July 05/14

Bible Quotation for today/You will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Matthew 11,25-30/‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’"

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For July 05/14

Watching the Aoun movie while we wait/By: Michael Young| The Daily Star/July 05/14

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's Message as Caliph/By: Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi/Gatestone Institute/July 05/14

A Need for a Shift in the Balance of Power in Syria and Iraq/By: Raghida Dergham/July 045/14

The New Iraq: An Islamic State with No Christians/By: Todd Daniels/ICC/July 05/14

The Political Implications of ISIS’s Caliphate/By: Eyad Abu Shakra/July 05/14

Holding up Iraq before it breaks down/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/July 05/14


Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For July 05/14
Lebanese Related News

Christians in Lebanon fearful of attacks on churches
Geagea Accuses Aoun of 'Deceiving Public' on Presidential Deadlock
Syrian Jets Target Outskirts of Arsal, One Killed
Bassil: Setting up Syrian Refugee Camps in Lebanon Violates Constitution

Siniora: Hezbollah brought evil to Lebanon
U.N.: Syria Refugees Soon a Third of Lebanon Population

Mashnouq Vows to Cut Hands Off Any Church-Mosque Attacker

Lebanese Army helicopter makes emergency landing
4 Killed in Traffic Accidents in the North

Civil servants to strike every Wednesday
War Rages between Islamic Councils as Misqawi Files Lawsuit against Rival Members

What's on this weekend in Beirut

Israel ready to help Jordan fend off Iraq insurgents
EDL: 13 hours/day of electricity for summer

Army blocks Beirut road over suspected explosives

Every day of strike costs state $18M: economist
Miscellaneous Reports And News For July 045/14

Syrian National Coalition President Ahmad Jarba insists Iran behind rise of ISIS

Palestinians riot, police respond with tear gas during funeral procession of slain teen
Jerusalem Clashes ahead of Slain Palestinian Teen Funeral

Iron Dome intercepts Palestinian rockets fired from Gaza

Liberman: Not all terrorist targets can be destroyed from the air

France Ups Airport Security at U.S. Request

Iraq army retakes Saddam's home village
Iraq's Most Revered Cleric Criticizes Fractious Parliament
Kurds Seek Independence Vote amid Iraq 'Chaos'
Blast in Egypt Train as Police Crush Pro-Morsi Protests

Egypt Mediating Gaza Ceasefire, Says Hamas Official


Christians in Lebanon fearful of attacks on churches
By Layal Abu Rahal Asharq Al Awsat
Friday, 4 Jul, 2014
Senior Maronite official calls on the government to beef up security
Members of the Lebanese Christian Maronite community carry a statue and a sample of the blood of Saint John Paul II to Saint George Cathedral in downtown Beirut on May 16, 2014. (Reuters)
Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—The head of Lebanon’s Central Council of Maronite Societies has warned of an upsurge in sectarian attacks against Christians by Islamist groups, amid fears that the sectarian violence in Syria and Iraq will continue to affect Lebanon. Christians in Lebanon could face violent attacks by Sunni Islamist groups, Wadi Al-Khazen said in exclusive comments to Asharq Al-Awsat.
“I call on Arab governments and all those concerned to take the initiative to activate means of protection and insist on the presence of Christians in the Middle East,” he said. Lebanon’s Maronite Christian population worries that radical Sunni groups would be emboldened by last week’s declaration of a caliphate by the Al-Qaeda-breakaway group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Issam John Darwish, the Melkite Catholic Archbishop of Zahleh and Ferzul, in the Beqaa Valley region, said in a statement on Thursday: “Under these critical circumstances, the responsibility for the protection of Christians in Beqaa, Lebanon and the Mashreq falls on Muslims in general and Sunnis in particular.” A tweet on Wednesday from an account under the name of Liwa Ahrar Al-Sunnah (the Free Sunnis Brigade) caused a stir in Lebanon after it declared it had “assigned a special group of free jihadists to cleanse the Islamic emirate of Beqaa in particular, and Lebanon in general, of polytheist [i.e., Christian] churches.”The Twitter account pledged to target “the crusaders,” a reference to the Christian community, asking Sunni Muslims to “keep away from and avoid coming near polytheist churches across Lebanon for their safety.”Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, a source in the Lebanese security services said: “The competent authorities are investigating the threats to churches,” highlighting that tight security measures will be taken in Christian-majority areas.But Darwish reassured Christians in Beqaa, dismissing the threats as “not serious.”

Geagea Accuses Aoun of 'Deceiving Public' on Presidential Deadlock
Naharnet/Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea has accused his rival Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun of deceiving the public and creating a media stir to win the backing of the rival Lebanese parties for the country's top Christian post. “Aoun hasn't proposed a serious initiative. He made a media stir to pressure the Lebanese parties into electing him a president,” Geagea told al-Joumhouria daily in an interview published on Friday. He reiterated that parliament can't make constitutional amendments amid a vacuum in the presidency. “There is a need for amendments to carry out the presidential polls properly but these changes can be proposed only after the elections,” Geagea said. Aoun suggested on Monday direct presidential elections and called for the adoption of an electoral draft-law that would allow each sect to elect its own representatives. But Geagea said Aoun made his proposal at an “inappropriate time.”He also accused the Change and Reform bloc leader of paralyzing all other initiatives made to resolve the deadlock that emerged after parliament failed to elect a new head of state. President Michel Suleiman left Baabda Palace on May 25, leaving the country's top Christian post vacant. “Aoun is trying to deceive the public but the people know that his proposal is nothing but a media show,” the LF chief told al-Joumhouria. The majority of the March 8 alliance's lawmakers, including members of Aoun's bloc, have been boycotting parliamentary sessions aimed at electing a president under the excuse of lack of agreement on a compromise candidate. The FPM leader has said he would only announce his candidacy if there was consensus on him. But the March 14 alliance has kept its support for Geagea's candidacy. The LF chief expected the security situation in Lebanon to be “generally stable” despite the latest suicide bombings that targeted the country. He lamented that the security forces were being burdened by Hizbullah's presence in Syria. “The problem should be solved from its roots by stopping Hizbullah's fighting in Syria,” Geagea said. The Shiite party has sent its members to the neighboring country to help President Bashar Assad's troops that are fighting the rebels. But Sunni extremists, who have claimed to have carried out bombings in Lebanon, have promised more attacks as long as Hizbullah remains in Syria.

Syrian Jets Target Outskirts of Arsal, One Killed
Naharnet /Two Syrian nationals were killed on Friday and and five other people wounded in five air raids staged by the Syrian regime on the outskirts of the eastern border town of Arsal.
Media reports said that the raid targeted the Wadi al-Ajram area, 7 kilometers into the Lebanese depth. The state-run National News Agency reported that the Syrian jets targeted militants in Wadi al-Zumrani, Wadi Ata and Wadi al-Ajram. A Syrian family, comprised of a father and three children, was passing in the area when the raid took place. NNA said that the injured were transferred to al-Rahma field hospital in Arsal. The five wounded people sustained minor injuries. The army later issued a communique confirming the air raids without providing any details. “At 8:55 am and 10:15 am Syrian warplanes targeted several border areas in the outskirts of Arsal,” the army said. Arsal, near the border with Syria, is a Sunni town where residents support the rebels fighting President Bashar Assad's forces. The town also hosts tens of thousands of Syrian refugees. Ever since the Syrian revolt erupted in March 2011, Arsal has become a key conduit for refugees and wounded people fleeing strife-torn Syria.

U.N.: Syria Refugees Soon a Third of Lebanon Population
Naharnet /Syrian refugees will constitute more than a third of Lebanon's population by the end of 2014, the United Nations said Thursday, warning of an increasingly unsustainable burden to the economy. A report released in Beirut said the number of refugees will be 1.5 million by December, or a third of the country's population of four million. Some 53 percent of the Syrian refugees in the country are children, the report added. "We no longer have the capacity to carry this burden alone... We have crossed all limits," Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas said at a gathering of officials, ambassadors and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees representative, Ninette Kelley. Lebanon currently hosts 1.1 million refugees, the highest number at 38 percent of Syrian refugees fleeing the war-torn country for other countries in the region. The U.N. says the country needs $1.6 billion (1.2 billion euros) for 2014 to be able to cope with the refugee crisis, but that only 23 percent of this has been gathered. "We are really facing critical and dire challenges," the UNHCR's Kelley said. "With the current level of funding... will not meet the target that we set... (to have) over 172.000 children in school next year."
She also warned that the UNHCR "will not be able to launch a polio vaccination campaign for all children in Lebanon under five", should the necessary funding fail to materialize. Kelley said 800,000 refugees will be unequipped to face winter, and 30,000 people including Lebanese will not have access to safe drinking water without the necessary financing. "We need you to stand with us, we need you to stand with Lebanon to ensure that more funding is secured," she said, addressing donor countries. Also on Thursday, the United Nations launched a similar appeal in Jordan, where some 600,000 Syrians have sought refuge since war broke out in their homeland three years ago. According to Central Bank of Lebanon statistics, the country faces a financial burden of $4.5 billion because of the refugee crisis.
In May, the International Monetary Fund said unemployment had doubled to 20 percent because of the refugee influx. It also warned growth was two percent lower than before the crisis. Last December, the U.N. appealed for $6.5 billion for Syria war victims. It received $2.3 billion, and officials say the 2014 plan for the region has received just a quarter of the pledged funds.

Bassil: Setting up Syrian Refugee Camps in Lebanon Violates Constitution
Naharnet/Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil warned on Friday of the rising tensions between the Lebanese people and Syrian refugees due to the burden the latter is posing on Lebanon, rejecting the establishment of camps for the displaced within the country. He said during a press conference: “Legitimizing Syrian refugee camps is a violation of the constitution, which speaks against nationalization.”“We request that the Syrian authorities set up camps for the displaced within Syrian territories,” he added. “Should the government consider establishing the camps, we know that there is an alliance within the cabinet that would oppose such a measure,” Bassil said. “We will not condone such a step, because this is a veiled attempt to naturalize the refugees,” he stressed. The minister emphasized that Lebanon has taken in the greatest number of refugees and has been very hospitable to them, noting that they now exceed 35 percent of the population. “Lebanon is witnessing a major catastrophe over the refugees,” Bassil stated. He called for improving the flow of the displaced, noting that Europe, “which has played a pioneering role in protecting human rights, has even taken measures to control the influx.”
The minister lamented however that the international community has not given Lebanon enough aid in helping it harbor the refugees. “Lebanon is not a priority for the international community. It has forgotten the small country that is Lebanon,” he remarked. “It has committed a grave mistake in tackling the case of refugees in Lebanon due to the errors it made in Syria,” he added. “I will honestly tell you that no one is concerned with resolving this crisis,” he said. “The refugees should be given incentives by the international community to leave Lebanon, not stay,” Bassil explained. He called for the reduction of the number of refugees, either through cooperation with the international community or unilateral steps, by the government, that respect human rights. Lebanon currently hosts 1.1 million refugees, the highest number at 38 percent of Syrian refugees fleeing the war-torn country for other countries in the region. The U.N. says the country needs $1.6 billion (1.2 billion euros) for 2014 to be able to cope with the refugee crisis, but that only 23 percent of this has been gathered. According to Central Bank of Lebanon statistics, the country faces a financial burden of $4.5 billion because of the refugee crisis. In May, the Lebanese authorities took a decision to ban Syrian refugees from heading to their country or lose their status.

Mashnouq Vows to Cut Hands Off Any Church-Mosque Attacker
Naharnet /Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq has vowed to protect the country's places of worship after an alleged threat by extremists to attack churches. Al-Mashnouq rejected such threats, saying “we are keen on protecting every inch of the nation's land.” “We will defend our churches and mosques with all the power we have,” he said in remarks to al-Mustaqbal daily published on Friday. He also vowed to “cut the hands” off wrongdoers. Al-Mashnouq revealed that he asked the government to approve an increase in the number of Internal Security Forces members from its current force of 30,000 to 40,000. The approval could help the ISF protect citizens all over Lebanon in coordination with the Lebanese army and the rest of the security agencies, he said. The so-called Free Sunni Brigades in Baalbek said on its Twitter feed late Wednesday that militants would attack churches in Lebanon. It said the jihadists were tasked with “cleansing the Islamic state of Bekaa in particular and Lebanon in general from the churches.” Several officials have dismissed the threat as fake. But al-Mashnouq did not clarify whether the extremist group exists in real or it is just a group with a Twitter account. An Nahar daily said that the ISF cyber crime bureau has launched an investigation to identify the suspects who are operating the account and those backing them.

4 Killed in Traffic Accidents in the North
Naharnet /At least three people were killed early on Friday when a bus and a truck collided in the northern region of Akkar. The horrific accident also wounded 28 others. The bus' front appears to have hit the side of a truck carrying cement on the main road of Menjez in Akkar. Lebanese Red Cross Operations Director George Kettaneh said that some of the wounded who were admitted to hospitals in nearby areas already left as they didn't sustain any severe injuries. The driver of the bus was among those who were killed. The National News Agency reported that security forces arrived at the scene and opened an investigation into the incident. Also Friday, an individual was killed when his vehicle plunged off a cliff on the Kfarhazir main road, the Traffic Management Center said.

Siniora: Hezbollah brought evil to Lebanon
The Daily Star/
BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora Friday accused Hezbollah of bringing terrorism to Lebanon and slammed Free Patriotic Movement leader Aoun’s proposal for direct presidential elections.
“ Hezbollah has caused evil to be brought to Lebanon by fighting alongside the Syrian regime which oppresses its people,” Siniora said at an iftar with a charity organization in Sidon.“Experience has demonstrated that what protects the Lebanese from the evils of terrorism is their mutual support and their care for civil peace,” Siniora said, “as well as their respect to their constitution and public institutions.”
Separately, Siniora criticized Aoun’s recent initiative advocating the direct election of the president by the Lebanese people. He slammed Aoun’s suggestion to conduct these elections over two rounds, where Christians would vote in the first stage and then the rest of the Lebanese population would vote for the top two candidates. “This means changing the political system that the Lebanese have paid huge prices to develop,” Siniora said. “[Such] a hasty and impromptu amendment of the political system would complicate things rather than put [us] on the right track,” he added. Siniora said that any amendment to the constitution should be based on “public principles not individual ambitions and suggestions.”

War Rages between Islamic Councils as Misqawi Files Lawsuit against Rival Members
Naharnet/The ongoing division between the two Higher Islamic Council escalated after the body led by deputy Grand Mufti Omar Misqawi filed a lawsuit against the members of the council headed by Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani. According to As Safir newspaper published on Friday, the three-year war between the two councils reached a new level after Misqawi filed a lawsuit against the members who have an “illegal status.”Misqawi accused them of “exaggerating and insisting on violating judicial decisions... And impersonation, which breaks the law.” Article 370 of the law states that the charges against the HIC led by Qabbani could lead to a year in prison if the member was employed and to three years in jail if the member was unemployed.
The daily said that the lawsuit is comprised of 32 pages along with 26 documents. The members are expected to be questioned next week, the report said. Mohammed Murad, a member of Misqawi's HIC, told As Safir that the “lawsuit is to pressure the impersonating members to assume their responsibilities.”
The newspaper said that the lawsuit also includes the head of Dar al-Fatwa's Islamic Endowments, Sheikh Hisham Khalifeh, who is loyal to Qabbani. Misqawi's council accuses Khalifeh of sectarian incitement, the endorsement of stances that violate the Shura Council decisions deeming them as “unbinding” and of making a void call for the election of a new Grand Mufti in August.
In June, Sheikh Khalifeh called for electing a new Grand Mufti in August, but this announcement was met with the opposition of the council led by Misqawi, who demanded the elections to be held as soon as possible. Qabbani's term ends on September 15. The daily said that the council led by Qabbani had also filed a similar lawsuit against the council of Misqawi in April, challenging its legality. The dispute between the council led by Qabbani and that of his deputy Misqawi is the result of political interference. The Higher Islamic Council -- which elects the Mufti and organizes Dar al-Fatwa's affairs – became the center of controversy in 2012 after 21 of its members, who are close to al-Mustaqbal movement, extended its term until 2015 despite Qabbani's objection. The Mufti later held elections for the Council, which were deemed illegal by ex-PMs Saniora and Najib Miqati, and the group led by Misqawi, who argued that the polls violated Shura Council decisions and did not enjoy a legal quorum.

Jerusalem Clashes ahead of Slain Palestinian Teen Funeral
Naharnet/Palestinians clashed with Israeli police in east Jerusalem on Friday, ahead of the emotionally-charged funeral of a Palestinian teenager believed murdered by Israelis.
It was the third straight day of violence since Mohammed Abu Khder, 16, was kidnapped and found dead on Wednesday in a suspected revenge attack for the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers last month. "Dozens of Palestinian youngsters, some masked, threw stones at police in Ras al-Amud," Israeli police tweeted, referring to a neighborhood of annexed Arab east Jerusalem.
"The police drove them off with riot control means," a term usually referring to tear gas or stun grenades. Police said "thousands" of officers were on the streets across east Jerusalem ahead of the teenager's funeral in the Shuafat neighborhood, which coincided with the first Friday prayers of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Despite the occasion, just 8,000 worshipers joined the prayers at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP. Many apparently stayed away fearing clashes with police. On the same day last year police reported a crowd of 80,000.
Police allowed access only to women, and men over 50. Last year, the age limit for men was 40. Israeli military commanders meanwhile waited to see if a series of statements by Israeli leaders promising to "meet quiet with quiet" would bring a halt to the latest flare-up of violence on the Gaza border. Media reports spoke of a possible truce in the making after a week of militant rocket fire into southern Israel and retaliatory air strikes against Gaza.Hamas said that efforts were under way, with Egyptian mediation, but they had so far not been concluded. "There are continuing Egyptian efforts to return calm to the Gaza Strip, but no agreement has been reached yet," a Hamas official told AFP, on condition of anonymity. The Israeli army reported that four rockets and two mortar rounds were fired at Israel on Friday morning. Israel's Iron Dome air defense system intercepted one of the rockets, and the other projectiles hit open ground. The Jerusalem Post quoted "a senior security source" as saying that it would become clear during Friday if Hamas was ready for a ceasefire. "We'll see what the bottom line is," the source said. "Whether Hamas understands our message within 24 hours." Senior Hamas official Bassem Naim told AFP "Hamas is not interested in an escalation or war in Gaza, but at the same time it is not possible for it to remain silent on the continued aggression against Gaza and the West Bank."
Abu Khder's funeral was to be held in Shuafat on Friday afternoon, a day later than originally planned after his body was held so pathologists could complete a post-mortem.
Many believe he was killed in revenge for the abduction and murder in the occupied West Bank last month of three Israeli teenagers whose bodies were found on Monday.
Israeli police say the motive for Abu Khder's killing is still unclear, and have not said how he died. In Shuafat and other parts of east Jerusalem, Palestinians clashed with police for a second day on Thursday, hurling rocks and fireworks at security forces and burning tires.
A video posted on YouTube ( by Palestine Today TV showed what appeared to be Israeli border police in riot gear, accompanied by undercover officers, beating and kicking a Palestinian suspect unconscious in Shuafat.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said six people were arrested there on Thursday on suspicion of attacking police, but he was unaware of the incident and had not seen the images. Israel warned Hamas on Thursday to put a stop to rocket fire from its Gaza power base and sent army reinforcements to the border. But it also offered to de-escalate if the Islamist movement would do the same.
"We are prepared for two possibilities in the south," army radio quoted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as telling a July 4 reception at the U.S. ambassador’s residence. "That the fire at our communities will stop and our activities will also stop, or that the fire at our residents of the south will continue and then the reinforced troops which are in place will act forcefully."Agence France Presse

France Ups Airport Security at U.S. Request
Naharnet/France has joined other nations in bolstering security at its airports in line with a U.S. request to enhance screening for direct U.S. flights, aviation officials said Friday.
The new measures "will be carried out in a way to limit as much as possible inconvenience to passengers, however delays are possible," the DGAC civil aviation authority said in a statement.
A DGAC spokesman told Agence France Presse that "we cannot divulge the added measures" that are being taken. Officials recommended passengers catching flights to the United States get to the airport early to undergo the additional screening. The added security will notably be felt at the Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports outside Paris, but also in Nice and Marseille in the south of France.
Charles de Gaulle is one of the world's busiest international hubs, with peak activity now, over the European summer vacation period. Every day, 47 U.S.-bound flights leave the airport, according to the ADP agency managing it. Airports in far-flung French territories such as Tahiti, Martinique and Guadeloupe will also be affected by the new security measures. Britain and Belgium on Thursday announced more rigorous screening at their airports. Passengers going through London's Heathrow airport reported enhanced screening of footwear and electronic items they were carrying into the cabin. U.S. authorities have not publicly given a reason for their alarm, but it comes amid fears that hundreds of Islamist radicals traveling from Europe to fight in the Middle East could pose a security risk on their return. There are also concerns that the extremist group al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has developed hard-to-detect bombs designed to get past previous airport screening techniques.
Agence France Presse

Egypt Mediating Gaza Ceasefire, Says Hamas Official

Naharnet/Egypt was on Friday mediating a potential ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, after a flare-up of violence across the border.
"There are continuing Egyptian efforts to return calm to the Gaza Strip, but no agreement has been reached yet," a Hamas official told AFP, on condition of anonymity.Hamas "told the Egyptian side they do not want an escalation," the official added, but gave no further details. Bassem Naim, a senior Hamas official in Gaza, earlier told AFP: "Hamas is not interested in an escalation or war in Gaza, but at the same time it is not possible for it to remain silent on the continued aggression against Gaza and the West Bank." Tensions have risen around the Palestinian territory in the past few weeks, with militant rocket fire repeatedly hitting southern Israel, and dozens of retaliatory air strikes against Gaza. Israel deployed troop reinforcements towards the Gaza border on Thursday, the army said, stressing that it did not want an "escalation" either. The Hamas-Israel face-off follows a vast arrest operation against the Islamist movement's West Bank network, after the Jewish state blamed it for the kidnap and killing of three Israeli teenagers in the occupied territory. Unrest spread to Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem this week, after a Palestinian teenager was abducted and murdered in a suspected revenge attack. Egypt, which also has a border with Gaza, has often played the role of mediator between Israel and Hamas, most recently helping broker an end to an eight-day conflict between the foes in November 2012. Hamas has largely respected that truce, but has been unable to prevent other militant groups in Gaza firing hundreds of rockets since the end of the 2012 war.Agence France Presse

Blast in Egypt Train as Police Crush Pro-Morsi Protests
Naharnet /A bomb blast in a train and clashes between protesters and security forces rocked Egypt on Thursday, as police quashed demonstrations marking the anniversary of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi's ouster. The violence came as the pro-Morsi Muslim Brotherhood-led Anti-Coup Alliance issued an aggressive rallying cry demanding a "day of anger" to mark the occasion.
Nine people were wounded when a bomb hidden in a briefcase near a passenger seat exploded inside a train compartment in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria late Thursday, security officials and state media said. One person was killed by gunshot during clashes in a Cairo district as pro-Morsi supporters fought with police, while a policeman was killed also by gunshot when his checkpoint was torched by protesters late Thursday in the capital, security officials said. Three other policemen suffered burn injuries when the checkpoint was torched. Police closed off several main squares in Cairo and scoured neighborhoods to head off protests earlier on Thursday. In the capital's Ain Shams district, black-clad riot policemen fired tear gas and shotguns to disperse a few dozen protesters who burned tires on a road. Police also broke up protests elsewhere in Cairo. Thirty-nine wanted activists were arrested ahead of Thursday's protests, and more than 200 allegedly illegal demonstrators were detained during the day, the interior ministry said. The ministry of health said at least 24 people were wounded in clashes nationwide.
Call for new protests
The Muslim Brotherhood was listed as a terrorist group after Morsi's overthrow on July 3, 2013 and many of its leaders, including the ex-president himself, have been jailed and are on trial. The ex-army chief who toppled him, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has been elected to replace him. Security forces were also on high alert for further bombings, days after two senior policemen were killed when devices they were defusing outside the presidential palace exploded. Since Morsi was deposed after a turbulent year in power, at least 1,400 people, mostly his Islamist supporters, have been killed in street clashes and more than 15,000 imprisoned. Despite the crackdown, the Islamists have insisted on continuing their protests with the aim of making Egypt ungovernable for Sisi.
"The July 3 uprising (Thursday) will mark a start that will not stop ... and tomorrow will be an imposing Friday of rage," the Islamist Anti-Coup Alliance said in a statement calling for new protests. Meanwhile, militants have launched scores of attacks that killed several hundred policemen and soldiers, mostly in the restive Sinai Peninsula. And the military said troops killed 17 jihadists in northern Sinai and arrested three Thursday.
Bloodiest crackdown
Rights groups say the crackdown targeting Morsi supporters has been the bloodiest seen in Egypt in decades. Among the Brotherhood leaders arrested is its supreme guide Mohamed Badie, who was sentenced to death in a speedy mass trial. "A surge in arbitrary arrests, detentions and harrowing incidents of torture and deaths in police custody... provide strong evidence of the sharp deterioration in human rights in Egypt in the year since President Mohamed Morsi was ousted," Amnesty International said. The repression has further divided Egypt, a regional powerhouse and the Arab world's most populous country, as a fast-growing population of 86 million stretches its dilapidated infrastructure. The military removed Morsi after days of huge protests demanding the resignation of the polarizing Islamist. Almost 23 million voters went on to endorse Sisi in a May presidential election against a token leftist candidate. Sisi's supporters view him as a strong leader who can restore stability in the often tumultuous country. Yet the Brotherhood, which had won every vote since an uprising toppled veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak in 2011, still commands a loyal following. "Let us turn our wealth of revolutionary defiance into an overwhelming power," the Anti-Coup Alliance said Wednesday. That night, two men were killed while apparently preparing an explosive device in an apartment south of Cairo, security officials said. In the capital itself, a small bomb went off inside a car near a military installation late Wednesday. Police arrested a man who was in the car, but another escaped. The government says the Brotherhood has been behind militant attacks, a charge the group denies. Agence France Presse

Kurds Seek Independence Vote amid Iraq 'Chaos'
Naharnet/Iraqi Kurdish preparations for an independence referendum met with frustration in Washington, which stressed unity was essential to tackle a jihadist-led onslaught that risks "Syria-like chaos".
In a rare piece of positive news during the crisis, however, a group of 46 Indian nurses caught up in the conflict were to be freed, one of them told AFP.
Iraqi Kurdish president Massud Barzani told the autonomous region's parliament on Thursday that it should make "preparations to begin to organize a referendum on the right of self-determination", but the U.S. opposed the move. The prospect of an independent state is made more attractive by what the Kurds say is Baghdad's unwillingness to resolve the issue of disputed territory and late and insufficient budget payments to the region. The White House gave the Kurdish leader's plan for an independence referendum a cool reception, with White House spokesman Josh Earnest saying that "we continue to believe that Iraq is stronger if it is united". "That is why the United States continues to support an Iraq that is democratic, pluralistic and unified, and we are going to continue to urge all parties in Iraq to continue working together toward that objective." U.S. Vice President Joe Biden later met Barzani's chief of staff Fuad Hussein at the White House, and told the Kurdish delegation of the "importance of forming a new government in Iraq that will pull together all communities" to combat the Islamic State (IS), the group leading the insurgent drive, a White House statement said.
Maliki on Wednesday said "no one has the right to exploit the events that took place to impose a fait accompli" and that the Kurds' steps towards self-determination were unconstitutional.
On Friday, meanwhile, an Indian nurse told AFP that she and 45 colleagues who have been trapped in Iraq by the crisis were to be freed imminently.
The nurses, who were working at a hospital in executed dictator Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit when the militant offensive began last month, are currently being held in the militant-held city of Mosul.
An Indian diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the group was expected later on Friday in Arbil, which is a short drive from Mosul but has been insulated from the unrest.
Anticipating the nurses' return, the chief minister of their home state of Kerala, Oommen Chandy, said: "We have achieved our aim to bring them back."
The abductions, along with the capture of 39 other Indian workers in Mosul, left Indian authorities scrambling to secure their release and their fate is the first foreign crisis for the new right-wing government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. On the ground, Iraqi forces were struggling to break the stalemate. Security forces entered Awja, Saddam's birthplace, after fierce clashes but the government had yet to reclaim the nearby city of Tikrit despite a more than week-long offensive. The cost of the conflict has been high for Iraq's forces. Nearly 900 security personnel were among 2,400 people killed in June, the highest figure in years, according to the United Nations. The top U.N. envoy in Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, told AFP the country faced a crisis akin to the devastating Syria conflict if politicians allowed a total institutional collapse. "If Iraq does not follow its constitutional political process, what is the alternative? It risks descending into a Syria-like chaos. And that is what people really need to understand, very very quickly," he said. Mladenov said a lot of damage had been done during the jihadist offensive that took second city Mosul before the IS declared a pan-Islamic state on a vast territory straddling Iraq and Syria. "Iraq will never be the same as before Mosul," he said. Speaking to reporters in Washington, the top U.S. military officer General Martin Dempsey said government forces would need help.
"If you are asking me will the Iraqis, at some point, be able to go back on the offensive to recapture the part of Iraq that they've lost... probably not by themselves," the chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff said. But he added this did not necessarily mean the United States would have to take military action. Agence France Presse

Iraq's Most Revered Cleric Criticizes Fractious Parliament

Naharnet/Iraq's most senior Shiite cleric said Friday the failure of the new parliament to elect a speaker at its first session this week was a "regrettable failure," heaping pressure on Premier Nuri al-Maliki. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, along with the international community, has called on Iraq's bickering politicians to unify in the face of a Sunni militant onslaught that began last month, but Tuesday's parliamentary session ended in farce. Several Sunni and Kurdish lawmakers walked out of the chaotic session, which was marred by threats and acrimony. Ahmed al-Safi, a spokesman for Sistani, said in a Friday sermon in the Shiite shrine city of Karbala that "citizens were optimistic that this would be a good start for this parliament." "But the failure to elect a head of parliament and their deputies before it adjourned was a regrettable failure." Sistani, an octogenarian who lives in the nearby holy city of Najaf, is revered within Iraq's Shiite majority and his stature dwarfs that of any single politician.
His spokesman also called for the rapid formation of a new government, a problem made more difficult by deteriorating support among lawmakers for incumbent Maliki and questions over who might replace him. Seen as a sectarian and divisive figure by many, Maliki points to his huge popular mandate after his State of Law coalition dominated April's parliamentary elections. "The speeding up of forming a government within the constitutional framework with wide national consensus is of the utmost importance," Safi said. The remarks come after jihadist-led militants seized swathes of territory across five provinces in a swift offensive that began June 9, displacing hundreds of thousands of people and alarming world leaders. Agence France Presse

Liberman: Not all terrorist targets can be destroyed from the air
Ynetnews/04.07.14/leaders Haniyeh and Mashaal should consider themselves "legitimate targets."
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman visited Sderot on Friday where he made statements demanding action against Hamas and terror saying, "Not all terrorist targets can be destroyed from the air. Most of the rocket production sites are under schools, hospitals and mosques." "We are only postponing a problem instead of dealing with it," he said and that Israel could not accept a reality in which Hamas controls what happens while Israel continues to respond after the fact. Liberman said that the continued threat posed by hundreds of missiles in Gaza was unsustainable, not only for the residents of Sderot, but also Tel Aviv and the country's center. The Foreign Minister continued by stressing the need to go after the leaders of terrorism wherever they are saying, "We must lay hands on all those who perpetrated and encouraged the murder of the three teenagers, including [Hamas PM Ismail] Haniyeh and [Hamas leader Khaled] Mashaal."  He added that the two should consider themselves "legitimate targets.""Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by Europe, the United States and Israel," Liberman said. The comments followed comments made by Liberman on Sunday where he said that only a full-scale return of Israeli control to Gaza would end the rocket fire.

The Political Implications of ISIS’s Caliphate
By: Eyad Abu Shakra
Thursday, 3 Jul, 2014 .
The declaration by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) of the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in Iraq should not go unremarked. Such a development should not be considered in terms of the presence, or lack thereof, of the elements necessary for the establishment of such a caliphate, or the timing of this, but rather in light of the general circumstances surrounding this announcement.
To start with, even those who are monitoring the affairs of the region and regional jihadism are not clear about ISIS’s real weight, and whether this is sufficient to allow it to even make such a declaration. Even when ISIS launched its ongoing assault on western and northern parts of Iraq, claiming responsibility for all military operations there, tribal and Sunni voices warned that some quarters were deliberately seeking to discredit and incite against the popular uprising against Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki—by portraying it as ISIS-led in an obvious bid to crush it.
A bloody conflict between ISIS and other ideologically similar groups, such as the Syrian-based Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front, is raging already in the region. This is not to mention the major differences between ISIS and less-extremist Islamist groups, which are also seeking power via different routes.
In addition to this, there are some exceptional, geopolitical elements that are currently casting their shadows on the Middle East as a whole. Tehran’s ambitions in the Arab Gulf are longstanding; however, the way in which it is now dealing with the “Fertile Crescent” entities is unprecedented. Tehran is, in practice, ruling Iraq, Syria and Lebanon by proxy. Tehran is indeed controlling armed groups that had essentially transcended the borders set by the Sykes-Picot Agreement before ISIS declared an Islamic caliphate. It also has active hands in the Arabian Peninsula and strategic alliances in the Gulf, Yemen and North Africa.
At this point we should consider Washington’s speedy reaction to Maliki’s call for help and support compared to its “timid”—or even “conspiratorial”—position on the suffering of the Syrian people at the hands of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad for more than three years during which hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and millions more displaced. This perhaps highlights the true US strategic perspective on the region, which cannot be concealed anymore by misguided and sugar-coated words.
We should remember that US Vice President Joe Biden had previously suggested, when still a Senator in 2006, the partition of Iraq. Biden was of the view that Iraq should be partitioned into three entities: Sunni, Shi’ite and Kurdish. Before Biden, the Republic “neocons” who dominated US foreign policy in the Middle East during the era of former US President George W. Bush incessantly talked about their plans for a “New Middle East.” Despite the ambiguous nature of the “New Middle East,” at least for Arabs, nobody can deny that the invasion of Iraq, the toppling of the Saddam Hussein regime, the eradication of Iraq’s state institutions, including the police force and military, and the complete disregard of the sectarian, religious and ethnic conflicts boiling in the country paved the way for an “alternative Iraq” that is completely different from the pre-2003 incarnation of the country. This new state of affairs in Iraq, in the minds of US policymakers, complements a new regional system whose features are becoming increasingly clear. In this new system the Assad regime played the role assigned to it, namely, the creation and exploitation of Sunni fundamentalists, both inside and outside Syria.
The Assad regime was tasked with recruiting extremist fighters and sending them to fight in Iraq in a bid to unsettle US invading forces, thus forcing an early military pullout from the region. Among those the Damascus regime used to do this recruiting was Mahmoud Qul-Aghassi aka Abu Al-Qaqaa. This is exactly what Tehran had planned. After pushing the US to do their “dirty job” for them—i.e. getting rid of Saddam and Sunni dominance—the smart Iranians were keen to avoid direct confrontation with the US forces and the high cost of shedding American blood. Sure enough, Tehran’s plan proved a resounding success as the US administration eventually became convinced that the price of remaining in Iraq was unbearable. However, when Washington hurriedly pulled out of Iraq, it left the country under a de facto Iranian political and security control, with Sunni-majority areas left to the mercy of extremist jihadists. This remained the case until Sunni tribes could no longer put up with it, launched the Sahawat(Awakening) movements and succeeded in driving the jihadists out.
In Lebanon the aim was to end the Sunni dominance represented by former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, by far the country’s leading Sunni politician. However, those entrusted with planning and executing his assassination miscalculated the ensuing public reaction. Despite this, the Tehran–Damascus axis soon retook the initiative and began working to eliminate Hariri’s legacy, which is Lebanon’s moderate Sunni leadership—a leadership that has been acceptable to both the Arab world and the wider international community. To achieve this, the Iran–Syria alliance resorted to creating extremist Sunni figureheads who strived to undermine the credibility of Hariri’s populist and service-oriented Future Movement which, in my view, has always lacked political “instinct” as well as firm ideological foundations. In effect the Iran–Syria alliance was trying to pull the rug from under the Future Movement by means of inventing firebrand competitors, and promoting their radical ultra-populist slogans.
Facilitating the access of Fatah Al-Islam to the Nahr Al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp north of Tripoli in northern Lebanon—a Sunni stronghold—was just the tip of the iceberg. The scenario of Iraq’s Awakening movements was repeated in Nahr Al-Bared where Fatah Al-Islam’s attempts to overtake the camp were thwarted by the mostly Sunni martyrs from the Lebanese army.
Iranian and Syrian leaders also tried to destroy from within the Future Movement-led March 14 Alliance, which was formed on the back of the anti-Tehran public momentum. They embraced Michel Aoun—an extremist Maronite leader— and went on to “rehabilitate” and use him as a means to drive a wedge between the ranks of the democratic, liberal and progressive forces in Lebanon. Aoun has thus far carried out his assignment to the last detail. Also—in coordination and mutual understanding with Hezbollah—Aoun has repeatedly blocked the election of a new president for Lebanon, and has recently proposed an initiative to electorally divide the country along sectarian lines in stark violation of the constitution and showing total disregard to the dangers of potential political and security vacuums, while Hezbollah is happily strengthening its position as a state within a state, capitalizing on the present political vacuum in Lebanon.
Last but by no means least, we can all see what Assad has done to Syria, redrawing the country’s geographical map through bloodshed and displacement and partitioning the country along sectarian and ethnic lines. Like Iraq, Syria today is different from Syria in early 2011. The region faces the threat of being partitioned and parceled out in the name of containing ISIS’s declaration of a caliphate, which, had it not been announced, would have been fabricated to create just such a response.

Syrian National Coalition President Ahmad Jarba insists Iran behind rise of ISIS
Misbah al-Ali| The Daily Star
ISTANBUL: Syrian National Coalition President Ahmad Jarba said that the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) represented a serious threat to the entire Arab region and called on the international community to provide the opposition with weapons. In a sit-down interview with The Daily Star in the Turkish city of Istanbul, Jarba stressed that the SNC’s position on ISIS “has been clear since day one: This is a tool being used by the Iranians and the Syrian regime, and it does not hesitate to murder, slaughter, and terrorize.”
On Hezbollah’s involvement in the fighting alongside Assad, the SNC president said there were no reports of Hezbollah retreating from Syria to fight in Iraq.
He also said Hezbollah has not confronted ISIS in Syria, arguing this ran counter to the party’s justification for entering the Syrian battlefield – that is, to face jihadist groups.
“They [ Hezbollah fighters] have resorted to killing our women, children, and elderly, and they have committed massacres, and we will never forgive them for this,” Jarba said.
“ISIS’ logic is no different from Hezbollah’s, both groups are security tools that carry out Iran’s orders to fragment the region and send rigged cars and suicide bombers, aimed at inflicting harm on all of Lebanon, and we condemn this barbarism,” he said. According to Jarba, ISIS has attempted to control opposition-held areas since the early years of the crisis, and the SNC’s pleas to contain the jihadist group went unheeded until recently, only as a result of its gains in Iraq. Jarba explained that it was Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s rule which led to rampant corruption and sectarian oppression in the country. “ Iraq today is not a nation, but a group of sectarian and racist militias,” Jarba told The Daily Star, adding that ISIS was taking advantage of Sunni anger as a result of American occupation, marginalization and injustice.
“The Iraqi resistance, which is a mix of the Iraqi army from the days of [former Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein and a large number of clans and tribes, led to the uprising against Maliki, then ISIS came into the picture and invested in the cause and [Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi was announced ‘caliph,’ mirroring exactly what happened in Syria,” he said.
“But according to my confidence in the genuine people of Iraq, the situation in the country will change over the next month or two in the favor of the Iraqi nationalists and not ISIS,” he said.
He expressed shock at the Iraqi government forces’ inability to defend their country and said that the Syrian opposition, on the other hand, has faced ISIS and will keep fighting, despite running low on resources. Commenting on the international community’s stances toward the conflict, Jarba praised Saudi Arabia’s position, which he said has never wavered.He noted U.S. hesitance to provide military support, and called on all concerned states to keep their promises and provide weapons to the FSA in order to allow for advances on the ground, or risk an ISIS takeover of the region.
Referring to his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, which took place last week, Jarba said the U.S. was discouraged at the prospect of intervening militarily in the Middle East. The opposition has been trying to allay the powerful nation’s concerns by explaining that it was only looking for weapons and not a direct intervention.
Washington unveiled late last month plans to boost Syria’s opposition with $500 million in arms and training.
“It is clear that the Americans have a real fear of what’s going on in Iraq, and this was a big point of discussion with Kerry, especially since fears spawn from the possibility of chaos moving from Syria toward the U.S.,” he said.
On meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Jarba said the meeting was “long” and “did not bear tangible results.”
“The Russians remain stubborn despite us having explained our view at length,” he said.
“I think that their stubbornness with respect to their stances on the Syrian crisis is linked to their interest in sharing global power with the United States, and therefore they are not clinging to [Syrian President Bashar] Assad’s regime as much as they are defending their international presence,” he said.
He also said the Russians have maintained ties with the regime since the beginning of the crisis, unlike Iran, which did not send its fighters to Syria.
Jarba explained the situation on the ground in Syria as “hit and run” with the regime.
“The regime takes control of a geographic area and then we resort to freeing it,” he said.
“But we do not have the ability to take total control due to our lack of arms, therefore often our brigades retreat from towns and cities for tactical purposes while the regime’s allies bestow aid and support, and our allies often only provide moral support,” he said.
The situation in Homs continues to be tricky, Jarba said, as a result of “Iranian intervention and Assad’s regime trying to openly impose a system of fixed points for Shiite militias.”
Meanwhile, while media reports point to Assad’s victory in the north, Jarba said the regime was currently trying to take control of Aleppo and its suburbs, but failed to do so even after striking the area with barrel bombs.
Speaking about the living conditions of the Syrian people, Jarba said they were “miserable” and that ISIS was expanding while the FSA was facing “shortages on all levels.”
He said FSA brigades were overstretched, fighting a dual battle with the regime on one hand, and ISIS on the other.
Jarba also point out that the SNC did not acknowledge Assad’s re-election.
“For us, nothing changed, and his legitimacy was stepped on by the children of Deraa and the Syrian people over the last two and a half years, and therefore we do not recognize the [election] orchestrated by the regime to justify his existence,” he said.
The Syrian president was re-elected for a third term last month, winning approximately 88 percent of votes.Jarba also said there were no upcoming discussions with Assad’s government, following the failed Geneva I and Geneva II conventions.
“The horizon is bleak for dealing with the Syrian crisis and we have no choice but to fight,” he said.
Jarba said the Coalition’s current focus was boosting the morale of the Syrian people. He also said the coalition “has plans to address humanitarian issues, specifically for refugees and the wounded.”
Jarba added that he would not stay on as Coalition president, but was “reassured” that his successor would carry on emphasizing the basic precepts of the Syrian revolution.
Speaking on the case of two kidnapped bishops, Jarba confirmed that they were alive and in ISIS custody. Aleppo’s Greek Orthodox Archbishop Paul Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim were abducted April 23, 2013, by gunmen while returning to the city from the Turkish border.

Watching the Aoun movie while we wait
Michael Young| The Daily Star
You have to hand it to Michel Aoun. He can say whatever he wants, no matter how foolish or contradictory, and still retain the backing of a substantial number of Christians.
Take Aoun’s latest proposal for a presidential election. The general called earlier this week for the president to be elected in two rounds of popular voting. In the first, Christians alone would vote. Then the top two candidates would go on to a second round, where all Lebanese – Christians, Muslims and others – would choose a president.
At the same time, Aoun again declared his support for the so-called Orthodox proposal, in which each religious sect would elect only its own parliamentarians. His rationale was that, under the current 1960 law, most Christian parliamentarians were being brought in by Muslims. “This is not fair,” Aoun said. “When every religious group elects its own officials, we are ensuring justice and fair representation.”
So essentially, we have two proposals that apply opposite principles. When it comes to the presidency, Aoun is willing to give the clear Muslim majority in Lebanon the power to bring in a Maronite president, in that way bypassing Parliament, where Christians and Muslims are represented equally. But when it comes to parliamentary elections, Aoun intends to neutralize the Muslim majority that he will otherwise empower on the presidency.
It all makes perfect sense. Of course, Aoun would argue that the key lies in the two-stage presidential process, which presumably gives Christians the right to filter their two leading candidates in the first round. Perhaps, but the scheme, aside from raising serious legitimacy questions in a consociational system, is such that there are no guarantees either candidate will represent a majority of Christians, let alone that the winning candidate will. Far more significant is that Aoun opens the door to the principle of allowing Lebanon’s Muslim majority to effectively use its numbers to determine political outcomes. That means undermining confessional parity in the post-Taif institutions, which Christians regard as a protection, given their minority status.
With Aoun, we learned long ago that duplicity in the service of self-interest is no vice. More than any other Christian politician, he helped destroy his community, along with Samir Geagea, in the last years of the Lebanese war, in what began as a struggle against a Syrian regime he now backs. Aoun can still rally communal support, but this tells us more about the desperate mindset among Christians than about the man’s merits.  Aoun’s proposal has been panned, and understandably so. What is it about Aoun and Geagea that in the past year has made them back election proposals, presidential or parliamentary, that, while they may bring them some political benefit, are destined to harm Christian interests in the long term? The Christians can no longer afford politicians who mobilize them in their internecine battles.
For now, the most startling embodiment of Maronite fortunes is the absence of a president. And once again, Aoun has been pushed into the forefront of a confrontation in which he counts for relatively little. In reality, the agenda is being set by Hezbollah, with Aoun a useful facade to delay a final decision on a president and probably to protect the party’s favorite candidate.
Aoun, no idiot, senses this, and is trying to exploit what limited margin of maneuver he has to force the issue on his candidacy. But it is clear that Saad Hariri, even if he wants to maintain a good relationship with the general, has no Saudi backing to endorse Aoun. Walid Jumblatt has also sought to block Aoun, fearing that any Aoun-Hariri rapprochement would jeopardize his own balancing act in the center of the political spectrum, while ultimately threatening his authority in the Chouf. Hezbollah has allowed this situation to play itself out, knowing that it would block the election process, buy the party time, and increase the frustration necessary to bring in a candidate of its choice, which many observers believe is Army commander Jean Kahwagi. The security threats in recent weeks, while real, have also been played up to make Kahwagi more appealing to the public and to foreign governments that have doubts about him. Hezbollah may also want more time to decide because the regional situation has again become unpredictable. With the offensive by the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) and the Sunni uprising in Iraq, the party is under greater pressure. Iraqi Shiite militias have returned home to fight ISIS, forcing Hezbollah to fill the void in Syria. For its part, Iran is scrambling to impose some order on the Iraqi chaos, even as the country fragments between its Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish components.
In this context, Hezbollah faces two sets of problems. On the one hand, Lebanese divisions make an early resolution to the presidential deadlock in a way the party favors highly improbable. On the other, with the situation in Iraq so volatile and Hezbollah heavily committed in Syria, it’s better for the party to perpetuate a Lebanese vacuum until Iran and Hezbollah can shift the tide regionally. At that stage, Hezbollah would seek to impose a new balance in Lebanon that reflects this reality.
There are many uncertainties in such a scenario, which is probably why we can expect a further delay in parliamentary elections scheduled for November. With everything stalemated, the prospect of a consensus over a new electoral law seems very remote. Nor is Hezbollah keen to return to the 1960 law, which may lead to a Parliament similar to the one we have today. This would force the party to be dependent on the centrists, which it doesn’t want.
Lebanon is set for many more months of much ado about nothing. But before anyone assumes we are entering an uncontrollable vacuum, the reality is that we are in a well-planned holding pattern. Michel Aoun is the in-flight entertainment while we wait, courtesy of Hezbollah.
*Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR. He tweets @BeirutCalling.

Holding up Iraq before it breaks down

By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed /Asharq Al Awsat
Iraq is one of the world’s oldest nations and civilizations. Although today’s Iraq is the product of a nation-state that emerged during the last century, it has always remained, like Egypt, united within the borders of Mesopotamia. After the defeat of the Ottomans in World War II, the British took over Iraq’s administration under the Sykes-Picot agreement. Winston Churchill designed the modern Iraqi state at the Cairo Conference in 1921, thus it became a parliamentary monarchy. After the Ottomans, the Abbasids and Umayyads, the British also maintained the unity of Iraq. Lawrence of Arabia considered Iraq the center of the region; he believed that modernization would take place in Baghdad, not in Damascus. The British forced the Kurds to be part of a unified Iraq and rejected that Mosul be part of Turkey. The Turks, however, considered Mosul as part of their new republic. The British administration resorted to a referendum in Mosul, and the residents chose to remain Iraqis. Hashemite kings have preserved Iraq and so did the Baathists. Even after the U.S. occupation, Americans insisted on keeping Kurdistan within the borders of Iraq. As for Nouri al-Maliki, whose mandate in office has ended, he has secured himself a place in the annals of history as the man who divided Iraq. He is the first ruler in a thousand years to cause the disintegration of Iraq - no dictators or foreign occupiers did that. Maliki did what Hajjaj al-Thaqafi, the Mongol Hulagu, Percy Cox, King Faisal al-Hashemi, and America’s Paul Bremer failed to do!
The specter of division has become real. Splitting this country into micro-states has become a real threat, especially as it could be divided into three republics or more, which will most probably fight against each other.“The Arab Sunnis have suffered more than the Kurds under Maliki’s rule; they are both facing the same fate”
Kurdistan announced its intention to hold a referendum to decide if its citizens want to be independent, claiming that it is impossible to remain under the rule of Maliki. It is pretty certain that the Sunni provinces will do the same if Maliki remains in power. The president of the Kurdistan region, Massoud al-Barzani, accused Maliki of being behind all the chaos and crises, saying that Maliki had received a unified and rich Iraq and abused it for personal and sectarian reasons. He fought the Kurds and abrogated their authorities and prevented them from selling their oil, allowing the thieves affiliated to him to control all oil contracts. When the Kurds objected, he threatened them with international prosecutions instead of trying to reach an agreement or at least be tolerant with them. The Kurds told him that they did not want a state ruled by another Saddam Hussein. They fought him for 30 years and they do not want someone like Maliki to be the sole decision-taker in their daily lives. Thus, the policies of this ignorant man have pushed the Kurds towards independence!
The Arab Sunnis have suffered more than the Kurds under Maliki’s rule; they are both facing the same fate. I told one of their leaders that if divided, the provinces of al-Anbar and Nineveh would lack financial resources, leading their people to live in poverty. He told me that under Maliki they are living in humiliation and poverty. If they gain their independence, they could live in poverty but no longer have to live in humiliation. During the recent crisis, Maliki was not even persuaded against using his previous methods. He blackmailed and threatened the Sunni deputies. He tried to buy off many officials from other political blocs, taking advantage of the huge amount of money he controls. This is why the parliamentary blocs sought to postpone the election of the three presidencies in the new parliament - because they were aware that he resorted to bribery and blackmail to sabotage the democratic course of action!

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's Message as Caliph
by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi/Gatestone Institute
July 2, 2014
"[F]ear Allah as he should be feared and do not die except as Muslims.... Go forth, O mujahidin in the path of Allah. Terrify the enemies of Allah and seek death.... for the dunyā [worldly life] will come to an end, and the hereafter will last forever."
Abu Bakr al-Husayni al-Baghdadi, Caliph, "The Islamic State" [aka ISIS]
Marking the beginning of Ramadan, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of "the Islamic State" (formerly ISIS: the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) and declared Caliph Ibrahim, released a new audio message addressed to the Muslim world.
The new speech is most notable for being forthright about Baghdadi's message on the global nature of the Islamic State's struggle. Baghdadi touched on issues regarding the persecution of Muslims in Burma and the Philippines as well as the French restrictions on the wearing of the veil, and he responded to accusations that the Islamic State engages in 'irhab [terrorism].
Ominously, Baghdadi concluded his speech with aspirations for the Islamic State's conquest of "Rome" and the whole world. Such emphasis on the transnational nature of the Islamic State's project corroborates Baghdadi's projection of himself as the caliph and sole representative of Islamic rule on earth to whom all Muslims must pledge allegiance.
While these explicit proclamations, however, may come across as new in the Islamic State's messaging, the reality is that emphasis on worldwide ambitions has actually been a part of the group's propaganda since at least last summer when it was still known as ISIS. This distinguished ISIS early on from its al-Qa'ida competitor Jabhat al-Nusra, which prefers a more gradualist approach of "hearts and minds" as advocated by jihadist thinker Abu Mus'ab al-Suri. This approach aims to have locals first become accustomed to the norms of Shari'a law, with ambitions for a global Caliphate not expressed openly except in unofficial videos primarily put out by members of Jabhat al-Nusra's foreign contingent.
Only more recently, in response to the dispute with ISIS, has Jabhat al-Nusra in any of its official media outlets explicitly affirmed the Caliphate ambition, specifically in Shari'a official Sheikh Abu Sulayman al-Muhajir's interview featured this year by al-Basira media (an outlet set up by Jabhat al-Nusra to counter ISIS).
In contrast, in a video released by ISIS' media wing al-Furqan Media in August 2013, an elderly native Syrian fighter for ISIS, who had participated in the ISIS-led takeover of Mannagh airbase in Aleppo province, affirmed that jihad is farḍ ul-ayn [an obligation on every individual Muslim] and that it is necessary for an "Islamic state" to be established "over the entire world," beginning with victory in Bilad ash-Sham [Syria]. Also within the realm of official media, one of ISIS' early slogans was "the promised project of the Caliphate," featured on a billboard ISIS erected in the northern Aleppo town of Azaz, bordering Turkey, after seizing control of it from a rival group -- Northern Storm -- in September.
Elsewhere, one could observe long-standing ISIS billboards in Syria carrying statements like "Together we cultivate the tree of the Caliphate" and "a Caliphate pleasing to the Lord is better than democracy pleasing to the West." Besides these explicit affirmations, Baghdadi was projecting himself as a de facto caliph, taking the names of "al-Qurayshi" (indicating descent from Muhammad's tribe) and "al-Husseyni" (to indicate lineage from Muhammad's family), enhancing legitimacy to claims of being a caliph.
The reference to Rome in Baghdadi's latest message might seem odd at first sight too, but that has also been part of Baghdadi's de facto caliph image for months, as was apparent in his imposition of the dhimmi [second-class, "tolerated" non-Muslim residents] pact on Christians in Raqqa in March. Dhimmi status, in traditional theology as expounded in the Umdat al-Salik manual, is to be imposed by a caliph. ISIS' official Raqqa province news feed expressed hope that "tomorrow" (not literally, but at some point in the future) the dhimmi pact would be imposed in Rome.
While no one expects the vast majority of Muslims worldwide to migrate to Baghdadi's state, or caliphate, in Iraq and Syria to build up from there to take over the whole world, the question does arise of what implications there are for Baghdadi's project and how it plays out on the ground. The first implication is that these most explicit affirmations yet send a clear message to the other insurgent groups in Iraq in particular that there is no room for power-sharing, significantly increasing the prospect of wider fighting with groups like the Ba'athist Naqshbandi Army and the Islamic Army of Iraq, both of which have previously fought with ISIS' predecessor, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI).
Optimists, however, who are hoping that the infighting might roll back the Islamic State are likely mistaken: the insurgency is significantly different from the days of the Iraq War, precisely because the insurgency is much more dominated by the Islamic State, which has vastly superior financial and arms resources spanning borders.
The second implication is that, internationally, existing trends will most likely be strengthened: those already sympathetic to ISIS will be the ones most likely to heed Baghdadi's call, including jihadists in Gaza, Sinai, Libya and most notably Tunisia. In contrast, the ever pro-Nusra Maldivian fighters and Hizb-ut-Tahrir, the latter of which has its own affiliated armed contingents in Syria, are predictably in opposition. At the same time, the Islamic State's project, in actually existing on the ground with a network of contiguous strongholds and the workings of an actual state, can have wider ideological appeal, in contrast to an al-Qa'ida in the Afghanistan-Pakistan area that lacks the showings of real strength.
If the "Islamic State" ultimately goes into decline, it looks as if it will happen only in years, not months.

Mideast Christians delegation at EU, ask for "Protected zone in Nineveh Plain in Northern Iraq, under UN Chapter 7"
Walid Phares, Face Book page

A delegation from the Middle East Christian Committee (MECHRIC) representing a vast coalition of NGOs met with European Union officials in Brussels on July 3 to discuss the situation of the Christian community and other minorities in Iraq in light of the invasion by the "Islamic State" militias of Mosul and the Nineveh Plain. The delegation was led by Joe Baini, Vice President of the World Maronite Union and President of the World Council of the Cedars Revolution (WCCR) and Rima Tuezen director of the Council of Syriac Organizations in Europe. The MECHRIC delegation was mandated by the MECHRIC Conference held on June 26-28 in Washington at the US Congress where leaders from the Assyrian, Chaldean, Syriac, Maronite, Melkite and Coptic NGOs met and resolved to ask for an international protection for the minorities in northern Iraq. Joe Baini said after the meeting in Brussels: "Last week we participated in the MECHRIC conference in Washington held by our brothers and sisters from Coptic Solidarity and with the participation of Mideast minorities NGOs. They asked us to connect with MECHRIC Europe and visit the headquarters of the European Commission and ask for an international intervention in northern Iraq to protect the community from ethnic cleansing. We submitted an official demand to the European Union urging them to ask for a meeting of the United Nations Security Council to issue a resolution under chapter 7 establishing a protected zone for Christian and other minorities." Asked if this is coordinated with the Kurds who are demanding a referendum, Baini said "The Kurds have a right to demand a referendum and we would like to see our communities part of this referendum. But there is an urgency to send a UN protection force to Nineveh plain before a mass exodus takes place. This UN move will definitely have to be coordinated with the Government of Kurdistan in Northern Iraq."

Phares to Sawt Lubnan PDF Print E-mail
Written by CRNews /Thursday, 03 July 2014
"For a popular Presidential election: Disarm militias, reform Taef, adopt a Federal system"
In an interview with Voice of Lebanon "Sawt Lebanon" from Washington DC, Dr Walid Phares, an advisor to members of the US Congress and the Co-Secretary General of the Transatlantic Group on Counter Terrorism (TAG) said "there are three conditions to transform the Presidential election in Lebanon from the Parliament to a direct popular suffrage."
Phares, the author of The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East said "first there should be a disarming of all militias, including Hezbollah and the Jihadists. There cannot be direct popular elections while entire areas of Lebanon are dominated by armed militias. Hence the removal of these weapons and the deployment of the Lebanese Army and security forces across the territory is a first unavoidable condition. Second, an institutional change of this dimension should prompt a revision of the latest political agreement which oversees the political and constitutional mechanisms of this republic. The Taef agreement will have to be revised and restructured. Moving from Parliamentary election of the President to a popular suffrage needs a reform of the Taef agreement. And the third condition, which should precede such massive change, is the establishment of a federal system in the country. For the initial sectarian distribution and the election via a sectarian Parliament was designed to reflect a pluralist representation of the public. It was a bad one already. Electing a President whose office is supposed to represent one community by all citizens will complicate the situation further. Thus a federal system should be installed to address once and for all the issue of community representation, then all posts could be open to all citizens."
Phares said "once there is a federal system, and militias are disarmed, there would be no problem to have the President elected directly by the people, and I would even add, there should not be a problem to have the President and all other posts from different communities. For local Governments will ensure representation of the communities and the federal institutions will insure the national accord." He concluded: "a popular election by the people, is not an overnight adventure it is a transformational matter. If it has to be done, everything else has to be redone"
CRNews, Washington DC

A Need for a Shift in the Balance of Power in Syria and Iraq

By: Raghida Dergham
(Translation - Karim Traboulsi)
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and senior advisers are discussing strategies to address the conflicts and challenges of the Middle East so that the Secretariat does not appear unable to shoulder its responsibilities in light of the failure of the Security Council and its divisions – both real and those that are convenient for both Russia and the United States. Today, while the Middle East region undergoes one of the most important stages of the difficult and complicated process of change, the UN seems to have no clear policy or a road map for a distinguished role by the UN at the regional and international levels.
The five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany are negotiating with the Islamic Republic of Iran over its nuclear program in Vienna, and are determined to make a breakthrough culminating with the gradual lifting of sanctions on Tehran. But these countries are deliberately turning a blind eye to Iranian violations of Resolution 1747, which, under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, imposes a comprehensive ban on the Iranian sale or transfer of weapons or military experts from its territory to any other nation. In other words, the United States, Britain, and France agree with Russia and China on exempting Iran from accountability for violations of a Security Council resolution adopted under Chapter VII, which compels all states to enforce it. This means that the five nations are violating a UN Security Council resolution and are deliberately ignoring Iranian violations to protect the nuclear talks. This is a dangerous precedent
This dangerous precedent has produced the worst performance for the five countries in the past few decades, if not in the entire history of the United Nations. This is happening while the five permanent countries are engaged in the farce of slow negotiations and absurd worthless statements, while the number of casualties in Syria has surpassed 150,000, and while the humanitarian catastrophe there is growing worse by the day.
Ban Ki-moon is not in a position to intervene in the affairs of the Security Council and cannot dictate terms to it. But the Secretary-General of the United Nations is not the servant of the Security Council under the Charter of the United Nations. He is independent from the Security Council and has powers that are not prejudiced by the Security Council. He has the right to moral and political leadership by resorting to Article 99, which grants him the right to raise issues that the Security Council rejects to put forward. It is therefore worthwhile for the nations opposed to the major Security Council members kowtowing to Iranian violations in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, to be aware of the need for a new approach with the Secretariat of the United Nations.
Developments in Iraq have forced all actors to rethink their positions. They are opening a new window for a different kind of thinking regarding the Syrian issue and the Iranian role in both Syria and Iraq. This is an opportunity for the Secretariat of the United Nations and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to listen to each other attentively, and and repair their relationship that has strained over the recent period due to disagreement over Syria.
The main difference between Saudi Arabia and the Secretariat of the United Nations regards the legitimization of the Iranian role in Syria and Iraq. The United Nations believes that reaching a solution in Syria and Iraq requires, logically speaking, acknowledging the role of Iran and Iranian influence in these two countries. The United Nations believes that Iran must inevitably be engaged over the fate of Syria and Iraq.
The Saudi position is completely at odds with this argument, on the grounds that UN engagement of Iran in Syria or Iraq would legitimize Iran's regional ambitions that go beyond the borders of Iran and legitimizes the role and influence of Iran in these two Arab countries. Riyadh is opposed to the UN giving legitimacy to Iranian intervention in Iraq – politically – and in Syria militarily through Hezbollah, which has been fighting there overtly based on Iran’s request, and through the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) in Syria and Iraq, in clear violation of the binding UN Security Council resolution.
Riyadh’s opinion is that it is the duty of the UN – both at the level of the Secretariat and the Security Council – to hold Iran accountable for its violations rather than treat it with impunity. Riyadh believes that asking it to legitimize the Iranian role in Syria and Iraq is a grave mistake committed by the Secretariat of the United Nations. Riyadh will never give in on this no matter what happens.
What Riyadh is willing to offer is a necessary partnership with the Secretariat and the international community in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), similarly to what happened during the experience of Sahawat (Awakening) in Iraq, which fought and routed al-Qaeda there. Riyadh believes that its role and influence over Sunnis in Iraq and Syria is powerful ammunition in the hands of the Secretariat and the international community, if the United Nations truly wants a new approach in these two countries – an approach that does not rely on Iran as the cornerstone of the two countries’ fate as is the case now.
It has now become popular to talk about the “regional approach” to resolving the crisis in Syria and Iraq. Western think-tanks are talking about “Iran first” as part of that approach, and focusing on so-called track-two diplomacy, which in turn legitimizes the Iranian role in Syria and Iraq in the name of “pragmatism.” These think tanks – including some funded by Gulf nations enchanted with such Western institutions – are going too far in ignoring Iranian violations of international resolutions, and the role Hezbollah and the IRGC led by Qassem Soleimani are playing in Syria and Iraq. And while they deliberately exonerate the Iranian side, these think tanks blame Saudi Arabia for fomenting Sunni extremism, and ignore the fact that Iran equally fostered Shiite extremism of all forms, and the fact that Iran and its allies have used if not created Sunni extremism in many instances.
The Saudi government has not done enough in the beginning to curb its citizens from contributing to the growth of Sunni extremism and terrorism. Recently, Riyadh realized the need to take measures against its citizens involved in terrorism, and is required to do more still. But for UN officials to speak about Saudi’s responsibility for the events in Syria and Iraq while fully exonerating Iran there is either extremely stupid or plainly sinister.
If the Secretariat wants to engage Saudi Arabia as an influential country in the Arab region, it must first stop making a distinction between the Saudi and Iranian roles in the Arab nations of Iraq and Syria. It must listen carefully to the Saudi arguments and help its efforts for a comprehensive national dialogue in the two countries. It must not continue to be drawn into legitimizing Iran’s role as the key to the solution in the two countries. Finally, the Secretariat must quit its naïve assumption that temporary victories are permanent ones. This means that senior UN officials must stop thinking of Syria’s future from the standpoint of Bashar al-Assad’s victory and survival in power.
For its part, Saudi diplomacy has to free itself from its tendency for sullenness, boycotting, and disengagement, because this is neither in Saudi’s interests nor in those of Iraq and Syria. Riyadh refused to receive special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to protest his proposals, and also rejected a seat a the Security Council to protest the latter’s failures. Some see these measures as an important message and an unprecedented position that alerted the United Nations to the huge gaps in its attitudes. Others think they are precarious tactical steps and not strategic ones.
What matters is that it is now time for a new chapter with the United Nations, because refraining from engagement is the wrong policy, especially since Iran is eager to engage and promote the Iranian narrative. It is necessary for Riyadh to open permanent channels with the Secretariat at the highest levels. It is important for Riyadh to receive Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the earliest opportunity to talk openly about what is happening in the region. Saudi did well to channel its $500 million aid package to Iraq though the United Nations. This is a constructive step, which must now be supplemented with further steps that should be up to the level of the challenges brought by developments in the region.
This week, Ban Ki-moon may declare the name and mission of the new envoy to Syria replacing Lakhdar Brahimi. Damascus and Moscow are working to remove the Arab part of the mission of the joint UN-Arab League envoy. Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin says that this was the advice of Lakhdar Brahimi. Some senior aides to the Secretary-General believe that removing the Arab part from the representative’s assignment would create a opportunity for a new approach requiring cooperation from Damascus and Moscow.
If Ban Ki-moon agrees to this advice and removes the Arab part of the assignment, he would be making a grave mistake, not just against Syria, but also against the relationship between the United Nations and the Arab countries. Most likely, he will not pursue this course of action, because he is fully aware that this would serve the regime in Damascus and its allies in Moscow.
Washington, for its part, does not want a strong representative with the will and resolve to expose its reluctant approach. In this sense, Washington agrees with Moscow in preferring an appeasing representative rather than a confrontational figure. For this reason perhaps, both sides vetoed former socialist Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, fearing his determination to push the Security Council to assume its responsibilities.
The names that have made their way to the list are numerous. Some are favored by Damascus such as Brazilian Minister Celsio Amorim, and influential former ministers Miguel Ángel Moratinos and Javier Solana. Some names include former prime ministers such as Italy’s Mario Monti, and Norway’s Gro Harlem Brundtland. Other former senior UN officials were also proposed, including Italian Staffan de Mistura, who served in Iraq, Lebanon, and Afghanistan; Dutchwoman Sigrid Kaag, who now heads the mission to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons; and Briton Michael Williams, who served in Lebanon and at the Secretariat. There are other names, but they are best not mentioned now because the Secretariat is keen to protect them from the media.
More importantly is the mandate of the new envoy. Clearly, the Geneva process is over, especially since Lakhdar Brahimi himself had described it as “superficial.” Geneva was based on the assumption that Russia consented to a transitional authority to replace Bashar al-Assad’s regime – and this was indeed what Russia falsely suggested. But it turned out later that Moscow was being deceptive, while Tehran was honest from the outset when it rejected the Geneva process, as its policy was based on holding on to Assad under any circumstance and not compromise on this position by accepting a transitional authority with full powers.
The new approach should not be based on “superficial” or naïve understandings that assume Assad would agree to relinquish power or share it with the opposition. The new approach must not assume that Assad is now a “fait accompli” and must be acknowledged permanently as such either. To be sure, Assad will not be able to unify the Syrian people. Assad will never again be able to guarantee stability in Syria. The United Nations must think about this carefully, before setting out the mandate of the new envoy.
The new approach must take into account the fact that the military balance of power is in the process of being altered, and that there is a need now for a national political process in Syria (like the one that will take place in Iraq soon). The Geneva process was a “Syrian dialogue” between the regime and the opposition. It failed because the regime was not willing to give up its privileges and power and share them with the opposition. The new approach must adopt the principle of national dialogue among various poles and segments in Syria – both political and military – to reach a qualitatively new political process.
Such an approach, if it is launched with international resolve, can begin a new regional dialogue that can force major actors to engage in the process. Iran will most definitely resist such an approach, and so will Russia. The axis that brings them together is the axis of Vladimir Putin and Qassem Soleimani, and both now see this axis as extending to Iraq to include Nuri al-Maliki, just as it had extended to Syria and Bashar al-Assad. This axis will resist any new approach. It will pay lip service to it, but its policies are clear in not compromising on Assad no matter what.
Therefore, practically and logically, the new political approach requires necessarily a change in the military balance of power on the field. This is what is happening now. The temporary victories are illusory. This is what the United Nations should realize as it formulates its strategic choices toward sponsoring a serious national dialogue that would include tribes, business leaders, and minorities, and a regional dialogue that would require Iran to place its current course of action in Syria and Iran on the table and not hide it under the table.
**Translated from Arabic by Karim Traboulsi

The New Iraq: An Islamic State with No Christians?
ISIS Advances Send As Many as 50,000 Assyrian Christians Out of Qaraqosh
Todd Daniels, Regional Manager for the Middle East
07/03/2014 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) - Late Wednesday night, June 25, the fighting became too much. As shells were falling on the historic Assyrian village of Qaraqosh, the streets began to fill as families hastily grabbed what they could carry and tried to negotiate a ride out of the city. By the end of the day, Thursday, as many as 50,000 more Christians had made their way across the border into the Kurdish region of Northern Iraq.
"This is the last wave," said Father Rayan Atto, a local priest who, on Thursday, was running an impromptu refugee-processing center on the outskirts of Ainkawa, located near Erbil. "Qaraqosh was the second city for Christians [in Iraq], after Ainkawa, and now they are here. Think about it," he told The Globe and Mail.
Already the city centers and surrounding villages of Northern Iraq were filled with the 500,000 who had fled from Mosul when The Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Shams (ISIS) took that city earlier in June.
"Already forty are sleeping here in the church, and there are another fifteen or twenty at the checkpoint to arrive tonight," an Iraqi pastor told International Christian Concern (ICC) on Wednesday evening. The community in Northern Iraq is doing their best to cope with those who have fled, but their capacity is stretched and resources are limited.
"This latest influx will place further pressure on resources there, particularly housing and fuel supplies. Conditions for these new arrivals will be challenging. In one school visited by UNHCR field staff, there are already 700 people and more expected," the UNHCR said on Friday.
For many of these Iraqi Christians, this is just the latest move in a decade that has been filled with violence and seemingly shrinking space for Christians in Iraq.
Sabria Karami told The Globe and Mail this is the fourth time in the last 11 years she has moved because of the violence and threats that she faced, especially as a Christian. After threats convinced her to move from Baghdad to Mosul, a 2008 wave of murders targeting the Christian population prompted Sabria and some 12,000 others, mainly Assyrian Christians, to move to Qaraqosh. Then ISIS came to town, and now she has joined the hundreds of thousands who fear that they will not survive under the strict and often brutally enforced Shaira law that ISIS is known for.
A New Islamic State and a New Caliphate
On Sunday, June 29, a statement was released with ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani declaring that the conditions for restoring the Islamic Caliphate had been met.
ISIS' leader Abu Bakir al-Baghdadi was declared the new caliph, the leader of all Muslims, and all Muslims should pledge their allegiance to him, al-Adnani said in the video. The statement also declared that the group was no longer to be known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Shams (ISIS) but as simply the Islamic State. The idea of restoring the Caliphate, which was abolished after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1924, has been a goal of various Islamic groups for decades. What will be the tangible results of this move and its acceptance by Muslims around the world remains unclear. "It's not hard to imagine Sunday's announcement, at the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, inspiring young Muslims already inclined toward jihad," Karl Vick wrote. Some commentators speak of ISIS as a greater threat even than al-Qaeda. Already ISIS had attracted hundreds of foreign fighters to join them in the fight against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and this pronouncement may effectively draw more extremists to join them in their fight. While it is unclear how much support al-Baghdadi and ISIS will receive from Muslims around the world, they are certainly raising concerns across the region.
ISIS largely controls a wide and expanding swath of land from Northwestern Syria to central Iraq, in some places effectively removing the borders between the two countries. While many civilians are fearful of the brutality for which ISIS is known, their gains have been aided by sectarian divisions. The conflict between Sunni Iraqis and the Shi'a-led government in Baghdad has been ongoing, and ISIS' advance is forcing many to take sides and is providing the local support needed if they want to solidify their gains.
Across the region, countries are taking notice and trying to craft a response. Jordan, a key ally of the United States in the region, has fears that extremists will gain a foothold there. In Northern Iraq, the Kurdish government and Peshmerga fighters have looked like the most competent force in the region. Kurdish President Marsoud Barzani said that a referendum on Kurdish independence is coming in "a matter of months," BBC reported.
The potential threat is forcing countries to rethink long-standing disputes. Turkey, which shares a long border with both Syria and Iraq, despite decades long conflict has recently been strengthening its ties with both Syrian and Iraqi Kurds who can form a buffer for Turkey, says Soner Cagaptay. Even the United States is now reconsidering its stance towards Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, "the dictator it said must go," and Iran in reaction to the Iraqi crisis, Josh Rogin writes.
Where Next for Iraq's Christian Minority
Among all of the concerns about the growth of the Islamic state, what is often lost is what this means for the Christian community in the region.  ISIS, more than most other groups fighting against the Syrian government, has gone about to establish a truly Islamic state in the areas under their control. Raqqa, in Eastern Syria, has become the de facto capital of their state and they have imposed Islamic rules to govern the city. They have also destroyed a number of Christian churches and archeological sites. In Iraq, since the seizure of Mosul, ISIS is believed to be responsible for the disappearance of five Christians, including two Chaldean nuns, Sister Miskintah and Sister Utoor Jospeh. The Hammurabi Human Rights Organization reports that "ISIS continues to takeover houses belonging to Christians who fled the city." Nearly all of the churches and monasteries have been abandoned, as Christians fear their destruction at any moment. On the whole, the annihilation of Christians and other non-Muslim minorities in Iraq has not happened, as many had feared, in contrast to what happened in many places in Syria. Though the effect has been nearly the same. The area has been almost entirely emptied of its Christian population. "This is very serious. We are losing our community," Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako said while reflecting on the dozens of families he has seen leave in just the past few days and the hundreds of thousands in the last decade. The place of Christians and the future of Iraq are unclear. The last decade has taken an incredible toll on the Christian community, as one of those again displaced told Al-Monitor. "We are a minority and yet we have paid the biggest price of any group during these past years," a Christian lady said.
Then expressing what so many have felt, she continued, "There is no future for Christians in Mosul anymore. No one knows what will come next."
ICC has launched a campaign to provide aid to the Iraqi church to assist those in need that have fled from the attacks. Visit Iraqi Crisis Response to find out more and donate.