LCCC ENGLISH DAILY
Bible Quotation For Today/Buried in baptism with Jesus and with Him raised
Colossians 02/I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is. So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence."
Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December
A Cage of Iran’s Own Making/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/December 06/14
Targeting Abu Dhabi/Abdulrahman al-Rashed /Al Arabiya/December 06/14
Death of an American 'Infidel' in Abu Dhabi/Phyllis Chesler/Breitbart/December 06/14
America in black and white/Hisham Melhem /Al Arabiya/December 06/14
Bombing ISIS: Is Iran America’s newest ally/Abdullah Hamidaddin/Al Arabiya/December 06/14
Lebanese Related News published on December 06-07/14
IS Threatens to Execute Captive Servicemen, Families Call on Cabinet to Resign if Ordeal Continues
Report: State Refuses to Yield to Terrorists' Execution Logic
Mashnouq: al-Dulaimi and Sharkas, Negotiation Cards to Free Soldiers
Angry Family Demands Execution of Islamist Inmates in Retaliation to Bazzal's Murder
Lebanese interior minister slams arrest of ISIS women
FAli Bazzall's Family threatens Syrian refugees after Lebanese policeman's execution
Lebanese troops pound militant hideouts
Siniora: Ali Bazzal a martyr for Lebanon
Hostages' families panic, block vital highways in Lebanon
Army arrests at least 900 in November
Geagea asks Aoun to work on list of possible presidential candidates
Lebanese Banking secrecy to remain despite FATCA
Bahia Hariri: Combat extremism with education
Mountain unveils plan to keep the lid on Lebanon
The secret deal that ended the EDL strike
Berri Considers Hybrid Electoral Law as 'Best' Option
Army Targets Militant Posts on Outskirts of Arsal
Hizbullah Repels Incursion by Terrorists into Tufail
Bogdanov Continues Meetings with Lebanese Politicians
Shuttle Diplomacy as Lebanon Faces Gripping Crises
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on December 06-07/14
U.S. officials list Iran’s concessions in nuclear talks
Obama taps defense veteran Carter to lead the Pentagon
Obama touts slow, steady progress in ISIS fight
France must fulfill warship obligations: Russia
S. Africa marks year since Mandela’s death
Hilary Clinton: 'No deal better than bad deal' with Iran
Obama to Jordanian king: US continuing to share peace ideas with Israelis, Palestinians
More US troops that planned to stay Afghanistan
Putin, Hollande in surprise Ukraine talks
Egypt court sentences seven jihadists to death in Sinai case
Pakistan kills senior Al-Qaeda leader: military
Iran confirms airstrikes in Iraq against ISIS
Peshmerga defused 3,000 ISIS bombs: official
Nineveh governor says Sunni tribal forces key to anti-ISIS mission
ISIS kills 16 from Iraqi tribe
Erdogan: Palace has 1,150 rooms, not a mere 1,000
Russia’s regional role
American hostage killed in Yemen rescue attempt
Hagel: Additional 1,000 U.S. Troops to Stay in Afghanistan
French President Arrives in Moscow to Meet Putin, as New Talks with Rebels are Announced
Jihad Watch Site Posts For Saturday
European Court of Human Rights orders France to pay damages to Somali pirates
Maher on likening of criticism of Islam to Nazi Jew-hatred: “Beyond stupid”
Mumbai jihad murder mastermind to India: Give us Kashmir or get jihad
Breaking news: Interpol alert seeks arrest of MB’s Qaradawi
Congress demands Obama explain rumored sanctions against Israel
Iran military chief is “leader of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen”
AFDI: The year in review
After years of being taught to hate Jews, Muslim discovers he is Jewish
American Muslims for Palestine lectured on how to skirt terror laws
Germany: Jihadist returning from Syria gets 3 years, 9 months juvenile detention
Denmark: Muslim bookseller gets four years for inciting jihad terror
Lebanese interior minister slams
arrest of ISIS women
Staff Writer, Al Arabiya News/Saturday, 6 December 2014
Lebanon’s interior minister has criticized the arrest of a former wife and daughter of ISIS leader Abu Bak al-Baghdadi, saying there was no evidence that they were plotting any terror attack. Minister Nuhad al-Mashnouq’ statements came as al-Qaeda-linked group al-Nusra Front executed a captive Lebanese solider, who is one of about 30 others being held by Syrian extremists. Mashnouq said he had preferred monitoring and restricting the movement of the two women to “send a message” to their groups and pressure them to release the captive soldiers. He said while arresting them was counter-productive, leaking the news of their arrest to the media was a “big mistake” because that has put the army and security services under scrutiny by religious leaders and human rights groups.
“There is no decision to release the women, who will be part of negotiations," he said, adding that in case of a prisoner's exchange, the two women would be placed under house arrest and would not be handed over to the extremist groups.
Al-Nusra Front has threatened to execute another soldier if the women are not freed. “If the sisters that were unjustly arrested are not released, then after a short period of time the death sentence will be executed against another prisoner we hold,” al-Nusra said.
Lebanese security sources said they were trying to verify the claim. The group did not identify the women and children it said Lebanon was holding, nor did it say how many were missing.
IS Threatens to Execute Captive
Servicemen, Families Call on Cabinet to Resign if Ordeal Continues
Naharnet/The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant threatened on Saturday to execute Lebanese soldiers and policemen in its captivity as the families of abducted servicemen called on the cabinet to resign if it was incapable of ending the kidnapping ordeal. The families held the government responsible for the execution of policeman Ali Bazzal by al-Qaida-affiliate al-Nusra Front on Friday, announcing an open-ended escalation across Lebanon. They held the sides that rejected a prisoners swap deal with the Nusra Front and the Islamic State group responsible for the “shedding of Bazzal's blood.” “If the cabinet believes that it's incapable of following up the case then it should step down,” the distressed families told reporters from their protest camp in Beirut's Riad al-Solh square. They called on the state to reactivate the role played by Health Minister Wael Abou Faour and General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, urging Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat to intervene. Abou Faour continuously headed to the protest camp of the relatives of the captives and persuaded them to open roads, vowing that the state will resolve the hostage crisis. At noon, the families blocked both lanes of al-Qalamoun highway in the North and Beirut's Saifi area after jihadists, vowing to escalate their measures. Al-Nusra Front said on Friday night that it had killed al-Bazzal to avenge the arrest of Islamic militants' wives and children. The soldiers and policemen were abducted by the IS and Nusra Front that briefly overran Arsal in August. Three of the hostages have already been executed.
Army Targets Militant Posts on Outskirts of Arsal
Naharnet /The Lebanese army targeted on Saturday posts for militants on the outskirts of the northeastern border town of Arsal with heavy artillery, the state-run National News Agency reported. NNA, said that the shelling was accompanied by a reconnaissance plane that fired surface-to-air missile. Causalities were inflicted, the news agency said, without specifying further details. On Friday, fierce clashes erupted between the Lebanese army and gunmen on the outskirts of Arsal. Jihadists from al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State group are entrenched on the outskirts of the town on the porous Syrian-Lebanese border. The army engaged in a fierce gun battle in August with jihadists who streamed across the border. Fighting ended with a truce mediated by clerics, but the jihadists took with them the Lebanese army and police hostages. At least four have since been executed and Qatari-led efforts to free the rest have so far failed.
Angry Family Demands Execution of Islamist Inmates in Retaliation to Bazzal's Murder
Naharnet /The al-Bazzal family called on Saturday on the state to start executing inmates linked to terrorist groups to ease the tension on the streets after the execution of captive policeman al-Bazzal by al-Nusra Front. The family also urged the state to start the executions by murdering Amed al-Atrash and Joumana Hmeid, after al-Nusra linked release to the freedom of Bazzal earlier this month. Al-Atrash, 24, was charged in February with transporting suicide bombers to Lebanon, detonating bombs and explosive-rigged vehicles, attacking the army in Majdelyoun and al-Awwali bridge areas in the southern city of Sidon in December and launching rockets on Israel. Hmeid was charged over her involvement with al-Qaida-linked groups. She was detained also in February on the Arsal-Labweh road when she was transporting car rigged with explosives. Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State, who have been holding several soldiers and policemen captive, were demanding the release of five terrorists, in particular Abou Salim Taha, Hmeid, Imad Jomaa, Naim Abbas and al-Atrash. The five are in custody for involvement in terrorist activities in Lebanon.
Al-Bazzal family also demanded the arrest of cleric Mustafa Hujeiri, who is also known as Abu Taqiyeh, and his supporters in the northeastern border town of Arsal. The angry family vowed to block the road on any aid to Syrian refugees in Arsal, saying: “No international or local aid group will be able to use our town as a conduit to aid the Syrian refugees.” They also warned that the blocking of any road in solidarity with Arsal would be considered as supporting terrorists. The enraged men of al-Bazzal earlier blocked the town's main road in the eastern village of Bazzalieh near the Lebanese-Syrian border. The state-run National News Agency reported that the town's men erected checkpoints in the village, checking the identity cards of passers-by. The NNA also reported armed presence in al-Bazzalieh.
Al-Nusra Front said on Friday night that it had killed al-Bazzal to avenge the arrest of Islamic militants' wives and children. The body of an unidentified Sunni man who had been shot dead was found on a road in the Bekaa Valley region bordering Syria in a suspected act of revenge for the policeman's murder while gunmen abducted an unknown number of Sunni residents from the area, security sources said. However, NNA said that three abductees, who were kidnapped overnight by Bazzalieh residents, were freed. Mohammed al-Atrash and Bassam al-Hujeiri, who were abducted at midnight by gunmen in a Grand Cherokee on Bazzalieh-Labweh road, were released.
The news agency reported that Syrian national Alaa Hammoud, who was accompanying al-Atrash and al-Hujeiri, sustained a gunshot wound and was admitted to Dar al-Amal University Hospital in Baalbek. The village is not far from the border town of Arsal where a former wife and young daughter of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of the jihadist Islamic State (IS) group that has seized large parts of Syria and Iraq, were detained. The flare-up came after al-Nusra posted a photograph that it said showed the execution of detained Lebanese policeman Ali al-Bazzal, on its Twitter account picked up by the SITE terrorism watchdog. Bazzal was one of around 30 Lebanese soldiers and policemen abducted by jihadists in August during fighting in Arsal. "If the sisters that were unjustly arrested are not released, the death sentence will be executed against another prisoner we hold after a short period of time," al-Nusra said. Lebanese security sources said they were trying to verify the claim.
The group did not identify the women and children it said Lebanon was holding, nor did it say how many were missing.
Bogdanov Continues Meetings with Lebanese Politicians
Naharnet / Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov accompanied by Russian ambassador Alexander Zasypkin held several meetings with Lebanese politicians on Saturday, the National News Agency reported. Bogdanov met with Free Patirotic Movement chief MP Michel Aoun but he left without giving any statement, the agency said. He later held a meeting with Head of the Kataeb Party Amin Gemayel where talks touched on the Syrian refugees crisis in Lebanon. “We have a huge number of Syrian refugees residing in Lebanon. It is in Lebanon's best interest that we find away to facilitate their return to their homeland,” said Gemayel after the meeting. Gemayel described the meeting as “productive.” Earlier, Bogdanov also met with former Premier Najib Miqati, and talks focused on the latest developments in the middle east and the implications they have on the situation in Lebanon. Talks also highlighted the bilateral relations between Russia and Lebanon. Bogdanov is in Beirut at the invitation of Lebanese Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil. He also met with Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam, parliament speaker Nabih Berri, former president Michel Suleiman and Army Commander, General Jean Qahwaji. Bogdanov will take part, later during the day, in a solemn ceremony devoted to the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Following his two-day visit to Beirut, he is expected to travel to Turkey for talks with several Syrian opposition figures and with Turkish officials on the war in Syria. The diplomat last visited Lebanon in April 2013.
Ali Bazzall's Family threatens Syrian refugees after Lebanese policeman's execution
Nidal al-Solh/The Daily Star
Dec. 06, 2014
BAALBEK, Lebanon: The family of Ali Bazzal, the policeman who Nusra Front killed a day before, asked the government to carry out the death penalty against two detained terror suspects, vowing to prevent aid from reaching Syrians who they consider “terrorists and not refugees.” Sitting at a small wooden table with a few microphones and several people standing behind him, a member of the Bazzal family read the statement, which also called on authorities to arrest a prominent Arsal figure that they held responsible for their son’s murder.
“We ask the government to carry out the death penalty against terrorists who are living in Roumieh Prison as if it were a hotel ... especially against Omar Atrash and Jomana Hmeid, to defuse the tension,” the man said, reading the statement. The Nusra Front last week threatened to kill Bazzal unless the government released Hmeid, who was formally charged by Military Prosecutor Saqr Saqr for involvement with Al-Qaeda-linked groups, after she was caught driving a car rigged with 50 kilograms of explosives on the Arsal-Labweh road last February. Atrash has also been formally charged with involvement in two car bombings that targeted Beirut areas mostly inhabited by Shiites earlier this year. “We hold Mustafa Hujeiri ... and all who support him in Arsal, responsible for the killing of Ali Bazzal, and we ask authorities to detain him because they already know where he is,” the statement said. Mustafa Hujeiri is wanted by authorities for belonging to Nusra Front, but he has been following up on the negotiations between the government and the Qatari mediator, who was tasked by Doha to help release 25 policemen and soldiers held by Nusra and ISIS. The Bazzal family also described Syrians living in Arsal, the northeastern region bordering Syria, as “a bunch of terrorist, takfiris and not refugees, and that was evident when they attacked the Army in Arsal.”“We will not allow any international or local organization to transport aid to these terrorists ... and anyone who block a road in solidarity with them will be supporting terrorists.” Hours after the Nusra Front announced that it had executed Bazzal, posting a picture of a man with a machine gun firing shots toward the policemen who was seen kneeling down, residents of Bazzalieh kidnapped three men near the town around midnight. The men were released in the early hours of the morning and were identified as Mohammad Hujeiri, Mohammad Atrash and Bassam Hujeiri. They were traveling through the road linking Bazzalieh and Labweh when they were abducted. The kidnappers shot and wounded a Syrian man who accompanied the three. He was transferred to a Baalbek hospital. “Residents here are very angry and the men erected checkpoints at the entrances of the town and inspected people and their vehicles,” the head of the federation for eastern municipalities, Khalil al-Bazzal, told The Daily Star. “No one should try to come to Bazzalieh until the situation calms down.” Bazzal said the roads, which were blocked in the predominantly Shiite village quickly after the Nusra announcement, were soon reopened. “All roads are open for all citizens except for Arsal residents,” he said. The militants took the servicemen hostage during clashes with the Army in the northeastern town of Arsal in August. Both groups have demanded the release of prisoners in Lebanese and Syrian prisons but the government has not agreed to their demands. Nusra Front, the Al-Qaeda-affiliate, had previously killed one soldier and ISIS has so far executed two. Last month, the Nusra Front threatened to kill Bazzal unless the government became serious about negotiations, but Hujeiri and Health Minister Wael Abu Faour were able to postpone the execution then. Tensions between the Sunni-majority Arsal and neighboring Shiite villages in the Bekaa have been running high over the crisis in Syria as well as Hezbollah’s role in the conflict alongside regime troops.
Hostages' families panic, block vital
highways in Lebanon
The Daily Star/Dec. 06, 2014/BEIRUT: The families of 25 Lebanese servicemen held by the Nusra Front and ISIS since August blocked a major highway in the capital Saturday and another in north Lebanon, after the latter group allegedly threatened to kill hostages. The families said they received messages on their phones that ISIS would execute its hostages in a few hours, urging the government to act quickly. "We announce that we will escalate our actions in an open-ended manner and hold the government responsible for the killing of Ali Bazzal," one of the relatives said, standing in the Beirut neighborhood of Saifi while others held a poster of Bazzal carrying his infant daughter. The families also asked the government to resign and task Health Minister Wael Abu Faour to help Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim negotiate with the captors "because he is the only one who actually felt our pain." Abu Faour succeeded last week in convincing the Nusra Front to postpone the killing of Bazzal after the group announced it would execute the policeman. Using cement blocks, trash cans and burning tires, relatives of Ibrahim Mgheit blocked the Qalamoun road leading to the northern city of Tripoli while families in Beirut sat at the eastern entrance to Downtown, prompting police to redirect traffic. "We cannot take this situation anymore. Have mercy on us," said the mother of one of the kidnapped soldiers. The escalation comes hours after the Nusra Front said it had killed Bazzal, a policeman it had held hostage, and vowed to kill another unless the government released women and children who had been detained in the country. The Al-Qaeda affiliate was referring to the arrest of two women: the wife of an ISIS commander and his two children, and the ex-wife of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and her children. Nusra Front has so far killed two of its hostages and ISIS has also killed two since they took dozens of soldiers and policemen during clashes with the Army last August in Arsal, a border region.
Lebanese troops pound militant
The Daily Star/Dec. 06, 2014/BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army, backed by a drone, pounded militant hideouts Saturday on the outskirts of the northeastern town of Arsal, the National News Agency reported. Using heavy artillery fire, soldiers attacked militant gatherings in Al-Dib on the outskirts of Arsal, the state-run agency said. The Army's attack comes days after a military patrol unit was ambushed on the outskirts of Arsal, leading to the death of six soldiers Tuesday. A day later, a military expert was killed while he was defusing a bomb found in the same area.
Geagea asks Aoun to work on list of possible presidential candidates
The Daily Star/06.12.14/BEIRUT: Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea Saturday called on his presidential rival, MP Michel Aoun, to work with him to reach a compromise to resolve the long-deadlocked election. Geagea said that Aoun had two options, either attend Wednesday's election session where "you and I would be the presidential candidates" in the "real election game, no other candidate can impose themselves.” “Or we stop saying that Sunnis and Shiites are choosing a president and sit together to reach an understanding on some names, and we refer them to Parliament for a vote,” Geagea said. “The ball is still in our court, but we cannot tell the universe to wait for us while some are disrupting the poll.”Aoun, the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, has said he is ready to attend a Parliament session to elect a president if the race were restricted to himself and Geagea, hinting that MP Walid Jumblatt's candidate, MP Michel Helou, should withdraw from the race. Geagea is the March 14 coalition’s presidential nominee, while Aoun is the March 8 group’s undeclared candidate. Aoun and some March 8 MPs, including Hezbollah, have boycotted the parliamentary sessions to elect a new president, arguing that such votes are futile unless parties agree beforehand on a consensus candidate. “We cannot leave things as they are. The presidential post is shrinking in value and we cannot leave it vacant regardless of the circumstances,” said Geagea, who has repeatedly criticized Aoun for hijacking the presidential vote to secure his own victory. While welcoming the anticipated dialogue between the Future Movement and Hezbollah, Geagea rejected attempting to solve the presidential impasse in that forum. “Some say that Sunnis and Shiites are heading toward a dialogue to agree on a new Christian president. Sunnis and Shiites seek to defuse the existing sectarian tensions amid a larger Sunni-Shiite conflict in the region,” he said. “This is a blessed step, but discussing a president and other national issues requires the presence of all parties. Therefore, we should not give this dialogue more than it can handle.” “All Christian figures in Lebanon consider the presidential post a Christian responsibility that should see a Christian agreement, but what can we do when a major Christian party is disrupting the election?”
Death of an American 'Infidel' in Abu
December 4, 2014
Originally published under the title "An American Infidel in Abu Dhabi"; slightly revised to clarify timeline.
On December 1st, a figure in a black burqa, armed with an eight-inch knife, entered the upscale Boutik shopping mall located in Reem Island, the neighborhood where most of Abu Dhabi's 40,000 expatriates live.
The black burqa'ed figure waited for more than an hour in a woman's toilet—then stabbed the first white blonde infidel American woman who came in to use the facilities six times until she was dead. Then, with the possible help of two other women, the mysterious black burqa'ed figure either smoothly and calmly walked away, or did so in a frenzied fashion (there are conflicting eye witness reports about this). In any event, the killer entered an elevator and disappeared.
The victim's name was Ibolya Ryan. She was a Hungarian-born and Romanian-raised kindergarten teacher and the divorced mother of two 11 year-old twin boys, Adam and Aiden. Her former husband lives in Colorado. Ryan had described herself in an online profile for a teacher-recruiting company as "Romanian born" and someone who has worked "in four countries over the last 15 years." Ryan wanted to "experience the Arab world…their culture and daily life."
Tragically, she has done just that. At a time of fierce Islamic fundamentalist jihad, Ibolya, a civilian, may have been targeted by jihadists. In the wake of an anonymous posting on a jihadist site that encouraged attacks on American teachers in the Middle East, the U.S. embassy in Abu Dhabi, UAE posted an October 29 security warning for U.S. citizens, especially "teachers at international schools." This included the following:
Avoid crowds or large gatherings when traveling in public; Identify safe areas (for example police stations, hospitals) in your area and how to get to them quickly; Tell co-workers or neighbors where you are going and when you intend to return; Minimize your profile while in public; Always carry a cellphone…; Be prepared to postpone or cancel activities for personal safety concerns.
In other words: Live vigilantly, live fearfully, live indoors as much as possible and have as little contact with strangers, especially with Arab Muslim strangers, as possible.
This is no way to live. But that is the point of such terrorist intimidation-- namely, to make life unlivable, unbearable, so that the infidel will either convert to jihadist Islamism or leave Muslim lands.
The point of such terrorist intimidation ... [is] to make life unlivable, unbearable, so that the infidel will either convert to jihadist Islamism or leave Muslim lands.
On the other hand, the UAE is a strong ally of the United States. Every state in the United States exports to the UAE and more than 1000 American firms have an on-the-ground presence. Strategic American and UAE alliances exist in terms of oil, medical, and military equipment and personnel—but most important, perhaps, is the fact that the UAE "was the first country to support the United States at the advent of Desert Storm; the only Arab country to participate with the US in five coalition actions over the last 20 years: Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Bosnia-Kosovo, and the First Gulf War."
More importantly, the UAE supports and enforces UN sanctions to contain Iranian nuclear weapons capabilities and, since mid-September of this year, "the UAE has flown dozens of missions against ISIL targets."
The murder of Ibolya Ryan might also have been a targeted message to the governments of both the UAE and the United States, one that hoped to destroy their relationship in terms of the ongoing joint fight against the most barbaric forms of Islamic fundamentalism.
Jihadists wish to intimidate Americans abroad in Muslim countries so that they move back to America. But jihadists also wish to punish any individual Muslim or Muslim country for daring to work with infidels against Islamic fundamentalists. How this intimidation is handled, both by individuals and by governments, is bound to affect the course of the war between civilization and barbarism.
**Phyllis Chesler, an emerita professor of psychology and women's studies and the author of fifteen books, is a Shillman-Ginsburg fellow at the Middle East Forum.
Lebanese Banking secrecy to remain
Osama Habib/The Daily Star/Dec. 06, 2014
BEIRUT: There is no threat to Lebanon’s banking secrecy, despite the mounting pressure from the international community to disclose the accounts of Lebanese with dual passports, bankers said.
“The United States and some European countries, which are seeking the full cooperation of other states in disclosing the bank accounts of residing American and European nationals, have not made any request of Lebanon to lift its banking secrecy,” Makram Sader, the secretary-general of the Association of Banks in Lebanon, told The Daily Star.
“We are already fully implementing Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act [FATCA] and this is done with the consent of U.S. citizens who have bank accounts in Lebanon.”
Lebanon is one of the countries in the world with banking secrecy laws, which were created to further strengthen the financial systems in the country.
Under the laws, no person or group has the right to disclose the bank account details of any depositor.
However, Lebanon has agreed to lift banking secrecy if a depositor is suspected of money laundering or terrorist funding, or if the account holder is a U.S. citizen.
Under FATCA, the Lebanese banks request that any depositor holding a U.S. passport or a Green Card sign a memo that authorizes the lender to send the details of his or her account to the financial authorities in the United States.
Lebanese bankers boast that Lebanon was one the first countries in the world to apply FATCA and that the lenders are keen to abide by all international decisions related to money laundering.
In October of this year, more than 80 countries signed up to a deal in Berlin that could help end banking secrecy, in what the sponsors hope will be a major step in the global battle against tax evasion and fraud.
A total of 51 countries signed up to the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement, under which their national tax authorities will exchange information automatically from September 2017.
And more than 30 other countries said they would sign up a year later in 2018.
Sader gave his assurance that banking secrecy was no longer a hurdle before the implementation of FATCA and other anti-money laundering measures.
“The countries are only asking for the exchange of information on taxes, and provided that these states are fully cooperating then they are not bothered if Lebanon or other states still maintain banking secrecy,” he explained.
Sader added that if the Americans wanted to inquire about a group or individual suspected of being involved in money laundering or terrorist funding, all had have to do was send a request to the Special Investigation Commission, which handles all such cases.
Voicing similar views, Joe Sarrouh, the adviser to the chairman of Fransabank, told the paper that Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh had repeatedly said that FATCA and other anti-money laundering measures would not affect banking secrecy in Lebanon.
“FATCA has been implemented with the consent of the bank account holder. The other condition for lifting the banking secrecy is when a person is involved in money laundering. Other than these cases, the depositor is protected by Lebanese banking secrecy,” Sarrouh said.
However, some observers believe that Lebanon’s banking sector could easily survive and prosper even if one day banking secrecy were lifted, noting that investors have high confidence in the efficiency of the Lebanese banks.
U.S. officials list Iran’s concessions in nuclear talks
Associated Press/Dec. 06, 2014
WASHINGTON: The Obama administration is telling members of Congress it has won significant concessions from Iran for extending nuclear talks, including promises by the Tehran to allow snap inspections of its facilities and to neutralize much of its remaining uranium stockpile. Those terms are included in a document that U.S. officials say represents the terms for a seven-month extension in nuclear talks between world powers and Iran, agreed to when the last deadline of Nov. 24 passed without an accord. A copy was obtained by the Associated Press.
The authenticity of the document was confirmed by three U.S. officials and congressional aides familiar with closed-doors discussions in recent days that have included top U.S. nuclear negotiator Wendy Sherman and Jake Sullivan, formerly Vice President Joe Biden’s national security adviser. The officials have been presenting the Iranian concessions to lawmakers in the hopes of convincing them to support the extension and hold off on new sanctions that could derail the diplomatic effort.
There is no proof Tehran has agreed to or will follow through on the steps outlined, and negotiators representing world powers and Iran offered few specifics on their progress when they agreed to extend talks until July. No signed deal emerged from that understanding, but administration officials say Iran accepted important limits on its nuclear program in the discussions last month. The officials weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the sensitive negotiations and insisted on anonymity.
The U.S. says Iran will further limit its development of new technology for enriching uranium that could be used for energy generation, as Tehran says is its objective, or for use in a nuclear warhead, which the U.S. and its partners fear may be Iran’s ultimate intent. It also seems to patch up what critics of last year’s interim nuclear deal described as loopholes on Iran’s research and development of advanced centrifuges.
For one centrifuge model Iran has been working on, the U.S. says Tehran won’t be able to pursue the industrial-scale operation needed for any “breakout” effort toward producing enough material for a nuclear weapon. For other models, Iran won’t be allowed to feed the centrifuges with uranium gas or begin testing on a cascade level, which are steps needed in their development.
Iran also has agreed to turn 35 kg of higher-enriched uranium oxide stocks into fuel, making it unusable in the event Iran tries to secretly reach weapons capacity. That amounts for almost half of Iran’s remaining stockpile of material that could in theory be converted into a form that is close to weapons-grade uranium.
In addition, the administration says Iran will grant international inspectors expanded access to its centrifuge production facilities, allowing the U.N. nuclear agency to double the amount of visits it makes to sites and to undertake unannounced or “snap” inspections. The monitoring aims to deter Iran from producing centrifuges for any covert facility.
Lastly, Iran will refrain from any other forms of enrichment, including through the use of laser technology. Last year’s agreement halted Iran’s progress on its gas centrifuge program, but U.S. officials feared the Iranians could experiment with other technology designed to do the same thing. Iran has attempted laser enrichment in the past, the U.S. believes, but now has committed to refrain from exploring it any further.
It’s unclear how Congress is receiving the message.
Several Democrats and Republicans in the Senate are threatening new sanctions designed to pressure Iran into caving in the nuclear talks. However, President Barack Obama has threatened to veto any new sanctions legislation.
Obama taps defense veteran Carter to lead the Pentagon
Associated Press/Dec. 06, 2014
WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama tapped policy wonk Ashton Carter to head the sprawling Defense Department Friday, heralding his new nominee as one of the U.S.’ “foremost national security leaders.”
Obama announced Carter’s nomination during a ceremony at the White House. A Pentagon veteran who is seen as a centrist, Carter is expected to be easily confirmed by the Senate, putting him at the helm of a department moving back into military conflict in the Middle East even as it grapples with budget cuts.
The leadership shake-up at the Pentagon marks the only major change Obama has made to his national security team during his second term.
While White House officials haven’t fully ruled out other changes, Obama appears highly unlikely to replace national security adviser Susan Rice or White House chief of staff Denis McDonough, who plays a significant role in foreign policy decision-making.
In discussing the Pentagon post with Carter, Obama said he emphasized the need “to make smart choices, precisely because there are so many challenges out there.”
Carter, a respected physicist and academic, has won praise from some Republicans. He would replace Chuck Hagel, who resigned last week after a bumpy tenure.
Hagel did not attend Friday’s event. A defense official said the outgoing secretary did not want to distract from Carter’s nomination, though the two men did speak by phone Friday.
The level of control the White House has exerted over the Pentagon in particular has rankled those who have held the agency’s top job before Carter. Former Defense Secretaries Robert Gates and Leon Panetta have both spoken extensively about what they saw as White House micromanagement and meddling in Pentagon affairs.
In brief remarks Friday, Carter signaled that he would not shy away from expressing his opinion in his new role.
“If confirmed in this job, I pledge to you my most candid strategic advice,” he said to Obama. The White House has denied that it has negatively interfered with the Pentagon, but officials have made clear that Obama had no plans to loosen his reins on the Defense Department. “The president of the United States is the commander in chief and sits at the top of the chain of command,” Obama spokesman Josh Earnest said. “That means the president bears significant responsibility for what happens at the Pentagon and the Department of Defense.”
Sen. Deb Fischer, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was among the Republicans who praised Carter’s nomination, while also taking issue with Obama’s national security strategy and decision-making.
Fischer said that while Carter “brings to the position impressive experience,” she remained concerned that “the administration continues to lack a coherent strategy to counter an array of global crises.”
Sen. John McCain, a Republican and a fierce critic of Obama’s foreign policy, also praised Carter, but said he hoped the new nominee “fully understands that, as previous secretaries of defense have strongly attested, he will likely have limited influence over the tight circle around the president who apparently control the entire strategic decision-making process.”
Carter has extensive experience in the national security arena. He held the No. 2 job at the Pentagon from October 2011 to December 2013 and also served as the Defense Department’s technology and weapons-buying chief during the opening years of Obama’s presidency. During the administration of President Bill Clinton, Carter was assistant secretary of defense for international security policy.
Obama touts steady progress in ISIS fight, vows more Jordan aid
Agencies/Dec. 06, 2014
WASHINGTON/COPENHAGEN: President Barack Obama Friday touted “slow and steady progress” in the fight against ISIS militants as he committed to increasing aid to Jordan.
The president made the comments in an Oval Office meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan, one of five Arab nations that have participated in U.S.-led airstrikes against the militants in Syria. Obama called Jordan a “rock solid partner” to defeat ISIS.
Obama said Jordan was a “small, resource-poor country that consistently steps up” to shoulder its international responsibility. He said he planned to ask Congress to nearly double U.S. annual assistance to Jordan from $660 million to $1 billion.
“The Jordanian military has been working side by side with U.S. and other militaries from around the world in making slow but steady progress, providing assistance to Baghdad, providing assistance to the moderate opposition inside of Syria and to begin culling back some of the gains that ISIS has made,” Obama said.
“We recognize that it’s a long-term and extremely complex challenge, but it’s one that we feel optimistic that we’ll be able to succeed in.”
Abdullah thanked the American people for supporting Jordan and said the country was hosting almost 1.5 million Syrian refugees. “It comes at a very difficult time,” he said.
Abdullah also said Jordan, the United States and other countries “had to combine our strategies” to combat ISIS, and that he believed it would be a “generational fight.”
“We really have to have a pan-regional approach to this issue. This is a Muslim problem. We need to take ownership of this,” he said.
“I think this is a third world war by other means,” he added.
Obama and Abdullah also discussed their efforts to reduce tensions between Israel and Palestine.
Meanwhile, a leading figure in the Syrian opposition said Western plans to train and equip non-jihadi rebels in Syria would not start until at least late February, depriving them of the support they needed to counter both rival insurgents and Syrian government forces. The relatively moderate rebels loosely grouped under the “Free Syrian Army” label are struggling to hold their ground against ISIS and the Nusra Front and against government forces.
Hadi Bahra, head of the Turkey-based Syrian opposition National Coalition, said the U.S. and its allies needed to find ways of increasing help to the moderate rebels.
“The issue is that developing the policies and procedures of putting this program into operation takes a very long time,” he said after meeting Denmark’s foreign minister in Copenhagen. “It is expected to start by the end of February or end of March, which is a very long time to leave the Free Syrian Army at [its] current level of assistance.”
Bahra, whose group is widely seen as having little influence on the ground in Syria, said the United States had forgotten the fight against Assad and was not doing enough to address what he called the cause of terrorism and extremism in the area.
He said he was seeking Denmark’s support in seeking greater help from the World Food Program, a U.N. agency that said this week it was cutting aid to 1.7 million Syrian refugees in the Middle East due to a lack of funds.
Elsewhere, France’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve warned that the threat of an attack by Islamist militants in Europe was “real” and that EU countries must all remain mobilized to counter it.
His remarks came amid signs that the number of jihadis leaving Europe to fight in Iraq and Syria continues to increase, raising concerns that some will return to their home countries battle-hardened and ready to carry out attacks.
“There are risks which are real today and which require a general mobilization,” Cazeneuve said after a meeting of EU interior ministers in Brussels to discuss the threat posed by foreign fighters.
French Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said France’s fighter jets were conducting a major raid in Iraq as part of the U.S.-led coalition offensive against ISIS, but refused to go into detail about the targets or the number of jets that were involved.
He said French planes based in the United Arab Emirates and more recently in Jordan had carried out 120 to 130 missions since the start of the coalition offensive, including intelligence gathering missions.
In eastern Syria, clashes continued for the second day around the air base just outside the contested city of Deir al-Zor, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees, a network of groups that organizes protests as part of the Syrian uprising. The Observatory said ISIS had captured the strategic village of Jafra, and had reached the fence of the sprawling air base.
The Observatory also said the fighting that started with an ISIS offensive early Thursday had killed 30 government troops and 27 jihadi fighters.
The key military air base gives government warplanes a hub from which to bomb ISIS-held cities and towns across much of eastern Syria. For ISIS, capturing the airport would eliminate the main pocket of resistance in the area and provide a major morale and propaganda boost after a string of setbacks in recent weeks.
Forgotten, but not gone: Fatah al-Islam still a factor in Lebanon
Justin Salhani| The Daily Star/Dec. 06, 2014
BEIRUT: For two years, Fatah al-Islam sent shockwaves throughout Lebanon with a spate of terrorist attacks, culminating in the battle of Nahr al-Bared. More than 400 people died during the clashes in the Palestinian refugee camp situated in north Lebanon, but Fatah al-Islam carried on operations for another year before largely disappearing from the public eye. The battle of Nahr al-Bared in 2007 led to the death or arrest of many Fatah al-Islam militants. Those who evaded capture or later escaped from Roumieh Prison are believed by analysts to have merged with Islamist groups operating in Syria, on the Lebanese border, or inside Lebanon itself.
Fatah al-Islam was formed in 2006 by Shaker Al-Abssi, a Palestinian born in Ariha (Jericho) in 1955. After being released from a Syrian prison, Abssi traveled to Iraq to fight the U.S. invasion in 2003. There, he made connections with senior figures in Al-Qaeda, including Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. In fact, Fatah al-Islam shares and supports the Al-Qaeda ideology – the only difference being the group’s view on takfiris and Shiites, whom Fatah al-Islam does not consider to be apostates.
Abssi carried this ideology with him to a village in the West Bekaa, where in 2005 he set up at a base for the Palestinian faction Fatah al-Intifada. Accompanying him were a number of men who had fought with him in Iraq. Attention from Syrian intelligence agencies, however, soon forced him to flee to refugee camps in north Lebanon. Abssi based his unit in the Beddawi refugee camp near Tripoli, but split from Fatah al-Intifada when a Palestinian security committee from the camp turned over two of his men to Lebanese security forces. He took his loyalists and formed a new unit, Fatah al-Islam, operating out of the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp, also near Tripoli.
Fatah al-Islam quickly became the most prominent jihadi group in the country, building a reputation for itself by plotting ambitious terror attacks both in Lebanon and abroad, including a failed train bombing in Germany.
On May 19, 2007, Fatah al-Islam militants seized Lebanese Army vehicles stationed outside the Nahr al-Bared camp and a battle ensued that lasted nearly four months. It wasn’t until early September that the Lebanese Army retook control of the camp.
More than 400 people were killed. There were casualties from the army, militants and civilians.
The group was also loosely linked to the December 2007 assassination of prominent Lebanese Army figure Francois al-Hajj and a 2008 bombing in Damascus. The last attack the group claimed was an explosion near Abdeh in north Lebanon that took place in late May in 2008. Since then, Fatah al-Islam has largely faded from the public eye. But that doesn’t mean the members have stopped operating. In 2008, the group moved its base to the Sidon-based Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh.
Lebanese intelligence agencies continue to monitor members, making it difficult for them to operate in Lebanon. But many militants that were not killed or arrested and sent to Roumieh following Nahr al-Bared have dispersed and joined various jihadi groups, both in Lebanon and Syria, analysts told The Daily Star. “Lebanese military successes in capturing group members have weakened the organization and have marginalized Al-Qaeda’s effort to use Fatah al-Islam as a conduit in Lebanon and Syria,” read a report released by California’s Stanford University and updated in 2014.
Abssi has been reported assassinated on multiple occasions, but analysts believe he may still be alive in either Lebanon or Syria.
When the uprising in Syria began in 2011, many of the remaining Fatah al-Islam members crossed the border and joined groups in the Free Syrian Army. As more extreme groups began to form, the Islamist-leaning among them broke away and joined those groups instead, said Dr. Haytham Mouzahem, director of the Beirut Center for Middle East Studies. “Many left to Syria and joined Nusra or ISIS,” confirmed Dr. Ahmad Moussalli, a professor of political studies at the American University of Beirut and an expert on Islamist movements.
On multiple occasions, connections between Fatah al-Islam and jihadi groups in Syria have become apparent. In 2012, two Fatah al-Islam militants that had fought in Nahr al-Bared were killed while fighting in Syria. One of them had recently escaped from Roumieh.
On Dec. 18, 2013, the U.S. State Department designated one Usamah Amin al-Shihabi a terrorist, calling him “an associate of Fatah al-Islam” who “at times has played a key leadership role” in the group, but the brief also stated that Shihabi had “recently been appointed the head of Syria-based al-Nusra Front’s Palestinian wing in Lebanon.”
The latest connection emerged earlier this year when a local from Ras Baalbek was kidnapped by an ISIS cell operating on the Lebanese-Syrian border. According to locals from Ras Baalbek, the cell’s leader, Abu Hassan al-Filistini, was a former member of Fatah al-Islam who fought in Nahr al-Bared.“A lot [of Fatah al-Islam members] are back in different areas in the north, Arsal, and other places,” said Moussalli, who speculated that the recent ambush outside Ras Baalbek could be connected to such people.
“They have a lot of problems with the Army and now they might be taking revenge as part of a larger organization,” he said. Other analysts say that Fatah al-Islam members have taken part in other battles inside Lebanon in recent years.
“You may find them fighting in [the 2013 battle of] Abra with Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir or in Tripoli with Shadi Mawlawi and Osama Mansour,” said Mario Abou Zeid, a research analyst at the Carnegie Middle East Center.
Hilary Clinton: 'No deal better than bad deal' with Iran
J.Post/Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking Friday night at the Saban Forum at the Brookings Institution, said she believes that "no deal" with Iran over its nuclear program "is better than a bad deal.""A deal that veritably closes all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon…is what is at the center of this negotiation,” said Clinton. The former US secretary said that she believes the interim agreement with Iran has halted its nuclear progress, and that any deal with Iran should make clear what the consequences of any breach would be. Quoting former British leader Winston Churchill, Clinton said in regards to the Iranian negotiations that it is "better to jaw jaw than to war war." Clinton also said that the US government made a mistake to not speak up more strongly during the 2009 Green Revolution, which saw large numbers of Iranians demonstrate for democracy in Iran. With regard to Israel-US relations, Clinton advised to "forget about the press coverage:look at the close cooperation and what this administration has done with respect to Israel's security," including the US funding for Israel's Iron Dome System. "No one can argue with this administrations commitment to Israel," said Clinton, adding that "We are two raucous democracies, and sometimes we get carried away."
Obama to Jordanian king: US continuing to share peace ideas
with Israelis, Palestinians
Reuters/WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama said on Friday the United States hailed Jordan for its role as a strong partner in trying to broker a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians. "Obviously in the aftermath of Gaza and some of the challenges in Jerusalem, the environment has not been conducive for the sort of peace initiatives that we'd like to see," Obama said after a visit with Jordan's King Abdullah at the White House "We are going to continue to share ideas, recognizing that ultimately what's going to be good for the Israelis and the Palestinians is their capacity to live together side by side in peace and security and for Palestinians to have their own state," he added. The US leader also said his country would keep trying in the coming months to reach a nuclear deal with Iran and said Washington would increase aid to $1 billion annually to Middle East ally Jordan. Obama said it was unclear whether Tehran would seize its chance for a deal in nuclear talks with western powers. "I briefed His Majesty about our negotiations with Iran, and indicated to him that we would prefer no deal to a bad deal, but that we continue to hold out the possibility that we can eliminate the risk of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon," Obama told reporters. "Whether Iran seizes this opportunity or not is something we have not yet been able to determine, but we will keep on trying over the next several months and will keep Jordan apprised." Washington sees Jordan as a critical ally in the region, and Obama praised the country for hosting refugees displaced by the war in Syria. He said the United States would provide an additional loan guarantee and more aid to Jordan "to reinforce the sort of political and economic reforms that have taken place inside of Jordan." Washington and its allies were making slow but steady progress against the terrorist group known as Islamic State, Obama said.
A Cage of Iran’s Own Making
Saturday, 6 Dec, 2014
There is a prevailing belief that Iran wants someone to save it from itself, not from Arabs or the West. Iran’s problem comes from within Iran itself and not from outside its borders. This seems to have been signaled by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who said: “I confirm to you that because of these negotiations [with the P5+1 group] the Islamic Republic of Iran has become safer. No one can any longer beat the drums of war against the Iranian people.”
Let’s take a look at Iran from this perspective. The Iranian regime has, for over thirty years, backed itself into a corner with its slogans, and stances on regional and international issues. It imprisoned itself, its leaders, and its mind, in this corner at a time when the entire world around it was changing. Iran’s political system is based on a model close to Communist China and the Soviet Union’s. However, where China has jettisoned its Leftist, Soviet baggage and created a new regime with a new face, Iran has not. Meanwhile, Basij militias and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps continue to police people’s ideas and punish whoever opposes them.
Do Iranian leaders really want to escape the prison they have inherited from the revolution? Is Iran really looking to open up? Are its negotiations with the West over its nuclear program an appeal for help to catch up with a world that has changed a great deal?
Zarif has not clearly stated that Iran wants to change, but he did say that his country feels safer because of the negotiations and that Iran feels proud that the P5+1 group sat down to negotiate with it and improve ties. If the minister and the regime feel this way, then what will happen later if an agreement is reached and the confrontational approach Iran has adopted for thirty years ends? The regime’s discourse—which mirrors that of the revolution—is built on the twin ideas of confronting its enemies and making sacrifices in order to do so. But if there is a comprehensive nuclear agreement, this revolutionary discourse will not fit into the new political context. The West will be a friend and a source of food, toys and movies. If this happens, revolutionary Iran will no longer be the same Iran after the negotiations.
Of course, this all depends on the assertion that Iran has indeed backed itself into a corner. It also relies on the political will of the Iranian regime in seeking a way into the modern and global system that does not tolerate rebels. It is also dependent on whether Iran becomes a country that is open to the world and that seeks to export its products and not its rebels and its revolution.
What may thwart the attempt to escape the revolution are Iran’s domestic political struggles, the outcome of which have not been settled, even though Ayatollah Khomeini died a quarter of a century ago. Official celebrations and gatherings still feature massive photographs of the revolution’s leaders, just as the Chinese did in the past as they competed to show loyalty to Mao Tse-tung. However, once Beijing opened itself up to the world, Mao Tse-tung’s image became like that of China’s other bygone emperors. China espoused a history of pride but did not feel the need to bow to Mao or to his teachings.
Zarif says that the world wants an understanding on the basis of logic, dialogue and respect, but the truth is that the world has always tried to reach an understanding with Iran. It is the Iranian leadership that isolated itself, accusing anyone who extended their hand to foreign parties of collaboration, treason and Zionism. Perhaps these restraints will be broken and the Iranians will free themselves of their cage. If negotiations are a mere trick to attack others and expand influence, then the regime will have chosen to end its life, just as suicide bombers do.
Bombing ISIS: Is Iran America’s newest
Abdullah Hamidaddin/Al Arabiya
Saturday, 6 December 2014
The U.S. this week said that Iran bombed ISIS. The Iranians at first denied the news, but then confirmed it – a few days later. The Iranian denial was expected. More than two months ago, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei released a series of tweets against the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS. The message he conveyed is not new: Iran will not be part of a coalition led by a country – the U.S. – which is a leader in supporting terrorism. So when two-and-half-months later the Americans point to the possibility of an Iranian strike against ISIS, the only natural thing is to deny it. The denial used rhetoric similar to that used by Khamenei: It is out of the question for Iran to cooperate with the U.S., the U.S. should have no place in the futures of Iraq and Syria.
Even before it was confirmed, it would make sense to believe that the bombing actually happened. A few weeks ago news came out about a secret letter by President Obama to Khamenei. The two main points of the letter were on nuclear negotiations and cooperating in fighting terrorism and ISIS. The recent nuclear negotiations did not achieve their objectives. So perhaps the Iranians calculated that their support of U.S. efforts against ISIS would give them leverage in the next round of negotiations. Moreover, the Saudis and the Russians agreed in their latest discussions that the Geneva 1 framework should be the basis of any solution to the Syrian war. It would not be farfetched to say that this agreement diminished the value of ISIS for both Assad and Syria.
There is also precedence for U.S.-Iran support in military issues. The Iran-Contra affair (1985-1986) came at a time when the relationship between both countries was much worse than it is today. Yet Iran was willing to support America’s war against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua in return for much needed American weapons. Not only that, Iran was willing to have those weapons delivered through Israel! A more recent but no less significant case of U.S.-Iran military coordination came in 2001 when Iran supported the U.S. coalition against the Taliban.
“I’ve personally been very supportive of U.S. – Iranian rapprochement as it will improve the security conditions in the region”
Both the U.S. and Iran do not like such news to come out. The most apparent reason is embarrassment and had it not been for footage showing what seemed to be Iranian planes the matter could have been kept under the rug. Iran likes to present itself as an anti-imperialist, Islamic and revolutionary state. But it seems that behind all the idealistic Iranian rhetoric is a shrewd and savage realpolitik. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had said last September that coordination with Iran “would not be right for any number of reasons.”
A more probable reason in my view for the U.S. discontent from the revelation of Iran bombing ISIS would be the signals it would send to America’s allies in the region. They believe the U.S. is appeasing Iran, while Iran is working hard and fast to acquire the nuclear weapon. The alleged Iranian bombing could not have happened without some form of direct or indirect coordination with the U.S.; and this propels the concerns of America’s allies to a new level. It was one thing to see the U.S. going soft with Iran’s nuclear ambitions; something else all-together to see some form of military coordination with Iran.
I’ve personally been very supportive of U.S. – Iranian rapprochement as it will improve the security conditions in the region; something which is much needed after more than three and a half decades of disorder. But for it to work America’s allies need to be in the picture. They need to be part of the solution. This is a regional matter not a bilateral one; this is a matter which will redefine the security regime of the regime and all the leading countries in this region should be writing down that new security regime. If that cannot be achieved, I think America’s allies deserve the courtesy of not having to hear the extent of U.S.-Iranian cooperation via satellite channels.
Targeting Abu Dhabi
Abdulrahman al-Rashed /Al Arabiya
Saturday, 6 December 2014
The recent attack in Saudi Arabia’s al-Ahsa province, which killed eight citizens, was a carefully selected crime with political motives. It was Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants killing Saudi Shiites in an attempt to stir turmoil in the region. ISIS has committed another terrorist crime, this time killing an American woman in the UAE capital, also for political motives.
ISIS itself is just part of an ongoing terrorism - an ambiguous organization with links to regional regimes - but it does not branch out far from the mother organization: al-Qaeda.
We knew that al-Qaeda targeted specific countries, the same countries it targets today: Saudi Arabia, the UAE and others. These countries should not settle for a strategy to confront organized violence by foiling and dismantling the biggest possible number of these involved groups, which use citizens from different nationalities. The security approach has proven effective against terrorism and minimizing losses, but the parties supporting and facilitating terrorism need to be dealt with in wide regional political cooperation.
It is normal to be skeptical about the countries hosting or helping these terrorist groups by turning a blind eye to their financial activities, but we cannot plainly accuse them, at least not now.
The chosen targeting of these countries, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, will require more coordination and political activity that would not tolerate any party, whether states or groups, to facilitate ideological and actual terrorist activities. Terrorism is not a new experience for the governments of the region; substantial events past in the decade have seemingly trained the states’ devices to fight this phenomena and to cooperate regionally and internationally.
If incidents like the murdering of the American teacher in Abu Dhabi and the targeting of a Husseiniya (Shiite religious gathering) in Saudi Arabia are the beginning of an organized war, we should then tighten our measures again to start new confrontations on different levels. However, if they are just individual or limited activities, being firm will deliver a strong message to the others.
Today, the situation in the region is more complex and serious than seen during the past decade of terrorism. The war is ongoing in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, and partly in Egypt. With the existence of open fronts, it is expected for some parties within the regional political axes of war to try influencing and perhaps even dragging their battles to the borders of more stable countries. Confronting these actions and the brainwashed minds will be much easier if the parties behind them are identified.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Dec. 6 2014.
America in black and white
Hisham Melhem /Al Arabiya
Saturday, 6 December 2014
The demonstrations in cities across the United States protesting a New York grand jury’s decision not to indict a white police officer whose chokehold, caught on cameras and watched by millions all over the world, caused the death of an unarmed middle-aged black man, whose repeated plea “I can’t breathe” has become the rallying cry of many outraged Americans, are but the latest manifestation of the legacy of race, racial inequality, that has haunted America for centuries.
These demonstrations, followed similar, but more violent ones in Ferguson, Missouri, that were sparked by a grand jury’s decision not to indict a white officer in the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager.
America’s original sin
Once again, the American Republic is grappling with the lingering effects of its “original sin,” that of slavery. Also, the persistence of generations of institutional racial inequality and its attendant economic inequality that shaped, and in many ways tormented, the lives of many non-white groups, (as well as less fortunate Europeans, particularly the Irish and Italian immigrants) beginning with the indigenous peoples who inhabited the continent before its conquest by European colonists.
From its birth, the great American Republic, which was based on certain self-evident truths, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness..” and on an enlightened constitution, that included an impressive Bill of Rights, was marred by the inherent scourge of slavery and the institutional racial discrimination it spawned.
The failure of the Revolutionary Generation that founded the American Republic to deal openly with the issue of slavery in the late 1700’s, led eventually to the Civil War in 1861-65, the most traumatic experience and costliest war in American history. The civil war ended overt slavery, but racial prejudice continued and equality remained elusive, and blacks in the south were subjected to the so-called “Jim Crow laws” which mandated the segregation of public schools, public transportation, restaurants, and even toilets for whites and blacks.
American presidents had to use their Federal authority to de-segregate schools and universities in the 1950s and 1960s in some Southern States. For generations after the civil war, blacks were denied their right to vote by elaborate schemes that kept them disenfranchised, until the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 that outlawed overt discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that ended disenfranchisement of blacks by prohibiting racial discrimination in voting. Fifty years ago many states had laws barring interracial marriage including my state of Virginia which was forced by the Supreme Court in 1967 to strike down these discriminatory laws.
Encountering the racial divide
My introduction to the legacy of racial divide in America was overwhelming, rough and direct. And from the beginning I understood that racial discrimination cannot be fully understood, let alone dealt with if divorced from the economic domain. It was in 1972 that I found myself the lone Caucasian worker manning an assembly line at an all-black work station in a Zenith plant for the manufacturing of television sets in the Suburbs of the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. My shift was from 3 p.m. until midnight. The work was grinding and not safe as I discovered when I almost blinded myself with hot water and acid trying to wash the glass “panels’’ of the television sets.
“For all the dark sides of the race legacy in America, this country remains more diverse, tolerant and open to serious debates about race than most other western democracies”
All the foremen, were white and most of the laborers were black, Puerto Ricans, with a smattering of poor whites, immigrants from the third world and a band of tough Lebanese students, studying at Villanova University and struggling to reconcile long work hours with the demands of university courses and exams. In my case there was the additional burden of learning English. At lunchtime on my first day I shuffled silently with my co-workers to the huge cafeteria. Carrying my tray and looking for a seat alongside my group, I noticed that my Lebanese friends from the side were looking at me with amazement. It was then that I realized that I was standing in the heart of the racial divide in America, circa 1972. On one side a sea of black and brown faces, on the other the white faces of management and the pretenders, including my Lebanese friends. When I sat with my black co-workers, I felt the weight of all the indignant eyes in the cafeteria that were fixated on me reprimanding my effrontery to the unspoken rules of voluntary racial segregation.
Many of the white foremen were openly racists, they distrusted and feared the black workers, accusing them of laziness and complained about absenteeism, the proliferation of drugs and the occasional violence on the job. The black workers, complained bitterly about racial prejudice, and the lack of black foremen. Tensions at times were so thick that people would reach for their ever ready knives at the slightest provocation, and the wide use of drugs did not help. One day in the middle of the cafeteria a middle-aged man was stabbed several times by a youth, who walked away slowly from his bleeding victim as if he just shook his hand. Obviously, nobody witnessed the crime. Although, this encounter began in 1972, one could still feel how raw the country was because of the traumatic and violent race riots that burned whole neighborhoods in a number of major American cities in the second half of the 1960s from Watts to Detroit to Newark to Washington D.C.
America in black and white
Initially, my black (we did not use African-American then) co-workers were suspicious and unfriendly. This was compounded by my accented poor English. “Where you come from” asked “Big John,” a giant of a man. “Lebanon” I said, to which he inquired “where is that”, I sheepishly answered “Middle East.” But still I did not quite fit the stereotype of a Middle Easterner with my blondish mustache and a name tag declaring me as Richard Melhem. Then the ultimate test came, when “Big John” asked “are you Muslim?” When he did not understand what I mumbled for an answer, he emphatically shouted the question again.
Driven by my desire to survive, I composed myself and looked him in the eyes and benefitting from my years of training as a Catholic-Maronite choir boy, I authoritatively recited the full al-Fatiha, the first Surah in the Quran. I did not know then that “Big John”, was an admirer of Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam, a group that was not part of mainstream Islam, where people like “Big John” - being totally alienated from the white man and his culture and religion - flocked to Elijah Muhammad and his fiery lieutenant Malcolm X seeking answers and assurances. “Big John” was impressed with my Arabic and asked me to repeat al-Fatiha while rummaging in his bag, to get me the last edition of “Mohammad Speaks” the newspaper of the Nation of Islam. Later on, “Big John” was impressed, by my rudimentary knowledge at that time, of the leaders of the black community. In Lebanon I read limited accounts of the civil rights movements, and was somewhat familiar not only with the major figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr. but also, other leftist activists such as Angela Davis, Stokely Carmichael and Huey Newton. My leftist background in Lebanon helped my initiation into Black America.
Communication with “Big John” was not easy. He introduced me to black slang. I realized that when he said that a movie was “bad” he meant it was “good”, that “digging” something meant liking it, that “splitting” meant leaving, that a woman would call her lover “daddy” and he would call her “mama”. But I found out that my affection for American music and my familiarity with blues music in particular (although the Motown sound was dominant then) and love for American movies were very instrumental in easing my way to gain the trust of my black co-workers.
“Big John” and I would compete later on as to who would belt the blues in a louder voice. In those days I was having communication problems at school. While analyzing Sigmund Freud’s “The Interpretation of Dreams,” my philosophy professor began to explain the intricate relationship between time and motion by writing a big letter S on the blackboard. Then he drew a figure that looked to me like a snake and called it Schuylkill. Then he drew another figure that looked like an animal with four legs and called it Secretariat. Finally he drew the figure that looked like a two-legged man and called it Staubach. I was totally at a loss, and my frustration turned into anger because I could not figure out what was being said or the significance of these creatures and their movements and why they began with the letter S.
When the class adjourned, I mustered enough spirit to hide my wounded pride, and confessed to the professor my ignorance. I can still hear his hearty laugh before he said “my son, Schuylkill is a major river in Philadelphia, and Secretariat is the great horse that won the Triple Crown, and Staubach is the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. The professor was oblivious to the fact that I had no idea what the Triple Crown was or what a quarterback does.
Progress and regression
During the decades that followed my first encounter with America’s race legacy, African Americans made major progress in the areas of education, household income, health, and life expectancy.
But in recent years, not only persistent societal and cultural prejudices continued, and unconscious racism lingers on, but we have seen a disturbing regression across the board, brought in part by the economic downturn of the last 15 years. From 1965 to 2000 poverty rates among blacks fell from a high of 41 percent to a low of 22 percent, but then it has risen to 27 percent. Schools are segregating anew, and many black children in the South attend majority-black schools at levels not seen in decades. The wealth gap between blacks and whites has quadrupled between 1984 and 2007.
Police arrest black men at 3.7 times the rate of white men for possession of drugs. As columnist Nicholas Kristof noted recently “the United States imprisons a higher proportion of its black population than apartheid South Africa did…” More blacks are still subjected to discrimination than whites in education, and employment; and a disproportionate number of black youths are killed by police than whites. And nowhere is discrimination is felt more than in the justice system. The large number of incarcerated black young men, in many cases for possession of drugs, has created a marginalized underclass.
Despite the election of the first black president, and the appointment of the first black Attorney General, and the fact that 87 percent of Americans approve of black and white marriages, and most Americans don’t consider themselves racists, the United States remains a very unequal society. The persistence of income inequality, high unemployment rates among young black men, the disproportionate number of black youths dropping out of high schools, all guarantees the persistence of a marginalized, alienated black underclass.
The riots following the grand jury decisions in Ferguson and New York have focused the attention on the disproportionate violence used by white police officers against blacks, and the fact that some police departments don’t necessarily reflect the demographic make- up of the community they serve. (In Ferguson there are only three black officers in a police force of 53) Also the “militarization” of police forces because of a Pentagon program that gives surplus military hardware including heavy weapons and armored vehicles to police department at low prices (this is a legacy of the Iraq war) has come under close critical scrutiny.
While, retraining the police, or equipping them with more cameras, could improve their relationship with the communities that they serve, these measures by themselves will not significantly alter racial inequality. Economic empowerment and educational opportunity are still the best paths to address the various forms of discrimination that are still afflicting the American Republic.
For all the dark sides of the race legacy in America, this country remains more diverse, tolerant and open to serious debates about race than most other western democracies. The great quality of America is that it is conscious of its imperfections. This was always a nation that is obsessed with improving itself, a nation in a ceaseless quest for a more perfect Union, where all men and women regardless of their backgrounds celebrate “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”