LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Quotation for today/You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas’
John 1,35-42/The next day John again was standing
with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he
exclaimed, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God! ’The two disciples heard him
say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them
following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to
him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’
He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter).
A Tweet By Pope Francis
The one who listens attentively to the Word of God and truly prays, always asks the Lord: what is your will for me?
Quelqu’un qui écoute attentivement la Parole de Dieu et prie vraiment, demande toujours au Seigneur : quelle est ta volonté pour moi ?
Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For July 17/14
Geagea says Assad 'detached from reality'
March 14 Coalition Agrees to Attend Parliamentary Session with Pressing Agenda
Hariri to Propose Initiative Soon after Intensified Meetings with Mustaqbal Members
Plumbly Considers Situation in South 'Dangerous', Urges Self-Restraint
Report: Circles Close to Hariri Suggest Electing Aoun as President for Two-Year Term
Jumblat Won't Withdraw Helou's Nomination: Time Has Proven Need for his Candidacy
Miscellaneous Reports And News For July 17/14
Cease-fire is no solution
As the Israeli Cabinet delays its decision, Palestinians hammer Tel Aviv with heaviest barrage yet
Hamas officially rejects Egyptian ceasefire offer
Syria's Assad Sworn In, Takes Swipe at West over Revolt
Hezbollah Occupies Lebanon & Hamas
Elias Bejjani/16 July/14/ What in fact is taking place in Gaza is due to the sad fact that Hamas the terrorist Iranian supported organization occupies Gaza and uses its residents and their future as a mere tool to serve the Iranian scheme that includes all the Arab countries as well as Israel. The ongoing war in Gaza was instigated by Hamas who rejected yesterday a cease fire arranged by Egypt. The same cancer has hit Lebanon since 1982 by Hezbollah, the Iranian terrorist army. In conclusion there will be no peace in the whole Middle East before taming the Iranian regime and putting an end to all its military criminal and savage proxies in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and the Arabian Gulf states. The USA administration as well as the Arab countries bear full responsibly for the entire crimes and chaos in the Middle East because they did not contain and tam the Iranian Mullahs.
Geagea says Assad 'detached from reality'
The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea ridiculed Bashar Assad Wednesday over the inauguration ceremony in which he was sworn in as Syria’s president for the third term, saying the embattled leader was completely detached from reality. “I do not know whether I should laugh or cry over what they called today the swearing in of Syrian President Bashar Assad,” Geagea said in a statement hours after the ceremony at the presidential place in Damascus ended. “This person, who is completely detached from reality, took to the podium to swear for a nonexistent republic, according to a nonexistent constitution, and claim presidency over people who he has been attacking for three years using all kinds of weaponry: long and medium-range missiles, artillery, barrel bombs on residential areas and chemical weapons.” Assad took the oath of office and delivered a defiant speech in front of dozens of supporters, urging armed groups to put down their arms and blaming Arab countries and the West for the crisis. The president said he was optimistic Syrians would be able to return to their home country and thanked Hezbollah for supporting regime troops. “How can someone claim presidency over a country that he allowed armed groups from Lebanon, Iran and Iraq to enter and fight along his side?” Geagea asked. “Everyone knows this president is in his palace thanks to armed groups foreign to Syria, whose crisis we pray ends.”
Rai, Frangieh discuss presidential deadlock
he Daily Star/TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai held talks with Marada Movement leader Sleiman Frangieh at the prelate’s summer residence in Diman and discussed the presidential stalemate, now in it's second month. ir Mazloum, Ehden priest Estfan Franjieh and Bkirki's spokesperson Walid Ghayyad attended the talks between Rai and Frangieh before the two held a closed-door meeting.The talks lasted 90 minutes, during which Frangieh and Rai discussed the current political situation, particularly the presidential election, and developments in the region as well as pressing social
Jumblatt initiative to break Lebanon’s presidential deadlock fails
Beirut and London, Asharq Al-Awsat—A proposal by the head of the Lebanese parliament’s Democratic Gathering bloc, Walid Jumblatt, to end Lebanon’s presidential deadlock failed on Tuesday.
Jumblatt said he was willing to withdraw his party’s presidential candidate if the other parties agreed to do the same, in order to find a solution to the presidential vacuum. After rival parties rejected the offer, he said on Wednesday he would continue to back his bloc’s candidate, MP Henry Helou. Beirut’s Daily Star quoted Jumblatt as saying: “It is not accurate that the party is willing to withdraw its nomination of MP Henry Helou, particularly at a time when the local and regional events prove day by day the need to stick to such a candidate because he could represent the only end to the deadlock amid such sharp divisions.” The Lebanese presidency has been vacant since the end of May, when ex-president Michel Suleiman’s term expired. Since then, Lebanese politicians have been unable to agree on a new head of state in several parliamentary sessions. Under the country’s confessional political system, the presidency is traditionally reserved for a member of the Maronite Christian community, but Lebanon’s Christian parties have been split between rival blocs and cannot agree on a single candidate acceptable to other parties.
The March 14 Alliance backs the leader of the Lebanese Forces Party, Samir Geagea, while the March 8 Alliance—which includes Hezbollah—backs Michel Aoun of the Free Patriotic Movement, though he has yet to officially declare his candidacy. Druze leader Jumblatt’s political bloc is not part of either alliance—thus Jumblatt is known as the “kingmaker” in Lebanese politics, as his bloc’s support could be decisive in the election of a president. Rami El-Rayyis, the spokesman for Jumblatt’s Progressive Socialist Party, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the responses to Jumblatt’s offer from the parties of the two leading rivals for the job were not positive. “The insistence on the current nominations and the search for excuses to avoid the main presidential issue is no longer convenient,” Rayyis said, adding: “If the presidential vacuum lasts too long, it will worsen the Lebanese crisis at all levels.”
Ali Khrais, an MP with the Development a Liberation bloc, which is part of the March 8 Alliance, told Asharq Al-Awsat he hoped Jumblatt’s proposal would be the start of a solution, but that “the situation is not reassuring when everyone is pulling rank and hunkering down behind their stances.”Khrais said consultations between parliament speaker Nabih Berri and Jumblatt continued, and that both agreed on the need to find a president acceptable to all sides. But representatives of Geagea and Aoun said that their candidates would not withdraw. March 14-affiliated Lebanese Forces MP Antoine Zahra told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We are not interested in this proposal, especially as Geagea previously made a number of proposals and invited Michel Aoun to face him in parliament, or agree on two candidates from the two sides, with no response from Aoun. “Henry Helou is not the problem in the presidential crisis. The main obstacle is Michel Aoun, who is refusing to withdraw his candidacy.” Their stance was criticized by other lawmakers. Michel Aoun’s nephew, Alain Aoun, who is an MP in the Change and Reform bloc, said: “Insisting on candidates who have no chance of winning the presidency is itself a hindrance.“The current parliament has harmed Christian interests,” he said, calling on all parties to “take responsibility for their decisions.” Jumblatt has refused to support the nomination of either Geagea—so far the only one of the two main figures to officially declare his candidacy—or Aoun, whom he has described as “Hezbollah’s default candidate.” He said: “We are in need of a strong state president, not a strong Christian president.” Minister of Health Wael Abu Faour, a member of the Progressive Socialist Party, said Jumblatt was trying to help Prime Minister Tammam Salam to resolve the crisis in Lebanon. “We agreed with the prime minister that the presidential elections are key to all solutions, and that all the delays, problems, and obstacles we face today are a result of the presidential vacancy, and that the only solution, as Jumblatt said today, was to open the door of reconciliation on the presidency,” Abu Faour said following a meeting with Salam on Tuesday. “As long as we continue to be obstinate and insist on conditions and counter conditions, the presidential vacancy will continue.”
*Caroline Akoum contributed reporting from Beirut.
The head of the Journalists Union, Elias Aoun Geagea urged to close ranks for election bid
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The head of the Journalists Union, Elias Aoun, called on the rival Christian leaders, Michel Aoun and Samir Geagea, to take the initiative to end the presidential deadlock in Lebanon.
“Dear General [Aoun], Dear Dr. [Geagea], ... what is needed from you is to take the initiative together, to sit with yourselves and review the series of pain, and stretch your hand out to one another,” Elias Aoun said Wednesday in an open letter to Michel Aoun and Geagea. “You are both required to reach an inevitable solution: agree on the principle that priority goes to the nation and to the Christian presence in a sovereign and independent Lebanon,” he wrote. Calling on them as leaders of the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces, two of Lebanon's main Christian parties, the head of the Journalists Union urged Aoun and Geagea to urgently agree that one of them must reach the presidential post. "Or [agree] on a third qualified and honorable Maronite [figure],” Aoun added. “Would you do this so Lebanon would have a president in the July 23 [voting] session?”President Michel Sleiman’s term ended May 25 with MPs failing to elect a new head of state over lack of consensus on a presidential candidate.
March 14 Coalition Agrees to Attend Parliamentary Session with Pressing Agenda
Naharnet/The March 14 alliance discussed the latest local developments in a meeting at the Center House to take a unified stance over the crises gripping the country's political life.
According to al-Mustaqbal newspaper published on Wednesday, the meeting which was held on Tuesday evening tackled in particular the possibility of attending a parliamentary session that includes on its agenda only urgent draft-laws. The daily said that the attendees stressed that the only solution to the spending row is for the Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil to submit the state's 2014 budget draft-law to the parliament. Recently, sharp differences loomed between AMAL movement and al-Mustaqbal over a spending decree that is threatening to delay the salaries of public employees.
Minister Khalil, who is Speaker Nabih Berri's adviser, expressed fear recently that civil servants would not be paid their salaries at the end of the month because of the paralysis of parliament. Parliament should pass draft-laws allowing the government to approve treasury loans. But lawmakers have been boycotting legislative sessions over the vacuum at the presidency.
Syria's Assad Sworn In, Takes Swipe at West over Revolt
Naharnet/Syria's President Bashar Assad was sworn in Wednesday for a new seven-year term, warning Western and Arab governments they will pay dearly for backing those who took up arms against him. In a triumphant speech delivered after he took the oath of office at a red carpet ceremony in Damascus, Assad branded the 2011 Arab uprisings a "fake spring". Assad, 48, won a June election denounced as a "farce" by his detractors as it was staged more than three years into a devastating war that has killed more than 170,000 people and uprooted millions."Syrians, three years and four months... have passed since some cried 'freedom'," Assad declared, referring to the 2011 revolt. "They wanted a revolution, but you have been the real revolutionaries. I congratulate you for your revolution and for your victory," Assad told his supporters. "Those who lost their way can now see clearly... the monstrous faces have been unveiled, the mask of freedom and the revolution has fallen."
Assad's inauguration comes with much of the world's attention focused elsewhere, as violence engulfs Iraq and Gaza even though his troops continue to pound rebel-held areas of second city Aleppo.
During the first two years of the Syrian revolt, which began as a peaceful protest movement before transforming into an armed rebellion, the opposition's Western and Arab supporters repeatedly insisted he must step down. But the rise of the jihadist Islamic State (IS) has turned the tide and raised fears about the future. Assad has repeatedly branded the revolt as a foreign-backed "terrorist plot", refusing to recognize any genuine movement for change. More than 1,000 people were invited to Wednesday's inauguration, with Assad arriving at the presidential palace in a black sedan car before being met on the red carpet by a military band. Parliamentarians and other guests cheered for Assad in the hall where he spoke. Assad won the June 3 election held only in regime-controlled territories by 88.7 percent, defeating two other candidates seen as figureheads, rather than genuine opponents. The opposition National Coalition branded the election a "farce" even before it was staged, in a statement later echoed by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Samir Nashar, a veteran dissident and member of the coalition, admitted the world's attention has turned away from Syria. "The situation in the Middle East is changing very fast. Unfortunately for Syrians, the instability has distracted the international community's attention," he said. Nashar said Assad had managed to portray his regime as a more acceptable option "in comparison to the Islamic State and extremism, especially in the eyes of European countries."Analysts say the rise of the jihadists has been a "gift" for Assad, who from the outset branded the revolt as a foreign-backed "terrorist plot". The Syrian leader would try to take advantage of the West's fear of Islamic extremism and present himself as a bulwark against the phenomenon, they said. Assad "is telling them: 'I am your man in the region, I can face the terrorists and extremists, give me your support and your recognition'," said Nashar.
Following in the footsteps of his father and predecessor Hafez, who ruled Syria with an iron fist for 30 years, Assad has ignored the calls for his ouster. Assad's regime has been propped up with the tireless financial, military and diplomatic backing of allies Iran and Russia. On the political front, Moscow and also Beijing have vetoed numerous U.N. Security Council resolutions that would have imposed sanctions on Damascus. And on the ground, Lebanon's Iranian-backed Hizbullah has fought alongside Assad's forces, whereas rebels have remained divided and poorly armed. Weakening the rebels further, they have fought IS since January, in battles that have killed more than 6,000 combatants. Meanwhile, the brutality of IS and its takeover of territories straddling Syria and Iraq have gripped the West's attention.After the inauguration, the government has to resign and Assad will appoint a new prime minister to replace Wael al-Halqi. But to the new opposition chief, Hadi al-Bahra, Assad "is at the core of the Syrian conflict (and) is still the main reason behind the unprecedented humanitarian crisis that is affecting the country."In a document distributed by his office, Bahra added: "The international community must not fall into the trap laid so cynically by the dictator."Agence France Presse
Jumblat Won't Withdraw Helou's Nomination: Time Has Proven Need for his Candidacy
Naharnet/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat denied on Wednesday media reports that claimed that his Democratic Gathering bloc was willing to withdraw the presidential nomination of MP Henri Helou, deeming such reports as “inaccurate”. He said in a statement: “Local and regional developments have demonstrated that we need to commit to this nomination now more than ever.” “The nomination may represent the only solution to end the presidential deadlock given the severe division in Lebanon,” he noted. “The Democratic Gathering believes that Helou's nomination represents the line of moderation, consensus, and dialogue,” added the MP. “It is supposed to help produce political solutions, especially in light of the ongoing Syrian war and the involvement of Lebanese powers in it,” Jumblat stressed. He highlighted the need to adhere to the Baabda Declaration and Lebanon's policy of disassociation from regional conflicts. The PSP chief therefore called on the political powers, “who appear to be prisoners of their own mental or illusory prisons, to exit those jails and head to parliament to allow democracy to play its role and elect a new president.” Jumblat had told As Safir newspaper on Tuesday that he was ready to pull Helou's candidacy if the other candidates decided to do so in an attempt to resolve the country's presidential deadlock. He remarked: “We should seek to safeguard the country by placing the nation's interest before any other.” “This would materialize by speedy concessions made by everyone and through the election of a compromise president who is capable of managing the crisis,” he said. “In this case, I don't mind to pull the candidacy of Helou if the others do the same to facilitate an agreement that would end the vacuum,” the PSP chief added. Lebanon's top Christian post was left vacant on May 25 when President Michel Suleiman's six-year term ended amid a failure by the rival March 8 and 14 alliances to find a successor over their dispute on a compromise candidate.
Jumblat has backed the candidacy of Aley MP Helou, saying Lebanon needs a centrist president.
Report: Circles Close to Hariri Suggest Electing Aoun as President for Two-Year Term
Naharnet/Electing Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun as president for a two-year term is being proposed as a means to end the presidential deadlock, reported al-Akhbar newspaper on Wednesday. It said that Lebanese circles in the French capital Paris that are close to head of the Mustaqbal Movement MP Saad Hariri made the proposal in exchange for forming a cabinet that ensures the interests of his movement. Aoun as president would also be granted the right to appoint the head of the army, added the circles to al-Akhbar. The proposal calls for a constitutional amendment and also entails reaching an agreement over a parliamentary electoral law that would not harm the representation of the Mustaqbal Movement and FPM at parliament. The circles noted however that talks over the proposal are still in general terms. Al-Akhbar said that efforts will be made to appoint an individual, who is influential with Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea in order to persuade him to accept the initiative. It predicted that Geagea may be swayed to accept it because Aoun's term will only last two years. In addition, those pushing for the initiative are banking on the support of Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi because of his insistence to hold the presidential elections as soon as possible and because he does not oppose Aoun's nomination, stated the daily. Lebanon has been without a president since the term of Michel Suleiman ended in May. Several elections sessions have been held, but they were obstructed due to a lack of quorum caused by a boycott of the Loyalty to the Resistance and Change and Reform blocs of the March 8 alliance. The boycott was prompted by the ongoing dispute with the March 14 camp over a presidential candidate. Geagea has announced his nomination, while Aoun had repeatedly said that he will run in the elections if there is consensus over his candidacy.
Grade 12 Students Enraged over Delay in Exam Correction, Vow to Hold Further Sit-ins
Naharnet/Grade 12 students held a sit-in on Wednesday at the Education Ministry in Beirut's UNESCO area to demand the correction of their official exams as the standoff between the Syndicate Coordination Committee and politicians threatens to sabotage their academic year. “We refuse to allow anyone to correct our exams but our teachers,” the students said. The angered students vowed that their sit-in will not be the last, warning that the next protest will be held outside the Grand Serail at the Riad al-Solh Square. The SCC’s suspension of the exams correction had left Grade 12 students in disarray as they are awaiting the results to enroll in university while Grade 9 students, who underwent the Brevet exams, need to pass their tests in order to enter the secondary school. Head of Public Secondary School Education Teachers Association Hanna Gharib said during the students' protest that politicians failed to create divisions between the teachers and students and their parents. “We will challenge the situation with the parents, teachers, students, employees and contract workers by our side,” he stressed. Gharib warned that the SCC is ready to form the widest syndicate coalition to press the rights of public employees. Speaker Nabih Berri has decided to keep legislative sessions on the wage scale open-ended after lawmakers failed to approve the raise. Parliamentary blocs have expressed their support for the employees' rights but have warned that Lebanon's ailing economy would suffer if the total funding was not reduced from LL2.8 trillion ($1.9 billion) to LL1.8 trillion ($1.2 billion). They have also disagreed on how to raise taxes to fund the scale over fears of inflation and its affect on the poor. Their differences have been exacerbated by the boycott of the March 14 alliance's MPs of the sessions aimed at discussing the draft-law under the excuse that parliament should not legislate in the absence of a president. For his part, Education Minister Elias Bou Saab expressed regret over the ongoing new pay hike crisis. He blamed politicians for the “unfortunate situation” that the country, the students and the teachers are facing. Bou Saab warned that a new school year is at risk. Bou Saab considered that providing students with statements that they passed their official exams degrades the education in Lebanon. “If this was the only solution then they should choose another education minister,” he said.
Two Rockets from Eastern Mountain Range Target Brital
Naharnet/Rockets fired from the Eastern Mountain Range (on the Lebanese-Syrian border) targeted on Wednesday the northern Bekaa town of Brital, the state-run National News Agency reported. According to NNA, a rocket targeted the outskirts of the town of Brital, while another one landed between Brital and al-Taybeh. On Tuesday, eleven people were wounded when Syrian fighter jets shelled the outskirts of the town of Arsal in the eastern Bekaa region. Syria-based rebel groups usually claim responsibility for such attacks, arguing that they come in retaliation to Hizbullah's military intervention in Syria
Lebanese, Syrian Charged with Belonging to the Islamic State
Naharnet/Government Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr on Wednesday charged two arrested men with belonging to the jihadist Islamic State group. "Saqr charged a Lebanese and a Syrian with belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant for the purpose of carrying out terrorist operations,” LBCI television reported. LBCI remarked that the maximum punishment for such a crime is death penalty. Saqr referred the case to the acting military magistrate, according to the same source. Military Examining Magistrate Imad al-Zein issued last Thursday an arrest warrant against a soldier who had defected from the Syrian army on charges of belonging to the same terrorist group. The Islamic State is the latest and most powerful incarnation of what began as an al-Qaida affiliate in Iraq. The group is led by an ambitious Iraqi militant known by his nom de guerre of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi with a $10 million U.S. bounty on his head. After taking the reins in 2010, al-Baghdadi successfully transformed what had been an umbrella organization focused mainly on Iraq into a transnational military force. It also drew the ire of many opposition fighters in Syria by focusing not on the fight against Syrian President Bashar Assad, but rather on restoring a medieval Islamic state, or caliphate, in Iraq and Greater Syria, also known as the Levant. The group is also referred to sometimes as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. On June 29, IS declared the establishment of a "caliphate," referring to an Islamic system of rule that was abolished nearly 100 years ago.
Hariri to Propose Initiative Soon after Intensified Meetings with Mustaqbal Members
Naharnet /Al-Mustaqbal Movement leader Saad Hariri will launch an initiative in the upcoming two days after intensive meetings with his party members in Jeddah, local newspapers reported on Wednesday.
Al-Joumhouria newspaper reported that consultations between Hariri and members of his movement aimed at “putting the final touches” on a political initiative that the former PM is expected to launch during his televised speech on Friday in an iftar hosted by al-Mustaqbal. The daily said that the initiative will include the general situation in the country. Head of al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc MP Fouad Saniora described in remarks published in As Safir daily the meeting with Hariri as “excellent,” ruling out rumors of sharp differences with Hariri. Sources said that talks between Hariri, Saniora and Nader Hariri, head of the ex-PM's office, motivated al-Mustaqbal chief to go on with his initiative. The sources pointed out that the initiative comes in light of discussions with AMAL movement and the Free Patriotic Movement. Two Mustaqbal delegations traveled to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia for talks with Hariri. The delegations were comprised of Saniora, Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq, Nader Hariri, Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi and MPs Samir al-Jisr and Mohammed Kabbara. The two visits reportedly come after Hariri's adviser former MP Ghattas Khoury delivered an invitation to al-Mustaqbal Movement members to meet Hariri in Jeddah.
Plumbly Considers Situation in South 'Dangerous', Urges Self-Restraint
Naharnet /United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly described on Wednesday the situation along the southern Lebanese border as “dangerous,” stressing that all sides must exercise self-restraint. “The recent developments are a serious source of concern, especially after rockets (hit Israel) for four consecutive days,” Plumbly said in an interview with An Nahar newspaper.
However, he expressed fear over any escalatory move. The U.N. diplomat believed that it is in Hizbullah and Israel's best interest to maintain the eight-year peace along the Blue Line.
He considered the launching of rockets from South Lebanon a “clear violation” of U.N. Security Council resolution 1701, revealing that investigations are ongoing. Plumbly hailed coordination between the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon and the Lebanese Armed Forces. 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 tenth day, killing at least 194 people and wounding over 1,500 others.
Concerning the Syrian refugees crisis, Plumbly lauded the efforts exerted by Lebanon to confront the burden imposed by the surging number of displaced Syrians.
“The international community should share this burden,” the U.N. diplomat said, warning of further security, social and economic threats. Asked about a possible Lebanese decision to establish camps for Syrian refugees outside Lebanese territories or in buffer zones along the border with Syria, Plumbly said: “such an action requires a decision by the cabinet.”“The matter compromises the safety of refugees if such a move was taken.”Lebanon currently hosts 1.1 million refugees, the highest number at 38 percent of Syrian refugees fleeing the war-torn country for other countries in the region.
The U.N. says the country needs $1.6 billion (1.2 billion euros) for 2014 to be able to cope with the refugee crisis, but that only 23 percent of this has been gathered. According to Central Bank of Lebanon statistics, the country faces a financial burden of $4.5 billion because of the refugee crisis. In May, the Lebanese authorities took a decision to ban Syrian refugees from heading to their country or lose their status. On the presidential deadlock, Plumbly said that the U.N. Security Council and the international community support Lebanon's stability and the unity of its land. “State institutions shouldn't be impeded and the vacancy should be filled without any further delay.”He called on the “Lebanese not to wait for any breakthroughs in the region to resolve their own problems.”Lebanon's top Christian post was left vacant on May 25 when President Michel Suleiman's six-year term ended amid a failure by the rival March 8 and 14 alliances to find a successor over their dispute on a compromise candidate.
Rocket Fired from Rashaya al-Fakhar Lands in Lebanese Territories
Naharnet /Unknown assailants fired late on Tuesday night a rocket from southern Lebanon, which landed in Lebanese territories, reported the National News Agency on Wednesday.
It said that the rocket was fired at around 12:50 am from the Rashaya al-Fakhar region, most likely targeting Israel. It landed however in the Wadi Qais region on the outskirts of the southern town of al-Khiyam. No Israeli response was recorded, but it did fired flares over the Kfarshouba Hills amid heavy overflights by its drones. Earlier, the Lebanese army Intelligence Bureau arrested two suspects for firing rockets against Israel from the southern region of Tyre. It identified in a statement the suspects as Palestinian brothers Khalil and Hassan Kharraz. It said that they confessed to firing rockets on July 13 and 14. As Safir newspaper said on Wednesday that they are residents of the al-Rashidiyeh refugee camp. They were found to be members of an Islamic Palestinian group, it added. Informed sources told the daily however that they most likely acted on their own, without referring to the group and without political motives. They suspected that more than one group was behind the shelling.
The army also discovered a cache for rockets hidden in the suspects' pickup truck. At least one rocket was fired Monday night from southern Lebanon towards northern Israel, in the fourth such attack in four days. “Unknown individuals fired a rocket from the Ras al-Ain area, south of the city of Tyre, towards the occupied Palestinian territories (Israel),” Lebanon's National News Agency reported. On Sunday, two rockets were fired from southern Lebanon towards Israel, drawing an Israeli retaliation. Israel responded by firing several shells at the outskirts of al-Hinniyeh and al-Ezriyeh in Tyre district, amid overflights in the area by its military aircraft. Earlier on Sunday, the Lebanese army found a launchpad from which three rockets were fired overnight Saturday from the Tyre region towards northern Israel.
The launchpad was discovered in the Ras al-Ain plain, south of the al-Rashidiyeh camp, and an “unexploded bomb” was also found in the location.
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.
Berri on Presidential Deadlock: We Have Not Reached Age of Political Maturity
Naharnet/Speaker Nabih Berri lamented the failure of the Lebanese factions to elect a new president, warning that Lebanon will be faced with regional dangers if the powers continue to manage the country in the current manner, reported An Nahar daily on Wednesday. He told the daily: “Unfortunately, we have not yet reached the age of political maturity.”“The Lebanese powers are the main sides to blame, along with their reliance on foreign forces,” he added. “Lebanon needs to be protect itself through restructuring the state” and seeking the needs of the people, stressed the speaker. Moreover, he remarked that the country “would restore 90 percent of its immunity” if a president is elected “as soon as possible and before it is too late.” The situation in Lebanon will become worse if the status quo remains, cautioned Berri. “Every passing month exposes Lebanon to another vacuum, … which will endanger the parliamentary elections,” he stated, while renewing his rejection of extending its term for a second time.
Parliament's term was extended in May 2013. “The solution lies in electing a president, bolstering constitutional institutions, and fulfilling all other national duties instead of becoming embroiled in wrongful policies,” Berri said. “Through God's help, Lebanon has remained in better condition than regional countries that are threatened by fragmentation and division, which is what Lebanon experience for about 15 years” during the civil war, he remarked to An Nahar. “Attempts to divide the country failed and its first and only guarantee are the people,” he stressed. Lebanon has been without a president since the term of Michel Suleiman ended in May. Several elections sessions have been held, but they were obstructed due to a lack of quorum caused by a boycott of the Loyalty to the Resistance and Change and Reform blocs of the March 8 alliance. The boycott was prompted by the ongoing dispute with the March 14 camp over a presidential candidate. Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea has announced his nomination, while Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Michel Aoun had repeatedly said that he will run in the elections if there is consensus over his candidacy.
Senior Iraqi Shiite Grand Ayatollah Bashir al-Najafi, Backs PM Maliki's Ouster
Naharnet /The removal of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki would be an "important part" of the solution to Iraq's political crisis, a spokesman for one of the country's top Shiite clerics said. The statement is the first from any of Iraq's revered Shiite religious leaders to explicitly endorse Maliki's ouster, and is one of a string of recent announcements indicating a more active national role for the usually taciturn clergy. The speedy formation of a new more inclusive government is seen as a crucial step in countering last month's onslaught by Islamic State (IS) militants, who have exploited resentment stoked by Iraq's ineffectual and fractious political leaders. "That's part of the solution. An important part," said Sheikh Ali al-Najafi, spokesman for his father Grand Ayatollah Bashir al-Najafi, referring to Maliki's defenestration. "This is the point of view of the marja al-Najafi," he told AFP on Monday, a "marja" being one of majority Shiite Iraq's four most senior Shiite religious leaders, known as the marjaiya.
The most senior of the marjaiya, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, through a spokesman has already called for the "formation an effective government that is acceptable on a ... national level (and) avoids past mistakes". The June 20 statement stopped short of calling for Maliki to step down, but was nonetheless an implicit rebuke for a leader seen by many as sectarian and divisive. Maliki, who came to power in 2006, has vowed to seek a third term after his coalition dominated April elections, but Iraq's minority Sunni Arabs and ethnic Kurds -- and even some fellow Shiites -- have demanded his replacement.
Sistani had earlier issued a call to arms against IS insurgents, the marjaiya's first fatwa for jihad in Iraq for more than 90 years, despite decades of war and bloodshed. "Now the marjaiya sees a real sustained danger for Iraq, and that Iraq could collapse within hours or days, and needs a stand from all its people to protect the unity of the country," Najafi said, speaking in the holy Shiite city of Najaf.
Iraq was almost torn apart in 2006 and 2007 when the bombing of the Al-Askari Shiite shrine north of Baghdad triggered a wave of sectarian slaughter between Shiite militias and Al-Qaida allied Sunni militants. "The size and type of battle is different this time. The number of fighters is different. Daash is different from Al-Qaida," Najafi said, referring to the former Arabic acronym for Islamic State.
"It's something more developed than Al-Qaida; strength-wise, coordination-wise, organization-wise, funding-wise. It's different from before." The marjaiya has in the past been more circumspect, and has stayed aloof from Iraq's graft-ridden and dysfunctional political arena. But things have changed, Najafi said, hinting at more muscular clerical interventions to come. "When there's a problem, it's up to the father to address this problem... the marjaiya is the father," he said. "In any crisis, you will have the advice of the marjaiya. And that is for the stability of Iraq, its protection, its unity, and to reassure it and its neighbors and the region. "With the crises, that we hope won't continue, it is expected there will be continued advice." Agence France Presse
France Proposes EU Observers at Gaza-Israel Crossings
Naharnet /France said Wednesday the European Union could set up observer missions at border crossings between the Gaza Strip and Israel to try to encourage a lasting truce between the two sides. The proposal by Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius came as an Israeli air campaign on Gaza that has killed 208 people entered its ninth day after a failed ceasefire effort. "Europe... is ready to do things, particularly through what we call EUBAM, which are forces that could monitor movements between Gaza and Israel," he told French radio. The EU had implemented a similar operation in 2005 at the Rafah crossing point between Gaza and Egypt. In cooperation with Palestinian and Israeli officials, the mission of 70 European police officers monitored movements of people, goods and vehicles at the Rafah crossing, Gaza's only window to the outside world that bypasses Israel. But it was suspended in June 2007 after Hamas seized power in the Gaza Strip. "Arab countries have said they support this, and we would also need the agreement of the five permanent members of the (U.N.) Security Council," Fabius said. The issue could be discussed this week in Brussels. So far, the Israeli air campaign has killed 207 Palestinians, while Gaza militant groups have fired a barrage of more than 1,200 rockets at Israel, which on Tuesday claimed its first Israeli life.Agence France Presse
Hamas officially rejects Egyptian ceasefire offer
Elior Levy, Roi Kais/07.16.14, 16:27 /ynetnews
Gaza rulers demand opening of Rafah border crossing on a more regular basis; Egypt would condition this in PA operating crossing, while Israel prefers international body. Hamas has officially rejected Egypt's ceasefire proposal on Wednesday, over a day after it was due to take effect It appears than any agreement to end the fighting in the Gaza Strip would force Egypt to open the Rafah border crossing on a more regular basis than it is opened currently. Since the election of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Egypt, the crossing has been opening for only a few days each month and the movement through it has been limited to mostly students and humanitarian cases. Assessments are that Egypt will set one condition to the more frequent opening of the crossing - for Hamas to give over control of the border crossing to the Palestinian Authority. Israel, however, would prefer having international elements operating the border passing - something that has failed in the past.
As the Israeli Cabinet delays its decision, Palestinians hammer Tel Aviv with heaviest barrage yet
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 16, 2014/As the Israeli Cabinet failed to reach a decision about Gaza operation, after a relatively quiet night the Palestinians Wednesday launched their heaviest barrage of rockets in the current conflict to date at Gush Dan. Hamas claimed responsibility for sending M-75s at the region. Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s ceasefire ploy Tuesday, July 15, instead of calming the violence in Gaza, unleashed a furious spate of 140 rockets from the Gaza Strip, which drew dozens of Israel air strikes after a six-hour lull in operations. By the end of the eighth day of Operation Defensive Edge, the Israeli security cabinet saw it was saddled with a new dilemma: persuading the Egyptian ruler to punish Hamas to the full extent of his power. This is reported by debkafile’s Middle East and military sources. But just as US President Barack Obama stayed clear of the Gaza conflict by hauling Secretary of State John Kerry out of range, so too the Egyptian president would much prefer Israel deal with Hamas, which he regards as the Palestinian branch of his archenemy the Muslim Brothers. El-Sisi would not mind taking a hand in the all-out campaign against the Palestinian Islamists, so long as Israel takes the lead and conducts a wide-scale military operation to crush them. He would then collect the rewards. Broad Israeli circles have commended the Netanyahu government for accepting the ceasefire proposed by Cairo – both because it lent Israel unquestioned justification for striking the rejectionist Hamas. Cairo has its own perception of the situation created by the “truce”: Netanyahu manufactured a favorable international background for military action against Hamas and it was now up to him to go through with it. Aware of this small crack in the camp ranged against them, Hamas and Jihad Islami outdid themselves Tuesday in hurling rockets – some 130 – against dozens of Israeli population centers as far as the Jordan Valley. Now, say debkafile’s sources, Egypt, Hamas and Israel are in a holding pattern. Netanyahu and his defense minister, Moshe Ya’alon, understand that El-Sisi will not lift a finger until Israel broadens its operation against Hamas. It is up to this duo to make the decisions, since the security cabinet is hamstrung by internal differences and embarrassing leaks. The Egyptian president will be receiving the Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Cairo later Wednesday. He will decide how far he wants to cooperate with him when he sees how far Israel is willing to go against Hamas. The more devastating the blow, the more amenable he will be to working with Netanyahu rather than Abbas. Whatever is decided between Cairo and Jerusalem, Hamas and Jihad Islami know they are in for trouble: and so they fall back on their knee-jerk reaction by redoubling their rocket fire on Israel.
On atrocities in Syria and Gaza
Wednesday, 16 July 2014 /By: Diana Moukalled/Al Arabiya
An Arab deputy in the Israeli Knesset, Ahmad al-Tibi, requested to read out the names of people killed by the Israeli army this week, a Knesset member responded, saying “shut up when you recall the martyrs’ names who were killed by your brothers’ missiles.” The verbal altercation, regarding the escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian situation and the heavy Israeli shelling of Gaza, may be one of the most interesting political and media moments regarding the deterioration of security in Gaza. “Today, and more than any other time, the Arab media and society have never appeared so confused regarding their stance on what’s going on in Gaza”
Enthusiasm to defend the Palestinians’ plaint is barely noticeable, and most of the time it’s fabricated. Apart from a few voices, there’s no real rally for what’s happening in Gaza. At this point, we must admit that the ordeal of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip has not easily appealed to the sentiment of many Arabs despite the number of those killed by the Israeli aggression.
Arab media’s hesitancy
The Arab media’s laziness, or rather its hesitancy to cover a security and humanitarian incident that within few days killed dozens and injured hundreds, is clear. The Arab public opinion and media presented a confused approach regarding the stance from the Hamas movement as most of the times the entire Gaza Strip is viewed as just representing Hamas.
Despite all the footage of victims, it seems like this tragedy is deadlocked. It makes no sense for this tragedy in Gaza not to appeal to our sentiment, and we may have to search to figure out where this defect in our relation with the Palestinian cause lies. Yes, the past three years revealed the hypocritical discourse regarding the Palestinian cause. Today, and more than any other time, the Arab media and society have never appeared so confused regarding the stance on what’s going on in Gaza. The Palestinian cause, in this sense, is the first victim of the resistance rhetoric which the Syrian regime adopted. The Syrian regime has exploited the Palestinian cause during its war against its people. The Syrian official stance in brief goes something like this - We’re killing our people to liberate Palestine. The fact is, it’s killing its people to stay in power and not to liberate Palestine.
Syrian regime’s massacres
Photos of the Syrian regime’s massacres did not move us much and this tragedy is repeating with the photos of the Palestinian victims. It’s difficult to produce a second Mohammad Durra although the Palestinian victims are still victims and although Israel is still an occupying and aggressive force. Take Mohammad Abu Khdeir, the boy burnt to death by settlers, and his cousin Tarek, whom Israeli soldiers attacked, as an example.The difficulty here is that there’s an unjust, realistic approach. On the day when these two boys were attacked, there were dozens of other victims in Syria and Iraq. Palestine is no longer the only tragedy of the Levant. Someone harmed Palestine when it committed atrocities that are worse - this is the Syrian regime’s crime.
Israeli air strikes raise Gaza toll above 200
By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News
Wednesday, 16 July 2014
The death toll from Israel’s operation in the besieged Gaza Strip has been raised to 203, medics said, after new air strikes on the Palestinian territory. Two men were killed early Wednesday after a strike was launched on their house in the southern city of Rafah. A separate raid killed a young man who witnesses said was an Islamic Jihad fighter, according to Agence France-Presse. Another Rafah strike shortly afterwards left one man dead emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra told AFP, while a raid on the home of Mohammad al-Arjani in the southern city of Khan Younis killed his son Abdullah, 19. About an hour later, tank fire from inside Israel hit the eastern part of Khan Yunis, killing three people, Qudra said. A woman and a child from the Abu Daqqa family were among the three dead, an emergency services spokesman said. Earlier on Wednesday, another member of the Abu Daqqa family was killed in a separate strike on the city. Another attack destroyed the house of Mahmoud Zahar - who is believed to be in hiding elsewhere - in the first apparent targeting of a top Hamas political leader. There were no reports of casualties in that strike. It was the ninth day of Israel's Operation Protective Edge, which aims to stamp out rocket fire from Gaza. Since July 8, militants have fired nearly 1,000 rockets and mortars into the Jewish state, and Israel has carried out around 1,500 strikes against targets inside the Gaza Strip, according to the army. Tuesday saw Israel's first fatality, when a man died from a rocket attack near the Erez border crossing. Four Israelis have been seriously injured by rocket fire, and Israel's air strikes have wounded more than 1,500 Palestinians. The Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said on Sunday, when the Gaza toll stood at over 150, that three quarters of the dead were civilians.
Egyptian-proposed truce fails
Israel had suspended strikes after accepting truce proposed by neighboring Egypt, but the deal failed to get Hamas militants to halt rocket attacks.
Under a blueprint announced by Egypt - Gaza's neighbour and whose military-backed government has been at odds with Islamist Hamas - a mutual "de-escalation" was to have begun at 9 a.m. (0600 GMT), with hostilities ceasing within 12 hours. Hamas' armed wing, the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, rejected the ceasefire deal, a proposal that addressed in only general terms some of its key demands, and said its battle with Israel would "increase in ferocity and intensity". But Moussa Abu Marzouk, a Hamas political official who was in Cairo, said the movement, which is seeking a deal that would ease the Egyptian and Israeli border restrictions throttling Gaza's economy, had made no final decision on Cairo's proposal.
Gaza Public Rejects Hamas, Wants Ceasefire
David Pollock/Washington Institute/July 15, 2014
A recent, credible poll shows that most Gazans oppose Hamas policies and leaders alike, and favor a ceasefire with Israel. Today's headlines are that Hamas has just rejected Egypt's offer of a ceasefire with Israel and instead continues to fire rockets indiscriminately at Israeli towns and cities. Less known is a crucial fact: the people of Gaza are solidly against these Hamas policies. Indeed, by a very large majority, they oppose Hamas rule altogether. These findings are based on a June 15-17 survey by a highly respected Palestinian pollster, who conducted face-to-face interviews throughout Gaza using standard random geographical probability sampling. The poll included 450 Gazans, yielding a margin of error of approximately 4 percent. This is the only credible Palestinian poll taken since the mid-June West Bank kidnapping incident, Israel's subsequent searches and arrests, and the start of the current crisis (for more on the survey, see PolicyWatch 2276, "New Palestinian Poll Shows Hardline Views, But Some Pragmatism Too").
GAZANS WANTED A CEASEFIRE EVEN AS HAMAS STARTED FIRING ROCKETS
As tensions mounted and Hamas and other Gazan factions began to step up rocket fire last month, the people of that territory were heavily in favor of a ceasefire -- 70 percent of the poll respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement "Hamas should maintain a ceasefire with Israel in both Gaza and the West Bank." This attitude is corroborated by the 73 percent of Gazans who said Palestinians should adopt "proposals for (nonviolent) popular resistance against the occupation." Similarly, when asked if Hamas should accept Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas's position that the new unity government renounce violence against Israel, a clear majority (57 percent) answered in the affirmative. The responses to all three questions clearly indicate that most Gazans reject military escalation. Attitudes may have shifted since the poll due to anger at Israeli airstrikes, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the Gazan public still supports a ceasefire.
HAMAS FAILING TO DELIVER
The poll also demonstrates that Gazans are unhappy with Hamas governance -- on multiple levels. A large majority (71 percent) considered crime to be a "significant" problem. Two-thirds said that another significant problem was official corruption. Moreover, a large majority (78 percent) found the "presence of Palestinian militias that are not organized under the formal security structure" to be at least a "moderate" problem.
In light of this dissatisfaction with Hamas security forces and administration, most respondents favored the prospect of the PA taking over Gaza. A remarkable 88 percent agreed with the statement "The PA should send officials and security officers to Gaza to take over administration there" -- including two-thirds who "strongly" agreed.
HAMAS LEADERS HAVE MEAGER POLITICAL SUPPORT
Also very striking, and contrary to common misperception, is the fact that Hamas did not gain politically from the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers that sparked the current crisis last month. Asked who should be the president of Palestine in the next two years, a solid majority in Gaza named either Abbas or other leaders affiliated with the Fatah Party. In stark contrast, Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Mashal rated a combined total of just 15 percent support.
MAJORITY OF GAZANS WANT ISRAELI JOBS
The Gazan economy has receded over the past year as unemployment climbed to around 40 percent. Egypt's closure of multiple smuggling tunnels and the Fatah-Hamas dispute over post-reconciliation salaries have only exacerbated this dire economic situation. The results of the June poll go even further than these indicators, showing that Gazans would be willing to look to Israel for their livelihood. Respondents overwhelmingly (82 percent) said they "would like to see Israel allow more Palestinians to work in Israel." Still more poignantly, a majority (56 percent) said they "would be personally willing to work in Israel if there was a good, high-paying job." Thus, Gazans actually favored some form of normalization with Israel in order to find work.
The June survey demonstrates the sharp contrast between what most Gazans want and what their Hamas government continually does. The group's popularity was at a low point as the current crisis began, and there is no evidence that it has rebounded. The poll results show that the people of that hard-pressed territory want a ceasefire and even economic opportunity in Israel -- and that they overwhelmingly reject Hamas policies and leaders alike. These fundamental facts should help guide the U.S. government and its regional allies as they search not just for a ceasefire, but also for longer-term economic and political prescriptions for Gaza's fate.
**David Pollock is the Kaufman Fellow at The Washington Institute and director of Fikra Forum.
Opinion: The Circle of Chaos
By: Ali Ibrahim/Asharq Al Awsat
Wednesday, 16 Jul, 2014
There is no greater evidence of chaos enveloping the Middle East than the Libyan foreign minister’s inability to attend a meeting of the country’s neighbors in Tunis. The meeting went ahead in his absence, and he was represented by the Libyan chargé d’affaires in Tunisia. It was like holding a party without its host.
The minister was unable to attend due to the armed clashes around Tripoli airport, which coincided with other armed clashes in Benghazi. What is even worse is that for a while now the Foreign Ministry’s civil servants have been forced to run it from their own homes because armed militias have occupied the building, in protest against a number of issues including the dismissal of a Ministry official belonging to an Islamist group. Other reports said some Ministry documents were found strewn across the streets.
The problem with Libya, in addition to being part of the chaos that is spreading and threatening the region as a whole, is the ongoing disintegration of the state. The state has lost control over its territory to forces which are both heavily armed and disorganized.
Much the same situation can also be found in Yemen, Iraq, Mali, Nigeria—home to the radical Boko Haram—and Somalia, which faces an insurgency from the Al-Qaeda-linked group Al-Shabaab.
The forces threatening the state in each of these countries differ in terms of ideology in some cases, and their grievances vary, but the outcome is the same: chaos, loss of hope for a better future, and a high price paid by ordinary people struggling for their daily bread.
In Iraq and Syria—whose territories are partially overrun by the group calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)—a Western analyst, talking about the group’s declaration of an “Islamic State” on Iraq’s territory, said: “For the first time, we will have a clear postal address for terrorism which can be bombed or hit.”
However, the problem seems bigger than that. This is the outcome of years of neglect of national reconciliation and political inclusion. This failure has been made worse by bullying from sectarian militias, which created a very complicated situation that led many to talk openly about the division and fragmentation of the Iraqi state.
The division scenario also applies to Syria, where a popular political uprising turned into an outright civil war with regional and international dimensions. This has caused everyone to look more skeptically at the forces present on the ground. However, the belief that has begun to form is that the most likely scenario is a re-drawing of the region’s borders once the fighting stops.
The story is different in Libya, where the chaos and the militias are eating away at the state, threatening to break it apart, according to people’s regional loyalties. Gaddafi may be responsible for things getting to where they are now, for failing to build strong state institutions during his rule, so when the revolution took place a vacuum of political authority followed. However, much of the blame rests with the members of the country’s political class, who have backed their narrow interests and affiliations.
Some parties affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood hijacked the country’s political transition, leading to the current confrontations in a number of large cities. This strengthened the armed militias’ hand, who also took control of oil ports, instead of strengthening the security forces belonging to the new republic. The security of neighboring states became threatened because of the affiliations of these groups to similar groups in those neighboring countries.
Yemen is another model for fragmentation and the erosion of state authority. It is true that armed groups equal in strength to the army and the police have existed for a while due to the tribal structure. But even during the worst crises, the challenge to the state’s authority was never as strong as the one being displayed now by the Houthis’ control of the city of Amran, only some 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of the capital Sana’a. The southern part of the country is also under fire, with Al-Qaeda active in many areas there.
The scene has become one of an expanding circle of chaos, creating new conflicts which no-one could have imagined. This is the case with the conflict that is emerging between Al-Qaeda and ISIS, which is pulling the rug of terrorism from under the feet of the older organization.
Overall, it is a scenario that will only lead to ruin if there is no determination and courage to confront it. Otherwise, the request for international protection made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will not be limited to Gaza or the Palestinian territories, but will also include Arab states where authority has eroded and fallen into the hands of armed groups and militias.
As the Israeli Cabinet delays its decision, Palestinians hammer Tel Aviv with heaviest barrage yet
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 16, 2014/As the Israeli
Cabinet failed to reach a decision about Gaza operation, after a relatively
quiet night the Palestinians Wednesday launched their heaviest barrage of
rockets in the current conflict to date at Gush Dan. Hamas claimed
responsibility for sending M-75s at the region. Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah
El-Sisi’s ceasefire ploy Tuesday, July 15, instead of calming the violence in
Gaza, unleashed a furious spate of 140 rockets from the Gaza Strip, which drew
dozens of Israel air strikes after a six-hour lull in operations. By the end of
the eighth day of Operation Defensive Edge, the Israeli security cabinet saw it
was saddled with a new dilemma: persuading the Egyptian ruler to punish Hamas to
the full extent of his power. This is reported by DEBKAfile’s Middle East and
But just as US President Barack Obama stayed clear of the Gaza conflict by hauling Secretary of State John Kerry out of range, so too the Egyptian president would much prefer Israel deal with Hamas, which he regards as the Palestinian branch of his archenemy the Muslim Brothers.
El-Sisi would not mind taking a hand in the all-out campaign against the Palestinian Islamists, so long as Israel takes the lead and conducts a wide-scale military operation to crush them. He would then collect the rewards. Broad Israeli circles have commended the Netanyahu government for accepting the ceasefire proposed by Cairo – both because it lent Israel unquestioned justification for striking the rejectionist Hamas. Cairo has its own perception of the situation created by the “truce”: Netanyahu manufactured a favorable international background for military action against Hamas and it was now up to him to go through with it. Aware of this small crack in the camp ranged against them, Hamas and Jihad Islami outdid themselves Tuesday in hurling rockets – some 130 – against dozens of Israeli population centers as far as the Jordan Valley.
Now, say DEBKAfile’s sources, Egypt, Hamas and Israel are in a holding pattern. Netanyahu and his defense minister, Moshe Ya’alon, understand that El-Sisi will not lift a finger until Israel broadens its operation against Hamas. It is up to this duo to make the decisions, since the security cabinet is hamstrung by internal differences and embarrassing leaks.
The Egyptian president will be receiving the Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Cairo later Wednesday. He will decide how far he wants to cooperate with him when he sees how far Israel is willing to go against Hamas. The more devastating the blow, the more amenable he will be to working with Netanyahu rather than Abbas.
Whatever is decided between Cairo and Jerusalem, Hamas and Jihad Islami know they are in for trouble: and so they fall back on their knee-jerk reaction by redoubling their rocket fire on Israel.
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Saving Iraqi Turkmens Is a Win-Win-Win
Michael Knights/Washington Institute
July 16, 2014
A U.S.-backed effort to save besieged Iraqi Turkmens in the Tuz Khormatu district could bring Baghdad, the Kurds, and Turkey into a joint fight against the ongoing jihadist offensive.
In the battle for Iraq, the Islamic State (IS) continues to hold the initiative in its quest to establish a caliphate within the territory it controls in Iraq and Syria. In response, Baghdad and its allies need to quickly break the group's momentum and deflate its image -- and they can do so with a significant victory that involves as many allies as possible, demonstrating that the entire region is bandwagoning against the IS.
U.S. military intervention in Iraq's security crisis could be drawing closer as politicians in Baghdad tentatively move toward a more inclusive government under a new prime minister, and as U.S. assessment teams report back their initial findings on the status of Iraq's security forces. The next stage for U.S. planners may be to help Iraqi authorities craft a political-military campaign that can get the security forces back on their feet and win undecided Sunni tribes and militants over to the government's side in the fight against the IS, which until recently called itself the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Turning the tide arguably depends on two factors:
Winning a clear victory. The shattered Iraqi security forces need an iconic victory, perhaps small in scale but well publicized. The military task should be relatively modest in order to maximize the chances of success, restore confidence to the security forces, and burst the bubble of ISIS/IS invincibility.
Bolstering national and international consensus. Ideally, the Iraqi security forces and their international partners will focus their early efforts on a battlefield away from the chaotic sectarian strife of Baghdad and its suburbs. Namely, a battlefield where the interests of the various coalition elements -- Shiite, Sunni, Kurdish, U.S., Turkish, and Iranian -- are in broad alignment.
Relieving the desperate suffering of besieged Turkmen villages in Tuz Khormatu district -- an enclave roughly halfway between Baghdad and Mosul -- would appear to tick all of the above boxes (see map).
IRAQI TURKMEN ENCLAVE UNDER SIEGE, JULY 2014: Green areas represent federal government-held areas; black areas are insurgent-controlled areas; yellow areas are peshmerga-held. The blue area is the Turkmen enclave at Amerli. Baghdad lies 100 miles to the south, Tikrit 60 miles to the west, and Kirkuk 40 miles to the north. Click on map for larger view.
Northern Iraq's Turkmens are a Turkic-ethnicity, Turkish-speaking minority that includes Shiites and Sunnis alike. Shiite Turkmens, who comprise most of the large Shiite communities in the Sunni-majority north, have long been intensely targeted by ISIS/IS and its predecessors (al-Qaeda in Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq). In mid-June, the group brutally drove over forty thousand of them from the Turkmen center of Tal Afar, west of Mosul. Days later, it massacred forty civilians in Bashir, a Turkmen town near Kirkuk, prompting Kurdish peshmerga fighters to move beyond their purely defensive positions in Kurdish areas to assist Turkmen militias.
A similar scene is now unfolding fifteen miles south of the Kurdish-held city of Tuz Khormatu, where the Islamic State is besieging a pocket of around twelve thousand Shiite Turkmen civilians in the Amerli subdistrict. The group has already captured outlying Turkmen villages such as Bastamil, Barochali, and Qara Naz, driving local families into the subdistrict center at Amerli. This center was the scene of a massive al-Qaeda truck bombing on July 7, 2007, that killed 159 civilians and wounded over 350. Now it is being defended by around 400 local Turkmen armed volunteers. The Iraqi army has attempted to fight its way up the Udaim River Valley to make contact with the pocket, but its advance stalled twenty miles south at Udaim Dam. Meanwhile, the Iraqi air force is flying ammunition, vital medical supplies, and even baby formula into the pocket using unarmored helicopters, which are exposed to IS heavy machine gun and sniper fire. Almost a month into the siege, Turkmen residents of Amerli claim that 175 people have died, and there is widespread fear of a sectarian massacre if the defense fails, since they have no open line of retreat.
A FAVORABLE BATTLEGROUND
Supporting the Shiite Turkmens of Amerli could be the iconic fight that Iraq needs at this moment. The Shiite-led federal government is desperate to prevent another sectarian cleansing episode such as the one suffered at Tal Afar, which was too remote to save. In contrast, Amerli could be relieved if the Iraqi army receives timely support. Iran has ties to the Shiite communities around Amerli and could be counted on not to interfere with such an effort. Indeed, Tehran is already pressuring the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) to fight the IS more broadly, and an operation to relieve Amerli would fit into this effort. Further support would likely come from Turkey, which has gone to great lengths to support this particular Turkmen community in the past, flying air ambulances into Amerli following the 2007 bombing and evacuating the wounded to Turkey.
PUK fighters in the Tuz Khormatu area are likewise slowly being drawn into the local fight. When peshmerga prevented an IS car bombing against Shiite Turkmens in Tuz Khormatu city on June 19, the group responded by shelling and assaulting the nearby peshmerga checkpoint for four hours. The PUK has also facilitated the insertion of Turkmen militias into the Amerli pocket and blocked the path of IS oil-smuggling trucks in the area. Thirty miles to the southeast, an IS suicide bomber from Kazakhstan detonated a suicide vest at a peshmerga checkpoint on July 14, killing two fighters and injuring five -- one of the group's several recent attacks on the Kurds in the Hamrin Mountains region.
Some local Sunni insurgents could also be expected to stand aside or launch their own anti-IS operations in conjunction with a coalition effort to relieve Amerli. In the adjacent town of Suleiman Beg, the neo-Baathist militant group Jaish al-Tariqa al-Naqshbandia (JRTN) has launched at least four attempted uprisings since January 2013, only to see IS fighters stride in and take over after the most recent uprising succeeded in June. The two groups are now fighting a low-level war for control across the Hamrin Mountains region; this week alone, twelve JRTN fighters were found executed by the IS at Saadiyah, sixty miles southeast of Amerli. Moreover, before ISIS/IS ramped up its presence in the Amerli area in the past year, local Turkmens had good community relations with the Sunni Arabs at Suleiman Beg.
IMPLICATIONS FOR U.S. POLICY
As illustrated above, saving the Amerli pocket could strike an iconic blow at the Islamic State and draw together a rare community of interest between Baghdad, the Kurds, Turkey, Iran, and Washington. With the new Joint Operations Center established in the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq, the United States is well positioned to provide planning, coordination, logistical help, and airstrikes in support of any joint operation in the area. The U.S. military and PUK forces remain on very good terms, and U.S. personnel have extensive in-house experience working with local tribes and community leaders in Amerli, Suleiman Beg, and Tuz Khormatu city. The soldiers and civilians involved in past joint activities are only a phone call away, and some have already signaled their willingness to help old contacts in Amerli.
In short, many of the most promising arenas for U.S. intervention can be found in vital northern and western Iraqi battlegrounds away from Baghdad. If Washington's conditions for military intervention are met, a coalition effort to relieve the Turkmens at Amerli would be a good place to start. Such an operation would ideally be one of a number of linked battles that also fit the criteria of being achievable and in the interests of multiple factions -- hopefully building outward from the Tuz Khormatu, Kirkuk, and Lake Hamrin areas as Sunni militants looked to the example of Amerli and overthrew the IS presence in their own communities.
Operationally speaking, the United States is capable of resupplying the Amerli pocket with humanitarian and military supplies by air, effectively using night operations and airdrops in ways that Iraqi forces cannot. It could also evacuate the worst casualties and most helpless civilians. And a modicum of air support from the drones that already fly over Iraq would greatly improve the morale and survival chances of fighters in Amerli, as well as any Iraqi and Kurdish forces that push forward to relieve them. In addition, such strikes would be a timely reminder to allies and adversaries of the ongoing potency of U.S. airpower, and President Obama's willingness to use it when conditions are right.
**Michael Knights is a Boston-based Lafer Fellow with The Washington Institute.