Bible/Faith/Quotation for today/The New Life in Christ Ephesians 04 /17-32: " In
the Lord's name, then, I warn you: do not continue to live like the heathen,
whose thoughts are worthless and whose minds are in the dark. They have no part
in the life that God gives, for they are completely ignorant and stubborn. They
have lost all feeling of shame; they give themselves over to vice and do all
sorts of indecent things without restraint. That was not what you learned about
Christ! You certainly heard about him, and as his followers you were taught the
truth that is in Jesus. So get rid of your old self, which made you live as you
used to—the old self that was being destroyed by its deceitful desires. Your
hearts and minds must be made completely new, 24 and you must put on the new
self, which is created in God's likeness and reveals itself in the true life
that is upright and holy. No more lying, then! Each of you must tell the truth
to the other believer, because we are all members together in the body of
Christ. If you become angry, do not let your anger lead you into sin, and do
not stay angry all day. Don't give the Devil a chance. If you used to rob, you
must stop robbing and start working, in order to earn an honest living for
yourself and to be able to help the poor. Do not use harmful words, but only
helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what
you say will do good to those who hear you. And do not make God's Holy Spirit
sad; for the Spirit is God's mark of ownership on you, a guarantee that the Day
will come when God will set you free. Get rid of all bitterness, passion, and
anger. No more shouting or insults, no more hateful feelings of any sort.
Instead, be kind and tender-hearted to one another, and forgive one another, as
God has forgiven you through Christ.
Latest analysis, editorials from
miscellaneous sources published on August 11 & 12/14
'IDF does not know of any infiltration tunnels crossing
from Lebanon into Israel'
By BEN HARTMAN /J.Post/08/11/2014
Head of Northern Command tells front line communities in the North that the IDF
is prepared to handle threat of infiltration tunnels. The IDF does not know of
any infiltration tunnels crossing from Lebanon into Israel, Head of the Northern
Command Major General Yair Golan said Sunday. Speaking to a forum of front line
communities in Kfar Vradim in the North, Golan said that the tunnels do not pose
a strategic threat on the northern border but that the IDF is prepared to handle
the issue, even as they do not know of any such tunnels.
The infiltration tunnels from Gaza to Israel were used to deadly effect by Hamas
during the war. Over the course of several incidents their gunmen used tunnels
to enter Israel near the Gaza border and attack IDF troops with anti-tank
missiles and small arms fire, taking the lives of at least 10 soldiers. The
tunnels were also used by Hamas gunmen to maneuver during gunfights and to
retreat safely from IDF fire. A tunnel was also used to spirit the body of
soldier Hadar Goldin deeper into Gaza and away from pursuing IDF soldiers.
Though the rockets and mortars were a source of anxiety and fear for millions of
Israelis, the tunnels represented a new fear, that of highly-trained gunmen
popping out of the Earth and raiding border communities and killing civilians.
Nightmare scenarios were repeatedly discussed in the media, including
simultaneous infiltrations from tunnels across the border. Such scenarios were
boosted by the discovery during the war of two motorcycles the IDF said had been
stashed in a tunnel, apparently to allow gunmen to make their way far from the
tunnel to major Israeli population centers. The fear of the infiltrations, along
with the mortars and rockets, is one of the reasons for an exodus during the war
of residents of the Gaza border communities, some of which saw more than 75% of
their residents flee further north During Operation Protective Edge. While the
terrain on the northern border is less easy to dig through than the soft dirt
and sand surrounding Gaza, ever since the tunnels were used by Hamas in the war,
the possibility of tunnels on the Lebanon border and the possibility that
Hezbollah or others would use them to carry out terror attacks on northern
communities has been a subject of wide discussion.
Raviv Gutman, head of security for Bar’am, the Kibbutz closest to the Lebanon
border, said Monday that he believes the army is taking the issue very seriously
and he is confident that when the IDF says they haven’t found tunnels, they’re
telling the truth. “It’s not like you hear in the media that they’re neglecting
the resident of the North. They’re taking it very seriously and as far as I know
they haven’t found anything,” Gutman said, adding that just because they haven’t
found any tunnels doesn’t rule out the possibility that there may be some out
there. When asked what an infiltration by armed gunmen would mean for Bar’am he
said it is simply “a horror movie that none of us want to think about.” Ido
Gavish, the head of emergency response for Kibbutz Yiftah said that like in
kibbutzim and moshavs next to the Gaza border, in Yiftah residents had also
reported hearing the sounds of digging underneath their houses at night, though
every report checked out as a false alarm. He said that in one case it turned
out that the digging sound was caused by a broken water pipe under the house of
a kibbutz resident. Gavish said “I think that the fear people have is justified,
but it's baseless,” adding that he trusts the army and believes “that any
officer responsible for this area wants to succeed.” Regardless of how much he
and other residents of the kibbutz trust the army, he said that since the Hamas
tunnel infiltrations began, the possibility of tunnels from Lebanon has become a
hot topic on the pathways and communal areas of the kibbutz and has been a
source of anxiety for some. That said, he added that he doesn’t know of anyone
who has said they were thinking about moving out of the kibbutz because of the
Tripoli alcohol advertising ban draws fire
Nizar Hassan/Antoine Amrieh| The Daily Star
BEIRUT/TRIPOLI, Lebanon: A recent decision by Tripoli’s mayor to ban
advertisements for alcoholic drinks in the city has sparked an uproar online.
While the decision was praised by some Islamist movements in the city, it has
been strongly condemned by others who described it as an ISIS-like policy.
“Tripoli’s mayor, Mr. Nader Mohammad Ghazal simply wants to turn the city into
an Islamic emirate with his ISIS-ist decision to ban advertisements of alcoholic
drinks,” said an article by the online news outlet Lebanondebate.com. The
article called on the Interior Ministry to prevent more of what it called a
decision “that brings back memories of extremist fundamentalist movements to the
city.” In response to the criticism, Ghazal released a statement defending his
act, saying “it was not a precedent,” because previous mayors had also taken
similar measures. He said the step was a preventive measure that makes sense,
especially considering the police’s goals to limit driving under the influence
of alcohol. “[How] are drinks that lead to fading the mind advertised,” Ghazal
said, “while the Internal Security Forces is patrolling in search for drunk
drivers?” Ghazal also justified his decision by saying the ads were poorly
timed, especially “in a phase where extremism is increasing in all directions.”
“The city cannot stand any provocation to any side,” Ghazal added, referring to
Islamist groups that consider alcohol ads offensive. “Regardless, everyone
already knows that the city's restaurants have not served alcoholic drinks for
many years, so I do not know why some are considering this provocative.”In a
later statement, Ghazal's defense diverted in to a legal justification for the
removal of the advertisement. “This advertisement violated the rules of
publication” he said. “[Rules] linked to the need for the local authority’s
approval as well as the payment of license fees” he added. Tripoli’s Mayor said
that the municipality removed the ad for legal considerations and not because of
its content. Ghazal condemned the social media buzz over the incident, saying
that online allegations aimed at violating the northern city’s communal unity
and intended to distort Tripoli’s image. Mohammad Hajar, the public relations
officer at Tripoli’s News Network, said it was true that most Tripoli’s
restaurants avoid offering any alcoholic products. “There are only three to four
places that offer alcoholic drinks,” he said.
“However, the Mina neighborhoods have many pubs and shops selling alcohol,” he
said, “because they have their own municipality.” In defense of his position,
Ghazal also said the ads were illegal and that they required special licenses.
But his statement stressed that the other reasons for the decision were the most
central. “This is not the first time we have removed billboards that we
considered to be politically, socially or morally inappropriate,” he said. In
response, numerous activists from city and elsewhere started a social media
campaign to protest Ghazal’s decision and voice their support for a diverse
Tripoli that respects the liberty of its citizens. On Twitter, an account called
Tripoli Loves Beer was created, and the #Tripoli_Loves_Beer was trending among
However, the most successful campaign so far was on Facebook, where a page was
created with the same name, to which people, in particular residents of Tripoli,
sent photos of themselves drinking beer or other alcoholic drinks. One of the
users sent a photo of a party allegedly going on in Tripoli, while another
humorously edited a famous photograph that had dozens of electoral posters for
different politicians, replacing every poster with an ad for Almaza, Heineken,
961 or Effes beers. According to Mohammad, an activist from Tripoli, the
decision further alienates the city from other parts of Lebanon. “We do not need
another incident to reinforce the stereotypes that Tripoli is an extremely
conservative city with no individual liberty,” he told The Daily Star. Although
Ghazal said in his statement that the ads might increase extremism, the activist
had a different take on the matter. “What actually strengthens extremism is
adopting policies that make this culture look more legitimate,” he said.
“Incorporating Islamic Shariah in municipal laws is definitely not the best way
to confront extremism.” “If that is truly the purpose, regulating Friday’s
preaches at Tripoli’s mosque is the solution, not regulating the
Former Lebanon-Based American with
Suspected Jihadist Allegiance Arrested in NY
Naharnet/An American who tweeted his allegiance to the leader of Islamic State
jihadists was arrested at New York's JFK airport last week, officials said
Monday. Donald Ray Morgan was taken into custody on August 2 upon his arrival
from Frankfurt, according to documents filed in a federal court in Brooklyn.
Morgan had spent eight months in Lebanon, where his wife lives, the New York
Daily News reported. A spokesperson for prosecutors said the 44-year-old
ex-convict was arrested in connection with a North Carolina indictment and
charged with "being a felon in possession of firearms."Authorities also
discovered that Morgan had tweeted his loyalty to the leader of the Islamic
State using the alias Abu Omar al Amreeki. "The defendant expressed his
allegiance to the leader of ISIS on his Twitter account: Abu Omar al Amreeki,"
the prosecutor's spokesperson said, without providing more details. The Federal
Bureau of Investigation, however, said Morgan has not been charged with
terrorism. There is "no indication of anything with terrorism, the charges are
for fire arms violation," an FBI spokesperson said. He is currently being
transported to North Carolina, according to the prosecutor's office. In mid
June, Sunni Arab militants, led by jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and
the Levant, which was later renamed the Islamic State (IS) and is sometimes
referred to as ISIS, seized Iraq's second biggest city Mosul as government
forces took flight.Following advances, the jihadists declared an "Islamic
caliphate" late that month. Renaming itself the IS, it declared its chief Abu
Bakr al-Baghdadi "caliph" and "leader for Muslims everywhere." Agence France
SCC Holds onto its Stance despite Political Calls to Resume
Correction of Exams
Naharnet/The Syndicate Coordination Committee announced on Monday that it will
continue its boycott of correcting the official exams until the approval of the
new wage scale.
Politicians have meanwhile been demanding that teachers correct exams in order
to avoid granting students certificates, indicating that they have passed their
academic year, as a substitute to the exams. Education Minister Elias Bou Saab
called on the committees tasked with correcting exams to do so on Tuesday.
"We'll hand certificates to students if they fail to comply," he said after
meeting with an SCC delegation on Monday afternoon. Earlier, head of the SCC
Hanna Gharib declared during a press conference that the committee rejects the
idea of certificates, demanding political blocs to “sympathize with the teachers
and students” and approve the new wage. He demanded that officials “halt their
stalling,” while rejecting claims of divisions within the SCC. The new school
year will not begin before the approval of the new wage scale,” added the
committee. It then announced that it will go ahead with the boycott, saying it
will hold a sit-in in front of the Education Ministry on Tuesday morning and a
general strike on Wednesday It will also hold a rally in front of the Grand
Serail in Beirut. "Those who heed the minister's call to meet on Tuesday will be
held accountable for their actions," it added. Teachers representing the AMAL,
Free Patriotic, and Mustaqbal Movements had urged on Sunday the SCC to correct
official exams. Education Minister Elias Bou Saab announced on Friday that he is
going forward with issuing passing statements for Grade 12 and Grade 9 school
students who have applied for official exams, calling on teachers and the SCC to
end their boycott. The SCC’s suspension of the exams correction had left Grade
12 students in disarray as they are awaiting the results to enroll in university
while Grade 9 students, who underwent the Brevet exams, need to pass their tests
in order to enter the secondary school. Parliamentary blocs have continuously
expressed their support for the employees' rights, but have warned that
Lebanon's ailing economy would suffer if the total funding was not reduced from
LL2.8 trillion ($1.9 billion) to LL1.8 trillion ($1.2 billion). They have also
disagreed on how to raise taxes to fund the scale over fears of inflation and
its affect on the poor. Their differences have been exacerbated by the boycott
of the March 14 alliance's MPs of the sessions aimed at discussing the draft-law
under the excuse that parliament should not legislate in the absence of a
Jumblat after Talks with Hariri: Henri Helou is Our Candidate and We'll Not
Abandon Him for a Settlement
Naharnet/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat announced on Monday
that Aley lawmaker Henri Helou remains the Democratic Gathering bloc's candidate
for office, rejecting to withdraw the MP's nomination for the sake of “any
settlement.”"Seikh Saad (Hariri) and all of us are keen on electing a president
and we remind you that our candidate is Henri Helou,” Jumblat said after holding
talks with the former Premier and the head of al-Mustaqbal Movement at the
Center House. Helou “remains our nominee and we will not withdraw his candidacy
for a certain political settlement,” he added. “And if we abandon his candidacy,
we would be withdrawing support for a path that we adopted and which is about
moderation and centrism.”“We hope the number of votes supporting Helou would
increase and if the main parties agree on a candidate, let it be a battle over
votes,” he remarked. The PSP leader stressed that electing a new president is a
fixed priority, highlighting that atrocities of the Islamic State of Iraq and
the Levant against Christians and Yazdis in Iraq and Syria. He said: “Vacuum
harms all state institutions and we should not head to a situation similar to
what is happening in Iraq.”Former President Michel Suleiman left the Baabda
Palace on May 25 without a successor to rule the state in the coming six years,
as differences between the March 14 and the March 8 coalition prevent the
presidential polls from taking place. Jumblat told reporters after the talks
with Hariri that the latter's return to Lebanon “amid a very complicated
situation...deters great problems and underscores the path that his father (late
PM Rafik Hariri) had taken and which is moderate Islam.”
“We might be face crises other than Arsal but with Hariri's presence and with
the election of a president we will be able to confront political and social
impasses,” he expressed. “All the Arab world is under threat and there is chaos
in general and I think that thanks to Hariri and others' efforts, like Saudi
Arabia, there is an umbrella protecting Lebanon and we have to help in this
Hariri made a surprise return on Friday after spending three years abroad. He
said during a security meeting at the Grand Serail that he was tasked by Saudi
King Abdullah with supervising the spending of the one billion dollar grant to
the military institution and security forces. In a separate matter and earlier
in the day, Jumblat stated that it has become necessary to seriously control the
flow of Syrian refugees into Lebanon given the recent unrest in the northeastern
town of Arsal and the likelihood that the conflict in the neighboring country
will not end any time soon. He said in his weekly editorial in the PSP-affiliated
al-Anba website: “Given the recent Arsal unrest, we must reconsider the
possibility of setting up refugee camps in Lebanon.” He noted that the camps
will have positive repercussions on the country's security and it will help
organize the spread of aid to the displaced. In addition, the MP proposed that
one of the security agencies, such as the General Security, could be tasked with
monitoring the flow of the refugees into Lebanon through inquiring about their
status and “determining if they are indeed being persecuted or if they are
seeking to carry out suspicious acts in Lebanon.”
Several officials have voiced their rejection of establishing refugee camps,
warning that it may be a precursor to the eventual naturalization of the
refugees. Commenting on last week's fighting in Arsal, Jumblat called for
immediately launching the “widest developmental plan for the town that harbored
the Lebanese army.” “The plan should create a qualitative change, not a cosmetic
one, in Arsal in order to relieve its residents, who are not only suffering from
daily hardships, but they are also burdened by around 100,000 refugees,” he
explained. Fighting erupted on August 2 between the army and Islamist militants
in Arsal in light of the arrest of a prominent member of the al-Qaida-affiliated
al-Nusra Front. Scores of soldiers were killed and wounded in the ensuing
clashes. A ceasefire was reached on Thursday, but at least 35 troops have been
held captive by the gunmen who fled the town.
Fletcher Visits Hariri, Calls for Spirit of Tolerance
Naharnet/British Ambassador Tom Fletcher said Monday that it was necessary for
rival Lebanese leaders to come together to face rising threats. “It is a moment
of mounting threats to the country and to its people, so it is even more
important than ever that Lebanon’s leaders come together in a spirit of
tolerance, moderation, and consensus,” said Fletcher following talks with al-Mustaqbal
movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri. He called for “wisdom and courage to face
together these threats” and reiterated that Britain “stands in solidarity with
the Lebanese people.” The diplomat welcomed Hariri's decision to return to
Beirut. “In the coming days I hope to be speaking further about ways in which we
will show that when Lebanon is in trouble, Britain will remain on Lebanon’s
side,” Fletcher told reporters at the Center House in Beirut.. He added that he
“looked forward to meeting other leaders in the coming days we set out the ways
in which we will lend out support as Lebanon circles the wagons in order to keep
the conflicts out of the country.” Also Monday, several Lebanese officials,
including MP Dory Chamoun, General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim and
Internal Security Forces leader Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Basbous, visited Hariri.
Kataeb: We Should Hold Presidential Elections instead of
Promoting Extension of Parliament's Term
Naharnet /The Kataeb Party warned on Monday that the extension of parliament's
term is aimed at harming the role of the presidency through “indefinitely”
maintaining the presidential vacuum in Lebanon.
It said in a statement after its weekly politburo meeting: “The dangerous
developments that Lebanon experienced may reoccur if we do not elect a
president.”“We should stage the presidential elections instead of promoting the
extension of parliament's term for security or logistical purposes,” it added.
“Maintaining the presidential vacuum harms Lebanon's institutions and is a
precursor to destroying the Lebanese system and its historic democratic course,”
continued the Kataeb Party. Furthermore, the party hailed the return to Lebanon
of head of the Mustaqbal Movement MP Saad Hariri, hoping that it should be
“exploited to assert stability and pave the way restarting internal dialogue
among the political foes.”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. Speaker Nabih Berri
last week voiced his opposition to the extension, urging the interior minister
to carry out the preparations to hold the November polls.Progressive Socialist
Party chief MP Walid Jumblat had on the other hand voiced his support on Sunday
for the extension, saying that a two-year extension would substitute the failure
to hold the presidential elections.
Higher Relief Council Delegation Inspects Damage in Arsal
Naharnet /A Higher Relief Council delegation headed by Major
General Mohammed Kheir headed on Monday to the northeastern town of Arsal to
inspect the damage caused by clashes between the Lebanese army and Islamist
militants. “Our visit is to inspect the damage on the field and to prepare a
plan to swiftly aid the residents,” Kheir told reporters. “This is a preliminary
inspection and in 24 hours Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji will task a
committee with surveying the area.” The fighting in Arsal broke out on August 2
when jihadists from Syria attacked army and police posts in Arsal after the
arrest of a militant accused of belonging to Syrian al-Qaida affiliate Al-Nusra
Front. During the fighting, at least 35 soldiers and policemen were seized by
the militants and are still being held hostage. The Lebanese army began
deploying in Arsal on Friday after Muslim Scholars Committee officials
negotiated a truce that saw jihadists withdraw.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. Bashir Khodr, the governor of Baalbek and
Hermel, said that residents of Arsal “were the victim of terrorism.”
“Syrian encampments are ticking bombs and what happened in the northeastern town
should not occur again in any other area across Lebanon,” Khodr said. For his
part, Arsal municipal chief Ali al-Hujairi considered that the recent clashes in
the town were expected. “We don't want to engage in a war with anyone and we
want to develop the town,” he said, demanding the state to assume its
responsibilities towards Arsal. He revealed that he had warned security
apparatuses three months ago that gunmen had taken control of the outskirts of
Lebanese authorities raid Syrian refugee gatherings
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Security forces, along with Municipality Police, launched
raids on Syrian refugee gatherings in the Beirut suburb of Dekwaneh, arresting
many, a security source told The Daily Star.
Although the source declined to specify the number of detainees, they said those
apprehended possessed photos of Syrian battlefields stored in their cellphones.
The buildings subject to the raids are located in Ras Dekwaneh and housed
hundreds of Syrian families. The raids were made in light of the last week’s
clashes in Arsal, which pitted the Lebanese Army against militants from Syria,
some of whom resided in informal refugee camps in the border region. The
fighting raised concerns about refugee gatherings scattered across the country,
particularly in the Metn region and Beirut’s northern suburbs, the source said.
Earlier this week, a Syrian man sexually assaulted a girl in Dekwaneh, prompting
a group of Lebanese young men to retaliate and attack the man. Minutes later,
the Syrian returned with a group of 20 others who staged a revenge attack on the
men, the source said. Syrians, who have mostly fled clashes in their home
country and work in Lebanon’s Metn region, have also been blamed for the rise of
crimes such as theft, sexual assault and drug-related offenses. Municipalities
have taken measures to register refugees in their respective towns and
districts, part of a nationwide plan to better control the presence of thousands
of refugees who have fled violence in Syria. Meanwhile, the Lebanese Army raided
informal refugee camps in the eastern border towns of Hermel and Masharih al-Qaa,
the National News Agency reported. The Army raided last week the largest
gathering of refugees in the coastal city of Sidon as well.
Hariri: Presidential election should come first
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri said Monday that
Parliamentary elections would not take place before the election of a new
president, adding that dialogue with various political factions was still
ongoing to agree on a consensus candidate. “We can’t accept the continuity of
the presidential void," Hariri told reporters at his Downtown Beirut residence.
"No parliamentary elections will take place before we hold presidential
elections."Hariri highlighted that consultations with political groups are
ongoing in an effort to reach a consensus candidate for the presidential seat.
According to MTV, Harriri said that if parties failed to elect a president, then
he would support the extension of Parliament's mandate as to avoid a total void
in state institutions. Hariri renewed his call to political factions to sumbit
their serious considerations and head to Parliament to elect a new head of
state. Shortly before his statement, Hariri met with Progressive Socialist Party
head Walid Jumblatt. "Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s presence in Lebanon is
an essential factor in solving the country’s grave problems," Jumblatt told
reporters. “The Arab world is threatened and there is general chaos but in the
presence of Saad Hariri and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, there is an umbrella
protecting Lebanon” Jumblatt said, highlighting that “it isn’t enough to
acknowledge the protective umbrella, we, as concerned parties, should also
reinforce and support stabilizing the state.” The PSP leader reiterated support
for his party’s candidate Henri Helou, stressing that no consensus had been
reached over the upcoming President. Despite the fact that Helou has only
accrued sixteen votes in Parliament, Jumblatt called for more votes, describing
Helou as "a model for moderation." “The moment we let go of Helou [as a
candidate], we lose the line of centrism and moderation," Jumblatt said. The
Chouf MP also condemned the paralysis of all state institutions, warning of a
replication of the Iraqi crisis in Lebanon.
Security agencies advise against election: Machnouk
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk Monday said security
agencies had advised against holding the parliamentary elections scheduled in
November, in another sign that the poll will most likely be postponed again.
“Security agencies advised to postpone the poll in light of the critical
security situation,” Machnouk said on his Twitter feed. “The security reports I
am receiving make me ethically bound from my position as a minister to shoulder
my responsibility not to hold the parliamentary election on time.” He said the
political decision of whether to postpone was in the hands of Parliament and
Cabinet. Last year in March, lawmakers voted to extend their mandate for 17
months, citing security concerns, following months of futile talks on a draft
electoral law to replace the current one – the so-called 1960 election law.
Since then, MPs have failed to resume discussions on a new law amid opposition
by mainly Christian parties against holding the poll based on the current
Several officials have hinted that the poll, scheduled in November, would be
delayed in light of the deteriorating security in the country due to the raging
conflict in neighboring Syria.
Speaker Nabih Berri has reportedly rejected the idea of extending Parliament’s
mandate a second time, saying the priority remained to elect a new president and
hold the election on time.
MPs: Rent law won’t go into effect
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Lawmakers who filed appeals against the controversial new
rent law said Monday that it would not go into effect before its revision by
Parliament, adding that revisions should cover the entire law and not just
articles rejected by the Constitutional Council. “Procedurally, the law would no
longer be viable for implementation until it would be reviewed by Parliament
again and [after] its republication [in the Official Gazette],” MP Walid
Sukkarieh said at a news conference held in Parliament. However, Justice
Minister Ashraf Rifi said that "the new rent law is valid and effective as of
December 28, 2014,” after the Constitutional Council approved the majority of
articles essential to the law’s provisions.
Rifi met with the Association of Landlords headed by Joseph Zoughaib, who
reiterated the justice minister's stand. Lebanon's Constitutional Council
rejected several articles in the controversial law Wednesday, kicking the bill
back to Parliament. The council's action means that the law, which was
republished in June in the Official Gazette after a previous council rejection,
can’t go in to effect in December as scheduled. For his part, Sukkarieh said
that Parliament had two options: It could either review only the articles
rejected by the Constitutional Council or reconsider every article in the bill.
Sukkarieh said that he had initially filed an appeal against the law because its
implementation would put 100,000 families out of their homes. The MP said that
many of these families could not afford a hefty rent increase and would not
receive a loan from the state-owned Public Housing Institute, meaning that the
new rent law would either cause massive debt or would put these families on the
street. Sukkarieh suggested reforming the laws regulating the institute to give
every tenant the chance to receive a loan. The suggested reforms would tackle
the criteria needed to qualify for a housing loan. The MP also said that
government aid should not only benefit families whose income is less than half
of minimum rent, stressing the need to expand government aid to tenants who
surpass that threshold.
Sukkarieh also suggested dedicating government-owned land to special housing
projects that could offer small apartments that would reflect the family’s size
as well their income. MP Qassem Hashem also backed Sukarrieh’s statements,
saying: “This law will no longer go in to effect, despite what certain people
are saying, because the decision goes back to Parliament and it’s up to the
council to decide whether to reform the law partially or redraft the law
completely.” Lawyer Adib Zakhour, head of the lawyer committee challenging the
law, said that not every article was discussed or voted on in Parliament.
“This is a violation of the internal mechanism of Parliament's work,” he said.
Under the new law, tenants under pre-1992 rental contracts will face rent
increases in yearly increments over a six-year period, until annual rents reach
5 percent of the current market value of the house. After being approved by
Parliament this spring, the law was published in the Official Gazette a day
early, which led to the Constitutional Court rejecting it. Then-President Michel
Sleiman had challenged the law and asked the court to review its
constitutionality, but the panel rejected both the law and the challenge because
of its premature publishing. However, the law was republished in the Official
Gazette in June, which meant that it was set to go in to effect six months after
the date of its publication.
Hariri donates $15 million to rebuild Arsal
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced a $15 million
donation to Arsal before a delegation of the town's residents Monday, vowing to
help reconstruct the town after heavy clashes between the Army and militants
ravaged it. “I am going to donate $15 million for the construction of schools,
hospitals and necessary projects, which will be decided by a commission set up
especially for that purpose,” Hariri told the delegation headed by Arsal’s
mayor, Ali Hujeiri, this afternoon at his Downtown residence.
Hariri said that he would pursue all possible efforts to launch state-funded
projects and services, vowing to allocate a budget to rebuild damaged houses and
improve people's living conditions as much as possible. "I want to assure you
that we will be careful to not to repeat what happened to Arsal in the future,
and we will do everything in our power to prevent" it from happening again, he
Hariri said that Arsal was targeted for its allegiance to former Prime Minister
Rafik Hariri’s vision, lauding the residents for their efforts in uncovering and
disrupting the plot targeting the town.
“We will not forget that Arsal’s loyal residents stood beside us the day Rafik
Hariri was martyred, nor their wide participation in the March 14 protests, and
I assure you that we will reciprocate loyalty with loyalty and our stand by
Arsal will continue,” he said.
Hariri praised the residents of Arsal for their support toward the Army and
state institutions, saying that Arsal locals only wished for the state to grow
stronger so it could protect all of its citizens.
“We refuse for any Lebanese town or city to go through what happened in Arsal,”
he said, thanking God for “allowing us to go out of this crisis with the least
possible amount of loss.”Separately, British Ambassador to Lebanon Tom Fletcher
visited Hariri at his Downtown residence Monday, pledging that his country would
stand by Lebanon in the face of emerging difficulties. “[I] welcome the decision
by former Prime Minister Hariri to return to Lebanon at this time,” Fletcher
said after the meeting, which was also attended by former MP Ghattas Khoury. He
said the significance of Hariri’s return laid in the fact that Lebanon, and the
region, were facing “difficult moments.”
“It is a moment of mounting threats to the country and to its people,” he said.
He said it was “even more important” that the Lebanese political leaders unite
in “a spirit of tolerance, moderation and consensus” and that they show “the
necessary wisdom and courage to face together these threats.”Stressing the
United Kingdom’s commitment “to stand by the Lebanese people more than ever,”
Fletcher said he was willing to carry out dialogue with Lebanese officials on
the ways his country could assist Lebanon in difficult phases.
“In the coming days, I hope to be speaking further about ways in which we will
show that when Lebanon is in trouble, Britain will remain on Lebanon’s side,” he
During his fourth day in Lebanon after three years of self-exile, Hariri
received the head of the Lebanese General Security, Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim;
head of the Internal Security Forces, Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Basbous; and the head of
State Security, George Karaa, at his residence.Hariri had announced that his
return to Lebanon was to monitor the spending of the $1 billion donation by
Saudi Arabia to the Lebanese Army, adding that his role was to foster moderation
and support the state in fighting terrorism. The Future Movement leader also met
with the head of the National Liberal Party, Dory Chamoun, who expressed his
confidence that the Sunni leader’s visit would “have a positive influence on
Hariri also met with the EU ambassador to Lebanon, Angelina Eichhorst.
"I have just met with former Prime Minister and Future Movement leader Saad
Hariri to welcome him back to Beirut. This is a positive step for Lebanon at a
time when all forces need to unite and work together to address every challenge
Lebanon is facing today. During our meeting, we discussed the overall political
and security situation in the country with a particular focus on the
presidential elections, the security developments, the refugee crisis and the
economy,” Eichhorst said in a statement released after the meeting. On the
latest incidents in Arsal, Eichhorst reiterated the EU's condemnation of the
attacks on the Lebanese Army and the Internal Security Forces. “We agreed on the
importance of preserving Lebanon's stability and highlighted the need for the
voice of moderation to prevail. I assured former Prime Minister Hariri of the
EU's steadfast commitment to stand by Lebanon and its people in these
challenging times,” Eichhorst said. For his part, the Hariri elaborated on the
donation received from Saudi Arabia to support the Army and other security
agencies. Hariri also met with Progressive Socialist Party Leader Walid Jumblatt
Election of the New Sunni Mufti: A victory for coexistence
The Daily Star/The election of a new grand mufti for Lebanon Sunday signaled a
resounding defeat for parties that have spent several years trying to sow
division in the Sunni community’s highest religious body. The overarching
message of Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian’s election was one of firm consensus by
leading Sunni political and religious figures. The smooth election both advanced
the institution of Dar al-Fatwa and highlighted how the Sunni community is
united on priority issues such as national cohesion, support for the Lebanese
Army and security institutions, and upholding the Constitution.
This was evident when former Prime Minister Saad Hariri hosted the electoral
body’s members and others for a luncheon afterward. The event gathered figures
who have sparred in the past over Dar al-Fatwa and also saw Qabbani also take
part, meaning the former mufti made a dignified exit from the political scene.
Hariri stressed how long-standing support for Christian-Muslim coexistence in
Lebanon would remain a cornerstone of Dar al-Fatwa – a message urgently needed
today, as the region is afflicted with ultra-extremists who claim to speak and
act in the name of Islam.
The array of figures who gathered for Sunday’s election and luncheon were not
participating in an ordinary set of ceremonies. By coming together at this time,
they delivered a strong message that by being unified on the core issues –
moderation, national sovereignty, and the rule of law – their community can
contribute to isolating the extremists who pose a challenge to Lebanon, the
region, and the more than 1 billion Muslims worldwide.
The Lebanese media failed in Arsal
By: Diana Moukalled/Asharq AlAwsat
Monday, 11 Aug, 2014
Whether by choice or by force, the result was the same: the Lebanese media once
again fell into the trap of the worst aspect of nationalism, blind loyalty. It
was not limited to the sight of a newsreader wearing a military uniform in
solidarity with the army, nor to lengthy and epic speeches recited by
journalists and correspondents.
Lebanese coverage of the bloody confrontation in Arsal between the Lebanese army
and the Al-Nusra Front’s insurgents showed the Lebanese media abandoning its
professional role to report events as they are, to search for the truth, and to
ask questions when necessary.
The coverage did none of these things. It was more like a Lebanese poetry
festival that showcased the military’s statements, in a way that reflected badly
on it. By this, I mean the naïve parroting of statements from military sources,
ignoring totally the setbacks suffered by the army, and the plight of tens of
thousands of besieged civilians and refugees caught under the bombardment and
who suffered many casualties, including children. These victims became a direct
target of the media and politicians, who accused them of allowing the insurgents
into the town and giving them shelter.
Artists, journalists and various celebrities launched a solidarity campaign full
of songs and resonant phrases, with words which showed a good deal of hypocrisy
and hate-mongering against either the people of Arsal or the Syrian refugees,
labeling them as members of the Al-Nusra Front, or simply as “terrorists.” A
Lebanese journalist even issued a call via Twitter for every Lebanese to kill a
Syrian, and then apologized and retracted her statement.
Yes, terrorists attacked a security post, and killed and took hostage a number
of soldiers and officers. They took a whole town hostage, including Lebanese
civilians and Syrian refugees, who numbered more than 150,000 in total. It was
one of the most serious crises experienced by Lebanon, its army and its people.
In the face of a critical fact like that, why did so much of the country’s media
choose to abandon objectivity? The decision was made when the media decided on
self-censorship and followed army instructions banning journalists from entering
Arsal for security reasons. The media was satisfied with merely reporting the
army’s statements. The news in all outlets was the same, and the pictures too.
The media supported the army by agreeing to broadcast only what the army’s
spokesmen said and what they allowed to be filmed, giving up on revealing what
was happening in Arsal.
Yes, we should give full support to the families of the officers and soldiers
who fell or were taken hostage; but what about the civilians? What about those
who were besieged in Arsal, whose tents were burned down and their children
killed, and whose photos were only leaked via mobile phone?
The Lebanese media as a whole did not see the story of the civilians of Arsal as
their concern. The media’s response to the army’s calls exposed its biases, and
this is a mistake which often shames the media and prevents the development of
national, moral and professional alternatives to sectarian agendas.
The decision of Lebanese journalists to support their country’s army is right
and proper, but this support is not supposed to be unquestioning. If it is, it
is against the nature of journalism, and the media’s job to report the truth.
How did terrorists from the Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and
Syria enter Lebanon? What happened in Arsal? What agreement allowed them to
withdraw with the hostages? What was the role of Hezbollah? How do political
divisions and Hezbollah’s fighting in Syria affect the role of the army and its
authority? And why are hate campaigns against Syrian refugees tolerated? These
are some of the questions which must be asked if the Lebanese media is to make
up for its mistakes.
Lebanese Patriarch Rai Calls for Action in Iraq to Protect Christians
Daily Star, Lebanon/2014-08-10/BEIRUT -- Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai called Sunday for solidarity
with the Christians of Iraq and asked the international community to intervene
to put a stop to the persecution of Christians by the Islamic State of Iraq and
Greater Syria (ISIS). "We pray for our national unity, and for the unity of the
communities of the Middle East afflicted by divisions and wars, for the spread
of peace and understanding," he said during Sunday Mass at his summer residence
in Diman, north Lebanon. "We renew the patriarchate's call to the Arab League,
the United Nations, the Security Council and the International Criminal Court to
put a stop to ISIS' attacks and those of other fundamentalist organizations
against the Christians of Mosul and the villages of Ninevah in dear Iraq, and
allow the return of those Christians to their homes and properties with dignity,
securing for them a decent life in their home countries with all the rights of
citizens." In July, ISIS began expelling Christians from Mosul, Iraq's second
largest city. Earlier this month, the extremist group took over Iraq's largest
Christian town. Rai lamented the fate of some 150,000 displaced Christians, some
of whom have been stranded in the mountains without food or water. He went on to
call for solidarity from civil and religious groups and asked members of the
community to assist with providing shelter and food for Christian refugees in
coordination with the Chaldean Church and other congregations. "We thank
everyone who extends a hand to our Iraqi brothers who have sought refuge in
Lebanon." The Maronite religious leader also touched on Lebanese politics,
continuing his shame campaign against Lebanese lawmakers. "We renew our call on
the conscience of parliamentarians and political blocs to respect the
Constitution which obliges them ... to elect a president," he said, referring to
the presidential vacancy, now in its third month. "Let us pray, brothers and
sisters, that God's hand touches these hearts, and liberates [lawmakers] from
interests, alliances and dependencies, and from their divisions, so that they
elect a president who is the most appropriate and best given the current
conditions in Lebanon and the region." He emphasized that the church does not
propose or back any candidate, but would support anyone elected to the office.
Does the American Government Care About the Assyrians of Iraq?
By Rebecca Simon/2014-08-10
(AINA) -- The heart-wrenching fate of Assyrian Christians
in Iraq haunts every corner of my being. I swell up over the image of fright in
the tearful eye of a child next to the lifeless body of his mother. But the
silent photos capturing a millisecond in the timeline of a genocide don't do
justice to the horror of the calamity. The stories behind the still pictures
must be even more horrific.
As an Assyrian, I could have been one of those unfortunate Assyrian sisters in
Iraq but by the grace of God, I was destined to be an American. I have witnessed
my country's history of unparalleled compassion towards the ill, the fallen, and
the persecuted. Sadly, that history is not being played out for Assyrians. This
isn't because Americans have grown callous of worldly sufferings. No, not at
all. The DNA of the magnanimous American is still intact. Rather, it is our new
age president and his administration that have misplaced the age-old American
To our president, a child in pain is the one whose Honduran parent paid
thousands of dollars to have him adopted by America. A child in pain is the one
who uses his tattooed and pierced body as a weapon in a street "knockout game".
A child in pain is one hoodied if-I-had-a-son trouble maker capable of breaking
a grown man's nose bone.
The Assyrian Christian kids are not even worthy of being honored by Michelle
Obama's hashtag graphics campaign. No doubt the kidnapping of 200 kids by Boko
Haram being forced to convert to Islam was a tragedy. But equally tragic, if not
more, is the forced flight of at least 200,000 Assyrians from their homes.
And where is the outrage by the Spanish bleeding hearts: Mr. and Mrs. Javier
Bardem and Penelope Cruz? In their delicate artistic mind, does a Palestinian
child have more right to life than an Assyrian child? One needs to read to these
Spanish-Hollywood couple the bloody history of the 700-year conquest of Spain by
Muslims and the forceful conversion to Islam of the Christian Spaniards.
And where are the moderate Muslims in all this? An anti-ISIS demonstration and a
fundraiser benefit by many of the alleged moderate Muslims who've done pretty
well in the West will go a long way in legitimizing their claims of moderation.
They cry foul only when Islam is under attack but when Christianity is under
assault, they see no evil, they hear no evil.
And where are the petrodollars of the Saudi's and the Kuwaiti's, who express
their fear of ISIS? A few gold bath tubs and sinks in their villas could buy
water to quench the thirst of 40,000 Yazidis trapped in Sinjar Mountain in
northern Iraq. But would charity to persecuted infidels constitute a betrayal to
The world seems to be conflict-fatigued dealing with other people's problems,
especially if it means some military involvement.
In the meantime, one of the oldest race of people, the Assyrians, the recipients
of the 21st century's first genocide award are dying a slow death on our big
screen TV's. So far, they're just a news story till we find something newer to
cover because advertisers know fresh stories are what keep the consumers'
attention and prevent them from switching the channel. By the time, the media
and the administration buries the story of the Assyrian genocide, Assyrians will
be buried too, by the tens of thousands- likely without a funeral.
For now, Assyrians have an ISIS style freedom -- the liberty to choose their
death by beheading or starvation.
Ironically, the freedom they didn't have in life they get in death.
I wonder if the president and his family will discuss over the dinner table
"this Assyrian choice" in their upcoming 16 day vacation. Perhaps they'll rest
knowing the media will portray some other entity as the responsible agent in the
Iraq crisis. The media plays the political god in our country of late.
I hope this saga will be written by God fearing historians and the truth of this
Holocaust will be told in its entirety, word by word, picture by picture. That
may be the ultimate choice for the Assyrian martyrs.
Rebecca Simon is an Assyrian living in the United States. She is originally from
Tehran, Iran. Rebecca is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), a playwright, an
actress, and an American political activist.
Obama Must Attack ISIS in Mosul and the Nineveh Plain: Chaldean Patriarch
US arms rushed to Iraqi Kurds from Jordan, Israel. Al
Qaeda-Sinai targets US Negev military facilities
DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis August 11, 2014/The Kurdish Peshmerga fight against
encroaching Islamic State troops gained a broad new dimension Monday, Aug. 11,
when the US began airlifting large quantities of military equipment, including
ordnance, from Jordan and Israel to the semiautonomous KRG capital, Irbil. The
US maintains 10,000 special operations and marine forces at the King Hussein Air
Base in northern Jordan, with large stocks of ammunition that were originally
destined for the rebels fighting Bashar Assad in Syria. They are now being
redirected to the Kurdish effort to stop the rapid Islamist march on their
republic, along with supplies from the US emergency stores maintained in the
debkafile’s military sources reveal that for some weeks, those stores and other
US facilities in southern Israel have been in the sights of IS elements, which
arrived in Sinai six months ago to reinforce Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, the local
offshoot of Al Qaeda.
The US, Israel and Egypt have taken care to keep this development under their
hats. But in the last month, while Israel was engaged in Operation Defensive
Edge against the Palestinian Hamas, IS and Al-Maqdis shot rockts from Sinai at
US and Israeli military facilities in the Negev, in support of Hamas. Their
attacks were described by Western observers as intense on some days as the
Palestinian rocket barrage against the Israeli population.
The speed with which the American military effort in northern Iraq has spiraled
in four days - from limited air strikes on IS targets Friday, Aug. 8, to direct
arms supplies Monday - will soon confront President Barack Obama with the need
for a speedy decision on whether to send American troops back to Iraq.
US air strikes are clearly limited by the lack of an organized list of targets.
All they can do now is bomb chance targets as they are picked up by
reconnaissance planes or satellites. To be effective, the US Air Force needs to
be guided in to target by special operations forces on the ground, who can
supply precise data on the movements of IS fighters and mark them for air attack
with laser designators.
Another shortcoming is the small number of US fighter-bombers available for
Iraq. The aircraft which conducted four attacks on IS forces came from the USS
George HW Bush aircraft carrier in the Gulf, which has 70 warplanes on board.
This is not enough aerial firepower to stop the Islamists’ advance.
They are also disadvantaged by being prevented from striking IS forces in Syria,
a limitation which further curtails their effectiveness, as it did in the US war
against Saddam Hussein.
In the years 2003-2007, Al Qaeda had the great advantage of an open Syrian
border. Instead of maintaining the bulk of its forces in Iraq, they could slip
across into Syria out of range of US attack.
Obama will not overcome any of these military issues by his determined focus on
sorting out the political situation in Baghdad. Replacing Prime Minister Nouri
Al-Maliki by having his rival, Deputy Speaker Haider al-Abadi, nominated to
replace him Monday – even with the backing of Sunni and Kurdish factions who
detest Maliki – won’t affect the warfront. This change may generate
inter-factional violence in the capital. And it will not quickly stiffen the
Iraqi Army or enhance the Kurdish Peshmerga’s ability to curb the Islamists’
rapid advance. Bringing them up to scratch by restructuring and retraining them
on modern operational lines, and providing the Iraqi army with an effective air
force, will take anything from two to four years.
Last week it was discovered that, among the Islamist fighters who died in US air
strikes Friday and Saturday, was a large group, estimated by intelligence
sources as up to 200, of American citizens fighting in the ranks of Al Qaeda’s
IS in Kurdistan and western Iraq.
The Islamic State never releases facts and figures about its losses. However,
Sunday, Aug. 10, a spate of threats imbued with a sense of revenge started
appearing on social media, such as: “This is a message for every American
citizen. You are the target of every Muslim in the world wherever you are.”
Another was more brutal: “ISIS is ready to cut off your heads, dear Americans, O
sons of bitches. Come quickly.”The approaching 13th anniversary of the 9/11 Al
Qaeda attacks on America is causing concern in US intelligence and
counter-terrorist quarters about possible surprises ahead.
No Longer an Arab–Israeli Conflict
Mamoun Fandy/Asharq Alawsat
Monday, 11 Aug, 2014
The war in Gaza is the second stage of a process of change regarding the nature
of what used to be called “the Arab–Israeli conflict.” The first stage was the
conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006, in which Iran, a non-Arab state,
fought Israel in a proxy war via Hezbollah. The weapons, financing and training
of Hezbollah is Iranian. In the recent conflict Iran has also backed both Hamas
and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, as well as the leaders of both organizations,
Khaled Mishal and Ramadan Shalah, who have consulted closely with Tehran. While
Iran was the main player in the war of 2006, what is new this time around is
that Turkey has been brought in, through an alliance with Qatar, as political
backup for Hamas and as the regional sponsor of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The nature of the conflict has also changed from conventional warfare, where the
armies of opposing states face each other on the battlefied, to asymmetrical
warfare, where armies fight guerrilla battles against political movements in
cities. The conflict that was between Arab states against Israel, and led to
wars in 1948, 1967, and 1973, with the outcome of the latter leading to peace
between Egypt and Israel, is no longer a reality. Israel’s wars now are with
movements such as Hezbollah and Hamas, not with Arab states, and the patrons of
these movements—Iran and Turkey—are obviously non-Arab.
The relative disengagement of Arab states and the anti-Hamas rhetoric in the
Arab, and especially the Egyptian, media suggest a sea-change in public
perception of the conflict throughout the Arab world. The anti-Turkey,
anti-Iran, anti-Hamas, anti-Qatar, and anti-Brotherhood rhetoric makes the
current conflict look like an Israel/Hamas–Turkey–Iran–Qatar one, with the rest
of the Arab world’s support existing only on Twitter and other social media
Qatar, the only Arab country actively supporting Hamas, has been isolated from
the rest of the Gulf states for the last three months, after Saudi Arabia, the
UAE and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Doha. Thus what used to be
called an Arab–Israeli conflict is no more. What does this mean and what are its
implications for wider regional stability?
In the past, Israel’s strategy has been to narrow the scope of the conflict and
downscale it from an Arab–Israeli conflict to a Palestinian–Israeli conflict. In
fact, the strategy looked like it was working until the recent Gaza war. Israel
managed not only to make it a Palestinian–Israeli conflict, but also a war
against only one faction of the Palestinian movement, Hamas, on the narrowest
piece of Palestinian territory, Gaza. But the involvement of both Turkey and
Iran has had the opposite effect. The conflict has been widened and regionalized
rather than reduced as Israel intended.
The conflict in now regionalized at the geopolitical level, with Iran and Turkey
directly involved through their backing Hezbollah and Hamas respectively. The
conflict has also become religious in nature rather than ethnic, especially
after the Israeli government insisted on the Jewish identity of their state. The
conflict has also become more sectarian on the Arab side due to the new rift
within Islam between Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims.
The involvement of moderate Sunni Arab states is one of nothing more than
providing a forum for negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians in Cairo,
or in the case of the Gulf states, providing aid for reconstructing Gaza or
Out of this, there is some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that the
widening of the conflict has contributed to greater instability across the
region. The recent Gaza war made Hamas, not the PLO, the darling of the radical
Arab street, in much the same way that the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah
made Hassan Nasrallah an Arab hero. This empowers political movements rather
than states, and fuels greater violence throughout the region. The Islamic State
of Iraq and Syria is just the most recent manifestation.
The good news, however, is that if Israel wants to strike a grand deal with the
Arabs, now is the time to do it. Arab states are in their weakest political
positions for a long time, and given their internal political upheavals they are
ready to sign a comprehensive deal. The biggest obstacle here, however, is the
Israeli side. Can Israel produce a Sadat-like figure willing to make a daring
move in the same way the late Egyptian president did, by going to Cairo or
Riyadh and signing a comprehensive deal? Perhaps an even more daring move would
be to go to Tehran. The ball is firmly in Israel’s court now.
Will President Erdogan Run Turkey?
Soner Cagaptay /Washington Institute
August 11, 2014
Erdogan has the political and constitutional wherewithal to transform Turkey
into a presidential system, and he will likely do just that.
On August 10, Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose Justice and
Development Party (AKP) has been running the country since 2002, won the
presidential election with 52 percent of the popular vote. Under Turkey's
current parliamentary system, the prime minister is the chief executive and head
of government, while the president is the nonpartisan head of state and second
in line with regard to executive powers. Yet on August 4, Erdogan hinted that
"he will not assume the traditional role of the president in Turkish politics,"
adding that he "will track all the issues and make sure that the cabinet [which
includes the prime minister] and the other institutions work in accord." Can
Erdogan run the country from his new post? An analysis of Turkey's constitution
and political structure suggests that is likely, with implications for
U.S.-Turkish relations on a variety of regional issues.
THE PRESIDENCY UNDER THE CONSTITUTION
Prior to a 2007 constitutional amendment, Turkey's parliament was tasked with
choosing the president -- yesterday's vote marked the first time the post was
directly elected by the people. This switch notwithstanding, Turkey's political
system has long had an unusually strong presidency compared to most other
parliamentary democracies. Unlike in Germany, for instance, where the president
plays a largely ceremonial role, the Turkish president has significant powers,
including the prerogative to slow down legislation passed by the parliament,
appoint judges to high courts, and chair the National Security Council (NSC).
The president also has the power, rarely exercised by previous heads of state,
to "call the cabinet of ministers meetings and to lead such meetings the way he
or she sees fit," as stipulated by Article 104 of the constitution.
This strong presidency is a product of a tumultuous period that unfolded more
than three decades ago, when stalemate between parties in the legislature led to
economic collapse in 1979 and a coup in 1980. To prevent a similar meltdown, the
drafters of Turkey's current constitution strengthened the presidency in 1982,
allowing the head of state to interfere in the political system if necessary to
break future stalemates. Yet the parliamentary system worked smoothly in the
1980s and 1990s, with no need for such intervention. Presidents remained mostly
ceremonial figures, allowing the prime ministers to run the country. After the
AKP's rise in 2002, President Ahmet Sezer interfered often to slow down AKP
legislation. But in 2007, AKP member Abdullah Gul was elected president, and the
prime minister once again took the fore.
PRESIDENT ERDOGAN'S MODUS OPERANDI
Given this weekend's results, Erdogan could push Turkey toward a system in which
the president assumes the role of chief executive, appointing a prime minister
to run the cabinet for him. Erdogan is Turkey's most powerful politician, having
governed the country for twelve years, longer than any other democratically
elected leader. A prime minister appointed by President Erdogan would most
certainly report to him rather than work with him.
Erdogan also has the legal and informal channels of power that would allow him
to act as chief executive. As mentioned above, the Turkish constitution already
grants the president significant powers:
Chairing NSC meetings. Previously a power center dominated by the military, the
NSC was transformed following a 2003 constitutional amendment passed by the AKP,
which changed the body's composition from majority military to majority
civilian. At the same time, the NSC fell from prominence in the policymaking
process as Prime Minister Erdogan took the helm, driving Turkey's policy on
foreign and domestic security issues alike (e.g., involvement in Syria, peace
talks with the Kurdistan Workers Party). As president, Erdogan could use his
constitutionally sanctioned control over the NSC to restore its role as a key
body in defining Turkey's foreign and domestic policy.
Chairing cabinet meetings. By exercising his constitutional right to lead
cabinet sessions, President Erdogan could continue to run the country's daily
business, particularly if he pushes for a "Putin-Medvedev model" in which he
appoints the prime minister reporting to him. To be sure, Article 101 of the
constitution stipulates that the president cannot have a party affiliation, so
Erdogan will have to weather the risky move of resigning from the AKP. Thus far,
he has kept a tight rein on the party by using his strong personality and his
longstanding position as AKP chairman. Yet in 1989 and 1993, two broad
right-wing coalitions similar to the AKP and also held together by dominant
leaders -- Turgut Ozal and Suleyman Demirel, respectively -- imploded when these
strong leaders abandoned their party posts to become president. To avoid that
outcome, Erdogan may decide to keep the AKP's reins in his hands informally by
attending cabinet meetings regularly.
Exercising parliamentary powers. Article 104 of the constitution gives the
president the power to "call the parliament into session when necessary." And as
seen during Sezer's tenure, President Erdogan could also slow down and veto
legislation under the same article. If he chose to exercise these powers,
Erdogan would likely rely on his ability to exert pressure by the sheer force of
his personality. He is both feared and respected by the AKP cadres and will
likely retain significant influence over them -- including the AKP majority in
parliament -- even after he leaves the party.
It is all but certain that Erdogan will use his strong personality and
constitutional powers to continue running the government as president. He has
already pointed to heavy executive involvement, stating on August 4 that it "may
not be enough" for him "to meet the prime minister once a week" as previous
presidents have done, suggesting more frequent contacts. His remarks about the
constitution also implied that he will seek a paramount role: "Article 104 of
the constitution says that the president is the head of state, and that is it."
Finally, he will no doubt seek additional legitimacy in the fact that he has
been elected to the presidency by popular vote, a first in Turkey's history.
IMPLICATIONS FOR WASHINGTON
Armed with the results of a landmark popular vote, liberally interpreted
constitutional powers, and the fear and respect of the AKP-majority parliament,
Erdogan is poised to single-handedly run the country as president. This suggests
a strong Erdogan-defined tinge in Turkish politics going forward, and in
U.S.-Turkish relations. The new president will likely agitate for more U.S.
assistance to the Syrian rebels. He will seek U.S. assistance to bolster the
Iraqi Kurds in their political struggles with the Baghdad government. And he
will prioritize securing the release of Turkish hostages seized by the Islamic
State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) over short-term military action that could
provoke the group.
At the same time, though, Erdogan will have more room to cooperate with the
United States on politically sensitive issues such as Turkey's ties with Armenia
and Israel. In fact, he will likely launch a charm offensive toward Washington
on issues near and dear to U.S. policymakers, restoring friendly relations with
President Obama in order to secure U.S. assistance that can shield Turkey from
instability in Syria and Iraq. Since he will control key levers of power, the
U.S. government will have to deal with him on core issues more frequently, often
skipping the traditional channels of bureaucracy and other key personalities.
***Soner Cagaptay is the Beyer Family Fellow and director of the Turkish
Research Program at The Washington Institute, and author of The Rise of Turkey:
The Twenty-First Century's First Muslim Power (Potomac Books).
Why did ISIS turn its back on Damascus
Monday, 11 August 2014
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) were two months ago
marching south towards the gates of the Iraqi capital following their capture of
the city of Mosul and after they seized control of the Anbar province. Despite
that, they did not enter Baghdad. Despite all expectations, they headed north
towards Kurdistan! In Syria, ISIS followed a similar course as it turned its
back on Damascus and headed east towards Raqqa after it seized the eastern city
of Deir Ezzor. ISIS gained an easy victory over Division 17 of the Syrian army’s
Brigade 93. This strengthened the belief that the Syrian regime is intentionally
giving up faraway areas to ISIS control and is settling with fighting the Free
Syrian Army in Jawbar, Rokneddine and Damascus’ suburbs.
The confusing question is: Why did ISIS transfer its men to these faraway areas
in Iraq’s Kurdistan and eastern Syria? Also, why hasn’t ISIS fought the regime’s
main centres for almost a year now?
“The confusing question is: Why did ISIS transfer its men to these faraway areas
in Iraq’s Kurdistan and eastern Syria?”
What we see on the map is that the terrorist organization seeks to control
Sunni-populated areas and ignores others. This makes one wonder. Maybe it wants
to establish its state, the caliphate, instead of getting involved in other
sectarian areas which will be difficult to control. Or, it could really be
working to thwart the revolution in Syria and serve Nouri al-Maliki’s regime in
Iraq. This is the widely-held theory which people seem to be convinced of,
especially in Syria as many think ISIS is just another organization infiltrated
and controlled by the Syrian regime – just as al-Qaeda in Iraq was labeled as
the resistance against American occupation.
ISIS loves to attract attention
For an organization that loves to attract attention and declare victories and
which defied its rivals in broad daylight, it is illogical to back down from
attacking Baghdad or Damascus just because it’s looking for safe faraway areas.
Authority, influence and global attention can be garnered by fighting over
capital cities. Kurdistan is a mountainous area that will not provide any added
value to ISIS even if it achieves some victories in it. The same goes for
eastern areas in Syria. These are all marginal areas in the struggle the two
countries are facing. At the same time, we see that ISIS is threatening border
areas with Turkey and Saudi Arabia - two countries which strongly disagree with
the Syrian regime. This again reinforces the theory that the group has been
infiltrated by the Syrian regime! Before that, all ISIS’ battles were contained
to Iraq’s Sunni provinces.
Perhaps Iraq’s Kurdistan will be ISIS graveyard, especially after Peshmerga
forces joined the fight and the United States became involved in the struggle
for the first time since the situation deteriorated three years ago. Kurdistan
is a rugged region and it will repel foreign organizations like ISIS. ISIS will
not be able to influence the political situation even if it wins in some areas.
The political tug of war in Baghdad remains of grave importance because if it
succeeds in removing Maliki and assigning a moderate Shiite figure as a prime
minister, everyone will unite to fight against ISIS, especially amidst the
increased international support centered on the call for a new government.
Too little too late for Iraq’s Yazidi
Monday, 11 August 2014
Abdullah Hamidaddin /Al Arabiya
This is not the first time militants have attacked the Yazidi community. In
2007, more than 400 were killed in suicide bomb attacks. The al-Qaeda operative
who masterminded the killing was later killed by the United States. However, it
seems that this is the first time the community faces the threat of genocide.
Many in the region welcomed the American intervention against ISIS for a couple
of reasons. However, it does not seem that saving the Yazidis was the main one.
The main one is obvious: ISIS has been expanding at the expense of every power
in Iraq, and there seems to be a widespread belief that it is only with U.S.
intervention that they will be defeated, or their expansion thwarted. Some are
hoping that the limited American intervention could pave the way to a broader
intervention against ISIS. Saving the Yazidis is but one minor cause of
satisfaction. As far as Iraqis are concerned, everyone is facing the threat of a
violent death. The carnage that the Iraqi people have experienced, the massacre
after massacre, may have left most with little regard to the concept of “ethnic
cleansing.” Someone who cannot be sure that tomorrow will exist cannot fathom
why saving the life of a minority is different that saving the life of anyone
Voices in the Arab world
There were of course many voices that are not happy with the U.S. bombing ISIS.
Many of them are silent supporters of ISIS. As far as they are concerned, ISIS
holds the promise of the return of Islamic rule in the Arab and Muslim world.
Its violence is justified as a necessary evil to enable the group to survive and
thrive amongst formidable foes. They justify the gruesome killings as tactical
measures. Many of them say that there is not a real difference between what the
U.S. did in Iraq or what ISIS is doing; they claim the difference is in the
theatrics of killings not in the killing itself. This is, of course, a scary
thought. It gets even scarier when we realize that such sentiments towards ISIS
are not limited to the very religious or the radical. The sense of despair in
the region is pushing the moderate towards accepting radical and violent
alternatives. Many of those who justify ISIS do not agree with its ideology, nor
would they want it to be active in their own countries – at least not yet – but
nevertheless they see it as part of the solution for a region which has lost
hope in peaceful means.
“ People are asking why was there no intervention when other groups were being
slaughtered by various factions – ISIS merely being the last of many”
But the real question being asked here is why now? People are asking why was
there no intervention when other groups were being slaughtered by various
factions – ISIS merely being the last of many. Why was there no intervention
when the Christians were being murdered and their homes being taken as booty and
they were forced to flee for their lives?
The U.S. has been observing from afar the growth of ISIS; but it decided early
on that this is a matter which the Iraqis have to solve by working together. The
U.S. was content by the fact that ISIS is still a contained threat; that there
were no spillover effects serious enough to warrant its intervention. At the
same time, the U.S. thought that the threat of ISIS would bring the Iraqis
together, with other players in the region, to work out a political deal which
allows for the creation of a legitimate government able to secure Iraq and its
borders. But that did not happen. Instead, the threat of ISIS has reached a
point where the U.S. is now convinced that without it doing something, ISIS
would stay much longer and its influence may reach beyond Syria and Iraq. But
the U.S. needed a reason to intervene. It missed the window of the plight of the
Christians, but it was not going to miss this new window. The suffering of the
Yazidis and the fear of genocide gave the U.S. the excuse to send a message to
ISIS and to the Iraqi government. To ISIS, that its expansion will not continue
unchecked. To the Iraqi government, that they need to get their act together.
Time will tell if either will understand the message or act upon it.