help me at all," Khatib told The Associated Press.
Hostage-taking of wealthy businessmen in Lebanon has risen more than seven-fold in an unlikely knock-on effect from Syria's civil war. Security officials say gangs who once made their money smuggling fuel and contraband through the porous Syria-Lebanon border have watched their trade wither because of the violence, so they are turning to kidnapping to make a profit.
Lebanon is suffering multiple woes from the war next door. The tiny country, with a population of 4.5 million, has been flooded with an estimated 1 million Syrians fleeing the conflict. Also, tensions between its Sunni and Shiite communities have spiked, sometimes exploding into deadly clashes, mirroring the sectarian hatreds in Syria, where Sunnis largely support the rebellion, and Shiites and the Alawite sect back President Bashar Assad. The kidnapping wave — a more indirect repercussion — illustrates the multiple, unexpected ways that Lebanon, with its fragile hold on security, is vulnerable to the turmoil across the border. There are fears the problem could spread — and that abductions could spread beyond criminal activity and into political motives — as Syria's war, which began in March 2011, continues. "The reason why there are so many kidnappings is because the state is failing. State security is unable and cannot work," warned Lebanese security analyst Nizar Abdul-Qader. Security officials acknowledge they are overwhelmed by the mounting problems rooted in Syria's conflict.
"The weight on the state is heavy — it's above what the state can handle," said one official in the Interior Ministry, which is in charge of security forces. He said such kidnappings for ransom in the past were "very, very rare."The Internal Security Forces recorded 73 kidnappings between August 2011 and September 2013. In contrast, there were 14 cases total in the previous five years.
Most of the abductions take place in the eastern Bekaa Valley, where heavily armed clans hold sway, some of them involved in the smuggling trade.
Gangs once made their money sneaking cheap cigarettes, fuel, clothes and other items into Lebanon from Syria. But now, unable to freely pass through areas in Syria that have become war zones, they've turned their hand to kidnappings at home, three security officials told AP. They've found accomplices among Syrian and Lebanese men struggling in Lebanon's economy, hit hard by the war next door, the officials said.
The kidnapping is creating a sense of palpable panic. Lebanese media routinely runs pleas from families of the abducted.
On Oct. 12, the family of one seized man, Ramez Bahnam, went on TV to plead with the kidnappers to release him, saying his health would deteriorate. Hours later, they asked the kidnappers "to ensure he is taking his medicine regularly." Bahnam was released eight days later. The security officials said most kidnappings end with ransoms being paid, usually less than the high initial demands made by kidnappers, though families are usually reluctant to acknowledge paying, in part out of fears of becoming repeat targets.
Khatib, the pharmacist, said he was snatched in late September. As he opened his pharmacy in the early morning, masked gunmen screeched up in a car and forced him in. During 17 days in captivity, he was blindfolded and shackled, with the gunmen telling him they would kill his children if his family didn't pay the ransom. They also called his family, threatening to kill him. "I said, 'Kill me. Shred me to bits. But my family, nobody touches them,'" Khatib said. He was released on Oct. 16. Khatib denied paying any ransom, saying his kidnappers freed him because of pressure from tribal leaders, but the security officials said they believe some money was paid.
Among those snatched was Youssef Loubani, a 50-year-old Palestinian businessman living in Lebanon, whose kidnapping in the Bekaa Valley was reported on Nov. 4. He was released two days later, likely after his family paid off the kidnappers, a security official said. The new kidnappings have overwhelmingly targeted Lebanese and Arabs living in the country, not Westerners. So far, there's little interest in foreigners because of the media attention they attract, said analysts of the British risk-assessment firm Drum Cussac Information Services.
But in November, two German men were briefly seized en route to the Bekaa town of Shleifa. It wasn't clear why: Two security officials said the abduction came after an argument with drug dealers, but a third said the Germans were taken at gunpoint and ordered to pay for their freedom. While the wave of kidnappings is criminal in nature, there has been one major one more directly connected to Syria's war. In August, Lebanese gunmen kidnapped two Turkish pilots near Beirut airport, in retaliation for the abduction of nine Lebanese Shiite men by rebels in Syria in May 2012. The Shiites and Turks were freed last month under a three way deal that also freed a group of women held in Syrian prisons. Analysts and officials say al-Qaida-style kidnappings that often end with the slaughtering of their hostages is a distant scenario for now. But they warned Lebanon was vulnerable. The risk would grow if al-Qaida sought to punish Western countries, for instance, for becoming publicly involved in the Syrian crisis or were perceived to side with the Assad government, analysts of Drum Cussac Information Services said in a written response to questions. "Should the security situation in Lebanon degrade even further, there is indeed an elevated potential for such activity to occur," they said.
How to Fix the
Iran Nuclear Deal
By: Dennis Ross/Washington Institute
The administration needs to reassure its allies that the West can reach a limited nuclear agreement without damaging its negotiating position or the sanctions architecture.
As Secretary of State John Kerry and other ministers arrived in Geneva this past weekend, expectations rose that a limited agreement might be reached on the Iranian nuclear program. It was not, but the next meeting is already set for November 20, and while debate is likely to become more intense as to whether a limited agreement makes sense at this time, there is value in taking a step back and asking what might be achieved at this point and what could make it acceptable.
To begin with, it is worth recalling that "freeze for freeze" was a proposal that Javier Solana, representing the European Union, sought to produce in talks with his Iranian counterparts in 2007. The idea was the Iranians would freeze the development of their nuclear program -- meaning the enrichment of uranium and production of centrifuges -- in return for the freezing of sanctions on Iran. At the time, Iran's nuclear program had not accumulated even one bomb's worth of material and its centrifuges numbered a tiny fraction of what they have operating and installed today -- and while the Bush Administration supported the proposal, it was not part of the EU three's direct negotiations with the Iranians.
The freeze for freeze idea was never accepted by the Iranians, even though it was envisioned to be an initial step in a process to reach a wider agreement. Today, a variation of the freeze for freeze idea, also as the first step in a process, may be in the offing. To be sure, the realities are quite different than they were six years ago. Today, the United States is very much involved in the negotiations; Iran has accumulated as much as six bombs worth of enriched uranium, has produced close to 19,000 centrifuges, including more than a thousand of the next generation of IR-2 centrifuges which may be five times as efficient as their IR-1 predecessors; and is building a heavy water plant capable of yielding plutonium. And, of course, unlike six years ago, the Iranians are suffering from the weight of unprecedented economic sanctions.
The deal that was brooded in Geneva and may soon emerge might be described not as a freeze for a freeze but as a "cap for a cap" -- meaning that there would be a cap on the Iranian nuclear program and a cap on the sanctions that are being imposed on the Iranians. The Iranians would essentially suspend their enrichment of uranium at 20 percent, begin the process of converting it to fuel or diluting it to a less purified form, and not add to the number of centrifuges they have operating. While the Iranians operate and spin close to 10,000 centrifuges, a little more than half of what they have actually produced, they would not add to their overall number. But they would, however, be able to replace those centrifuges that break down, meaning that the Iranians would be permitted to continue to enrich uranium at the 3.5 to 5 percent level. So enrichment would be capped only at the level that uranium is purified and not by the amount that could still be accumulated.
There is one other important part of the Iranian nuclear program that is still at issue right now in the emerging deal: The heavy water plant the Iranians are building at Arak. The issue seems to be whether all work on it will be suspended for the six months of the "first step" deal. Heavy water would enable the Iranians to have an additional pathway to producing a nuclear bomb -- either through plutonium or through enriching uranium to weapons grade. Certainly, if the work on the Arak reactor is not suspended, the Iranians could continue down the path that would enable them to finish the plant by the end of 2014; once on-line, the plant could not be attacked without releasing Chernobyl-type radiation into the surrounding area and atmosphere. Indeed, the reason the Israelis attacked the Osirak reactor in Iraq in 1981 and the Syrian reactor at al-Khybar in 2006 before they became operational was to avoid the possibility of radiation releases.
In short, the emerging deal is one that would cap but not limit all of the Iranian nuclear program. In return for that, the sanctions regime would not be lifted, but a part of it would be relaxed. While the sanctions that restrict the Iranian ability to sell their oil and conduct normal financial transactions would not be touched, the Iranians would be allowed to access perhaps as much as $15 billion of its hard currency in foreign banks, trade in gold and precious metals, and apparently be able to import limited materials for some of its domestic industries.
One other point about the emerging deal: it is designed to be the first step in advance of reaching what might be described as an agreed definition of the civil nuclear power that Iran would be permitted to have. For the United States, the key is to ensure that the Iranian nuclear program would not leave Iran in a position in which it would have a break-out capability that would permit it to move quickly or at a time of its choosing to produce nuclear weapons. For the Iranians, they would be able to enrich, and the restrictions on their program would not single them out or undo their basic achievements. In theory, it ought to be possible to bridge the gaps if the Iranians are actually willing to have only a demonstrably peaceful nuclear capability.
At this point, it appears that the Obama Administration and its partners in the negotiations believe that President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif are willing to curtail the Iranian nuclear program but cannot, at this stage, go as far as we need them to go in extensively rolling back their nuclear infrastructure -- and we cannot lift the crippling sanctions on them unless they do so. On the one hand, we need time to negotiate a more far-reaching agreement -- or at least test whether it is possible; on the other, we don't want them to continue to advance their nuclear program in the intervening period. The so-called first step agreement is, thus, designed to buy us time by capping or limiting the Iranian nuclear infrastructure and development; in return for accepting such a cap, the Iranians would get a limited relaxation of sanctions. The Administration believes that we retain our leverage because the core sanctions regime will remain in place and the Iranian economy cannot recover without ending that regime.
And here is the rub with the Israelis and others in the Middle East: They fear that the limited relaxation of sanctions will quickly erode the sanctions regime. Notwithstanding our claims that the sanctions architecture will remain in place, there is a widespread belief in the Israeli security establishment that many governments and their private sectors will see an opening and will be convinced that they can and will be able to start doing business again. As they start approaching the Iranians, the Iranians will see that the sanctions are going to fray and they simply need to hang tough and concede no more. From the Israeli standpoint, the first step will thus be the last one and the Iranian program, even if capped, will be at such a high threshold that Iran will have a break-out capability. They see no reason to give up our leverage now and let the Iranians off the hook.
For its part, the Administration believes it is not doing so. It sees the Iranian economic needs remaining great, the limited relaxation can buy Rouhani more political space and the authority to negotiate more -- something he must do if Iran is to recover economically at a time when the expectations are again growing among the Iranian public. To dash those expectations won't just weaken Rouhani but ultimately threaten the regime itself -- or so the Administration seems to think. As such, it sees the limited agreement as weakening neither our negotiating position nor the sanctions architecture. Is it possible to bridge this divide in a way that also serves the aim of rolling the Iranian nuclear program back?
I believe so. First, we must be clear that the easing of sanctions will, in fact, be limited and will not affect our enforcement of existing sanctions and those who try to evade them. We will continue to vigorously pursue all loopholes and efforts to work around sanctions. This also means that we must continue to emphasize the reputational costs to any businesses that seek to resume commerce directly or indirectly with Iran.
Second, while the Administration has asked Congress to hold back on adopting new sanctions for now so as not to undercut Rouhani, I think we must also recognize the importance of signaling the Iranians and everyone else that there will be an intensification of sanctions if the diplomacy fails to produce an end-game agreement. Rouhani is president precisely because of the high cost of sanctions. There should be no illusions about what happens if diplomacy fails to significantly roll back the Iranian nuclear program. We don't do Rouhani any favors if the appearance takes hold that there will be no more sanctions -- even if there are no more agreements. From that standpoint, why not accept an approach in which the Congress adopts the next wave of sanctions but agree that they will not be implemented until the end of the six month period of the first step agreement or a clear break down of diplomacy.
Third, at least with our friends who are concerned about what they perceive as our eagerness for any deal with the Iranians -- and this perception is held even more deeply among our Arab friends than the Israelis -- we should be clearer about what we mean by rolling-back the Iranian nuclear program. I understand not wanting to negotiate among ourselves and not giving away bottom lines, but one reason the first step deal seems so alarming to the Israelis and others is they don't know what we mean by a bad deal at the end of the day. They seem to think that we are so eager to avoid the use of force, given public opinion, that we will accept anything. We need to let others know, at least privately, that prevention remains the objective and has always meant that if diplomacy fails, force is the likely result. In addition, we should also make clear that we have a number of absolute requirements for any nuclear end-state agreement: Iran must dramatically reduce the number of centrifuges, ship out essentially all of its enriched uranium and, at a minimum, convert its heavy water plant into a light water reactor. In short, we must convey more clearly that we know where we are going on the nuclear issue with Iran.
The benefit of leveling in this fashion is that it not only puts the Iranians on notice but also reassures our friends in the area. That may be especially important at a time when the Administration needs to send a message other than that it is lessening our interests and stakes in the region and has bigger fish to fry elsewhere in the world.
**Dennis Ross is counselor at The Washington Institute.
The Myth of the
By: Laurence Louër/Asharq Alawsat
The notion of “Shi’a crescent” was first articulated in late 2004 by King Abdullah of Jordan in an interview he gave a few weeks before the first parliamentary elections in Iraq, in which he expressed his fears about the growing influence of Iran in the Arab Middle East. Since then, the “Shi’a crescent” has been used extensively in the media in its analysis of the reshaping of Middle Eastern politics. Several developments in the region have fed into this narrative: the ongoing role of Hezbollah in Lebanon and its more recent involvement in the Syrian civil war, the fact that Bashar Al-Assad’s regime draws much of its support from Alawites (an offshoot of Shi’a Islam), and accusations of an alliance between Iran and Yemen’s Houthi rebels, to name just a few. The success of this expression reveals some of the preconceptions that circulate, in the Middle East and elsewhere, about the Arab Shi’a and their relations with Iran. First, the Shi’a are seen as constituting a unified body that crosses national borders that puts obedience to religious authority higher than loyalty to nation and political rulers. Secondly, the Shi’a are considered inherently tied to Iran, a state that would command both their religious and political loyalty. These views are not only distorting the reality: They lead to dangerous domestic and foreign policies that undermine social integration and political stability, and feed the rhetoric of the radical Salafists who are doing so much to create sectarian discord.
A multipolar Shi’a world
A distinct feature of contemporary Shi’ism is the existence of a clerical class with an important cultural role. It is dominated by large families, often claiming descent from the Prophet Mohammed, who are organized on a transnational and trans-ethnic basis, with branches scattered to the main corners of the Shi’a world. However, this has not had the effect of unifying the Shi’a into a single body. In fact, in this case the opposite has occurred, with Shi’a clerics divided between rival poles of religious authority, promoting different views and competing for influence in society. The most well-known of these rivalries is between the cities of Najaf and Qom.
Over the course of the 19th century, Najaf became the main religious learning center and the place of residence of the most influential Shi’a religious scholars. It is there that the doctrine of the marjaiya al-taqlid (“the source of emulation”) was elaborated. Enjoying canonical status today, it stipulates that every Shi’ite who has not reached the capacity to practice ijtihad (literally “diligence,” but here meaning the independent interpretation of religious law) must follow the views of a particularly knowledgeable religious scholar called the marja (al-taqlid). The rulings of the marja are spread through networks of agents (wakil), official representatives of the marja and, increasingly, through modern means of communication including books, leaflets and websites.
Najaf succeeded in maintaining its preeminent position in religious learning until the 1980s. Since then, it has had to face the ascent of Qom in Iran. The city rapidly grew in influence after the revolution that overthrew the shah in 1979, as the new Iranian regime invested heavily in the development of its infrastructure. The city also benefited from the repression of Najaf’s religious seminars by the Ba’athist regime, which pushed hundreds of religious scholars and students, both Iraqis and foreigners, to leave Iraq. Many found refuge in Qom, where they found a propitious environment for pursuing their scholarly activities. If Qom came to replace Najaf as the main learning center after the revolution, it never replaced it as the place of residence of the most widely followed marja worldwide. Ruhollah Khomeini was no doubt celebrated by many Shi’as, scholars and laymen, as the man who brought down the shah’s tyrannical regime. However, despite all his efforts to promote himself as a transnational marja, he never matched the religious influence of Najaf’s marjaiya, namely Abu Al-Qasem Khoei, who was the main marja of Najaf between 1970 and 1992. He remained the most widely followed religious scholar in the Shi’a world despite being subjected to strict control by the Ba’athist regime.
Khoei, and today Ali Sistani, who has followed him as the principal scholar of Najaf, have rejected some important ideas put forward by Khomeini, most conspicuously the famous doctrine of velayat-e faqih, which is the doctrinal pillar of the Islamic Republic of Iran and stipulates that an Islamic state must be ruled by a mujtahid. This conception goes against mainstream Shi’a religious thinking about state and government, which is more accommodating of different types of government, providing it allows its Shi’a citizens to practice their faith. Thus Ali Al-Sistani has clearly said that democracy is a perfectly legitimate form of government, and has claimed no direct governmental role for clerics in a post-Saddam Iraq, even calling for political leaders who wear a turban to not accept ministerial portfolios. In his view, and in that of many of his peers, direct involvement in politics is detrimental to faith and religious institutions.
This view is widely shared beyond Najaf, including in Qom itself, where Khomeini had difficulty finding supporters among high-ranking clerics. This led him to endorse a junior cleric, Ali Khamenei, as his successor, and upon his accession to the post of supreme leader in 1989 Khamenei was hardly recognized as a mujtahid, and certainly not as a marja. He tried to impose himself on the higher-ranking scholars of Qom, including attempts at coercion, and, when he realized that he could not force the hearts and minds of his peers, declared in 1995 that he would only exercise his religious authority outside of Iran. His attempts were rebuffed by many, especially in the Arab world. Mohammed Husein Fadlallah, a Lebanese mujtahid born and trained in Najaf, and who became one of the foremost religious references of Lebanese Shi’a and was close to Hezbollah, declared himself a marja shortly afterwards, a clear way of saying that he refused to recognize Khamenei’s authority.
The Islamic Republic of Iran: A controversial model
The velayat-e faqih doctrine and the Iranian state model it sustains are also the subject of fierce debates within Shi’a political Islam. Upon the advent of the Iranian revolution, the various Shi’a Islamic movements were enthusiastic about this development, becoming the main channels for the exportation of the revolution, which was a pillar of Iranian foreign policy in the aftermath of the revolution. This was particularly so of the two rival transnational activist networks of Al-Da’wa Al-Islamiyya (the Islamic Call), which originated in Najaf’s religious seminars, and the Message Movement, stemming from a group of clerical families from the city of Karbala led by the marja Mohammed Al-Shirazi. Born in Iraq in the late 1950s and 1960s, the two movements spread to Lebanon and the Gulf monarchies, most notably Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain.
The Lebanese cell of Al-Da’wa was one of the main constituents of Hezbollah upon the movement’s creation in 1982. In Kuwait, Al-Da’wa activists formed a legal opposition group that competed for votes in elections. In Bahrain, the movement included some of the most senior opponents to the government and was among those demanding the reinstatement of the parliament that was disbanded in 1975. While it did not call for the advent of an Islamic revolution, it was a major contributor in spreading Khomeini’s ideas in the country.
Constituting itself into a network of influence that remained supportive of the political establishment in Kuwait, seen as benevolent to the Shi’as, the Message Movement turned into a revolutionary movement in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, where it made itself known under names that left no ambiguity about its program: the Organization for the Islamic Revolution in the Arabian Peninsula (OIRAP) and the Islamic Front for the Liberation of Bahrain (IFLB). OIRAP was behind the events that came to be known as the Intifada of Muhrram 1400 (November 1979) in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province. The IFLB prepared a coup in 1981, which ended up with the arrest or exile of the majority of the movement’s members.
The upsurge of enthusiasm for the Iranian experience among Shi’a activists progressively weakened following deep shifts in regional politics. On the Iranian domestic scene, the end of the 1980s, marked by the drawing down of the war with Iraq in 1988, witnessed the sidelining of the traditional supporters of the revolutionary Shi’a movements in favor of those, such as Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who wished to rebuild Iran’s relations with its neighbors and world powers. Some Shi’a activists who were still dreaming of bringing down the “unjust rulers” felt betrayed, and others took the opportunity to redefine their goals in ways more in line with what seemed possible: fighting with political means for reforms that would enable the Shi’as to have a better share of wealth and power in countries where they suffered from discrimination. Many of those who embraced this reformist approach reflected that it had been an error to put their destiny in Iranian hands. They were also disappointed with the Iranian experience, considering that the Islamic Republic had evolved into an authoritarian regime. This was notably the case of a group of lay officials of Iraqi Al-Da‘wa, who split from those, mostly clerics, who continued to pledge allegiance to Khomeini. They left Iran for Syria and Western Europe. Saudi OIRAP followed suit and renamed itself the Reform Movement.
Others, who are referred to in Shi’a Islamist parlance as “the Hezbollah line” or the “Imam’s Line” (“Imam” referring to Khomeini), remained committed to the Iranian political model and the doctrine of velayat-e faqih. However, they reached the conclusion that this model was only implementable in Iran, where the vast majority of the population professes the Shi’a creed. In countries where Shi’as had to coexist with other sizable religious communities, the aim of creating an Islamic republic was abandoned in favor of establishing pluralist political systems. This was the option put forward by Hezbollah in Lebanon in the aftermath of the civil war.
The reformist shift was further fostered by major domestic changes that occurred in several Arab countries with Shi’a communities in the course of the 1990s and early 2000s. In Lebanon, the end of the civil war allowed the return of democracy. Parliaments were reinstated in Kuwait (1992) and Bahrain (2002), while in Saudi Arabia a Consultative Council was created in 1992, followed by municipal elections in 2005 where the Shi’a candidates did very well in the Shi’a localities of the Eastern Province. These changes were accompanied by amnesty for most Shi’a political prisoners and exiles. The most far-reaching changes occurred in Bahrain, where the various trends of Shi’a political Islam gathered under the umbrella of a new political movement, Al-Wifaq (The Accord), the goal of which was to achieve a genuine constitutional democracy.
In Iraq, the deposition of Saddam Hussein in 2003 permitted Iraqi Shi’a activists to seize power. The chaos that followed the military intervention favored the penetration of Iranian networks of influence in the country. As a result of that, nowhere has the debate about relations with Iran and the doctrine of velayat-e faqih been fiercer. The various Shi’a candidates were initially divided between those who favored a national line but had been exiled for years, such as the Al-Da’wa, which included current prime minister Nuri Al-Maliki and those who continued to rely on Iran materially and ideologically, such as the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), controlled by members of the Al-Hakim clerical family who came back to Iraq directly from Iran. There were also those who had never left Iraq, such as Muqtada Al-Sadr, an Arab and Iraqi nationalist who deeply resented the domination of the exiled activists and the penetration of Iranian influence.
The reshaping of these movements’ political ideologies and alliances that took place after the first Iraqi elections is revealing of the actual state of the relations between Iran and Shi’a Islamic activists. Nouri Al-Maliki has conspicuously accentuated his image of an Iraqi nationalist leader, seeking supports in all segments of Iraqi society as well as Iranian support against his rivals. SCIRI has renamed itself the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council and declared that it recognizes the religious authority of Ali Sistani, dropping the aim of establishing an Islamic republic in Iraq and renouncing its previous support for Ali Khamenei as the sole legitimate religious authority. As for Muqtada Al-Sadr, he has courted Iran to obtain the material, logistical and political support he needed to become a major power broker.
The lesson to be drawn from this plasticity of ideologies and alliances is that Iran has been desacralized among a growing number of Shi’a Islamic activists, and hence has become an ordinary player in Shi’a Arab politics. No longer the bearer of a hegemonic political model, it is just another regime seeking to play a role in regional politics through unstable alliances with proxies with whom it shares interests at a certain moment in time, rather than a clearly articulated ideology.
This article was originally published in The Majalla.
***Laurence Louër is research fellow at the Centre d'études et de recherches internationales (Ceri) in Paris. She is the author of Transnational Shia Politics: Religious and Political Networks in the Gulf (Columbia/Hurst, 2012).
White House: Iran turned down proposal at Geneva
Ynetnews/Despite reported progress in nuclear talks, White House says Iranians did not accept proposal. PM Netanyahu says he supports diplomatic effort, but not proposal that was presented
Yitzhak Benhorin Published: 11.12.13, 23:05 / Israel News
WASHINGTON – The White House released a statement Tuesday saying that Iran turned down the proposal of the six powers at the Geneva talks.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that "the P-5 plus one were unified on the proposal that was put forward and that the Iranians did not accept that proposal. And that's a statement of fact." He noted that while important progress was made, "gaps remain, and there are still important issues to be addressed between the P-5 plus one and Iran, and that is why there will be a break, as you know, and the P-5 plus one will resume negotiations with Iran on November 21st and 22nd." Carney noted that "the purpose of these negotiations is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon... Resolving this diplomatically is the best way to resolve it. It is the responsibility of the president to pursue a diplomatic opening, because the best way to ensure that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon is to achieve an agreement through diplomacy, an agreement that's verifiable, that's transparent and that requires Iran to take concrete steps. "The alternative is military action. The president has never taken any option off the table, and he does not now and will not. But it is his responsibility as president to pursue a diplomatic opening to see if it is possible to resolve this issue peacefully. "The American people justifiably and understandably prefer a peaceful solution that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and this agreement, if it's achieved, has the potential to do that. The American people do not want a march to war," the US press secretary added. Addressing the attempts to resolve the issue of nuclear Iran diplomatically, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday in a Tel Aviv conference on alternative fuel, that Israel is interested in a diplomatic solution, but not the one proposed in Geneva. "We want a diplomatic solution that's a real solution," Netanyahu said. "A good deal that dismantles Iran's nuclear capabilities." The prime minister noted that Israel was interested in "preventing Iran from achieving its goal, from developing nuclear capability." He added that the deal devised in Geneva "leaves Iran with all its facilities… gives Iran a tremendous break," adding that he speaks "not only on behalf of Israel, but also on behalf of many, many others. I speak for a bigger cause – the cause of peace."
White House says world powers are united in Iran talks
Reuters – WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House said on Tuesday that world powers are united in their effort to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran in spite of signs of a split.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the United States and its key allies were united in Geneva at a round of talks that ended on Saturday and that "we remain united." The Geneva talks broke up without a deal. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said afterward that France would not accept a "fool's game," an indication that Paris opposed the deal that was being negotiated. Carney said the United States is still working toward a deal. More talks are scheduled for later this month. He said any deal that is reached would be one that "absolutely meets our standards" that would be a verifiable way to ensure Iran is not developing a nuclear weapon. "We need to pursue this. We need to see if Iran is serious," he said.
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Will Dunham)
Saudi rejects U.N. Security Council seat, opening way for Jordan
By Michelle Nichols | Reuters –UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia officially notified the United Nations on Tuesday of its decision to reject a seat on the U.N. Security Council, which U.N. diplomats said clears the way for the likely election of Jordan as a replacement. The 193-member U.N. General Assembly elected Saudi Arabia last month for a two-year council term from January 1 but, in a surprise move, Riyadh declined the position a day after the vote in protest of the council's failure to end the Syria war and act on other Middle East issues. Western diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Friday it appeared Jordan had agreed to replace Saudi Arabia on the council after dropping out of a race against Riyadh for a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council. Jordan's place on the Security Council still would need to be approved by two-thirds of the General Assembly. Saudi's official letter on Tuesday to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon allows for a new election to be called. "I wish to inform you that the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has decided to advise you that Saudi Arabia will regrettably not be in position to assume its seat in the Security Council to which it was elected," Saudi Arabia's U.N. ambassador, Abdullah al-Mouallimi, wrote. He attached to the short letter a copy of a Saudi Foreign Ministry statement that was issued a day after the Security Council election last month and outlines Saudi's decision to decline the seat.
Saudi Arabia, Cuba, China and Russia on Tuesday won three-year seats on the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, the United Nations' top rights body, despite concerns about abuses and restrictions on freedoms in all four nations. Mouallimi called on Friday for "profound and comprehensive" reform of the U.N. Security Council that includes expanding its membership and "abandoning the veto system or restricting its use."
"The Security Council has failed to address the situation in the Palestinian and Arab occupied territories, an issue under consideration by the council for more than six decades," Mouallimi told a General Assembly debate on council reform. "The Syrian crisis continues, with a regime bent on suppressing the will of its people by brutal force, killing and displacing millions of people under the watch and sight of a council paralyzed by the abuse of the veto system," he said. Syrian ally Russia, backed by China, has vetoed three council resolutions since October 2011 that would have condemned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government and threatened it with sanctions.
Saudi Arabia has warned of a shift away from the United States in part over what it sees as Washington's failure to take action against Assad and its policies on Iran.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia last week and praised the U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia as strategic and enduring but strains in the nearly 70-year-old relationship were apparent.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Bill Trott)
Report: Khamenei's conglomerate
thrived as sanctions squeezed Iran
Reuters Published: 11.12.13, 18:20 / Israel News
While Iranians were suffocating under economic sanctions, supreme leader’s business entity, Setad, managed to avoid sanctions. Recently, US Treasury added Setad to list. Although Khamenei not specifically named, US officials say financial dynasty clearly under his office’s control. Seven years ago, the United Nations and Western powers began subjecting Tehran to steadily harsher economic sanctions. Around the same time, an organization controlled by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei started to study how some developing economies managed to grow fast.
Setad, as the organization is known, had amassed billions of dollars in property seized from Iranian citizens. What Iran lacked and needed, Setad decided, was conglomerates on a par with those of South Korea, Japan, Brazil and the United States.According to an account this year by a senior official in the unit that oversees Setad's financial investments, Ali Ashraf Afkhami, the organization also picked the perfect candidate to create an Iranian national champion: Setad itself. The ayatollah's organization would go on to acquire stakes in a major bank by 2007 and in Iran's largest telecommunications company in 2009. Among dozens of other investments, it took over a giant holding company in 2010. An organizational chart labeled "SETAD at a Glance," prepared in 2010 by one of Setad's companies and seen by Reuters, illustrates how big it had grown. The document shows holdings in major banks, a brokerage, an insurance company, power plants, energy and construction firms, a refinery, a cement company and soft drinks manufacturing.
Today, Setad's vast operations provide an independent source of revenue and patronage for Supreme Leader Khamenei, even as the West squeezes the Iranian economy harder with sanctions in an attempt to end the nuclear-development program he controls. "He has a huge sum at his disposal that he can spend," says Mohsen Sazegara, a co-founder of the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps military force, who is now living in exile in the United States. "When you have this much money, that's power itself." Even as Setad was gaining ever-greater control over the Iranian economy in recent years, the Western powers knew of the organization and its connection to the supreme leader - the one man with the power to halt Tehran's uranium-enrichment program. But they moved cautiously, and Setad largely escaped foreign pressure.
In July 2010, the European Union included Mohammad Mokhber, president of Setad, in a list of individuals and entities it was sanctioning for alleged involvement in "nuclear or ballistic missiles activities." Two years later, it removed him from the list. In 1, the US Treasury Department added Setad and 37 companies it "oversees" to its list of sanctioned entities. Khamenei wasn't named in the announcement, but a Treasury official later told a Senate committee that Setad is controlled by the supreme leader's office.
Asked why Khamenei himself wasn't targeted, US officials told Reuters they did not want to play into the hands of Iranian officials who maintain that Washington's ultimate goal in pressuring Iran with sanctions is to topple the government. "Regime change is not our policy," said one US official. "But putting pressure on this regime certainly is." By the time Setad felt the pressure, it was already a giant.
Setad was founded with modest ambitions. Its genesis was a two-paragraph order issued in 1989 by Khamenei's predecessor, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, shortly before he died. The order directed two aides to sell and manage properties that had supposedly been abandoned during the chaotic years following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and channel much of the proceeds to charity. The edict ultimately sparked a new organization whose full name in Persian is "Setad Ejraiye Farmane Hazrate Emam" – the Headquarters for Executing the Order of the Imam. According to one of its co-founders, Setad was meant to last two years. But under Khamenei's control, it remained in business, amassing a giant portfolio of real estate by claiming in Iranian courts, sometimes falsely, that the properties were abandoned. In fact, many were seized from members of religious minorities, and business people and other Iranians living abroad. Since 2000 it has moved into almost every area of the economy. In an interview, David Cohen, the Treasury Department's Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said Setad now generates "billions of dollars a year" in revenue. He added that "the supreme leader's own money is handled and invested in" a Setad division known as the Tadbir Economic Development Group, although he said the amount isn't known. A Treasury Department spokesman said Tadbir also manages investments for "other leadership figures" in Iran, but didn't name them.
The Iranian president's office, the foreign ministry and Tadbir Economic Development Group didn't respond to requests for comment. Iran's embassy in the United Arab Emirates issued a statement calling Reuters' findings "scattered and disparate" and said that "none has any basis." It didn't elaborate. Setad's director general of public relations, Hamid Vaezi, said in an email that the Reuters series is "far from realities and is not correct" but didn't go into specifics. In a subsequent message, he said Setad disputes the Treasury allegations and is in the process of hiring US legal counsel to challenge the sanctions.
Setad's total net worth is difficult to pinpoint due to the secrecy of its accounts and because its stakes in companies frequently change. But Reuters was able to identify holdings of real estate, corporate investments and other assets in Setad's control worth about $95 billion. That estimate is based on statements by Setad officials, data from the Tehran Stock Exchange and company websites, and information from the Treasury Department.
About $52 billion of that sum is in property. The head of Setad's real-estate division said the property unit was worth that amount at a press conference in 2008. It is possible that this figure has risen or fallen since then as the portfolio has evolved. Setad also has an estimated $43 billion or more in corporate holdings, Reuters found with about $40-billion stake in Rey Investment Co., $3-billion stake in the country’s largest telecom provider, and minority stake in at least 24 publicly traded and 14 private companies. The Revolutionary Guards, the powerful military unit tasked with protecting Iran from both domestic and foreign threats, has long held a pivotal role in the country's economy, with extensive holdings in defense, construction and oil industries, according to the US State Department. Setad gives the supreme leader a significant financial resource of his own, one that greatly adds to his power. Khamenei appoints Setad's board of directors but delegates management of the organization to others, according to one former employee. This person said the supreme leader is primarily concerned about one thing: its annual profits, which he uses to fund his bureaucracy. "All he cares about is the number," this person said
Pope describes Jews as 'our big
Reuters Published: 11.11.13, 15:05 / Israel Jewish Scene
In words of solidarity marking 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, Francis says Nazi state-sponsored ransacking of Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues should not be forgotten
Pope Francis described the Jewish people as the "big brothers" of his Roman Catholic flock on Sunday in words of solidarity marking the 75th anniversary of the Kristallnacht attacks on Jews and their property in Nazi Germany. Francis said the state-sponsored ransacking of Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues, on the night of November 9, 1938, in which scores of Jewish people were killed, marked a step towards the Holocaust and should not be forgotten. "We renew our closeness and solidarity to the Jewish people, our big brothers, and pray to God that the memory of the past and of the sins of the past helps us to be always vigilant against every form of hate and intolerance," Francis told thousands in St. Peter's Square in his Sunday mass. The leader of the Roman Catholic Church has pledged good relations with Jews and his March election was welcomed by the world's Jewish associations. Francis co-authored a book on interfaith dialogue with Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka while he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires.
Egypt's Morsi to Sue Rulers over 'Coup'
Naharnet Newsdesk 13 November 2013/Deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi plans to sue the army-installed authorities over his ouster, warning that stability will only return once their "coup" is annulled, his lawyer said Wednesday. Mohamed al-Damati and a team of lawyers on Monday visited Morsi in jail, where he is awaiting the next hearing in a trial on charges of involvement in the deaths of protesters during his year-long presidency.
"The president plans to take legal measures against the coup, and this will be up to the defense team in the near future," Damati told reporters. "There are complaints which will be presented to the prosecutor general (to say) that what happened was a crime."Damati also said complaints could be filed to the administrative court to annul "the move by (military chief) General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi" to topple Morsi. Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected president, was removed from office by the army on July 3 after mass protests calling for his resignation. He insists that he remains the president of Egypt and has rejected the legitimacy of the court trying him. In a letter read out by his lawyers, he reiterated his rejection of the process and warned of continuing unrest. "Egypt will not regain its stability except by annulling this coup," Morsi said. Unrest has spiked in the country since Morsi's overthrow, and the bitter divisions between his supporters and opponents have deepened. Morsi's supporters have been holding near-daily protests around the country despite a massive crackdown by the authorities that has killed more than 1,000 people. Another 2,000 people, including the top leadership of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, are behind bars. Morsi was catapulted from the long-banned Muslim Brotherhood to the presidency after winning Egypt's first free elections in 2012. His victory was made possible by the 2011 uprising that toppled long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak. But his short-lived presidency was marred by political turmoil, deadly clashes and a crippling economic crisis, prompting millions to take to the streets in June to demand his resignation.Source/Agence France Presse.
Muslim Persecution of Christians:
By Raymond Ibrahim/ November 12, 2013/in Muslim Persecution of Christians
The attacks on Egypt’s Coptic Christians and their churches that began in July on the heels of the popular June 30 Revolution — which saw the ousting of President Morsi and prompted the Muslim Brotherhood to scapegoat and incite violence against the Copts — became even more brutal in mid-August after security forces cleared out Brotherhood “sit in” camps, where people were being tortured, raped, and murdered. Among other things, over 80 Christian churches were attacked and often torched. (Click here for a brief video of one of these many churches set aflame.)
Upper Egypt, especially Minya, which has a large Christian minority, was hit especially hard, with at least 20 attacks on churches, Christian schools and orphanages. “The Islamists,” one resident said, “burnt and destroyed everything. Their goal was to erase all the traces of a Christian presence; even the orphanages were looted and destroyed.” After storming the Prince Tadros el-Shatbi Church, Morsi supporters turned their attention to two homes for disadvantaged children located near the parish church; there, they stole church offerings, clothes, and children’s games before torching the entire building in a fire that lasted over five hours.
The attacks were not limited to inanimate objects. According to the BBC, 10-year-old Jessi Boulus, an only child, was walking home from her Bible class in a working-class area of the capital when a gunman killed her with a single shot to the chest. Her mother, Phoebe, devastated, believes Jessi was targeted purely because she was Christian.
The attacks on Egypt’s Christians were so fierce that, at one point, when they started to run out of food, they were afraid to come out of their homes for fear of being killed by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Many churches canceled services. Even at the Virgin Mary monastery, which was also torched, one priest said, “We did not hold prayers in the monastery on Sunday for the first time in 1,600 years.”
Although some in the West assert that the Christian minority needs to fight fire with fire, when one 60-year-old Copt tried to do just that, firing a gun in the air to scare away an invading Islamic mob, “It proved a fatal error,” the Sunday Times reported: “They took offence at the fact that a Christian fired in the air against them, and they stormed his home and shot him to death before taking his body away and hacking it into parts.”
Scenes reminiscent of the original Islamic conquest of Seventh Century Egypt replayed themselves: an Evangelical church in the village of Bedin was not only attacked but converted into a mosque. Similarly, as reported by the AP, “After torching a Franciscan school, Islamists paraded three nuns on the streets like ‘prisoners of war’ before a Muslim woman offered them refuge. Two other women working at the school were sexually harassed and abused as they fought their way through a mob.”
Meanwhile, the Western mainstream media sympathized with the Brotherhood while ignoring the Coptic victims. Even the Coptic Church criticized the “false broadcast by Western media” and called for an “objective” revision to be made of the actions of those “blood-thirsty radical organizations…. [I]nstead of legitimizing them with global support and political coverage while they are trying to wreak havoc and destruction upon our beloved land, report all events truthfully and accurately.”
One activist said of the U.S. and the EU, that they “almost daily issue statements threatening to take further actions against our interim government and army, portraying the Muslim Brotherhood as victims while not even mentioning the destruction of over 80 churches, as well monasteries, orphanages, businesses and Coptic schools by the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Father Rafic Greiche, the chief spokesman for the Catholic Church in Egypt, criticized President Obama for not speaking out against the worst violence against Egyptian Christians in nearly 700 years: “President Obama when he made a speech he just touched on the burning churches instead of telling the Muslim Brotherhood that they are terrorists and they are making terror on Egypt. He did not speak loud for this and shame on him if he is a Christian that he does not speak out loud.”
Even more telling, although human rights activists and lawmakers have long been asking that U.S. aid to Egypt be made contingent on the respect for the human rights of minorities such as the Copts, the Obama administration failed to include such a condition. In a direct response to the ousting of the Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, however, the administration did reduce U.S. aid to Egypt by hundreds of millions of dollars. The rest of August’s roundup of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes (but is not limited to) the following accounts, listed by theme and country in alphabetical order, not according to severity:
Attacks on Christian Places of Worship
Nigeria: A report revealed that, since January 2012 alone, 50 Christian churches were attacked and 366 people killed in those attacks. (Attacks on churches, however, have been going on for well over a decade; hundreds if not thousands of churches have been destroyed.) In August, a Muslim mob with knives and iron rods injured several members of the St. James Anglican Cathedral in Nasarawa—including three pastors, four elders and choir members. According to a source, a “Muslim woman sent her children to purchase water from the church’s borehole, and then a misunderstanding over about 5 naira [less than 1 cent US$] occurred. The Muslim woman then went and invited some of her Muslim neighbors, who stormed the church and attacked the members of the church” as well as damaging Bibles and other property.
Syria: The Antiochian Orthodox church of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus, one of only two churches that served many Christians, was demolished after the Free Syrian Army took over the region of Thawrah. According to one Christian refugee: “They [FSA] tore up the sanctuary curtains, Bibles and other holy books, and broke all the crosses, chairs and icons of Jesus and the saints. They stole electrical appliances like fans, chandeliers and lights. They took whatever was in the church, and sold it all. There is nothing there now.”
Turkey: After the Christian staff of the Saint Abraham monastery told a group of Muslims that visiting hours were over, the Muslims threatened, cursed, and ultimately attacked the staff, saying “we own this land, obey us or you will be sorry.” According to a member of the monastery, “The monastery was attacked two months before this incident by young [Muslim] Kurds from the town of Batman, but we decided not to go public about it, this time we decided it’s enough. We gave the police the footage from the surveillance camera from the previous attack and now it is gone and no one was punished. They promised us to put guards here but we don’t see any and when they [the police] came yesterday, they attacked us with pepper spray instead of the attackers. Certainly all this cannot be merely coincidences.”
Apostasy, Blasphemy, and Proselytism
Iran: Mohammad-Hadi Bordbar, known as Mostafa, an Iranian convert to Christianity, was sentenced to ten years in prison under the pretext of “crimes against state security.” Court documents state that the man confessed to “having abandoned Islam to follow Christianity … considering evangelization his duty, he distributed 12,000 pocket gospels.” According to Agenzia Fides, “After having received baptism, Mostafa had set up a ‘house church,’ an assembly of home worship, with prayer meetings at home, which are considered ‘illegal.’ Mostafa was arrested in Tehran on December 27, 2012, after a police raid at his house. The security officers detained and interrogated all those present at the meeting for hours, about 50 Iranian Christians. In his home the police found material and Christian publications, such as movies, books, CDs and over 6,000 copies of the Gospel. Mostafa had already been arrested in 2009 for conversion to Christianity, found guilty of apostasy, then released on bail. Similarly, Ebrahim Firouzi, another young convert from Islam to Christianity, was sentenced to one year in jail followed by two years in exile, after being accused of starting and directing an evangelism group, launching a Christian website, distributing Bibles and Christian literature, and attending house churches. The judge described such activities as “propagating against the Islamic regime” and said that Ebrahim was “an anti-Islamic Revolution agent inside the country.”
Uzbekistan: In the Samarkand region, some 30 police officers along with 60 other officials raided a Christian children’s camp, subjecting all 22 children to questioning. Brandishing their batons, police collected statements from the nine adults present at the camp, and all the children, including the youngest, and took them all to the police station for further questioning before releasing them. Officials confiscated a number of items including Christian literature and Uzbek-language New Testaments. Next, police raided the homes of the four adults who organized the children’s camp, and confiscated more Christian literature. It is believed that anti-proselytism related charges will be leveled against the four.
Slaughter of Christians
Central African Republic: Anywhere from 15 Christians to dozens, including a five-month-old baby, were slaughtered and 14 Christian villages emptied, after the Islamic group Seleka, which earlier seized the African nation’s leadership, raided their villages. According to Fr. Gazzera, a local missionary priest from Italy, “It was terrible. Many villages are like ghost towns because they are completely empty. Witnesses told me that the rebels had thrown the bodies of those killed in the river.” During a sermon, the priest lamented how the Islamic takeover of the country is producing “victims of the worst kind of barbarism” who “are being tortured and killed,” while “our mothers and sisters are being raped.”
Nigeria: A former Muslim terrorist recounted in detail the jihad on Christians and how Islamic organizations in the nation, not just Boko Haram, see the slaughter of Christians as one of the loftiest goals to which Muslims can aspire. He also explained how, “If we ask our victim, ‘Will you become a Muslim or not’ and he or she refuses, we will slaughter him like a goat…”
Somalia: Suspected al-Shabaab Islamic militants kidnapped and sexually abused a 28-year-old Christian wife and mother, while calling her an “infidel.” They also texted her husband, who had fled with their small children, saying: “Your wife has told us all about your Christian involvement and soon we shall come for you too.”
Syria: Islamic rebels killed Paolo Dall’Oglio an Italian Jesuit priest who had earlier disappeared in the east of the country. Before being slaughtered, the priest had served for three decades in the Monastery of Saint Moses the Abyssinian. Activists say he was killed by the al-Qaeda linked Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. Dall’Oglio’s disappearance follows the kidnappings of the Greek Orthodox and Syriac Orthodox archbishops of Aleppo; Paul Yazigi and Yohanna Ibrahim were both kidnapped after gunmen intercepted their vehicle and killed its driver near Kafr Dael as the clergymen returned from a humanitarian relief mission on April 22. They are both believed to be held by Chechen jihadists. Aside from religious leaders, hundreds of regular Christians have been abducted and held for ransom, an activity that is legal according to Sharia in the context of the jihad.
[Contempt for ‘Infidels’]
Indonesia: During celebrations marking the end of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting and praying, an unidentified person hurled two Molotov cocktails into the compound of the Assisi Catholic School in South Jakarta, the same school U.S. President Barack Obama attended as a pupil before moving to another facility located in Central Jakarta. According to police sources, the Islamic extremists responsible for the bombings and attacks on religious minorities in Java are linked to the same Islamic groups that beheaded three Christian girls on their way to school in 2005.
Malaysia: A three-member panel of the Court of Appeal ruled unanimously in favor of the proposed ban on Christians publications from using the word “Allah.” In 2009, when this issue of Christians using the word “Allah” was popularized, churches were vandalized and those supporting the Christians’ using the word “Allah” threatened with death. Also in 2009, the government seized shipments of local language Christian Bibles because they contained the Arabic word for the deity.
Pakistan: A Christian woman and her children are under great pressure to convert to Islam or die by the Muslim family of their deceased husband and father. According to the mother, Martha Bibi, “When I got married, the relatives [of my husband] began to exert pressure so that I convert [to Islam]. But my husband stood up for me, saying that ‘my wife and my children should feel free to profess their faith.’ However, after his death his brothers have begun to terrorize us. They have sworn to kill us if we do not convert to Islam.” Also, approximately 30 armed Muslims attacked a Christian colony by opening fire at residents and throwing projectiles at their homes and local church. The colony, Shah Bagh, is near Joseph colony, where earlier nearly 200 Christian homes were torched by rampaging Muslims. The attack was prompted after a local Christian tried to stop the cable operator from charging Christians more money for cable access. Many Christians were injured, often with bullet wounds.
Sinai Peninsula (Egypt): In the Sinai Peninsula, now populated with jihadis, members of the Muslim Bedouins are abducting Christians and holding them ransom for exorbitant sums. When their often destitute families are unable to pay for their release, the Christians are tortured to death—including by crucifixion. Shahar Shoham, director of Physicians for Human Rights, told CBN News : “Sinai was always a place for human smuggling, but since around two years ago—even a bit more—it started also to be a place of human torture. They torture them in horrible methods, like hanging upside down from the ceiling, like using electric shocks, like burning them on their bodies.”
Syria: Concerning the Islamic rebel takeover of Christian regions, one refugee lamented how “if any Christians want to go back they have to become Muslim or else they will be killed.” Displaced Christians further report their property stolen, their homes confiscated, and their possessions sold on the black market. Another refugee lamented they were running out of places to flee: “All the roads are full of rebel fighters. It’s really dangerous. We have lost everything. There is nothing for us over there now, nothing to return to. We just need help to get out of here and settle in a country that is safe.”
About this Series
While not all, or even most, Muslims are involved, the persecution of Christians in the Islamic world is on its way to reaching pandemic proportions. Accordingly, “Muslim Persecution of Christians” was developed to collate some—by no means all—of the instances of persecution that surface each month. It serves two purposes:
1) To document that which the mainstream media does not: the habitual, if not chronic, persecution of Christians.
2) To show that such persecution is not “random,” but systematic and interrelated—that it is rooted in a worldview inspired by Sharia.
Accordingly, whatever the anecdote of persecution, it typically fits under a specific theme, including hatred for churches and other Christian symbols; sexual abuse of Christian women; forced conversions to Islam; apostasy and blasphemy laws that criminalize and punish with death those who “offend” Islam; theft and plunder in lieu of jizya (financial tribute expected from non-Muslims); overall expectations for Christians to behave like dhimmis, or second-class, “tolerated” citizens; and simple violence and murder. Sometimes it is a combination.
Because these accounts of persecution span different ethnicities, languages, and locales—from Morocco in the West, to India in the East—it should be clear that one thing alone binds them: Islam—whether the strict application of Islamic Sharia law, or the supremacist culture born of it.