July 25/14

Bible Quotation for today/Beloved, never avenge yourselves
Romans 12:19-21/Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources published on July 24/14

Lebanon Up in the Air/By: Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Alawsat/July 24/14

Hezbollah has taken my son from me/By: Nadine Elali/Now Lebanon/ July 24/14

Bankers: New U.S. Hezbollah sanctions don’t target Lebanon/By: Elias Sakr/July 24/14

From Beirut to Bogota: U.S. Congress goes after Hezbollah/By: Joyce Karam/Al Arabiya/July 24/14

Turks in Europe and Kurds in Turkey Could Elect Erdogan/By: Soner Cagaptay and Ege Cansu Sacikara/July 24/14

Muslims fear jihadists, especially those closest to them/Valentina Colombo/Al Arabiya/July 24/14

Until now, Israel is flailing in Gaza/By: Michael Young/The Daily Star/July 24/14

Gaza and the Beirut Invasion Scenario/By: Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Alawsat/July 24/14


Lebanese Related News published on July 24/14

Air Algerie loses contact with plane over Africa

Lebanese on Board of Lost Algerian Plane

Rai calls for dialogue with ISIS

Rahi Hails Hariri's Roadmap, Calls on Politicians to Abide by it

Nusra Front posts video of Lebanese Army defector
Ahmad Hariri: Moderation key to confront Hezbollah

Signs of breakthrough in LU dispute

Iranian official in Beirut to discuss Gaza

March 14 sends letter to Ban Ki-moon on Gaza

Twitter suspends Free Sunnis of Baalbek account

Serra at the End of his Mandate Hails Stability, Calls for Further Commitment to Resolution 1701

Bassil Making Efforts to Garner International Condemnation of Israeli Gaza Campaign

Iranian FM for Arab, African Affairs in Lebanon to Discuss Gaza

Four Rockets from Eastern Mountain Belt Hit Bekaa Towns


Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 24/14

Netanyahu: UK understands what Israel is facing, having had its cities rocketed in WWII

Israel's Operation Protective Edge in Gaza

Palestinian rockets launched at greater Tel Aviv; Iron Dome interceptions heard overheard

Hamas steps up Tel Aviv attacks as flights resume

UNRWA reports first aid worker deaths in Gaza
Brazil recalls ambassador from Israel
Hamas tactics exact high toll on Israel

U.S. lifts Tel Aviv flight ban

U.N. chief alarmed as rockets found in Gaza school go missing

Iraq parliament elects Kurdish Politician Fuad Masum president:
Jihadis attack besieged Syrian army base

MH17 bodies might take ‘months’ to return Malaysia: PM

Arab U.N. draft resolution backs Egypt's bid for Gaza ceasefire

Saudi Arabia slams Israeli ‘war crimes’ in Gaza

Hamas ties truce to lifting of Gaza blockade

Turkish central bank leaves inflation forecasts unchanged

Saudi bourse opening may double fund flows to Gulf

Iraq’s south oil exports rise to near-record, avoid northern conflict

ISIS takes jihadists on honeymoon in Iraq and Syria


Air Algerie loses contact with plane over Africa
AFP, Algiers /Thursday, 24 July 2014 /Air Algerie said it lost contact with one of its aircraft nearly an hour after takeoff from Burkina Faso on Thursday bound for Algiers. "Air navigation services have lost contact with an Air Algerie plane Thursday flying from Ouagadougou to Algiers, 50 minutes after takeoff," the airline said, cited by national news agency APS.The Algerian Al-Nahar newspaper said there were 110 passengers on board.

Rai calls for dialogue with ISIS
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai has called the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria to a dialogue. "Humanity is the only thing we share with you. Come let’s talk and reach an understanding on this basis ... you rely on the language of arms, terrorism, violence and influence, but we rely on the language of dialogue, understanding and respect for others,” Rai addressed ISIS during a speech Wednesday at a dinner of the Episcopal Media Committee. “What have the Christians in Mosul and Iraq done in order for them to be treated with such hatred and abuse?" he asked.
His comments were published Thursday by the local daily An-Nahar. Iraqi Christians living in Mosul fled to the Kurdish autonomous region last week, ending a presence stretching back nearly 2,000 years, after ISIS militants set a deadline or them to submit to Islamist rule or leave. ISIS has strengthened its control over Iraq’s second largest city by imposing Shariah law and threatening Christians who won’t convert, forcing thousands to flee Mosul. Lebanese politicians from across the divide condemned the persecution of Christians by ISIS and Speaker Nabih Berri has called a parliamentary session on July 26 in solidarity with Christians in Mosul.

Bankers: New U.S. Hezbollah sanctions don’t target Lebanon

Elias Sakr| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: A proposed U.S. legislation that broadens financial sanctions on organizations that help channel money to Hezbollah will have no impact on Lebanon’s banking sector, which is already in full compliance with U.S. and international laws, senior Lebanese banking sources told The Daily Star Wednesday.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously Tuesday to allow the Treasury Department more power to “relentlessly” pursue foreign banks, including central banks, that do business with Hezbollah.
The U.S. Treasury Department has in the past sanctioned a number of Lebanese-based organizations on charges of laundering drug money, channeling funds and procuring military equipment for Hezbollah, which Washington has designated as a terrorist group since 1995.
“The new proposed legislation practically brings nothing new to efforts by the U.S. Treasury to crackdown on groups financing Hezbollah,” a senior Lebanese banking source told The Daily Star.
Another source added that the law was simply aimed at consolidating the position of the U.S. Treasury Department and widening the scope of sanctions across the world.
The source said that Lebanon’s banking sector would continue to fully implement international compliance standards, including those of the U.S. Treasury Department related to money laundering and fighting terrorism financing.
“Lebanese banks will continue to do due diligence on their customers as before, and thus the proposed U.S. legislation changes nothing and will have no impact on the banking sector,” the source added.
According to House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, the proposed legislation builds on the existing sanctions regime by placing Hezbollah’s sources of financing under additional scrutiny, “particularly those resources outside of Lebanon.”
The Senate still needs to pass the legislation before President Barack Obama signs it into law. The bill, which has yet to be placed on the Senate calendar, is not expected to be ratified anytime before September, when Congress returns from a recess that starts Aug. 1.
A third Lebanese banking source said the proposed legislation was mainly targeting Hezbollah’s funding sources in Africa and Latin America.
“Lebanese banks are fully aware and compliant with U.S. and international laws. This new proposed legislation is aimed at sending a message to other financial organizations including central banks across the world, mainly in Africa and Latin America to follow suit,” the source said.
In bid to shield Arab and Lebanese banks from potential negative repercussions as a result of the proposed legislation, a delegation from the Union of Arab banks has met with high-ranking officials of the U.S. Treasury Department in Washington, Lebanon’s National News Agency reported Wednesday.
The delegation headed by the union’s Secretary-General Wissam Fattouh met with Daniel Glaser, the assistant secretary for terrorist financing in the Treasury Department, and IRS officials.
The proposed legislation would label Hezbollah a transnational criminal organization, compelling the administration to take action to counter the group’s engagement in money laundering and trafficking in counterfeit goods. In recent sanctions slapped on organizations for allegedly dealing with Hezbollah, the U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions against Beirut-based Stars Holding Group, for acting as “a key Hezbollah procurement network.”
According to the U.S. State Department, Stars Group Holding, with subsidiaries in China and the United Arab Emirates, has covertly purchased sophisticated electronics and other technology from suppliers around the world and supplied them to Hezbollah to enhance its military capabilities. In 2011, The U.S. Treasury sanctioned the Lebanese Canadian Bank, accusing it of laundering hundreds of millions of dollars from a narcotics network. The bank, which was later dissolved, paid a fine of $102 million to U.S. authorities in 2013 to avoid prosecution. U.S. law bans American entities from conducting any business with blacklisted entities and requires the freezing of any assets held by them inside the U.S. financial system. The proposed U.S. legislation calls on the American president to label Hezbollah as a narcotics-trafficking organization. “We must be focused on some 5,000 Hezbollah fighters in Syria, massive international drug and money laundering operations, and the terrorist organization’s acquisition of advanced missile systems,” Royce said in the hearing Tuesday. Washington announced last August that it was imposing new sanctions on Hezbollah over its support for the Syrian regime.
Then in September, the United States imposed, in what is seen as a symbolic move, further financial sanctions against Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah for giving assistance to Syrian President Bashar Assad.


Lebanese on Board of Lost Algerian Plane
Naharnet /Several Lebanese nationals were reportedly on board an Algerian plane that aviation authorities lost contact with, media reports said on Thursday. LBCI reported that around 15 Lebanese compatriots were on the flight, which air navigation services have lost contact with 50 minutes after takeoff. It was bound to Algiers from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso. Media reports identified the names of nine Lebanese nationals on the flight. They passengers are: Randa Bassam Daher and her three children, Joseph Jerjes al-Hajj, Fadi Rustom, his son-in-law Omar al-Ballan, Manji Hassan and Mohammed Akhdar. The missing aircraft was a McDonnell Douglas DC-9 and that some 110 people of various nationalities are listed as being on board the flight. The airline announced that the plane had gone missing in a brief statement carried by national news agency APS. It added that the company initiated an "emergency plan" in the search for flight AH5017, which flies the four-hour passenger route four times a week.
Naharnet/Agence France Presse

March 14 sends letter to Ban Ki-moon on Gaza

Now Lebanon/BEIRUT - Future bloc leader MP Fouad Siniora sent a letter on Thursday to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on behalf of the March 14 coalition denouncing Israeli aggression on Gaza. “You must undoubtedly know that failing to execute international resolutions regarding the Palestinian cause and to safeguard human rights, especially Palestinians', will augment despair in Gaza and spread more extremism, hence widening the circle of violence and instability in more than one region in the world,” the letter read. The March 14 group also called for a quick ceasefire and blamed the international community for failing to find a solution to this issue. On Wednesday, UN chief Ban Ki-moon reiterated his call for Israel and Hamas to end the violence in Gaza, where bloodshed has cost more than 700 lives. The conflict has so far claimed the lives of at least 718 Palestinians and more than 30 Israelis.Ban also said an Egyptian truce proposal that was accepted by Israel and rejected by Hamas was "very good."

Twitter suspends Free Sunnis of Baalbek account
A rocket claimed by the group. (NOW)
BEIRUT - The social networking website Twitter suspended the account belonging to the group calling itself the Free Sunnis of Baalbek Brigades. This group, which tweeted at @Ahrarsunab3lbek, had identified itself as “a special group of Jihadists aiming to purge the Islamic Beqaa Emirate especially, and Lebanon in general, from the churches of [Christians].” In recent months the group has claimed a number of attacks in the Beqaa, however Hezbollah and the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front have denied the group exists.

Rahi Hails Hariri's Roadmap, Calls on Politicians to Abide by it
Naharnet/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi lauded on Thursday the roadmap established by al-Mustaqbal leader Saad Hariri, calling on parties to abide by it. Al-Rahi described in remarks published in al-Mustaqbal newspaper Hariri's initiative as “excellent,” pointing out that it “should be implemented.”“His (Hariri's) initiative is valuable and is considered a roadmap to stage the presidential elections.”
Al-Rahi noted that the proposal “should attract the needed political and media attention. Hariri delivered a speech on Friday during which he proposed a roadmap that includes the election of a new president, formation of a new cabinet that is similar to the current one, withdrawal of Hizbullah's fighters from Syria, and establishment of a comprehensive plan to combat terrorism. He also urged against the extension of parliament's term, but remarked that parliamentary polls should take place after electing a new president. Al-Rahi addressed during his speech at a dinner hosted by the Catholic Information Center the Islamic State of the Iraq and the Levant. “Only humanity binds us together... We should establish dialogue and seek consensus on different matters,” he pointed out. He wondered what Christians in Iraq and the city of Mosul did to be treated with such infringement and hatred. Over the weekend, hundreds of families fled Mosul, abandoning homes and belongings after IS fighters running the city issued an ultimatum for Christians to convert, pay a special tax, leave or face execution. Families who were forced on the road and leaders of Iraq's Chaldean and other churches said Mosul was now emptied of Christians for the first time in history. Jihadist fighters want to create a state based on an extreme interpretation of sharia -- or Islamic law -- and have targeted all minorities in the Mosul area.

Serra at the End of his Mandate Hails Stability, Calls for Further Commitment to Resolution 1701
Naharnet/Outgoing United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon Commander Major General Paolo Serra said on Thursday that despite the challenges and the sporadic incidents in the South “unprecedented stability was achieved during the past eight years.”“Both sides (Israel and Lebanon) continue their commitment to the cessation of hostilities even though challenges still remain,” Serra said in an interview with As Safir newspaper at the end of his term. He pointed out that the situation in the South was relatively calm despite the shaky security situation in Lebanon, downplaying the recent rocket attacks from the South. “Several rockets were fired against Israel, which is a clear violation of (United Nations Security Council) resolution 1701,” Serra said.
He described the incidents as “very dangerous,” warning that they might “increase tension and prompt Israel to retaliate, which also violates resolution 1701.”The rocket attacks from the South started amid an Israeli assault on Gaza, which left hundreds of Palestinians dead and wounded. Serra considered Israel's violations of Lebanese airspace as a further violation of the international resolution.
Israel routinely sends F-16 fighter planes over Lebanon, in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution 1701 that ended the 2006 war between Hizbullah and Israel. The Israeli planes have often broken the sound barrier over Beirut and other places as a show of strength. “We were able to contain the situation each time, but the main responsibility is in the hands of the two sides,” Serra said. Asked if the peacekeeping force is under threat, he said that “all the required security measures are taken and routinely revised in order to evaluate the threats.”On the international support for the Lebanese army, Serra hailed the military institution, deeming it as “Lebanon's cornerstone.”“We realize the restrictions imposed on the army's resources and we are exerting efforts to garner the necessary international aid to fortify its capabilities,” the head of the U.N. mission told As Safir. He pointed out that the army “must handle the complete security situation in the South... This is our goal.”
“This is the reason behind our joint military drills and strategical dialogue,” Serra said. He denied that the peacekeeping force or the Lebanese Armed Forces intercepted any attempt to smuggle new arms via the UNIFIL's operations area in the Litani river.Serra said the tripartite meetings held at al-Naqoura crossing between the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon and senior Lebanese and Israeli officials are “essential to guarantee the implementation of resolution 1701.”Italian Major-General Luciano Portolano, 54, will succeed Serra at Head of the Mission and Force Commander on Thursday.

Bassil Making Efforts to Garner International Condemnation of Israeli Gaza Campaign
Naharnet /Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil made a series of contacts with Lebanon's ambassadors to the United Nations, Switzerland, and Belgium in order to condemn the Israeli campaign against the Gaza Strip, reported As Safir newspaper on Thursday. The minister is seeking the preparation of a legal study that will be sent to the concerned international bodies to condemn Israel for its crimes in Gaza, explained the daily. The main obstacle however lies in the fact that Lebanon is not a member of the International Criminal Court. Bassil has stated that the “ge nocide committed by Israel against the Palestinians may require an special international tribunal.” Cabinet later tasked Bassil with sending a letter to the ICC in The Hague on the developments in Gaza and the Iraqi city of Mosul, reported OTV.
At least 700 people have been killed, mostly civilians, in the Israeli campaign against Gaza that started on July 17, drawing wide international condemnation.

Iranian FM for Arab, African Affairs in Lebanon to Discuss Gaza
Naharnet /Iranian Foreign Minister for Arab and Foreign Affairs Hussein Amir Abdul Lahyan is scheduled to arrive in Beirut on Thursday for talks with various officials, reported As Safir newspaper on Thursday. It said that his talks will focus on regional affairs, most notably the Israeli campaign against the Gaza Strip. A telephone call between Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil and his Iranian counterpart Mohammed Javad Zarif preceded the trip, added the daily. At least 700 people have been killed, mostly civilians, in the Israeli campaign against Gaza that started on July 17.

Four Rockets from Eastern Mountain Belt Hit Bekaa Towns
Naharnet/Four rockets landed Wednesday evening in several northern Bekaa towns after being reportedly fired from the Eastern Mountain Range which straddles the Lebanese-Syrian border.
According to state-run National News Agency, the rockets hit the outskirts of the towns of al-Bzaliyeh, Hrabta and al-Labweh. Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) said the projectiles were fired from the Eastern Mountain Belt. Al-Labweh's municipal chief confirmed to Sky News Arabia that three rockets had fallen on the town "without causing casualties. Later on Wednesday, the Lebanese Army issued a statement confirming that "four rockets landed in the outskirts of the towns of al-Bzaliyeh and Hrabta after being fired from the Eastern Mountain Belt, causing no casualties.""Army forces immediately staged patrols in the targeted area as a military expert inspected the impact site," the statement added. Clashes have been taking place since more than a week between Hizbullah fighters and others from the Syrian opposition in the Eastern Mountain Range, which has left dozens of combatants dead. The fighting has spread several times to the peripheries of the Bekaa town of Arsal, where the Lebanese Army has thwarted infiltration attempts by gunmen.

Gaza and the Beirut Invasion Scenario

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Alawsat
Thursday, 24 Jul, 2014
A host of Israeli newspapers have published calls for Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to obliterate Hamas, not just suppress it. Those calling for a full-scale invasion admit the war will cost the Israelis a high price, but say local public opinion is willing to accept those costs.
Some see the battle as a rare opportunity, considering the Egyptians’ preoccupation with their own domestic affairs and their general dispute with Hamas. Previously, Egypt played the role of the mediator and exerted pressure on the Israelis to prevent them from altering the status quo in Gaza. Late Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman used to open up tunnels, turn a blind eye to the smuggling of arms to Hamas and negotiate on behalf of Hamas’ leaders. But that situation has changed drastically since Hamas sided with the Muslim Brotherhood against the government of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi.
The most serious aspect of these calls for a complete invasion is the uprooting of Hamas from Gaza, like Israel did to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1982. At that time, then-Israeli defense minister Ariel Sharon surprised the world when he sent his forces towards the Lebanese capital, Beirut, announcing he had one mission: eliminating Fatah and its leaders, most prominently PLO chairman Yasser Arafat. Sharon succeeded in eliminating the armed Palestinian presence on Israel’s borders, and Fatah’s leaders were exiled to Tunisia, Sudan and Yemen. Israel forced Arafat into exile from Lebanon to Tunisia, believing it had gotten rid of him. But with the Oslo Agreement, Arafat returned to Palestine itself, to Gaza and Ariha, along with tens of thousands of his fighters.
The Israelis are now threatening a full invasion that aims to get rid of Hamas’ leaders and force them into exile, probably to Qatar and Iran, in my view, as part of a push towards totally lifting the siege. But Israel knows that Hamas—despite its extremism and connections with hostile parties such as Iran—may pose less of a danger to Israel than Salafist jihadist groups that may be linked to Al-Qaeda. Over the past few years, Hamas has taken it upon itself to curb extremist powers in Gaza. Hamas dared to destroy a mosque over the head of an extremist group in Gaza—so who has the power to police the front with Israel?
The miracle that this tragedy could achieve would be for Israel to reach a political solution with Hamas itself—one that would lead to the lifting of checkpoints and the boycott, and to opening a port to allow fishing. In return, Hamas would have to commit to an agreement similar to that which the Palestinian Authority agreed in the West Bank.

Lebanon Up in the Air
By: Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Alawsat
Thursday, 24 Jul, 2014
One of the few mentionable merits of Lebanese politics—compared to the situation in neighboring Arab countries—is that everything is open and clear. In fact, the Lebanese people have now grown accustomed to believing in conspiracy theories, even when there are none. The advances made by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in western and northern Iraq, leading to the occupation of Mosul, the displacement of the Christian population in the area and the declaration of a caliphate, have had remarkable consequences on the political scene in Lebanon.
To begin with, Lebanon has found itself embroiled, against its will, in the conflict which Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad is using to serve his small project in Syria, which in turn is part of a more dangerous and larger regional one. As the larger project is imposed from above, allowing no room for hesitation or objections if any, a key Lebanese side—Hezbollah—has also become involved in the Syrian conflict. Its public involvement came, as we all remember, under a varied range of pretexts. The first pretext was that it was “defending villages inhabited by Lebanese nationals” on the Syrian side of the northern and northeastern border. When the task was accomplished, the second pretext emerged. This time it was “defending holy Shi’ite shrines,” and with it the scope of intervention widened to cover towns in Aleppo and Idlib provinces.
Next, the “holy” war morphed into a defensive, preemptive and necessary war based on the premise of pushing back against “takfirist” groups that pose a threat to Lebanese national security. The scope of operations expanded to include the Qalamoun Mountains in Rif Dimashq province. On the ground this resulted in what was practically a siege of the Sunni Lebanese town of Arsal and of a few other towns and villages in the northern Beqaa, home to tens of thousands of mostly Sunni Syrian refugees.
Lebanon’s written constitution enshrines religious and sectarian diversity. The Lebanese, therefore, cannot be content with polite but empty and unreliable slogans regarding “self-distancing” from the Syrian crisis when Hezbollah is publicly fighting alongside Syrian government troops. The sectarian Assad regime has long claimed, to the point of exhaustion, to be secularist. However, had the Syrian regime really been secular, no popular uprising would have erupted against its injustices in the first place. This is, of course, before the uprising was indeed hijacked by sectarian-minded forces and taken off track. In the process, the entire situation has become a prelude for a long episode of strife awaiting the region.
Today, the Lebanese authorities are too weak to confront Hezbollah with the truth, at least by means of citing the constitution and international law. Even if we were to accept that Hezbollah’s slogans of “resistance” had noble purposes, many in Lebanon no longer deem the militia to be a legitimate political entity. Regardless of whether the term “resistance” is still valid or not, the Lebanese state has become the weaker partner in an imbalanced domestic equation since Hezbollah’s decision to fight the 2006 war with Israel without the sanction of the government. More than this, Hezbollah has directed its weapons towards the Lebanese interior with the aim of settling political scores, and is still insisting on keeping its weapons, based on a national consensus that no longer exists.
Thus, while Syria is being torn apart, Iraq is bleeding and Israel is keen on destroying and delegitimizing the Palestinian Authority through its new war on Gaza, Lebanon fears that the worst is yet to come. The Syrian conflict has exposed, like never before, Hezbollah’s true identity, the nature of its allegiances and priorities and the role it was founded to perform—namely, furthering the interests of a project much larger than Lebanon.
Meanwhile, the suspicious pace at which ISIS managed to spread across Iraq and eastern Syria, and then its eviction of Iraqi Christians—a step unprecedented in the Middle East’s modern history—under the guise of bogus Islamic slogans, suggests that the condition of Christians in the region requires further contemplation and analysis.
Today, we are also witnessing a new tragedy unfolding in Gaza, which I presume is not a matter of coincidence. Wars are not fought pointlessly without political purpose. In fact, the current Israeli leadership has been publicly opposed to the settlement between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Thus, undermining the Palestinian Authority is at the crux of Israeli interests. Any long-term truce agreement between Israel and Hamas, which, in turn, would declare a glorious “victory” like the one announced by Hezbollah in 2006, may prove to be a fatal blow to the Palestinian Authority.
The possible collapse of the Palestinian Authority, along with Hamas’s declaration of “victory,” will also probably be echoed in Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps, particularly the Ain Al-Hilweh refugee camp in Sidon, the largest predominantly Sunni city in the Shi’ite-majority south. The sparks of what has happened in Mosul and the surrounding Christian towns in Iraq after the attacks on the Christian towns of Syria, such as Maaloula, will also have a negative impact on the political scene in Lebanon. On top of that, the Sunni–Shi’ite state of polarization in the region has already done its damage as far as the Lebanese scene is concerned, producing radical militancy in the country. This includes the emergence of Sheikh Ahmad Al-Assir in Sidon, the multiple militant groups in Tripoli—the capital of the north—and the possibility of Beirut turning into an Islamist breeding ground.
Ignoring the problem will not solve it, and the time for polite, kind words has long passed. Sunni moderation as represented by the Future Movement which—despite its political indecision—needs to be met halfway by the Shi’ite side. This is particularly important, since some of the Christians who are affiliated with the Tehran–Damascus axis are pressing ahead with their suicidal march into the abyss.
The leader of the Future Movement, Saad Al-Hariri, last week launched a road map in which he suggested immunizing Lebanon by electing the President of the Republic. With Hezbollah’s known position it was its Christian lackeys who rushed to reject the initiative, which they interpreted in accordance with their deep commitment to the anti-Sunni “alliance of minorities.” All these signs mean that the situation in Lebanon is, once again, up in the air.

Ahmad Hariri: Moderation key to confront Hezbollah
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Future Movement official Ahmad Hariri said moderation was the key to confronting Hezbollah’s practices in Lebanon and the region, which he noted were aimed at inciting sectarian strife and maintaining divisions.  “The only response to Hezbollah's practices in its political and security piracy is by refraining from adopting its own logic,” Hariri said during the party’s annual iftar Wednesday evening. “Instead, we should adopt moderation and not get dragged into the tunnel of strife and chaos, that’s Hezbollah trying to involve everyone in.”
Hariri accused Hezbollah once again of dragging the country into the Syrian conflict by "bringing in suicide bombers and car bombs, violating the Lebanese border and threatening the social fabric of the country."Anti- Hezbollah sentiments have grown in Lebanon, particularly in the Sunni community that has repeatedly accused security agencies, especially the Lebanese Army, of turning a blind eye to Hezbollah’s behavior while cracking down on Sunnis. Earlier this week, a Lebanese soldier appeared in a video posted by Nusra Front, saying he defected from the military and that the Army takes orders from Hezbollah and discriminates against the Sunnis of Lebanon. The Future Movement secretary-general also equated Iran’s policy in the region with that of Israel, saying the two seek divisions, questioning the silence behind Hezbollah and its allies in Tehran over the events in Gaza.  “While we condemn the international silence toward Gaza, we also condemn this shameful silence by those who monopolized the resistance movement and indulged in giving lessons to the Palestinian people about struggle,” he said. “Do you see them now standing in solidarity with Gaza children while they murder Syrian children?”
“Iran, whose allies boast about its unconditional support to the Palestinians, is silent. What is it saying while it is negotiating the international community on the blood of Syrians, Iraqis and Lebanese.”
“The purpose of the Israeli aggression is to deal a blow to the Palestinian reconciliation and keep them divided. This intersects politically with the Iranian agenda in the Arab region that is fueling sectarian tensions with fighters, arms and money especially in Lebanon.”

Signs of breakthrough in LU dispute
Hasan Lakkis| The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The long-running dispute over the Lebanese University appears to be nearing an end, ministerial sources said Thursday. After early signs of continued deadlock, the sources told The Daily Star that the thorny issue might be solved at a Cabinet meeting underway at the Grand Serail. Earlier Thursday, the Progressive Socialist Party said it was willing to relinquish a dean post in a bid to facilitate a breakthrough in the Lebanese University dispute. “We agree to give up the post of dean of the Faculty of Tourism and Hotel Management, which belongs to the Druze sect,” Health Minister Wael Abu Faour told reporters before joining a Cabinet meeting at the Grand Serail Thursday. He said the move would pave the way for Pierre Yared, acting dean of the Faculty of Medicine, to become a full-fledged dean. “The issue is now in the hands of Kataeb,” added Abu Faour, who represents the PSP in Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s government. Education Minister Elias Bou Saab has said before joining the meeting that he would present a solution to the problem at Thursday's session, and hoped to receive a positive response from the Kataeb party. In remarks published by the local daily Al-Akhbar, Bou Saab said the deal stipulated that the PSP relinquish the tourism post in exchange for keeping Yared as the dean of the Faculty of Medicine. Ministerial sources earlier told The Daily Star that the LU issue was likely to be shelved to another meeting due to a lack of consensus. “If no agreement is reached on the Lebanese University, the issue will be put aside to allow ministers to discuss other items on the agenda,” Minister of State Nabil de Freij said ahead of the Cabinet meeting, which began at 11 a.m. Economy Minister Alain Hakim, from the Kataeb Party, had also ruled out reaching an agreement over the LU issue during Thursday’s meeting, pointing to the ongoing dispute with Bou Saab. The Cabinet is also expected to approve a loan to pay July salaries for public servants.
Abu Faour has said that the problem of public employees’ wages was “on the way to being solved.”Differences among ministers over the LU issue prompted Salam to refrain from calling for a Cabinet session last week.The LU decree includes two vital items to the university – appointing deans to the council and hiring contract professors as full-time lecturers.

Nusra Front posts video of Lebanese Army defector
Nizar HassanAntoine Amrieh| The Daily Star
BEIRUT/TRIPOLI, Lebanon: A video emerged Wednesday purporting to show an Army defector announcing that he had joined the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, citing the Lebanese authorities’ alleged discrimination against Sunnis as his motive. “I have split from the Lebanese Army because, like any other soldier, I know well that the Army is a tool in the hand of the Hizb [Hezbollah],” a man claiming to be Atef Mohammad Saadeddine said in the video, which was posted on Nusra Front’s official YouTube channel. The soldier, who is in his early 20s, initially went missing in the Bekaa Valley Monday evening, with local media reporting that he had been kidnapped by the Nusra Front, a Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda that is currently battling President Bashar Assad’s regime. Authorities later discovered that the soldier had left with the militants of his own volition. In the video, Saadeddine, who hails from the province of Akkar, shows his Lebanese Army identification card and accuses the Army of taking orders from Hezbollah and discriminating against Lebanese Sunnis. The Nusra Front’s flag can be seen in the background.
“When they build a checkpoint in a Sunni area, they smother it [the area] completely,” he said. “While in the southern suburbs, they do not dare erect any checkpoint unless Hezbollah has given the order.”
The development comes days after security forces pressed forth with a major crackdown on militant leaders in the north, arresting a top militia commander Hussam al-Sabbagh and killing a man accused of supplying suicide bombers with explosives in a dramatic weekend raid.
But Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk emphasized during an iftar at his ministry later Wednesday that the Lebanese state would carry on with its security plans in various Lebanese regions.
“None of us will stand in the way of the state when it is carrying out its duties,” he told his guests. “We are [careful] not to blindly support any [of our] security apparatuses. We stand by justice, justice in its highest forms. Saadeddine said Hezbollah had directed its force against Lebanon’s Sunnis and yet had not fired a single bullet toward Israel in light of the Gaza offensive. “What resistance are they talking about? Resistance against the Sunni people?” he asked.
Several March 14 MPs told The Daily Star Wednesday that at least 10 other soldiers were known to have left the Lebanese Army to join the Syrian rebels, including a commanding officer.
They accused authorities of imposing a news blackout on the “defection” until the Army had confirmed that the soldiers had fled. But a senior military official categorically denied the claims.“These reports are totally baseless. Had it been true, the Nusra Front would have broadcast videos about these soldiers’ alleged defections,” the official told The Daily Star. He said the Army command would treat Saadeddine as “a fugitive soldier.”
“A military court will look into his case and decide on a penalty,” the official said.
Explaining why he decided to leave the Army, Saadeddine highlighted the detention of numerous Sunni youths and the miserable conditions in which they were kept, a sore point for many in Lebanon and the driving force behind growing unrest in the northern city of Tripoli. He accused the Army of treating Sunni sheikhs poorly and said the military “interrogates and physically abuses” Sunnis – even the wounded – at checkpoints. In the six-minute video, Saadeddine also called on his former colleagues to follow his lead. “Don’t think about the salary you are receiving at the end of the month, think about your religion. Because what happened to Syrians will happen to you; your parents, family and children will become homeless and you will live in tents,” Saadeddine said, addressing “soldiers and commanders” in the Army.
“Wake up, soldier, and think about your religion and your sect,” he added.
The video ended with a slow-motion scene showing a black-clad Nusra Front member embracing Saadeddine and kissing his forehead to a soundtrack of Quranic music.
North Lebanon MP Khaled Daher said he did not have additional information on the video, nor was he aware of any soldiers from Akkar defecting.
But he pointed out to his previous warnings against the security plan imposed in Tripoli and the Bekaa Valley, repeating his belief that they were unnecessarily pressuring Sunnis. He said things would escalate dangerously if officials did not address “the violation of the Sunni arena.” “We warned against the Army being turned into a Hezbollah tool,” he added. Akkar MP Mouin Merhebi agreed that the defection reflected the Army command’s actions: “I believe that this [incident] is just the start, as what we saw today shows we are living in an unspoken military coup – purportedly lead by Lebanese Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi but Hezbollah is the operator.”Also over the weekend, the Lebanese Army heavily deployed along the porous northeastern border with Syria and set up new posts in a number of villages in the Baalbek-Hermel region, including Arsal, with the aim of preventing rebels from infiltrating the country.
In April, Syrian forces backed by allied fighters from Hezbollah retook control of most of Qalamoun, a mountainous region bordering Lebanon. But Syrian activists say hundreds of opposition fighters have taken refuge in the caves and hills in the border area, using it as a rear base from which to launch attacks inside Syria.
Hezbollah and the Syrian army have now launched an attack in a bid to finish off the pockets of rebel resistance. Airborne Lebanese troops have also been conducting thorough searches along the Lebanese side of the border Wednesday.The National News Agency said the combing operations were carried out in the mountains east of Ras Baalbek and Fakiha, and to the north of Arsal, from dawn until midday.
“The troops, backed by the air force, searched hideouts which can be used by infiltrators and outlaws, including caves, hills, paths and side roads,” the NNA said.
Heavy gunfire was heard as the troops combed the border area.

Hezbollah has taken my son from me
Nadine Elali/Noe Lebanon

Mohamad Dekkou talks to NOW about the siege of Tfeil and his son's death by Hezbollah sniper fire
Led by vehicles of the Lebanese Red Cross, a convoy of aid heads towards the village of Tufeil, close to Lebanon
“I’m happy,” said Mohamad Dekkou, as he wiped his tears, “my son is a martyr; he died an honorable death defending his town - when no one else did.” It was NOW’s fourth encounter with Dekkou, who for the past 10 months has dedicated his life to raising awareness about the situation in his hometown Tfeil; a Lebanese village besieged in Syrian territory. This time, however, his story was one of loss and disappointment.  The long and porous border region between Lebanon and Syria is comprised largely of Sunni Muslim towns, Tfeil among them, and residents there sympathize with the Sunni-led uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The influx of Syrian refugees into Tfeil increased in the wake of battles in Syria’s Qalamoun region. According to residents, an estimated 10,000 refugees are living among them with no shelter, food, or aid. “They don’t want us to take in refugees,” said Dekkou, “but we are tribes and we are related to one another in some way. Many of us have intermarried. I have many relatives in the Syrian border towns. Moreover, our values do not permit us to disregard the helpless when they seek refuge in our homes. We know their pain,” Dekkou stressed. “We, too, struggle with the Syrian regime.” Dekkou says the village and its people continued to suffer harassment after the Syrian army withdrew from Lebanon in 2005. He tells NOW that a couple of years ago, before the Syrian uprising began, the Syrian army frequently besieged the town and refused to end the blockade until the town’s residents paid extortion money.
“This would happen often,” he explained. “One time, the officer in charge requested that we buy him a four wheel drive vehicle with the money, instead, and two motorbikes for his sons. My cousin Mowafaq Hussein Dekkou refused, so they killed him.”
In a bid to rid the region of rebel fighters, the Syrian regime launched an aerial bombardment campaign against civilians in Tfeil in late June. Hezbollah launched a ground operation.
“I informed the authorities, but no one would listen to me. I have been calling on the Lebanese state to deploy its forces in the village and on the border for years now,” said Dekkou, “and for the past 10 months, I’ve knocked on many doors; officials, politicians, and clerics – anyone you can think of – but to no avail. At times, I’ve even been humiliated. I was told they had better things to do than listen to me.” Besides being geographically isolated from Lebanon, residents claim that the village has also been neglected by the state. They have no schools, no hospitals, nor electricity or municipality, and no Lebanese army or ISF presence to maintain security. After months of calls for help, residents warned authorities that if they did not respond, they were going to take matters into their own hands. They would not allow Hezbollah to take over their village. There were already locals fighting alongside Syrian opposition forces in Rankous, Asal al-Ward, and Hosh Arab. Tfeil’s residents would to do the same. They all have weapons; they would fight back.
Dekkou’s son, Mohanad, stayed in the village throughout these events, along with his brothers and a group of young friends. The 27-year-old was engaged to be married. He plastered walls and laid tiles and built his own home, looking forward to the day when these troubles would end and he could be married. “I asked him and his brothers to leave,” said Dekkou. “He refused. The women and children had evacuated the town but the Syrian refugees remained. He told me he was not going to leave without them; that either we would all leave together or die together.”
Earlier this month it was reported that the Syrian army and Hezbollah forces had occupied the entire village, but residents continued to resist. Then, some days ago, Dekkou received a phone call. Mohanad had been hurt in the fighting. A few minutes later, he learned that his son had been shot in the head by a sniper. He was dead.
“What excuse do they have for killing my son?” asked Dekkou. “My son is not an Islamist or a terrorist or a Syrian takfiri fighter. He is Lebanese and he was just protecting his home.”
“They accuse us of harboring terrorists to justify the war they are waging against us. There is no war on terror on the border. The war is between Hezbollah and Sunnis,” says Dekkou. “Hezbollah has hijacked my country; Hezbollah has destroyed my village; and Hezbollah has taken my son away from me.”


From Beirut to Bogota: U.S. Congress goes after Hezbollah
Thursday, 24 July 2014
Joyce Karam/Al Arabiya
There is a very high chance that the United States’ 113th Congress will go down as the least productive in American history, and the most marred with partisan divisions between Democrats and Republicans. But, this does not seem to be the case when it comes to Hezbollah, with the House of Representatives voting this week 404-0 on a sanctions bill targeting the worldwide operation of the Lebanese party.
The unanimously -passed House Resolution 4411 entitled “The Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act” is designed to tighten the financial screws on the organization, and restrict its access to the global market. In short, Congress is attempting to follow the money, and track Hezbollah’s sophisticated web of funding stretching from the Middle East to Africa to Latin America.
Replica of Iran sanctions
H.R. 4411 is almost a replica of the “Iran Sanctions Act” (ISA), passed by Congress in 1996 and renamed in 2006. The ISA slapped economic measures on Tehran, which U.S. officials attribute to bringing the Iranian government to the table to negotiate the future of its nuclear program. Whether the goal with Hezbollah is to bring it to the table is debatable, but weakening the financial infrastructure of the party and cutting its global tentacles is one objective I can see.
H.R. 4411 will also subject European banks to more inspection if they are being used to transfer money to Hezbollah
The Hezbollah resolution is now at the Senate, where it is also expected to pass before it reaches U.S. President Barack Obama’s desk to be signed into law. A senior U.S. official commenting on the unanimous vote by the House, told Al Arabiya News that “there is lot of support to try to limit and restrict Hezbollah’s financial networks.” He sees it as an “appropriate” step, given “Hezbollah’s designation as a terrorist group and its ongoing activities in Syria and Lebanon and more broadly.”
It is the evolved threat of Hezbollah beyond Lebanon, its military involvement in the Syrian war, its suspected role in terror attacks and plans in Bulgaria and Cyprus, and its use of sophisticated weapons including drones over both Syria and Israel according to the Treasury Department, that is driving the support from lawmakers. The resolution, if enacted into law, would direct the U.S. Treasury Department to restrict all payments to Hezbollah activities, as well as target its foreign assets and satellite Television station Al-Manar. The bill also allows the U.S president to add Hezbollah to the Foreign Narcotics organizations list, clearing the way for more targeted sanctions.
Also unique to H.R. 4411 is the lobby groups advocating the bill. They include, according to knowledgeable sources I have spoken with, groups from the Syrian opposition disappointed with Hezbollah’s involvement in their home country, Lebanese groups allied with March14 who are at odds with Hezbollah and pro-Israel groups, namely The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) according to my sources.
Scope and impact of the bill
While H.R.4411 puts the Lebanese banks on alert, its reach will be not limited to Lebanon. Bankers in Lebanon and the country’s central bank have been watching the deliberations on Capitol Hill with a high degree of caution, fearing a direct impact on the Lebanese economy. As reported by Al-Monitor, however, the new version of the bill spares Lebanon’s central bank by eliminating “a separate section on central banks that required Treasury to identify any found to be supporting Hezbollah.”
There is already high level communications between U.S. officials and Lebanese bankers on the bill it seems, and Washington sees an improved performance by the banking sector in Beirut to restrict funding to Hezbollah. The Lebanese Canadian Bank agreed to pay $102 million last summer to settle its legal woes with U.S. authorities. The bank was blacklisted for transferring more than $300 million to Hezbollah in money allegedly generated from drug trafficking and money laundering.
In fact, it is this area that H.R. 4411 will bring more scrutiny. A 2009 report by RAND corporation estimated that Hezbollah makes around $20 million dollars a year in drug trafficking in Latin America. The report focused on Hezbollah’s activities in the Tri-Border Area (TBA) in Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Paraguay. Funding from such activities is becoming, in U.S. estimates, more vital for the group given the sanctions’ toll on Iran’s economy and the wars in Syria and Iraq. U.S. officials had estimated in the past that Tehran has an annual budget for Hezbollah that goes up to $200 million.
H.R. 4411 will also subject European banks to more inspection if they are being used to transfer money to Hezbollah. Many supporters of the party are said to live across Europe, where it is allowed to operate openly without being designated as a terrorist organization. A New York Times report highlighted Germany as a “center of activity” for Hezbollah, and former U.S. officials voiced concerns about fundraising activities in German mosques for the party.
As the new bill makes its way to the Senate, the predominant strategy is a concerted U.S. effort to weaken Hezbollah. The party’s global funding operation, its combat role in Syria, and the improvement of its weaponry following the 2006 war, are dictating a more robust activity from Washington to contain its transnational activities.

Muslims fear jihadists, especially those closest to them
Thursday, 24 July 2014
Valentina Colombo/Al Arabiya

“It is certain that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that almost all terrorists are Muslims.” So wrote Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed, former editor of the international Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, following the Beslan school hostage crisis on Sept. 3, 2004.
It was an angry cry because, as the article said, “terrorists are the people who have smeared Islam and stained its image.” These words are all the more significant because they were spoken by a Saudi Muslim, whose country gave birth to the main terrorist of our times, Osama bin Laden, as well as most of the 9/11 bombers.
After 10 years, the Middle East and North Africa continue to experience the disastrous consequences of the ideology that combines the Quranic precepts of the 7th century with a thirst for power and destruction. Since the Arab Spring, the Muslim Brotherhood has gained ground in the region, and violent Islamist extremism has overrun certain countries.
The closer the contact with an Islamist organization, the less people appreciate its work
Between April and May 2014, before the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’s advances in Iraq, the Pew Research Center conducted a survey that was published on July 1. The report was entitled “Concern about the rise of Islamic extremism in the Middle East. Negative views on al-Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah.” The most noteworthy result of the survey is the growing concern over Islamist extremism in Tunisia, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and Turkey.
In Lebanon, following the escalation of the Syrian crisis and of internal tensions between Sunnis and Shiites, growing concern over Islamist extremism increased from 81% in 2013 to 92% in 2014. Over the same period, in Tunisia there was a rise from 71% to 80%, in Egypt from 69% to 75%, in Jordan from 54% to 62%, and in Turkey from 37% to 50%.
Most participants had an unfavorable opinion of al-Qaeda: 92% in Lebanon, 85% in Turkey, 83% in Jordan, 81% in Egypt, 74% in Tunisia and 58% in Palestine.
The Palestinian movement Hamas is perceived negatively by 65% of Lebanese (79% of Christians, 65% of Sunnis and 44% of Shiites). In Jordan, Egypt and Palestine the figures are 61%, 61% and 53%, respectively. While 63% of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip view Hamas unfavorably, only 47% of those in the West Bank do so. This suggests that the closer the contact with an Islamist organization, the less people appreciate its work.
In Turkey, 85% of respondents have an unfavorable opinion of the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah, followed by Egypt (83%) and Jordan (81%). In Lebanon, this view is shared by 88% of Sunnis, 69% of Christians, but only 13% of Shiites. In the Palestinian territories, 69% in Gaza (the stronghold of Sunni Hamas) display an aversion to Hezbollah, while this drops to 46% in the West Bank.
Suicide attacks
Another interesting aspect is people’s opinions about suicide attacks “against civilian objectives in order to defend Islam from its enemies.” It is important to highlight the ambiguity of the question, which seems to neglect the political purposes that suicide attacks usually have, as in the case in Israel. Moreover, they are sometimes carried out against Muslims.
In any case, 62% of Palestinians in Gaza are in favor, compared with 36% in the West Bank. In Lebanon, Shiites most support such attacks (37%). In Egypt, this decreases to 24%.
The report noted that in Lebanon in 2002, 74% of people surveyed justified suicide attacks. However, since 2005 - following the assassination of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri - that stance has changed. This suggests that terrorism is justified when it is not experienced first-hand, and that it worries people as it comes closer to them. It would be interesting to repeat the survey taking into account ISIS’s growing presence.
The Middle East should start reflecting on a clear definition of terrorism and Islamist extremism, which are closely linked and widespread in various ways in this region. The Middle East, like the West, will soon have to consider the destructive consequences of preaching hate.
In some cases, when there is a direct link with Salafism and jihadism, such preaching leads to terrorism. In others, when it is influenced by the Brotherhood’s gradual approach, it represents an opportunity to spread dangerous ideas that condition the mind and push people to forceful action.
The opinions of those who live with terrorism on a daily basis and who are exposed to such threats, as observed from the results of the Pew report, should not be overlooked or underestimated.


Turks in Europe and Kurds in Turkey Could Elect Erdogan
By: Soner Cagaptay and Ege Cansu Sacikara
Washington Institute
July 23, 2014
Erdogan's strategy in the August presidential polls envisions strong support among European Turks in the first round of voting, and backing from nationalist Kurds in case of a second round.
On August 10, Turks will go to the polls to choose a new president for the first time in the country's history, an electoral change ushered in by a 2010 constitutional amendment. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the longtime prime minister and leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), is on the ballot, as is Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, joint candidate for the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and Nationalist Action Party (MHP).
In the March 30 local government elections, the CHP-MHP bloc and the AKP each received 43% of the vote. This leaves two voter blocs as potential kingmakers in next month's polls: Kurdish nationalists, whose Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) received 6.5% of the March vote, and Turks residing overseas, who will be allowed to vote abroad for the first time following a 2012 change to the electoral system.
According to the Turkish Foreign Ministry, nearly 5 million citizens currently live abroad, including 4 million in Western Europe. Data from the Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities, a government agency, indicates that 2.5 million Turks live in Germany, 540,000 in France, 384,000 in the Netherlands, 160,000 in Belgium, and 112,000 in Austria. Half of the overseas electorate resides in Germany, where around 1.4 million voters are eligible to cast ballots in the presidential election. To put this figure in perspective, Germany has essentially become the fourth-largest Turkish electoral district after Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir. By comparison, there are 87,000 registered Turkish voters in the United States.
Previously, Turkey allowed voting by citizens living abroad only if they returned home during the election season. This requirement was a clear burden -- in the 2011 parliamentary elections, for example, only 5% of the 2.5 million registered overseas voters cast ballots. Yet the revised electoral law will allow 2.8 million citizens to vote while remaining abroad -- or 5% of the total number of registered voters, which stood at 56 million as of June 24.
For this election, ballot boxes will be available in countries where more than 500 Turks live, including at 103 diplomatic missions in fifty-four nations. They will also be available at forty-four Turkish border crossings for those traveling during the election season. Overseas voters are therefore expected to turn out in large numbers. And given the close race between the AKP and CHP-MHP bloc, they could decide the outcome.
If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote in the first round, there will be a runoff on August 24 between the top two candidates. The overseas election period is July 31-August 3 for the first round, and August 17-20 for the second. These earlier dates will allow time for shipping the ballots to Turkey so they can be counted on election day alongside domestic ballots, with the aim of preventing delays in tabulating the total results.
Turks living abroad tend to be more conservative than homeland Turks. According to the 2012 "Turks in Germany" survey conducted by German research groups Info and Liljeberg, 37% of Turkish-origin respondents in that country stated that they have strong religious beliefs. By comparison, only 16% of respondents living in Turkey answered along the same lines in a 2009 study by Ali Carkoglu and Ersin Kalaycioglu. Moreover, while 49.5% of homeland Turks voted for Erdogan in the 2011 elections, 61.5% of overseas voters did so (though as noted above, only 5% of eligible overseas voters cast ballots that year). Against this backdrop, Erdogan's recent visits to Germany (May 24), Austria (June 19), and France (June 21) were de facto campaign rallies to help him win the presidency.
Further illustrating this trend, the most popular Turkish associations in Europe are religious in nature, since many Turks living abroad see Islam as an important element in keeping their Turkish identity. One of these associations, Islamic Community National Outlook (IGMG), has 514 mosques in Europe, of which 323 are in Germany. IGMG was formed in 1995 as an umbrella organization for the Milli Gorus (National Outlook) movement, the ideological incubator of Islamist factions in Turkey since the 1960s.
In Germany, the IGMG is under strict watch by the Bundesamt fur Verfassungsschutz, a domestic intelligence agency set up after World War II in part to protect the country against antidemocratic movements. In a 2002 report, the agency described IGMG as "a threat to German democracy." In 2003, Turkey's newly elected AKP government reportedly instructed overseas diplomatic missions to include IGMG and other Milli Gorus groups "in all events or festivities organized by the embassies and consulates."
The Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD), founded in 2004, is a more direct AKP proxy association that lobbies for the party in Europe, with forty-six branches in Germany and thirteen in the rest of the continent. AKP ministers and advisors frequently visit these branches and hold gatherings there. The UETD has also organized large events with Erdogan's participation or in his name, including past rallies in Cologne (2008) and Dusseldorf (2011), last year's "Respect for Democracy" demonstration to support Erdogan after the Gezi Park protests in Turkey, and several events this year: a February gathering in Berlin, a May gathering in Cologne, a June 19 rally in Vienna, and another two days later in Lyon.
Kurdish votes in Europe and Turkey could also boost Erdogan's chances of winning the presidency. Proportionally speaking, there are more ethnic Kurds among the European Turkish community than among the domestic Turkish population. A 2013 survey by KONDA, an Istanbul-based polling agency, put the proportion of ethnic Kurds in Turkey at 17.7%. According to the Kurdish Institute of Paris, an estimated 1.3 million Kurds live in Western Europe, including some 800,000 in Germany alone, where they constitute around 25-30% of the Turkish-origin population.
Currently, the Kurdish nationalist BDP has fielded its own presidential candidate, Selahattin Demirtas. Yet the BDP is a minor party, and if a second round of voting is held, it would be a contest between Erdogan and the CHP-MHP candidate, leaving Demirtas out. Erdogan has therefore sought to build support among the Kurds to win their votes in a potential runoff, in part by taking a conciliatory attitude toward Kurdish nationalism. Prompted by improved ties with the Iraqi Kurds, he entered peace talks with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) despite its past status as a terrorist group and its long, bloody struggle against the government. On June 26, he declared a new "reform package" on the Kurdish issue that formalized the talks with the PKK. If those negotiations conclude successfully, Erdogan has promised to provide amnesty to thousands of PKK fighters.
The AKP government has also granted the Kurds additional language rights, which had long been seen as a threat to Turkish nationalism. Ankara now funds the use of Kurdish language from universities to city governments in southeastern Turkey, where the Kurds dominate demographically.
Erdogan's electoral strategy envisions strong support among European Turks in the first round of voting, and backing from nationalist Kurds in case of a second round. Together, the Turks in Europe and the Kurds could help Erdogan win the 50% of the vote needed to become president.
The Kurdish leg of this strategy could have a number of pitfalls, however. Until recently, Erdogan was not known for embracing Kurdish nationalism, so he could renege on his promises to the Kurds after securing his own victory in August and his party's victory in next year's parliamentary elections. For their part, many pro-PKK Kurds do not like Erdogan -- socialist and leftist in orientation, they take issue with his social conservatism. Accordingly, any political deal between him and these Kurds could easily be undermined. One risk in this regard is the unfavorable composition of the PKK leadership, which was reshuffled last year when several hardliners ascended to top positions (see "Leadership Reshuffle: PKK Makes Changes in Its Ranks," February 26, 2014).
For now, though, Kurdish support could greatly facilitate Erdogan's presidential ambitions and the AKP's 2015 electoral prospects. And if the party prevails next year, it could open the path for further constitutional amendments that replace Turkey's parliament-centric system with a presidential system -- with Erdogan at the helm.
**Soner Cagaptay is the Beyer Family Fellow and director of the Turkish Research Program at The Washington Institute, and author of The Rise of Turkey: The Twenty-First Century's First Muslim Power (Potomac Books). Ege Cansu Sacikara is the Yvonne Silverman Research Assistant at the Institute.

Iraq parliament elects Kurdish Politician Fuad Masum president:
AFP/Published: 24/07/2014/BAGHDAD - Iraq's parliament on Thursday elected veteran Kurdish politician Fuad Masum as federal president, a move that paves the way for the much-delayed formation of a new government. He succeeds the ailing Jalal Talabani, who returned only five days ago from 18 months of medical treatment in Germany to serve out his tenure.
Parliament speaker Salim al-Juburi announced that Masum, who was born in 1938 and became the first prime minister of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan more than two decades ago, had garnered the most votes. Masum was almost guaranteed the job after Kurdish parties struck a late night deal to support him. Under an unofficial power-sharing deal, Iraq's Kurds traditionally get the post of president.
Masum won 211 votes while his challenger only managed 17 in the second round, according to figures announced by Juburi.
Veteran Iraqi politician Fuad Masum at a press conference on January 28, 2003 (AFP.)