August 11/14


Bible/Faith/Quotation for today/The Call For Unity
Ephesians 04 /01-13: "For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles, pray to God. Surely you have heard that God in his grace has given me this work to do for your good. God revealed his secret plan and made it known to me. (I have written briefly about this, and if you will read what I have written, you can learn about my understanding of the secret of Christ.) In past times human beings were not told this secret, but God has revealed it now by the Spirit to his holy apostles and prophets. The secret is that by means of the gospel the Gentiles have a part with the Jews in God's blessings; they are members of the same body and share in the promise that God made through Christ Jesus. I was made a servant of the gospel by God's special gift, which he gave me through the working of his power. 8 I am less than the least of all God's people; yet God gave me this privilege of taking to the Gentiles the Good News about the infinite riches of Christ, and of making all people see how God's secret plan is to be put into effect. God, who is the Creator of all things, kept his secret hidden through all the past ages, in order that at the present time, by means of the church, the angelic rulers and powers in the heavenly world might learn of his wisdom in all its different forms. God did this according to his eternal purpose, which he achieved through Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In union with Christ and through our faith in him we have the boldness to go into God's presence with all confidence. I beg you, then, not to be discouraged because I am suffering for you; it is all for your benefit.

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 10 & 11/14

Where is Assad on Gaza/By: Tariq Alhomayed/Asharq AlAwsat/August 11/14
Obama stirs the hornets’ nest with strikes on ISIS/Dr: Dr. Theodore Karasik /Al Arabiya/August 10/14

The need for a Syrian awakening to defeat terrorism/By: Raghida Dergham /Al Arabiya/August 11/14


Lebanese Related News published on August 10 & 11/14

Bkirki to Host Meeting for Major Christian Leaders

Hezbollah MP rejects UNIFIL on Syria border
Lebanese Army Deploys in Strategic Areas of Arsal, Civilian Death Toll Stands at 16
Jumblat Says Alternative to Baabda Void is Parliament Extension

Head of the Sunni Sharia Supreme Court of Lebanon Sheikh Abdul Latif Daryan Sweeps to Victory at Grand Mufti Elections with 74 Votes

Security Forces Assault Journalists at Dar al-Fatwa

Hariri Dismisses Nasrallah Meeting over Hizbullah's Battle in Syria

Hariri Ready to Facilitate Election of New President, Urges Christians to Agree

Hariri Discusses Saudi Grant with Qahwaji, Salam

Arsal negotiators: No direct contact with militants

Salam orders investigation into attack on journalists

Lebanese teachers stand firm on boycott

Rai calls for official exams to be corrected

Read more:
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::



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(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 10 & 11/14

Pope Francis 'Dismayed' by Violence and Suffering in Iraq

ISIS kills 500 Yazidis, buries some victims alive

At least 20,000 Iraqis have safely fled Mt Sinjar

Obama says tackling Iraq’s insurgency will take time
Thousands Escape Iraq Mountain Death Trap

EU: Violence in N.Iraq could Constitute Crimes against Humanity

Fabius: France not Planning Military Action in Iraq

Netanyahu says Israel shunning Gaza truce talks, won’t negotiate under fire

Secret Cairo message: Hamas won’t bend because it wasn’t beaten. IDF: Beware of waiting game

Israel, Palestinians agree new Gaza truce

Gaza Under Fire as Cairo Talks Face Moment of Truth
U.S. Strikes Spur Kurd Fightback against Iraq Jihadists
Erdogan Seen Winning Turkish Presidency in Election First Round

Turkish opposition candidate congratulates Erdogan on election result
12 Dead, Wounded Syrian Baby Saved from Mother's Womb

Assad Renames Halqi as Syria PM

Saudi Jails 4 on Charges Linked to Syria Conflict

Jordan: Israel Security Hinges on Peace with Palestinians

Iran Airliner Crashes, at Least 38 Dead

Egyptian court dissolves Muslim Brotherhood’s political party

At least 14 Yemeni soldiers killed in Al-Qaeda ambush


Pope Francis 'Dismayed' by Violence and Suffering in Iraq
Naharnet/Pope Francis expressed "dismay and disbelief" on Sunday over the violence in Iraq, calling for an "effective political solution" to a crisis which has forced thousands to flee their homes.
Giving the traditional Angelus prayer in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, the head of the Roman Catholic Church renewed his call for prayer and assistance for those hit by the conflict. "The news reports coming from Iraq leave us in dismay and disbelief: thousands of people, including many Christians, driven from their homes in a brutal manner; children dying of thirst and hunger in their flight; women taken and carried off; violence of every kind," he said. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes in northern Iraq due to the rapid advance of jihadists from the Islamic State (IS).
On Thursday, around 100,000 were forced to abandon the city of Qaraqosh, which had Iraq's largest Christian population. Thousands of members of the minority Yazidi community also fled into the mountains to escape the militant advance. With concerns growing for those still trapped in the region, the pope said he had nominated Cardinal Fernando Filoni as his "special envoy" to travel to Iraq on Monday "in order better to ensure those dear suffering populations of my closeness to them." Filoni, a former papal nuncio to Iraq, is due to visit Iraqi Kurdistan, where the majority of Christian refugees are sheltering. The pope said he was "confident that an effective political solution on both the international and the local levels may be found to stop these crimes and re-establish the [rule of] law," and thanked those who "are bringing succor" to those who are suffering. He discussed the fighting in Gaza, which he described as "a war that cuts down innocent victims and does nothing but worsen the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians". And he also mentioned the battle against Ebola, which has killed close to 1,000 people in west Africa, calling on his followers to "pray for the victims of the Ebola virus and for those who are fighting to stop it." A Roman Catholic priest from Spain, who caught the virus in Liberia, is currently receiving treatment in isolation at a hospital in Madrid.
A number of other missionary and health workers are among those who have either caught or died from the virus. Agence France Presse


ISIS kills 500 Yazidis, buries some victims alive
Ahmed Rasheed| Reuters/BAGHDAD: Islamic State militants have killed at least 500 members of Iraq's Yazidi ethnic minority during their offensive in the north, Iraq's human rights minister told Reuters Sunday. Mohammad Shia al-Sudani said the Sunni militants had also buried alive some of their victims, including women and children. Some 300 women were kidnapped as slaves, he added.
"We have striking evidence obtained from Yazidis fleeing Sinjar and some who escaped death, and also crime scene images that show indisputably that the gangs of the Islamic States have executed at least 500 Yazidis after seizing Sinjar," Sudani said in a telephone interview, in his first remarks to the media on the issue. Sinjar is the ancient home of the Yazidis, one of the towns captured by the Sunni militants who view the community as "devil worshipers" and tell them to convert to Islam or face death. A deadline passed at midday Sunday for 300 Yazidi families to convert to Islam or face death at the hands of the militants. It was not immediately clear whether the Iraqi minister was talking about the fate of those families or others in the conflict. "Some of the victims, including women and children were buried alive in scattered mass graves in and around Sinjar," Sudani said. The minister's comments could pile pressure on the United States - which has carried out air strikes on Islamic State targets in response to the group's latest push through the north - to provide more extensive support."In some of the images we have obtained there are lines of dead Yazidis who have been shot in the head while the Islamic State fighters cheer and wave their weapons over the corpses," said Sudani. "This is a vicious atrocity." The Islamic State, which has declared a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria, has prompted tens of thousands of Yazidis and Christians to flee for their lives during their push to within a 30-minute drive of the Kurdish regional capital Irbil. Earlier in their push through northern Iraq, Islamic State, which also considers all Shiites heretics who must repent or die, boasted of killing hundreds of captive Shiite soldiers after capturing the city of Tikrit on June 12. They put footage on the Internet of their fighters shooting prisoners.
The Yazidis, followers of an ancient religion derived from Zoroastrianism, are spread over northern Iraq and are part of the country's Kurdish minority.
Many of their villages were destroyed when Saddam Hussein's troops tried to crush the Kurds during his iron-fisted rule. Some were taken away by the executed former leader's intelligence agents.
Now they are on the defensive again. Tens of thousands of Yazidis fled for their lives after Kurdish fighters abandoned them in the face of Islamic State militants, and are trapped on a mountain near Sinjar at risk of starvation."We spoke to some of the Yazidis who fled from Sinjar. We have dozens of accounts and witness testimonies describing painful scenes of how Islamic State fighters arrived and took girls from their families by force to use them as slaves," Sudani said. "The terrorist Islamic State has also taken at least 300 Yazidi women as slaves and locked some of them inside a police station in Sinjar and transferred others to the town of Tal Afar. We are afraid they will take them outside the country." "The international community should submit to the fact that the atrocities of the Islamic State will not stop in Iraq and could be repeated somewhere else if no urgent measures were taken to neutralise this terrorist group," Sudani said. "It's now the responsibility of the international community to take a firm stand against the Islamic State to reach a consensus on a legitimate decision to start the war on Islamic State to stop genocides and atrocities against civilians." The militant group, which arrived in northern Iraq in June, has routed Kurds in its latest advance, seizing several towns, a fifth oilfield and Iraq's biggest dam - possibly gaining the ability to flood cities and cut off water and power supplies.


Hezbollah MP rejects UNIFIL on Syria border
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Loyalty to Resistance bloc member Ali Fayyad announced Sunday that Hezbollah opposes the extension of the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 to take effect on Lebanon’s borders with Syria too. “The expansion the scope of the 1701 international decision to the borders with Syria in the Bekaa is impractical, inapplicable, and politically rejected,” Fayyad said in a commemorative ceremony in the southern village of Debbine. Fayyad said the protection of borders was a matter of sovereignty that was within the jurisdiction of the Lebanese Army. Fayyad’s comments came in response to calls by many March 14 leaders for controlling the Lebanese-Syrian borders by the deployment of Army troops backed by the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, which was expanded by Resolution 1701 after the 2006 war with Israel. However, they stressed that the border could not be controlled unless Hezbollah immediately withdrew from the ongoing war in Syria.

Bkirki to Host Meeting for Major Christian Leaders
Naharnet/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi is seeking to hold a meeting to gather key Christian leaders to end the presidential deadlock, media reports said on Sunday. According to the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Anbaa Bkirki will seek during the meeting to convince the prominent Christian figures to assume their responsibilities and agree on the election of the “best candidate.”
“The president should be the best representative of his sect and the nation,” sources told the daily. al-Rahi continuously expressed belief that the political powers should elect a consensual president who is not affiliated to March 8 or 14 alliances and considered not provocative. Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea, who has received the backing of the March 14 camp and his March 8 rival Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun are both running for the elections. But Aoun has not officially nominated himself, claiming there should be consensus on him first. His Change and Reform bloc and other MPs from the March 8 alliance have been boycotting parliamentary sessions aimed at electing a president, causing a lack of quorum. Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat has nominated Aley lawmaker Henri Helou but vowed to withdraw his candidacy if the other candidates decided to do so in an attempt to resolve the country's presidential deadlock. Lebanon has been plunged into a leadership vacuum after Michel Suleiman's presidential term ended on May 25 with rival political blocs still divided over a new leader.

Hariri Ready to Facilitate Election of New President, Urges Christians to Agree
Naharnet/Former Premier and head of al-Mustaqbal Movement MP Saad Hariri expressed readiness to facilitate the election of a new head of state on the condition that the rival parties exert efforts to resolve the presidential deadlock. Hariri's visitors said in comments published in An Nahar newspaper that the Sunni leader will not suggest the name of any candidate and would rather wait for the decision of Christians in this regard. “He isn't discussing the names of any nominee with his visitors until an agreement is reached concerning the upcoming stage and the characteristics of the new president,” politicians quoted Hariri as saying. However, Hariri highlighted that “a strong president is the one who is capable of reuniting all the Lebanese.”On Saturday night, the ex-premier held a meeting with the ambassadors of the International Support Group for Lebanon. Hariri discussed with the ambassadors of major powers the latest Saudi grant to boost security measures the aid that their countries could offer to the Lebanon. Hariri had continued discussion, during separate talks with Prime Minister Tammam Salam and Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji, over the one billion dollar Saudi grant to the military institution on Saturday. The head of al-Mustaqbal Movement made a surprise return to Lebanon on Friday morning after three years abroad. His trip follows his announcement that Saudi Arabia, one of his chief allies, would give $1 billion to shore up the army and security forces against jihadists.

Hariri Dismisses Nasrallah Meeting over Hizbullah's Battle in Syria
Naharnet /A meeting between head of al-Mustaqbal Movement MP Saad Hariri and Hizbullah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is not on the agenda of the former premier. According to the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat published on Sunday, the meeting between Hariri and Nasrallah will not be held any time soon as the rift with Hizbullah is still acute. Circles close to Hariri told the newspaper that the sharp differences with Hizbullah, in particular regarding its involvement in battles in neighboring country Syria and the negative repercussions of the party's decision, is the main reason for the wide gap between the two leaders. Sources quoted Hariri as saying that “the recent developments in Arsal pose a warning to all the Lebanese, especially Hizbullah and its policies concerning Syria.”“Hizbullah involvement in Syria was to prevent extremists from entering Lebanon in the first place, but what we witnessed was the complete opposite as if the clashes raging in (Syria's) Qalamoun was to facilitate their infiltration to Lebanon,” the sources pointed out. The sources, however, said that Hariri will hold a meeting with Speaker Nabih Berri, who is the head of the AMAL movement and Hizbullah's ally, very soon.
The head of al-Mustaqbal Movement made a surprise return to Lebanon on Friday morning after three years abroad.

Lebanese Army Deploys in Strategic Areas of Arsal, Civilian Death Toll Stands at 16
Naharnet/ ares around the northeastern border town of Arsal on Sunday as the official death toll of residents in the battles with extremists stood at 16, the state-run National News Agency reported. NNA said that the troops took position in the strategic locations of Wadi al-Hosn, Wadi Hmeid, Wadi Ata in the eastern sector, Ras al-Sarj and near the Rafik Hariri clinic at the town’s Western entrance to confront the danger that jihadists pose. Other positions include the base of Wadi al-Rahyan and Sarj Hassan in the town's southern sector, the agency added. Soldiers also carried out patrols inside Arsal and erected checkpoints to preserve security in the town from which militants withdrew to the rugged hills separating Lebanon and Syria on Thursday. The gunmen overran the town last weekend upon the army's arrest of an al-Nusra Front member. The battles that ensued left scores of soldiers dead and injured. At least 35 soldiers and policemen were held captive by the Islamist fighters. Their fate remains unknown after contacts were lost with them. Meanwhile, Arsal residents said 16 civilians were killed in the fighting. Some of them died defending the military and security bases that were attacked on the first day of battles. Around 100 residents were injured in the fighting, NNA said. Only a few of them were taken to hospitals in the Bekaa Valley for being in serious condition. The damage to private and public properties was mainly in Arsal's northwest in the areas of Ras al-Sarj and the surroundings of Abou Ismail mosque.Around 500 tents of Syrian refugees were burned, NNA added.

Head of the Sunni Sharia Supreme Court of Lebanon Sheikh Abdul Latif Daryan Sweeps to Victory at Grand Mufti Elections with 74 Votes
Naharnet/Head of the Sunni Sharia Supreme Court of Lebanon Sheikh Abdul Latif Daryan, 61, was unanimously elected as the country's new Grand Mufti.
Daryan received 74 of the votes of members while 9 others voted for the Head of the Sunni Court in Baabda, Judge Sheikh Ahmad Darwish al-Kurdi, 8 cast blank ballots and 2 votes were canceled.
The newly-elected Mufti called fr moderation in his speech, criticizing extremism. "The elections express the strong will of all Muslims in Lebanon to confront the problems and straighten the course," he pointed out. He vowed that division will no longer take place between the Mufti and the Higher Islamic Council.
Prime Minister Tammam Salam said before announcing the results that the process was hailed by former Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani.
Daryan will be handed over his tasks on August 15 when the term of Qabbanni ends. “We are seeking to fortify Dar al-Fatwa's unity role,” Salam told officials and Sheikhs who gathered at Dar al-Fatwa in Beirut. He pointed out that the polls are held in a “positive atmosphere,” hinting an end to a three-year war between two Higher Islamic Councils.
“We agreed on our sect and the nation's highest interest.”The voters then went into a closed-door meeting to elect a new Grand Mufti for Lebanon.
Attendees cast their votes for two candidates Daryan and al-Kurdi. Daryan, soon after his election, held a meeting with Qabbani at his residence .
Qabbani, who succeeded in 1996 former grand mufti Hassan Khaled , who was assassinated in 1989, had previously rejected the election of Daryan as his successor. The electoral body includes four current and former premiers, 27 lawmakers, four ministers, in addition to muftis of governorates, religious judges, the members of the HIC and the Muslim Scholars Committee. Several Muslim Scholers Committee members held a sit-in outside Dar al-Fatwa, demanding clerics to assume their responsibilities and removing all guardianship ship imposed on the Sunnis highest religious post. Last week, Salam called on the Higher Islamic Council to elect a new Grand Mufti on August 10, a decision that surprisingly received the blessing of Qabbani. He also asked the head of Dar al-Fatwa's Islamic Endowments, Sheikh Hisham Khalifeh, to post the decree's stipulations at the entrance of Dar al-Fatwa, and to take all necessary administrative procedures in this regard. Qabbani's approval came in light of recent negotiations over the Dar al-Fatwa crisis, in an attempt to unite Muslims, and in response to the Egyptian initiative which received the blessing of Arabs.
The three-year dispute between the HIC led by Qabbani and that of his deputy Sheikh Omar Misqawi is the result of political interference.
The HIC -- which elects the Mufti and organizes Dar al-Fatwa's affairs – became the center of controversy in 2012 after 21 of its members, who are close to al-Mustaqbal movement, extended its term until 2015 despite Qabbani's objection. The Mufti later held elections for the Council, which were deemed illegal by ex-PMs Fouad Saniora and Najib Miqati, and the group led by Misqawi, who argued that the polls violated Shura Council decisions and did not enjoy a legal quorum. In June, Sheikh Khalifeh called for electing a new Grand Mufti in August, but this announcement was met with the opposition of the council led by Misqawi, who demanded the elections to be held as soon as possible.
Qabbani's term ends on September 15, when he reaches the legal age of the post, which is 73.
Qabbani recently blamed Saniora for the ongoing division as he seeks to cancel several powers granted to the Mufti. Meanwhile, several Lebanese officials, including ex-PM Saad Hariri, welcomed Daryan's election. During a luncheon at the Center House, Hariri said: “We will not accept that a minority of extremists drives Islam and the Muslims to a confrontation with the rest of our partners in the country and the nation. "These extremists who are uprooting Christians from Iraq, from their land and history, are a crowd of stray people who are hostile to Islam,” he added.

Hariri Discusses Saudi Grant with Qahwaji, Salam
Naharnet/Former Premier and head of al-Mustaqbal Movement MP Saad Hariri on Saturday continued discussion over the one billion dollar Saudi grant to the military institution with army chief General Jean Qahwaji and Prime Minister Tammam Salam. "Hariri met with PM Salam and Environment Minister Mohammed al-Mashnouq and the talks focused on managing the Saudi grant that is allocated to supporting the army and the security forces' needs to fight terrorism and strengthen security and stability in the country,” a statement released by the former Premier's office said. "The talks also tackled the general situation” in the country, the statement added. Later on Saturday, Hariri held another meeting with Qahwaji at the Center House for the same purpose, a second statement revealed. The head of al-Mustaqbal Movement, who made a surprise return to Lebanon on Friday morning after three years abroad, also met with Egyptian ambassador Ashraf Hamdi and Tripoli and North Mufti Sheikh Malek al-Shaar. The ex-PM declared on Wednesday that Saudi Arabia has provided Lebanon's army with one billion dollars to strengthen security. Hariri explained during a security meeting on Friday afternoon that he was tasked by King Abdullah with supervising the spending of the Saudi grant.

Jumblat Says Alternative to Baabda Void is Parliament Extension
Naharnet/Progressive Socialist Party chief Walid Jumblat said on Sunday that it was a shame for the Lebanese not to be able to elect a new president, calling for another extension of parliament's term.
“It is a shame that we the politicians failed to elect a president,” Jumblat said during a visit to several towns in Aley. “Any other solution is a one or two-year extension to parliament's term,” he said. “We can't postpone the (parliamentary) elections. But if we were compelled to do so for technical reasons, then we will condition the election of a president,” Jumblat, who heads a parliamentary bloc, said.
The parliament has so far failed to choose a successor to President Michel Suleiman whose six-year term ended on May 25. There is a large disagreement among the rival parliamentary blocs on a compromise candidate. The vacuum at the Baabda Palace comes amid looming parliamentary elections. The legislature extended its term last year to November 20, 2014 after the MPs failed to approve a new electoral draft-law. During his tour, Jumblat hoped there would be more openness among the Lebanese after ex-Premier Saad Hariri's return to Beirut. “We have many things in common despite our differences. But let us put them aside and talk to each other,” he said. Jumblat stressed that he made recent visits to Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun because “differences can only be resolved through dialogue.” He revealed that he will hold similar meetings with Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea, Marada Movement leader Suleiman Franjieh and Kataeb party chief Amin Gemayel. Jumblat added that his Democratic Gathering bloc will visit Hariri next week.

Security Forces Assault Journalists at Dar al-Fatwa
Naharnet/Several reporters and cameramen were wounded after a verbal spat occurred between a cameraman and security forces in Dar al-Fatwa. According to the state-run National News Agency, journalists were allowed to enter the hall were a new Mufti was being elected but a quarrel took place with security forces. LBCI reported that al-Arabi al-Jadeed cameraman was assaulted. Several reporters who were attacked said that they will press charges to the General Prosecution. The Internal Security Forces said an investigation was launched into the matter upon the orders of Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq and the agency's chief. Prime Minister Tammam Salam expressed regret over the incident and tasked Mashnouq with following up the matter. Dar al-Fatwa's press office rejected any attack on journalists and described the media as “Lebanon's nerve.”LBCI said that a confusion happened on whether reporters and cameramen were allowed to enter the hall where newly-elected Mufti Abdul Latif Daryan was giving a speech. Guards in civilian clothes were seen pushing journalists and assaulting them after a verbal spat. Cameramen taking photographs of guards attacking their colleagues were also beaten up. Journalists later held a sit-in near Dar al-Fatwa to condemn the attack against their colleague.

U.S. Strikes Spur Kurd Fightback against Iraq Jihadists
Naharnet/Iraq's Kurdish peshmerga, buoyed by U.S. air strikes, reclaimed two towns from jihadist fighters Sunday, while Western powers ramped up efforts to save displaced civilians stranded on a mountain. The third straight day of strikes by U.S. jets and drones brought the first sign that U.S. President Barack Obama's decision to return to Iraq could turn the tide on two months of jihadist expansion.
"The peshmerga have liberated Makhmur and Gwer," peshmerga spokesman Halgord Hekmat told AFP, adding that "U.S. aerial support helped.”Another official confirmed the Kurdish troops had recaptured the towns, which Islamic State (IS) militants had seized days earlier, bringing them within striking distance of Kurdish capital Arbil. The past week saw jihadist fighters make dramatic gains, seizing Iraq's largest dam, repeatedly defeating the peshmerga and taking over large swathes of land. The US air strikes which Obama announced on Thursday stopped the rot just as the militants moved close enough to the autonomous Kurdish region to cause a panic in Arbil, where some U.S. personnel are stationed. IS attacks have displaced 200,000 people since August 3, including all the residents of Iraq's largest Christian town Qaraqosh. Among the others affected were a large contingent of Iraq's small Yazidi minority, whose main hub Sinjar was attacked last weekend.
According to leaders and witnesses, several dozen men were executed and groups of women abducted, although reliable information from IS-held areas is scarce. When the militants entered Sinjar, tens of thousands of people ran up the nearby mountain to hide. Thousands were still there a week later, trying to survive in searing heat with little food or water.
- Mountain death trap -
The siege of Mount Sinjar, which local legend holds as the final resting place of Noah's Ark, as and a poignant appeal by Yazidi MP Vian Dakhil to save her community from extermination have captured the West's attention. Obama justified his decision to send warplanes back over Iraqi skies three years after the last troops pulled out partly because of the risk of an impending genocide. The U.S. intervention appeared to yield early results on that front too as officials said around 20,000 people had escaped the siege and been escorted to safety by Kurdish troops since Saturday.
"20,000 to 30,000 have managed to flee Mount Sinjar but there are still thousands on the mountain," Dakhil told AFP. "The passage isn't 100 percent safe. There is still a risk." Foreign aid groups operating in the region confirmed several thousand survivors of the Mount Sinjar siege had transited through Syria and crossed back into Iraq, many of them traumatised and dehydrated.
U.S. and Iraqi cargo planes have been air dropping food and water over Mount Sinjar, a barren 60-kilometer (35-mile) ridge.
Britain joined the effort overnight Saturday with its first air drop of food and water.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also visited Iraq on Sunday to oversee the delivery of France's first aid consignment, but stressed Paris would not get involved militarily.
- 'Broad-based government' -
At pains to assure war-weary Americans he was not being dragged into a new Iraqi quagmire, Obama put the onus on Iraqi politicians to form an inclusive government and turn the tide on jihadist expansion which has brought Iraq closer than ever to breakup.
His comments were yet another nudge for Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to step aside and allow for a consensus government by abandoning what looks like an increasingly desperate bid to seek a third term.
Fabius, whose country flew 18 tonnes of aid into Arbil, hammered home the same message.
"In this time, Iraq particularly needs a broad-based unity government because all Iraqis need to feel represented to wage the fight against terrorism together," he said.
Federal Iraqi forces completely folded when IS militants launched their offensive. The cash-strapped autonomous Kurdish region's peshmerga force has also struggled, and turning Sunni Arabs against the jihadists is seen as the key to rolling back two months of losses. However, there was no sense of urgency emanating from parliament Sunday as MPs who have to agree on a nomination for prime minister discussed other issues and slated the next session for August 19. Maliki, who is commander in chief of the armed forces, has not spoken publicly about the U.S. intervention, and the U.S. strikes since Friday are barely reported on Iraqi state television. Obama did not give a timetable for the U.S. military intervention but said Saturday that Iraq's problems would not be solved in weeks. "This is going to be a long-term project," he said. Agence France Presse

Erdogan Seen Winning Turkish Presidency in Election First Round

NaharnetظTurkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday was on course for a crushing first-round victory in presidential elections to become a powerful head of state, amid fears his country is creeping towards one-man rule. Erdogan was set to win 54.1 percent of the vote, way ahead of his main opposition rival Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu on 37.4 percent, Turkish television channels said, in results based on a 60 percent vote count. The third contender, Kurdish candidate Selahattin Demirtas, was set for 8.5 percent of the vote. If the trend is continued, the result will mark a personal triumph for Erdogan, 60, who has promised to be a powerful president with a beefed-up mandate, in contrast to the ceremonial role fulfilled by his recent predecessors. The polls are the first time Turkey -- a member of NATO and longtime hopeful to join the EU -- has directly elected its president, who was previously chosen by parliament, and Erdogan is hoping for a massive show of popular support.
"Our people will make an important decision for Turkish democracy," said Erdogan as he cast his vote in Istanbul alongside his wife Emine and two daughters and two sons. Erdogan indicated that he planned to revamp the post to give the presidency greater executive powers, which could see Turkey shift towards a system more like that of France if his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) succeeds in changing the constitution. "This decision has significance in that an elected president, hand-in-hand with an elected government, will lead Turkey to 2023... in a determined fashion," he said.
If Erdogan serves two presidential terms, he will stay in office to 2024 and already appears to be planning to preside over celebrations in 2023 for 100th anniversary of the foundation of the modern Turkish state.
- 'Unfair campaign' -
Erdogan's opponents accuse him of undermining the secular legacy of Turkey's founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who established a strict separation between religion and politics when he forged the new state from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire. "A ballot paper with only one name does not represent the democracy, it does not suit Turkey," said Ihsanoglu, 70, as he cast his ballot in Istanbul. He complained that the campaign had been "unfair, disproportionate", nonetheless predicting that the votes of the "silent masses" would help him to victory. Erdogan ran a lavish three-month campaign that swamped those of his rivals, his face glaring down at pedestrians in Istanbul from gigantic billboards at almost every street corner. The campaign of Ihsanoglu -- a bookish former head of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) whose candidacy was backed by the two main opposition parties -- was modest by comparison.
While many secular Turks detest Erdogan, he can still count on a huge base of support from religiously conservative middle-income voters, particularly in central Turkey and poorer districts of Istanbul, who have prospered under his rule. "I voted for Erdogan because I believe he is the only leader who can run the country properly. He has helped feed the poor and reached out to a larger section of our society," Zahide, 52, a retired nurse, after voting in Istanbul.
But Ozlem, 24, a university student, said she voted for Ihsanoglu. "Our country is at a turning point. It's either democracy or dictatorship. Everyone should come to their senses."
- 'Today is a beginning' -
The third candidate Demirtas, 41, from Turkey's Kurdish minority, hoped to attract votes not just from Kurds but also secular Turks with a left-wing, pro-gay and pro-women's rights message.
"Today is a beginning. It is a beginning for all those oppressed, marginalized, those earning their bread by the sweat of their brow," he said as he cast his vote in the city of Diyarbakir.
But even though his charisma, flashing grin and fondness for white shirts with rolled-up sleeves have earned him the moniker "the Kurdish Obama" in some quarters, it would be a major achievement if Demirtas polled above 10 percent.
Erdogan endured the toughest year of his rule in 2013, shaken by deadly mass protests sparked by plans to build a shopping mall on Gezi Park in Istanbul that grew into a general cry of anger by secular Turks who felt ignored by the AKP. Later in the year, stunning corruption allegations emerged against the premier and his inner circle, including his son Bilal, based on bugged conversations that enthralled the country like a soap opera. The future of outgoing president Abdullah Gul, a co-founder of the AKP who appears to have distanced himself from Erdogan, is unclear. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is tipped as a possible choice to be premier. Recalling that he was the last Turkish president to be elected by parliament, Gul said after voting that he wished Turkey proceeds "on its path by keeping its democracy and law stronger and consolidating its economy."Agence France Presse

Gaza Under Fire as Cairo Talks Face Moment of Truth
Naharnet/Israeli warplanes kept up their pressure on Gaza Sunday as truce talks in Cairo faced a moment of truth with the Palestinians threatening to bolt unless Israel returned to the table. Gazans had another sleepless night as the air force struck 20 targets across the enclave, although nobody was killed. But the rocket fire only started at dawn, after which six mortar shells struck the south, causing no harm or damage, the army said.  Since a 72-hour truce ended on Friday, Gaza has been plunged back into an abyss of violence, with the Israeli military hitting 150 targets and killing 15 people, and Palestinian militants firing more than 100 rockets over the border. So far, Egyptian efforts to broker an end to more than a month of fighting have led nowhere, with Israel pulling its team out of talks in Cairo on Friday after Hamas refused to extend the three-day ceasefire and resumed its rocket fire.  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday that Israel "will not engage in negotiations under fire". The statement came shortly after the Palestinians warned they would leave Cairo if Israel refused to show up by 1300 GMT. There was no let up in violence on the ground, where a 17-year-old boy was killed in an Israeli strike on central Gaza, medics said. In Gaza City, all the shops were shuttered on Sunday with fear keeping people off the streets, but there was also a sense of deep frustration. "We are tired. We just want to go home, but we want something in exchange for all our suffering," 27-year-old Samar Mohammad told Agence France Presse.
"I feel frustrated but I am confident that Israel will cave in and accept the demands of the resistance or Hamas will keep firing rockets until they do," said Shadi Abu al-Heytan, 35.
In the West Bank, medics said an 11-year-old Palestinian boy was killed in a shooting that witnesses accused Israeli soldiers of carrying out. The military said it was looking into the reports.
- Crunch point -

Mussa Abu Marzuq, deputy head of Hamas's exiled leadership, accused Israel of stalling over its demands and said Sunday would be crucial for deciding "the fate of the negotiations"."We do not want an escalation, but we will not accept that there is no reply to our demands," he said late Saturday. The Palestinian delegation, which includes Palestine Liberation Organisation officials as well as senior figures from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, was holding further talks with Egyptian mediators from 0800 GMT, an official said. But there appeared little chance of a breakthrough. "The prospects of reaching an agreement are weak and the Palestinian delegation could leave Cairo at any moment," Izzat al-Rishq, member of the Hamas politburo, tweeted shortly before the talks began.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu held talks with his cabinet at the defence ministry in Tel Aviv, with hardliners exerting pressure him to send troops back into Gaza to topple Hamas, the de facto power in the battered Palestinian enclave. Israel withdrew its forces from Gaza on August 5, wrapping up a nearly three-week ground operation aimed at destroying a network of cross-border attack tunnels. "This situation cannot continue," Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said ahead of the meeting.
"There is no doubt that the only thing left to do now is to overpower Hamas, clean out the territory and get out as quickly as possible."
Interior Minister Gideon Saar, another hardliner, agreed. "What we must do is break the military power of Hamas in Gaza," he said, without elaborating.
Last week's pullout of Israeli ground troops and the subsequent three days of calm brought relief to millions after four weeks of bloody fighting which has killed more than 2,000 Palestinians and 67 in Israel, most of them soldiers. U.N. figures show that nearly three quarters of the victims were civilians, with children making up around a third of the civilian death toll.
France, Britain and Germany on Saturday demanded an immediate halt to the ongoing hostilities in a joint declaration which said a ceasefire must address "both Israeli security concerns and Palestinian requirements regarding the lifting of restrictions on Gaza," it said.
Lifting Israel's eight-year blockade on Gaza is the main Palestinian demand at the truce talks. On Saturday, a Palestinian official said they had agreed with Egypt on a draft proposal which would be handed to Israel. It would see Egypt and the Palestinian Authority take control of the Rafah border crossing, while negotiations on the establishment of a sea port in Gaza, which Hamas has demanded, would then be delayed and entrusted to the PA, which - unlike the Islamist movement - has an interface with Israel. Agence France Presse

12 Dead, Wounded Syrian Baby Saved from Mother's Womb
Naharnet/Syrian regime air raids killed 12 people on Sunday and wounded 23, including a mother and a baby boy removed from her womb, according to a monitoring group and amateur video. The video, broadcast by militants in the city of Raqa in northeastern Syria and whose authenticity could not be verified, shows a frail infant being resuscitated with a respiratory mask on his face and blood-soaked cotton by his side. His little chest is seen responding to treatment as his bloodstained head is wrapped in gauze. "This baby's mother was wounded in the belly, and we had to remove him. He was hit in the head by shrapnel, and the doctors are trying to save him," said a commentary on the video footage.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group also reported that the infant had been removed from his mother's womb, and said both mother and child survived the ordeal.
It said 12 people -- including five children, a woman and a teacher -- were killed when regime warplanes bombarded parts of Raqa city which is held by Islamic State jihadist fighters. Since the IS launched a lightning offensive in neighboring Iraq two months ago, regime forces have been pounding positions of the jihadists who also control territory in eastern and northern Syria. The group, which declared a "caliphate" straddling the two countries at the end of June, is seeking to extend the territory it controls. IS fighters have spread terror in its strongholds such as Raqa, where it imposes its own extreme interpretation of Islam, and arrests people, beheading some and stoning others. In the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, most of which it controls, the IS has seized three villages from the influential local Shuwaitat tribe. Two weeks of fighting between the jihadists and tribesmen is reported to have killed dozens of people and led to an exodus of more than 5,000 civilians.
The more than three-year conflict in Syria, which the Observatory says has killed more than 170,000 people, has become even more complex with the rise of jihadist groups battling both government forces and mainstream rebels. Agence France Presse

Thousands Escape Iraq Mountain Death Trap

Naharnet/10 August/14

Thousands of displaced Iraqis who had been besieged on a mountain by jihadists escaped to safety Sunday while Western powers ramped up efforts to save those still stranded with air drops.
Three days after U.S. President Barack Obama ordered warplanes back in the skies over Iraq to avert what he said could be an impending genocide, France and Britain joined the humanitarian response.
An attack by extremist Islamic State (IS) militants on the Sinjar region a week ago sent thousands -- many of them from the Yazidi minority -- scurrying into a nearby mountain. Stranded on Mount Sinjar in searing summer heat with little food and water, Yazidi lawmaker Vian Dakhil had warned Saturday that they would not survive much longer. But on Sunday, she and other officials said at least 20,000 had managed to flee the siege, with the help of Kurdish troops, and cross into northern Iraq's Kurdistan region via Syria. "20,000 to 30,000 have managed to flee Mount Sinjar but there are still thousands on the mountain," she told AFP. "The passage isn't 100 percent safe. There is still a risk." An official from the Kurdish regional government in charge of the Fishkhabur crossing point between Syria and Iraq said 30,000 had crossed, mainly Saturday and Sunday. Foreign aid groups operating in the region confirmed several thousand survivors of the Mount Sinjar siege had transited through Syria and crossed back into Iraq. Kurdish forces from Iraq, Syria and Turkey have worked together in a bid to rescue the displaced Kurdish-speaking Yazidis and other civilians trapped on the mountain.
- Air drops -
The breakthrough appeared to coincide with U.S. airstrikes on IS fighters in the Sinjar area on Saturday. US forces "successfully (conducted) four airstrikes to defend Yazidi civilians being indiscriminately attacked" near Sinjar, the U.S. military said late Saturday. U.S. and Iraqi cargo planes have been air dropping food and water over Mount Sinjar, a barren 60-kilometre (35 miles) ridge that local legend holds as the final resting place of Noah's Ark. Britain joined the effort overnight Saturday with its first air drop over Sinjar of food and water. "The world has been shocked by the plight of the Yazidi community," said International Development Minister Justine Greening. "Last night the RAF (Royal Air Force) successfully dropped lifesaving UK aid supplies, including clean water and filtration devices, on the mountain." French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also arrived in Iraq, where he briefly met officials in Baghdad before flying to Arbil, to oversee the delivery of France's first aid consignment. The capital of autonomous Kurdistan is where much of the security and humanitarian response is being coordinated. One of the key justifications Obama gave on Thursday for the first U.S. military operation in Iraq since the last US troops left the country in 2011 was the protection of US personnel in Arbil.
The jihadist group IS, which has controlled parts of Syria for months, took the main northern Iraqi city of Mosul on June 10, exactly two months ago. It has since swept through much of the Sunni heartland and notched up devastating victories against federal and Kurdish troops, seizing Iraq's largest dam and causing mass displacement. Over the past week alone, 200,000 people have been forced to flee from their homes, including all the residents of Iraq's largest Christian town Qaraqosh.
- 'Broad-based government' -

At pains to assure war-weary Americans he was not being dragged into a new Iraqi quagmire, Obama put the onus on Iraqi politicians to form an inclusive government and turn the tide on jihadist expansion which has brought Iraq closer than ever to breakup. His comments were yet another nudge for Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to step aside and allow for a consensus government by abandoning what looks like an increasingly desperate bid to seek a third term.
Fabius hammered home the same message after meeting Deputy Prime Minister Hussein al-Shahristani in Baghdad Sunday. "In this time, Iraq particularly needs a broad-based unity government because all Iraqis need to feel represented to wage the fight against terrorism together," he said. Federal Iraqi forces completely folded when IS militants launched their offensive.
The cash-strapped autonomous Kurdish region's peshmerga force has also struggled and turning Sunni Arabs against the jihadists is seen as the key to rolling back two months of losses. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier added his country's support for the U.S. strikes. "Given the humanitarian catastrophe we support the targeted action by the U.S.," he said. "The U.S. measures are important also to impede the further advance" of IS insurgents.Obama did not give a timetable for the U.S. military intervention but said Saturday that Iraq's problems would not be solved in weeks. "This is going to be a long-term project," he said. Kurdish and federal officials have welcomed the U.S. strikes as a much-needed morale boost and an opportunity to regroup and plan a joint fightback.
Agence France Presse

Fabius: France not Planning Military Action in Iraq

Naharnet/France is not planning to follow the United States in carrying out military action in Iraq, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said during a visit to the country on Sunday. "The Americans have intervened in a useful way while specifying -- and they are right -- that they have no intention of sending ground troops," Fabius said at a televised joint press conference with Massud Barzani, the president of Iraq's autonomous region of Kurdistan. "As for France, our support is currently humanitarian... France is not currently planning a military-style intervention," he said. Fabius was in the Iraqi Kurdish city of Arbil to oversee the delivery of humanitarian aid to civilians who have fled the advance of Islamist fighters in the country's north. Fabius denounced what he called a "Caliphate of Hate", in reference to the self-proclaimed authority imposed by jihadists in June over parts of Iraq and Syria under their control. "(For) our friends in Kurdistan and elsewhere in Iraq, this is not only a battle for themselves but a battle for freedom that concerns us all," he said. He also repeated a call made earlier in Baghdad for the "rapid establishment of a unity government" in Iraq to fight the jihadists.
Agence France Presse

Assad Renames Halqi as Syria PM

Naharnet/President Bashar Assad on Sunday renamed Wael al-Halqi as war-torn Syria's prime minister and asked him to form a new government, state media reported.
The appointment comes three weeks after Assad was inaugurated for a third seven-year term following an election that Syria's exiled opposition and its Western backers denounced as a sham. Halqi first became premier in June 2012, succeeding Riad Hijab who defected and accused Assad regime's of "war crimes and genocide."He escaped an April 2013 assassination attempt in Damascus. Assad was sworn in for a new term on July 16, warning Western and Arab governments of the backfire they face for their support of the armed revolt in Syria. The 48-year-old won a June election denounced as a "farce" by his detractors, three years into a devastating war that has killed more than 170,000 people and uprooted millions.
Agence France Presse


Secret Cairo message: Hamas won’t bend because it wasn’t beaten. IDF: Beware of waiting game
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 10, 2014/Cairo sent a secret message to Jerusalem Saturday night, Aug. 9, saying that Egypt had been unable to bring Hamas around to any compromise because “you [Israel and the IDF] haven’t hit them hard enough.” This is revealed by debkafile’s exclusive military and intelligence sources. Therefore, there was no point in sending Israel’s envoys back to the Egyptian capital for negotiations on a durable ceasefire, because they would be coming on a fool’s errand. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu cancelled their departure, after understanding the import of the message: The Egyptian ceasefire initiative proposed by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi had nowhere to go, until Israel’s armed forces clobbered Hamas’ military wing, Ezz e-Din Al-Qassam, into submission.
After their price for a ceasefire was rejected, Hamas and Islamic Jihad considered dropping out of the negotiating track. But meanwhile, on Friday, Aug. 8, they went back at their old practice of shooting rockets at the Israeli population, while also reserving the option to ramp the barrage up or down as it suited their plans. By Sunday morning, Aug. 10, the short 72-hour respite for southern Israeli was over and the diplomatic impasse in Cairo had evolved into a diplomatic void. From the first week of the IDF ground operation in the Gaza Strip, Israel’s leaders had been groping for a way out of the hostilities. Half a dozen ceasefires were declared – and violated by Hamas, who viewed the effort as a sign of Israeli weakness. The prime minister and defense minister Moshe Ya’alon had counted on the 72-hour ceasefire, which expired Friday morning, providing Hamas commanders with a chance to come out of their bunker hidey-holes and view the devastation on the Gaza Strip surface. They would then be shocked into throwing in the towel – or so it was hoped. But instead, Hamas commanders immediately seized on the ruins as an opportunity to parade the Palestinians of Gaza to the world as victims of “Zionist” inhumanity, of which they hands were entirely clean. By now, Netanyahu and Ya’alon appear to be stumped for a policy. All their military and political maneuvers, including their decision to limit the IDF ground incursion in the Gaza Strip last month to a depth of no more than one kilometer, failed to wrest the tactical initiative of the war from Hamas or bring harm to its military wing. Friday, when Hamas resumed its rocket barrage Friday, it was in good shape, unlike the Gazan population, to embark on a war of attrition and keep it going for weeks, if not months. The inhabitants of the communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip were cast into a depressing uncertainty. After living under rocket attacks of varying intensity for 14 years, many decided to finally pull up roots, when promises by the prime minister and army leaders, that the bane was finally over and they could live in peace and safety, went out the window.
IDF generals warned Sunday morning of the dangers to the Gaza communities of a protracted period of indecision. They recalled the situation on the eve of the 1967 Six Day War, when the army stood ready, day after day, to rebuff Arab aggressors around its borders, while the late Prime Minister Levi Eshkol dithered and the Chief of Staff, the late Yitzhak Rabin, couldn’t take the suspense.
Today, too, IDF divisions stand at their staging posts, ready and willing - just as soon as they get the order - to drive deep into the Gaza Strip and finally dislodge the fundamentalist Palestinian orchestrators of the senseless violence emanating for so many years from this sliver of territory. If this order goes out, then, perhaps, Egypt may find Hamas more amenable to negotiating some sort of durable cessation of hostilities and an end to the destruction.

Where is Assad on Gaza?

By: Tariq Alhomayed/Asharq AlAwsat
August 10/14/Bashar Al-Assad’s silence on the Israeli aggression towards the Gaza Strip is striking. Most of the regional leaders who trade on the blood of others, and Assad is one of them, love to exploit the Palestinian cause. As soon as any conflict breaks out, we hear these figures come out to talk about “resistance” and “steadfastness” and so on, so why has Assad been silent this time? I do not think this is out of bitterness—as some people claim—over Hamas’s position towards the Syrian revolution. The tyrant of Damascus is well aware that Hamas did not actually stand against him; they merely disassociated themselves from his regime. In fact, neither Hamas chief Khaled Mishal nor former Gaza PM Ismail Haniyeh are capable of taking a decisive and courageous stand on the Syrian revolution for fear of the consequences this would have on Hamas’s own relations with Iran—Assad’s strongest backer. Hamas has also been seeking to re-open its lines of communication with Hezbollah, which at first appeared reticent only to later come out to say that Hamas’s relations with Iran—and by implication Hezbollah—have returned to normal, if not improved. Therefore, it is clear that Assad’s silence is based on other considerations. Today, Assad simply cannot come out to talk about “resistance” or “steadfastness,” particularly after Israel carried out airstrikes on Syrian territory without Assad responding. This is not to mention the Hezbollah fighters who are wreaking havoc across Syria in defense of Assad himself. Therefore, it is clear that Assad’s silence on the Israeli aggression towards Gaza is based on the awkward and confused political situation he finds himself in now. Assad will also not have missed the political position that Nuri Al-Maliki has found himself in, with Iran now openly considering replacing him in Iraq. Assad also has seen, with his own eyes, how Egypt is recovering and regaining its natural position in the region, while the US is taking the initiative to strike the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Iraq. An ISIS withdrawal would grant the Free Syrian Army the opportunity to go on the offensive against Assad’s own forces in Syria, after becoming bogged down in the battle with the Islamist rebels. Assad could also be feeling under pressure after former Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri returned to Lebanon this week following a long self-imposed exile. Hariri must now be very cautious about his personal safety, particularly given that the wolves of Iran can be found throughout the region. They will not be shy to use a new Abu Adas [alleged suicide bomber who initially claimed responsibility for the 2004 assassination of Rafik Hariri before it was revealed that he had been forced to make the video-taped confession]. So, these are the reasons behind Assad’s silence on Gaza. At the same time, we should not be surprised if Assad breaks this silence today, or tomorrow, to confirm that he is ready and able. Assad is not provoked by the sight of blood as much as he is by his perceived image in the media.

Obama stirs the hornets’ nest with strikes on ISIS
Sunday, 10 August 2014 /Dr. Theodore Karasik /Al Arabiya
America is now involved in fighting ISIS from the air. The rubicon is now crossed and what happens next changes the calculations on Iraq, and the immediate region, tremendously. The American president needed to show that the United States can use its assets to halt the advance of ISIS and the potential massacre of up to 40,000 Yazidi trapped in the Sinjar Mountains. Interestingly, President Obama is the fourth American president consecutively to order military action in Iraq- he joins Presidents Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43 with this unique distinction. The air strikes so far seem to be minor by targeting artillery used by ISIS against Kurdish forces defending Erbil and also dropping humanitarian relief supplies to Yazidi. Plans indicate that the airstrikes will intensify in number around Erbil, where American advisors are located, and perhaps targeting parts of Baghdad. Clearly, America thinks the Iraqi capital is under direct threat, that Iran and the Iraqi armed forces are not going to able to do much to protect Baghdad’s citizens let alone Americans. We know already that ISIS has infiltrated Baghdad, created a network of supporters with cash payments, and have conducted suicide operations. With government confusion, and weakness apparent, ISIS knows the time is ripe to keep pushing forward. The reason for the airstrikes is not only to protect hundreds of US personnel on the ground in Iraq but also to shore-up the Kurdish Region Government (KRG). The KRG, up until a few days ago, seemed outside of ISIS’s sights. Now that calculation is changing and this makes the U.S. and Iraqi neighbor’s nervous. ISIS knows what it is doing: the Islamic State needs—and requires—more territory to expand, capturing as much goods in order to promote its economy. KRG is a rich target and ISIS clearly will bulldoze and kill anything and everything in its path to make the Islamic State a reality. ISIS is true mercantilist machine.
Opening up a Pandora’s Box
The problem with the airstrikes to date is that America is targeting ISIS artillery and associated vehicles. Dozens of ISIS fighters are now dead. Hitting ISIS in this manner may open up a Pandora’s Box because ISIS is looking for a fight with Americans and suck the United States into the conflict and make American targets in the region under threat. An ISIS spokesman allegedly stated: “Don’t be cowards and attack us with drones. Instead send your soldiers, the ones we humiliated in Iraq. We will humiliate them everywhere, God willing, and we will raise the flag of Allah at the White House.”
“The American campaign needs to be more robust — attacking all ISIS military and economic assets — and deadly”In addition, ISIS reportedly stated that it intends to attack Kuwait. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the “caliph” of the Islamic State, reportedly declared his group's desire to invade the GCC's northernmost member state. Such a move against Kuwait, which was last invaded by Saddam Hussein's Iraq in 1990, would supposedly draw the US back into Iraq so that ISIS could enact its “revenge” according to ISIS strategists who are targeting Kuwait and Saudi Arabia between now and 2019. “We can get even with the United States. We cannot reach them, but they will come to us after we attack Kuwait,” Baghdadi is reported as saying. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia already have troops on their borders but the internal situation in both countries needs extra care because of tribal disenchantment. That could be the turning point in both countries. Also American military and commercial activity in both countries may be targeted by ISIS now. The type of extremism promoted by ISIS, which claims religious authority over all Muslims and has carried out mass executions on the grounds of apostasy in the past, could fan the flames of sectarian hatred across the region. They target those who are against the current regime and lure them in until eventually they are convinced that they are fighting for a cause. This campaign targets the youth, who are attracted to ISIS as it is more like a “gang” and has all the associated attributes and benefits to attract them.
The American campaign needs to be more robust—attacking all ISIS military and economic assets-- and deadly—no deradicalization programs will help these fighters-- while at the same time providing humanitarian relief. Damaging ISIS weapons systems does not take the fight out of ISIS. Also, other countries need to get involved. According to an Arab official, Turkey and Britain are assisting the Americans so a coalition of forces needs to be fully implemented. Of course, any friend of America becomes an ISIS target specifically the countries helping support Washington’s air campaign. Simultaneously, countries neighboring Iraq need to ramp up their border and homeland security capabilities in order to prevent the spread of ISIS’s revenge and to watch carefully for the appearance of graffiti, the gang-tags of ISIS. Clearly, ISIS is the largest threat to not only Iraq but to the Levant and the Arabian Peninsula. Luckily for the Americans, the brutality and discourse of ISIS is almost mutually hated by everyone in the region so this fact enables countries to rally around defeating ISIS. But ISIS does have its followers and those fighters represent a threat to all. America’s campaign needs a firm mission besides the “light strikes” to date. In addition, President Obama needs to have an endgame in mind: ISIS is not simply going to go away with sorties.

The need for a Syrian awakening to defeat terrorism
Sunday, 10 August 2014
Raghida Dergham /Al Arabiya
Does the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group constitute a radical shift in the history and the future of the Arab region, or is it a transient phenomenon, no matter how formidable it seems with its strength and its performance in the battlefields of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon today? Obviously, trying to answer this question unleashes various theories regarding anything from the composition of this group to its ultimate fate. Regardless, it is necessary for every “nurturing environment” in any Arab region to scrutinize the options available to it and to various players concerned with the emergence of ISIS and similar groups – be they supporters or opponents thereof. ISIS and similar groups could indeed be a transient phenomenon, but they are terrifyingly nihilistic and violent and they pursue an ideology that sanctions crimes against humanity. ISIS is convenient for those trying to divert attention away from the atrocities committed by others, and it is useful – temporarily – for those who take advantage of its brutality to destabilize and subvert. Interestingly, ISIS in Syria is not quite the same as ISIS in Iraq, while the ISIS that reached Lebanon is more Syrian than Iraqi, in terms of its background and ambitions.
‘Superficial’ choice
Some believe that ISIS’s choice of the Bekaa town of Arsal to declare its arrival in Lebanon, with a view to instigate sectarian strife, was “superficial.” These people indicate that Arsal is a Sunni town whose surroundings are Shiite, and that the incidents in Arsal have turned the entire public against the militants, especially after they clashed with the army and after Syrian refugees took part in the fighting alongside ISIS and al-Nusra Front against the people of Arsal who had sheltered them in their homes. “What is needed is a kind of “Sahawat” or “Awakening” similar to the movement that we saw in Fallujah in Iraq”
According to the people behind this view, the plan for Sunni-Shiite strife has no fertile ground in Lebanon. In effect, the fighting in Arsal this week “exposed” the plans for causing strife. Thus, ISIS and its ilk failed from the outset in Lebanon, because the Lebanese configuration itself is in such a way that every community is incapable of defending itself on its own. In other words, everyone protects everyone, and this is the most important recipe against partition and permanent strife.
Others see the issue from a political rather than a sectarian standpoint. They believe that there is a need to make a distinction between the "war on terror" and involving the Lebanese army in the war against ISIS, al-Nusra Front, and other Syrian opposition groups in support of Bashar al-Assad and his allies fighting in Syria, led by Hezbollah. The proponents of this view refuse in principle implicating the Lebanese army in the war with ISIS and similar groups, because the army cannot win the battle on its own. However, if the Lebanese army were forced to coordinate with Hezbollah to achieve victory, then this would be a prelude to its collapse.
Uprising against ISIS
Hezbollah, in their view, is behind the decision to push the Lebanese army into the battle between the regime in Damascus and its opponents – of various affiliations and projects. The Lebanese people rose up automatically in support of the army against terrorism, which has been linked to ISIS and al-Nusra Front in particular, especially since ISIS declares all non-Sunnis to be apostates who may be killed. As Lebanon is basically made up of minorities, the Lebanese rose up against ISIS. But after the relative calm, questions emerged that go beyond the emotional and patriotic furor. Many have asked: Is this a war against the terrorism that has come to terrorize us, or is it a war to support Bashar al-Assad in his battle against the Syrian opposition?
The majority of the Lebanese do not want to be drawn into the Syrian war, regardless of whether it is designated as a war on terror, or whether it is practically part of the war on the Syrian opposition. Many of them blame Hezbollah, for having entered as party to the war in Syria in support of the regime of Bashar al-Assad, which it justified under the pretext of waging a preemptive war on terrorism to prevent its spread to Lebanon. But this is reminiscent of what George W. Bush said when he waged his war on terror in Iraq, to fight terrorists there away from American cities.
Walking the walk
President Bush put what he had in mind into practice, diverting the war on terror away from the American people in American cities in the direction of the people of Iraq and the nurturing environment for terrorism in the Arab and Islamic nations. But Hezbollah is no George W. Bush. Its preemptive wars in Syria cannot be compared to American preemptive wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Therefore, the pretext of taking part in the war in Syria to prevent terrorism in Lebanon was flawed from the outset. Now, ISIS has arrived in Arsal; but how did this happen? There is a theory that purports that the entry of ISIS and al-Nusra Front to Arsal is proof of Hezbollah’s military decline if not structural weakness after it overstretched itself in Syria with its involvement in the war there. The proponents of this theory believe that ISIS’s arrival in Arsal took place despite attempts by Hezbollah to repel it in Qalamoun and other Syrian regions. The counter-theory argues that Hezbollah decided not to intercept ISIS and al-Nusra Front on their way to Lebanon, in implementation of a strategy to implicate Lebanon in the war on terror of which the regime of Bashar al-Assad has appointed itself as the leader on behalf of the West, in order to obtain the latter’s sympathy and support, instead of attempting to remove it and hold it accountable sooner or later. Regardless of whether the theory is valid or not, the question everywhere is this: What is ISIS? Who is funding, supporting, and leading ISIS? Who created the group to begin with, who does it work for, and how is it achieving such victories? This fixation on ISIS is itself striking, as it has become the “rage” to talk about ISIS amid near complete neglect of what is happening in Syria and the fierce war still raging there.
The ISIS façade
I believe ISIS is realistically and practically the creation of the regime in Damascus, which had released its current leaders from prison – after using them in the Iraq war and jailing them after they served their purpose. The Free Syrian Army (FSA) moved gradually toward the condemnation of the arrival of ISIS and al-Nusra Front in Lebanon, which was intended to draw Lebanon into the Syrian war or to take revenge against Hezbollah’s actions in the Syrian war. Ultimately, the FSA condemned what happened and stressed its support for Lebanon’s unity. However, the branching off of the Syrian opposition remains at the heart of the reasons for the failure of the peaceful Syrian uprising, having abetted terrorist ideologies. Syrian refugees in Lebanon with their enormous numbers exceeding a quarter of Lebanon's population and the one million mark, have become a "ticking bomb,” not only for demographic, humanitarian and employment-related reasons, but also because there are those among those refugees who have decided to "reward" the Lebanese people by joining the ranks of ISIS and al-Nusra Front, and fighting the Lebanese army and killing the people of the town that gave them shelter. Certainly, the proportion of such individuals is small, but they nonetheless have a huge impact. These people have undermined trust in Syrian refugees, as did their peers who blocked roads in large numbers when they came out to vote for President Bashar al-Assad, in their capacity as “refugees” in Lebanon.
If they are refugees, then they have to abide by the international laws that restrict their activities as refugees in the host country and community. If the Syrian opposition is conscientious and serious, and understands its responsibilities, then it must seriously think whether Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, and elsewhere are engaging in political activity, spontaneous or organized, in a way that leads to resentment against them instead of sympathy for them. In other words, defeating terrorist groups that are infiltrating the political opposition and commandeering them to serve their own destructive ideological goals requires, without a doubt, the participation of both the official and popular Syrian opposition in the efforts against these groups.
A new awakening
What is therefore needed is a kind of “Sahawat” or “Awakening” similar to the movement that we saw in Fallujah in Iraq, which managed to defeat al-Qaeda and similar groups there thanks to the cooperation and solidarity of the tribes and the nurturing environment for the efforts against those who brought terrorism to their local community.
Replicating the “Awakening” model in Lebanon requires more than the participation of the peaceful Syrian opposition and the Syrian refugees in Lebanon in the effort against the involvement of ISIS and al-Nusra Front in Lebanon – either to retaliate against Hezbollah or in accordance with a plan by the regime in Damascus and Hezbollah to lure them in to Lebanon.
Second, the model also requires Lebanese Sunnis to come out together and seriously behind a conscious strategy to distinguish between opposition to Hezbollah’s attempt to implicate Lebanon in Syria by refusing to abide by the principle of “self-dissociation” from the conflict in Syria, and accepting any role by ISIS no matter what, with some Sunnis considering that stopping Hezbollah requires bringing in ISIS here and there. Third, it will not be possible to defeat ISIS and similar groups in Lebanon unless Hezbollah reverses its policies in Syria. Involving the Lebanese army in the battle against ISIS will not bring victory against the latter. The Lebanese people will not accept to be part of the Syrian regime’s war on the Syrian opposition, whether through the gateway of ISIS or al-Nusra Front, if their arrival in Lebanon is the result of Hezbollah luring them or Hezbollah’s weakness. ransient phenomenon if the conditions are met to defeat it, and if the regional powers adopt the kind of measures they know well against their citizens fighting for or funding ISIS, and those who secretly support it believing it to be the answer to Iran in Iraq and Syria, or to Hezbollah.
The measures and positions taken by the Gulf countries against the terrorism of ISIS and other groups is no longer enough. There is an urgent need for harsher measures against citizens duped into supporting ISIS in some countries. The time has come for the Gulf countries to put an end to their proxy wars, either to take revenge against regimes or in fulfillment of a certain ideology.
Internationally, there is a lot to be said. The issue is complex, regardless of how much everyone is conveniently invoking the misleading title of the “war on terror.” To be sure, that war seems to exclude state terrorism, and to focus instead on non-state actors. Those who are part of the war on terror have used Iraq as its main battlefield, destroying the country in the process, and are now doing the same in Syria, with the result being the tearing apart of another country. The talk here is not just about those who are waging wars against terrorism, but also those who use terrorism as a means to their destructive ends.
This article was first published in al-Hayat on August 8, 2014 and was translated by Karim Traboulsi.