August 25/14


Bible Quotation for today/You Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.

Luke 11/37-48: "While he was speaking, a Pharisee invited him to dine with him; so he went in and took his place at the table. The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not first wash before dinner. Then the Lord said to him, ‘Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you. ‘But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practised, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honour in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the market-places. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it.’ One of the lawyers answered him, ‘Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us too. ’And he said, ‘Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them. Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your ancestors killed. So you are witnesses and approve of the deeds of your ancestors; for they killed them, and you build their tombs.


Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 24 & 25/14

Samir Geagea: Lebanon would be ISIS’s graveyard/Asharq Al-AwsatAugust  25/14

All roads lead to Syria/By: Tariq Alhomayed/Asharq AlAwsat/August 25/14

Maliki’s Bad Advice/By: Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/August 25/14

Confronting ISIS and the Future of Iraq (Video Series)/Washinton Institute/August  25/14

Is it time for air strikes on ISIS in Syria/By: Dr. Theodore Karasik /Al Arabiya/August 25/14

Obama summoned to battle by a decision made by ISIS/By: Raghida Dergham/Al Arabiya/August  25/14

ISIS finally removed Maliki – but who will remove Assad/By: Mohamed Chebarro/Al Arabiya/August  25/14

Israel should face the truth, and deal with the war of attrition/By: Ron Ben-Yishai/Ynetnews/August 25/14


Lebanese Related News published on August 24 & 25/14

Nadim Gemayel: Lebanon is "a Christian notion"

Hezbollah MP: ISIS a contradiction of Sunni values
Army finds rocket launch pads in south Lebanon
ISIS releases footage of Lebanese soldiers

Jumblatt rejects Hezbollah-ISIS comparison

Fatfat: Extension until presidential election

Lebanese Army on alert for Arsal unrest
Rifi: Judiciary interrogating Tripoli bombers

Rai urges an end to political inflexibility

Arslan Forges 'Unified Stance' with Jumblat against Takfiris as PSP Chief Urges Supporting Army

Khalil Says No Need for Foreign Intervention in Battle against ISIL, Terrorism

Mashnouq Says State to Facilitate Departure of Syrians, Fix their Legal Documents

Lebanese Man, 40, Killed in Brazil

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 24 & 25/14

Foley killer identified, says British newspaper

Maliki requested Peshmerga deployment to Kirkuk: KRG spokesman

Iraqi politicians express support for federalism

What Iraq Needs to Do

Car bombs kill 21 in Iraq's Kirkuk

ISIS militants capture major Syrian air base in northeast

Iran says ‘downs’ Israeli drone over nuclear site

In Baghdad, Zarif Denies Iranian Troops Fighting in Iraq1 hour ago

Iran unveils new short-range missiles, drones
Though militarily inferior, Hamas has hit Israel strategically with attrition and population flight

Erez Border Crossing with Gaza closes after mortar attack seriously injures two

Israeli strike kills Hamas finance official Qatar hits back at claims it backs extremists

Gulf trio meet on Qatar in Jeddah

Arab ministers in Saudi Arabia discuss Syria, ISIS crises

Airstrikes target Islamist strongholds in Tripoli as militias claim airport

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Iron Hand in a Velvet Glove

Egypt calls for open-ended Gaza cease-fire  


Nadim Gemayel: Lebanon is "a Christian notion"

BEIRUT | / NNA - August 24, 2014
Marking the 32nd commemoration of his late father, Bashir Gemayel's election as President of the Republic, MP Nadim Gemayel referred to Lebanon as "a Christian notion"."Lebanon is a Christian notion, and each time others sought to dominate, following in the footsteps of divine states, we always chose Lebanon, and we were the majority while they were the minority," said MP Nadim Gemayel on Saturday evening, while marking the 32nd commemoration of his late father, Bashir Gemayel's election as President of the Lebanese Republic in 1982. In a ceremony held at the home of late Bashir Gemayel in Bikfaya, under the slogan "Republic knows no Fear," Gemayel said that "what is needed today is bringing things back to normal, re-directing matters onto the right path of the nation; a state whose borders are determined and controlled; a homeland free of any illegal weapons, and a nation of human dignity and freedom, whose Head is honest, frank, transparent, and honors its Constitution and is a role model to each individual citizen." Gemayel went on to refer to "attempts to scare those working for the nation's sake, trying to intimidate them and force them to give up their fight for the nation." However, he stressed that "We, Bashir's Republic of the sacred 10,452 Km, will always stay faithful believers in Lebanon," vowing that "our project will never go backwards, for the notion of Lebanon has been a Christian concept in which we believed, starting from the idea of co-existence to building a free, sovereign and independent nation, and a multi-confessional state where one can live one's faith, humanity and dignity in liberty and freedom," Gemayel added. The ceremony, which was attended by several prominent figures, included a documentary highlighting the important milestones in the life of Martyr Bashir Gemayel; as well as excerpts from his statements after he was elected as Lebanese President, and his aspirations for Lebanon -

Samir Geagea: Lebanon would be ISIS’s graveyard

Samir Geagea: Lebanon would be ISIS’s graveyard

August 24/14
Asharq Al-Awsat speaks to the Lebanese Forces leader about Lebanon's forthcoming parliamentary elections, the vacant presidency, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria
Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea stressed that he would not renounce his presidential ambitions, but added that he would not oppose parliamentary elections taking place before a new president is elected.
Lebanese lawmakers have been unable to choose a successor to former President Michel Suleiman whose term in office ended on May 25. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for November, with many in Lebanon worried about how the elections can take place before a vital parliamentary election law can be passed and signed into law.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Geagea, who is the March 14 Alliance candidate for president, discussed the tense situation raging across the Middle East, particularly in Iraq and Syria where Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters continue to make advances. He also spoke about the plight of the region’s Christians and warned ISIS against seeking to infiltrate Lebanon.
Asharq Al-Awsat: Let us start by talking about the political situation in Lebanon. Will there be parliamentary elections in Lebanon?
Samir Geagea: I personally think there will be elections. But we need to know what the majority of parliamentary blocs want to do.
Q: The situation seems to be heading towards extending the current term of parliament. Do you agree?
Stances are not clear yet. We are against extending the term of parliament. We support holding elections despite the absence of the President. I do not deny this represents a major constitutional dilemma.
Q: Lebanon has been without a president for a hundred days now. How long will this remain the case?
Frankly I do not see a quick end of the presidential dilemma so long as Michel Aoun insists that either he or no one will be the president. On the other hand, Aoun’s stance suits Hezbollah very much . . . For Hezbollah it is better not to have a president at all, particularly after their recent experience with [former President] Michel Suleiman. Therefore, I am not optimistic about a quick solution to the presidential crisis.
Q: Will you maintain your presidential candidacy?
Yes, of course.
Q: Are you willing to compromise?
Certainly, I am largely willing to discuss any possible solution to get Lebanon out of the presidential elections crisis, but only on the basis of reaching a solution.
Q: Let us now turn to the general situation in the Middle East. As a prominent Middle Eastern Christian, do you fear for the future of Christians in the region, particularly given the advance by ISIS in Iraq and Syria?
What is happening to Christians in the Middle East is . . . painful and serious. But we have to put it into its right and natural context, particularly as some people are trying to trade on this issue. What is happening to the region’s Christians comes within the framework of a massive conflict raging in the Middle East that is affecting all segments of society, whether Islamic or otherwise. The conflict has affected all sects and religions, including Christians. This point is important so that no one portrays the situation [in the Middle East] as being a war on Christians in particular. It is part of the framework of the events in the Middle East.
The most important thing is that all Arab governments should consider themselves concerned . . . both morally and materially to support [Christians] and return them to their land.
The counter-attack carried out by the Kurdish forces in coordination with Iraqi forces and US air force is good and important. We hope the crisis will end soon so that the people of Nineveh return home from Kurdistan.
Q: Christians are the weakest link in the conflict taking place in the region. Iraqi Christians for example have suffered twice, [now and after the 2003 US invasion of Baghdad]. Would you agree?
In fact, they have suffered three times. There is a stage no one has talked about. It was during the 1990s when the West imposed sanctions on Iraq under Saddam Hussein. In that period that number of Christians [in Iraq] dwindled from 1.5 million to one million. In response to the Western onslaught on Iraq Saddam modified the national flag by including the phrase Allahu Akbar and he somehow turned into an Islamist. For example, Saddam banned the sale of alcohol across Iraq. The majority of Christians were making a living from trading in alcohol at the time. On the other hand, Saddam took a clear decision not to give Christians the chance to occupy any influential positions in the government. In that period, 300,000 to 40,000 Iraqi Christians migrated due to the restrictions and the lack of employment options.
Q: How do you explain the fact that Christians are often dealt with as if they are alien to the region? They are also treated as scapegoats at times of crisis. What is the reason behind all this?
In fact, this is an inaccurate description. If you compare the numbers of Shi’ites, Sunnis and Yazidis killed in Iraq, for example, with that of Christians, you will find that the percentage of deaths among Christians is less. One cannot imagine that Christians will be isolated from major events. But some actors, such as ISIS, Al-Qaeda and its sister groups directly target [Christians]. But we cannot generalize this description to all the events taking place. The current events are affecting all people, including Christians.
Q: How long can the Christians of the Middle East hold out under the current circumstances?
They should remain steadfast because they are not strangers but rather part and parcel of the land, particularly the Christians of Nineveh. They were not imported nor came to the land yesterday. Therefore, they must unite and adhere to their land.
Q: What do you think of the “alliance of minorities” theory being promoted in the region? Some argue that the minorities of the region should unite in order to be able to defend themselves against the impending threat.
Frankly I do not support this theory. Who are the minorities? The Syrian regime is considered a minority, for example. How can any rational Christian who believes in the minimum values of the Bible side with this regime? On the other hand, we as Christians . . . must ally ourselves with those in harmony with our beliefs.
Q: Some blame you for underestimating the threat of ISIS and other similar groups. How much do you fear ISIS?
I never for a moment underestimated the brutality and criminality of ISIS. On the contrary, I always regarded them as a group of criminals and still consider them to be [ideological] deviants. I cannot imagine any human being, regardless of their religion, killing a prisoner in front of a camera and in cold blood.
Based on their actions and ideology, I do not believe they will be able to endure or come up with something new. They exist because of the chaos in Syria and Iraq. But once a minimum degree of organization is realized, they cannot survive.
Q: What is the best way to deal with them?
They must be confronted without any leniency. Groups such as ISIS cannot be dealt with in any way other than all-out confrontation.
Q: What if ISIS sought to come to Lebanon?
Even if ISIS is present in Iraq, who says they can come to Lebanon? Or that they are even capable of this. Even if they were able to do so, Lebanon would be their graveyard.
This is an abridged version of an interview originally published in Arabic.

Hezbollah MP: ISIS a contradiction of Sunni values
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Hezbollah MP Mohammad Raad warned that the notion of preserving Sunni interests in Lebanon through terrorism was a delusion, arguing that takfiris do more to harm Sunnis than any other religious sect. “Their initiative represents the contradiction of Sunni [values] in the Arab world,” Raad said in reference to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria. The Hezbollah MP defended his party’s intervention in Syria, saying that the resistance was defending the entire country and not a particular sect or region. “When we face this project, we are not facing it for internal gains” Raad said, rejecting allegations that Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria was meant to bolster control of Lebanon via the support of the Syrian regime. “We do not want control over Lebanon, we are satisfied with a partnership that preserves our choice,” he said, emphasizing that Hezbollah was not competing for a ministerial or parliamentary seat. Raad said that the time had come for those who were waiting for Western intervention in the presidential deadlock. “The West has turned a new page because it interests are now being directly endangered,” he said. The Hezbollah MP called on political factions to come together in agreement over the need to speed up the election of a new president, urging rival groups to accommodate each other in forming a “one clear and united national vision.”

Rifi: Judiciary interrogating Tripoli's mosque bombers
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi announced Saturday that the judiciary had begun interrogating the suspects in the bombings of Tripoli’s mosques, expressing confidence in its ability to reach a just judgment on the matter. “On this occasion, I announce to the families of the martyrs, to my people in the city, and to all Lebanese, that the judiciary investigator started yesterday investigating the detainees,” Rifi said in a ceremony on the first anniversary of the bombings that targeted two mosques in the northern city. “We promise you that we will follow up on this case,” he added, “until the criminals and the instigators receive their punishment.”At least 42 people were killed and more than 400 wounded when twin car bombs hit Al-Taqwa Mosque at the Abu Ali roundabout and the nearby As-Salam Mosque on Aug. 23, 2013. The mosques suffered extensive damage from the blasts. Officials from the Tripoli-based pro-Syrian Arab Democratic Party were charged with the attack. Rifi said that the bombings were part of a wider conspiracy targeting the city, stressing that the Internal Security Forces’ Information Branch “discovered the criminals in a record speed.”
“I am confident that the judiciary council that is in charge of the mosques case will deliver justice,” he said. “Yes it will, and it will hold accountable the murderers, whoever they are.” He described Tripoli as a city of peace, piety and coexistence, stressing on moderation as the best weapon for survival. “From Tripoli, the city of peace, piety and coexistence, we say that our monotheistic religions carry all the values of humanity, morals and moderation. “We are the sons of this country, with its Muslims and Christians, and we will go on defending it so that it remains a final nation for all the Lebanese.”
Before the two bombings, the northern city had experienced several years of intermittent clashes between residents of the mostly Sunni neighborhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh and those from the Alawite-majority Jabal Mohsen area. The clashes were largely put to a halt when the government and the Army adopted a wide security plan for the city earlier this year. The Arab Democratic Party, whose leader Rifaat Eid is a supporter of Bashar Assad’s rule in Syria, originated in the 1970’s from a student organization called Alawite Youth Movement.

Rai urges an end to political inflexibility
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai called for dialogue between Lebanese political factions, urging them to stop conveying their personal opinions as the “one and only absolute” opinion.
“Dialogue does not mean letting go of your opinion or outlook,” Rai said during Sunday Mass at his summer residence in Diman. “It is abandoning the claim that they are the only absolute [truths]."
The patriarch said the presidential void resulted from political inflexibility, urging factions to “abandon their personal interest” to accommodate rival opinions and outlooks. Rai called on factions to employ “bold initiatives” that challenge the ongoing gridlock before the next session to elect a president, which is set for Sept. 2. “Political factions are aware of personal and group barriers to [elections],” he said. Lebanese politicians have been unable to agree on a consensus candidate and elect a new president to replace former President Michel Sleiman, whose term expired May 25. Speaker Nabih Berri along with MP Walid Jumblatt have launched contacts to end the political deadlock over the election. On Thursday, 10 lawmakers from Aoun’s bloc submitted a draft proposal to amend the Constitution to allow the president to be elected via a popular vote. Speaking of the exodus of Christians from Iraq, Rai renewed his call to the U.N. Security Council to condemn the assaults of terrorist groups, urging the international community to halt financial and military aid to terrorists. The patriarch also urged the rehabilitation of churches, homes and institutions in Iraq to curb the migration of Christians from their homeland

Lebanese Army on alert for Arsal unrest
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army went on full alert in Arsal Sunday after a militant-affiliated Arsal resident was killed Saturday night and irregular activity targeted the border region’s outskirts.
A resident of the Lebanese border town was killed by Arsal locals in a clash that erupted late Saturday night, a source told The Daily Star.
Armed individuals, alleged to be militants, attempted to track down the killers in Arsal, the source said. Irregular activity has also targeted the ravaged village’s outskirts, as motorcycles and pickup trucks were seen heading from Arsal toward the militants' border hide out. In response, the Army reinforced its positions in the town, erecting checkpoints and dispatching patrols. At least 60 militants were killed, in addition to 19 troops and over 15 civilians in five days of clashes triggered by the arrest of a Syrian militant, Imad Jomaa, on Aug.2. There are 29 security personnel still being held hostage by the militants who retreated into rugged territory to the east of Arsal under an agreement brokered by the Muslim Scholars Committee

Fatfat: Extension only until presidential election
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The Future Movement is seeking an extension of Parliament only until the election of a new president, MP Ahmad Fatfat said Sunday, stressing that conducting elections during presidential void would lead to a wider vacuum. “The Future Movement does not walk fast toward Parliamentary extension, but rather toward the election of a president,” Fatfat told the Voice of Lebanon 100.5 radio station. “We support the technical extension, which means strictly linking the extension to the election of a new president,” he said. “So that the extension would end as soon as we elect a president.” Fatfat said the Future Movement was “honest toward itself and the people,” stressing that the party rejected holding parliamentary elections during the presidential void, “because that would lead to total void in authorities."According to Lebanon's Constitution, the Cabinet is automatically considered resigned after a parliamentary election. Since the president is responsible for appointing a new prime minister, holding parliamentary elections under a presidential void would leave a complete vacuum in the executive authority of the government. Political parties in Lebanon have continuously failed to reach consensus over a new president, and neither March 14 nor March 8 has enough Parliament seats to elect their own candidate as head of state. Such a stalemate, according to Future MPs, demonstrates that electing a Parliament, and thus ending the Cabinet’s term while presidential vacuum remains, would lead to void in two institutions instead of one.  However, Fatfat said that Speaker Nabih “Berri is optimistic” about the election. The MP slammed the Free Patriotic Movement proposal to amend the Constitution and elect the president through a direct popular vote. “Aoun is putting new obstacles, because he knows his suggestion will not take place. This proposal divides the citizens,” he said, “and contradicts the first article of the Constitution.”
Separately, Fatfat also commented on former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s return to Lebanon, saying the move had a “special agenda on supporting the Army and security forces through Saudi Arabia’s donation.” He also stressed that there was “no estrangement” between Hariri and Berri.


Army finds rocket launch pads in south Lebanon
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army discovered two launch pads near the border region of Naqoura used late Saturday to fire rockets towards northern Israel, as security forces beefed up measures around the area. The rocket launchers were found in the area between Dhaira and Teir Harfa in Lebanon's border region of Naqoura, a security source told The Daily Star.
Two rockets fired from south Lebanon targeted Israeli territory, an Army statement said Sunday. The Israeli army reported that one rocket fired late Saturday from Lebanese territory hit the Upper Galilee in northern Israel. A UNIFIL statement released Sunday confirmed that a rocket landed in Israel at around 10:30 Saturday night. The IDF informed UNIFIL that the assault on northern Israel caused “injuries to some civilians and damage to property.”Israeli media reports said that two children where “lightly injured by shrapnel” as a result of the attack.
"This is entirely unacceptable, and it is regrettable that injuries were caused to civilians" UNIFIL commander Maj. Gen. Luciano Portolano said, strongly condemning the rocket attack as a violation of U.N. Resolution 1701 that ended Lebanon's 2006 war with Israel. The Daily Star correspondent reported retaliatory fire from Israel overnight, however, neither the Israeli army nor UNIFIL have confirmed any retaliation. “There have been no reports of Israeli retaliatory fire,” UNIFIL Public Information Officer Antonette Miday told The Daily Star. Saturday night's rocket fire came just hours before five rockets were launched from Syria into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Speaking in a special Cabinet session in Tel Aviv Sunday, Netanyahu issued a veiled warning over the rocket fire on Israel's northern borders, which comes seven weeks into the Jewish State's assault on the Gaza Strip. "There is not and will not be any immunity for anyone who fires at Israeli citizens and that is true for every sector and every border," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quoting as saying by Agence France Presse. In mid-July, at least nine rockets were fired from Lebanon at the Jewish state, prompting Israel to retaliate with artillery fire. Lebanese military officials had at the time said they believed the attacks were carried out by a small Palestinian group in an act of solidarity with Gaza.
More than 2,000 people, mostly civilians, have died in Gaza since Israel launched an assault on the densely populated territory in what it claims is an attempt to disarm Hamas.

Arslan Forges 'Unified Stance' with Jumblat against Takfiris as PSP Chief Urges Supporting Army
Naharnet/Druze leader MP Walid Jumblat noted on Sunday that the fight against the Islamic State group is still “at the beginning,” as Lebanese Democratic Party chief MP Talal Arslan said there is a “unified stance” with the head of the Progressive Socialist Party in the face of the “impending danger.”“Political diversity in Baisour is valuable for Lebanon and the nation and we must preserve diversity in order to boost stability and fight the takfiris,” said Jumblat during a joint visit with Arslan to the Aley District town. “We salute the martyrs of the army and the Internal Security Forces, through whom we foiled major terrorist plots,” Jumblat added, referring to the recent battle against extremist groups in the Bekaa border town of Arsal and its surroundings.
“We're still in the beginning of the road in front of a beast that is killing everyone in sight, not only Christians but also Yezidis,” the Druze leader said of the Islamic State's persecution of minorities in Iraq.
For his part, Arslan warned that Lebanon is facing an “impending danger.”“In the face of this threat there is no room for hesitation or for wasting time with political and sectarian absurdities and lethal selfishness,” he added. “So many times have we sacrificed our rights for the sake of civil peace among the Lebanese and to consolidate stability, without which the country and the economy would collapse,” Arslan pointed out. “We immediately unite our concerns and rise above some of our differences whenever we sense that there is a looming danger that is threatening the country,” the Druze lawmaker added.
He saluted “the martyrs of the national Islamic resistance (Hizbullah) who fell in Syria in defense of Lebanon and the Lebanese people.”
On his warming ties with Jumblat, Arslan added: “We stress the firmness of our unified stance with Walid Beik and we won't allow anyone to harm Lebanon's unity.”
“We underscore our full embracement of our dear army and we insist that it should be equipped. We salute its martyrs and underline its role in protecting Lebanon,” he stated. Earlier on Sunday, Jumblat highlighted the importance of supporting the army, considering it a “mandatory” issue in Lebanon's battle against terrorism. “Our fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and terrorism is still at the beginning,” Jumblat said as he toured the Aley town of Kayfoun. The fighting that erupted in the northeastern town of Arsal on August 2 between Islamist gunmen and the Lebanese army has raised new concerns about the effects of the Syrian conflict on Lebanon. Despite officially distancing itself from the war, Lebanon's existing sectarian and political tensions have been worsened by the conflict next door.
It is also hosting more than one million Syrian refugees, who have tested its limited resources and the patience of its four million citizens. Jumblat also lashed out at politicians, without naming them, who compared Hizbullah to ISIL, describing the accusations as “heresy” and "stupidity." On Thursday, Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi said that Hizbullah and ISIL are similar, pointing out that “Hizbullah's Iranian project in Lebanon doesn't differ much from ISIL's plans.”Turning to the presidential impasse, Jumblat pointed out that the “issue concerns all the Lebanese and not only the Christians.”
The Druze leader revealed that he is seeking with Speaker Nabih Berri and Hizbullah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah to “reach a settlement to end the deadlock.”He noted that state institutions must not be paralyzed. Lebanon's top Christian post was left vacant in May this year when the rival MPs failed to elect a successor to President Michel Suleiman over their differences on a compromise candidate.The majority of the March 8 alliance's MPs, including Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun's parliamentary bloc, boycotted the sessions aimed at electing a head of state, causing lack of quorum.

Mashnouq Says State to Facilitate Departure of Syrians, Fix their Legal Documents
Naharnet /Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq revealed on Sunday that the state will establish lines dedicated for Syrian nationals along land border crossings and at the airport to fix their legal status, if they intend to depart Lebanon. “The lines will be established on all legal border crossings, at Beirut International Airport and near the (northeastern) town of Arsal,” Mashnouq said in comments published in al-Mustaqbal newspaper. He pointed out that the lines dedicated for Syrians only aim at helping Syrians, who intend to leave Lebanon, with fixing their departure documents, which would reduce the huge pressure on all the country's border by land and air. The minister stressed that the government's decision to relieve Syrians seeking to leave the country of residency taxes will be fruitful in reducing their numbers. We have official data proving that the decision had a positive impact on reducing the numbers of Syrians in Lebanon, Mashnouq noted. On Thursday, the cabinet announced a measure aimed at “encouraging” Syrian refugees to leave Lebanon by endorsing a decree to relieve those who are seeking to leave Lebanon of residency taxes. Mashnouq praised the role of the General Security Directorate in “seriously” implementing the cabinet's decision. More than a million Syrians have fled their war-torn country for Lebanon in the past three years, according to the United Nations and there's a rise in the number of unregistered ones. In June, Mashnouq had announced that Syrian refugees in Lebanon will lose their status as such if they return home for a visit.
"Syrian displaced people who are registered with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees are requested to refrain from entering into Syria starting June 1, 2014, or be penalized by losing their status as refugees in Lebanon.”The refugee influx into Lebanon has burdened the country's weak economy, with politicians on all sides calling for measures to limit the flow.
Lebanon has not signed the Convention on Refugees, and refers to Syrians forced out of their country by war as "displaced."The authorities say the actual number of Syrians in Lebanon is far higher than the 1.1 million accounted for by UNHCR. Lebanon has frequently complained it lacks the necessary resources to cope with them, and that the labor market is struggling to accommodate them.

Khalil Says No Need for Foreign Intervention in Battle against ISIL, Terrorism
Naharnet/Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil stressed on Sunday that Lebanon's battle against terrorism and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant doesn't require any foreign intervention, saying that the Change and Reform bloc's proposal for a constitutional amendment requires local accord. “Lebanon can always count on its local forces, which are united,” Khalil said in an interview with the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat. He pointed out that the battle between the Lebanese army and jihadists in the northeastern border town of Arsal, which erupted on August 2, united the Lebanese in solidarity with the army against terrorism. “The gunbattles created awareness among the Lebanese, who now realize that the challenge is real in order to maintain the stability of the country.”
The minister rejected direct negotiations with “terrorists” to free the security personnel who were taken hostage. The unrest ended with a ceasefire on August 7 and the withdrawal of the gunmen, who kidnapped the soldiers and security forces. Eight of the captives have so far been released. Media reports suggested that the captors are seeking to exchange their captives for Islamist inmates held at Roumieh Prison. Khalil, who is Speaker Nabih Berri's aide, expressed belief the regional and international decision to distance Lebanon from the developments in the area remains “in an indirect way.”
However, the minister warned that the Lebanese accord reached after the battle of Arsal would deteriorate if the presidency post remains vacant. “The presidential elections should remain a priority,” the AMAL movement official told al-Hayat, warning that the ongoing vacuum could paralyze the state institutions.
Lebanon's top Christian post was left vacant in May this year when the rival MPs failed to elect a successor to President Michel Suleiman over their differences on a compromise candidate. The majority of the March 8 alliance's MPs, including the Change and Reform bloc, boycotted the sessions aimed at electing a head of state, causing lack of quorum.
Khalil said that the country's political impasse should be “wisely” confronted. He remarked that Speaker Berri's stance regarding the parliamentary polls is “preliminary,” saying: “We will vote against the extension of the legislature term.” “No one will benefit from extending the term of the parliament as long as lawmakers can't endorse laws,” Khalil stressed. He said that if the political arch-foes failed to agree on a new electoral law, then the elections should be staged based on the the 1960 electoral law, winners-take-all system. The vacancy in the country's top Christian post and the looming parliamentary elections raised fears of more vacuum in top institutions. Some parliamentary blocs are calling for another extension of the legislature's term, while others, including Berri, are rejecting such a move.
Concerning the Change and Reform bloc's proposal to amend the constitution in order to enable the people to elect the president, Khalil said: “This matter requires a thorough constitutional study.”“Discussing constitutional amendments require a more consensual atmosphere in the country, which is not available right now.” The Change and Reform bloc proposed that in the first round of the direct elections, only Christians would vote for the candidates. In the second round, the polls would be held at the level of the entire nation to pave way for both Muslims and Christians to choose the two candidates who received the majority of votes in the first round. The suggestion has been totally rejected by Change and Reform bloc MP Michel Aoun's rivals in the March 14 alliance.

ISIS releases footage of kidnapped Lebanese soldiers
Hashem Osseiran| The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Video footage of seven Lebanese soldiers held captive by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) was released Sunday, one day after a video of policemen and troops detained by the Nusra front was circulated online. LBC displayed the video on their website, showing the seven Army troops stating their names and ranks. The video was delivered to the Lebanese government by the Committee of Muslim Scholars, which recently stepped back as mediators for the release of the abducted security personnel. LBC reported that a list of four other names was released by the Abu Hasan al-Falastini group, an ISIS-affiliated militant brigade, shortly after the video was released. The four men were transferred to ISIS, taking the number of abducted soldiers under the hold of the Islamic State to 11. A video of eight abducted ISF members and one kidnapped Army member was released the Nusra Front yesterday. The end of the video showed the abducted members circulating a small piece of paper among them as they delivered nuanced variations of what was essentially the same message: “We demand that Hezbollah withdraw from Syria.” One of the hostages tried to push his comrade's hand below the camera’s lens as if to hide the paper. The Nusra Front is said to be holding three soldiers and 15 policemen out of the 29 security personnel held hostage by the militant groups. ISIS is also said to be holding a corpse of a deceased soldier. The militants have so far released eight security personnel - five policemen and three soldiers. The Committee of Muslim Scholars announced Friday the suspension of its mediation efforts, in a move that reflected difficulties in the negotiations with the captors and the government’s refusal to meet their demands. The suspension of the committee’s role also appeared to be aimed at giving a chance for foreign actors to mediate with Al-Qaeda-affiliated militants entrenched on the rugged outskirts of the northeastern town of Arsal near the border with Syria

Iran says ‘downs’ Israeli drone over nuclear site
By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News/Sunday, 24 August 2014
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have shot down a radar-evading Israeli spy drone that was trying to penetrate Iran’s Natanz nuclear enrichment site in the center of the country, state news agency ISNA said on Sunday, quoting the Revolutionary Guards. ISNA said the Revolutionary Guards had shot down the drone with a ground-to-air missile when it tried to penetrate “the nuclear off-limits area of Natanz.”
“A spy drone of the Zionist regime (Israel) was brought down by a missile... This stealth drone was trying to approach the Natanz nuclear zone,” Agence France-Presse quoted the corps as saying in a statement on its official website Reuters, meanwhile, reported the Israeli military as saying that it did not comment on foreign reports.
Israel and the West suspect Iran of planning to build a nuclear bomb. While the West attempted to use diplomacy to pressure Iran to let go of its nuclear program, Israel doubted such approach.
Netanyahu: ‘Military option necessary’ Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday that a “military option” was “necessary” for the success of negotiations aimed at reining in Iran’s disputed nuclear program. Netanyahu’s statement came after a landmark deal between the West and Iran under which the Tehran will freeze or curb some of its atomic activities in return for limited relief from crippling international sanctions. To show its drive for diplomacy, Iran said on Sunday that its foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will meet EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Sep. 1 in Brussels to agree a framework for renewed nuclear talks. Ashton is the lead negotiator for the six major powers seeking to reach a comprehensive agreement with Iran to allay long-standing international concerns about its nuclear program by Nov. 24. The two sides had been working to a July target date but then they agreed to extend it to give more time to reach a historic deal. The new round of full talks will take place in New York ahead of the opening of the U.N. General Assembly on Sep. 16, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi told IRNA. (With Reuters and AFP)

Arab ministers in Saudi Arabia discuss Syria, ISIS crises
Agence France Presse, Jeddadh/Sunday, 24 August 2014
Arab foreign ministers held a meeting in Saudi Arabia on Sunday to discuss the Syrian conflict and the rise of "extremism" in the region, the official SPA news agency reported.
The meeting came as U.S. media reported that Washington, which has launched air raids in northern Iraq against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, could consider similar action against ISIS militants in Syria.
The closed-door talks in the Red Sea city of Jeddah was attended by the foreign ministers of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, as well as an advisor to Jordan's foreign minister, said SPA. They discussed the Syrian conflict and "challenges including the rise of terrorist extremist ideology.”The ministers agreed on "the need to seriously work to deal with these crises and challenges to preserve security and stability in Arab countries," it said, without giving details. Egypt's foreign ministry said Saturday that the meeting would address "the growing presence in Iraq and Syria of extremists," notably ISIS. The rise of ISIS meant the "search for a political solution to the Syria crisis was needed more than ever," it said. Since declaring a "caliphate" in June, ISIS has conducted a lightning offensive, taking control of territory straddling Iraq and Syria. The militant groups sparked worldwide horror this week when it released a video showing its beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley.

 All roads lead to Syria

Tariq Alhomayed/Asharq AlAwsat
Sunday, 24 Aug, 2014
The execution of US journalist James Foley by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has refocused international attention on the Syrian crisis and the debate now is about the necessity of dealing with this. As for the US administration, it finds itself occupying an increasingly awkward and difficult position.
We witnessed the slaughter of an American journalist at the hands of a British terrorist that belongs to ISIS. This means that the Syrian crisis is not just a regional one; it is one that Europe and the US can no longer ignore. Nor can it be argued that there is any benefit in coordinating with the criminal Assad regime against ISIS. The crimes being committed by ISIS today—from Iraq to Syria—come just one year after the Ghouta chemical attack, while Assad has still not faced international justice for this, nor has US President Barack Obama committed to moving against the Syrian tyrant who has crossed all international red-lines. Obama has been placed in an even more difficult position this week after the UN announced that the death toll in Syria has risen to over 191,000.
Therefore, today we are facing a crisis that has surpassed all limits—ethical, security, political or otherwise. So how can Obama today put forward any clear position that does not contain—to one degree or another—serious action against Assad?
At the same time, Europe has begun to take an increasingly clear position, especially when compared to the US policy on Syria. In comments on Foley’s execution, Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said: “Everyone who is not calling for a stronger approach against ISIS in Iraq must realize that it will only be successful if we are ready to take on ISIS in Syria as well.” We must also recall that the Netherlands is a NATO member. The Dutch Foreign Minister called for greater western assistance for the Syrian opposition to confront Assad. The Dutch are not alone in Europe in pursuing this approach, in fact the French are pursuing an even harder line, while Britain has outright rejected cooperating with Assad to confront ISIS.
Washington’s unconvincing position towards Syria goes beyond this, and serious questions are being asked in America today about President Barack Obama’s strategy, along with a general sense of skepticism towards Obama’s previous policies. This has only increased after it was revealed that the US launched a failed military operation this summer to try and free two US prisoners being held in Syria, including James Foley. So the question that is being asked today is: How can the US administration say that military intervention in Syria is difficult due to Assad’s strong anti-aircraft capabilities when US forces were able to conduct an operation such as this?
So, it is clear that the Syrian crisis today is one that increasingly concerns the US and Europe. As for Obama, he cannot keep ignoring this crisis. The best thing that can be said is that the West, and particularly the US, and their serious action against ISIS in Iraq, led to Iran abandoning Maliki. Therefore, serious western and American movement in Syria today could change the equation on the ground, and perhaps even force Iran to abandon Assad. Otherwise, we will only see more time being wasted, more lives being lost, and the crisis becoming more and more complicated

Maliki’s Bad Advice

By: Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Sunday, 24 Aug, 2014
Nuri Al-Maliki, who had described the appointment of Haider Al-Abadi as Iraq’s prime minister-designate as a “conspiracy,” is today offering advice on how to save the country from a crisis that he created. Maliki, the prime minister who was pulled out like a bad tooth, wants Iraq to continue bleeding. He is now advising Abadi on how to govern. Don’t let them overrule you, use the majority to impose the government you want, so goes Maliki’s advice.
What a twisted man, haunted by personal, trivial conflicts. Maliki wants his successor to carry on these personal political battles, at a time when Iraq is facing its most serious crisis in a decade. The crisis is even more dangerous as there is no international force supporting Iraq nor is there an internal force that can be relied upon. The only solution is a successful national salvation project that safeguards the regime and an integrated Iraqi state.
It is not mandatory that Haider Al-Abadi form a government made up of the parliamentary majority, particularly as the parliament does not reflect the true majority of Iraq. Such a government would not be able to prevent the risks of disintegration, nor would it ensure sufficient popular support to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Al-Qaeda and the rebels.
What really exposes Maliki’s ignorance is that he is actively seeking to form a parliamentary “majority” that keeps hold of decision-making. It does not matter how people think outside the walls of the Green Zone. His main concern is to create this political “majority,” buying votes and preventing opponents from winning; this is the axis of his political project.
Maliki sank into despotism; this ultimately proved his undoing and blinded him to reality. He could not even see that the country was sliding toward disintegration and terrorism because of his insistence on excluding all those who were not on his team.
The narrow-minded Maliki is now urging his successor Abadi to reject what he described as “dictates,” advising him to resort to the formation of a majority government. However if the parliamentary majority was a successful project, Maliki would not have been forced to step down. So how can he advise his successor to follow this doomed approach?
The demands of Iraqi citizens are not dictates. The Iraqi people are speaking out to express their desire to cooperate. Otherwise, these forces would have been entrenched in their regions, holding on to their weapons. It is not wrong for these groups to ask for the release of detainees who are being held without trial, and for the re-examination of the cases of those who were sentenced under suspicious circumstances. These are not dictates; they are trying to redress past mistakes and create a healthy and united Iraq. Under Maliki’s rule, one third of the country was lost to terrorism; another third wanted separation, and the remaining third wanted Maliki out and does not want a another tyrant in power.
So Abadi should not listen to the man who ruined Iraq. He should see that all the Iraqi forces, even the opposition, are willing to cooperate with him; something that has not been witnessed since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime. Only a fanatic like Maliki could be blind to this positive spirit because he believes that Iraq is the Green Zone, and that what happens beyond Baghdad is of no account.
The political process promised by the prime minister-designate goes beyond the issue of parliamentary seats. It is not just counting the number of raised hands in Iraq’s parliament; rather it seeks to bridge the gap, instill confidence, persuade opponents to participate and prepare for reconciliation between Iraq’s divided political parties. It seeks to form a true national unity government. This is not a recipe that would work for Maliki whose euphoria of ruling Iraq made him unable to think rationally.
In Maliki’s opinion, the parliament became limited to those who voted for him; justice prevailed through security investigators and judges who were appointed by him; and whoever disagreed with him was a rebel who was immediately accused of treason and conspiring.
From the outgoing prime minister’s speech on Wednesday, it is clear that Maliki does not understand why he was forced to step down, nor does he understand that Abadi has come to save Iraq from his mistakes.

Is it time for air strikes on ISIS in Syria?
Sunday, 24 August 2014
Dr. Theodore Karasik /Al Arabiya
It is increasingly becoming clear that the U.S. needs to conduct an air campaign in Syria to attack, disable, and destroy the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s assets. ISIS represents an unprecedented threat to not only the countries surrounding the current proto-state but also throughout the world. Left unchecked, ISIS will continue to destabilize, capture territory, and kill everything in its path. The terrorist incubator of ISIS will continue to churn out highly trained, battle hardened killers who can spread chaos and mayhem globally. The time is now to terminate ISIS.
In the recent past, America planned airstrikes on Syria against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in response to Damascus’ purported use of chemical weapons. These airstrikes were to be carried out by partners in a joint effort to force regime change. Although those strikes never occurred, the necessary assets are still in place in the region. Targeting ISIS’ assets—military equipment, oil and gas fields, government centers, and supply chain networks needs to be done now. ISIS will use civilians as human shields: as some say “collateral damage” may be necessary in this particular and, dangerous case.
In Iraq, American airstrikes are providing the necessary “close air support” to Kurdish and Iraqi forces to retake key strategic points such as Mosul Dam, U.S. action in the skies over Syria may not enjoy such support. The Syrian National Coalition urged the international community to “quickly support the Free Syrian Army with weapons and ammunition” so it could “defend its people” around Aleppo. This plea is not what America requires: The United States needs to coordinate with the Syrian government in order to succeed in Syria. Many people will ask: How can Washington work with Damascus after all of the acrimonious language and threats? The answer is simple: ISIS is a threat to both countries and it is time to put aside—for the moment—the dispute for the greater good of the region. Unfortunately, the British are rejecting such a notion of working with Syria.
“How can Washington work with Damascus after all of the acrimonious language and threats? The answer is simple”
Such a move by the Obama Administration would play well with Arab audiences. Scoff as you might at this idea but at the end of the day, the Levant’s neighbors are hoping that America will find the way to crawl out of its shell. Arab states see America as weak and irrelevant. If America doesn’t stand up now against ISIS, Arab governments will turn to other countries including Russia for immediate solutions. One should not be surprised that in order to help Assad hit ISIS- an operation that started recently—that the Kremlin along with Tehran will continue to attack the proto-state. The lesser of two evils is to be part of such an operation or what is left of American credibility in the region will hit rock-bottom.
If America attacks ISIS within Syria, some argue that the United States should build a coalition against ISIS that includes regional countries such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Jordan that can contribute air power, similar to what occurred during the air operations over Libya in 2011. That may not happen due to regional politics such as GCC discord and boosting sectarian antagonism and, specifically, because these states do not want to antagonize ISIS fighters who may target them more directly during and after air attacks by America. Currently, these states are upping their homeland security and monitoring those who may be susceptible to ISIS’ recruitment strategies. They want America to work with other European allies in this matter because of their lack of resolve on solving the Syrian issue in the first place.
Stakes are high, timing is critical
When it comes to an air operation in Syria, let alone one in Iraq, which remains an unnamed operation, a lack of clear objectives produces limits to airpower’s role against ISIS. The actions of ISIS differ in five substantial ways from those of combatants engaged in conventional war: “time, civilian-military ‘duality,’ tactics, logistics, and centers of gravity.” These factors underscore the importance of assembling accurate intelligence, and airpower offers an important means of such information gathering. Additionally, reliable intelligence enables an air force to perform its missions effectively with the necessary accuracy in terms of time and place. No planning for any military operation—whether in the air, on land, or at sea—can be successful without exact information concerning the enemy, terrain, and so forth. When American combats terrorism, intelligence increases in importance.
But there are two problems: First, without proper targeting data, air power and its firepower stumble, accomplishing temporary wins; people die; and many resources go to waste. The right information, however, allows us to use less force and effort to conduct decisive attacks against ISIS targets—and suffer fewer casualties in terms of lives and equipment. Second, is how to capture ISIS fighters and their supporters. Once airstrikes commence in Syria, there needs to be an international and regional dragnet to arrest ISIS affiliates before they scatter to the wind to spread revenge attacks. This fact means that America and other countries best reconcile their differences with Syria, Iran and Russia because the United States and Western Europe will need help from Damascus, Tehran, and Moscow in all aspects of an air campaign over Syria.
Clearly, the stakes are high. Timing is critical. The longer there is a delay in U.S. airstrikes the more ISIS will settle into its routine of building its government and economic system over a wider geographical area. More decapitations are likely to occur and there are plenty of hostages—well over 20 journalists held prisoner—who may be paraded in front of cameras and whose decapitation will be disseminated over social media. ISIS is teasing America to act; they want a fight. The use of U.S. airpower needs to not only target ISIS but also Jubhat al Nusra, who, like ISIS, maintains much the same ideology and violent tendencies. America will need to push for a ground presence to assess ISIS’s and Jubhat al-Nusra’s equipment and personnel. Only Syria, Russia, and Tehran can provide any accuracy. The Obama Administration needs to act now to prove its place in the regional disorder in coordination with all vested parties. The alternative disorder—the spread of the caliphate—will create a black hole in regional security that will, like the celestial phenomena, suck all into its vortex.


Obama summoned to battle by a decision made by ISIS
Sunday, 24 August 2014
Raghida Dergham/Al Arabiya
This week, radical extremist group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) made clear its intention to lure U.S. President Barack Obama to get involved more directly in a battle with ISIS, by defiantly demanding that he stop air strikes on ISIS positions in Iraq or face retaliation, including by carrying out more appalling executions of Americans after the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley, who had been kidnapped at an earlier time.
There are many reasons behind this strategy, including some that fall within the category of boasting of being part of a war with the United States, which can help mobilize more Western volunteers, who have been significantly increasing in number, into ISIS ranks.
Other reasons have to do with wagering on the weakness of President Obama, and his lack of both the personal capacity and the popular mandate to be firm and decisive with ISIS in Iraq or in Syria – at least according to the conclusion that ISIS reached and upon which it has based its strategy.
Anglo-American alliance
Clearly, the American and British leaderships, represented by Barack Obama and David Cameron, are facing more than one predicament. The Anglo-American alliance has a bad reputation and legacy in Iraq, as its intervention under previous administrations and governments in the two countries claimed the lives of nearly a million Iraqis since it began in the 1990s.
The Anglo-American duo is accused of devising a strategy and plans to lure American and British terrorists to Iraq and Syria to keep them away from American cities and bog them down in the battlefield at a cost borne by Syrians and Iraqis, rather than the Americans and the British.
At the same time, the Russian leadership consents to this approach, because President Vladimir Putin, too, wants to keep Russian, Chechen, and other terrorists from neighboring countries away from his geographical backyard, and is determined to keep them busy fighting in Syria. All this has helped ISIS grow stronger, with contribution from the intelligence services of these countries and others in the Middle East. Today, Barack Obama regrets the mistakes he and his European allies made in Libya, he is befuddled over which option to take in Iraq, and feels guilty vis-à-vis Syria. Today, David Cameron feigns having a clear policy, and talks about a strategy of action together with the Iraqi government politically, and Kurdistan militarily, to defeat ISIS. Today, heads of states are scrambling to hold conferences, issue decisions, and preside over sessions to discuss whether or not to intervene, while some leaders, such as French President Francois Hollande, speaks about their intention to put forward proposals to “fight” ISIS because it is no longer an al-Qaeda style terrorist organization, but a “quasi-terrorist state.”
President Obama does not admit to his guilt or the misplaced policy he adopted in Syria based on repudiation and self-distancing, while refusing to act to support the moderate opposition two or three years ago, which actually led to the growth of extremist factions like ISIS.
Francois Hollande, in an interview with Le Monde, said the international community bore a "heavy responsibility" for what is happening in Syria, with its knock-on effects in Iraq. He added, “If, two years ago, we had acted to ensure a transition, we wouldn't have had [the] Islamic State.” But what kind of ideas and initiatives will Hollande put forward, beyond the traditional debate of whether or not to intervene, and what features will the strategy of “fighting” the extremist group have?
Two-prong strategy
The two prongs of this strategy in Iraq in particular are fighting terrorism through Sunni tribal “Awakening” groups; and fighting terrorism by arming the Kurds. Another element involves pushing forward the political process in Iraq, and working with the new prime minister to launch the work program of the cabinet away from the damage inflicted by the former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Iraq with Iran’s backing, especially from the faction led by the Revolutionary Guards there. To be sure, it is sectarianism and the exclusion of Sunnis that has helped ISIS become the monster it has become, and that has allowed it to find roots in the same nurturing environment that had previously cast it off – and that would cast ISIS off again if the needed guarantees are put in place and exclusionary policies are ended.
Today, the so-called international community wants to wage another war in Iraq, using not its soldiers this time but local soldiers – be they Kurds or Sunni tribesmen – and also by means of an alliance with Iran and the Revolutionary Guard, as French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has hinted at in his statements.
President Obama, in a remarkable interview with veteran journalist Thomas Friedman, said he refused to act as Iraq’s air force, as he put it, whether on behalf the Iraqi government, the Kurds, the Shiites, or the Sunnis in Iraq. He also said that he did not initiate air strikes against ISIS earlier with Maliki still in office, because if he had done so, he would have pulled the pressure on Maliki and encouraged him to hunker down and cling on to power, and to reject compromises, and would have also encouraged him to believe that the United States was behind him and that he did not need to reflect on his actions and mistakes. This is true.
“On Syria, Barack Obama is in denial mode. He refuses to be blamed”
Interestingly, the main pillar in Obama’s approach to the crisis these days is the formula of “neither victor nor vanquished.” Barack Obama has even added a philosophical dimension to this principle, saying that communities disintegrate when they adopt “maximalist” positions, that is, when they stick to their views and claim they are the absolute truth. Barack Obama wants, as he has always wanted, to stand in the middle. He wants compromise. He wants to disprove the theory that the victor has the right to win everything, and that victory guarantees one the right to dominate and dictate.
What the U.S. president does not recognize, however, is that it was he who had rushed to withdraw from Iraq, thereby creating an opportunity for the partners created by the U.S. war in Iraq to fill the vacuum the U.S. had left behind. Nor does he recognize that it was those partners who filled the vacuum with theft and monopoly based on the principle that holds that “the victor has the right to absolute control” over decision-making, resources, and, and to monopoly and exclusion. Today, the U.S. president is confident that American military capabilities are so superior that ISIS can be eliminated with air strikes alone, but he is equally confident that ISIS cannot be defeated once and for all as long as the partners on the ground are scattered because of sectarianism and bad alliances.
Interestingly as well, Barack Obama is speaking today with a language that reflects American accommodation of the demands of the “Sunni minority” in Iraq and the “Sunni majority in Syria.” He said, “Unfortunately, there was a period of time where the Shiite majority in Iraq didn’t fully understand” that failing to heed the legitimate aspirations of the Sunnis would create major problems, allowing ISIS to fill in the vacuum. This is remarkable because his predecessor George W. Bush had entered the Iraq war in defense of the rights of the Shiites and ultimately gave Iraq to Iran, while Barack Obama now is talking about the rights of the Sunni as a minority, seemingly oblivious to the assault on the rights of the Kurds, who are Sunni as well.
In denial
On Syria, Barack Obama is in denial mode. He refuses to be blamed and considers his policies and decisions to have been right. He says that what is being said about arming the rebels at the start of the Syrian war would have led to a different outcome from the one we see today is “a fantasy.” He said an opposition made up of former doctors, farmers, pharmacists and so forth could not have prevailed in a battle with not only a well-armed state but also a well-armed state backed by Russia, backed by Iran, and by a battle-hardened Hezbollah. For this reason, according to Obama, “it was never on the cards” that arming the Syrian opposition with light weapons would have led to victory against the regime and its partners. This, in Obama’s view, justifies his rejection of arming the opposition, leaving it stumped and bare without weapons in the battle.
President Obama stubbornly refuses admitting that his policy in Syria helped terrorism grow and ISIS rise to a position where it could defy him directly into a battle. The U.S. president would never admit such a grave mistake, particularly since ISIS, according to some reports, might have sleeper cells within the United States. The nightmare haunting the U.S. president would be for terrorism to return to American soil, for which he would be blamed because of his shortsighted policies in Syria and Iraq. For this reason, Barack Obama is unlikely to admit to his mistakes in Iraq and Syria, which have contributed to the growth of terrorism.
The U.S. president admits to his guilt and mistakes on Libya. He does not regret having deposed Muammar Qaddafi, but he regrets failing to realize, along with his European allies, something that was as obvious as the midday sun, namely, the need to rush to help Libya build its state and its institutions. Everyone rushed to leave Libya except for the oil companies. Everybody boasted of their “achievements” in Libya, especially those who danced at the U.N. corridors, embraced one another, and wept with joy.
Today, Barack Obama bemoans what happened in Libya, which has become a magnet for terrorism and ISIS-like projects. Today, the U.S. president speaks about hard lessons and “rebuilding communities” in the wake of military intervention. He said, “That’s a lesson that I now apply every time I ask the question, ‘Should we intervene, militarily? Do we have an answer [for] the day after?”
The U.S. president’s problem is just not self-dissociation or the shirking of responsibility. His problem is that he is now being lured against his will to a battle with ISIS, by a decision from ISIS, rather than his own decision.
The strategy to export American, British, Russian, and other terrorists to gather them in Syria – after Bush gathered them in Iraq and succeeded in keeping them away from American soil – has proven its failure, in addition to being a morally bankrupt strategy that disregards the lives of Syrian and Iraqi children, and that sees the destruction and fragmentation of both states as something acceptable in practice.
If international leaders are determined to make a quantum leap in the confrontation with ISIS, they must first possess the courage to make a qualitative shift in their misguided thinking and policies.
This article was first published in al-Hayat on August 22, 2014 and was translated by Karim Traboulsi.

ISIS finally removed Maliki – but who will remove Assad?
Sunday, 24 August 2014
Mohamed Chebarro/Al Arabiya
It is not wrong to suggest that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group contributed to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s removal, regardless of the direct or indirect factors at play in Iraq.
Looking at Syria, ISIS and al-Nusra Front and their groups are reinforcing – whether directly or indirectly - President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
The armed Syrian opposition and its various factions seem to be losing ground to al-Nusra Front and ISIS. The region will now need a broad and concrete plan to confront extremists in Iraq, Syria, and Libya.
Part and parcel
Assad’s removal is part and parcel of this broad plan, regardless of the wounded regime’s renewed efforts to position itself as a cornerstone of past and future efforts to remove extremism.
“It is hard for many in the Middle East to differentiate today who did more harm in the region”
Mohamed Chebarro
Bearing in mind that the regime always prided itself in helping the West in its bid to uproot al-Qaeda in the years that followed the September 11 attacks, Assad’s regime is flirting again with the idea that his joined fight is key to changing ISIS’ influence in Syria.
Yet today, it is difficult for many in the Middle East to differentiate who has done more harm in the region.
Was it the Syrian government, who brutally attempted to defeat the uprising started by the then-unarmed Syrian opposition against a regime that strangled the country and its people for over 40 years?
Or was it a regime that released religious extremists that populated prisons in Damascus for the past decade as a plan to militarize the initial peaceful uprising and discredit it for harboring religious extremists as part and parcel of any potential new Syrian landscape?
Looking at post-Saddam Iraq, it is interesting to see that sectarianism is ebbing rapidly after Maliki's departure. But there is however the nomination of new Prime Minister-designate Haider al-Abadi, a rallying of the Kurdish Peshmerga and the tribal Sunni (albeit shy) forces, as well as an international military support to defeat ISIS in Iraq.
This action is coupled with an entente between Iran and Saudi Arabia to try to contain the extremist group, with the hope this would pave the way for an inclusive Iraq, after eight years of one-man-rule by Maliki and his sectarian politics that sidelined Sunni Iraqis.
Looming test
In Syria, a test is awaiting regional and international powers to stop the three-year-old onslaught against Syrian civilians by the warring factions.
After more than 190,000 have been killed and 10 million internally and externally displaced Syrians, there is no need to wait for more atrocities by the Assad regime and its allies, such as the wiping out of multicultural cities such as Homs, or the destruction of historic buildings by barrel bombs in Aleppo.
No one want to see ISIS turning against Syrian minorities after finishing off the Syrian Sunni moderate and tolerant communities, before deciding to find a new momentum to end the Syrian bloodshed.
This could be done by concerted efforts to return Syrian refugees to within their countries' borders to a safe haven protected by the international community, as well as presenting an ultimatum to Assad and his family to make way for a transitional government capable of reuniting the country.
This should be done prior to seeing ISIS and its allies tipped against Assad’s regime and his sectarian allies - such as Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah - and finally taking their fight to Lebanon and other areas of the Middle East.
ISIS has contributed to focusing the lens of the world on Iraq, and the removal of Maliki was a step in the long road to recreate a viable post-Saddam country.
The world has waited long enough and has been given ample time for the inhumane butchery of innocent Syrians to play out. Let’s not wait for ISIS and al-Nusra Front to battle it out with extremist Alawites and Shiite militias on Syrian soil and beyond before intervening to redress the imbalance in a very post-Arab Spring Middle East.

Though militarily inferior, Hamas has hit Israel strategically with attrition and population flight
DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis August 24, 2014/When Israeli troops entered Gaza in July, 2014, they were armed with superb tactical intelligence as well as superior weaponry and training. The soldiers on the ground were supplied at every level with astonishing detail which saved lives.
But thanks to the a radical shift in Israel’s intelligence focus, initiated 10 years ago and followed through since, those calling the shots in the IDF’s war on Hamas were short of a deeper picture and insights into the enemy’s mindset and guiding motives, data that transcends tactical knowledge
This revision of Israel’s operational intelligence orientation began in 2003 under Meir Dagan, with the approval of the late prime minister Ariel Sharon. It refocused the work of Israel’s clandestine agencies on collecting tactical intelligence and giving up on digging for strategic data on the dynamics of the region and world and their key players. This revolution affected the short and long term operations of of Israel’s external and internal security and counterterrorism arms, the Mossad and Shin Bet, as well as military intelligence AMAN.
The Mossad shut down stations world wide, sacking or sidelining agents who disputed the Dagan overhaul.. The desks specializing in the strategic research of international events were streamlined out of the organization. The new entity began to resemble the US Central Intelligence Agency’s Special Operations Division (SAD), a covert paramilitary unit that focuses on gathering tactical intelligence for the use of operatives serving on foreign soil, especially in the Mid East.
Those agencies eventually became small armies geared more to cooperating with the IDF in times of tension and war, as they strikingly demonstrated in the current Operation Defensive Edge.
During this evolution, spread over years, the Mossad scored some major coups. One was the targeted assassination in 2008 of the lethal Imad Mughniyeh, who for two decades, in the service of Hizballah and Iran, secretly masterminded large-scale terrorist and kidnapping atrocities against Israel and the US.
Another was the Stuxnet malworm invasion of the computer systems of Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities which slowed Iran’s nuclear program. A series of assassinations inside Iran targeted key figures of this program; and, in 2007, an Israeli special force raided and destroyed a plutonium reactor, which Iran and North Korea were building in Syria, shortly before it went on line.
But the overhaul, though beneficial in some respects, left Israeli intelligence short of important tools for fighting terrorism and fundamentalist Islam when it went on the march. Generations of new personnel were hired on the strength of their ability to think tactically. Strategic evaluation and research departments went by the board.. When it came to th crunchs, the Mossad, Shin Bet and AMAN lacked the tools for supplying Israel’s political and security leaders with professional analyses of the bigger picture.
This deficiency was conspicuous in Israel’s failure to evaluate the US-Iranian détente and its import for the Jewish state; in mistakenly forecasting Bashar Assad’s early downfall in the Syrian war – and, more immediately, in failing to second guess Hamas in Operation Protective Edge.
debkafile’s military and intelligence sources award top marks for the quality of tactical intelligence provided Israeli troops during the month of hostilities in Gaza. It was outstanding by any standards of modern warfare. The troops were constantly updated, even when engaged in the smallest, most localized field operations, on such details as the layout of buildings before going in, the placement of windows and likely enemy hidey holes.
As they moved forward, tank commanders were warned what lay beyond the next corner. Much valuable information was extracted from Hamas prisoners by advance intelligence units and provided the troops with instantaneous data feeds in a steady stream that saved lives.
But tactical intelligence could only take the IDF so far in Gaza - as in other hostile arenas. Israel’s leaders found that, for charting their own moves, they missed essential strategic data on Hamas’s top-level planners’ intentions.
This deficiency was the cause of the glaring error in judgment made by Israel’s war leaders – an error that persisted right up until Sunday, Aug. 24, the 48th day of Operation Defensive Edge. This was the fallacious assumption that, if only its Gaza strongholds were hammered hard enough by the Israeli military, Hamas would fold and sign a long-term truce on terms dictated by Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority.
This misreading of the motives governing Hamas’ actions was the source of the statement Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon made Sunday, that the operation would end “only when quiet returns to southern Israel. Till then, we shall continue to hammer Hamas, for the moment by air.”He went on to say: “We stand by our policy of avoiding direct confrontation with Hamas or a decisive end to the war; rather preferring diplomatic closure.”
This approach leaves the initiative in Hamas hands and Israel ignorantly navigating its military moves towards a ceasefire instead of winning the war. Despite its inferiority in fighting strength and weaponry, Israel’s enemy uses this ambivalence to retain the element of surprise and keep the IDF moving without direction.
This week, by focusing on its strategic objectives, Hamas scored two major goals:
1. It dragged Israel willy-nilly into a war of attrition - with no end in sight, according to its leaders. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s repeated assertion that attrition would be countered by hammer blows ddid not alter the fact that the rockets and the mortars keep coming from the Gaza Strip in a steady flow which is attritioning the civilian population.
2. And indeed, around 70 percent of the population of the villages around the Gaza Strip have packed their bags and left their homes. Despite the aid offered by the government, these people and their families have become refugees or displaced persons in their own country, in order to escape the relentless Hamas pounding of rockets and mortars. This is a strategic achievement on a par with Hamas’ success in closing Ben Gurion international air port for a couple of days last month.
The Islamists are coming close to a third strategic achievement: Israel’s inability to start the school year on September 1 – and not just in the near neighborhood of the Gaza Strip. Voices are being raised in Ashkelon, Ashdod and further north in Greater Tel Aviv and its densely populated satellite towns, by parents who say they will not send children back to school in the current state of security.
So while Israel’s military and intelligence chiefs use tactical yardsticks to weigh their steps and assess Hamas’ intentions, Hamas operates on the strategic level to keep Israel guessing.

Israel should face the truth, and deal with the war of attrition
By: Ron Ben-Yishai/Published: 08.24.14/Ynetnews
Analysis: The sooner Israel recognizes it's been forced into a war of attrition and start acting accordingly, the sooner the war will end.
What was supposed to be an operation or a military campaign has turned into a war of attrition. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz did not want this, and the residents of the south feared a situation like this, which would not allow them to return to their homes and to their daily lives.
But the sooner we recognize we've been thrown into a war of attrition and start acting accordingly - the sooner the war will end.
Hamas plays the strengths of the weak, and as long as it can launch rockets and mortars, it puts on a façade of a fighting force that does not surrender. It also doesn't need much to inflict damage, losses and pain on Israel. One mortar that kills a 4-year-old boy is enough to deliver a hard emotional blow to Israelis. That's how an a-symmetrical war goes.
Meanwhile, rather than having PA President Mahmoud Abbas curb Hamas - it appears the opposite is happening, and according to reports the Palestinian factions have agreed to turn to the International Criminals Court at The Hague.
To shorten this war of attrition that has been forced upon us, and to bring it to an end that would ensure long-term calm to the residents of southern and central Israel, we have to first officially recognize that we are in a war of attrition, to announce it and to take any measures that arise out of this new situation. Not one step at a time, but as one whole of military, civic, diplomatic and economic moves that would minimize the damage the Gazans are causing and maximize the damage we cause them.
The moves Israel should take
1.Evacuate civilians whose presence is non-essential, particularly children, from the communities adjacent to the Gaza border. Emotionally, we can't bear another toddler killed just because he didn't make it to shelter on time. Residents of communities up to 4 kilometers away from the Strip must be instructed to leave to places better protected by the Iron Dome, that also have sufficient amount of shelters. A government order should also arrange alternative housing and economic compensation to those not under the Iron Dome's protection.
Kibbutz Nahal Oz abandoned after residents decided to evacuate before being told to (Photo: Itay Blumental)
Kibbutz Nahal Oz abandoned after residents decided to evacuate before being told to (Photo: Itay Blumental)
The evacuation must include all children under the age of 18. Residents are already evacuating children, but this move should've been taken by the state a long time ago. The cabinet is still captivated by fiery statements and misleads the Gaza border residents by leaving them with the impression that in just a few moments, if they could just endure a few more mortars, their troubles would be over. That is not the case. Even if the IDF enters the Gaza Strip and brings down Hamas, mortar fire will continue until an agreement is reached, and this could last months, if not years. Therefore, evacuating the Gaza border residents is an essential condition to fighting a war of attrition against Hamas - even though it's not enough.
2.Intensive aerial pounding must continue, for as long as the IDF and Shin Bet's intelligence allows it. But it's important to make it clear to the Gazans and to the world that Israel has taken off the gloves. Any place rockets are fired from will be attacked within minutes. The IDF has already started doing so, calling on Gazans to evacuate any area rockets are fired from or areas there's an intention to fire rockets from. The message is simple - he who stays, his blood be on his own head. This is also possible within the confinements of international law of war. This is a legitimate defensive act, especially after the IDF's warnings to the Palestinians.
3.The IDF needs to start performing a series of ground raids deep inside the Gaza Strip based on already existing plans. This should happen on the condition that any raid or mini-operation will have a specified and clear target, limited by time and area. In general, these kinds of raids are meant to make Hamas feel that they are under constant pressure and danger.
4.Together with the US, Britain, France and Germany, Israel needs to make it known that it is prepared to move in for one large operation that will change reality in the Gaza Strip. The idea would be to normalize life in Gaza and rebuild its economy and infrastructure, including a seaport and an airport.
This is what will convince the civilian population that their life is improving. Hamas will have to agree to a true demilitarization of their heavy weapons (rockets of every type, 120mm mortars and larger, anti-tank missiles and equipment used for tunnel digging). The disarmament will be carried out under the oversight of the UN and according to decisions by the Security Council which will also organize the reconstruction.
Israel's unilateral announcement, with support from the US and other Western nations, will allow the Egyptians to continue moderating the specifics, but won't force them to be the only party leading the process of ending the war. They haven't succeeded in doing so up until now and al-Sisi can't be left alone to decide the fate of the residents of southern and central Israel.
Until Hamas agrees to this deal, and becomes prepared to begin serious discussions on carrying it out, attacks from Israel need to increase.
If all four steps are carried out in full, and the citizens of Gaza are shown what they stand to gain and what they stand to lose by continuing the fighting, there is a good chance that the war of attrition in Gaza will come to a conclusion within just a few weeks. But we can't be standing with a timer in hand. We need to be ready to understand the reality of the situation, and we should aim to wear the enemy down with minimal fatigue to ourselves.