June 19/14


Bible Quotation for today/If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

John 14,15-26/‘"If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. ‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.’ Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, ‘Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?’Jesus answered him, ‘Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me. ‘I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you."


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For June 19/14

Two Nations, Together/By: David Hale, U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon/June 19/14

The Massacre Strategy/By: Aaron Y. Zelin/Washington Institute/June 19/14

Iran Is Not an Ally in Iraq/By: Michael Singh /Wall Street Journal/June 19/14


Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For June 19/14

Lebanese Related News

STL Resumes Trial of Accused in Hariri Assassination
Prolonged Vacuum as MPs Fail Again to Elect New President
Geagea Slams Aoun Pledge to Guarantee Security of Hariri if in Power

March 14 Slams 'All Extremist Movements', Including 'ISIL, Hizbullah'
Syrian Worker Killed, 3 Injured in Ashrafieh Building Wall Collapse

Salam to Visit Kuwait on Sunday

Al-Rahi, Aoun Meet at Dinner Banquet in Bkirki after Long Rift
Aoun Says Promised Hariri to Guarantee His Return to Lebanon, Urges 'Parliamentary Vote or System Change'
Hariri, Jumblat Awaited Meeting Won't Achieve Positive Results
Army Continues Security Campaign on Syrian Encampments in Arsal
Ongoing Dispute over VAT Hindering Agreement over Wage Scale

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham: U.S. Must Help Lebanon over Refugee Crisis

Mustaqbal Slams 'Unacceptable' Vacuum, Says Open to Discuss Any Wage Hike Proposal

Lebanese families flee shelled Tfeil toward Arsal

Siniora: Discussion ongoing to reach deal on wage hike

Lebanon's Arabic press digest – June 18, 2014
Abra requests citizens to respect fasting Muslims

Franjieh: No President Can be Elected without Assad Consent

Miscellaneous Reports And News

Tehran, world powers begin drafting nuclear deal

Envoys: Iran refuses to budge on centrifuges

Iran Could Work with U.S. in Iraq if Nuclear Talks Succeed

East Tehran, world powers begin drafting nuclear deal: Iran FM
Ten IDF brigades grind Hamas down, but no trace of kidnapped boys after six days

Livni praises Abbas' comments as 'important'

Netanyahu's office issues tepid response to Abbas’ strong denunciation of kidnappings

Iraqi PM Vows to 'Face Terrorism' as Militants Strike Refinery
Iraq Aims to Retake Key Shiite Town in Hours, PM Vows to 'Face Terrorism' as Militants Hit Refinery
Zebari Says Iraq Has Requested U.S. Air Strikes on Jihadists

With ISIS at doorstep, Maliki sacks ‘traitors’

Barzani Asks Retired Peshmerga Fighters to Sign Up Again
UAE Recalls Envoy to Iraq, Slams 'Sectarian' Policies

Iraq’s Kurds link Kirkuk to own oil pipeline

Iraqi Kurds Forms Government after Months of Wrangling

Arab statehood hangs in the balance
Boko Haram Suspected after Football Screening Venue Bombed in Nigeria

STL Resumes Trial of Accused in Hariri Assassination
Naharnet/The Special Tribunal for Lebanon resumed on Wednesday the trial in the Ayyash et al. case tackling the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The trial at the Hague kicked off with Registrar Daryl Mundis confirming that none of the five accused came forward to appear before the trial.
The accused are Hizbullah members Salim Jamil Ayyash, Mustafa Amine Badreddine, Hassan Habib Merhi, Hussein Hassan Oneissi and Assad Hassan Sabra. They will be charged in absentia after they did not appear before the court and after Lebanese authorities failed to apprehend them. The charges against the accused were then listed, followed by a statement on slain Minister Bassel Fleihan, who was a passenger in Hariri's vehicle on the day of the assassination. Fleihan sustained severe burns from the explosion that targeted the former PM's convoy, passing away 64 days after the attack.
Fleihan's widow, Yasma, was present at the courtroom as a victim in the assassination. Prosecution Senior Trial Counsel Alexander Milne then began the Prosecutor's opening statement by recounting the events that took place on the day of Hariri's assassination on February 14, 2005 and the consequent developments. Prosecution Counsel also covered the phone networks that are believed to have been involved in the conspiracy. There are 65 participating victims in the Ayyash et al. trial and they are represented by three Legal Representatives. The Ayyash et al. trial started on January 16 and 15 witnesses were heard and the statements of another 48 were admitted into evidence. Ayyash and Badreddine face five charges including that of "committing a terrorist act by means of an explosive device" and homicide, while Oneissi and Sabra faced charges of conspiring to commit the same acts. Merhi is charged with a number of crimes including "the crime of conspiracy aimed at committing a terrorist act."Hariri and 22 others were killed in a massive suicide car bomb attack in Beirut in February 2005.

Abra requests citizens to respect fasting Muslims
June 18, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: The Abra Municipality in the coastal city of Sidon released a memo late Wednesday, urging citizens to respect practicing Muslims during Ramadan and abstain from eating in public. In his memo, Mayor Walid Nicolas al-Mchantaf stressed the importance of showing consideration during the holy month and refraining from dining at restaurants and cafes during the fasting period, which begins at sunrise and ends at sunset. Abra is a predominantly Christian suburb of Sidon, but it has a large Muslim community in the town that has been in the spotlight since last year’s deadly clashes between Islamist gunmen affiliated with Sheikh Ahmad Assir and the Lebanese Army.

Prolonged Vacuum as MPs Fail Again to Elect New President
Naharnet /Lawmakers failed on Wednesday for the seventh time to elect a new president as differences between the rival parties seemed not to be abating. Speaker Nabih Berri postponed the session to July 2 to fill the seat of the country's top Christian post at Baabda Palace. Berri said in remarks published in local dailies on Wednesday that he had continuously warned against the non-election of a president, a reminiscent of 20 sessions held in 2007 and 2008 that ended in failure. The failure to choose a successor to President Michel Suleiman, whose term expired on May 25, is the result of the boycott of the majority of March 8 alliance's MPs. Free Patriotic Moment chief MP Michel Aoun, whose Change and Reform bloc is among those who caused lack of quorum in parliament, has said he would run for the presidency if there was consensus on him. “I will announce my nomination when the political situation in parliament becomes clear and when (the current candidates) are dismissed,” Aoun said on Tuesday. “It is totally rejected to choose the weakest Christian as president and I will not tolerate this,” he said about Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea without naming him.
“I'm the strongest and I'm the one who represents (the Christians). My popularity is on the rise,” he added. Despite his claims, Aoun's rivals in the March 14 camp have refused to withdraw their support for Geagea, who was the first to announce his candidacy. Several March 14 MPs snapped back at Aoun in remarks to reporters in parliament. LF MP Elie Kairouz said the country's Christians need a man of “struggle” and a person who holds onto his stances, “not a man of contradiction in positions and choices.” Causing a vacuum at Baabda Palace is similar to the political displacement of Christians, he added.

Franjieh: No President Can be Elected without Assad Consent
NaharnetظMarada Movement leader MP Suleiman Franjieh on Wednesday announced that any candidate must enjoy Syrian President Bashar Assad's approval to be elected a president in Lebanon, noting that the embattled Syrian leader would be “pleased” if Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Michel Aoun manages to reach the Baabda Palace. “No president can be elected in Lebanon without Bashar Assad's consent,” Franjieh underlined during an interview with NBN television. “Assad will be pleased if General Aoun becomes president and this is what he has announced and Aoun knows that Assad admires him,” Franjieh added. Commenting on Aoun's remarks that he would guarantee former Premier Saad Hariri's “political security” if he returns to Lebanon, the Marada chief described the statement as a “slip of the tongue.” He pointed out that the FPM leader did not mean that he knows the parties that might seek to assassinate Hariri. In response to a question, Franjieh said he does not support Aoun's proposal on staging parliamentary elections in the absence of a president, saying “we had agreed in Bkirki not to hold elections under the 1960 (electoral) law.” Pressed several times to reveal whether he would eventually agree to holding the polls, Franjieh said: “I believe that national accord is more important than anything … the entire system is wrong nowadays.”
Earlier on Wednesday, lawmakers failed for the seventh time to elect a new president as differences between the rival parties seemed not to be abating. Speaker Nabih Berri postponed the session to July 2 to fill the seat of the country's top Christian post at Baabda Palace. The failure to choose a successor to Michel Suleiman, whose term expired on May 25, is the result of the boycott of the majority of March 8 alliance's MPs. Aoun, whose Change and Reform bloc is among those who caused lack of quorum in parliament, has said he would run for the presidency if there was consensus on him.

Army Continues Security Campaign on Syrian Encampments in Arsal
Naharnet /An army commando force raided on Wednesday Syrian refugees encampments in the northeastern border town of Arsal, the state-run National News Agency reported. NNA said that the army also carried out patrols on the outskirts of Arsal in search for gunmen and wanted suspects. Last week, the army detained in similar raids five Syrians on charges of participating in training with terrorist groups. The detained men were apprehended inside Syrian refugee encampments in the area, the army said in a communique. NNA said that the army kicked off an operation to detain armed men, who are accused of assaulting Syrian refugee camps in Wadi Hmeid area and abducting several Syrian nationals and a Lebanese. Ever since the Syrian revolt erupted in March 2011, Arsal has served as a key conduit for refugees, rebels and wounded people fleeing strife-torn Syria. More than 1 million of Syrians are in Lebanon, leaving the country, home to 4.5 million people, struggling to cope with the massive influx of refugees.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham: U.S. Must Help Lebanon over Refugee Crisis

Naharnet/Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham has said the U.S. must spend money to help Lebanon confront the Syrian refugee crisis as the U.S. Senate appropriators advanced a $48.3 billion budget for foreign aid and State Department work. The Appropriations foreign operations subcommittee adopted the budget by consensus Tuesday. The full committee examines it Thursday. Graham, who is a ranking subcommittee member, called for similar assistance to Jordan and other countries that are facing refugee influxes. The funding would be slightly below this year's but in line with that proposed by House appropriators. Like the House measure, the $48.3 billion Senate budget includes conditions on Egypt support. But it differs in not tightening restrictions on Palestinian aid after formation of the recent unity government with Hamas. Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the subcommittee, said it includes new funding for Ukraine and others threatened by "Russian aggression."He said diplomatic security, health and U.N. peacekeeping are fully funded. The U.S. embassy in Beirut revealed earlier this month that Washington is providing more than $51 million to the World Food Program and Non-Governmental Organizations in Lebanon, the highest amount in terms of assistance provided to countries neighboring war-torn Syria. In a series of tweets, the embassy said that “the U.S. is committed to delivering humanitarian assistance to Syrians through the U.N. broad network, no matter where they reside or have sought refuge.”The U.S. assistance in Lebanon includes food aid, protection, shelter, water and sanitation in host communities, education programs and other programs to prevent gender-based violence, it said in one tweet. Secretary of State John Kerry's announcement during a visit to Beirut of a $290 million in U.S. aid for U.N. agencies, rose total humanitarian assistance since the beginning of the Syrian crisis to more than $2 billion.

Geagea Slams Aoun Pledge to Guarantee Security of Hariri if in Power

Naharnet/Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea said on Wednesday that his political arch-foe Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun isn't responsible for head of al-Mustaqbal Movement Saad Hariri's security, stressing that staging the parliamentary elections amid presidential vacuum is a dangerous precedent. “It is early to discuss the legislative polls... But if we carry out the elections without a head of state then we will return to the same crisis,” Geagea told reporters at Maarab after lawmakers failed for the seventh time to elect a new president. Geagea stressed that “the presidential elections must be held before the parliamentary elections.”The Christian leader lashed out at Aoun without naming him, wondering how some parties are justifying vacuum with the fear of electing a weak president. “Christians are now sobbing over the ongoing vacuum.” “It is totally rejected to choose the weakest Christian as president and I will not tolerate this,” Aoun said Tuesday about Geagea without naming him.
“I'm the strongest and I'm the one who represents (the Christians). My popularity is on the rise,” he added. Geagea slammed the March 8 alliance, asking the Change and Reform bloc, which is head by Aoun, and Hizbullah's Loyalty to the Resistance bloc “what they are waiting for” to attend the parliamentary session and elect a new head of state. The failure to choose a successor to President Michel Suleiman, whose term expired on May 25, is the result of the boycott of the majority of March 8 alliance's MPs. The March 14 official voiced concern over the presidential impasse, expressing hope that the rival parties would have at least one percent consensus over any candidate.  “It's not right to elect a president who has minimal representation but now we will not be able to agree on a nominee who could garner the majority of votes,” Geagea said. He proposed on Aoun to accept “any of the available options or head to the parliament to vote for his candidate because vacuum will harm us all.”Aoun has said he would run for the presidency if there was consensus on him. Geagea said that meeting with the FPM chief will not lead to any positive result.
“They are manipulating the system and the constitution, which poses a great danger on the country and the Lebanese amid the developments in the region.”He considered that the Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi as the “saddest person” over the ongoing deadlock. “We shouldn't undermine the presidential vacuum,” Geagea said, urging those who have “conscience” to attend the July 2 session set to elect a new president. Speaker Nabih Berri postponed the session to July 2 to fill the seat of the country's top Christian post at Baabda Palace. Geagea concluded that Aoun is not responsible for Hariri's security, a day after Aoun said that he could guarantee the political security of the Mustaqbal official if he returns to Lebanon if he was in power. “Hariri will not also ask him for such a demand.”

Al-Rahi, Aoun Meet at Dinner Banquet in Bkirki after Long Rift
Naharnet/A meeting was held recently between Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun and Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi in Bkirki in an attempt to end the rift among them, As Safir newspaper reported on Wednesday. According to the daily, al-Rahi held a dinner banquet on Monday night in the presence of 25 bishops and attended by Aoun. The daily reported that Bishop Samir Mazloum paved way for the two officials to end the rift and meet at the Patriarchate after a phone conversation held between Aoun and al-Rahi last week. Al-Rahi clarified to Aoun his statement that he doesn't want the FPM chief or Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea to reach the Presidential Palace. “If your (Aoun) and Geagea's candidacy led the country to vacuum... We should seek the election of a third figure,” al-Rahi explained to Aoun. In April, al-Rahi has ruled out the election of a president from either the March 8 or 14 alliance, saying the head of state should be consensual and capable of bringing the bickering parties closer. The patriarch reiterated that the seat of the Maronite church in Bkirki does not support any candidate. The newspaper said that the FPM chief stressed to gatherers at al-Rahi's banquet that the Christians, specifically the Maronites, have the right to be represented by a strong and consensual president. Sources close to the LF denied in comments to As Safir that Geagea rejected to attend the dinner banquet despite al-Rahi's invitation, pointing out that “the circumstances that prevented him from attending the last Maronite meeting are ongoing.”“No agreement was held on such a meeting,” the sources said. Lebanon has been plunged into a leadership vacuum after Michel Suleiman's presidential term ended on May 25 with rival political blocs still divided over a new leader.Over the past two months the parliament convened five times to try to elect a successor to Suleiman but failed during the last five sessions due to a lack of quorum.

Aoun Says Promised Hariri to Guarantee His Return to Lebanon, Urges 'Parliamentary Vote or System Change'

Naharnet /Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun on Tuesday said he is waiting for al-Mustaqbal movement to nominate him or endorse a “new candidate” for the presidency, revealing that he had told Mustaqbal leader Saad Hariri that he would guarantee his “political security” if he returns to Lebanon. “Mustaqbal Movement officials contacted me and we had the intent to meet in the summer of 2013 but the circumstances did not allow us to do so. We then scheduled a meeting in Rome and we agreed not to publicize it so that they (political rivals) don't force its failure before it even happens,” Aoun said in an interview on OTV. According to media reports, the meeting between the two men was held in December 2013. “I told Hariri that Lebanon cannot bear further deterioration and that the trials of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon had kicked off and that we would accept the rulings. I said the situation in Lebanon was deteriorating and that we cannot unite the country without cooperating with the other camp,” said Aoun. He noted that he agreed with Hariri on “the issue of Lebanon's unity,” pointing out that Hizbullah's weapons were among the topics that they discussed. “I did not discuss the presidential vote with Hariri and I told him that I can guarantee his political security if he returns to Lebanon but noted that I cannot guarantee it if I'm not in power,” added Aoun. “I talked with Hariri about an electoral law based on proportional representation and 15 electorates and he said he would look into the matter but until now I have not received any answer,” the FPM leader said. Asked about his response if talks with Hariri fail, Aoun said: “I do not know what would happen if negotiations with Hariri hit a dead end ... Can he find a figure who enjoys the consensus of both camps?” “I think there are two obstacles holding back Hariri: his allies and Saudi Arabia, but this is my evaluation and I cannot judge things that I don't know,” he added.
“We cannot interfere in the issue of Hizbullah, which has become part of the solution in Syria. Hariri talked about the party's weapons in cities and I said that neither us nor Hizbullah want the weapons to be in the city. Will Hizbullah occupy Beirut for example?” Aoun asked sarcastically. He noted that Hariri “can only endorse someone from his camp for the presidency.” “But after he fails once, twice and three times, he must find a solution, or else we would stay three or four years without a president,” Aoun warned.
Asked if he intends to officially announce his nomination for the presidency anytime soon, Aoun said: “As long as there are no presidential candidates other than those who were in the first session – (Democratic Gathering MP) Henri Helou and (Lebanese Forces leader) Samir Geagea -- I will not attend the sessions, because we would be wasting time.”
“If al-Mustaqbal movement has another candidate, let them announce his name and we would congratulate them.”Aoun pointed out that the constitutional timeframe for parliamentary elections “is in effect, whether there is a president or not.” “We won't delay the polls to wait for the election of a president and we want to hold them under a new electoral law,” he said. “Even if there is no president, the parliament has the right to legislate in issues related to the formation of authorities, such as the electoral law,” Aoun stated. “The interior minister must set a date for the parliamentary elections and he has a one month deadline, between September and October, and if that does not happen, we will take other measures. I do not acknowledge the legitimacy of the current parliament in the first place and I had filed an appeal and I'm awaiting the ruling,” Aoun went on to say. The FPM leader declared that “a drastic change will take place in the political system if the parliamentary elections were not held.”  “I will propose new rules for the election of the president, as it is unacceptable to continue things as they are now,” he added. “We went to parliament and gave Geagea a chance, but he did not garner all the votes of his bloc,” Aoun said. Asked about Geagea's initiative regarding the presidential election, Aoun said “the so-called Bkirki list (of candidates) has been refuted and Geagea's initiatives are futile.” He noted that Wednesday's parliamentary session dedicated to vote on a new president “will be similar to the previous sessions,” which were stripped of the necessary quorum due to the boycott of Aoun and his allies.  “I will announce my nomination when the political situation in parliament becomes clear and when (the current candidates) are dismissed,” Aoun said. “Don't I have the right not to announce my nomination? I want them to understand that our right cannot be easily usurped. They marginalized the president and the parliament after taking 37 parliamentary seats. They marginalized us in cabinet during the tenure of Michel Suleiman who had claimed that he wanted to preserve the rights of Christians,” the FPM chief lamented. “It is totally rejected to choose the weakest Christian as president and I will not tolerate this ... I'm the strongest and I'm the one who represents (the Christians) and my popularity is on the rise,” he added.

Mustaqbal Slams 'Unacceptable' Vacuum, Says Open to Discuss Any Wage Hike Proposal
Naharnet/Al-Mustaqbal bloc on Tuesday called on the cabinet to take charge of people's affairs, urging also the election of a new head of state “as soon as possible.”"It is not acceptable to continue stalling amid vacuum in the state's top post,” the bloc said in a released statement after the MPs' weekly meeting at the Center House.The bloc stated that the solution lies in the hands “of those obstructing the (presidential) juncture, i.e. the March 8 coalition, who are boycotting electoral sessions.”"The March 14 forces have announced that their candidate is (Lebanese Forces chief) Samir Geagea and instead of boycotting sessions, March 8 should take the same road and agree on a consensual name who could become a symbol for the country's unity and independence, and who could respect the state's sovereignty and the conclusions of the national dialogue sessions,” the statement said. On the cabinet's role amid the current presidential vacuum, the statement said: “We stress an accurate implementation of the Constitution while attending the interest of people, the state and the economy.” Separately, the MPs commented on the contentious new wage scale, saying they are open to discuss any proposal that leads to the long-awaited adoption of the draft. They stressed the bloc's stance of siding with “the real and constant interests of employees, workers, teachers, and military and security personnel.”The bloc said it was keen on securing a decent livelihood for people, but highlighted that it should be based on “fairness between different sectors and between costs and expected revenues.”The lawmakers pointed out that "this issue requires more than estimating the treasury's ability to bear the additional costs," as it should also explore "the economy's capacity to bear additional tax burdens and to contain its negative consequences." But the conferees assured that they are open to discuss any proposal that takes the aforementioned conditions into consideration, and which leads to the adoption of the new wage scale.

Salam to Visit Kuwait on Sunday

Naharnet/Prime Minister Tammam Salam is scheduled to visit Kuwait on Sunday for talks with Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah, in his second Gulf state visit in a month. Al-Liwaa daily said Wednesday that the one-day trip is aimed at sending a message that Lebanon's security situation has improved and that Kuwaiti citizens could visit the country. Salam also aims at appeasing businessmen and encouraging them to invest in Lebanon, it said. His talks would focus on Kuwaiti assistance to Lebanon to help it confront the burden of Syrian refugees, the newspaper added. The PM traveled to Riyadh last month on his first official tour since he assumed office in February. During his visit, he met with Saudi King Abdullah, senior Saudi officials and al-Mustaqbal movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri. Speaker Nabih Berri and Salam met on Tuesday with Kuwaiti Speaker Marzouq al-Ghanim, who stressed his country's continued support for Lebanon. Al-Ghanim was in Beirut to study ways to assist the country of 4.5 million that has hosted more than 1 million of Syrians. The rising number of refugees has left Lebanon struggling to cope with the massive influx of refugees.

Hariri, Jumblat Awaited Meeting Won't Achieve Positive Results
Naharnet/The much-anticipated meeting between Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat and al-Mustaqbal head MP Saad Hariri in the French capital Paris is not expected to resolve the presidential deadlock. An Nahar newspaper reported that the meeting, which was expected to be held on Tuesday was postponed to Friday. The newspaper, published on Wednesday, said that Hariri will host a dinner banquet in honor of Jumblat. The two officials, according to the daily, will tackle the presidential crisis and ways to resolve the political impasse. Sources underestimated in comments to al-Joumhouria newspaper the importance of the meeting with the ongoing sharp differences over the name of the presidential candidate. The sources said that the obstacles impeding the election of a new head of state are not in the hands of the two officials. “Neither Hariri nor Jumblat have a final position on the consensual candidate who would be able to garner the majority of parliamentary votes.”Jumblat traveled to Paris on Friday on board a private plane as media reports said that the Druze leader will also meet with former President Michel Suleiman. Lebanon was plunged in presidential vacuum following the end of Suleiman's term on May 25. Five presidential election sessions were held, but parliament has so far failed to elect a new head of state.

March 14 Slams 'All Extremist Movements', Including 'ISIL, Hizbullah'

Naharnet/The March 14 forces on Wednesday voiced their rejection of “all extremist movements,” reiterating the call for “building the state and the immediate election of a new president.”“Today, more than ever, the (March 14) general secretariat announces its rejection of all extremist groups, whether they resemble Hizbullah or the ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant),” the secretariat said in a statement issued after its weekly meeting in Ashrafieh. Militants spearheaded by the ISIL, an al-Qaida breakaway group, have made stunning advances in Iraq, seizing control of vast swathes of territory in a span of few days. Hizbullah has openly declared sending fighters to Syria to assist the embattled regime against “takfiri” groups seeking to topple it. The general secretariat stressed that its project “was and will always be struggle to cross into a complete civil state that would be a role model for the countries of the region, which has entered a long travail.” “These are the beliefs of March 14, which have not and will not change regardless of any developments in the region,” it added. The secretariat reminded of the stance of al-Mustaqbal movement, “which on February 14, 2014 reiterated its keenness to clearly and openly reject extremism, whichever side it may come from.” The March 14 General Secretariat also noted that it is “continuing meetings in the regions and political activities because coexistence in Lebanon is a common national responsibility.”But it warned that “tyranny only breeds tyranny and violence only breeds violence,” pointing out that “Lebanon, which had experienced sectarian polarization and killing before anyone else, is urged today to be an example for coexistence and respecting diversity.”To this end, the general secretariat called for “completing the process of building the state, the immediate election of a new president and creative interaction among the components of the diverse Lebanese social fabric.”

Ongoing Dispute over VAT Hindering Agreement over Wage Scale

Naharnet /Resolving the dispute over raising the Value Added Tax is among the main obstacles that may hinder the approval of the new wage scale during a legislative session scheduled for Thursday. Given the lingering differences, the session may not even be attended by the Mustaqbal bloc, which may lead to a lack of quorum at parliament. Head of the Mustaqbal bloc MP Fouad Saniora had held talks Wednesday with Speaker Nabih Berri regarding the session, saying afterward that talks over the wage hike “need more time.” Meanwhile, the Syndicate Coordination Committee warned that it may resort to “escalatory” measures in the future should the legislative session fail to adopt the new wage scale draft-law. “We will head to the streets whether Thursday's legislative session is held or not,” declared Head of Public Secondary School Education Teachers Association Hanna Gharib during a press conference. “We will continue our demonstrations and we will continue to hold lawmakers responsible for failing to approve the wage hike,” he added. He slammed the potential raise in the VAT, saying that it will result in a decrease in spending by the poor and people of limited income.
Raising the VAT has been among the proposals sought to resolve the problem of funding the new wage scale. “We are waging this battle in the name of all Lebanese,” said Gharib. “We reject the approval of a wage scale that takes place at the expense of the poor and those of limited income,” he added. “Our rights will not be subject to any settlements or concessions,” he stressed. Moreover, he remarked: “We are not bound to any of the discussions among the parliamentary blocs because they did not even consult us in their talks.” In the meantime, concerned ministers and lawmakers held a series of meetings at parliament ahead of Thursday's legislative session. Change and Reform bloc MP Ibrahim Kanaan announced during a press conference: “We reached a balance between revenues and spending in the new wage scale.” “The balance leaves no room for differences over the figures and it will not negatively impact the economy,” he explained. “Today's talks ensured the rights of the concerned sides in the wage scale,” he revealed. He remarked however that an agreement over the wage hike has not been reached yet as differences over its funding still remain. “We have achieved progress, but discussions, particularly over the funding, are still open,” he said. “We hope that the new wage scale draft-law will be approved on Thursday,” he added however. Education Minister Elias Bou Saab later added at the press conference: “We hope to reach an agreement over the wage scale soon.” “Saniora has not said that he opposes the hike, but rather he advocates it,” he stated. “We hope to reach an agreement soon otherwise we risk wasting all the progress we have achieved so far,” warned the minister. The SCC, a coalition of private and public school teachers and public sector employees, have been holding onto a 121 percent increase in their salaries. But a ministerial-parliamentary committee has proposed to reduce the total funding from LL2.8 trillion ($1.9 billion) to LL1.8 trillion ($1.2 billion). It has also called for raising certain taxes, which are a source of controversy among parliamentary blocs.

Syrian Worker Killed, 3 Injured in Ashrafieh Building Wall Collapse
Naharnet/One person was killed and three others were wounded on Wednesday afternoon when the wall of an old building collapsed in the Beirut region of Ashrafieh. Internal Security Forces announced on its account on the social media website Twitter that the wall of an old building collapsed on four Syrian workers during the demolition of the structure. It noted that the incident took place in the neighborhood of Karm al-Zeitoun in the area. "The workers had different types of injuries, and one of them was gravely wounded,” the ISF noted. Later on, security forces announced that Syrian national Ahmed Kh. was killed in the wall's collapse, adding that three of his colleagues were injured. Beirut municipality chief Bilal Hamad blamed the person in charge of the construction site for not taking the necessary procedures to “protect citizens.” “Harsh steps will be taken at all construction sites that are not adopting such (safety) procedures,” he warned. In march 2012, 26 people were killed and 12 wounded in a building collapse that took place also in Ashrafieh. The incident had raised fears of the occurrence of similar ones given the abundance of old buildings in the country and people’s ignorance of proper construction safety rules. Despite the outcry over the collapse, no official authority has been established in order to monitor similar cases to prevent the repeat of the disaster. Also in March 2012, the front of a vacant building collapsed in the Beirut neighborhood of Bourj Hammoud without resulting in any casualties. Damage was limited to nearby power poles and parked cars.

Zebari Says Iraq Has Requested U.S. Air Strikes on Jihadists
Naharnet /Iraq has asked the United States to conduct air strikes on Sunni Muslim jihadists who have seized key cities and large swathes of the country, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Wednesday.
Speaking in Saudi Arabia, Zebari also urged the kingdom, which has openly criticized "sectarian" policies of the Shiite-led government against Arab Sunnis, to "stop media incitement" and to support it against "terrorism." "Iraq has officially asked Washington to help under the security agreement (between the two countries), and to conduct air strikes against terrorist groups," Zebari told reporters in Jeddah, following Arab ministerial consultations. Militants, spearheaded by the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and joined by supporters of executed dictator Saddam Hussein, have overrun a large chunk of northern and north-central Iraq in the past week, although their advance has since been slowed. "A military approach will not be enough. We acknowledge the need for drastic political solutions," Zebari said. The United States spent millions of dollars over several years training and arming a new Iraqi army after disbanding the Sunni-led force created by the late dictator Saddam Hussein.
President Barack Obama has sent a small number of military personnel to Baghdad to strengthen security for the U.S. embassy and is weighing potential military options, including air strikes, to counter the militant onslaught. Zebari said he held "frank" talks with Saudi officials. "Our message is that all are requested to stand by Iraq's side against terrorism," he said.
"Saudi Arabia says all (developments in Iraq) were due to marginalization and sectarianism (against Sunnis). It did not mention the slaughtering and bloodshed. Hundreds of soldiers have been executed... The situation can't be looked at from one angle," he said. "We have had frank discussions with the Saudi leadership about this, and we asked for their help, and to stop media incitement," he said, denouncing "fatwa edicts describing the events as a revolution." Saudi media were swift in condemning Nouri al-Maliki's government and trying to minimize the role of ISIL in the insurgency through highlighting the role of Sunni tribes and other armed groups. Zebari acknowledged that Arab Sunnis feel marginalized, but said killing is not the solution. "Sunnis feel wronged, marginalized and less-represented. Yes, we support their demands and we will continue to do so, but not through the killing and massacring in the name of defending the Sunnis and their interests," he said. Source/Agence France Presse

Iraq Aims to Retake Key Shiite Town in Hours, PM Vows to 'Face Terrorism' as Militants Hit Refinery
Naharnet/Iraq aims to complete the "liberation" of the strategic northern Shiite town of Tal Afar from militants in a matter of hours, a security spokesman said on Wednesday, as insurgents attacked the country's main oil refinery and seized more territory in the north. Security forces plan to accomplish "the liberation of the entire town by dawn on Thursday," the spokesman said, after which they will head for militant-held areas in the city of Mosul, to its east. Iraqi forces pushed into new areas of Tal Afar on Wednesday during heavy fighting with militants, a provincial councilor said.
The Shiite-majority town is the largest in the northern province of Nineveh not to fall to militants, and is located along a strategic corridor to Syria. It has been the scene of fierce fighting for days. Meanwhile, militants seized three villages in northern Iraq on Wednesday during clashes with security forces and residents that left 20 civilians dead, a local official said. The official, Shallal Abdul Baban, named the villages as Albu Hassan, Birwajli and Bastamli, in Salaheddin province. Also on Wednesday, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki vowed on television that "we will face terrorism and bring down the conspiracy," adding that "we will teach (militants) a lesson and strike them." He also said the country's security forces, which wilted in the face of a major militant offensive that overran all of one province and chunks of three more in a matter of days last week, had suffered a "setback" but had not been defeated. Maliki security spokesman Lieutenant General Qassem Atta later said security forces would retake by Thursday morning full control of Tal Afar, a Shiite town in the north that lies along a strategic corridor to Syria. That would provide a base from which to launch operations to recapture Mosul. With regional tensions rising, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the Islamic republic "will do everything" to protect Shiite shrines in Iraqi cities against the militant assault. And Saudi Arabia warned of the risks of a civil war in Iraq with unpredictable consequences for the region, while the United Arab Emirates recalled its envoy to Baghdad, voicing concern over "exclusionary and sectarian policies." The crisis, which has displaced hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, threatens to break the country apart, while the assault on Baiji oil refinery Wednesday further spooked international oil markets.
The attack on the refinery complex, in Salaheddin province north of Baghdad, was launched before dawn. Officials said security forces controlled the refinery, but clashes were ongoing, with Atta saying 40 militants were killed. Several tanks containing refined products caught fire during the clashes. The refinery was shut down and some employees evacuated on Tuesday due to a drop in demand caused by the militant drive. World oil producers have cautiously watched the unfolding chaos in Iraq, which currently exports around 2.5 million barrels of oil per day. They have stressed that the country's vast crude supplies, mostly in the south, are safe -- for now. The militants' swift advance has sparked international alarm, with the U.N.'s envoy to Baghdad warning that the crisis was "life-threatening for Iraq."
Analysts suggested that the country could unravel, surviving at best as a federal state. John Drake, an expert on Iraq with British security group AKE, was asked if Iraq could remain united. "I don't think it's impossible, but it is highly unlikely," was his verdict. Meanwhile, the Indian foreign ministry announced that 40 Indian construction workers had been abducted in Mosul, the first city to fall in the offensive.
Spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said 46 Indian nurses were also stranded in the militant-held city of Tikrit. Last week, as the offensive got underway ISIL fighters kidnapped 49 Turks in Mosul, including diplomats and children, after earlier seizing 31 Turkish truck drivers. In a bid to see off the offensive, Maliki sacked several top security commanders Tuesday evening, then stood alongside several of his main rivals in a rare display of unity among the country's fractious political leaders. The dismissals came after soldiers and police fled en masse as insurgents swept into Mosul, a city of two million, on June 10.
Some abandoned their vehicles and uniforms when faced with the insurgents, which are led by ISIL fighters but also include loyalists of executed dictator Saddam Hussein.
After taking Mosul, militants captured a major chunk of mainly Sunni Arab territory stretching towards the capital. Despite security forces' initial poor performance, Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said Iraqi troops, with help from Shiite volunteers, were "stiffening their resistance" around Baghdad. Source/Agence France Presse

Boko Haram Suspected after Football Screening Venue Bombed in Nigeria
Naharnet/Boko Haram militants were on Wednesday suspected of carrying out a deadly bomb attack against football fans watching the World Cup in northern Nigeria, in the latest violence targeting the game. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast in the Nayi-Nama area of Damaturu on Tuesday night but the Islamists have previously carried out attacks on informal, big screen venues. Boko Haram, which in April kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls in northeast Nigeria to international condemnation, has been waging a brutal, five-year insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives. Residents in Nayi-Nama said the bomb appeared to have been hidden in a motorized rickshaw outside the Crossfire venue, where crowds had gathered to watch tournament hosts Brazil play Mexico.
The blast happened at about 8:15 pm (1915 GMT), 15 minutes after the match kicked off in Fortaleza. "We received 21 dead bodies and 27 injured victims from the blast," a source at the Sani Abacha Specialist Hospital in Damaturu, told AFP. Soldiers and police brought in the dead and injured from the scene of the blast, which was quickly cordoned off, the source said. "The victims are young men and children. They have burns, ruptured tissue and bone fractures," he added. Yobe state police commissioner Sanusi Rufa'i said at least 14 people were killed and 26 injured. Conflicting death tolls are common in Nigeria and the authorities often round down the number of victims. "We still don't know how the incident happened and as security personnel we can't just rely on eyewitness accounts for an incident as serious as this," he added.  "Our forensic experts are conducting on-the-scene assessment to establish what really happened. We will make public our findings when investigations are concluded."
The blast was the latest in a series at so-called "viewing centers" in Nigeria blamed on Boko Haram, which has previously attacked schools teaching a "Western" curriculum and Christian churches. Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has preached against football as part of the Islamist group's agenda to impose strict Islamic law in northern Nigeria.
In several video clips, he described football and music as a Western ploy to distract Muslims from their religion. In April this year, suspected Boko Haram gunmen also stormed a packed venue in Potiskum, also in Yobe, shooting dead two people as they watched European Champions League quarter-final matches. Football is Nigeria's national sport and has a fanatical following but recent blasts targeting fans in northeastern Adamawa and the central state of Plateau have seen the authorities close big screen venues on security grounds. The World Cup would normally have seen large crowds congregate to watch the matches, including those of Nigeria's national team, the "Super Eagles", but many fans have opted to stay at home for their own safety. "I'm not comfortable going to any viewing center due to the Boko Haram threats," Danlami Ma'azu, who lives in the northern city of Kano, told AFP last week. Adamawa and Yobe have both been under a state of emergency since May last year to try to curb the violence, so far with little success. Borno, which lies between the two states and has been worst hit by the bloodshed, is also under special powers. East African nations are also on high alert over possible attacks by Somalia's Al-Qaida-linked Shebab rebels during football screenings. Britain has released warnings to citizens in several east African nations -- including Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya, who all have troops in Somalia -- speaking of the threat of attacks at public screenings of the World Cup. "Previous terrorist attacks in the region have targeted places where football matches are being viewed," Britain's Foreign Office said, adding that crowded areas including transport hubs, hotels, restaurants and bars were also possible targets.Source/Agence France Presse

Iran Could Work with U.S. in Iraq if Nuclear Talks Succeed
Naharnet/A top Iranian official said on Wednesday that Tehran could consider working with the United States over the crisis in Iraq if talks on its nuclear program are successful. Asked about possible cooperation in Iraq, President Hassan Rouhani's chief of staff Mohammad Nahavandian told reporters in Oslo that the nuclear talks were a "test for confidence building". "If that comes to a final resolution, then there might be opportunities for other issues to be discussed."Nahavandian added that he was opposed to external intervention against Islamic militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) who have made sweeping gains in northern Iraq in recent days amid reports of the summary execution of hundreds of U.S.-trained Iraqi soldiers. "The management of the situation has to be given to the people and the government of Iraq. The Iraqi people and government have enough resources and commitment to defend itself," he said. "The outside world should just respond to what the government of Iraq wants (and) should not intervene in the management of the situation." He reiterated a previous Iranian commitment to respond to any request for help from the Iraqi government "to take care of the internal issue" and criticized U.S. inaction. "With regards to the United States, we have not seen any serious action from them against this wave of terrorism inside Iraq."Source/Agence France Presse

Two Nations, Together
Naharnet/By David Hale
U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon
How does celebrating an anniversary two weeks early show you the links and values that Americans and Lebanese share?
For Americans, July 4th is a time for celebration – the anniversary of when the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence stating that America was no longer a colony, but a nation. We celebrate at home and abroad, remembering the sacrifices made to ensure freedom and reflecting on how to uphold our values.
This year is the seventh time that I celebrated America’s independence here, with so many Lebanese friends and colleagues. It not only made me think about the American experience, but also about the values that bind America and Lebanon together. Among these are the defense of personal liberties and freedoms of expression, press, and religion; a desire for representative and accountable government; mutual respect and coexistence across diverse faiths; belief in the benefits of a free market and entrepreneurial spirit; openness to the world around us; and an interest in investing in education.
With that value of mutual respect in mind, we held our commemoration in June, to accommodate those who will observe Ramadan in July.Living as neighbors with those who are different from us in some way, and respecting and accommodating those differences, is not the only similarity between Americans and Lebanese. My years in Lebanon have shown me – the people have shown me – many areas where U.S. and Lebanese ideals, goals and dreams intersect. Parents, whether in Bellevue or Baalbek, Tripoli or Tallahassee, want a good education for their children. And both of our societies recognize that investment in education is an investment in a positive future for our countries. The roots of American institutions of learning in Lebanon are deep, going back to the 1835 founding of the American School for Girls, which would become the Lebanese American University. And those roots are wide, with American schools established in Nabatiyeh in the south and Tripoli in the north. The United States Government has helped many of these schools with assistance and scholarships, and we are proud to support a variety of education programs here, to support Lebanon’s youth and families.
But our educational links are not just about governments working together. They also showcase how private Americans and Lebanese choose to come together to ensure open debate, discussion, and exchange of ideas on these campuses. Generation after generation of Americans and Lebanese has been transformed by these experiences.
Trade is another strong link between us and has also helped transform people and places in both countries. Merchant ships from Boston, Massachusetts stopped in Beirut’s harbor in the eighteenth century, even before the United States’ independence. More recently, an American company cleaned up the Normandy landfill near that same harbor -- one of the first contracts awarded to an American firm at the end of Lebanon’s civil war. What was once a reminder of turmoil is now a place of celebration, such as our own national day reception last night at Biel. The American Lebanese Chamber of Commerce in Lebanon is one of our strongest partners here as we work together to attract investment, expand trade, and build ever stronger economic relations to our mutual benefit. Last night, many American companies operating in Lebanon joined me in hosting our Independence Day reception.
Military and security ties also connect us. We have seen success in our cooperation as the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Internal Security Forces gain greater means to protect Lebanon’s people, borders and territory, and work to keep the country stable and at peace in ways that are accountable to all Lebanese. Since 2005, we have invested more than one billion dollars in these institutions.
Success does come with sacrifice. I recently toured the museum in Roumieh dedicated to the brave officers and soldiers of Lebanon’s Ranger Regiment who sacrificed their lives fighting for Lebanon – a moving reminder of the turmoil this country has endured and also of the strength of a united people. The United States will continue to work with Lebanon and its people to ensure that strength and lessen the sorrow. While we in the United States traditionally celebrate our independence in July, these ideals are with us all year long and can, and should, be remembered and lived each day. Our countries’ mutual values and common goals drive our relationships – both private and governmental – and link Lebanon and the U.S. I look forward to continuing and deepening that relationship, every day of the year.

Ten IDF brigades grind Hamas down, but no trace of kidnapped boys after six days

DEBKAfile Special Report June 18, 2014/IDF night operations against Hamas
As the massive search for the three kidnapped teenagers Gil-Ad Sha’ar, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrach, went into its sixth day Wednesday, June 8, Israelis were getting impatient and skeptical about the prospects of finding them. Ten IDF brigades plus special operations units have been mobilized to scour the Hebron district, where the boys disappeared on June 12, and are keeping its population of 300,000 under curfew. So why, people are asking, has the army expanded the hunt to the northern West Bank towns of Nablus and Jenin?
Another 65 mostly Hamas activists were detained Tuesday overnight across the West Bank. Of that number, 51 were former prisoners released by Israel in the 2011 trade for the Israel soldier Gilead Shalit.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stressed that the special message conveyed by these arrests is part of the all-out military effort to recover the three boys and break up the Hamas organization in Judea and Samaria. At this late date, Netanyahu was implying that he made a strategic blunder in 2011 when he signed the deal for the release of 1,027 convicted Palestinian terrorists, including multiple murderers, in exchange for the freedom of a single Israeli soldier.Early Wednesday, the IDF was ordered to start reversing that deal and putting the freed Palestinians back in prison. But reversing the hard military core of a radical ideological movement dedicated to violence is a lengthy, painstaking and costly process. One of debkafile’s military intelligence sources reports that, even after nearly 300 Hamas activists were detained this week, many thousands of activists, some of the highest rank, remain in Israeli and Palestinian Authority prisons.
As for the missing boys, the liaison officers permanently attached to their families may be more forthcoming to them than they are to the media, which are kept totally in the dark. But whatever they may have been told, the fact remains that the massive search has produced no tangible progress or concrete data on the boys’ whereabouts thus far. Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz never tires of repeating that the IDF will never give up until they are back home. The entire Israeli operation is designed to show Hamas in the strongest language that the old game is over. Kidnapping Israelis will never again yield the release of Palestinian terrorists from prison, only intensify Israel’s determination to smash Hamas’ political, terror, military and financial infrastructures. This piecemeal destruction of the organization’s institutions and underground presence in Judea and Samaria will go on and, if it fails to produce results, the operation will extend to Hamas’ home ground in the Gaza Strip.
Our military sources report that the IDF has deployed almost as much military strength for this operation as it fielded for the April 2002 Defensive Wall operation, that broke the back of the second intifada.
Ten IDF combat brigades have been seconded, equal to nearly three divisions and including Special Operations forces, auxiliary contingents, police units and Shin Bet internal intelligence personnel.
The high command has transferred to Judea and Samaria units from Israel’s northern borders. The war engulfing Iraq is burning so fiercely that Tehran has pulled Hizballah fighters and Iraqi Shiite militiamen out of Syria to battle the Sunni ISIS and save the Baghdad regime. This has somewhat reduced the risks facing northern Israel. The Israeli brigades are not just dismantling Hamas’ resources for waging terror, but every other terrorist entity they encounter – some on the strength of new information obtained from interrogations of detainees. Israeli troops are rooting out the smallest and most primitive of these entities, one by one, to make sure that none will ever raise its head and stir up a third intifada.
Thorough though it is, this operation has three shortcomings:
1. It has not accomplished its declared mission of rescuing the three kidnapped teenagers and catching their abductors.
2. It is not reasonable to expect Hamas or its Iranian and Hizballah backers to allow Israel to continue hammering Hamas for weeks or months or “for as long as its takes,” as Israeli leaders have pledged, without pushing back. At some point, the trio running the operation, Netanyahu, Ya’alon and Gantz, will have to set a timeline.
Already Tuesday, a solid front of all the terrorist organizations based in the Gaza Strip, led by Hamas and the pro-Iranian Jihad Islami, declared full mobilization and set up a common war room for operations against Israel.
3. The man who has profited most from the IDF operation thus far is Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. He can stand back and watch Israeli forces smash Hamas’ assets and influence in the most important West Bank towns of Ramallah, Jenin, Tulkarm, Hebron and Nablus. Those towns were formally transferred to PA rule, but its security forces fear to set foot there.
Now, Abbas’ Fatah party can hope to win the Palestinian elections when they take place next January. In Jeddah, Abbas came forward Wednesday to publicly demand that the abductors of the three Israeli boys, whoever they are, let them go at once. He accused the kidnappers of seeking to “ruin the Palestinian Authority” and vowed they would be held accountable.
Addressing a gathering of Organization of the Islamic Cooperation foreign ministers in Jedda, Abbas also pledged that there would be no third intifada

The Massacre Strategy
Aaron Y. Zelin/Washington Institute
June 17, 2014
Why ISIS brags about its brutal sectarian murders in Iraq.
Over the weekend, dozens of pictures trickled out on one of the official Twitter accounts of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, the jihadist group currently setting off a panic in vast swathes of northern Iraq. The graphic photographs, according to ISIS, showed mass executions of Shiite soldiers who had fought in the Iraqi government's military and security forces. In the images, ISIS fighters corral hundreds of individuals into trucks, forcing them to lie down in shallow graves with their heads to the ground, and then shooting them with Kalashnikovs.
ISIS claimed it had killed more than 1,700 people, though the pictures account for a few hundred at most. Though shocking, this level of brutality is hardly new for the extremist Sunni group, as it has attempted to provoke the Shiite population going back to last decade, when the volatile Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was its leader.
ISIS subscribes to takfir, a practice according to which it believes it is legitimate to kill a Muslim who has abandoned its hard-line interpretation of Islam. Last decade, when ISIS was under the control of Zarqawi and was then called Al Qaeda in the Land of Two Rivers (better known as Al Qaeda in Iraq, or AQI), it used takfir to justify the murder of not only the Shiite population of Iraq but also other Sunnis who did not follow AQI's narrow and severe interpretation of sharia, or Islamic law. (This broad use of takfir ended up backfiring against AQI, since most Iraqi Sunnis did not want to live under such an oppressive group.)
So ISIS, the latest incarnation of AQI, has religious reasons for massacring Shiites, all of whom it views as apostates. And there's another motivation for it as well: old-fashioned vengeance. As ISIS's official spokesperson noted in an audio message posted June 11, "It is true that between us revenge awaits...a long and heavy revenge awaits. However the revenge shall not be in Samara or Baghdad, but rather it shall be in Karbala the city made filthy, and in Najaf the polytheist city, so wait." (Karbala and Najaf are important Shiite shrine cities.) So in ISIS's estimation, its attacks on Shiites are merely retaliation for the Iraqi government's actions against Sunnis.
But there's also a strategic reason behind the executions -- and the gruesome pictures posted online for all to see. ISIS's goal is not only to scare Iraqi Shiites but to provoke them to radicalize, join Iranian-sponsored militias and then commit similar atrocities against Sunnis. ISIS then hopes to set itself up as the protectors of the Sunni population, helping to consolidate its hold on Sunni population centers.
This strategy turned out badly in the recent past. In 2006 and 2007, AQI bombed Samarra's al-Askari Mosque, a holy shrine for Shiite Muslims. In the aftermath, Shiites launched major retaliatory attacks against the Sunni population, kicking off a civil war that radically changed the makeup of Baghdad's population through anti-Sunni death squads. AQI might have gained some leverage or sympathy with the Sunni population at first, but it overplayed its hand by imposing a harsh rule on much of Anbar province. Sunni tribes rebelled, with U.S. help and encouragement, and pushed out the jihadists.
Some within both the Sunni and Shiite communities hope there isn't a recurrence of widespread sectarian violence. Sunni tribal leaders in Mosul and Ramadi, for example, called to fight against both the government and ISIS. Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called upon Shiites to stand up against ISIS, but only within the framework of the Iraqi state apparatus, an implicit slight against Iran and its proxies.
Though Sistani framed his appeal in nationalistic terms, tens of thousands of Shiite volunteers reportedly have responded, and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has shown no sign of tempering his anti-Sunni outlook. On Tuesday, the bodies of 44 Sunni prisoners were dumped in Baquba, a mixed town only a few dozen miles from Baghdad -- suggesting it will be difficult to contain the sectarian fires.
ISIS, moreover, is far better organized -- and, with its seizure of oil fields in Syria and banks in Iraq, better financed -- than the AQI of old. The regional context is indeed different, too. American forces are not present to take advantage of a potential second "awakening" movement, and split the tribes from the jihadists. And as we've seen in Syria, although more nationalist and mainstream Islamist groups have pushed ISIS out of certain areas, they haven't been able to strategically cripple them. ISIS's base of operations in Syria also gives the group strategic depth, allowing its fighters to retreat across the border if necessary.
However this plays out in the long run, we will probably be seeing many more pictures of massacred Shiites -- and Sunnis -- before the bloodletting abates.
**Aaron Y. Zelin is the Richard Borow Fellow at The Washington Institute and founder of the website

Iran Is Not an Ally in Iraq
Michael Singh /Wall Street Journal
June 17, 2014

ISIS would likely welcome deeper involvement from the IRGC.
During the second Iraq war, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was one of the United States' fiercest foes. The IRGC was responsible not only for organizing, training and equipping Shiite militants who fought U.S. troops, but also for manufacturing and importing into Iraq so-called explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, one of the chief banes of American forces there. Also courtesy of Tehran: mortar and rocket attacks on the Green Zone in Baghdad, designed to speed the American departure.
For this reason, in addition to the deep distrust that has characterized U.S.-Iran relations since 1979, it is more than passing strange to hear both American and Iranian officials mooting the possibility of U.S.-Iran cooperation in Iraq today. The U.S. and Iran share an interest in preventing further advances by the extremist Sunni militia that calls itself the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS. Nevertheless, accepting Iran's offer of assistance in Iraq would be a grave mistake.
The efficacy of Iranian assistance is dubious at best: The IRGC has proven adept at stoking insurgencies, but no better than any other country at ending them, in Syria or in Iran itself. Not only would a partnership between Washington and Tehran likely fail to improve the situation -- it could make matters far worse in Iraq and throughout the Middle East.
The current crisis in Iraq is not precisely a sectarian conflict. ISIS hardly enjoys unanimous support among Sunnis, who are among the group's victims as it imposes repressive rule in the areas it conquers. But sectarian tensions are an important factor in the country's problems. Iranian (Shia) involvement would be perceived by Iraqi Sunnis as explicitly sectarian in nature, and thus do more to inflame those tensions than calm them. For their part, Iraqi officials largely appear to recognize this danger and have thus been publicly wary of embracing Iranian offers.
In contrast, ISIS and other radical groups would likely welcome deeper Iranian involvement. ISIS seeks to stoke anti-Shia sentiment to garner both local and outside support. Were Iran to become more directly involved in Iraqi affairs -- especially in concert with the U.S. -- ISIS would take it as a propaganda boon and use the development to attract funding and fighters.
This polarizing effect would be magnified if Iran resorted to organizing and equipping Shiite militants. These militants might help halt ISIS advances in the short run, but their reactivation would threaten to return Iraq to the days of open sectarian war. Because they are an alternative to a professional fighting force, these militias also pose an institutional threat to efforts to cultivate a cross-sectarian Iraqi army.
Deeper IRGC involvement would increase Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's dependence on Iran. His success thus far has been in part due to the perception that his rivals in Iraq's Shiite community -- which is far from monolithic -- were too close to Tehran. Turning now to Iran for aid could change that, and not by accident; while the U.S. seeks an independent, pluralistic Iraq, Iran appears to prefer that Iraqi political and clerical institutions be beholden to Tehran's own.
Iranian intervention in Iraq, whatever its immediate tactical utility, would deepen the country's cleavages. And U.S.-Iranian cooperation in Iraq would stand at stark odds with President Obama's sensible call for outreach by Mr. al-Maliki to Iraq's Sunnis.
It could also have repercussions beyond Iraq. As the United States has stepped back from its traditional security role in the Mideast, a contest by proxy has emerged among regional powers such as Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The front line of this conflict has been Syria. It has now expanded to Lebanon and Iraq, and may expand elsewhere.
America's allies have worried that we are at best neutral in this conflict, and at worst willing to overlook Iran's regional activities to expedite a nuclear agreement and accelerate a "pivot" away from the region. Some even worry that the U.S. is seeking a new alliance with Iran to supplant its old alliance system in the region. As misplaced as these worries may be, an American embrace of an Iranian security role in Iraq -- or even bilateral talks with Iran on regional security that exclude other stakeholders -- will exacerbate them.
The U.S. goal must not only be to drive ISIS back from Baghdad, but also to organize allies in an effort to halt the spread of chaotic regional conflict, and to restore some semblance of stability and optimism. For the U.S., this need not involve boots on the ground, but it will require diplomatic re-engagement and a willingness to employ force judiciously, where appropriate.
What is needed from Iran, meanwhile, is not more involvement in regional conflicts, but less. Specifically, Tehran must end its support for the Assad regime in Syria; its provision of arms, funding and equipment to Sunni and Shia extremist groups alike (such as Hezbollah and Hamas); and its nuclear brinkmanship. This would do far more to improve prospects for the Middle East than the deployment of IRGC irregulars in Iraq.
**Michael Singh is managing director of The Washington Institute.