LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Quotation for today/You cannot
drink from the Lord's cup and also from the cup of demons
01 Corinthians 10/14-22" So then, my dear friends, keep away from the worship of idols. I speak to you as sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup we use in the Lord's Supper and for which we give thanks to God: when we drink from it, we are sharing in the blood of Christ. And the bread we break: when we eat it, we are sharing in the body of Christ. Because there is the one loaf of bread, all of us, though many, are one body, for we all share the same loaf. Consider the people of Israel; those who eat what is offered in sacrifice share in the altar's service to God. Do I imply, then, that an idol or the food offered to it really amounts to anything? No! What I am saying is that what is sacrificed on pagan altars is offered to demons, not to God. And I do not want you to be partners with demons. You cannot drink from the Lord's cup and also from the cup of demons; you cannot eat at the Lord's table and also at the table of demons. Or do we want to make the Lord jealous? Do we think that we are stronger than he?"
Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources published on August 07/14
ISIS Military Success: A Multiple Threat/By: James F. Jeffrey/Washington Institute/August 07/14
Caliph Ibrahim's Brutal Moment/By: Daniel Pipes/The Washington Times/ August 07/14
Egypt’s military intervention in Libya/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed /Al Arabiya/August 07/14
Too many diplomats spoil the ceasefire/By: Yossi Mekelberg /Al Arabiya/August 07/14
Lebanese Related News published on August 07/14
Ceasefire in Lebanon border Arsal town extended
Deal reached: ISIS to leave Arsal, soldiers to be released
Militants begin withdrawal from Arsal
Arsalis demonstrate demanding an end to violence
Rifi calls for investigations into photo of dead soldiers
Salam: Lebanon not alone in fight against terror
Expedition to study pollution off Beirut coast
Nazarian to delay gas auction again
Sabbagh supporters seek his release, warn against
Judiciary releases detainees from Tripoli prison
Refugee conference in Tripoli under consideration
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 07/14
UN condemns persecution of Iraq's minorities
For Cairo deal, Israel calls for ban in Gaza on all but light arms, free hand against tunnels, rocket plants
Israel agrees to extend Gaza cease-fire
UN General Assembly slams Israel and Hamas for fighting, mourns the humanitarian conditions
Only 2.7% of Israelis call Gaza op 'big success'
Palestinian officials: Disarmament not on table
Hamas threatens to resume attacks
Pledging IDF protection, Rivlin urges residents of the south to return home
Germany, France, Britain propose EU mission to open Gaza-Egypt crossing
UN General Assembly slams Israel and Hamas for fighting,
mourns the humanitarian conditions
Iran, Al Qaeda took note of curbs on IDF vanquishing Hamas, which now has core of a Palestinian army
Two Italian aid workers kidnapped in Syria: foreign ministry
UN: Violence puts South Sudan close to catastrophe
Turkey suspends activities at Tripoli embassy over insecurity
Erdogan under fire over Armenian jibe
The Daily Star/
ARSAL, Lebanon: Militant forces will withdraw from Arsal and captured security personnel will be released during a new 24-hour ceasefire, which was reached through negotiations, a security source told The Daily Star. According to the deal brokered by the Committee of Muslim Scholars, the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria's militants, who refused to withdraw Tuesday with Nusra Front fighters, will leave Arsal and head back into the mountainous outskirts before the Syrian frontier, gradually by 7 p.m. Thursday, the deadline of the ceasefire.
In return, the armed groups demanded a statement be issued by the Army assuring them that Syrian refugees in Arsal would be safe from any "revenge" attacks after their withdrawal, according to the source. After reaching the agreement, the Committee of Muslim Scholars, which negotiated the deal, left the town with three released Army soldiers, the source added. The militants had released three of the abducted 19 Internal Security Forces personnel Tuesday, while the Army confirmed that 22 of its soldiers were missing before Wednesday's deal was reached. Lebanese troops fought heavy battles with ISIS militants Wednesday before the truce was announced.
Security sources told The Daily Star that the clashes were centered around Wadi Sweid and Wadi Hosn, the farthest east points in Arsal close to the border with Syria, and at Ras al-Sarj, the main entrance to the town. They said the gunbattles pitted Lebanese troops against jihadists, particularly those groups loyal to Imad Jomaa, the Syrian national whose arrest by the Lebanese Army over the weekend triggered the battle in Arsal.
Jomaa had been a member of the Nusra Front until he recently pledged allegiance to ISIS, the sources said. Several local officials as well as security sources confirmed that the majority of Islamist militants from the Nusra Front withdrew from the Bekaa Valley hamlet overnight.
The armed groups were split over attempts to end the fighting. While Nusra Front wanted to leave Arsal and move to the outskirts, ISIS insisted on staying to continue fighting the Army, the sources said.A delegation from the Committee of Muslim Scholars had negotiated an ill-fated cease-fire Tuesday, which was breached by an attack on an Army base in the evening.
Arsal’s Future Movement official Bakr Hujeiri confirmed the release of the three Army soldiers Wednesday afternoon.
The Committee of Muslim Scholars had underlined the need for a negotiated truce.
"It is important to keep working on this [cease-fire] initiative because it is the only solution that could end the bloodshed, particularly of innocent civilians,” head of the committee Sheikh Salem Jdeideh said after visiting fellow member Sheikh Salem Rafei at hospital.Rafei and two other members of the committee were wounded when their vehicle came under attack as they entered Arsal Monday night to negotiate a truce.
Rafei, however, was taken to hospital in the northern city of Tripoli Tuesday after the wound in his leg became infected.
Clashes between jihadists and Lebanese troops raged until the early morning hours in Arsal after militants targeted several military posts, shattering a temporary cease-fire mediated by the Muslim Scholars.Security sources said machine gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades were used in the fighting which dwindled at daybreak.
Lebanese Army fired artillery shells to repel militant attacks, the sources told The Daily Star.
Sheikh Mohammad Hujeiri, who had been following up on mediation efforts, accused Hezbollah of hindering the militants’ withdrawal.
“Gunmen were preparing to pull out, but their mission was obstructed when Hezbollah, backed the Lebanese Army, shelled the town,” Hujeiri told The Daily Star.
He said the jihadists expressed willingness to withdraw once a cease-fire goes into effect.
The Lebanese Army had agreed to another 24-hour humanitarian cease-fire to allow the evacuation of wounded civilians from Arsal and support ongoing efforts to release kidnapped soldiers held by Islamist militants. The cease-fire, which lasted nearly three hours, had allowed Lebanese Red Cross ambulances to enter the town and transport wounded civilians to nearby hospitals, sources in Arsal told The Daily Star. However, a convoy carrying vital humanitarian supplies for thousands of needy people that had left Chtaura after midday to head to Arsal - the first aid convoy since the fighting broke out five days ago - was prevented from entering Arsal by residents from the nearby town of Labweh, according to a security source. The death toll the Arsal clashes stands at 17 soldiers, 50 militants and 12 civilians killed, according to a security source.
Staff writer, Al Arabiya News
Wednesday, 6 August 2014
A ceasefire between the Lebanese army and Islamist militants fighting near the Syrian border was extended on Wednesday for 24 hours, Reuters reported Muslim clerics mediating between the sides as saying. Three Lebanese soldiers taken captive by the militants had been released, the clerics said in a televised news conference, adding that the militants had started withdrawing from the eastern border town of Arsal. The clerics would also start negotiating the release of the remaining 27 soldiers and 17 policemen held captives. Fighting between the Lebanese army and Islamic extremists from neighboring Syria erupted again on Wednesday after a negotiated truce collapsed overnight. Officials said the militants in Arsal belong to Syria’s al-Qaeda affiliate, the Nusra Front, and the more extreme Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, alongside other smaller Syrian rebel brigades.
The initial truce, brokered on Tuesday, was meant to end days of fighting in Arsal and allow for negotiations for the release of captive Lebanese soldiers. But clashes broke out when the Syrian militants opened fire on Lebanese troops early Wednesday and then spread through the predominantly Sunni town, The Associated Press reported. Ambulances were seen rushing in and out of the town and the boom of artillery and crackling gunfire echoed from a nearby mountain.
Delegation of clerics
Later in the morning, a delegation of Sunni clerics entered the town to try to mediate a new ceasefire, said Sheik Raed Hleihel from the Association of Muslim Scholars and a Syrian activist who uses the name Ahmad Alqusair. The two were not part of the delegation Wednesday but were in Arsal for previous negotiations. Fighting in Arsal first began on Saturday when militants from Syria overran the town, which lies near the border with Syria. They seized Lebanese army positions and captured a number of soldiers and policemen, demanding the release of a prominent Syrian rebel commander, Imad Ahmad Jomaa, who was arrested in Lebanon earlier on Saturday. Hleihel, the Sunni cleric, said the militants are demanding Jomaa’s release. He was initially reported to be a member of the Nusra Front, but later, activists said he had pledged allegiance to ISIS. According to activist Alqusair, the militants also wanted representation on a council overseeing town affairs in Arsal, which the rebels have used as a base for launching attacks into Syria.
Army surrounds Arsal
Lebanon’s army surrounded Arsal on Wednesday, arresting men and evacuating refugees as the most serious spillover of Syria’s civil war onto Lebanese soil lurched into its fifth day.
A Syrian refugee brought out by troops from the hill town of Arsal said she had seen fighters’ bodies lying in the streets. “We saw death with our own eyes,” Mariam Seifeddin, a 35-year-old mother of nine, who said she had sheltered with about 50 others in a single room without food or water for three days amid intense fighting, told Reuters. Political sources told Reuters that the army was not planning to immediately retake Arsal but to evacuate civilians. A security official and a doctor in Arsal said many militants had now fled for surrounding mountains following the army bombardment.
Women, children held
Meanwhile, a leading rights group called on rebels in Syria to “immediately release” 54 women and children they have held hostage since the rebels seized their villages last year.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday that the women and children were likely taken because they are Alawite, members of a Shiite offshoot sect to which Assad also belongs, and that the rebels were likely seeking to exchange them for opposition fighters captured by the government.Lebanon’s former prime minister, meanwhile, announced that Saudi Arabia is granting another $1 billion in aid to the Lebanese army to support its fight against militants.
(With Reuters and Associated Press)
For Cairo deal, Israel calls for ban in Gaza on all but
light arms, free hand against tunnels, rocket plants
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 6, 2014/debkafile reports exclusively on the terms Israel handed in to the Cairo talks Wednesday Aug. 6 for a durable peace on the Gaza Strip. In the document Shin Bet Director Yoram Cohen, who leads the Israeli delegation, put before the Egyptian intermediaries, the first key condition is based on the Oslo 2 Accords, which restricted Palestinian brigades in the Gaza Strip and Judea and Samaria to bearing light firearms. The second condition would grant the Israeli military the freedom of action to strike a tunnel system designed for terrorist attacks and demolish plants manufacturing missiles.
Israel requires these two measures to be incorporated in any accords reached at the Cairo conference.
The 19-year old Oslo 2 accord, concluded in Washington on Sept. 28 1995, permitted Palestinian security forces to be equipped solely with light firearms take booty by Israel in the Galilee Peace operation against Palestinian forces in southern Lebanon.
The application of this provision to the Cairo accords, if signed, would outlaw Hamas’ possession of rockets of all types and heavy or sophisticated weaponry of any kind.
This provision has replaced Israel’s original demand for the full demilitarization of the Gaza Strip. Its implementation would require Hamas and other terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip to get rid of all their heavy weapons, including heavy machine guns and mortars.
Other members of the Israeli delegation are Yitzhak Molcho, personal adviser to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Amos Gilead, political coordinator at the Defense Ministry.
They submitted five more terms for a Gaza deal:
1. An inspection mechanism, whose nature remains to be determined, will be set up to monitor the 1-3 km deep security belt Israel is carving out inside the Gaza Strip along the 75 kilometers of its security border fence. This mechanism will ascertain that no military activity takes place.
2. Gaza will not be allowed to have either an airport or a deep water port, as Hamas is demanding.
3. All reconstruction work in the Gaza Strip or repairing the war damage, whether by the international community or Israel, will be channeled through the Palestinian Authority Chairman, Mahmoud Abbas.
4. All of Gaza’s border crossings will be manned and operated by Palestinian Authority security personnel. Egypt and Israel have submitted this demand with regard to both their border terminals.
5. Gaza reconstruction work will take place under international supervision.
debkafile’s sources in Cairo report that, after the senior Palestinian negotiator Assam Ahmed found acceptable Israel’s terms regarding Gaza armaments, a heated altercation erupted between the PA and Hamas delegations. Some Hamas envoys threatened to walk out if those terms were tabled and its own rejected. For now, they have refused to extend the three-day truce beyond Friday, Aug. 8.
The Israeli envoys figure that the negotiations may well stretch out over weeks, if not months.
Tripoli explosion near Army post kills civilian
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: A civilian was killed and at least 10 others wounded Wednesday evening after a homemade bomb exploded under the Al-Khannaq bridge in Lebanon’s second largest city Tripoli, a security source told The Daily Star. Heavy damage and blood was visible at the scene of the explosion. Conflicting reports emerged over the target of the attack. Reports said it was likely that the crude explosive device targeted a Lebanese Army patrol. The source said an Army post is located approximately 30 meters away from the site of the explosion. However, the Army did not mention that it was the target in the terse statement it released describing the incident. Other reports said that the bomb’s target might have been Sheikh Malek Jdeideh, the head of the Muslim Scholars Committee whose convoy passed in the area shortly before the blast. Jdeideh was not harmed.
Caliph Ibrahim's Brutal Moment
by Daniel Pipes/The Washington Times
August 5, 2014
After an absence of 90 years, the ancient institution of the caliphate roared back into existence on the first day of Ramadan in the year 1435 of the Hegira, equivalent to June 29, 2014. This astonishing revival symbolically culminates the Islamist surge that began forty years ago. A Western analogy might be declaring the restoration of the Hapsburg Empire, which traced its legitimacy to ancient Rome.
Whence comes this audacious move? Can the caliphate last? What will its impact be?
For starters, a quick review of the caliphate (from the Arabic khilafa, meaning "succession"): according to canonical Muslim history, it originated in 632 CE, on the death of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, then spontaneously developed, filling the nascent Muslim community's need for a temporal leader. The caliph became Muhammad's non-prophetic heir. After the first four caliphs, the office became dynastic.
From the start, followers disagreed whether the caliph should be the most able and pious Muslim or the closest relative of Muhammad; the resulting division came to define the Sunni and Shi'i branches of Islam, respectively, causing the profound schism that still endures.
A single caliphate ruled all the Muslim lands until 750; but then two processes combined to diminish its power. First, remote provinces began to break away, with some – such as Spain – even creating rival caliphates. Second, the institution itself decayed and was taken over by slave soldiers and tribal conquerors, so that the original line of caliphs effectively ruled only until about 940. Other dynasties then adopted the title as a perquisite of political power.
The institution continued in an enfeebled form for a millennium until, in a dramatic act of repudiation, modern Turkey's founder, Kemal Atatürk, terminated its last vestiges in 1924. Despite several subsequent attempts to restore it, the institution became defunct, a symbol of the disarray in Muslim-majority countries and a yearned-for goal among Islamists.
Top: The world as ISIS sees it, using medieval Arabic place names. Bottom: The same map in Roman lettering.
And so matters remained for 90 years, until the group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) issued a declaration in five languages (English version: This Is the Promise of Allah) proclaiming the founding of a new caliphate under "Caliph" Ibrahim. Caliph Ibrahim (aka Dr. Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim), about 40, hailing from Samarra, Iraq, fought in Afghanistan and then Iraq. He now claims to be leader of "Muslims everywhere" and demands their oath of allegiance. All other Muslim governments have lost legitimacy, he claims. Further, Muslims must throw out "democracy, secularism, nationalism, as well as all the other garbage and ideas from the West."
Reviving the universal caliphate means, announces The Promise of Allah, that the "long slumber in the darkness of neglect" has ended. "The sun of jihad has risen. The glad tidings of good are shining. Triumph looms on the horizon." Infidels are justifiably terrified for, as both "east and west" submit, Muslims will "own the earth."
Grandiloquent words, to be sure, but also ones with zero chance of success. ISIS has enjoyed backing from states like Turkey and Qatar – but to fight in Syria, not to establish a global hegemony. Nearby powers – the Kurds, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel (and eventually maybe Turkey too) – regard the Islamic State as an unmitigated enemy, as do nearly all rival Islamic movements, including Al-Qaeda. (The only exceptions: Boko Haram; scattered Gazans; and a new Pakistani organization.) The caliphate already faces difficulty governing the Great Britain-sized territories it conquered, troubles that will increase as its subject populations experience the full misery of Islamist rule. (Its apparent capture of the Mosul Dam on Aug. 3 portends unspeakable crimes, including the denial of electricity and water; or even creating catastrophic floods.)
I predict that the Islamic State, confronted with hostility both from neighbors and its subject population, will not last long.
It will leave a legacy, though. No matter how calamitous the fate of Caliph Ibrahim and his grim crew, they have successfully resurrected a central institution of Islam, making the caliphate again a vibrant reality. Islamists around the world will treasure its moment of brutal glory and be inspired by it.
**Daniel Pipes (DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum.
Iran, Al Qaeda took note of curbs on IDF vanquishing Hamas,
which now has core of a Palestinian army
DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis August 6, 2014/ As the Israeli delegation arrived in Cairo for indirect talks with Hamas, at the end of the first 24 hours of a three-day ceasefire in the Gaza War, Israeli government spokesmen went to great lengths Tuesday night, Aug. 6, to convince the public that the Gaza war was over and the enemy seriously degraded.
Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz went to so far as to declare: “We now move into a period of rehabilitation.” This was not exactly the message the soldiers wanted to hear from their commander as they headed out of the battlefields of Gaza after 28 days of hard fighting and heavy losses.
But government PR artists were already churning out a horror what-if scenario that depicted a theoretical operation for conquering the entire Gaza Strip.
This scenario, said to have been put before the security cabinet last week in the debate on tactics for the next phase of the operation, would have cost hundreds of lives of Israel soldiers and led to a five-year Israeli occupation for purging the territory of 20,000 terrorists and disabling their military machine.
This scenario was dreamed up to silence the malcontents, including citizens living within close range of the Gaza Strip, who were refusing to return home because the danger had not passed.
The alternatives which the cabinet considered never included full occupation of the Gaza Strip. The most serious option, which the ministers examined and rejected in the first week of the war, was to send troops in for a lightening strike to destroy Hamas’ command centers and core military structure and get out fast. Had that option been pursued at an early stage in the conflict, instead of ten days of air strikes, it might have saved heavy Palestinian losses and property devastation, the extent of which troubles most Israelis too.
And this week again, the politicians running the war decided to cut it short, regardless of advice on feasible operations for bringing the counter-terror operation to a successful end and closure for the population living under Hamas terror for more than a decade.
The decision to go instead for a ceasefire and indirect talks with Hamas was a costly one for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at home and much criticized. On the first day of the ceasefire Tuesday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s rating in the polls dropped sharply to just over 60 percent, its pre-war rating, after soaring into the eighties at the peak of the operation.
The way Israel’s leaders handled and concluded the Gaza War has four consequences that transcend its immediate sphere:
1. The fact that, after taking a severe beating, Hamas is still standing and left with most of its military infrastructure unscathed, provides it with the core of a regular Palestinian army, which the Islamists did not have before the launch of Operation Defensive Edge on July 7.
This core is already an active fighting force with good combat training and national popularity - not just in the Gaza Strip but also in the Palestinian Authority’s West Bank domain.
So Hamas comes to the Cairo negotiating table with a freshly-minted military card.
2. The prospects of a post-war accommodation that will change the Gaza Strip’s terrorist landscape are dim. Israeli government tacticians have hinted that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas might be a suitable figure for leading such an accommodation. This is a pipe dream. Hamas’ military wing would never contemplate giving this rival free rein in their territory. And, anyway, Abbas shows no inclination to fit into any Israeli schemes for Gaza.
3. When Ban Ki-moon visited Jerusalem on July 22 to push for a ceasefire in Gaza and talks on the root causes of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, Netanyahu burst out: You can’t talk to Hamas. They are Islamist extremists like Al Qaeda, IS, Taliban or Boko Haram!
Unnoticed by him, his words were picked up in that same Islamist world. Eyes there carefully tracked each stage of the Gaza conflict, after he was understood to have raised it to a level comparable to the war on Al Qaeda. So,after curtailing the operation against Hamas, Israel may find its hand has landed in a new wasps’ nest. At this moment, the Islamic State and Syrian Nusra Front are fighting to extend their Syrian and Iraqi footholds by a push into Lebanon. They may not stop there.
If the jihadists on the march were permitted to judge the IDF incapable of vanquishing Hamas, they might turn to Israel and pose it with an extremely dangerous new threat.
4. Iran too will have taken note of the fact that, twice in two years, Israel’s leaders abstained from bringing to a victorious conclusion a war started by military forces which Tehran had fortified, trained and funded – first Hizballah in the 2006 Lebanon war, which ended in a draw, and now the contest with the Palestinian Islamists which ended in similar fashion.
UN condemns persecution of Iraq's minorities
By EDITH M. LEDERER
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council warned Tuesday that the Islamic State extremist group may be held accountable for crimes against humanity for its systematic persecution of minorities in Iraq. The council condemned the Islamic State group and associated armed groups "in the strongest terms" for attacking and killing minorities, including Christians, as well as Iraqis who oppose their "extremist ideology."The radical Islamist militants went on a lightning offensive last month, crossing from territory they hold in Syria and capturing a large swath of northern and western Iraq, in cooperation with local Sunnis who have long distrusted Iraq's Shiite dominated government. The Security Council said in a press statement approved by all 15 members that the group poses a threat not only to Syria and Iraq "but to regional peace, security and stability." The council singled out the group's attacks on the strategic city of Tal Afar near the Syrian border, which it seized in June, and neighboring Sinjar, which it captured on Saturday, for condemnation. It expressed deep concern for the hundreds of thousands of people displaced, many from vulnerable minority communities especially the Yazidis who have lived in the area for hundreds of years. The Islamic State group issued an ultimatum to tens of thousands of people from the Yazidi community on Saturday to convert to Islam, pay a religious fine, flee their homes or face death. Yazidis follow an ancient religion with links to Zoroastrianism. At least 40 children from those displaced from Sinjar were killed in the violence, UNICEF said Tuesday.
The Security Council said many Iraqis from Tal Afar and Sinjar have been forced to flee and seek refuge "while many others have been executed or kidnapped."
Council members noted that "widespread or systematic attacks directed against any civilian populations because of their ethnic background, religion or belief may constitute a crime against humanity, for which those responsible must be held accountable." They stressed that all parties, including the Islamic State group, "must abide by international humanitarian law, including the obligation to protect the civilian population."Iraq's government has been struggling to unite to confront the threat from the extremists, and it has yet to choose a new prime minister.
Council members called on all Iraqi communities "to unite to respond, with the support of the international community, to this violent and senseless threat to Iraq's unity, identity and future."
The council specifically called on all political groups to overcome divisions and work together, and for the country's leaders "to engage as quickly as possible to form a government that represents all segments of the Iraqi population and that contributes to finding a viable and sustainable solution to the country's current challenges."The Security Council urged all 193 U.N. member states to implement and enforce targeted U.N. financial sanctions, an arms embargo and travel ban on the Islamic State group and associated groups and individuals.
ISIS Military Success: A Multiple Threat
James F. Jeffrey/Washington Institute
August 5, 2014
The United States should be launching selective airstrikes on ISIS sooner rather than later, particularly where the movement attacks key dams and minority populations.
The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has demonstrated remarkable strategic mobility and operational speed in a series of offensives over the past few weeks across its operating areas in Iraq and Syria. These have included:
Attacks against Syrian government installations, including tightening its grip on the Syrian oil business.
A wave of car bombs and suicide bombings that penetrated deep into Shiite Arab neighborhoods of Baghdad, demonstrating the organization's reach and robust support networks even outside Sunni areas.
Twin offensives against the left flank (at Jalula, near the Iranian border) and right flank (at Sinjar and the Mosul dam, in the Syria-Iraq-Turkey tri-border area) of the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG's) defense line. In the latter location, ISIS appears to have perpetrated massacres of ethnic Yazidi civilians.
These apparently diffuse military efforts may be consistent parts of a well-planned next stage of ISIS's campaign.
A FOCUS ON BAGHDAD?
ISIS -- which recently changed its name to the Islamic State (IS) when it declared a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria -- has no chance of capturing Baghdad but may be seeking to isolate the city. This likely accounts for the heavy fighting to the north and south of the capital, with the west, including Falluja, already under ISIS dominance. If the major communication lines could be cut, in particular if bridges could be blown up -- and ISIS has shown a knack for such combat engineering feats in actions to the north of Baghdad -- then the city could be effectively deprived of foodstuffs, fuel, and potable water, and the population "trapped." This almost happened in 2004 despite the presence of more than 100,000 U.S. troops in country.
Simultaneously, ISIS could launch another, possibly even larger, wave of bombings than that seen in June and July to terrorize the population already under siege. This might be intended to force the Iraqi government to withdraw forces from strategic areas -- from the Haditha dam to the Bayji refinery -- to defend Baghdad, and if ISIS were "fortunate," such terrorist pressure could trigger an outburst of Shiite militia terror against the city's remaining Sunni Arab population, as seen in 2006-2007. For ISIS, such an outcome would be a strategic game changer, provoking exactly what the group wants -- a regional Shiite-Sunni conflict, with ISIS increasingly serving as the champion of the Sunni majority. This scenario may seem unlikely, but ISIS has not grown and won so rapidly by following logical scenarios.
THE KURDISH FRONT
During the fall of Mosul in June, the KRG withdrew its troops more efficiently than the Iraqi army but did not really fight ISIS. Thereafter, the KRG not only alerted forces along its preconflict "green line" borders but expanded this front line, occupying Kirkuk and the significant oil fields to its north, and pushing south into multiethnic areas from Sinjar on the Syrian border to Jalula near Iran. This "forward" defense, however, involved seizing areas with significant Sunni Arab populations, some of whose members harbored sympathies for either ISIS or more traditional Iraqi Sunni Arab insurgent groups allied with ISIS. It is exactly here where ISIS has made dramatic gains in the past several days, although its surge forward in Jalula appears to have been checked, and the KRG has announced a counterattack toward Sinjar. Still, ISIS's record of holding conquered territory is quite good, and even the peshmerga will have its hands full taking territory back.
Why, then, did the peshmerga not hold on to part of its newly won territory? Unlike many Iraqi army units, peshmerga members are well motivated and, in most cases, well trained and disciplined. They are loyal to their regional government and are the shield between the KRG and insurgent areas. One explanation is that ISIS, while not numerous, is tactically strong, and nothing succeeds in war more than prior success, of which ISIS has had much in recent months. The group is awash in captured equipment, the ammunition stocks of several Iraqi divisions, and apparently considerable cash from oil smuggling, donations, and other sources. The Kurds had certain disadvantages as well. They are spread out on a front of roughly a thousand kilometers. Many of their units have either been hastily called up or redeployed from their usual sectors of the front. In Jalula, they were fighting in a largely Arab area where the majority did not support them. Geography is against them in Sinjar -- an isolated salient that extends deep into ISIS-held terrain, perilously close to ISIS's Syria strongholds.
Despite the persistent political fights between Erbil and Baghdad over power sharing and oil revenues, some interesting alliances are emerging in the effort to stop ISIS. According to press reporting, Baghdad has offered air support for the Kurds. Thus, Iraqi air force aircraft have been able to use Kirkuk airfield, under peshmerga control, to strike ISIS. Shiite militias also reportedly have negotiated to fly forces into Sulaymaniyah for transfer to Shiite villages to the south of the Kurdish line of control. Meanwhile, multiple reports document Syrian Kurdish reinforcements from the Democratic Union Party (PYD) fighting against ISIS in the Sinjar area, despite policy differences that have troubled relations between many Iraqi and Syrian Kurds for several years.
IMPACT ON U.S. INTERESTS
ISIS continues to show strategic acumen. Aside from dealing sharp setbacks to the Kurds and the campaign around and in Baghdad, the group focuses attention on key infrastructure -- dams, refineries, oil fields -- that can be used to generate cash and exert political control and influence. In some cases, this infrastructure can be used as weapons. For instance, seizing the Haditha dam could allow it to cut considerable electricity to Anbar province and beyond. Opening the dams, as it has done once near Falluja, could present downstream flood danger in Shiite areas. Moreover, by seizing transportation nodes such as Sinjar and Tal Afar, ISIS ensures its ability to rapidly move its forces and supplies back and forth between the Syrian and Iraqi "fronts." Finally, while ISIS's top goal remains isolating Baghdad as a "station" on the road to a regional sectarian war, the group surely covets Kirkuk and its oil fields, the only world-class oil fields near the Sunni Arab parts of the country.
All of these developments should be of utmost concern to the U.S. government. After all, on June 19 the president declared that an ISIS state cannot be tolerated, and dispatched what has now grown to almost eight hundred military personnel to assist the Iraqis and protect the Americans remaining in Baghdad. The United States now has two military intelligence fusion cells operating, in Baghdad and Erbil. Enhanced U.S. intelligence support and combat advising are doubtless much appreciated, but more needs to be done. Washington is providing munitions to the Iraqi army but not to the Kurds. Yet the Kurds need ammunition, particularly for the Soviet-era tanks and artillery they seized in 2003. They need more and newer heavy weapons as well, plus the training and ammunition to make these weapons effective.
At least as important, the United States should be striking ISIS from the air when it threatens America's erstwhile Sunni tribal allies around the Haditha dam and Ramadi, or when it attacks peshmerga positions, or when ISIS threatens Baghdad. Such actions do not mean serving as Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki's sectarian air force: until the political situation in Baghdad is clearer, such strikes must assuredly be limited and husbanded for high-value ISIS targets. But near-term selective U.S. strikes would increase Washington's clout and leverage with Iraqis of all sectarian and ethnic stripes. The United States is striking al-Qaeda elements throughout the broader Middle East, from Pakistan to Libya and Somalia. Given that top U.S. officials, including National Intelligence director James Clapper Jr. and Attorney General Eric Holder, have described the growing dangers posed by ISIS, strikes should not be delayed for even a moment longer.
**James Jeffrey is the Philip Solondz Distinguished Visiting Fellow at The Washington Institute and former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and Turkey.
Egypt’s military intervention in Libya
Wednesday, 6 August 2014
Abdulrahman al-Rashed /Al Arabiya
Statements on Egypt’s apparent intention to intervene in Libya caused many observers to recall the sole military incident between Egypt and Libya, which occurred in 1977. However, today’s crisis is nothing like that of 1977’s crisis. Libya’s Colonel Muammar Qaddafi was a leader who is all about slogans. Back then, he dared to threaten Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, saying Libya would occupy Egypt due to his objection of Sadat’s intention to sign a peace treaty with Israel.
In a display of demagoguery, Qaddafi sent a few hundred men to the border area and attacked the Salloum border crossing. Sadat surprised him and sent three military divisions which took over the border crossing on both sides in less than an hour and Qaddafi’s men fled.
“The question for Algeria, Egypt, Europe and the world in general is: Will they keep silent the establishment of an extremist state like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Libya?”
Today’s crisis is different as there is no order in Libya and Egypt is confronting dangerous domestic security challenges. The current crisis is the most dangerous faced by both countries since the Salloum incident. Appeals for intervention did not come from Cairo, most of them came from Libya which is drowning more deeply in civil war by the day. This civil war has led to the collapse of all state bodies as a result of extremist groups’ multi-fronted attacks, against Tripoli to Benghazi, to oil fields and ports. Libya is turning into a failed state and a safe haven for terrorist groups who will threaten the Libyans, their neighbors and the world.
Unique situation in North Africa
This unique situation in North Africa will force Libya’s neighbors, either Egypt or Algeria, to intervene. It seems that Egypt is more concerned, although the dangerous situation in Libya threatens all its neighbors without any exceptions whatsoever. We were expecting some sort of Egyptian intervention over the past months due to Tripoli-based confrontations between the Libyan national army and armed groups. However, Cairo remained neutral. As governmental positions gradually fall into the hands of armed groups, it’s become clear that due to the latter’s confrontation with Egypt, it is only a matter of time as to whether Egypt sends its troops to Libya or whether these armed groups invade Egyptian soil.
The Egyptian leadership may abstain from intervening for a few months and just settle at protecting its borders, just as Algeria is currently doing. However, Egypt knows that these Libyan groups which are currently preoccupied with domestic battles will eventually organize their ranks and point their rifles towards the eastern borders. The battle will be fought with the state of Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, whom these groups consider an obstacle in their path towards “restoring Cairo.”
Although Algeria issued warnings - which it seems are directed towards Egypt - that it’s against military intervention, the Algerian government has not yet clarified what it intends to do. Having a military presence along the border will not prevent the smuggling of weapons and armed men into Egypt. Also, it will not be easy to confront armed groups after they’ve seized important posts in Libya and ratcheted-up their power. The question for Algeria, Egypt, Europe and the world in general is: Will they keep silent the establishment of an extremist state like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Libya? Or will they accept an expanded civil war-like situation that attracts more extremists from the region’s countries similar to to Syria, Iraq and Somalia? Military intervention in Libya is the necessary solution that can prevent ISIS from establishing a terrorist state and that can hedge against the development of the struggle into a massive, open-ended civil war. There are different formulas, as intervention can be led by Egypt with the participation of Arab Maghreb Union countries or, alternatively, Egypt can be supported to handle the crisis by itself by whatever is left of the Libyan national army and other such parties.
Too many diplomats spoil the ceasefire
Wednesday, 6 August 2014
Yossi Mekelberg /Al Arabiya
One can hardly recall another example of a conflict in which so many ceasefires were called and rejected in such a short time by one or both of the sides. Such has been the case in the current conflict between Israel and Hamas. The most recent 72-hour truce appears to be holding, after the last one was broken abruptly within less than two hours. Both sides desperately need the fighting to come to a complete halt for their own reasons. However, even after more than three weeks of unabated bloodshed, it seems they still believe that there is enough unfinished business to carry on. For the outside observer of this horrific bloodshed, a truce, even a short humanitarian one, might seem like the only logical conclusion. However, as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has demonstrated time and again, it defies logic and both sides seem determined to inflict pain on their enemy, regardless of if it genuinely serves their national interest. Establishing a ceasefire also requires honest and capable brokers. There is certainly no shortage of willing mediators who have stepped forward offering their assistance in negotiating an end to the hostilities between Hamas and Israel. Nevertheless, the mediators themselves are not only baffled by Israeli and Palestinian behavior, but they are also beset by their own divisions and rivalries.
“Divisions among the international mediators has enabled both sides to ignore any pleas to stop the bloodshed”
Due to the asymmetry in military capabilities between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian side sustains a much larger number of casualties than the Israeli one, and its civilian and military infrastructure are suffering gravely. Hence, there is an oversimplified expectation that it would be the side more desperate to call a truce. Yet, Israel, who shows little sensitivity to the terrible plight of the people of Gaza, is very vulnerable to her own casualties, and also understands that it has lost the PR war and consequently many friends around the world during this war. Hamas is also very well aware of this, and especially as Israeli society is hurting as it buries her young fallen soldiers, and consequently Israel could punish the Gazan people even more harshly. Despite all of this, both sides are placing hurdles in the process of reaching a short term humanitarian truce, let alone a more permanent one.
Divisions among the international mediators
To make things worse, divisions among the international mediators has enabled both sides to ignore any pleas to stop the bloodshed. Both sides would like to end the war declaring, if not victory, at least substantial achievements. In the convoluted and twisted logic of war, violence breeds more violence, as none of the sides would like to be perceived at the end of the fighting, as the weaker one, and neither wants to admit that the sacrifices in the battlefield yielded no results. I feel that the majority in the Israeli government seem determined to bring an end to the rocket attacks from across the Gazan border and to destroy all tunnels, especially the ones which lead into Israel. The even more radical elements within the Israeli cabinet would like to remain in Gaza until the collapse of Hamas government altogether, even if the number of casualties will spiral at the risk of tarnishing image of Israel and its moral fabric almost beyond repair. It seems that they are driven by the unsubstantiated belief that the world is inherently anti-Israeli anyway and hence international public opinion should be ignored until Hamas is eradicated and the Palestinian population has “learnt its lesson” for supporting, or at least not resisting, Hamas. Hamas itself, it seems, is almost immune to a genuine truce, as long as its leadership believes that it can fire rockets into Israel, inflict casualties on her and potentially even kidnap Israeli soldiers. They invested almost all of their military and political capital in this war. Without military and/or political gains, such as the removal of the Israeli blockade for instance, it will be very difficult for Hamas’ leadership to justify entering into a military confrontation with a far superior military power to the Gazan population. Hamas may continue to rule Gaza by fear, but by the end of this round of violence it will be militarily weaker, and also politically vulnerable, unless the negotiations for a long term ceasefire result in removing the blockade.
To make an already volatile situation even more explosive, a range of mediators from the U.N. the U.S., Egypt, Turkey and Qatar have entered into the fray of mediation. During the previous outburst of violence between Israel and the Hamas back in November 2012, Egypt mediated a rather rapid ceasefire, but this was a very different Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood won the elections a few months earlier and their representative Mohammad Mursi became the president. He was first elected president of Egypt in the post-Mubarak era and is reported to have had a closer relationship with Hamas. Despite earlier concerns, it seems that Mursi balanced well between his affinity Hamas and Egypt’s interest in maintaining the status quo in the relationship with Israel. With the active support of the United States, a swift end to the bloodshed was reached. Egypt, due to her proximity to the conflict and centrality in the Arab affairs, is still bound to be instrumental in mediating between Israel and the Palestinians especially in Gaza. However, the new Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is publically anti-Muslim Brotherhood and by extension, has strained ties with their offshoot in Gaza, Hamas. Controlling the Rafah crossing into Gaza provides Egypt with enormous leverage over events in Gaza, in a way no other country has. However, the involvement of Qatar and Turkey, which reportedly predominantly support the Hamas, unnerves some interested parties, including Israel and Egypt in my view, and complicates mediation of the conflict even further. The U.S. seems to be out of sorts in the face of the fast deterioration of the situation in Gaza, and sends completely mixed messages about her policy. As always, the U.S. supports Israel to the hilt, but there is a creeping criticism of the methods it is using in fighting against Hamas.
The Obama administration, still licking its wounds from the collapse of the peace process, sent Secretary of State John Kerry to the region. Kerry is once again struggling in achieving his aim, this time in bringing a truce to the fighting in Gaza. He is confronted with a very defiant and dismissive Israeli government towards his efforts to bring a ceasefire. The scramble to negotiate a truce is hindered by two very stubborn sides determined to hurt each other. Furthermore, the international mediators, who conduct uncoordinated efforts to negotiate a ceasefire, are more interested in advancing their own interests than bringing the bloodshed to an end. The success of the negotiations in Cairo on a permanent ceasefire are far from being guaranteed as there is still a huge gap in expectations between Israel and Hamas which needs to be bridged.