LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Quotation for today/The
Spirit and Human Nature
Galatians 05/16-26: " What I say is this: let the Spirit direct your lives, and you will not satisfy the desires of the human nature. For what our human nature wants is opposed to what the Spirit wants, and what the Spirit wants is opposed to what our human nature wants. These two are enemies, and this means that you cannot do what you want to do. If the Spirit leads you, then you are not subject to the Law. What human nature does is quite plain. It shows itself in immoral, filthy, and indecent actions; in worship of idols and witchcraft. People become enemies and they fight; they become jealous, angry, and ambitious. They separate into parties and groups; they are envious, get drunk, have orgies, and do other things like these. I warn you now as I have before: those who do these things will not possess the Kingdom of God. But the Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control. There is no law against such things as these. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have put to death their human nature with all its passions and desires. The Spirit has given us life; he must also control our lives. We must not be proud or irritate one another or be jealous of one another.
Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases
from miscellaneous sources For January 02/14
Lebanese Al Qaeda-linked group chief arrested after signing pact with Syria’s Nusra Front/DEBKAfile/January 02/14
Egypt hits a bump in the road/By: Ali Ibrahim/Asharq Alawsat/January 02/14
Iraq's Lessons on Political Will/By: Patrick Knapp/Middle East Forum Quarterly/Winter 2014
The Islamist Feud behind Turkey's Turmoil/By: Soner Cagaptay and James F. Jeffrey/Wall Street Journal/January 02/14
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For January 02/14
Lebanese Related News
Miscellaneous Reports And News
Pope Calls for Global Solidarity in New Year
Naharnet Newsdesk 01 January 2014/Pope Francis on Wednesday called for greater solidarity in the world in his first New Year blessing as pontiff in front of crowds of pilgrims on St Peter's Square.
"We all have a responsibility to act so that the world may be a community of brothers who respect each other, who accept their diversity and who take care of one another," the pope said on Catholic World Peace Day.
The first pope from Latin America said violence and injustice "cannot leave us indifferent or immobile" and said 2014 should bring "a real commitment to build a society with more justice and more solidarity".
"We have to stop on this road of violence! What is happening in the heart of man? In the heart of humanity? We have to stop!" the pope said. Francis said he hoped that greater "fraternity" and a "cry for peace" from war-torn parts of the world would encourage more dialogue and "tear down walls that prevent enemies from seeing each other as brothers". At a New Year mass in St Peter's Basilica earlier on Wednesday, Francis prayed in his homily for people "who hunger and thirst for justice and peace" in the world. He also called on the faithful to show "strength, courage and hope" in the year to come, speaking in his homily in front of thousands of people in the church.
Francis was elected in March 2013 following his predecessor Benedict XVI's momentous resignation -- a first for the Catholic Church since the Middle Ages. His down-to-earth style and commitment to reforming the Vatican have raised hopes in the Roman Catholic Church following a years of turmoil due to shocking child sex abuse scandals and growing secularization in the West. The 77-year-old Francis has called for the Church to reach out more to the vulnerable and has said it should be a "poor Church for the poor" that is less "Vatican-centric" and gives more power to local bishops. Source/Agence France Presse.
New Year in Lebanon kills teen, wounds four
January 01, 2014/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: A teenager was killed and four other people were wounded by gunfire in New Year celebrations in Lebanon, the state-run news agency said Wednesday. The National News Agency said Abbas Noureddine, 19, was killed in the Beirut neighborhood of Bir Hasan by celebratory gunfire.In similar incidents, four people were also wounded by stray bullets across Lebanon, the NNA added.
Lebanese Al Qaeda-linked group chief arrested after signing pact with Syria’s Nusra Front
DEBKAfile Special Report January 1, 2014/A tip-off by Western
intelligence agencies tracking al Qaeda in Syria led to the Lebanese
arrest of Majid al-Majid, the Saudi leader of the al Qaeda-linked
Abdullah Azzam Brigades. This group has been held responsible for
recent bombing attacks on the Iranian embassy in Beirut and
Hizballah strongholds, as well as rocket attacks on northern Israel
four months ago. Lebanese Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn confirmed
Wednesday, Jan. 1, that “the Saudi emir of the al Qaeda-affiliated
Abdullah Azzam Brigades,” is in the hands of the Lebanese army.
Hizballah’s Al Manar TV station added that al-Majid was captured
“recently.”Both statements betrayed an effort to attribute these
attacks to Saudi Arabia and/or al Qaeda. Iranian and Hizballah
spokesmen generally adopt the same line in the Syria war, where
Saudi intelligence is accused of backing al Qaeda and the other
Islamist militias fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad as well as
working against Iranian and Hizballah involvement in the Syrian
conflict. This hand was also blamed for the Nov. 19 attack by two
suicide bombers on the Iranian embassy in Beirut, in which the
cultural attaché was killed; and the Dec. 4 assassination of
Hizballah’s undercover operations chief Hassan al-Laqis. This week,
the Shiite organization’s spokesmen provided that assassination with
a new date and different circumstances to the ones published at the
time. They are still baffled in their search to discover how one of
the killers was able to penetrate their most secret inner councils.
Abdullah Azzam Brigades spokesmen announced Wednesday that -
notwithstanding their leader’s detention - they would continue their
strikes in Lebanon so long as Hizballah forces were fighting in
Syria and their members remained in Syrian and Lebanese detention.
According to debkafile’s intelligence and counter-terror sources,
Al-Majid was detained Monday, Dec. 30, when his car accompanied by
bodyguards arrived at the Lebanese army checkpoint in the Yarze
quarter of Beirut, site of the Lebanese high command. The officers
and soldiers manning the checkpoint appear to have been forewarned
of his arrival and placed him under arrest. What the al Qaeda leader
was doing at this core of high Lebanese military commands - or even
whether he might have had an appointment there - remains a mystery.
Our counter-terror sources report that he was arrested shortly after
returning from Syria where, over the weekend, he met Abu Muhammad
al-Golani, head of the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front fighting
Bashar Assad. Their meeting ended with Al Majid swearing an oath of
allegiance to the Nusra Front leader and their signing of a
cooperation pact. In other words, Al Qaeda’s Syrian branch was
promised a base and logistical assistance at the Azzam Brigades’
stronghold in the big Palestinian Ain Hilwa camp outside the south
Lebanese town of Sidon, not far from the Israeli border.
It is therefore more than likely that Al-Majid’s pact with his Syrian counterpart Al-Golani sealed his fate and led to his arrest.
Leader of group linked to Al-Qaeda held in Lebanon: sources
December 31, 2013/Daily Star/WASHINGTON: A Saudi militant who allegedly leads a group linked to al Qaeda which operates throughout the Middle East has been arrested by military authorities in Lebanon, according to U.S. national security sources.Two U.S. sources said that media reports from Lebanon that Lebanese Armed Forces had recently captured Majid bin Muhammad al-Majid, leader of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades were credible. The sources did not offer further details on the circumstances in which he was captured. Lebanese media reported on Tuesday that Majid had been arrested two days ago. One report said he had lived for years in a Palestinian refugee camp before leaving for Syria a month ago, where he allegedly pledged allegiance to the leader of the Nusrah Front, one of the most extreme and violent Islamic militant groups fighting to oust the government of President Bashar Assad. According to the Long War Journal, a respected counter-terrorism blog, Majid is among 85 individuals identified on a Saudi government list issued in 2009 as most wanted for their alleged involvement with al-Qaeda. The Long War Journal said that the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, named after a founder of al Qaeda and associate of the late Osama bin Laden, were formed some time after 2005 as a spinoff of al-Qaeda in Iraq. The blog said the group's mission was to attack targets in Lebanon and elsewhere around the Middle East.
Ghosn denies remarks on Al-Qaeda-linked chief's
January 01, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Lebanon's caretaker defense minister denied Wednesday he had confirmed the arrest of Majid bin Mohammad al-Majid, a Saudi who heads an Al-Qaeda-linked group that claimed responsibility for last year’s deadly attack on the Iranian Embassy in Beirut. "Minister [Fayez] Ghosn did not give any statements to any media outlet," a statement from the Lebanese official’s office said.
Agence France Presse news agency earlier quoted Ghosn as saying Majid, the leader of the Abdallah Azzam Brigades, was arrested by Lebanese Army intelligence in Beirut, without specifying when the arrest had taken place.
"He was wanted by the Lebanese authorities and is currently being interrogated in secret," AFP also quoted the minister as saying. On Tuesday, Reuters news agency quoted U.S. national security sources as saying that media reports from Lebanon that the Lebanese Army had recently arrested Majid were credible. A security source told The Daily Star that a man suspected of being Majid was arrested and that Lebanese authorities were running DNA tests to confirm the man’s identity. Another security source in Sidon, south Lebanon, told The Daily Star Majid had resided in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh, on the city’s outskirts, for over a year.
Majid, according to the source, had been in and out of the Ain al-Hilweh camp several times. On Nov. 19, 2013, two suicide bombers targeted Iran’s Embassy in Beirut, killing an Iranian diplomat and 29 other people. The suicide attack, the first in Lebanon since the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, also wounded 150 people. The Abdallah Azzam Brigades, through its religious guide Sheikh Sirajeddine Zuraiqat, claimed responsibility for the bombings, warning it would carry out further attacks until Hezbollah withdraws its fighters from Syria and Islamist detainees in Lebanon are released. Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah has accused Saudi intelligence of being behind the suicide attack. “We believe the Abdallah Azzam Brigades’ statement about the bombing ... this is a bona fide group that has a Saudi emir and its leadership is directly linked to Saudi intelligence,” Nasrallah said at the time. According to The Long War Journal, a counter-terrorism blog, Majid is on Saudi Arabia’s list of 85 most-wanted individuals for links to Al-Qaeda. Majid, according to the website, is the third Saudi known to serve in the top level of the Abdallah Azzam Brigades' leadership cadre. In June 2012, Majid released a statement calling on Syrians to support the effort to topple President Bashar Assad's regime.
Syria air strike kills refugee in Arsal: local official
January 01, 2014/By Rakan al-Fakih The Daily Star /HERMEL, Lebanon:
A Syrian air strike on the outskirts of the Lebanese northeastern
town of Arsal targeted a car carrying Syrian refugees, killing a
woman and wounding three other people, a local official said. Arsal
Deputy Mayor Ahmad Fliti told The Daily Star that a Syrian warplane
fired one rocket into the car carrying the refugees from the Syrian
town of Jarajir. “The car had just crossed the border into Wadi al-Zamarani
on the Lebanese side when a Syrian rocket hit it, killing a woman,”
Fliti said. He said the mid-morning strike also wounded three other
Syrian refugees who were headed to Arsal at the time. The National
News Agency had said 10 people were wounded in the raid. Wednesday's
raid into Lebanese territory was the second by the Syrian air force
this week. On Monday, two helicopter gunships fired four rockets at
Khirbit Daoud, on Arsal's fringes. Minutes earlier, the Lebanese
Army had opened fire on a Syrian helicopter gunship that violated
Lebanese airspace over the outskirts of Arsal. Arsal hosts a
significant number of Syrians who have fled ongoing clashes across
the border between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad and
Hezbollah MP: March 14 serving Israel’s interests
January 01, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Hezbollah MP Hussein Musawi
accused Tuesday the March 14 coalition of serving Israel’s interests
when it vowed to liberate Lebanon from Hezbollah’s arsenal. “It was
national weapons that liberated and restored sovereignty [after
Israeli occupation],” Musawi said, according to a statement from
Hezbollah responding to “those fishing in troubled waters.” “Those
who declare war to liberate the country from these patriotic
[Hezbollah] weapons put themselves and their [political] team in
broad daylight in the service of the enemy occupation [Israel]” he
said. On Sunday, Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora vowed that the
March 14 coalition would liberate Lebanon from Hezbollah’s
“illegitimate arms.” Siniora’s remarks came as angry mourners laid
to rest former Finance Minister Mohammad Shatah who was assassinated
in a car bomb explosion in Beirut on Dec. 27. The bombing, which
killed at least 8 people and wounded 70 others, heightened sectarian
and political tension in a country already reeling under the
repercussions of the 33-month war in neighboring Syria. Shatah was
an adviser to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who indirectly
blamed Hezbollah for the assassination. The March 14 alliance has
also blamed Syria, Hezbollah’s ally in Lebanon, for the killing.
Musawi, according to the statement, also said his party would continue to protect the border against Israeli attacks. “Regarding remarks by some [politicians] concerning the Lebanese Army, the Army and all the people know and feel our commitment and our determination to support it [Army] in order to be capable of protecting [Lebanon’s] borders and sovereignty, together the Army with the resistance community [Hezbollah],” he said.
On Sunday, President Michel Sleiman announced that Saudi Arabia would grant the Army $3 billion to buy arms from France to help support and boost the military.
Missing Hezbollah fighter killed in Syria buried in Lebanon
January 01, 2014/Daily Star/BAALBEK, Lebanon: A Hezbollah commander,
who had been missing for months in Syria, was buried in Lebanon on
Wednesday after his body was repatriated following his torture and
killing by rebels, relatives told AFP. Hussein Salah Habib, 30, was
captured by opposition fighters during the fight for Qusair, a
strategic town near the Lebanese border that fell to the regime on
He was buried in Baalbek, in the Bekaa valley, a region of eastern Lebanon that is a bastion of Hezbollah. The Lebanese group is a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad and has sent fighters to support his troops against the rebels. Armed Hezbollah members and fighters who participated in the battle for Qusair were among those at Habib's funeral, an AFP correspondent reported.
His body had been missing for months since the battle in Qusair, and was recovered nearly a week ago in the area of Tallet Mando, near the town. "He was repatriated and DNA tests proved that it was indeed Hussein," a relative said. "We were told that his body was buried under a mound of sand. He had been stabbed in several parts of his body and his face was disfigured," he added. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says at least 262 Hezbollah fighters have been killed in Syria since the beginning of the conflict in March 2011. The group first publicly confirmed its intervention in the conflict in April. It has been controversial in Lebanon, where many Sunnis back the Sunni-dominated uprising, some of them also travelling across the border to fight the regime. Iran-backed Hezbollah's involvement has brought it under attack in Lebanon, where its south Beirut stronghold has been hit by bombs and rockets. In November, a twin suicide bombing struck the Iranian embassy in south Beirut, killing 25 people.
Al-Rahi Hopes Saudi Grant to Army Will Pave Way
to Lebanese Political Initiatives
Naharnet Newsdesk 01 January 2014/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi hailed on Wednesday Saudi Arabia's financial donation to the Lebanese army, hoping that it would pave the way to Lebanese political initiatives among the rival parties. He said during new year mass: “We hope the donation will help lead to an understanding between the rival powers and to the formation of a new government.” He congratulated the Lebanese state and army on the Saudi grant and President Michel Suleiman for keeping the state in high regard. “We hope the initiative will help the political rivals make sacrifices and protect Lebanon in light of the impending presidential elections,” al-Rahi remarked. Moreover, he praised President Michel Suleiman for his stances that are keen on safeguarding Lebanon. “You took an oath of loyalty to the nation and constitution,” he added, while hoping that he will prevent the postponement of the presidential elections. Suleiman's six-year term ends in May. There are growing fears over the possibility of the postponement of the presidential elections given the sharp divisions among the political powers. Suleiman announced on Sunday that Saudi Arabia has decided to donate three billion dollars with the aim of purchasing French weapons for the Lebanese army as soon as possible.
Report: U.S. Embassy Issues New Warning to
Nationals in Lebanon
Naharnet Newsdesk 01 January 2014/The U.S. Department of State issued a travel warning advisory to Lebanon over safety and security concerns, the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat reported on Wednesday.
According to a statement obtained by the daily, the U.S. embassy in Lebanon conveyed the country's warning, which called on its nationals to “take the highest precaution measures during the upcoming two weeks.”
The statement urged U.S. citizens to “avoid heading to hotels, public activities or any social event,” considering that these sites “are targets for any possible terrorist attack, in the short-term.”
The daily reported that the Embassy called on U.S. citizens “to avoid all travel to Lebanon due to safety and security concerns,” noting that “those who are currently in Lebanon “should understand that they accept the risks.”
The newspaper quoted the U.S. embassy as saying: “it might have a limited ability to reach all areas in the country.”The Embassy urged the U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Lebanon to enroll in the Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to get you the latest security updates, and makes it easier for the U.S. embassy or nearest U.S. consulate to contact you in an emergency.
On December 27, ex-Finance Minister and former Prime Minister Saad Hariri's adviser, Mohammed Shatah, who is a prominent critic of the Syrian regime, and seven others were killed in car bombing in the heart of the capital.
The U.S. State Department has already warned U.S. citizens on several occasions to avoid all travel to Lebanon and recommended those in the country make plans to leave.
The conflict in Syria has increasingly spilled over into Lebanon in the shape of deadly clashes and bombings.
Palestinian ambassador in Prague killed in
January 01, 2014/Daily Star
PRAGUE: The Palestinian ambassador to the Czech Republic died Wednesday in a blast that occurred when he opened an old safe that had been left untouched for more than 20 years, officials said.
Ambassador Jamel al-Jamal, 56, was at home with his family at the time of the explosion, according to Palestinian Embassy spokesman Nabil El-Fahel. Al-Jamal was seriously injured and rushed to a hospital where he died, according to police spokeswoman Andrea Zoulova.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said no foul play was suspected, noting that the safe had been left untouched for more than 20 years.
The safe was recently moved from the old embassy building, but it had come from a building that used to house the Palestinian Liberation Organization's offices in the 1980s.
"The ambassador decided to open it. After he opened it, apparently something happened inside (the safe) and went off," Malki told The Associated Press.
It was not immediately clear how Malki knew the safe had been untouched for more than 20 years or why the safe would have contained something explosive.
During the 1980s - before the fall of the Soviet Union - the PLO had close ties with the Eastern bloc countries. In recent years, relations have been tense and the Czech government was seen as largely taking Israel's side in the Mideast conflict, said Nabil Shaath, a foreign affairs veteran and leading official in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement.
"The safe was sitting neglected in one of the areas of the old embassy. It was in one of the corners. No one had touched it for 20 to 25 years," Malki said.
The embassy recently moved to a new complex.
"The ambassador wanted to know what is in the safe," Malki said. "He opened it and asked his wife to bring a paper and a pen to write down the contents of the safe. She left him to bring (the) pen and paper. During that time, she heard the sound of an explosion."
He said the ambassador had taken some of the contents out of the safe but it wasn't immediately clear what was inside.
The ambassador and his wife were alone in the building at the time because it was a holiday, Malki said. His 52-year-old wife, who called embassy employees to seek help, was treated for shock at the hospital but released. She was not immediately named.
Zoulova said police were searching the apartment but declined further comment.
Martin Cervicek, the country's top police officer, told the Czech public television that nothing was immediately found to suggest that the diplomat had been a victim of a crime.
Prague rescue service spokeswoman Jirina Ernestova said al-Jamal was placed in a medically induced coma when he first arrived at Prague Military Hospital. Dr. Daniel Langer, who works there, told public television that al-Jamal had suffered serious abdominal injuries, as well as injuries to his chest and head.
The embassy complex is in Prague's Suchdol neighborhood.
The new embassy had not been opened yet and the ambassador, who was appointed in October, spent only two nights in the new residence - also in the new complex.
The explosion occurred in the ambassador's residence.
Al-Jamal was born in 1957, in Beirut's Sabra and Shatilla refugee camp. His family is originally from Jaffa in what is now Israel.
He joined Fatah in 1975. In 1979, he was appointed deputy ambassador in Bulgaria.
Starting in 1984, he served as a diplomat in Prague, eventually as acting ambassador. From 2005-2013, he served as consul general in Alexandria, Egypt. In October 2013, he was appointed ambassador in Prague.
Health of Israel's Ariel Sharon worsens: hospital
January 01, 2014/Daily Star/JERUSALEM: The condition of the comatose
former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has taken a turn for the
worse, the hospital treating him said Wednesday.
Sharon, 85, has been in a coma since 2006 when a devastating stroke incapacitated him at the height of his political power. Since then, he has been in a vegetative state, connected to a respirator. His family has said that he sometimes opens his eyes and moves his fingers.Amir Marom, a spokesman for Tel Hashomer hospital, where Sharon has been treated for most of the past eight years, said Wednesday that Sharon's medical condition has "deteriorated in the past few days." He refused to elaborate. Contacted by The Associated Press, Sharon's son, Omri, refused to comment.
Channel 10 TV reported that Sharon was suffering from kidney problems, and was in a life-threatening condition. In September, Sharon underwent surgery to insert a new feeding tube.
Sharon was one of Israel's most iconic and controversial figures. As one of Israel's most famous generals, Sharon was known for bold tactics and an occasional refusal to obey orders. As a politician he became known as "the bulldozer," a man contemptuous of his critics while also capable of getting things done. A prominent hard-line voice over the decades, he was elected prime minister in 2001.
In mid-2005, he directed a unilateral withdrawal of Israeli troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip, ending a 38-year military control of the territory. It was a shocking turnaround for a man who had been a leading player in building Jewish settlements in captured territories. He later bolted his hard-line Likud Party and established the centrist Kadima Party. He appeared on his way to an easy re-election when he suffered the stroke in January 2006. His deputy, Ehud Olmert, took over and was elected prime minister a few months later.
Sharon had a first, small stroke in December 2005 and was put on blood thinners before experiencing a severe brain hemorrhage on Jan. 4, 2006. After spending months in the Jerusalem hospital where he was initially treated, Sharon was transferred to the long-term care facility at Tel Hashomer hospital. He was taken home briefly at one point but returned to the hospital, where he has been since.
Palestinians reiterate plans to reject any framework accord presented by US
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH, JPOST.COM STAFF 01/01/2014/Ahead of Kerry
visit, PM reportedly decides to delay announcement of new settlement
building until after US diplomat leaves region.
As US Secretary John Kerry prepares to resume his efforts to achieve an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, a PLO official announced Wednesday that the Palestinians would reject any framework accord that is presented by the Americans. The top US diplomat was due to arrive to the region Thursday. Related: Israel to again couple Palestinian prisoner release with new construction plans beyond Green LineUS official: Kerry to push for permanent peace agreement by April“Kerry will try to market a mysterious and nonconstructive framework agreement to the Palestinian Authority during his new tour,” said PLO Executive Committee member Tayseer Khaled. Khaled accused the US of turning a blind eye to Israel’s practices on the ground in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. He said that Israel’s measures undermine the peace process and prospects of establishing a sovereign Palestinian state. Khaled said that the Israeli ministerial committee would not have been able to approve a bill supporting the application of Israeli law to settlements in the Jordan Valley had it not felt that it had the backing of Kerry. The PLO official called on the PA leadership to inform Kerry of its opposition to any framework or interim agreement with Israel. He also called on the PA leadership to stop bidding on American sponsorship of the peace talks and demand international intervention, as was the case with Iran and Syria. PA President Mahmoud Abbas, meanwhile, reiterated his threat to seek UN recognition of a Palestinian state should Israel pursue construction in the settlements. Addressing Palestinians on the 49th anniversary of the founding of his Fatah faction, Abbas denounced settlements as a “cancer.” He said that the PA maintained the right to use its status as non-member observer in the UN to take diplomatic, political and legal action to halt settlement construction. Abbas too rejected the idea of reaching an interim agreement with Israel, saying he insists on a final peace deal.
“We are negotiating to reach a solution that would immediately lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital on all the lands that were occupied in 1967,” Abbas declared. “We also seek a just solution to the case of the refugees on the basis of UN resolution 194 and the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.” Meanwhile, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has reportedly decided to ask the Housing Ministry to postpone an expected announcement of further settlement construction beyond the Green Line until after Kerry's impending visit. In a bid to avoid international criticism, the premier was seeking for the ministry to refrain from publishing building tenders for 1,400 new housing units in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, Army Radio reported Wednesday. The move was expected to follow Israel's release overnight Monday of the third batch of 26 Palestinian prisoners as a gesture for peace talks, Army Radio reported. The radio station cited political officials who have recently met with Netanyahu as saying he was torn between his desire to not be accused of failure in negotiations with the Palestinians and that of not being seen as a "sucker" for releasing 104 long-serving Palestinian security prisoner and not receiving anything from the other side in return.
Exodus of Christ ... and Christmas Peace
P. Abdo Raad/On the twenty-fifth of December 2013 sitting mused in front of my screen. How
can I greet people and what can I say to them at the start of the New Year and
under the present circumstances? That's what I thought, so please accept this
contemplation from me and let’s together in a spirit of hope, persevere asking
peace from the Lord of peace and to challenge pain by living in joy.
Exodus of Christ ... and Christmas Peace! This could not sound as an opening for a Christmas greeting! But the fact is; this is indeed a very Christmas opening; inspired by the present reality and brings us back to a historical fact, which is the displacement of Christ. When Caesar Augustus ordered for the census, Joseph went from Nazareth to Bethlehem to register his name in official bureau there... There was no place for him neither in a hotel nor at a friend’s... He became displaced and was forced to seek refuge in a tent, cave or stable ... God knows, ad there in the manger Jesus was born. Born simply displaced and poor!! The Caesar of course didn’t think of the poor people; how to ensure their transfer, residence and protection. His main concern was the statistics and perhaps for the sake of his personal or political interest.
When King Herod deliberately killed children and commit crimes, motivated by his arrogance and selfishness, Joseph fled to Egypt. We do not know how he lived there with Mary and Jesus. But I do not think they lived in the palaces of the Pharaohs, they were displaced fleeing from violence and corruption.
The scene is repeated throughout history and today. Exodus of Christ is repeated by displacement of people. We have never seen displacement, like the one we are witnessing in the Middle these years. The example of Christ exodus is repeated in “displaced Christians and non- Christians” who are forced to abandon their villages and towns due to devastating decisions of their leaders. We are in the 21st century in front of leaders who do not care about human beings and do not know the meaning of pain. Their goal is only the trade of weapons and better share in the cake and; arrogant, selfish and only care about their own interests.
Christmas comes back to remind us of the displacement of the Divin Baby. But it is the exodus of salvation by which the modesty triumphs over pride, right over illusory and goodness over badness.
From here, despite the bloodshed and tears pouring profusely around the world, particularly in the Middle East where he the Christ of peace was born, the angelic greeting "Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth and rejoicing to men" remain the basis to communicate with God and among humans and show the meaning of a true Christmas.
It's the glory of the Lord, peace we make, and rejoicing we will hold for our own salvation.
Peace be with you beloved friends, rejoice and you will see the glory of God!!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
The Islamist Feud behind Turkey's
By: Soner Cagaptay and James F. Jeffrey/Wall Street Journal
Prime Minister Erdogan's increasingly autocratic rule has alienated the Gulen movement. The news last week about a corruption scandal in Turkey seems on the surface a traditional case of prosecutors ferreting out wrongdoers in high places. But the turmoil that threatens Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government has been a long time coming and is the most public manifestation of a struggle between Turkey's two main Islamic-conservative factions hitherto united under the governing party: the prime minister's Justice and Development Party, known as AKP, and the influential, popular Gulen movement.
The past year has already been challenging for Mr. Erdogan. Demonstrations that began in May grew out of anger over plans to develop Istanbul's Gezi Park and were a liberal affair, challenging the prime minister's increasingly autocratic rule. The Gezi Park occupants would seem to have little in common with the Gulen movement, an opaque, Sufi-inspired group known for its Islamic piety and, until recently, its support for Mr. Erdogan. But the Gezi and Gulen movements are now de facto, if not actual, partners with similar aims: resisting Mr. Erdogan's near-total power.
The country's longest-serving prime minister since it became a democracy in 1950, Mr. Erdogan runs Turkey almost single-handedly. He has built a broad political coalition to win three successive elections with ever-increasing majorities. His coalition has included Islamists, nationalists, center-right voters and pro-business liberals. Mr. Erdogan has sway over the executive and legislative branches of government, as well as much of the media and business community. His rule first worried secular liberal opponents but has now alarmed even the Gulenists.
The Gulen movement traces its roots to the 1970s, when founder and Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen, now 72, began attracting followers. The Gulen message promoting a conservative yet relatively modern form of Islam has made inroads in Turkey. Some estimates of the movement's size run as high as five million supporters, though others peg it considerably lower, as little as under a million people.
The movement has its own media, universities, schools, think tanks and businesses; followers can also be found in the police and judiciary. With its widespread appeal and Islamic credentials, the movement appears to be the last remaining obstacle to Mr. Erdogan's consolidation of power.
The Erdogan administration became alarmed by the movement's growing power last year when prosecutors connected to it attempted to subpoena the head of Turkey's intelligence agency -- Hakan Fidan, a close confidant of Mr. Erdogan. The prime minister blocked this move by passing new legislation. But he saw it as a warning and responded by trying to close the Gulenists' powerful network of private prep schools.
The Gulenist pushback came quickly, with the movement's newspapers beginning to editorialize against Mr. Erdogan, who then postponed the move against the schools. On Dec. 12, prosecutors known to be close to the Gulen movement pressed corruption charges against prominent members of Mr. Erdogan's cabinet. With this move, the Gulenists, who have several supporters in key judiciary positions, presented an even more direct challenge to Mr. Erdogan's 12-year rule than anyone has before.
The corruption allegations have led so far to the resignation of three cabinet ministers, followed last week by the biggest cabinet reshuffle in the AKP since 2002. Mr. Erdogan has also fired hundreds of pro-Gulenist police chiefs, as well as, on Thursday, removing the key prosecutor, Muammer Akkas, from the graft case.
All of this is merely a prelude to what promises to be an even more high-stakes battle: the Istanbul mayoral election in March. The Istanbul race has always been closely contested between the AKP and the secular, leftist opposition Republican People's Party, which has a viable, populist candidate in Mustafa Sarigul. The Gulenists are unlikely to vote en masse for a liberal candidate. But simply by not voting the movement could tilt the election to the Republican People's Party, and thus show definitively that it is a powerful check against Mr. Erdogan.
If Mr. Erdogan's party wins in Istanbul, the prime minister would likely be emboldened to seek a popular referendum to blend the powers of the presidency and the prime minister's office ahead of elections in the summer. Mr. Erdogan would then run for the newly omnipotent executive presidency. If he won, he would become the most dominant political figure in modern Turkish history.
What happens in March has the potential to determine Turkey's democratic trajectory. This poses a major challenge for the U.S., raising thorny questions about the future of America's alliance with Turkey.
The threat to bilateral relations has been exacerbated by the remarkably explicit attacks on the U.S. by prominent AKP officials and pro-government media, which have accused America of being behind the corruption probes. Other allegations include an assertion that U.S. Embassy staffers have conspired with Turkish nongovernmental organizations to try to oust the AKP government. Last week, Mr. Erdogan publicly complained that the corruption investigation is a foreign plot. And he made matters even more precarious on Dec. 21 by suggesting that the American ambassador, Francis J. Ricciardone Jr., a stellar diplomat, leave the country -- the first such incident in living memory.
The stakes -- given Turkey's size, economy, military strength and strategic location -- are huge, and American influence is limited. The U.S. must play a careful game, avoiding the limelight, and focus on maintaining Turkey's basic Western, democratic, free-market orientation. This means not overreacting publicly to what are likely to be new provocations.
But privately, the U.S. should make clear to audiences inside and outside Turkey that, while not taking sides in the country's current domestic disputes, America's ability to assist Turkey diplomatically, economically and within NATO hinges on Turks resolving these matters in a democratic fashion that preserves the rule of law.
**Soner Cagaptay, the Beyer Family Fellow and director of the Turkish Research Program at The Washington Institute, is author of the forthcoming book The Rise of Turkey: The Twenty-First Century's First Muslim Power. Ambassador James F. Jeffrey is the Philip Solondz Distinguished Visiting Fellow at The Washington Institute.
Egypt hits a bump in the road
By: Ali Ibrahim/Asharq Alawsat
Whether during his career in diplomacy or following his involvement in Egypt’s domestic politics, Amr Moussa has been one of those Arab politicians who are brilliant at coining expressions and remarks that widely resonate across the Arab world and attract media attention.
During a press conference he held to present the new draft constitution which will be voted on in two weeks’ time, Moussa spoke frankly about the situation Egypt is in, saying that the country is not well, and has hit an “historic bump in the road.”The expression “bump in the road” is a correct diagnosis of the situation of the Egyptian state almost three years after January 25 Revolution. Predictions that Egypt could quickly become, following the transition, a modern state built on modern foundations proved inaccurate and unrealistic. It became clear that major social transformations are often accompanied by troubles and need time to work themselves out. This is not to mention that there are no magical solutions for problems that have been accumulating over decades.
Following the fall of Hosni Mubarak’s regime, two main factors contributed to Egypt hitting a bump in the road. First, no one predicted the former regime would fall that quickly. Therefore, without a working plan for the post-Mubarak Egypt, those in charge of the Egyptian state had to improvise and deal with events on a day-to-day basis.
Secondly, unlike other major revolutions in history, the Egyptian uprising lacked the leadership that enjoys an authentic intellectual vision. This has perhaps been a key feature of the many public uprisings that have taken place in and out of the region since 2011. However, the most significant factor behind much of the chaos was the hijacking of the revolution by the Muslim Brotherhood, the most organized political force in Egypt. After realizing this was not the change they were after, the Egyptian people revolted against the Brotherhood on June 30, 2013.
The Brotherhood’s rule ended after one year due not only to their poor performance in government, but also the growing concern of a wide segment of society over the identity of Egypt and the social contract between the government and citizens, particularly in the light of the slogans Islamists have adopted. This is something which the ousted Brotherhood— or at least its leading figures—has yet to realize. Therefore, the Brotherhood lost its support among the Egyptians—or at least a considerable number of them—who were ready to give the Islamist group another chance.
It seems that the Brotherhood has not got over the trauma it suffered in 1954 when, after convincing itself that it was poised to take over Egypt, it found itself excluded from the political game. When the Islamist group came to power in 2012, it seemed to have considered that moment as an historical opportunity to compensate for what happened to it more than half a century ago. This was the policy of the Brotherhood, without taking into account the fact that any given government is supposed to represent national interests and take the concerns of all social sectors into consideration in a bid to preserve social peace.
Today, as we approach 2014, Egypt can overcome the current crisis by putting the political roadmap into effect. The first step to this began with preparing the new draft constitution which will be put to public referendum in two weeks. The public vote will be the first real test of the feasibility of Egypt’s return to relative stability. In fact, there are good reasons to be optimistic, perhaps the most important of which is what seems to be the emergence of a social consensus in Egypt that the referendum and the subsequent elections take place. What is also significant is the need for the Egyptians to realize that accumulated problems need time and sustained efforts to deal with, and thus they should be realistic in their predictions.
Iraq's Lessons on Political Will
By: Patrick Knapp/Middle East Forum Quarterly/Winter 2014
After eight years of U.S.-led state-building efforts,
thousands of coalition force fatalities, and nearly one trillion dollars spent,
Iraq is drifting toward authoritarianism under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's
Dawa Party while al-Qaeda-stoked violence is running at levels not seen in
years. Although Washington's 2007 counterinsurgency strategy laid the groundwork
for a pluralistic and representative government, as long as the country's
current leaders have little motivation to abide by the rule of law, the future
of a democratic Iraq looks grim.
As the George W. Bush administration geared up for an intervention in 2003, it debated a post-invasion plan for leaving behind a state "based on moderation, pluralism, and democracy." While Jay Garner was the administration's initial point-man for designing a transition plan, rapidly emerging political complexities prompted the administration to look to Zalmay Khalilzad, the matchmaker of Afghanistan's Bonn conference transition, to finesse the implementation. But by April 2003, the chaos of post-Saddam Iraq prompted a change in plans: L. Paul Bremer would preside over an occupation authority that would build a state from "outside-in," as described by analysts Michael R. Gordon and Gen. Bernard E. Trainor. According to Bremer's 540-day "Iraq's Path to Sovereignty" plan, a constitution would need to be drafted, elections held, and a political framework developed before any handover of sovereignty.
Ambassador L. Paul Bremer (l) and Iraqi president Sheikh Ghazi Ajil al-Yawar shake hands as U.K. Special Representative David Richmond looks on during the transfer of authority to the Iraqi Interim Government, Baghdad, June 28, 2004. However, when the Coalition Provisional Authority handed over sovereignty to the interim Iraqi government, Iraq was worse off than when the CPA had taken power.
If such an arrangement had taken place in a vacuum, the Coalition Provisional Authority's (CPA) emphasis on building the legitimacy of the nascent Iraqi state through process, elections, and box-checking would have been sound. But amid sectarian tensions and Sunni fears of disenfranchisement and retribution, process alone did little to bridge Iraq's "sovereignty gap." The CPA's fixation on procedure and sequencing overlooked a key insight highlighted by authors Ashraf Ghani and Clare Lockhart in Fixing Failed States: A "state based on the consent of citizens and legitimacy of rules is likely to be more enduring than one imposed by force." Such consent and legitimacy would not be conferred so long as mistrust and alienation held sway, leading the Iraqi population to prefer the assurances of ideological extremists and sectarian death squads over CPA formalities.
The CPA cut short its ambitious project in June 2004 when Bremer officially handed over sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government. Yet when it came to the basic criteria for statehood—a monopoly on the legitimate means of violence—Iraq was worse off than when the CPA had taken power. Over the next few years, tens of thousands of Iraqis were killed in sectarian violence as Shiite death squads tightened their grip over the infiltrated Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). There was an invisible power at play that the U.S. midwife had failed to harness; the "popular resistance," a key ingredient according to political scientist Charles Tilly's recipe for state formation, had been deemed an irreconcilable threat to Iraqi institution-building by the U.S. administration. A 2005 "Red Team" report, suggesting a military strategy of clearing, holding, and protecting the population to provide better security than that offered by local warlords, was essential to preparing the ground for long-term institution-building. This was the counterinsurgency strategy that, mixed with a surge of U.S. troops and the grassroots blowback from al-Qaeda's harsh tactics, would be able to put Iraq on a sustainable path to sovereignty.
As U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker would later recall, the new 2007 strategy marked a realization that what mattered most in legitimizing the Iraqi state was not erasing the country's problems but creating conditions in which solutions could be worked through peacefully: "It's no surprise that [the Iraqis] will face challenges of institution building, challenges of who has what powers, tensions between communities, tensions within communities. All of these things are part of Iraq's present, and will be part of Iraq's future sectarian tensions. It's how they deal with them that, I think, is important."
A Series of Awakenings (2007-08)
By the end of 2006, al-Qaeda terrorists and Shiite death squads were inflicting record casualties on coalition troops as well as on Iraqi civilians, and the widely infiltrated state service apparatus was fanning the flames and giving Washington little to show for its state-building efforts. U.S. state-builders found themselves at a crossroads. On one hand, President Bush could accept the congressional Iraq Study Group's recommendation simply to speed up the current strategy of handing off security and service responsibilities to an incompetent and corrupt Iraqi government in the hope that the eventual drawdown would focus Iraqi officials' minds. As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice later recalled, the strategy in place since 2003 had assumed "that we would defeat the army, but the institutions would hold, everything from ministries to police forces …You would be able to bring new leadership but that we were going to keep the body in place." But by 2006, many believed that simply speeding up this failed strategy would be "rushing to failure," as Gen. David H. Petraeus would later put it.
The alternative, as Maj. Gen. H.R. McMaster and several other counterinsurgency experts advocated, was for Washington to increase its military presence, gain the population's trust, and take it upon itself to create the security conditions necessary for the political institution-building processes to go forward.
In choosing the counterinsurgency option, Bush was gambling on a much different conception of state-building than had been followed up to that point. "State-building," Francis Fukuyama argues, "is the creation of new government institutions and the strengthening of existing ones." Yet after more than three years of attempting to create and strengthen institutions, Gen. George Casey, commander of the multinational forces in Iraq, admitted that "we are failing to achieve objectives in the Economic Development, Governance, Communicating, and Security lines of operation within the planned timeframes." The changes to the Multi-National Force-Iraq (MNF-I) mission statement in January 2007 were telling: Instead of "partnership" with the Iraqi Security Forces (which the population distrusted), the new relationship was merely "coordination"; instead of "meeting the needs of the Iraqi people," the MNF-I would first "gain the support of the people"; and instead of "contribut[ing] to an environment where Iraqis can develop representative and effective institutions," the MNF-I would specifically create an environment of "GOI [government of Iraq] security self-reliance."
Crucial to the new strategy was the identification of the population's mistrust of the state as a key driver of the conflict (as indeed was the state's mistrust of the population). As a 2007 State Department report put it, "In the absence of security, communities are turning to 'self-help.'" With the population turning to warlords and corrupt government patrons, U.S. officials scrapped the assumption that "political progress will help defuse the insurgency and dampen levels of violence" and replaced it with the assumption that "while political progress, economic gains, and security are intertwined, political and economic progress are unlikely absent a basic level of security." By promoting its partnership with the Iraqi government, Washington had only accentuated the population's mistrust. As a result, Iraqis were seeking refuge in trusted sectarian and tribal security structures. Thus, U.S. leaders would first seek to regain the trust of the disenfranchised Sunnis and then attempt to pry state institutions from the Shiites' sectarian control.
By the end of 2006, the so-called Sunni Triangle northwest of Baghdad had fallen victim to the plans of the recently deceased al-Qaeda in Iraq leader, Abu Musab Zarqawi, to exploit sectarian wariness as a means for maximizing violence. Punishments for the most egregious crimes were dealt out by tribal leaders or extremist Sunni groups. To the extent that security forces exerted influence, it was in their ability to assist these factions with their illegal revenge killings. "The civil war was a bloodbath," New York Times reporter Dexter Filkins noted of 2006, "but it had the unintended effect of making it easier for the respective groups to protect themselves.", Sunnis seemed to have endorsed the notion of Antonio Giustozzi of the London School of Economics, that non-state warlords "are not necessarily worse predators than states themselves, not only because they may provide a few social services and infrastructure but, most of all, security from external threats." Yet the accommodation was not entirely defensive. Score settling and ideological terrorism actively undermined the government, creating a destructive feedback loop. "Those societies deficient in stable and effective government are also deficient in mutual trust among their citizens," Samuel Huntington observed. "Their political cultures are often said to be marked by suspicion, jealousy, and latent or actual hostility toward everyone who is not a member of the family, the village, or, perhaps, the tribe." By the autumn of 2006, such a political culture had made the Sunni Triangle the most violent part of Iraq.
The new strategy sought to capitalize on the emerging "Anbar Awakening," in which Marine units had begun turning insurgents into allies through a process of entering enemy territory, staying, and proving to the local population that U.S. forces could be trusted to protect them. The influx of surge troops would lend more credibility to the informal relationships unit commanders had already been forging with the emerging, predominantly Sunni "Sons of Iraq," and the new counterinsurgency doctrine would lend the process official approval.
One of the most important steps in institutionalizing the success of the "Anbar Awakening" came when Prime Minister Maliki agreed to set up a panel for vetting Awakening volunteers to serve in the Iraqi security forces. Here, Iraqi army Lt. Gen. Abdul Kareem (center), Diyala Operations Center commander, speaks at a meeting on Forward Operating Base Gabe, Diyala province, December 23, 2008, as Baghdad took over control of the "Sons of Iraq" security groups in four key provinces.
The "Sunni awakening" was not an attempt to negotiate with the enemy. As the State Department put it, "Dialogue with insurgents has not improved security and may not produce strategic gains in the current context." Instead, the awakening would offer a strong, attractive alternative to which enemy fighters might wish to switch. One of the most important steps in institutionalizing its success came when Prime Minister Maliki agreed to set up an official 9-member panel for vetting awakening volunteers to serve in the security forces. By 2009, more than 24,000 Sons of Iraq had been officially registered in the government's biometric database, added to the government payrolls, and placed under Iraqi command. As President Barack Obama would later note, "In an area that was once the heart of the insurgency, a combination of fighting and training, politics and partnership brought the promise of peace."
With the Sunnis increasingly accepting the state's security function, the next step was to influence the political will of the dominant Shiite community. "Governmental institutions derive their legitimacy and authority not from the extent to which they represent the interests of the people or of any other group," Huntington argued, "but to the extent to which they have distinct interests of their own apart from all other groups." Yet throughout Baghdad and much of the country, key service delivery institutions such as the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Ministry of Transportation, as well as the Ministry of Interior (MOI) and Ministry of Defense, had fallen under the de facto control of the Badr and Mahdi Shiite militias; the MOI ran scores of illegal Sunni detention centers, and Sunnis were so fearful of the MOH that they would travel hours for emergency care to avoid being tortured upon arrival at a Shiite-run hospital.
The legacy of Saddam's brutalization was at play, and Shiites were both exacting their revenge for decades of repression as well as seeking any means possible of preventing a relapse into the Sunni authoritarianism of Saddam's days. "You have to realize how atomizing, how demoralizing, how debauching, how traumatizing the thirty-five years of Saddam's fascism were," journalist Christopher Hitchens once argued. "Utter wreckage of any possibility of a political class emerging. All possible rivals destroyed. Inculcation of fear of the nearest armed person. People forced to denounce one another. Forced to betray one another. Forced really to a Hobbesian state." While the idea of pluralistic, non-sectarian state institutions had once existed in Iraq, "four decades of relentless hammering of social institutions," as Iraqi historian Thabit Abdullah noted, had left an indelible impression on the Shiites.
Still, the success of the awakening and the surge in facing down the threat from al-Qaeda in Iraq had given some relief to Shiite anxieties, opening up a window of opportunity for making the state less exclusive and predatory. Prime Minister Maliki, confident in U.S. support and motivated by a combination of public approval and a desire to undermine his rivals among the followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, went on the offensive with operations in Karbala in August 2007 and Basra in March 2008. These successes isolated Sadr politically and inspired budding confidence in the security forces' potential to act even-handedly on its own, garnering momentum for operations in the Sadr City area of Baghdad. Officials at the airport authority, a bastion of Sadrists, began firing militia members. Sadrist militia units began looking to integrate into the Iraqi army. The death squad-affiliated deputy health minister and prison system director were arrested (although eventually released due to witness intimidation). Iraqi politicians began orienting their behaviors toward the 2009 and 2010 elections, whose legitimacy, thanks to the success of the counterinsurgency strategy, was becoming increasingly accepted. By 2008, division and alienation among Iraqis had declined to the point that agreement was reached on previously controversial legislation expanding provincial powers and limiting the extent of de-Baathification. The conditions for politics by peaceful means had commenced, conferring upon elections and governing institutions the legitimacy that Bremer had hoped to create back in 2003.
The Drawdown (2009-11)
The election of President Obama in 2008 did not on its face imply a change of direction for the state-building mission in Iraq. Before Obama had even taken office, President Bush had negotiated a status of forces agreement (SOFA) with Iraq, setting a target date of December 2011 for the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops. Indeed, thanks to the security conditions established by the 2007 counterinsurgency strategy, a modest cascade of political gains had built up to the point that a 2011 departure appeared plausible. The United Nations and International Red Cross had increased their presence in 2008, and Arab leaders had finally begun to engage Baghdad seriously as an equal partner. Projects such as the National Capacity Development program of the U.S. Agency for International Development finally had a credible governing structure with which to work, and momentum was building for the 2009 provincial elections. 
While the Bush administration had prioritized relationships and trust-building, the Obama administration sent Prime Minister Maliki (l) the clear message that it wished to keep Iraq's state-building efforts at arm's length. The Obama administration played no active role in conditioning the political will of Maliki and the rest of Iraq's political players and malcontents. As a result, Maliki's authoritarian tendencies have intensified, and Iranian influence has begun to fill the vacuum left by Washington.
However, the Obama administration had a completely different vision. While its predecessor had prioritized relationships and trust-building, the new administration sent Maliki a clear message that U.S. domestic political calculus would trump further entanglements with Iraq. U.S. concern would be less with securing fragile political gains on foreign soil than fulfilling political promises to wind down U.S. involvement. This was exemplified in the selection of political consultant Tom Donilon, first as a key military advisor and later national security advisor, as well as the selection of Christopher Hill as ambassador. While Hill's lack of experience in the Middle East could be viewed as a liability, it was actually an asset to a strategy that would keep Iraq's state-building efforts at arm's length. Hill was not interested in the nuances of a counterinsurgency strategy that had run its course. "We hate the term 'drivers of instability' and won't use it," he told MNF-I officials. Far from seeking to advance Ambassador Crocker's strategy of influence, Hill quipped that he was ready to "break some crockery."
Thus, while the Obama administration would stay the course on withdrawing by 2012, it would attempt to do so with an approach more in keeping with the ineffective "light footprint" days preceding the surge. As a result, its ability to guide the political will of Iraqi leaders in the event of unforeseen challenges to political progress was severely limited. And indeed, such challenges would emerge most saliently in the 2010 national elections and again in the negotiations of a revised status of forces agreement.
Argues Brookings scholar Kenneth Pollack,
The incentive structure that compelled most (and allowed a few) Iraqi political leaders to act like good democratic stewards in 2008–2010 was still an artificial one, imposed from the outside by the United States. By 2011, that incentive structure had not had time to take root and supplant the incentives of the bad, old system. When Washington removed that external incentive structure prematurely, Iraq's political leaders went back to what they knew best and what they expected to prevail anyway.
By the run-up to the 2009 provincial elections, the conditions secured by the 2007-08 counterinsurgency strategy meant that the elections would finally serve as a means of forcing potential spoilers to play by the rules of the game. Whereas in 2006, sectarian mistrust was such that, as Thabit Abdullah noted, "elections and constitutional referendums ha[d] actually fanned sectarian flames rather than acted as the basis for a new, more unified, country," the 2009 elections would enjoy the participation of the Sunnis, who had previously boycotted them, and lead to an unprecedented crop of secular winners. Even Maliki, though birthed in the conspiratorial fires of the Shiite Dawa opposition party and as fearful of a Baathist coup as ever, was finding it less in his interest to be perceived on the wrong side of a U.S. strategy that was finally bringing political progress. Furthermore, he had learned the benefits of Washington's support since U.S. officials had stood by him in a 2007 vote-of-confidence prompted by his pressure on the Sadrists.
Despite this, the Obama administration disregarded how important a role an active U.S. government could play in conditioning the political will of Maliki and the rest of Iraq's political players and malcontents. In a January 2009 report, Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of MNF-I, and Ambassador Crocker had argued that successful provincial elections would build momentum for the 2010 national elections. They had also predicted that a failure to correct any electoral challenges that might emerge would have a reciprocal negative effect. Thus, as Maliki prepared to restore the Dawa Party's primacy in the 2010 elections by using an accountability and justice commission to declare five hundred former Baathist candidates ineligible to run for office, Washington's reaction would be crucial. But in accordance with Ambassador Hill's hands-off approach, little was done to exert meaningful leverage on Maliki to lift the ban or even to negotiate a concession from him in exchange for accepting it. The CPA's 2003 decision to de-Baathify the Iraqi army was by now widely accepted as a key mistake. Yet the Obama administration saw little harm in allowing an equally significant political de-Baathification to take place so long as the drawdown of U.S. troops continued on schedule. Despite Maliki's ban, the 2010 voter turnout registered an impressive 62 percent with the secular coalition of Ayad Allawi prevailing by one seat. Neither the U.N. nor Iraq's Independent High Election Commission found any instances of rampant cheating, yet Maliki remained defiant, adding more names to the list of banned candidates after the vote, demanding recounts in several key Sunni voting districts, and successfully appealing to the Iraqi supreme court to reinterpret the rules guiding the formation of coalitions in order to give his bloc a chance to form a majority.
The Obama administration had several options for breaking the impasse: The political wrangling by Crocker and Petraeus in 2008 to achieve the SOFA had proven that Iraqi politics had grown dynamic enough to allow for creative, though painstaking, compromises. Instead, Washington concluded that the Iraqi system should run its course. From Crocker's perspective, the United States was "hardwired" into the Iraqi system, and pretending otherwise was fanciful. Yet Hill accepted the Iraqi supreme court's ruling, allaying any concerns that the administration had any red lines that might jeopardize the December 2011 pullout date. According to analyst Kenneth Pollack, this "sent a disastrous message to both the Iraqi people and the political leadership: The United States is more concerned with expediency than with enforcing the system's rules. The referee was gone, and Iraq's leaders now were free to go back to the old rules, which had produced Iraq's tragic twentieth-century history."
As predicted, the result of this electoral dispute was back-tracking in perceived and actual governmental legitimacy. Maliki would proceed to remove the integrity commission, the election commission, and the central bank from parliament's oversight, placing it under the supervision of his own cabinet. In October 2012, Maliki's investigative team exercised its newfound powers by arresting the central bank's governor Sinan Shabibi for allegedly allowing staff to make bulk transfers of foreign currency out of the country—a favorite charge of the whimsical Saddam-era Mukhbarat. Meanwhile, the election commission's staff was purged, and, a year later, its former commissioner would be sentenced for $130 worth of alleged graft. The Kurdish Regional Government, immersed at the time in a battle with Maliki over oil and power, called the sentencing a "gross violation and a dangerous infringement of the political process, and a sign that the democratic process in the country is being undermined,"  but without sustained U.S. pressure, there was little leverage to stop Maliki's authoritarian drift.
The SOFA Debate and Authoritarian Drift (2011-Present)
Despite important gains made from 2007 onward in legitimizing the state, building up its security forces, and increasing its efficiency, even in 2010, the Iraqi state was unable to stand on its own when it came to several key security functions: guarding its airspace, collecting intelligence, and supporting its security forces logistically. With U.S. combat troops removed from Iraqi cities in July 2009 and almost entirely by September 2010, the remaining 50,000 troops held the country's political progress together as an assurance, even if token, against the possibilities of a Baathist coup, a predatory Shiite government, or Arab incursions into Kurdish Regional Government territory.
Vice president Joe Biden believed it inevitable that Maliki would admit his need for additional U.S. troops beyond December 2011, saying privately in 2010, "I'll bet you my vice presidency Maliki will extend the SOFA." There were many obvious mutual benefits to be gained by an extension, including a U.S. ability to project force against Iran and Syria and an Iraqi opportunity to extract concessions regarding the sensitive issue of Saddam-era sanctions and debt obligations. Even President Obama was prepared to extend the troop presence (though short of the 14,000-18,000 recommended by U.S. Forces-Iraq commander Gen. Lloyd Austin) so long as it would be an Iraqi-led negotiation from which he could keep a safe distance.
But the Obama administration missed another opportunity to build trust and incentivize inclusiveness with the Iraqi government. "The critical issue was not the U.S. troop presence," argues British military advisor Emma Sky, "but the U.S. commitment to Iraq—and the building of a relationship that went beyond military support and lip service to supporting democracy and a strategic partnership." If the U.S. priority during the 2011 SOFA negotiations had been to provide the Iraqi government with the political insulation and trust necessary for building on its democratic progress, it would not have acted the way it did, forcing Maliki to put the extension request to a politically toxic vote before parliament—even after the prime minister and opposition leaders had shown good faith by tirelessly hashing out a "memorandum of understanding" for trainers, appointing an acting Sunni minister of defense, and initiating an operation against Iranian special groups. While scapegoats for the failed SOFA accord have ranged from the Iraqi parliament to U.S. negotiator Brett McGurk (whose 2012 nomination for ambassador to Iraq was thwarted by a sex scandal), what was most important was that the White House "seemed to be having trouble taking yes for an answer."
Rather, domestic political preoccupations meant that even with a disappointing breakdown in the troop extension talks, Obama could announce the December 2011 withdrawal as a "moment of success." As for the post-2011 U.S. vision for Iraq, "With our diplomats and civilian advisors in the lead," Obama announced, "we'll help Iraqis strengthen institutions that are just, representative, and accountable." Yet without U.S. moral support and military presence, which "provided a psychological effect that helped stabilize and bound Iraqi political discourse within expected behavior," any diplomacy beyond putting out occasional political fires has proven empty.
In the weeks leading up to Maliki's December 2011 visit to Washington, the prime minister ordered the detention of nearly 1,000 alleged Baathists based on disputed intelligence. Since the December withdrawal—portrayed by Sunnis as an Iranian dictate and by Shiites as a triumph for the Sadrist resistance (which had gone from outlaw to kingmaker)—Maliki's authoritarian tendencies have only accentuated a deteriorating economic and political situation. In its 2013 Iraq report, Human Rights Watch concluded that Washington had "not sufficiently pressed the Maliki government to rein in corruption and serial human rights abuses," citing a record number of Justice Ministry executions and the continued use of secret prisons. Unsolved journalist murders accumulate, and Iraq now ranks first on the "Impunity Index" of the Committee to Protect Journalists while the central government issues thinly veiled warnings to local journalists to "toe the government line."
Through most of the post-2003 state-building period, Iraq became neither overly dependent on the nearly $20 billion of committed foreign aid nor cursed by its own oil resources. That appears to be changing. Post-withdrawal Iraq "is rapidly reconnecting to its past as a rentier state, using its oil rents to extend patronage and to build up its security forces to crush opposition." Absent the negotiation space, which the U.S. military provided during spats between Arabs and Kurds over oil issues, the U.N. Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-general notes that "recent signs of increased tensions" between the Kurdish Regional Government and Baghdad, mostly over oil and gas revenue-sharing legislation, suggest that Maliki will be looking for ways to increase his influence beyond the borders of Arab Iraq. Such overreach bodes no good for the future of a unified Iraq.
Absent a U.S. military role in midwifing inclusive political compromises and power-sharing agreements, increasing the capacity of the security forces in post-withdrawal Iraq has become an exercise in building up Maliki's authoritarian reach. For all the energy, money, and lives sacrificed by America in training a professional, nonsectarian security force, Maliki has in essence weakened the effectiveness of the 800,000-man security apparatus. He alone serves as the minister of interior, minister of defense, and national security council director. The consolidation of the security apparatus under him comes at a time of regional instability with the uprising in Syria emboldening resurgent al-Qaeda terrorists throughout Iraq.
Meanwhile, whatever progress Iraq's judiciary has made toward a "rationalization of authority" has now all but vanished. Hard-won protections for Iraq's judges, such as the 2009 Judicial Protection Unit for the Higher Judicial Council, have transformed into a means of insulating the judiciary from charges of sectarianism. Recent high profile examples include the release of Hezbollah operative Ali Mussa Daqduq, despite U.S. government evidence citing his role in the kidnapping and murder of U.S. troops, as well as the September 2012 sentencing in absentia of former vice president Tariq Hashemi, based on forced confessions from personal bodyguards tortured at the hands of the Iraqi security forces. Maliki even scoffed at Human Rights Watch's 2011 allegations of torture in Iraq prisons. But the current administration in Washington finds itself with no dog in the fight, simply calling on Iraqi leaders "to resolve their disputes consistent with the rule of law and in a manner that will strengthen Iraq's long-term security, unity, and commitment to democracy."
Al-Qaeda in Iraq has quickly capitalized on Sunni resentment to renew its violent offensive against the government and Shiite rivals, leaving Washington with few options to push Iraq back from the brink of sectarian civil war. At a time when the U.N.'s most recent report highlights Iraq's "alarming" developments and concludes that "[r]ising inter-sectarian tensions are posing a major threat to stability and security in Iraq," Washington is set to draw down levels of civilian personnel in Iraq to 5,500 by the end of 2013. John Kerry used his March 2013 visit to the country—the first by a U.S. secretary of state in four years—to pressure Maliki to consider Sunni demands and rein in Iranian arms shipments to Syria via Iraqi airspace. But the prime minister is unlikely to acquiesce to the requests of the hastily departing United States. Indeed, he dug in after a July 2013 prison break that released hundreds of al-Qaeda terrorists instead launching mass arrests in a security crackdown he called "revenge of the martyrs."
This mix of terror and dictatorship threatens to lead to what Saddam-era dissident Kanan Makiya calls a "hardening of the arteries" of the majority Shiites where "a decline of interest in human rights takes place as a consequence of the harsh measures needed to crush the insurgents." While Washington has continued security assistance since its pullout, a State Department police development program has languished, lacking buy-in "as a result of Iraqi efforts to emerge from U.S. tutelage." While slated delivery of thirty-six F-16s to the Iraqi air force represents a more consequential investment in Iraqi security forces, so long as Baghdad continues on its insecure trajectory, any arms deal risks merely adding fuel to the fire.
The U.S. withdrawal of 2011 presumed to answer the question raised by Gen. Petraeus in 2003: "Tell me how this ends." In December 2011, President Obama announced that "we are ending a war not with a final battle, but with a final march toward home." Yet for Iraqis, the promise of home in its figurative sense remains far away. A 2011 Human Rights Watch report concluded that "the country's transition to a functioning and sustainable democracy built on rule of law is far from accomplished." Maliki's disturbing creep toward authoritarianism bodes ill for the upcoming 2014 national elections, alienating the moderate Sunnis he needs on his side against a resurgent al-Qaeda. With Maliki set to run for a third term, Iraqis simply have not yet passed the decisive test of a peaceful handover of power to an opposition party.
Of course, as Ambassador Crocker put it, what is important in building up a state amid a society as brutalized, divided, and complex as Iraq is not so much achieving a static end-state in which all sectarianism has been eviscerated, but rather, creating a secure, trust-based, inclusive environment in which political progress and peaceful conflict resolution can flourish. While the success that the U.S. counterinsurgency strategy had in promoting the awakening movements may serve as a guide to such state-building conditions, the gradual unraveling of that very progress in the face of Washington's indifference is equally telling. Where political will is tepid, so too are institutions. U.S. military power is a tremendous force for shaping political will, but absent long-standing relationships that make clear the commitment of that power, the energy behind state-building quickly dissipates. "What we have to accept if we don't want to see Iraq devolve into a huge danger to the region through rampant instability is we have to commit ourselves to a long-term engagement," noted Crocker last spring as violence flared up.
Despite warnings by former Prime Minister Allawi that Iraq is not much better off now than it was under Saddam and that, on the current path, "mayhem and civil war will be the inevitable outcome, with dire consequences for the entire region," few suggest Iraq is beyond the point of no return. "Even if we have a change here," said parliamentary candidate Adil Abdel Mahdi, "people will not go backward and say we need a despotic regime or a tyrannical regime. They will ask for more democracy. They will ask for more freedom." Meanwhile, Shiite religious leaders have made efforts to reach out to Sunnis to avoid a rapid escalation of sectarian violence. The highest ranking Shiite official, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, issued a rare fatwa (religious degree) in October 2013, condemning derogatory insults of Sunni religious practices. Sadr, too, has spent political capital on reaching out to Sunnis, raising hopes that good Iraqi leadership could preclude sectarian civil war. Still, so long as the current Iraqi government opts for decree rather than the hard work of inclusive pluralism, good leadership will be in the mistrusting eye of the beholding ethnicity, sect, tribe, or religious faction—hardly a prescription for success.
**Patrick Knapp is a U.S. Army Reserve officer pursuing a master's degree at Columbia University's School for International and Public Affairs. He has worked in Afghanistan in a civilian capacity as a field officer for an aid program in 2011, as a volunteer for a human rights organization in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, in 2012, and for a Kabul-based nongovernmental organization in 2013.
 Michael R. Gordon and Gen. Bernard E. Trainor, The Endgame (New York: Pantheon Books, 2012), p. 8.
 L. Paul Bremer, "Iraq's Path to Sovereignty," The Washington Post, Sept. 8, 2003.
 Ashraf Ghani and Clare Lockhart, Fixing Failed States (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 30.
 Charles Tilly, "War Making and State Making as Organized Crime," in Peter Evans, Dietrich Rueschemeyer, and Theda Skocpol, eds., Bringing the State Back In (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), p. 169.
 "MNF-I Red Cell, 'Red Team Report: An Integrated Counterinsurgency Strategy for Iraq,' (SECRET), 31 August 2005," cited in Gordon and Trainor, The Endgame, p. 161; Derek J. Harvey, "A Red Team Perspective in the Insurgency in Iraq," An Army at War: Change in the Midst of Conflict, Combat Studies Institute 2005 Military History Symposium, Aug. 2-4, 2005, pp. 191-227.
 Ryan Crocker, interview, France 24 (Paris), July 2, 2009.
 James A. Baker and Lee H. Hamilton, "The Iraq Study Group Report: II. The Way Forward—A New Approach," U.S. Congress, Washington, D.C., Dec. 6, 2006.
 Michael R. Gordon, "The Strategy to Secure Iraq Did Not Foresee a 2nd War," The New York Times, Oct. 19, 2004.
 Gordon and Trainor, The Endgame, p. 356; David H. Petraeus, "Report of Congress on the Situation in Iraq," Sept. 10-11, 2007, p. 6.
 Tom Ricks, "McMaster speaks: What went wrong in Iraq," Foreign Policy, Sept. 18, 2009.
 Francis Fukuyama, State Building (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2004), p. ix.
 "Weekly report from General David Petraeus to Defense Secretary Robert Gates (SECRET), week of 5-11 August 2007," cited in Gordon and Trainor, The Endgame, p. 433.
 Thomas E. Ricks, The Gamble (New York: The Penguin Press, 2009), p. 340, 354.
 "Highlights of the Iraq Strategy Review," U.S. State Department, Washington, D.C., Jan. 10, 2007.
 Dexter Filkins, "General Principles: How Good Was David Petraeus?" The New Yorker, Dec. 17, 2012.
 Antonio Giustozzi, "The Debate on Warlordism: The Importance of Military Legitimacy," London School of Economics, Crisis States Programme, discussion paper, no.13, Oct. 2005, p. 7.
 Samuel Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006), p. 26.
 See Mark Wilbanks and Efraim Karsh, "How the 'Sons of Iraq' Stabilized Postwar Iraq," Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2010, pp. 57-70.
 "Highlights of the Iraq Strategy Review," Jan. 10, 2007.
 "Iraqis Take Responsibility for Security in Anbar Province," U.S. State Department, Washington, D.C., Sept. 1, 2008; "Section 1227 Report on Iraq," U.S. State Department, Washington, D.C., July 2009.
 Barack Obama, remarks on the end of the war in Iraq, Office of the Press Secretary, Washington, D.C., Dec. 14, 2011.
 Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies, p. 27.
 The Guardian, July 2, 2005.
 Los Angeles Times, Feb. 9, 2007.
 Christopher Hitchens, interview, Daily Motion, Hoover Institution, Standford University, Aug. 2007.
 Thabit A.J. Abdullah, Dictatorship, Imperialism and Chaos: Iraq since 1989 (Nova Scotia: Fernwood Publishing, 2006), p. 119.
 "Section 2207 Report to Congress," U.S. State Department, Washington, D.C., Oct. 2008.
 Gordon and Trainor, The Endgame, p. 363.
 "Section 1227 Report on Iraq," July 2009.
 Gordon and Trainor, The Endgame, pp. 585, 626.
 Kenneth Pollack, "Reading Machiavelli in Iraq," The National Interest, Dec. 2012.
 Abdullah, Dictatorship, Imperialism and Chaos, p. 120.
 Gordon and Trainor, The Endgame, p. 626.
 Pollack, "Reading Machiavelli in Iraq."
 The Huffington Post (New York), Oct. 18, 2012; Kenneth Katzman, "Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights," Congressional Research Service, Washington, D.C., Aug. 22, 2013; Dexter Filkins, "The Other Iraq Legacy," The New Yorker, Mar. 20, 2013.
 The New York Times, Apr. 16, 2012.
 Gordon and Trainor, The Endgame, p. 643.
 Max Boot, "Losing Iraq?" The Weekly Standard, Sept. 19, 2011.
 Emma Sky, "Iraq in Hindsight: Views on the U.S. Withdrawal," Center for a New American Security, Washington, D.C., Dec. 14, 2012.
 Gordon and Trainor, The Endgame, p. 667.
 The Guardian (London), Dec. 14, 2011.
 Obama, remarks on the end of the war in Iraq, Dec. 14, 2011.
 Ramzy Mardini, "Iraq's First Post-withdrawal Crisis," Institute for the Study of War, Washington, D.C., Dec. 19, 2011.
 Katzman, "Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights." Katzman credits U.S. diplomacy for averting Sunni backlash to Maliki's late 2011 crackdown.
 "World Report 2013: Iraq," Human Rights Watch, Washington, D.C., Jan. 31, 2013.
 "Attacks on the Press: Iraq," Committee to Protect Journalists, New York, Feb. 14, 2013.
 Sky, "Iraq in Hindsight."
 "First Report of the Secretary-general pursuant to resolution 2061 (2012)," U.N. Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-general, New York, Nov. 16, 2012.
 Katzman, "Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights."
 "First report of the Secretary-general pursuant to resolution 2061 (2012)," Nov. 16, 2012.
 Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies, p. 34.
 "Section 1227 Report on Iraq," July 2009.
 Stephen Wicken, "The Hashemi Verdict and the Health of Democracy in Iraq," Institute for the Study of War, Washington, D.C., Sept. 11, 2012.
 "At a Crossroads," Human Rights Watch, Washington, D.C., Feb. 3, 2011.
 "Death Sentence of Tariq al-Hashemi," U.S. State Department, Washington, D.C., Sept. 11, 2012.
 "Third report of the Secretary-general pursuant to paragraph 6 of resolution 2061 (2012)," U.N. Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-general, New York, July 11, 2013.
 Katzman, "Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights."
 Kelly Edwards, "Prison break and violence levels demand Maliki security response: 2013 Iraq," update no. 32, Institute for the Study of War, Washington, D.C., Aug. 13, 2013.
 Kanan Makiya, "Writers and Iraq," Pen American Center, Beverly Hills, Apr. 19, 2005.
 Katzman, "Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights."
 Agence France-Presse, Oct. 18, 2012.
 The Washington Post, Jan. 7, 2007.
 Obama, remarks on the end of the war in Iraq, Dec. 14, 2011.
 "At a Crossroads," Feb. 3, 2011.
 Ryan Crocker, interview, France 24 (Paris), July 2, 2009.
 Public Radio International, May 29, 2013.
 BBC Hardtalk, June 19, 2013; Ayad Allawi, "Iraqi Hope Dies Last," Project Syndicate (New York and Prague), Mar. 21, 2013.
 Gordon and Trainor, The Endgame, p. 682-3.
 Shafaq News (Baghdad), Oct. 10, 2013.
 Al-Monitor (Washington, D.C.), Oct. 11, 2013.