July 14/14

Bible Quotation for today/
"This people honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me;

Matthew 15,1-9/Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, ‘Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands before they eat.’ He answered them, ‘And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, "Honour your father and your mother," and, "Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die." But you say that whoever tells father or mother, "Whatever support you might have had from me is given to God", then that person need not honour the father. So, for the sake of your tradition, you make void the word of God. You hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied rightly about you when he said: "This people honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines." ’

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

A difficult phase for Iran’s nuclear and regional ambitions/By: Raghida Dergham/Al Arabiya/July 14/14

ISIS is not bad news/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/July 14/14

ISIS and the potential for toxic warfare/By: Dr. Theodore Karasik/Al Arabiya/July 14/14

Palestinian resistance, the necessity of three fronts/By: Linah Alsaafin/Open Democracy/July 14/14

The security dilemma, the media and the Israeli bombardment/By: Gilbert Ramsay/Open Democracy/July 14/14


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

Pope promises 'solutions' to priestly celibacy

Al-Rahi Lashes Out at MPs, Describes Situation as “Tragic”

4 Dead, 22 Hurt as Hizbullah Fights Syria Rebels in Border Area
Sharp Political Differences Threaten Fate of Cabinet Sessions

Mustapha Allouch: ISIS, Hezbollah are similar

UNIFIL urges maximum self-restraint along the border

3 rockets fired from Lebanon at Western Galilee

Future official: ISIS, Hezbollah are similar

Kaag to become new U.N. coordinator for Lebanon
PM, Tamam Salam won’t call Cabinet without resolutions: sources

Rocket from Syria falls in Israeli-held Golan, no injuries: army
Kurds clash with extremists in northern Syria
Sigrid Kaag to become new U.N. coordinator for Lebanon: reports
Salam won’t call Cabinet without resolutions: sources

UNIFIL urges maximum self-restraint along Lebanon-Israel border
Wildfire erupts in n. Lebanon

Future to attend legislative session
Miscellaneous Reports And News For July 14/14

Israel ramps up Gaza air strikes, tells Gazans to evacuate border areas, after Hamas’ blanket rocket fire on Tel Aviv. Rockets from Lebanon

Israel makes first ground incursion in Gaza

Over 600 rockets fell inside Israel

Southern Israel hit by rocket barrage, Iron Dome intercepts 5 over Ashdod

Abbas to UN: put Palestine under international protection
Thousands in Gaza flee after Israeli warning
Boko Haram voices support for ISIS’ Baghdadi
Saddam’s deputy: Baghdad will soon be liberated

ISIS digs up dollars: extremists loot antiquities

At least three killed, 11 wounded in clashes at Tripoli airport-medics

Arab FMs meet tomorrow to discuss Gaza

Kerry in Vienna; extension of nuclear talks likely
World powers gather in Vienna over Iran, distracted by Gaza operation

French, German FMs Say Nuclear Deal Elusive as Iran, West Say Big Gaps Remain


Pope promises 'solutions' to priestly celibacy
Agence France Presse/VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis promised "solutions" to the issue of priestly celibacy in an interview Sunday that raised the possibility the Catholic Church could eventually lift the interdiction on married priests. Speaking to Italy's La Repubblica daily, Francis also condemned child sex abuse as a "leprosy" in the Church and cited his aides as saying that "the level of paedophilia in the Church is at two percent". "That two percent includes priests and even bishops and cardinals," he said. Asked whether priests might one day be allowed to marry, Francis pointed out that celibacy was instituted "900 years after Our Lord's death" and that clerics can marry in some Eastern Churches under Vatican tutelage. "There definitely is a problem but it is not a major one. This needs time but there are solutions and I will find them," Francis said, without giving further details.The interview was the third in a series with the 90-year-old founder of the La Repubblica daily, Eugenio Scalfari, a famous journalist and known atheist.


4 Dead, 22 Hurt as Hizbullah Fights Syria Rebels in Border Area
Naharnet /Clashes between Syrian rebels and Hizbullah on the Lebanese border have killed at least four fighters, a security official said Sunday. The fighting erupted on Saturday in an undemarcated area of the frontier between Qalamun in Syria and Arsal in Lebanon’s Bekaa region, the Lebanese official told Agence France Presse, speaking on condition of anonymity. "A Hizbullah fighter was killed and 12 were wounded on Saturday night," he said. "The fighting intensified on Sunday evening with three Syrian fighters killed and 10 wounded." Meanwhile, Lebanon’s National News Agency said the bodies of three Syrians killed in the clashes and 10 wounded fighters were transferred to a field hospital in Arsal. The long and porous border is often used by smugglers, refugees and fighters. Syrian Observatory for Human Rights head Rami Abdel Rahman said: "It appears Hizbullah launched the attack in a bid to finish off the pockets of rebel resistance." Arsal and the area around it are largely sympathetic with the Sunni-led uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad. In April, Syrian forces backed by allied fighters from Hizbullah retook control of most of the Qalamun region. But Syrian activists say hundreds of opposition fighters have taken refuge in the caves and hills in the border area, using it as a rear base from which to launch attacks inside Syria. Last month, Lebanese Army forces carried out raids in the area targeting militants with ties to "terrorist groups", an army statement said at the time. Agence France Presse


Al-Rahi Lashes Out at MPs, Describes Situation as “Tragic”
Naharnet/Maronite Partirach al-Rahi lamented on Sunday the presidential impasse, stressing that he rejects the “tragic” situation that has reached its peak. “We refuse to accept the tragic situation that has reached the peak as the state is deprived from its president,” al-Rahi said during Sunday's sermon in his summer seat of Diman. He called on officials, in particular lawmakers, to assume their constitutional duties. “Until when are they going to neglect their dangerous and honorable constitutional duty of electing a new head of state,” al-Rahi wondered. He expressed regret over the “ongoing constitutional and national pact violations and their impact on the parliament and the cabinet.” Lebanon has been plunged in vacuum in the presidency since the term of President Michel Suleiman ended in May.
Eight presidential elections sessions have been held, seven of which were obstructed due to a lack of quorum at parliament caused by a boycott by the March 8 lawmakers of the Change and Reform and Loyalty to the Resistance blocs over differences on a presidential candidate.The next elections session is scheduled for July 23.

Future official: ISIS, Hezbollah are similar
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Future Movement official and former Tripoli Ex MP Mustapha Allouch lashed out at ISIS, describing it as a Sunni version of Hezbollah’s fanaticism, while reiterating his party’s commitment to tolerance, diversity and democracy. “ISIS is not merely groups and individuals, but it is a Takfiri ideology based on eliminating the other and combating moderation, the same features that characterize Hezbollah and the policies of Wilayat al-Faqih,” Allouch said at an iftar by the Future branch in Tripoli. “The myth of the state of Wilayat al-Faqih [Iran] and the myth of the return of the caliphate in the form of ISIS and company are two similar ideologies confronting each other in Syria and Iraq nowadays,” he said in comments carried Sunday by the National News Agency (NNA). Under the Wilayat al-Faqih doctrine, which was introduced in Iran after the 1979 Islamic revolution, the supreme ayatollah, or highest religious authority, has final say in political matters as well. Hezbollah has remained evasive about its adherence to Wilayat al Faqih and support for the establishment of an Islamic state in Lebanon inspired by that doctrine. The former MP rejected as nonsense the accusations by March 8 opponents that Future-led March 14 is harboring and nurturing Takfiri terrorism in Lebanon. “The only milieu sheltering terrorism in Lebanon is that of Hezbollah, which is protecting illegitimate arms and giving a cover for Hezbollah’s indulgence in bloodletting in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon,” Allouch said, charging that Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian conflict is behind drawing ISIS terrorism to Lebanon. Allouch reaffirmed his party’s “unyielding” stance of maintaining political opposition to Wilayat al Faqih and combatting the ISIS mentality, both of which, he said “constitute the most dangerous threat to freedom and tolerance.”


Sharp Political Differences Threaten Fate of Cabinet Sessions
Naharnet/Lebanon's protracted political crises over sharp division between the March 8 and 14 alliances have widely effected the work of the parliament and the cabinet amid an ongoing presidential vacuum.
The differences that pitted the two rival coalitions into a political confrontation is reportedly threatening the fate of cabinet sessions despite a fragile agreement over the mechanism regulating its work during the presidential vacuum. “If the crisis goes on then the cabinet will not be able to endorse the vital requirements that the country needs,” Environment Minister Mohammed al-Mashnouq said in comment published in Kuwait's As-Siyasah newspaper on Sunday. He warned that Prime Minister Tammam Salam “will not call for a new government session as long as there are obstacles.”
Sources told the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat that the premier is angered by the attitude of the rival ministers at cabinet sessions. However, the sources denied reports saying that Salam intends to resign.
The PM's visitors quoted him as saying in comments published in the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat that “things are getting more difficult.” He expressed concern that the political crises in the country might impact the security situation. “Why would I call for a new session?” Salam wondered. The premier said that “no contacts have been held yet to resolve the matter.” The cabinet members reached an agreement on Thursday on the full-time employment of LU's contract workers but failed to strike a deal on the appointment of deans over differences between Kataeb and the Progressive Socialist Party on their sects.
The issue, which was first discussed last week, was postponed to the cabinet's next session. Cabinet decrees require the approval of its 24 ministers in accordance with an agreement reached last month in light of the vacuum at Baabda Palace.


Sigrid Kaag to become new U.N. coordinator for Lebanon: reports
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Dutch diplomat Sigrid Kaag will replace Derek Plumbly as the new United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon, media reports said over the weekend. Pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat reported that Kaag, who currently heads the joint Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons- United Nations mission in Syria, will the new representative for U.N. chief Ban Ki-Moon in Lebanon. When contacted by The Daily Star, the office of the Special Coordinator for Lebanon said Plumbly returns to Beirut from New York on Sunday. The office said Kaag and Plumbly were both “very committed to their present roles,” adding that no decisions have been taken with regards to future appointments. The office highlighted that the mandate of the Special Coordinator for Lebanon was not a fixed one. Kaag, 53, was tipped to replace Lakhdar Brahimi as U.N. envoy to Syria but the Italian-Swedish diplomat Staffan de Mistura ended up taking the post. Kaag speaks Arabic, according to al-Hayat.
A U.N. representative for Lebanon was originally established in the year 2000, based on the Secretary-General’s report to the Security Council dated July 20, 2000 that expressed the intention to appoint a senior official to be based in Beirut to help coordinate United Nations activities with regard to southern Lebanon. Then, in a letter to the Lebanese Prime Minister on February 8, 2007, the United Nations Secretary-General announced his intention to appoint a Special Coordinator for Lebanon. Subsequently, the title of the post was changed from Personal Representative of the Secretary-General for Lebanon to Special Coordinator for Lebanon. In his letter, the Secretary-General mandated his Special Coordinator to represent him on all political and coordination aspects of the work of the United Nations in Lebanon.


Future to attend legislative session
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Future Movement MP Ahmad Fatfat announced Sunday that his bloc is willing to attend a legislative session with a preset agenda, limited to essential matters. Despite March 14’s decision not to engage in any legislative sessions pending the election of a new president, Fatfat has announced that his bloc would not dismiss a legislative session with a predetermined agenda.
He said that such a session must deal with the “main headlines” in the country, giving the example of the Eurobonds law or the ranks and salaries scale. Separately, Fatfat slammed MP Michel Aoun’s suggestion to elect the president directly via the people, saying that it is a clear violation of the Taif Agreement, according to which the new Lebanese political system was established. “It is a clear coup against the Taif accord that aims to transform Lebanon’s political system from a parliamentary democratic system to a presidential one,” he said. Asked about the dialogue between the Future Movement and MP Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, Fatfat said that his “bloc is open to dialogue with all political parties that do not possess an eliminative approach.""But we have made it clear to the Free Patriotic Movement that we will not adopt any stand outside the frame of the March 14 alliance,” he told the Voice of Lebanon radio station. Ministerial sources had told The Daily Star that a dialogue was launched between the Future Movement and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri's Amal Movement. The dialogue was launched to "defuse Sunni-Shiite tensions," and resolve matters related to the Cabinet and Parliament's roles, according to the source.Carried out by Berri's top aide Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil and former Prime Minister Saad Hariri's chief of staff Nader Hariri, the dialogue has achieved a breakthrough concerning the wage hike and the public sector wages payment matters. As a result of the negotiations, a parliamentary session will be held next week to pass draft laws for the two crucial policies, the source added.


Salam won’t call Cabinet without resolutions: sources
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Prime Minister Tammam Salam will not call for a Cabinet session this week, unless various components of his government agree to solve their differences, sources close to the premier told The Daily Star Sunday. The sources said Salam will only call for a session if agreement was reached over an array of pending issues -- including extra-budgetary spending, the appointment of deans to the Lebanese University’s council and the salaries of civil servants. Last week’s session fell short on resolving the array of pending issues. The sources said Salam was convinced that some components of his government sought to impede the work and productivity of the Cabinet. “Tensions reached their peak last week and Prime Minister Salam is highly aggravated,” one source said.
Although the source ruled out Salam’s intention to resign from his post, they disclosed that the Prime Minister has informed various groups that he would not accept that matters pertaining to the livelihood of the Lebanese to become overshadowed by political interests and bickering. The sources said that Salam had no intention to raise the issue of holding Cabinet sessions with any of the parties, adding that Salam refused to hold counterproductive government sessions. “Prime Minister Salam would like various groups to shoulder their responsibilities and find solutions to break the deadlock.”
“Therefore,” one source said. “The prime minister will not call for a session this week nor will he distribute the agenda of the session to ministers.” Following a governing mechanism established in light of the presidential void, Cabinet decisions and decrees require the approval of its 24 ministers.


Wildfire erupts in n. Lebanon
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: An enormous wildfire erupted in the forests near the northern village of Chekka Sunday, after several other blazes broke out around the country. Civil Defense teams spent hours battling the blaze, which broke out in Al-Shaqaa hills of the Hiri village near the Lady of Nouriyeh Marian shrine. Earlier, another fire started in an empty lot not far from fuel reservoirs and a main shopping center in Dora, on the northern outskirts of Beirut, but Civil Defense managed to extinguish it quickly. The National News Agency reported that a fire broke out in an agricultural area of Khaldeh, south of Beirut, around noon, and spread, fanned by strong winds and high temperatures. Wildfires constitute a seasonal menace in Lebanon, particularly this year following an unseasonally dry winter and hot summer.

UNIFIL urges maximum self-restraint along Lebanon-Israel border
Mohammed Zaatari| The Daily Star/TYRE, Lebanon: The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon urged the Lebanese and Israeli militaries to exercise “maximum self-restraint” and cooperate with UNIFIL to maintain calm on the border, after rockets were fired from Lebanon into Israel twice in less than 48 hours. Three rockets fired from south Lebanon hit northern Israel, triggering retaliatory artillery fire on the Lebanese border villages of Zebqin and Qulayleh, Lebanese security sources said. According to a UNIFIL statement, Acting Force Commander Brig. Gen. Tarundeep Kumar immediately established contact with senior commanders of the Lebanese and Israeli armies and urged them “to exercise maximum restraint, to cooperate with UNIFIL in order to prevent further escalation.”Efforts to locate the launch pads of rockets fired at northern Israel Saturday turned out to be an arduous task with the Lebanese Army only discovering them Sunday afternoon, security sources told The Daily Star.
The sources said the Army found the launch pads in a banana orchard in the valley of Ras al-Ain, three kilometers away from the Palestinian refugee camp of Rashidieh.
The UNIFIL statement said the peacekeeping force, in coordination with the Lebanese Army, is maintaining enhanced operational presence on the ground, and has intensified patrols across the area of operations to prevent any further incidents. “The parties have reaffirmed their commitment to the cessation of hostilities and are fully cooperating with UNIFIL in efforts to prevent any further incidents along the Blue Line,” the statement said. UNIFIL explained that the situation in the area was calmer, adding that it has launched an investigation into the incident “that amounted to a grave violation of UN Security Council resolution 1701 and endangered human lives.”Sirens resounded across the Israeli region of Nahariya after the rockets were fired from the valley of Qulayleh in south Lebanon. The incident came one day after rockets were fired on Israel from the southern region of Hasbaya. Nahariya is 12 kilometers (seven miles) away from the Lebanese border.
Israel swiftly responded with artillery fire on Zebqin and Qulayleh in the Tyre region. The area houses two Palestinian refugee camps; Bass and Rashidieh.
There has been no immediate claim of responsibility for the rocket attack and Hamas issued a statement denying that its armed wing, the Ezzeddine al-Qassam Brigades, carried out Saturday’s attack.
The Israeli military said that two rockets fired from Lebanon hit northern Israel late Saturday. No casualties were reported. On Friday, a member of Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya fired rockets at Israel, sources from the group told The Daily Star. They said the man acted of his own volition in solidarity with the people of Gaza against the ongoing Israeli offensive. The attack Friday morning triggered Israeli retaliatory artillery shelling of the Lebanese village of Kfar Shuba and heightened tensions on the generally calm border between the two countries.

Israel ramps up Gaza air strikes, tells Gazans to evacuate border areas, after Hamas’ blanket rocket fire on Tel Aviv. Rockets from Lebanon
DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis July 13, 2014/The Hamas-IDF contest spiraled to its highest level in three frantic hours Saturday night, July 12: Hamas hurled 10 rockets at the broader Tel Aviv area, after one-hour’s notice, and for the first time targeted the Modiin-Maccabim-Reut cluster of central Israel. The Israeli air force reacted with a heavy carpet bombardment the length and breadth of the Gaza Strip.
This aimed at achieving two military targets:
1. The “suppression of enemy forces” capable of disrupting an Israeli ground invasion if and when Prime Minister Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu approves this operation in the coming hours.
2. To pin the bulk of Hamas chiefs and forces operating out of bunkers underground and afraid of coming out to fight. This also applies to the large stocks of rocket launchers held below ground.
An Israeli military official told debkafile that the army had notified the Palestinian residents of the northern Gaza to evacuate their homes for their own safety, as the area would be hit with great force in the next 24 hours. This area served as the launching pad of the rocket blitz against Tel Aviv.
The official noted that Israel had in the Lebanon war employed the tactic of warning civilians in embattled areas to evacuate, so as to reduce collateral harm. This tactic was not being applied to the Gaza Strip for the first time.
In fact, debkafile reported on Thursday, July 10 that IDF notices were sent to 100,000 residents of the northern Gaza towns of Beit Lahiya, Beit Hanoun, Greater Ibsen and Smaller Ibsen, advising them to leave their homes and make for the beach or the south. At that time, the prime minister had not yet decided to order an IDF ground incursion of Gaza.
The repetition of this message to northern Gazans, and the heavy Israel Air Force bombardment Saturday night, strongly indicated that a decision to send the IDF into the Hamas enclave for ground assaults on pinpointed targets at predetermined locations.
Northern Israel was also attacked for the second time in two days with rocket fire from Lebanon. Sirens alerted Nahariya, Rosh Hanikra and Shlomi to the launching of three rockets from the al Qlalayleh Plain south of the coastal Lebanese town of Tyre.
debkafile reported earlier Saturday that for five days, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon had opted to confront Hamas rockets with Israel’s air force alone, without the IDF at large. They were not even willing to approve a small-scale raid by special forces for pinpointing a few key targets.
The Hamas blitz on Tel Aviv and subsequent celebration in Gaza Saturday night appear to have convinced Israel’s prime minister that without greater force by the IDF, Hamas would never stop shooting rockets.
Early Saturday, July 12, saw a few hours respite from Palestinian rocket fire before the first sirens starting wailing again in the western Negev and central Israel. The rockets fired during this week came in an ever widening arc. Israel air strikes wrought heavy surface damage to the Gaza Strip, but scarcely scratched its rocket capabilities.
Friday night, air strikes hit 60 Palestinian targets, mostly buried missile launchers and arms stores, one cached in the Nuseirat mosque, which was razed except for the minaret, and others in a school and three multistory buildings. Before they were bombed, civilians were warned to get out of harm’s way.
The IDF spokesman reported 10 “terrorists” killed, including rocket team leaders. The Palestinians report their total death toll had climbed to 121 and 900 injured.
Israel reported 750 Palestinian rockets launched in five days, with no fatalities, and 82 people injured, many of them suffering the effects of shock.
Five days after Operation Protective Edge was launched to terminate the Hams rocket offensive, it was beginning to be blunted by the fading prospect of ground action. The decision for the time being not to launch ground forces into the Gaza Strip to finish the job, by reaching the thousands of rockets concealed by Hamas and Jihad Islami underground was indicated by the news leaking out of the security and policy cabinet meeting held in Tel Aviv on Friday, July 11, and the words of Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz – “We stand ready for all possible action and await nothing more than a political decision.”
They reflected Netanyahu’s decision to hold off on a ground incursion, so long as Iron Dome batteries shoot rockets down before they hit population centers and cause fatalities, and Israelis remain remarkably obedient to the Home Command’s rules for keeping safe.
The prime minister exercised the same sort of restraint in meting out punishment to the same Hamas for abducting and murdering the three Israeli teenagers, Gil-Ad Shear, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach, whose bodies were discovered in a Palestinian West Bank village on June 27.
In the space of weeks, therefore, the Palestinian Islamist organization has twice got away with barbaric acts of terror without having to endure the full might of Israel’s armed forces.
This is consistent with the policies Netanyahu has pursued for five years.
In his televised news conference Friday, the prime minister publicly admitted for the first time the presence of al Qaeda forces around Israel’s borders – to the east, in Iraq and Jordan; to the north, in Syria and Lebanon; and to the south in the Gaza Strip and Sinai.
Although, he seemed to lump Hamas in with the looming Islamist menace, Netanyahu’s answers to reporters’ questions turned abruptly at this point to the issue of Judea and Samaria, left open by the breakdown of the umpteenth round of Israel-Palestinian peace talks earlier this year.
He stressed that in the current circumstances, it was incumbent on Israel to retain its armed forces in the West Bank. If Hamas was permitted to move in, it would “create 20 new Gazas on the West Bank,” he warned.
It may therefore be determined that the Netanyahu government has sketched in the lines of the end-game for Operation Protective Edge: Israel will abstain from a ground incursion and crushing Hamas rule of the Gaza Strip, but will claim in return international-Palestinian and pan-Arab sanction for the IDF to be assigned responsibility for the security of the Jordan Valley and Judea and Samaria.
This plan was behind Netanyahu’s comment Friday that the round of conversations he held with world leaders were “good” after which he pledged that “no international pressure would prevent us from acting against a terrorist organization aspiring to destroy us,” and “We will continue to defend our home front, the citizens of Israel, with resolve and prudence.”
What the prime minister appeared to be driving at was this: Israel would eradicate a major portion of Hamas’ military resources in Gaza but leave it in power - enfeebled and surrounded by Iron Dome batteries. IDF security control of the West Bank would be internationally accepted as the regional protector for holding al Qaeda belligerency back from swarming out of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.
Netanyahu’s plan provides Israel with an exit strategy from the Gaza operation, without requiring a ceasefire, which Hamas has anyway flatly refused to accept, except on ridiculously tall terms. But he will find his plan hard to sell outside Jerusalem. In any case, the events of Saturday show it is premature.


ISIS is not bad news!
Sunday, 13 July 2014
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
The bad news is the emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and the good news is also the emergence of ISIS. Look at the current ordeal from a different angle. Perhaps if we view this within the broader concept of the region’s, and the Muslim world’s, reality, the emergence of ISIS is not such a negative development as we imagine. The new organization, which is more extremist and brutal than al-Qaeda, came to save Muslims before the game ends. It faces everyone with their responsibilities and ends two dangerous states of contemporary thought in our region: indifference and political opportunism. The sweeping advance of ISIS fighters in Syria, Iraq and Yemen and the targeting of Turkish, Jordanian and Saudi borders sounded alarm bells across the world for the first time since the end of the 9/11 phase. Different civil and governmental powers woke up from their slumber to the news of consecutive victories of groups like ISIS, the al-Nusra Front and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. A state of alert reigned supreme because everyone witnessed that nothing seemed impossible for these groups. ISIS has grown because many of the world’s governments went into a deep sleep after they thought they had won the war against terrorism Everyone witnessed the big city of Mosul falling into their hands within hours and how an unknown man who stood on a podium, and who announced himself as the caliph of a billion Muslims, terrified people and defied all the region’s governments.
Thank you, ISIS
Thank you ISIS! Thank you al-Nusra Front! Thank you, al-Qaeda - the old organization. You woke up the sleeping bureaucrats, exposed extremists and hidden cells and ratcheted up the struggle between two camps of Muslims: extremists and non-extremists.Those harmed the most by the victories of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed caliph, and of Abu Mohammad al-Golani, the alleged rival caliph, are those who seek change. ISIS exposed extremists who walk among us and speak eloquently about freedom and democracy when their rhetoric is actually as fascist, takfirist and extremist as ISIS’!
ISIS’ sudden victory is like the Muslim Brotherhood’s victory in the Egyptian elections. ISIS leaders rush to rule the world just as President Mohammad Mursi rushed to dominate the state and eliminate everyone. Just like the Brotherhood’s negative actions pushed millions of Egyptians to demand its ouster, millions of Muslims are currently appealing to be rescued from ISIS and similar groups.
The stances of Arab and Muslim intellectuals, who were willing to co-exist with extremists, have changed. The majority today realize the size of the threat as videos of ISIS’ recreational activities of slaughter, captivity and destruction go viral.
ISIS intimidation
ISIS intimidated opportunists, politicians and governmental figures alike. They’ve realized this beast is too big to be controlled and that it will eliminate them if they try. They’ve realized that the public opinion has turned against religious extremists and that they have no other choice but to side against these destructive movements.
The opportunism of politicians, who court extremists’ movements to win their support, is one reason this ideology became popular, gained legitimacy and then spread. This happened at a time when states need civil development on both the social and institutional levels. ISIS has grown because many of the world’s governments went into a deep sleep after they thought they had won the war against terrorism. But then the nightmare returned and extremists’ victories woke up all civil and governmental authorities. If it hadn’t been for ISIS, we may have died like frogs who are cooked alive in a pot on a low heat and who don’t feel the temperature rising until they are about to die. Confronting ISIS is not effectively done by fighting it in Iraq’s Anbar province, or Syria’s Deir al-Zour or Yemen’s Jawf but by fighting it from the inside first. This must be done in Muslim countries, or even China and Europe where the extremist ideology found its way into the psyche of Muslim minority communities.


Israel makes first ground incursion in Gaza
By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News/Sunday, 13 July 2014
Israeli navy commandos launched a ground operation overnight in the north of the Gaza Strip, the first since the offensive against Hamas began, Israeli public radio said early Sunday. The brief incursion targeted a rocket launcher site, it said in statements quoted by Agence France-Presse. The armed branch of Hamas confirmed that Israeli commandos had exchanged gunfire with some Palestinian fighters during a raid on the coast of the Gaza Strip on Sunday. The incident is considered the first such gunfight of a six-day Israeli offensive on the territory aimed at stopping Palestinian rocket fire.
The Israeli force was attacking a site in northern Gaza used to launch long-range rockets when it came under fire, a military statement said. The commandos returned fire and managed to hit the launch site, the statement said, adding that four soldiers were lightly wounded in the clash. Hamas said its fighters had fired at the Israeli force offshore, preventing them from landing. On Sunday, two Gaza rockets were also shot down over the greater Tel Aviv area by the Iron Dome anti-missile system, the army said, after at least three explosions shook the area. “Iron Dome intercepted two rockets over the Tel Aviv metropolitan area,” the army said, several hours after another two rockets were intercepted over Lod, very close to Israel’s main international airport. Israel says a ground invasion of Gaza remains an option, and it has already mobilized about 20,000 reservists to do so, but most attacks have so far been from the air, hitting some 1,200 targets in the territory. The Islamist group Hamas, which dominates Gaza, has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel, striking deeper in the country than ever before. The cross-border violence shows no signs of abating despite mounting international pressure on both sides to end the violence. The U.N. Security Council called for a cessation of hostilities and Western Foreign Ministers were due to meet on Sunday to discuss the need for a ceasefire. Still sirens went off throughout the night in Israel, sending residents running for safe rooms and bomb shelters. Israeli aircraft carried out a series of attacks in Gaza, including against a police headquarters and a security compound, Palestinian officials said. Israeli strikes on Gaza killed a teenager and a woman on Sunday, medics said, raising the overall death toll to 166 as the punishing air campaign entered its sixth day. Israel says Hamas puts innocent Gazans in harm's way by placing weaponry and gunmen in residential areas. A senior Israeli military officer said aircraft had aborted "hundreds" of strikes to avoid collateral damage and that targets bombed were meant to impact Hamas fire capacity. No Israeli has been killed by the cascade of Hamas rockets, many of which were shot down above Israeli towns by Iron Dome, a partly U.S.-funded interceptor system. Israel rushed an eighth Iron Dome into service on Saturday to counter stronger-than-expected rocket fire from Gaza. Fire was also exchanged across Israel's northern border.
Rockets fired late on Saturday from Lebanon hit Israel, and the military said it responded with artillery fire at the source of the launch. Southern Lebanon is a stronghold of Hezbollah, a Shi'ite Muslim group that battled Israel seven years ago and is engaged in Syria's civil war in support of President Bashar al-Assad; but there are also Palestinian groups in the same area. Hamas claimed responsibility for the rocket fire from Lebanon, though it was unclear what kind of influence or presence the Islamist group had there. (with AFP and Reuters)


Saddam’s deputy: Baghdad will soon be liberated
By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News/Sunday, 13 July 2014
The fugitive former powerful deputy of Iraq's executed President Saddam Hussein has released an audio recording urging all Iraqis to join efforts to “liberate” the country and praised Sunni militants who led last month’s dramatic offensive through northern Iraq. The recording features a 15-minute speech in a raspy voice purported to be that of 72-year-old Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, who was Iraq’s vice-president when U.S.-led coalition forces invaded in 2003. The recording, which could not be immediately confirmed to be that of al-Douri, was released on a website loyal to Saddam’s ousted Baath Party.
“Join the ranks of the rebels who liberated half the country,” said the voice on the recording, which sounded much like previous tapes released in Douri’s name. “The liberation of Baghdad is around the corner. Everyone should contribute, to the extent of his ability, to complete the liberation of the beloved country, because there is no honor or dignity without its liberation.” The voice in the recording also praised the “heroes and knights of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS)” as well as other groups fighting the “Persian, Safavid colonization” of Iraq, a reference to the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. But he also hinted at the increasingly evident divisions among the various groups fighting Maliki’s forces, saying it was important to put off their differences in the interests of unity. Within three weeks of taking control of the northern city of Mosul, ISIS militants began arresting senior ex-military officers and members of the Baath Party, residents and relatives said.
Militants try to reach Baghdad Meanwhile, militants seized part of the Iraqi town of Dhuluiyah Sunday in fighting that killed six people, an official said, as a new drive towards the capital entered its third day, Agence France-Presse reported. Four policemen were among the dead in the fighting for the town, which the militants took in a lightning offensive last month before its recapture by government forces in one of their rare successes of the conflict, district official Marwan Mitaab said. The assault on the town, just 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Baghdad, began early on Sunday and has since overrun more than half of it, including the police station and two local government buildings, Mitaab said.  A Dhuluiyah resident said that a large part of the town has been overrun, reversing gains made by police and residents, who expelled militants from the town last month. After a period in which battle lines have been relatively stagnant, jihadist-led militants seem to be making a renewed push to gain ground, after overrunning a vast swathe of northern and north-central Iraq in their offensive that began in second city Mosul on June 9. (With Reuters and AFP)


Boko Haram voices support for ISIS’ Baghdadi
AFP /Sunday, 13 July 2014/The head of Nigeria's Boko Haram Islamists, Abubakar Shekau, has voiced support for the extremist Sunni Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group, which has taken over large swathes of Iraq and Syria, in a new video seen Sunday. "My brethren... may Allah protect you," Shekau said in the video given to AFP, listing ISIS chief, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Al-Qaeda head Ayman al-Zawahiri and Taliban leader Mullah Omar.



ISIS digs up dollars: extremists loot antiquities
By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News/Sunday, 13 July 2014
Fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have reportedly been on a looting spree, ransacking the areas under their control, according to UK-based The Sunday Times.
ISIS has been “digging up” archeological sites and “selling” their findings abroad, according to the report.
The militant group is imposing a “tax” on looted antiquities in the vast region of Syria and Iraq under its control, which was ancient Mesopotamia, according to a Syrian visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania, United States. The academic stated that local ISIS leaders govern the tax rates and anyone that refuses to pay is killed, according to the report.
“What we learnt suggests that Isis is involved in illicit antiquities trading, but in a way . . . more complex and insidious than that reported to date,” Professor Amr al-Azm told the newspaper.
The main market is in Tel Abyad, an ISIS outpost on the Syrian-Turkish border, according to the Sunday Times.
“ISIS clearly is involved and profiting at every level, from extraction to final sale and exit from ISIS territory,” al-Azm added. “The damage is phenomenal. They’re not only digging up known sites; they’re bulldozing everything.”Nada al-Hassan, head of the Arab states unit at UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre, described an Assyrian black basalt royal stele from the 8th century BC that the London auction house Bonhams removed from sale in April after estimating its value at up to £795,000.
“That was intercepted by Interpol,” she said, adding that it was a “success story” because there was proof that ISIS had been responsible for digging it up.
So far, fighters have spared the Mosul museum – which was heavily ransacked in the wake of the 2003 U.S. invasion – yet locals residents say that they have destroyed the 13th century tomb of the historian Ali ’Izz al-Din Ibn al-Athir al- Jazari, who travelled with the Islamic sultan, Saladin.
A rigid interpretation of Sunni Islam condemns the worshipping of saints, and shrines to be a form of idolatry.
“We heard a pledge that they won’t harm anything in Mosul, but with our experience with what happened in Syria and other places, you can’t be an optimist,” said the Iraq office of UNESCO in a statement.

Palestinian resistance, the necessity of three fronts
Linah Alsaafin/Open Democracy/12 July 2014
Something must be done about Israel’s number one ally, the Palestinian Authority, otherwise what we are witnessing today will be merely another flare-up, as opposed to a turning point for decolonization and the beginning of an end to the occupation.
“When people saw what had happened to my son, men stood up who had never stood up before.”
This famous quote belongs to Mamie Till-Mobley, after her 14 year old son Emmett was brutally murdered in 1955 Mississippi. An all-white jury acquitted his murderers. Nearly 60 years later, the lynching of a 16 year old Palestinian boy by Israeli settlers took place in Jerusalem. Mohammed Abu Khdeir was kidnapped, forced to drink gasoline, and was burned alive.
Mainstream media similarly acquitted the state of Israel, conveniently ignoring the racist, ethnocentric, and colonial ideology the state is premised upon. Reports circulated that Abu Khdeir’s murder was a ‘revenge killing’ after three settlers, reported missing for three weeks, were found dead on June 30. Palestinians took to the streets in outrage, yet the reaction of the de facto president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas was at the very least insipid. His response came almost a week after the lynching, when he announced he had sought help to form an international committee to investigate Israeli crimes against Palestinians. Such a dry proposition is in stark contrast to his words when it came to the three missing settlers. Then, he stressed their humanity and openly defended the security coordination with Israel, during the latter's biggest incursion into the West Bank in over a decade.
With the mainstream media labelling Abu Khdeir’s killers as ‘extremist,’ this has sought only to absolve the Israeli public and the state from the crime of what they represent: a colonizing, occupying, bigoted entity. As Palestinian writer Khaled Odetallah pointed out, using the word 'extremist' to describe an unruly pack of settlers is nothing but a mechanism for regarding the other Israeli population as natural, and discounting the blatant racism that is inherent in all colonizing entities.
Jerusalem and '48
Mohammed Abu Khdeir’s lynching released an unprecedented wave of angry protests that has quickly spread from his hometown of Shuafat to other neighbourhoods in Jerusalem, and to Palestinian towns and villages in modern day ‘Israel.’ Since July 3, thousands protested across the Galilee, as initial confrontations took place between Palestinians and Israeli police in Nazareth, Arara, Umm al-Fahem, Taybeh, and Qalanswa. Tires were burned, tear gas and rubber bullets were fired, and chants resonated with the cry “The people demand the demise of Israel.”
As the days stretched out to complete one week since Abu Khdeir’s death, protests sprung up in other villages in the Galilee, referred to as the Triangle, such as Tamra, Deir Hanna, Kufr Manda, Baqa al-Gharbiyeh, Shifa Amro, Iblein, Sakhnin, Arraba al-Batouf, and Jadeeda al-Makr. The cities of Haifa and Akka also held protests, as well as Bi’r Sabe’ and Rahat in the southern Naqab desert. On Saturday, hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets in Yafa after Israeli settlers attacked a few Palestinian homes in the old city. Palestinians are in the throes of direct protests against the state that has allocated Israeli citizenship to the 1.6 million Palestinians, but which systematically discriminates against them and regards them with a mixture of fear and suspicion. Hundreds have been arrested, including dozens of minors, and more than one hundred remain in detention.
Gaza assault
On Monday night, July 7, Israel announced its incursion into Gaza, the most densely populated territory in the world. This came after it had already killed ten people the day before. In the first 24 hours of the bombing campaign, called Protective Edge by the Israeli army, 24 Palestinians were killed, including eight children. Civilian homes such as the Hamad family home in Beit Hanoun and the Kaware’ and Abadleh family homes in Khan Yunis were targeted by air strikes and destroyed with “surgical precision”, a phrase popular with warmongers and military officials.
The resistance in Gaza, comprised of the military wings of the various political factions, responded with a barrage of rockets that for the first time proved their long-range capabilities, hitting Khadera, which is 113 kilometers away from Gaza. Gaza's resistance tactics have surpassed the imagination of Israel, with a navy commando unit storming the Zikim military base after swimming there from Gaza. The Israeli government ordered the bomb shelters for its citizens to open, as air sirens went off from Sderot to Isdoud to Jerusalem to Tel Aviv and further north, near the city of Haifa.
Abu Obeida, the spokesperson for the Hamas resistance al-Qassam brigades, listed in a brief press conference last Friday the conditions Israel must fulfil in order to stop the rockets. The first is for Israel to cease its aggression in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and the ’48 occupied territories. The second demands that Israel release the former prisoners who were released in the 2011 prisoner swap deal but who were re-arrested in droves during the recent massive military raid on the West Bank last month. The Israeli government is already pushing for a bill to approve that these prisoners should serve out the remainder of their original sentences once they get re-arrested. Hamas will decide when to start and when to stop, not anyone else, despite Israeli prime minister Netanyahu declaring that he will “intensify attacks” in Gaza, and despite the support of western governments such as that of David Cameron, who promptly reiterated the UK’s staunch support for Israel.
Israel has boasted that it has launched air strikes on more than 400 sites in Gaza, where 1.7 million people, 75 percent of whom are women and children, reside in an area that is 365 kilometers squared. The strip has been targeted with 4000 tons of explosives, with an Israeli air strike occurring on average every four and a half minutes. The death toll has already surpassed 120. The last large scale attack on Gaza was in November 2012, where 173 Palestinians were killed, including 38 children.
Outsourcing the West Bank
In the middle of all of this, the West Bank remains conspicuously quiet. The protests by the shabab last month against the Israeli army as the latter swept through towns and villages, wreaking havoc, arresting hundreds, and killing six have subsided since the army nominally withdrew. It is well known that the resistance rockets from Gaza are no match for a heavily subsidized, professionalised, and technologically developed military, which forms the standing pillar of the state of Israel.
Rockets are part of the resistance, as are the protests in the ’48 territories. Yet without depriving Israel of its number one ally, the Palestinian Authority, what we are witnessing today will be merely another flare-up as opposed to a turning point for decolonization and the beginning of an end to the occupation. Mahmoud Abbas’ conduct and reaction has done him no favours as regards the recent events, and his speech at the normalizing Herzliyya “peace conference” where he begged Israelis to not miss his outstretched hand for peace is nothing but grovelling to the enemy, in the very same moment that homes in Gaza were being destroyed with their families still inside them. On Friday, Abbas' interview with PA-run Palestine TV insinuated that the resistance rockets from Gaza were pointless, and that he prefers to fight with politics and wisdom.
These events represent a period of escalated action, yet for the status quo to be truly smashed, the West Bank must rise up against the Palestinian Authority, effectively getting rid of the infamous security coordination with Israel, and replacing neoliberalism with a representative anti-occupation programme that is intolerant of oppression and colonization.
Otherwise, Hamas and Israel will sign another empty truce after the former incurs heavy losses on its side with no formal guarantee that Israel will not immediately violate it as it has in 2008 and again in 2012, and the demonstrations within the ’48 occupied territories will be hijacked or co-opted by the older generation of “Israeli-fied” Palestinians such as Ali Sallam (member of the Nazareth municipality who described the protesters as hooligans and thugs) and will fizzle out.
What cannot be ignored is that the PA has created an entire sector of society that benefits from its relations with Israel, and the fear barrier regarding its notorious intelligence and security services has not been broken. The West Bank has been reduced to a shadow of its self as the Palestinian cause was transformed into coffeehouse conversations, rather than actions targeted at the oppressive force of Israel and its collaborators. Yet as the resistance rockets are met with gleeful support by Palestinians across the country, the PA are already caught up in irrelevancy. The PLO as the sole and legitimate representative of Palestinians has been exposed as toothless, since the Palestinians in “Israel” resisting against the occupation serve as a reminder that their identity first and foremost, despite the passport imposed on them, will be Arab Palestinians. Widespread support among Palestinians across the country for the resistance is mounting, leaving the PA's fallacious and empty rhetoric of peaceful negotiations and security collaboration in a very tight space indeed, not to mention a strong sense of the inappropriate.
The Palestinian Authority has once again shown that it exists solely to maintain Israel’s security over and over again. This physical domination is coupled with a disastrous neoliberal order used to pacify and oppress Palestinians who demand to live with dignity. This is not the place to discuss strategies and plans on how to resist the PA; it is primarily crucial to acknowledge that precisely because of its deep entrenchment in Palestinian society in the West Bank, any movement aimed at dismantling it will constitute a social, economic, and political revolution in itself.
Already recent protests in Hebron, Jenin, Nablus and the outskirts of Ramallah have been suppressed by the Palestinian Authority security forces, an extension of the Israeli army. Protesters in an apparently planned attack on Friday night descended upon Qalandiya checkpoint with molotovs and fireworks, catching the Israeli soldiers there by surprise. Yet the PA apparatus must also be simultaneously targeted in order to achieve and affect real change. As the popular quote goes, “If I had ten bullets I’d fire one at my enemy, and nine for the traitors.”

The security dilemma, the media and the Israeli bombardment
Gilbert Ramsay/12 July 2014 /Open Democracy
If you care about human life you should be appalled by what is happening in Gaza right now. But you should also be appalled if you are a hardheaded political realist. Or even if you simply love Israel.
At the time I write this, ninety Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, and no Israelis killed by Gazan rockets. There is plenty of moral indignation about this unpleasant fact. As Chomsky put it:
Israel uses sophisticated attack jets and naval vessels to bomb densely-crowded refugee camps, schools, apartment blocks, mosques, and slums to attack a population that has no air force, no air defense, no navy, no heavy weapons, no artillery units, no mechanized armor, no command in control, no army… and calls it a war. It is not a war, it is murder.
The narrative of defenceless Palestinians being massacred by the vastly richer, vastly more powerful Israelis is a compelling one for all those who care about human life. And yet even this narrative, used in a certain way, can be read as a subtle example of the subtle pro-Israeli bias that predominates in much western media. Why so?
The moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt argues that the ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ tendencies that characterise much of political discourse not only in his own country, the United States, but increasingly throughout the rest of the developed world, are understandable in terms of the way that they seek to activate different fundamental ‘bases’ of human morality. Liberals, Haidt believes, are concerned primarily with care, fairness and liberation. Conservatives want these things too – but usually only for a particular in-group, which they define in terms of a different moral vocabulary, rooted in culturally constructed, but ultimately primal notions of purity, authority and loyalty.
When ‘liberals’ read about one side killing 90 people with advanced weaponry, and the other side killing no people with primitive weaponry, they naturally root for the underdog. In doing so, however, they play right into the hands of those with ‘conservative’ political sensibilities. After all, ‘all’s fair in love and war’. And if leftists (it’s a bit daft to call a radical anarchist like Chomsky a ‘liberal’, but he is for the purposes of the argument here) say it isn’t war, then hardline conservatives beg to differ. Read the words, for example, of ultra-hardline Knesset member Ayelet Shaked:
The Palestinian people has declared war on us, and we must respond with war. Not an operation, not a slow-moving one, not low-intensity, not controlled escalation, no destruction of terror infrastructure, no targeted killings. Enough with the oblique references. This is a war. Words have meanings. This is a war. It is not a war against terror, and not a war against extremists, and not even a war against the Palestinian Authority. These too are forms of avoiding reality. This is a war between two peoples. Who is the enemy? The Palestinian people. Why? Ask them, they started it.
The logic here is grotesque, but there is a logic, somewhere. If you have two groups, each one perceiving itself to be in an existential struggle with the other, then the idea that you would voluntarily restrain yourself arguably makes not that much sense. Why should Israel restrain its firepower just because Hamas doesn’t have access to the same firepower? War isn’t pistols at dawn. It isn’t cricket.
Of course, this is an example of foaming at the mouth fundamentalism that few will sympathise with. But a more insidious version of basically the same logic comes up in the ‘security dilemma’ claims that deeply permeate the way that our media presents Palestine and Israel. According to this narrative, Israel is stuck in an unfortunate catch-22 situation. It knows that its occupation is breeding misery and extremism. It wants to withdraw. But it can’t, because the very extremism which occupation produces means that if it loosens its grip, it will expose itself to devastating attacks by an unrelenting opponent.
Of course, Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is simply illegal. Technically, refusing to withdraw on these grounds is a bit like saying that you won’t give back the plasma tv you stole because you’ve tried watching cheaper models, but it hasn’t really worked out for you. Being realistic, however, the security dilemma argument looks compelling. It looks compelling because security dilemmas are good stories. They are plausible – we’ve all experienced something similar in microcosm. They offer a realistic a priori account of human motivation. They explain why good people might have to do bad things. And they don’t force us to demonise one side or the other.
So, the security dilemma argument, placed side by side with the asymmetric killing argument sets up the Palestine-Israel issue in terms of the consumer market in political opinions that we are all familiar with. If your politics are shaped by the ‘care’ instinct, then you will probably empathise (all things being equal) with dead Palestinian children. You don’t need, then, to worry too much with the wrongs and rights that got things to that point. If you think of yourself as still compassionate, but a bit tougher minded, then you will go with the ‘tragedy’ narrative, and perhaps lament the lack of ‘leadership’ on ‘both sides’. If, finally, you are a hard core political partisan on one side or the other, then you will simply pick your team and stick to it through thick and thin.
Either way, each market sector can be comfortable with its choice, knowing the dispositions that have accounted for its own choice, and the contrasting dispositions that have accounted for others’ choices. And there is, of course, another winner from all this: the incumbent power, (Israel, in this instance) which gets to keep the status quo.
What is obscured in all this, is that the central issue is not really a security dilemma at all. We do not have a conflict, but rather a colonisation. Israel is not occupying the West Bank to protect Israel (were that so, Israelis would have given up tolerating the expense long ago). It is occupying the West Bank to protect the infrastructure of Israeli settlements that crisscross and cut up the West Bank. It is laying siege to Gaza, choking it just short of death, not to prevent Hamas from getting the wherewithal to build rockets, but to collectively punish its citizens for refusing to recognise Israel’s ‘right to exist’ or, nowadays its ‘right to exist as a Jewish state’. (There is also the small matter of the gas fields in Gaza’s territorial waters which Israel is presently selling off permits to develop).
It is bombing Gaza not because of rockets, but as part of a broader campaign to undo the remarkable achievement of the Palestinian authority in reconciling Hamas to a project of moderation and Palestinian national unity. And when I say ‘Israel’, that conceals the fact that this is really being done by a narrow elite made up of politicians, the military, and the hi-tech arms industry who grow ever richer in a country which is one of the most unequal in the developed world.
If you care about human life you should be appalled by what is happening in Gaza right now. But you should also be appalled if you are a hardheaded political realist. Or even if you simply love Israel.

ISIS and the potential for toxic warfare
Sunday, 13 July 2014/Dr. Theodore Karasik/Al Arabiya
Reports over the past few days of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) capturing chemical and uranium compounds is bringing to light the issue of how violent terrorist groups may use such materials for nefarious purposes. If ISIS incorporates these materials into its capabilities and can justify their use, it means Caliph Ibrihim and his lieutenants will find an important tool that can cause psychological panic. Neighboring states and the international community need to be fully aware of the potential impact and be ready to implement mitigation strategies necessary to halt this potentially destructive problem, resulting in potential “Toxic Warfare” scenarios.
ISIS appears to have an increased interest in weapons that incorporate harmful materials that are inexpensive and relatively easy to acquire. Such “toxic weapons” provide a means for non-state actors - in this case ISIS - to improve their capabilities to achieve goals within the context of asymmetrical warfare. In basic terms, toxic warfare refers to the use of chemicals or harmful materials to hurt or alter the behavior of an opponent during kinetic operations. Toxic warfare does not, however, require the use of traditional weapons but seeks to psychologically damage an opponent and create havoc.
ISIS can use substances with profound psychological impact and based on their superior information campaigns, will know how to capitalize on any potential use with full effect
Toxic warfare can be used by both state and non-state actors to achieve a number of objectives. Toxic warfare can cause casualties among opposing militaries by incapacitating and, in some cases, killing the adversary. Toxic warfare can also halt or force delays in military logistics flows or operations and can disrupt the functioning of the urban infrastructure through contamination or corrosion. ISIS can perhaps use toxic warfare for a strategic advantage in their holy war against their enemies.
Power from uncertainty
Toxic weapons can, moreover, derive power from the uncertainty that stems from their potential use. Toxic substances often represent an unknown threat, and the level of uncertainty surrounding the potential damage these substances might cause can increase their impact even when little or no physical harm has been done. ISIS can use substances with profound psychological impact and based on their superior information campaigns, will know how to capitalize on any potential use with full effect.
Now let’s turn to two major events that occurred within 48 hours of each other. In mid-June, ISIS captured the Muthanna site, 56 kilometers north of Baghdad. This achievement, only reported in the open press recently, asserted that ISIS militants now had access to Sarin and Mustard gas. Muthanna was Saddam Hussein’s main chemical weapons facilities and was used to store the remainder of the former despot’s stockpile. But the Sarin and Mustard gas is not of concern here because of degraded composition. Instead, sodium cyanide is the main risk. According to a Jordanian official, ISIS took a large quantity of sodium cyanide from Muthanna which is a very toxic chemical and a precursor for the warfare agent tabun. During the American occupation, the tabun-filled containers were all treated with decontamination solution and likely no longer contain any agent, but “the residue of this decontamination would contain cyanides, which would still be a hazard.” This cyanide can be potentially used to poison water supplies with toxic results and creating general panic.
Iraqi government appeal
Less than 24 hours later, news of an Iraqi government appeal dated July 8 to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, appeared in the mass media. The Iraqi government asked for international help in regarding 40kg of uranium compounds stolen by ISIS from Mosul University. Iraq’s ambassador to the U.N., Mohammad Ali al-Hakim said that “terrorist groups have seized control of nuclear material at the sites that came out of the control of the state.” At first glance, the uranium in question appears to be used by Mosul University faculty in determining the impact of U.S. use of Depleted Uranium (DU) shells on, for instance, local flora and fauna.
However, the tone of the request seemed to be almost alarmist for simple uranium. The Russian press picked up the Iraqi concern while the Western press downplayed the event. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said “the sheer fact that the terrorists ... show unmistakable interest in nuclear and chemical materials is, of course, very alarming.”
Maybe the Kremlin should be concerned. After all, any ISIS chemical and uranium agents are indeed in Moscow’s area of worry both geographically and logistically given the presence of Chechen leader Abu Umar al-Shishani. According to an Arab official, shockingly, the material taken from Mosul University was Plutonium 238: “It came from Ukraine in 2011 via personnel at the Vostochny Integrated Mining and Concentrating Plant (VostGOK). It is completely illegal and was brought via Turkey to Iraq for use for ‘eventual Sunni/Saddamist enrichment’. The material got into Iraq through the black market with middlemen and transport without inspection. The Mosul University work on DU studies was a cover.” If true, this story adds an additional danger to ISIS’ capabilities as well as their ability to create a Radioactive Dispersal Device (RDD) which is capable of spreading panic and making a unholy mess via a vaporization process. If not true, then there are certainly questions to be asked regarding Mosul University’s security procedures, along with missing government oversight, for their experiments given that the uranium compounds are toxic.
Overall, the events of the last weeks regarding ISIS’s growing holdings of toxic substances raises the question of how they will be used. The group clearly has extreme violence in its portfolio of weapons, and toxic warfare should not be ruled out. Chemical and radiation detection will be a necessity with clear civil defense procedures in place. In the Levant, this type of response may be practically impossible to implement and therefore regional and international powers may have to intervene either before it’s too late or to clean-up the resulting poisonous disorder. As a warning from ISIS, the first issue of the Caliphate’s English language magazine, Dabiq, said “tawahhush” (mayhem) is necessary.


A difficult phase for Iran’s nuclear and regional ambitions
Sunday, 13 July 2014
By: Raghida Dergham/Al Arabiya
The current phase is not convenient for the Islamic Republic of Iran: nuclear negotiations with the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) have stalled and the desired agreement may not be reached by the deadline set on July 20. The events in Iraq will further weaken Iran if the Sunni uprising against the government of Nouri al-Maliki moves against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in coordination with the United States, as it had done previously with the tribal Sahawat (Awakenings). The developments in Gaza have implicated Iran through the rockets used by Hamas in its battle with Israel, as Israel accuses Iran of supplying those rockets to Hamas and is inciting the U.S. Congress against Tehran. Iran’s main ally Hezbollah is coming under renewed pressure and attempts to blockade it financially by the United States and the Gulf nations, and, relatively speaking, it is under siege on the ground in Syria and Lebanon, with the changing features of crossings and borders there. In Syria, where Iran is sparing no means to keep President Bashar al-Assad in power, there are signs of new U.S. policies that depart from the traditional policies of the Obama administration vis-à-vis Syria and the Syrian opposition.
Iran wants the sanctions to be lifted as part of an agreement, but Obama is unable to offer anything more than to waive the enforcement of some of the sanctions imposed on Iran by presidential decree
As concerns the nuclear negotiations taking place in Vienna, which have reached a crucial stage, there are two major differences between the U.S. and Iranian positions, namely: first, Iran’s determination to be in possession of “breakout” nuclear capability that will enable it to acquire nuclear weapons within mere months, while President Obama is unable to go to Congress and the American people requesting their approval for a deal that would make Iran a legitimate nuclear power. And second, Iran wants the sanctions to be lifted as part of an agreement, but Obama is unable to offer anything more than to waive the enforcement of some of the sanctions imposed on Iran by presidential decree.
Constrained by domestic politics
Dr. Gary Samore, former adviser to President Obama on weapons of mass destruction, said in a telephone interview organized by the Clarion Project with diplomats and journalists, “Both sides are very constrained by domestic politics. President Obama can’t sell a nuclear deal to Congress if it allows Iran to retain a credible nuclear weapons option, and President [Hassan] Rowhani cannot sell a nuclear deal to Supreme Leader Khamenei if it requires Iran to give up its nuclear weapons option.”
Samore is strongly opposed to Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. He is the president of United Against Nuclear Iran and the executive director for research at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government. Dr. Samore expects that in the event a final deal is not reached, the interim agreement would be extended and renewed for another six months, as this would serve the interests of both sides: Iran would get more gradual sanction relief without abandoning its nuclear program, while the United States (and its allies) would succeed in continuing to freeze the most important part of Iran’s nuclear program.
In Dr. Samore’s view, Iran “will not make any significant concessions” in the nuclear negotiations until the picture becomes clearer in terms of American-Russian relations in light of the developments in Ukraine. Tehran, according to Samore, believes that open disputes between the United States and Russia weakens the consensus within the P5+1 countries (the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany) on demanding concessions from Iran. Ultimately, breaking this consensus and the unity among the P5 +1 is an Iranian desire.
Dr. Samore also believes that Supreme Leader Khamenei has realized the credibility of the U.S. military option, and therefore accepted rapprochement, tasking President Rowhani to handle nuclear negotiations - but not other outstanding issues - with the United States. For this reason, he will continue to be engaged in the negotiations because it helps him at least to stave off economic disaster from Iran, bearing in mind that lifting the sanctions reinforces Iran’s stability to some extent without it having to give up its nuclear ambitions.
But Iran has so far failed to convince major international companies to return to do business in the country before a final nuclear deal is concluded. The United States had imposed sanctions on Iran under six laws, some related to its nuclear program and others to Iranian support for Hezbollah and Hamas, or human rights abuses inside Iran.
Overcoming the obstacles
It is not clear how the Obama administration would overcome the obstacles created by these laws and distinguish between one and the other. Obviously, the most severe sanctions that Tehran wants to get rid of are those that prevent foreign (non-American) companies from dealing with Iran, or otherwise be punished by a U.S. boycott.
The greatest damage to the Iranian economy is caused by U.S. efforts that restrict Iran’s oil exports and Iran’s access to hard currency, as Iran is subject to sanctions that block its access to oil revenues.
Iran wants the sanctions to be lifted completely when a nuclear deal is reached. But this is something that Iran is not going to get, according to Dr. Samore and other experts. The reason is that Iran is calling on the United States to withdraw or cancel sanctions under a new law, which requires the approval of Congress to pass a new law revoking old ones, including the D’Amato Act, which links sanctions on foreign companies to Iranian foreign policy, particularly with regard to its support for Hezbollah and Hamas.
The best President Obama can offer, according to Samore, is to exercise his powers to waive the enforcement of sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program every six months. But in theory, Congress can challenge this as well if it obtains the support of two thirds of its members.
Therefore, there are two main - Iranian-American - hurdles in the nuclear negotiations: First, Iran wants a deal to give it legitimate nuclear “breakout” capacity, something that the United States cannot agree to nor Barack Obama can sell to congress or even the public that supports his appeasement of Iran; and second, Iran wants from the Obama administration things that the U.S. president cannot deliver no matter how much he may want to.
A natural partner?
In Iraq, Tehran tried to market itself as a natural partner for Washington to crush ISIS and combat Sunni terrorism in Iraq. In the beginning, Iran was able to mobilize support for such a partnership, especially in the media. But it soon became clear to Washington that the best partner to crush ISIS would be Iraqi Sunnis.
Washington realized that it still has ties to Iraqi Sunnis who had helped Gen. David Petraeus in the tribal Awakenings operations against al-Qaeda, as these people are well known to Washington.
If Iraqi Sunnis will be able to defeat ISIS and establish their own government instead of the “emirate” or the “caliphate” in Mosul, this would enable Washington to deal with the tribal Awakenings, as well as Saudi and Jordan, to push for a deal between Mosul and Baghdad for power sharing. This would most certainly hurt Iran, because it would involve weakening its influence and its project, and force Nouri al-Maliki to step down.
In Syria, Washington is aware that is policies there have failed, having ignored for years the moderate Sunni elements in the Syrian opposition. For this reason, Washington is recalculating, and reviewing the nature of its relationship with the Syrian opposition from the standpoint of the balance of power on the ground. There are indications that Washington is convinced that it would not be in its interests to collaborate with the regime in Damascus and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) to combat Sunni or Salafist terrorism. Washington is assessing where its interests lie, but also the need to crush the terrorism growing in Syria before it reaches its home soil. Washington believes that this requires a partnership with the Sunni majority in Syria rather than the Alawi minority, according to sources.
There is also the Palestinian-Israeli event, where Israel is crying foul over the rockets launched by Hamas and supplied by Iran. This comes in the midst of the nuclear negotiations that President Obama wants to culminate in a deal, without being hindered by Congress, where an overwhelming majority declares that Israel is a priority and an unparalleled ally in the Middle East.
It is a difficult phase for Iranian aspirations then, whether nuclear, regional, or bilateral at the level of the relationship with the United States. However, this does not mean the end of the rapprochement between Washington and Tehran, and does not mean at all that Barack Obama intends to give up his goal to achieve a historical deal with Iran.
Most probably, the nuclear talks would continue if no final deal is reached by the end of next week. Most likely, all players would prefer the continuation of the status quo where Iranian nuclear capacities are frozen to the satisfaction of Western powers, and sanctions are eased gradually to the benefit of Iran. To be sure, the Obama administration and Rowhani’s government do not want to sever the bilateral engagement that had begun between them publicly for the first time in decades - with the consent of Supreme Leader Khamenei.
Still, all this does not mean either than it is going to be impossible to reach a nuclear deal by July 20. Negotiations are ongoing, and interested parties are determined to make them work - each for its own reasons.
Regarding the American blessing of Iran’s regional ambitions, this, ostensibly, and perhaps out of necessity, is undergoing revision because of the conditions imposed on the ground.
At home, President Obama will not be able to obscure developments on the ground from Congress, and he will unable to guarantee that his policies would not bring back terrorism to the U.S. homeland. It is for this reason that he is hedging his bets. Indeed, the last thing he wants is for his legacy to be having brought back terrorism to American cities, as a result of his isolationism and aversion to war, when his predecessor George W. Bush had declared that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan succeeded in taking the war on terror away from American cities.
**This article was first published in al-Hayat on July 11, 2014 and was translated by Karim Traboulsi.

French, German FMs Say Nuclear Deal Elusive as Iran, West Say Big Gaps Remain
Naharnet /France and Germany's foreign ministers left Iranian nuclear talks in Vienna on Sunday saying that a deal remains uncertain, but U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry remained in the Austrian capital for further negotiations. "I cannot say with certainty whether we will get a deal" by a July 20 deadline, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters.
"It is now up to Iran to decide whether to take the path of cooperation with the international community. ... I hope that the days left until July 20 will be enough to create some reflection in Tehran," he said. "The ball is Iran's court." French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius for his part said that talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany would continue.
"We had deep discussions but we have still not reached a deal," Fabius told reporters before leaving Vienna, describing the negotiations as "useful."For his part, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said that there had been no "decisive breakthrough" in the talks. "We haven't made the decisive breakthrough ... There are very significant gaps, particularly on that issue (uranium enrichment). There is a huge gap (on that issue)," Hague told reporters. Kerry was still in Vienna, however, and was due to hold talks later Sunday with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
The talks are aimed at securing a historic deal that would kill off once and for all worries that Iran -- which denies any such aim -- might develop nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian program. The six powers want Iran to reduce dramatically the scope of its nuclear programs for a lengthy period of time and submit to tougher inspections from the U.N. atomic watchdog. The Islamic republic in return wants a lifting of all U.N. and Western sanctions that have crippled its economy, in particular its vital oil sector.
The July 20 deadline can in theory be extended but only if both sides agree and the United States in particular is opposed to such a move unless Tehran offers major concessions first.
Meanwhile, China urged world powers and Iran "to show flexibility" in their talks, after officials from both sides said big gaps remained in negotiating positions. "We urge all parties to show flexibility and political will to reach a comprehensive agreement," Chinese deputy foreign minister Li Baodong told reporters in Vienna. Earlier on Sunday, both sides said big gaps remain in the talks. "We have some very significant gaps," Kerry told reporters on arrival. "On practically all the important issues differences persist and we have not been able to narrow them," one of Iran's top negotiators, Abbas Araqchi, told Al-Alam television. Also on Sunday, Iran's FM Zarif said "trust is a two-way street," demanding good faith on all sides. And in a second tweet posted on his official Twitter account, he added: "I won't engage in blame games or spin. Not my style. What I will engage in is a sincere effort to come to an agreement. I expect the same" from the world powers.
Iran has always denied that it is pursuing a nuclear bomb. Zarif's comments seemed aimed at reiterating the Islamic republic's position that its atomic program is for peaceful energy purposes only.
His first tweet said: "We're able to make history by this time next Sunday. Trust is a two-way street. Concerns of all sides must be addressed to reach a deal." The Western ministers were to use the opportunity to also discuss between themselves the deadly conflict escalating between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas in Gaza. Calls for a ceasefire are mounting, but have so far been ignored by the warring sides. Kerry, coming directly from Afghanistan where he brokered a breakthrough to end an election crisis there, will also seek to ease a major row over spying with Germany, which saw the CIA chief in Berlin expelled from the country. Speaking about the Iran talks, Kerry said: "Obviously we have some very significant gaps. We need to see if we can make some progress."He added that "it is vital to make certain that Iran is not going to develop a nuclear weapon, that their program is peaceful."Fabius also underlined the big gaps remaining when he arrived.
"If we can reach a deal by July 20, bravo," he said. "If we we can't there are two possibilities: one, we either extend, a so-called rollover; or we will have to say that unfortunately there is no perspective for a deal. "We don't know yet. It's not yet July 20. We are trying to go in the right direction."William Hague also underlined the "significant gaps" on his Twitter feed after arriving, and said talks were at "a critical stage."He said a breakthrough in the talks between is "unlikely." "There are very significant gaps, that is very clear in these negotiations. It is unlikely that there will be a quick breakthrough today," he said. He added that Western foreign ministers were in Vienna "to see what the scope is for making progress before July 20," when a deadline expires for a deal to be reached.
Araqchi, in his interview with Al-Alam, said "differences have been narrowed" on "certain" other issues and "some solutions have been put forward" in the final-round negotiations which started on July 3. But on the major divergences, "it is still not clear if we will get there," he said.
Agence France Presse