LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Quotation for today/Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.
left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon.
Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started
shouting, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by
a demon.’ But he did not answer her at all. And
his disciples came and urged him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she keeps
shouting after us.’ He answered, ‘I was sent only
to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ But she
came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’He answered, ‘It is not
fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’She said, ‘Yes,
Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’
table.’Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done
for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.
Pope Francis's Tweet For
Dear young people, do not be mediocre; the Christian life challenges us with great ideals.
Chers jeunes, ne tombez pas dans la médiocrité ; la vie chrétienne est faite pour les grands idéaux.
Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For July 16/14
Miscellaneous Sources For July 16/14
Lebanese Related News
Banned anal exam still used as homosexuality test
No end to Lebanese University file in sight
Water conservation drive targets wasteful parents
STL analyzes footage crime scene
Private hospitals chief defends health care
Miscellaneous Reports And News For July 16/14
11 People Wounded in Arsal Shelling
Naharnet/Several people were wounded on Tuesday when Syrian fighter jets shelled the outskirts of the town of Arsal in the eastern Bekaa region, announced the army in a statement.
It said that eleven people were wounded the strikes. Al-Jadeed television later reported that attacks carried out in the afternoon targeted the positions of gunmen.
Seven people were wounded when two rockets landed in the Wadi al-Hawa region in Arsal, reported Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3). Five of the injured are Lebanese and the other two are Syrian, one in critical condition, it said. Two of the victims have been identified as Hussein and Hassan al-Hujairi.The National News Agency later reported that the shelling targeted armed groups in the Wadi al-Zamrani and Ajram areas on the outskirts of Arsal. Arsal and the surrounding regions frequently come under shelling from the Syrian side of the border in violence linked to the unrest in the neighboring country. Ever since the Syrian revolt erupted in March 2011, Arsal has served as a key conduit for refugees, rebels and wounded people fleeing strife-torn Syria.
Salam Warns of 'Deteriorating Situation' in Lebanon: We're Drawing Harm by Firing Rockets at Israel
Naharnet /Prime Minister Tammam Salam warned on Tuesday evening of the deteriorating situation in Lebanon amid the presidential vacuum, stressing also that firing rockets from the South towards Israel draws harm against the Lebanese. “I warn that the general situation in the country is starting to deteriorate as a result of the obstruction in the legislative authority, and this (obstruction) is starting to leak into the executive authority and all institutions,” Salam said during the annual Iftar banquet held by the Islamic Orphanage at the BIEL. He called for not “giving in” to the presidential vacuum “under any excuse.”
"I urge escaping narrow calculations and putting the national interest first. I call on the MPS to head to the parliament and elect a new president based on the clear constitutional standards,” he said.
“Any delay in the presidential elections means a failure of our constitutional institutions and of Lebanon's image on the international scene,” the Premier expressed.
As for the cabinet's role amid the ongoing presidential vacuum, he said the constitution should be a reference in this regard. The Prime Minister also discussed the continuous Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip, which has killed over 194 Palestinians in the eight days of violence. “In front of this violence we announce our full solidarity with our Palestinian brothers and we call on the Arabs to continue exerting efforts to stop the bloodshed,” Salam said. But he nevertheless said solidarity cannot be manifested in “drawing harm against Lebanon and the Lebanese.” The PM was referring to the launching of four rocket attacks towards Israel from southern Lebanon in the past week since the beginning of the Israeli assault on Gaza. “We stress that the army is vigilant to defend attempts to jeopardize the Lebanese's security... and we are committed to all international resolutions, especially U.N. Security Council's resolution 1701,” he assured.
Change and Reform Accuses Jumblat of 'Narrow Calculations', Urges Talking to Syria on Refugees
Naharnet/The Change and Reform bloc led by MP Michel Aoun on Tuesday accused Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat of approaching the issue of presidential elections according to “narrow calculations,” as it urged Lebanese authorities to communicate with Damascus over the “unbearable” refugee crisis. “Public voting by people is the peak of democracy and there are mechanisms to implement our democracy in this regard,” former labor minister Salim Jreissati said after the bloc's weekly meeting, reciting a written statement. He was referring to Aoun's recent suggestion on electing a new president through a popular rather than a parliamentary vote as a way to end the presidential deadlock. “Enough with confusion and veiled obstruction of the presidential elections, given what we have heard about withdrawing a candidate in return for the withdrawal of other candidates, which is equivalent to narrow calculations in a crucial juncture such as the presidential vote," Jreissati added.
In remarks to As Safir newspaper published Tuesday, Jumblat had said he was ready to pull the candidacy of Aley MP Henri Helou if the other candidates agree to also leave the race, in reference to Aoun and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea. Turning to the issue of the Syrian refugee crisis, Jreissati said "it would be more appropriate to use the term migrants for the Syrians in Lebanon, because displaced and refugees are legal terms that we cannot bear." "Taking in refugees is an issue to be defined by the Syrian state, which we are not in a state of war with and with whom we should cooperate," the ex-minister added, wondering if it's "reasonable that there is no Lebanese-Syrian committee on the issue of refugees." "The migration is happening in both directions, which makes it an economic migration, the thing that means that there are safe areas inside Syria," he noted. Separately, Jreissati pointed out that "security is the responsibility of the government and its military and political authorities are not suffering any vacancies." "Accusations that those practicing obstruction in politics are also obstructing security are rejected," he went on to say. On the recent contoversy over the issue of the Lebanese University, Jreissati said "the discussion must rise above the distribution of shares while maintaining the standards of appointing deans and full-time professors."He also called for keeping legislation free of "any factional interests or objectives." "What about the laws of denaturalizing ineligible individuals and the urgent financial bills? The higher interest cannot be segregated," Jreissati added.
Israeli Drone Flies over Southern Region in Anticipation of Possible Rocket Attack
Naharnet /An Israeli surveillance drone flew over the southern city of Tyre on Wednesday evening after several rockets were launched for the past four consecutive nights towards Israel from a region in the port city. The state-run National News Agency reported that an “Israeli surveillance drone flew as of 8:50 pm in the southern region's airspace above Tyre.” The drone flew over the region extending from “al-Naqoura towards al-Rashidiyeh refugee camp and several towns which witnessed a tensed security situation in the past days.”In the fourth such attack in four days, at least one rocket was fired Monday night from southern Lebanon towards northern Israel. In retaliation, the Israeli army fired several artillery shells. And three rockets were fired Saturday at Israel from the same region while a rocket was launched early Friday from the southern region of Hasbaya. A man has been arrested over his involvement in Friday's attack, which he said was in solidarity with the Gaza Strip. Israel had filed a complaint to UNIFIL, which monitors the border between Lebanon and Israel, after Friday's attack. Israeli military officials said they believed Friday's attack was carried out by a small Palestinian group in retaliation to Israel's deadly assault on Gaza. These security developments in the South come as an Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip has entered its ninth day, killing at least 194 people and wounding over 1,500 others.
Mustaqbal Slams Rocket Fire as 'Suspicious' Bid to Use Lebanon for Regional Policies
Naharnet/Al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc on Tuesday said it "categorically rejects" any use of Lebanese territory to fire rockets at Israel, describing the recent attacks as “a suspicious attempt to use Lebanese territory with the aim of implementing regional policies.”Commenting on the deadly Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip, the bloc described “the Palestinian people's battle to regain their usurped rights and land” as its “central battle and cause.” But it “categorically” rejected any use of Lebanese territory to fire rockets at Israel, describing such activity as “a suspicious attempt to implementing regional policies that contradict with Lebanon's national interests.”Since the Israeli assault began last week, four rocket attacks have targeted Israel from southern Lebanon, most of them from the al-Qlayleh plain near Tyre.“The state's arms are the only arms entrusted with defending the Lebanese land in the face of the Israeli enemy,” Mustaqbal stressed. Turning to the Lebanese-Syrian border, which is witnessing fierce clashes between Hizbullah and Syrian rebels, the bloc underlined that “protecting Lebanon's borders is the mission of the Lebanese Army and official Lebanese security forces.”
“The experiences that Lebanon is going through have proved that only the Lebanese state can protect its people … while militias and de facto forces, topped by Hizbullah, are behind the tensions, disasters and problems in the country,” Mustaqbal added. It reiterated its call for Hizbullah to withdraw its fighters from Syria and “stop interfering in the Syrian affairs and the region's affairs.”
As for the controversial issue of legislation during presidential vacuum, the bloc again said it is willing to take part “in any legislative session dedicated to approving pressing issues, such as the State Budget, treasury bonds or the new wage scale.”Mustaqbal also warned that “the current dangerous period in the country and the region requires a government that can work in an effective and harmonious manner, away from the policies of obstruction and paralysis.”The cabinet, which had convened last Thursday, has not set a date for a new session due to a dispute over the issue of appointing deans and full-time professors at the Lebanese University.
Kareem Shaheen| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The bombing that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri left a blast crater that was over 11 meters wide at the top and nearly 2 meters deep, a forensic expert told judges at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon at a trial hearing Tuesday. The evidence from the expert, a Dutch image analyst who relied on 3-D modeling and pictures taken of the massive crater left by the attack to confirm its dimensions, will likely form part of a broader narrative by prosecutors, who argue that a suicide bomber detonated nearly 3 tons of explosives hidden in a truck as Hariri’s convoy drove by.
The STL is tasked with prosecuting those responsible for the Valentine’s Day bombing in 2005 that killed Hariri and 21 others, plunging Lebanon into political turmoil and setting the stage for the end of Syria’s occupation of its smaller neighbor. The Hague-based court has indicted five members of Hezbollah in connection with the attack. Their trial in absentia is ongoing at the U.N.-backed tribunal’s headquarters. Bart Hoogeboom, the expert witness, detailed how he used images taken minutes after the attack, along with later footage and a device that employs laser beams to calculate the size of the buildings surrounding the crime scene in order to measure the size of the crater.
The resulting models showed that the blast that killed Hariri left a roughly cone-shaped crater that was 11.4 meters wide at the top and 8.3 meters wide at its bottom rim, with a depth of 1.9 meters.
The size of the crater, along with analysis of samples from the crime scene, can be used to estimate the amount of explosives used in the bomb’s detonation.
The prosecution says that the attack was carried out using between 2.5 and 3 tons of RDX, a military grade mix of explosives that includes TNT, laden in a Mitsubishi Canter vehicle and detonated by a suicide bomber. But that narrative has been challenged by defense lawyers for the Hezbollah suspects, who say the bombing may have been an underground explosion. Analysis of the crater will likely form part of the prosecution’s case for an above-ground explosion. Hoogeboom worked for the Netherlands Forensic Institute as an image analyst and expert on photogrammetry – a technique that allows investigators to discern the size, position or speed of an object or person from still images and video footage, as well as 3-D models of an area. The expert had also worked with NFI on analyzing the crime scene in Downtown Beirut where Hariri was assassinated. Dressed in a black suit jacket and navy blue shirt, Hoogeboom explained to the trial chamber’s judges how he used different points in the crater and models of the surrounding buildings to develop a scale and measure the bomb’s impact. The images showed the devastation wrought by the bombing and offered a glimpse of the destruction at the nearby St. Georges Hotel. Some showed cars that were still on fire. The Special Tribunal will resume hearings Wednesday at 11 a.m. Beirut time to hear more expert witness testimony. The evidence so far has focused on the crime scene, the first segment of a three-part case that prosecutors say will include reams of telecommunications evidence that allegedly shows the suspects carrying out extensive surveillance of the former prime minister, and the alleged roles of the suspects in planning and executing the attack.
No end to Lebanese University conundrum in sight
The Daily Star/Education Minister Elias Bou Saab’s decision to pin the blame on premier Tammam Salam and his government for not having resolved the Lebanese University contract teachers issue is merely a tactic to divert attention from his own failures in the dispute, according to well-informed sources. One such failure is his inability to fulfill the big promises he made to the teachers when he took over his ministerial duties, promises he made before comprehensively studying the file in terms of its administrative, economic, political and sectarian dimensions.
The question of whether to employ contract professors as full-timers has languished as a result of key players stalling for time and politicizing the issue, sources told The Daily Star
Bou Saab wants to give full-time status to approximately 1,200 contract professors – an increase on the original 700 – including many who do not have the necessary academic qualifications, sources said, something that would financially burden the state. According to the sources, Bou Saab’s proposal is something many ministers cannot agree to, as indicated during the most recent Cabinet session, and these ministers are not expected to change their stance anytime soon. Ministerial sources pointed out that the addition of 1,200 teachers to the full-time roster was difficult to get a consensus on, regardless of the compromises being proposed during ongoing talks. They also noted that in case a compromise was reached, the number of teachers would still certainly not reach 1,200, as Bou Saab has been hoping for.
The sources also said the matter of moving contract teachers to full-time workers should be dealt with by the university council, which requires the appointment of such a body composed of 19 deans headed by the university president, so that it can study each file individually and confirm its legality and credibility. This would also ensure that the issue does not fall into politicians’ hands, as they are concerned with their popularity rather than the future of the university. As for appointing the deans, there was a deal to maintain sectarian distribution in order to avoid stirring up trouble, but this has fallen through.
According to the sources, the president of the university, for political reasons and under the pretext of rotation, issued Decree 54 on Jan. 16 commissioning eight members of staff to carry out the duties of the deans, ignoring the sectarian formula that previously existed. Today there is a conflict between the Christian parties regarding the appointment of deans, after other sects received their shares through the names put forth by the education minister. The position of the dean of medicine, for example, is being fought over by the Kataeb Party, the Catholic Church, the Progressive Socialist Movement, and the Free Patriotic Movement. FPM’s leader Michel Aoun is insistent that the post be given to a Maronite and has nominated a candidate, who, according to academics, does not have the proper qualifications for the job. The sources said Bou Saab should reconsider the Lebanese University file and take into consideration the need for consensus among all ministers rather than allowing the current state of conflict to continue. The ongoing dispute between Christian parties regarding the presidency has now seeped into Cabinet sessions and is affecting the debate on the files on its agenda, including the Lebanese University file. This state of affairs was clearly exposed when Labor Minister Sejaan Azzi, from the Kataeb party, bluntly stated that he was undergoing a political battle that nobody could prevent him from continuing with. Government sources told The Daily Star that if the conflicting parties did not each reach a much-needed compromise regarding the Lebanese University file, Salam would have to postpone it and move on to other things on the agenda so that the government can resume its work in light of the ongoing presidential void.
Harb to look into mobile revenues drop
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Telecommunications Minister Boutros Harb Tuesday ordered an investigation into the drastic drop in mobile revenues in 2012 and 2013, adding that nearly $1 billion was spent to upgrade the networks but the services and coverage were still poor. In a statement to the press, Harb noted that the revenues of one of the mobile operators have dropped drastically from $730.874 million in 2012 to $625.744 million in 2013. The minister did not name the mobile company which has seen a big drop in revenues. Mobile companies touch and Alfa operate the networks on behalf of the state, which collects all the net revenues each year. Telecoms is one of the largest sources of revenues for the cash strapped treasury. The gross revenues of the telecoms sector, including landline, mobile and Internet, is usually more than $1.5 billion a year. At present, there are close to 4 million mobile subscribers in Lebanon but the bulk of the users have pre-paid cards. Harb also accused the Telecommunications Ministry of concealing facts and accurate figures about the performance of the telecoms sector. The minister suggested that his predecessor Nicolas Sehnaoui’s administration may have overlooked the violations of the ministry in the past two years. “The other surprise is when I discovered something more dangerous. It is well known that the money transferred by the telecoms to the treasury is paid once the firms settle all the financial commitments they made. One of the companies has transferred $625.774 million in 2013 and without settling its financial commitments. This means that company should have deducted over $100 million from the money that was transferred to the treasury,” Harb explained. He stressed that the sharp drop in mobile revenues will affect the state’s treasury, which counts a lot on this sector to meet all the needs of the government. Harb also revealed that the two firms may have spent over $1 billion in the last two years to improve the services of the telecoms sector and expand the coverage.
“But despite this huge spending, the services are below average and this raises the question if the money was spent properly,” he said. Harb promised to open a wide investigation into the practices of the cellular firms as well as the Telecommunications Ministry to determine why the services have not improved despite the big allocations. The minister threatened in the past to scrap the contracts with both companies if the services did not improve.
New restrictions on Syrian refugees reported in Chouf region
Samar Kadi| The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Municipalities in the Chouf are tightening their grip on Syrian refugees in the region, according to a local source, despite dominant local power the Progressive Socialist Party denying that any new measures had been brought in. “The municipalities have been asked to make sure that all the Syrian refugees are being registered and that they are carrying authentic identification papers,” the source told The Daily Star Tuesday. He added that some raids of lodgings or homes belonging to certain Syrian refugees were also being conducted in order to confiscate arms.
The source said the fresh security moves had been brought in at the behest of the PSP, which is led by Druze leader MP Walid Jumblatt. The Chouf, a mountainous region that extends southeast of Beirut, is considered the Druze heartland. However, a PSP official denied that any new directives have been given by the party to tighten control on Syrian refugees in the region. “The registration of Syrian refugees is a matter that has been underway for quite sometime and there are no new instructions in that regard,” the official said on condition of anonymity, noting, however, that the “PSP had initially expressed its wish to have the municipalities regularize the presence of Syrians in the villages.” The alleged security boost came two days after a brawl between residents and nomads from Wadi Khaled developed into a clash involving gunfire in the Druze village of Maasrayti in the Aley area, resulting in the death of two villagers. More than three years into the Syrian crisis, Lebanon is hosting over 1.1 million refugees, an influx that has severely impacted its economy, placed enormous pressure on an already fragile infrastructure and raised tensions with the local population.
Berri rules out session due to lingering rifts
The Daily Star /Hussein Dakroub/BEIRUT: Speaker Nabih Berri, due to lingering differences among parliamentary blocs, Tuesday ruled out a legislative session this week to pass draft laws on extra-budgetary spending to pay civil servants’ salaries and to authorize the government to issue Eurobonds. Prime Minister Tammam Salam, meanwhile, warned that the situation was deteriorating as a result of attempts to paralyze the roles of Parliament and the Cabinet amid the presidential vacuum. “I am keen on holding a legislative session before the end of the month in order for [government] employees to get their salaries,” Berri was quoted by visitors as saying. “Of course, the [public sector’s] salary scale bill does not need a meeting of Parliament’s Secretariat because it is already on the agenda. If the answer [from the Future bloc and its allies] is positive supporting the session, we will convene a meeting of Parliament’s Secretariat and approve an additional agenda,” he said, in a clear reference to the controversial wage hike bill. Berri was quoted as saying that if the parliamentary Future bloc’s answer was positive, he would call for a Parliament meeting either next week before a session scheduled to elect a president on July 23 or after it. Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil, from Berri’s parliamentary bloc, said last week that Parliament should pass a law that would allow the required extra-budgetary spending to pay salaries of public sector employees. The presidential election stalemate, now in its second month, has paralyzed Parliament’s work and is threatening to cripple the Cabinet’s work. Salam did not call for a Cabinet session this week due to unresolved differences among ministers over the key issues of extra-budgetary spending and the employment of Lebanese University’s contract professors as full timers.
Asked if the Cabinet’s role would remain crippled, Berri was quoted as saying: “I reject that the Cabinet’s work be stopped even for one minute. If the country is in a crisis as a result of the failure to elect a president, shall we plunge it into another crisis by disrupting the work of the Cabinet and Parliament?” “Despite everything, I repeat that Lebanon has an opportunity and is still better than the neighboring countries. We must seize this opportunity and elect a president and revitalize the work of institutions,” the speaker was quoted as saying. Asked who was responsible for this situation, Berri said: “All the political class, including myself.” Berri’s remarks come as his Amal Movement has engaged in dialogue with the Future Movement designed to defuse Sunni-Shiite tensions and resolve some key political issues such as the payment of civil servants’ salaries and the wage hike bill.
March 14 MPs and lawmakers from the Free Patriotic Movement have boycotted legislative sessions, arguing that during presidential void, they would only attend legislative sessions aimed at passing urgent bills. For his part, Salam warned that the situation in the country was deteriorating as a result of the disruption of the roles of Parliament and the Cabinet amid the vacancy in the presidency.
“I have always been keen to be transparent and clear with the Lebanese. Therefore, I warn that the general situation in the country has begun retreating as a result of the obstruction that hit the legislative authority and has begun spreading to the executive authority and all institutions, with all the negative repercussions this entails on the people’s interests,” Salam said. Speaking during an iftar hosted by the Dar al-Aytam al-Islamiya at the BIEL complex Tuesday night, Salam said the country faced vital issues that needed quick solutions to avoid major financial and socioeconomic crises. Among these issues, he cited the Syrian refugee crisis, the soaring public debt that needed a quick decision to issue Eurobonds, the oil and gas exploration, the salary scale bill and the LU’s contract professors. “In addition to these issues, there is the major security concern which requires a maximum deal of national unity to ward off internal and external dangers from the Lebanese,” he said. He added that the security situation in Lebanon was strong and under control despite last month’s three suicide bombings. Salam reiterated his support for the principle of political consensus within his Cabinet. The Future bloc rejected charges that it was boycotting Parliament or legislative sessions. “The bloc considers that Parliament’s primary mission at this stage is to elect a new president. For this substantial and National Pact reason, the bloc sees that legislative action should be confined to main and essential issues which fall under the category of utmost necessity,” the bloc said in a statement after its weekly meeting chaired by former premier Fouad Siniora. The statement said the bloc was ready to attend any legislative session relating to essential issues, such as the 2004 state budget, issuing Eurobonds or the salary scale bill.
Ministry plans new buses for Beirut and Lebanon
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The Public Works and Transport Ministry is devising a strategy for managing the sector in Lebanon by purchasing 250 new buses to operate on 20 routes inside Beirut while linking it with stations in other areas such as Tripoli, Sidon and Chtaura, according to the head of the parliamentary commission for Public Works, Energy, Water and Transportation. MP Mohammad Qabbani said during a meeting to discuss this issue Tuesday that 200 buses would be dedicated to Beirut while the other 50 would work in between other governorates. “The strategy includes as well 911 stations including 310 inside Beirut with a variable message sign to inform passengers about any possible delays in the arrival of buses,” he said. Qabbani added that buses would operate from 6 a.m. until midnight and three private operators would manage the project. As for Beirut’s northern entrance, it will be managed through a railway from Beirut to Maameltein.
A Relic of the Past
By: Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Alawsat
Tuesday, 15 Jul, 2014
Izzat Al-Douri was a figure of little consequence when he was the deputy of Iraq’s late President Saddam Hussein, and he has been of little significance since the Ba’ath Party collapsed and his president and other commanders were executed. What brought Douri back to the forefront is the recent audio recording in which we heard his voice for the first time in more than a decade. The recording has further strengthened our belief that the Ba’ath Party is history, despite allegations that Douri played a role in the recent fall of Mosul and Tikrit. The Ba’ath Party died before Saddam did. It ended with Saddam’s struggle with its head Hassan Al-Bakr, and when Saddam seized the leadership of the party in the 1970s. The Ba’ath Party crumbled during the infamous incident when Saddam convened an assembly of the party’s leaders, accused a number of them of conspiring against him with the Syrian branch of the party and demanded they be taken out of the hall and executed. Saddam shed crocodile tears over them and had the video of the whole affair shown so everyone would get the message. Afterwards, Iraq was governed by Saddam and his family. All Ba’athist leaders who surrounded him for around a quarter of a century were mere political decorations in the famous “republic of fear.” As to why Douri resurfaced this week, the reason is unimportant because nobody paid much attention. Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), is more important than him. So why did Douri mention ISIS and praise it? This is strange because the organization considers Ba’athists such as him to be infidels. This is at the core of its ideology and teachings. An expert said Douri was forced to praise ISIS due to the terrorist organization’s domination over the Ba’athists and the abduction of its men from its ranks. He added that Douri wanted to neutralize the threat from ISIS to avoid its wrath. Douri’s problem with ISIS is bigger than his problem with the regime of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki because ISIS opposes Sunni Sufism, including the Naqshbandi sect to which he belongs, and accuses its followers of apostasy. If Douri is just a relic from the past, then what’s the role and significance of the Ba’athists, who surprised everyone in recent battles? There are Ba’athists, but there’s no Ba’ath Party. Ba’athists are merely an old association of those who feel marginalized by the regime and who have been pushed out of their jobs and all aspects of public life. Academics, military and security figures, local partisans and others who belonged to the Ba’ath Party have one mutual aim: to work against the current regime in the name of anything opposed to it. This is to be expected. However, they are not real Ba’athists, not in the way Douri tried to claim they were in his message. Until 2003, most Iraqis—Sunnis, Shi’ites and others—were forced to join the party. Just like any other fascist movement, Saddam’s Ba’ath ruled with an iron fist, and Saddam himself was brutal and harsh. This is why he was defeated within weeks after he invaded Kuwait, despite his massive army. When the Americans invaded Iraq, the army did not confront them, but dissipated instead. The party is no longer of any value and Saddam no longer has followers who believe in him. But Maliki, who as the saying goes, returned to Iraq riding an American tank, has not yet comprehended that since the US troops have withdrawn he has not been able to control all of Iraq through force, particularly the Arab Sunni and Kurdish areas. This is what happened last month when leaders of Maliki’s forces fled during the confrontation with ISIS fighters, tribes and former Ba’athist military leaders. Maliki himself is not any better than Saddam when it comes to centralizing power. What’s certain is that if he succeeds at remaining in power in Baghdad, Iraqis will revolt against him. He will then succeed in one thing: ensuring the collapse of the Iraqi state. His rivals are not the Ba’athists, but all Iraqis, including a large number of Shi’ites.
Unilateral Gaza ceasefire collapses. Israeli air strikes resume after dozens of Palestinian rockets in hours
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 15, 2014/Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon ordered the Israeli Air Force to resume strikes over Gaza Tuesday afternoon, six hours after a ceasefire proposed by Egypt, accepted by Israel and rejected by Hamas, was due to go into effect. During those hours, dozens of Hamas rockets raked town after town and village after village. debkafile: The White House called off US Secretary of State John Kerry’s Cairo visit upon finding Tehran’s hand behind the rockets. Netanyahu goes on the air at 8 p.m. to explain what went wrong.
Straight after the ceasefire was due to go into effect Tuesday at 9 a.m., Hamas fired 20 rockets from the Gaza Strip.The Israeli security cabinet had meanwhile endorsed Cairo’s proposal to mediate the conflict with the Palestinian extremists, but warned that if they continued to fire rockets, Israel would hit back with “all possible force.” In Cairo, Hamas official Mussa Abu Marzuk took responsibility for eight of the post-“truce” rockets, most of which landed on Ashdod, slightly injuring one woman. Iron Dome intercepted four. The first rockets hit Eshkol before 9.30, soon to be followed by a steady stream at Sderot, Ashkelon, Kiryat Malachi, Shear Hanegev, Gan Yavneh and Eshkol. As the Hamas official spoke, a rocket hit Netivot and Israel TV reporters at Shear Hanegev interrupted their broadcast and scurried to safety in a shelter. At 12:30 p.m. Rehovot, Ness Ziona and Kibbutz Givat Brenner were targeted, then sirens blared on Mt. Carmel, in Haifa, Zichron Yaakov and Ain Hashofet and at 13.05 p.m. in the inland towns.
And the day was still young.
debkafile: It was obvious from the first that the Egyptian bid to enforce a comprehensive truce before summoning the parties to Cairo to discuss a substantial deal - on the lines published Monday night in Cairo - had no legs. It was artificially cobbled together by Israel and Egypt with no reference to the initial aggressor, Hamas and its pro-Iranian ally Jihad Islami. Had they been consulted, some sort of dialogue might have developed and led to a bilateral ceasefire, however fragile. But this did not happen and the rosy bubble filled with nothing but hot air was bound to burst.
Early Tuesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry was already heading to Cairo to take the lead in the Egyptian initiative when he was ordered by Washington to turn around and make tracks for home.
President Barack Obama had no wish to stand in line with Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu behind their highly speculative initiative.
According to our sources in Washington, the real reason the White House pulled Kerry out of another certain fiasco in the nick of time was incoming intelligence that Tehran had ordered its Palestinian pawn Jihad Islami to ignore the ceasefire and keep on shooting from Gaza. This left Hamas no option but to follow suit. The Obama administration was also advised of that hand behind the trickle of rockets fired this week from Lebanon and Syria at Western Galilee and the Golan. It was the radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestinian, PFLP-General Command, whose chief Ahmed Jibril has made his organization an operational branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Al Qods Brigades. Israeli spokesmen have carefully refrained from putting these incidents together, all leading to Tehran, and inferring a well-orchestrated master plan afoot against the Jewish state that would not be put off by an unsustainable truce.
debkafile reported after midnight Monday:
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has accepted President Abdel-Fatah El-Siisi’s proposal to mediate the halt of hostilities between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas faction ruling the Gaza Strip and agreed to a ceasefire going into effect Tuesday, July 15 at 9:00 a.m., debkafile reports. The Prime minister informed senior security cabinet ministers Monday night, July 14, that he had reached this decision after conversations with Washington and Cairo, stressing that the mediation process did not mark any change in Egyptian and Israeli policies for Hamas and the Gaza Strip. The Gaza blockade would not be lifted, and Israel would not hand over the Palestinian prisoners, released for the Israeli soldier held hostage, and re-arrested again last month during the hunt for the three Israeli teenagers whom Hamas abducted and murdered. These demands were the price set by Hamas for halting its rocket fire against the Israeli population.
Netanyahu also reported the Egyptian president was fully aware that Israel would insist on any deal with Hamas being contingent on the creation of an international mechanism to dismantle and remove Hamas’s rockets stocks and production facilities from the Gaza Strip. The ministers gained the impression from his presentation that El-Sisi had not objected to this demand.
Monday night, the Hamas prime minister of Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, announced in a speech that his movement had accepted Cairo’s proposal to negotiate a ceasefire with Israel. He held Israel responsible for initiating the military campaign against Hamas. Official Egyptian sources published some high points of Cairo’s proposal Monday night, whereby Egyptian officials would meet with each side separately for talks held in accordance with the Cairo-brokered ceasefire of 2012 (which ended the Israeli Defensive Pillar operation). "Israel should put an end to all of its land, sea, air hostilities against the Gaza Strip while emphasizing that no ground invasion will be implemented against Gaza or the targeting of civilians," the Egyptian proposal stipulated. "To end all hostilities by political factions (DEBKA: Hamas is not mentioned by name) based in Gaza against Israel via land, sea, air and underground, while emphasizing the stoppage of rockets of all kinds, assaults on the borders and the targeting of civilians," the document said. The proposal also called for the opening of crossings and facilitating the movement of people and goods through border crossings – but only in consideration of "ground security conditions".
Don’t Put Terrorists on Trial
Treating terrorist attacks as criminal incidents is a futile approach.
By Daniel Pipes/National Review Online
The Obama administration has brought an accused Libyan terrorist named Ahmed Abu Khattala to Washington for trial. His saga reveals how the government views the Islamist threat, and it’s discouraging. Fortunately, a much better alternative exists. Abu Khattala stands accused of taking part in the murder of an ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi in September 2012. After an achingly slow investigation, during which time the suspect lived in the open and defiantly gave media interviews, the American military seized him on June 15. After being transported by sea and air to Washington, D.C., Abu Khattala was jailed, provided with a defense attorney, Michelle Peterson, indicted, arraigned, and, after listening to an Arabic translation of the proceedings, he pleaded not guilty to a single charge of conspiracy and requested a halal diet. He potentially faces life in prison. This scenario presents two problems. First, Abu Khattala enjoys the full panoply of protections offered by the U.S. legal system (he actually was read his Miranda rights, meaning his right to stay silent and to consult with a lawyer), making conviction uncertain. As the New York Times explains, proving the charges against him will be “particularly challenging” because of the circumstances of the attacks, which took place in the midst of a civil war and in a country brimming with hostility to the United States, where concerns about security meant that U.S. law investigators had to wait for weeks to go to the crime scenes to collect evidence, and the prosecution depends on testimony from Libyan witnesses brought over to the United States who may well falter under cross-examination. Secondly, what good does a conviction bring? If all goes well, a minor operative will be taken out of commission, leaving the ideological sources, the funding apparatus, the command-and-control structure, and the terrorist network untouched. A years-long, cumbersome, expensive, and draining effort will prove a point, not damage the enemy. If Abu Khattala is convicted, administration officials can crow, but Americans will be only marginally safer.
This futility recalls the 1990s, when terrorist attacks were routinely treated as criminal incidents and handled in courts of law, rather than as warfare to be dealt with using military force. In response, I complained in 1998 that the U.S. government saw terrorist violence “not as the ideological war it is, but as a sequence of discrete criminal incidents,” a mistaken approach that turns the U.S. military “into a sort of global police force and requires it to have an unrealistically high level of certainty before it can go into action,” requiring it to collect evidence of the sort that can stand up in a U.S. court of justice.
George W. Bush discarded the criminal paradigm when he dramatically declared a “war against terrorism” on the evening of 9/11. While that is a clumsy phrase (how can one make war on a tactic?), what became known as the Bush Doctrine had the great benefit of declaring war — as opposed to a police action — on those attacking Americans. But now, 13 years later and in part because of the success of this war, the Obama administration has reverted to the pre-9/11 approach of apprehending criminals.
Instead of this, the U.S. response to terrorist attacks on Americans citizens should be immediate and lethal. As I wrote 16 years ago, “anyone who harms Americans should know that retribution will be certain and nasty. . . . When reasonable evidence points to Middle Eastern terrorists having harmed Americans, U.S. military force should be deployed. If the perpetrator is not precisely known, then punish those who are known to harbor terrorists. Go after governments and organizations that support terrorism, not just individuals.”Skip the fine-grain analysis of who carried out the attack. Security depends not on complex court procedures, but on a record of U.S. deterrence established by “years of terrible retribution against anyone who so much as harms a single American citizen.” Enemies must expect to face the full fury of the United States when they harm its citizens, thereby dissuading them from committing such attacks in future. American taxpayers turn over $3 trillion a year to the federal government and in return expect to be protected from foreign threats. This holds doubly for citizens who venture abroad on behalf of their country, such as the four embassy personnel killed in Benghazi. Crimes require rules of evidence, Miranda rights, lawyers, judges, and juries. Warfare requires full-throated retaliation by the American military.
— Daniel Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2014 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.
Hamas Wants to Die
By: David P. Goldman/PJ Media
July 15, 2014
Originally published by PJ Media under the title, "Hamas is the Norm, Israel is the Exception."
It's like the old joke: Why do Jewish men die before their wives? Because they want to. Civilizations for the most part die because they no longer want to live. That is the nub of my 2011 book How Civilizations Die (and Why Islam Is Dying, Too). They cease to believe in their own future and distract themselves from the prospect of extinction as best they can. Hellenistic Greece was the first universal demographic disaster; it gave us prototypes of the steam engine and the computer (via Hero of Alexandria) as well as the modern literary forms. But even wealthy men exposed their daughters and the population imploded. When Aristotle taught that men naturally seek the good, the overwhelming preponderance of evidence had already turned against him. Most men seek nothingness. Soon the last surviving remnants of the classical world will disappear. In another generation, more people will speak Hebrew than Greek.
Hamas wants to die, obviously and visibly. That thought horrifies Westerners. As a number of Israeli commentators observe, Hamas doesn't particularly care about having a Palestinian State. It wants to destroy the Jewish State and is willing to die in the process. It wants to die in such a way that Israel will die, too. There is something utterly surreal to Hamas crowding civilians around military targets, and Israeli pilots declining to attack them. It recalls joke about the sadist and the masochist. The masochist says, "Beat me!," and the sadist says, No…suffer."
Hamas, to be sure, proposes to die in an accelerated time frame and a particularly disgusting fashion, but it should be kept in mind that self-willed extinction is the norm. West of the Indus, Israel is the only survivor among the thousands of little nations that flourished between 10,000 BC and 600 AD. To be sure, there have been plenty of small tribes that wanted to live but were trampled by conquering hordes. The rule, however, is that civilizations die of their own disgust with life. Most of the industrial nations are dying, some very quickly. Most of the Muslim world would rather die than accommodate modernity (although some of it may choose to cease to be Islamic). I do not mean to sound cruel, but the best thing you can do for victims of a dying culture is: Don't be one of them. Individuals who want to live have the option of changing cultures. I do not mean that Israel (or anyone else) should go about killing off enemies in order to satisfy their death wish. God forbid: life is still sacred to us even if it is repugnant to them. Neither do we have to commit suicide in order to accommodate our crazy neighbor's death-wish. We might try to talk him down from the roof, but we are entitled to step aside when he jumps. It is not in our power to persuade suicidal civilizations to carry on living. Ultimately it is our job to contain the damage to ourselves. We cannot help but accept some civilian deaths while engaging an enemy that seeks the maximum number of civilian casualties. All of this is anathema to liberals, whose premise is that human agency can fix all problems. Enlightenment materialism posited a natural man who either sought self-preservation (Hobbes) or naturally pursued his own best interests (Locke) or was inherently good before corrupted by civilization (Rousseau). Satanic laughter from around the Levant drowns out the squeaky, thin voices of the Enlightenment. One no longer needs to read about it in books. The Middle East has become "How Civilizations Die: The Reality Show."Israel is the only developed nation (with a fertility rate of three) that loves life sufficiently to bring more children into the world than are required to replace the existing population. Even the US has fallen below replacement as Hispanics assimilate into Western culture and younger evangelicals behave more like their secular peers. Israel today, as at the time of the prophets, remains a unique and irreplaceable light unto the world, the paragon of a nation, the hope of all humanity. Today it is the proof that modern men and women can embrace life and raise themselves above the tragic fate of the peoples since the dawn of man. Anti-semitism is the vicious grudge that death harbors against life. We are tired of refuting the clumsy calumnies that are thrown at Israel each day in the liberal media. Our response is in the imperative: "Choose life!"
**David P. Goldman is Senior Fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and Wax Family Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
Libyan jihadists in Syria and Iraq returning home to fight Haftar: security sources
Benghazi, Asharq Al-Awsat— Libyan jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq are returning home to fight the breakaway militia led by Khalifa Haftar, who has recently emerged as a serious threat to the country’s Islamists, security and military sources told Asharq Al-Awsat. The revelation came after former Libyan officials expressed fears of an expected Islamist onslaught in a bid to take over the capital, Tripoli.
“Islamists have decided to bring the Libyan jihadists they had sent to Syria and Iraq in order to control Tripoli on [Thursday], particularly after they lost in the parliamentary elections,” a security source, who spoke with Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, said. Among the forces expected to take part in the attack are the Brotherhood-affiliated Libya Shield militias—a group of militias based in the city of Misrata—the Al-Qaeda-linked Ansar Al-Sharia and foreign jihadists who came to Libya after the 2011 revolution. “It is a dangerous situation,” an aide to the former Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said, also speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity. “Both sides [Islamists and Haftar] seem to be preparing for a battle which may continue for a long time.”
It also follows reports that the notorious Algerian jihadist Mokhtar Belmokhtar had moved his base of operations from Mali to the southern Libya earlier this year. “[Belmokhtar] is commanding [Islamist militias] in the border triangle near Chad and Algeria,” another security source told Asharq Al-Awsat, also speaking on the condition of anonymity. Tensions between Haftar and Islamists began in February, when the renegade ex-army officer attempted to organize a coup against Libya’s Muslim Brotherhood-controlled transitional government, pledging to crackdown on Islamists.
Haftar’s 6,000-strong Libyan National Army stormed the Tripoli-based parliament in May, in the wake of clashes between his forces and Islamist militias in Benghazi. The same source said Haftar’s Libyan National Army had recruited and trained thousands of young volunteers, in addition to existing followers from Libya’s nascent military, which have allowed him to take control of a number of military bases, field military helicopters and aircraft in his campaign against Islamists. In response, Islamist militias are bolstering their ranks by recalling the fighters they have sent to Iraq and Syria in the past months, the source claimed. Meanwhile, Haftar’s supporters are tightening their chokehold on Benghazi, leading to a growing state of alarm in the city, a stronghold for a number of Islamist militias.
Amid the continuing violence in the country, another focal point of political power also appears to be forming in the shape of Libya’s tribes. Almost 2,000 tribal leaders met in a conference in the town of Warshefana, south of Tripoli, on Tuesday. This stands in contrast to the immediate aftermath of the downfall of Libya’s late dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, when the country’s tribal leaders were marginalized because, for the most part, they remained on the sidelines of the uprising. “I feel Libya, indeed, has no other solution apart from the umbrella of the tribe,” the prominent Tunisian activist Sophia Al-Hamami, who attended the meeting, told Asharq Al-Awsat. She said: “A tribe is like a social contract. It is different from Tunisia, where the social contract has been signed by [political] parties, the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT), the government, and the presidency, among others.” According to senior Libyan security sources who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, Haftar has been coordinating with the tribes since the start of the year in a bid to build a united front against Islamists. Haftar seems to have realized that he cannot fight Islamists without the help of the tribes, and a deal for their assistance is believed to have been brokered by former Libyan officials in exile, the source said.
Iran seeks nuclear deadline extension, U.S. demands cuts
Reuters/VIENNA: Iran and six world powers Tuesday appeared likely to extend talks on Tehran’s nuclear program beyond a July 20 deadline, while Washington said the Islamic Republic must cut its capacity to make nuclear fuel if a deal to end sanctions is to be secured. “We have made it crystal clear that the 19,000 [nuclear centrifuges] that are currently part of their program is too many,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters after three days of talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. At a separate news conference, Zarif responded by saying that “insisting on the number of centrifuges is useless.” In a New York Times interview, Zarif floated the idea of Tehran keeping its enrichment program at current levels for a few years before expanding it. Diplomats said the Iranian delegation had raised this issue with the six in recent weeks. Kerry was responding to a question about a speech by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, which diplomats said has limited the ability of the Iranian delegation at the talks to make concessions and therefore clinch a deal. Kerry said the talks – involving the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, as well as Iran – had made tangible progress on key issues but gaps remained. “It is clear we still have more work to do and our team will continue to work very hard to try to reach a comprehensive agreement that resolves the international community’s concern. “There are more issues to work through and more provisions to nail down to ensure that Iran’s program can always remain exclusively peaceful,” Kerry said.
Zarif said that although he had had good talks with the U.S. diplomat, serious differences remained between the two sides. He suggested prolonging the talks past July 20 was likely since: “I see an inclination on the part of our negotiating partners that they believe more time may be useful and necessary.”He added that no decision on an extension had been taken, though several Western diplomats said prolonging the talks beyond July 20 was very likely. “Given that it is highly improbable to finalize an agreement by Sunday, it would be highly probable that we will continue the talks in the coming months,” a diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “The coming weeks don’t make much sense given it’s August. There will be a little break.”The Western diplomat said the terms of the extension would be discussed in the coming days. An extension of up to six months is theoretically possible according to an interim agreement Iran and the powers signed in November and began implementing in January. The interim deal gave Iran limited sanctions relief in exchange for curbing some atomic work. “The idea is to keep the status quo,” the Western diplomat said. “The same terms as now. Nothing is decided and that will be the object of discussions in hours that come.”Kerry will consult with President Barack Obama and Congress leaders about the prospects for a comprehensive agreement and the path forward if the July deadline is not met. Zarif said: “We have made enough headway to be able to tell our political bosses back home that this is a process worth continuing.” In the New York Times interview, Zarif said any limits on Iran’s nuclear program should be lifted after three to seven years. But U.S. officials have said Washington would want verifiable limits to remain in place for over a decade.
Kuwait to revoke citizenship in crackdown on opposition
Sami Aboudi| Reuters/DUBAI: The Kuwaiti government has threatened to revoke the citizenship of people suspected of trying to “undermine the stability” of the oil-rich monarchy, local media reported Tuesday. The warning is part of an “iron fist” policy adopted by the Cabinet Monday night, following protests earlier this month over the arrest of a prominent opposition politician. “The Interior Ministry is assigned to take all measures that are necessary to ensure the presence of the conditions and requirements provided for by Kuwaiti citizenship law number 15 of 1959, both in form and spirit, and especially in relation to the practices aimed at undermining security and stability,” the Cabinet said in a statement carried by state news agency KUNA. Kuwaiti political analyst Shamlan Alessa said the measure was aimed at naturalized Kuwaitis who have joined the opposition. Nasser al-Abdaly, who heads an association to promote democracy, said the move was intended to deter people from expressing any opposition to the government. Kuwait has suffered bouts of political crisis in recent years amid disputes over election procedures and charges of corruption and mismanagement by former parliament members and opposition politicians against senior government members and loyalists, including members of the ruling family. The OPEC member, a close U.S. ally with more than 6 percent of world oil reserves, has been alarmed by the takeover of large areas of Iraq by Islamist insurgents and other forces. Kuwaiti authorities have been investigating an alleged plot to overthrow the Gulf state’s ruling system. Police last week used smoke bombs to disperse hundreds of people who tried to march from the Grand Mosque to the main court complex to demand the release of Musallam al-Barrak, an opposition politician who had been detained for questioning for allegedly insulting the judiciary. The government has also ordered the Social Welfare Ministry to look into the activities of non-governmental associations to ensure they do not indulge in political activity. Analysts suggested this measure was aimed at Islamist associations. “This is directed at the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as some in the opposition who participated in recent demonstrations,” said Alessa, political science professor at Kuwait University. Kuwait’s Justice and Islamic Affairs Minister Nayef al-Ajmi stepped down in May after a senior U.S. official said he had called for jihad in Syria and promoted the funding of terrorism. Kuwaiti law does not allow parties to operate in the country. But the government tolerates political societies of various shades in the country of 4 million. Kuwait allows more political freedom than other Gulf Arab states. It has a lively press and an elected parliament, but has banned public gatherings of more than 20 people without a permit.
Phares to Fox News: "Hamas strategic priorities are to insure its control of Gaza facing Israel and Egypt"
In his comments on Fox News about the Egyptian cease fire proposal Dr Walid Phares said "in fact, by engaging in this confrontation with Israel and reaching a possible cease fire -if at all- Hamas would have secured its continuous domination of Gaza not just facing Israel but also against Egypt which ejected the Muslim Brotherhood regime and also indirectly against the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas." Phares said "it is the military wing of Hamas that is making those decisions in coordination with Iran. These are going to be long hours and days before a final outcome is decided. Israel too will review its own situation as it realized stunningly that new weapons have been used by Hamas including Drones and longer range missiles."
Canada's FM, Baird: ‘Hamas Not Interested in Peace’
July 15, 2014 - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today issued the following statement:
“As the Israeli cabinet approved a ceasefire that would have ended eight days of hostilities, Hamas rejected it without a second thought. This proves Hamas has no interest in peace.
“We have long believed that innocent Palestinian people living in Gaza deserve far better than the reckless actions of this terrorist organization.
“Make no mistake, Canada views Hamas as an international terrorist organization that is bent on the destruction of the State of Israel.
“The scourge of terrorism must be wholly rejected by all peace-loving people around the world. We must never allow moral relativism to act as cover for the indiscriminate attacks on Israel we have seen over the past eight days.
“We believe that Israel has the right to defend itself, by itself, from the continued campaign of terror being waged by Hamas.
“We sincerely appreciate Egypt’s efforts in attempting to broker this ceasefire.”
Sisi's Egypt and the Gaza Conflict
Eric Trager/Washington Institute /July 14, 2014
Washington should not be nostalgic for the days when a Muslim Brotherhood government had greater sway in Gaza City.
The ongoing Hamas-Israel conflagration reveals an important paradox in the new Egyptian regime's foreign policy outlook and capabilities. Recently inaugurated president Abdul Fattah al-Sisi shares Washington and Israel's view of Hamas as both a terrorist organization and a strategic threat, and he is consequently both less able and less willing to fulfill Egypt's traditional role of mediating between Hamas and Israel. While Washington is rightly eager to negotiate a swift end to the current round of fighting in Gaza, it should avoid the temptation to press Egypt to make any concessions that would enhance Hamas's rearming capabilities, such as reopening the Rafah crossing without a reliable system for preventing the flow of weapons and terrorists.
Sisi's negative view of Hamas represents a dramatic -- and welcome -- shift from his immediate predecessor, Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader. Prior to his June 2012 election, Morsi served as Hamas's point of contact within the Brotherhood's Guidance Office, and Morsi later hosted top-ranking Hamas leaders in the presidential palace and permitted Hamas deputy Mousa Abu Marzouk, a longtime personal friend, to reside in a Cairo suburb. By contrast, Sisi's regime has ordered Marzouk to leave Egypt and undertaken an aggressive military campaign to shut down the vast majority of the underground tunnels from Sinai to Gaza through which Hamas and other groups frequently smuggle weapons. During periods of calm, Sisi has thus contributed to Western efforts to confine Hamas.
Yet Sisi's sour relations with Hamas complicate Washington's efforts to end the latest round of Hamas-Israel fighting. Unlike his predecessors, Sisi has been unable to influence Hamas toward negotiations, as the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces did during the 2011 deal that released Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and as the Morsi government did during the 2012 Gaza ceasefire. Indeed, at U.S. officials' request, the Sisi regime has engaged Hamas with a proposal under which Israel would release recently captured prisoners and expand the fishing area off the coast of Gaza, while Egypt would permit building materials to enter Gaza. Hamas has rejected this overture, and Cairo appears unwilling to make any concession -- such as the permanent opening of the Rafah crossing -- that might enhance its leverage with Hamas. An Israeli ground invasion might force Sisi to change his approach, however, because high Palestinian casualties would make Sisi's continued isolation of Hamas politically costly, given the Egyptian public's pro-Palestinian sympathies.
This tension between Sisi's disdain for Hamas, on one hand, and his need to cater to Egyptian public opinion, on the other, has been evident in the wide gap between Egypt's policy and its pronouncements. While the Rafah crossing remains mostly closed, with only temporary openings in recent days to permit the entry of aid and outflow of wounded Gazans, Egyptian officials have publicly lambasted Israel's airstrikes. On Friday, Egypt's Foreign Ministry spokesman declared that Cairo stood "with the Palestinian people, who pay the price for the hazards and brutal attacks," and accused Israel of "flouting the rules of international law." Meanwhile, the Sisi government attempted to calm rising anger regarding the president's stance on Gaza by sending five hundred tons of food and medical supplies to Gaza in military vehicles. This two-faced policy toward Gaza thus resembles that of the Mubarak era, but with a significantly diminished diplomatic role for Egypt during moments of crisis. While this leaves Washington without a reliable diplomatic mechanism for resolving the current Hamas-Israel fighting, in the longer term -- and during periods of lighter media attention -- Washington can count on Sisi as a partner in isolating Hamas.
Indeed, Washington shouldn't be nostalgic for the days when a Muslim Brotherhood government had greater sway in Gaza City. Despite his cooperation in negotiating the 2012 ceasefire, Morsi's strong pro-Hamas sympathies meant that every episode of Hamas-Israel fighting carried the risk of a regional crisis. That is not the case during the current conflagration.
**Eric Trager is the Wagner Fellow at The Washington Institute.