LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Quotation for today/Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God
"John 16,1-4/‘I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me. But I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them. ‘I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you."
Question: "Can a Christian lose salvation?"
Answer: Before this question is answered, the term “Christian” must be defined.
A “Christian” is not a person who has said a prayer, or walked down an aisle, or
been raised in a Christian family. While each of these things can be a part of
the Christian experience, they are not what “makes” a Christian. A Christian is
a person who has, by faith, received and fully trusted in Jesus Christ as the
only Savior (John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8-9).
So, with this definition in mind, can a Christian lose salvation? Perhaps the best way to answer this crucially important question is to examine what the Bible says occurs at salvation, and to study what losing salvation would therefore entail. Here are a few examples:
A Christian is a new creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). This verse speaks of a person becoming an entirely new creature as a result of being “in Christ.” For a Christian to lose salvation, the new creation would have to be canceled and reversed.
A Christian is redeemed. “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18-19). The word “redeemed” refers to a purchase being made, a price being paid. For a Christian to lose salvation, God Himself would have to revoke His purchase that He paid for with the precious blood of Christ.
A Christian is justified. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). To “justify” means to “declare righteous.” All those who receive Jesus as Savior are “declared righteous” by God. For a Christian to lose salvation, God would have to go back on His Word and “un-declare” what He had previously declared.
A Christian is promised eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Eternal life is a promise of eternity (forever) in heaven with God. God promises, “Believe and you will have eternal life.” For a Christian to lose salvation, eternal life would have to be taken away. If a Christian is promised to live forever, how then can God break this promise by taking away eternal life?
A Christian is guaranteed glorification. “And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified” (Romans 8:30). As we learned in Romans 5:1, justification is declared at the moment of faith. According to Romans 8:30, glorification is guaranteed for all those whom God justifies. Glorification refers to a Christian receiving a perfect resurrection body in heaven. If a Christian can lose salvation, then Romans 8:30 is in error, because God could not guarantee glorification for all those whom He predestines, calls, and justifies.
Many more illustrations of what occurs at salvation could be shared. Even these few make it abundantly clear that a Christian cannot lose salvation. Most, if not all, of what the Bible says happens to us when we receive Jesus Christ as Savior would be invalidated if salvation could be lost. Salvation cannot be reversed. A Christian cannot be un-newly created. Redemption cannot be undone. Eternal life cannot be lost and still be considered eternal. If a Christian can lose salvation, God would have to go back on His Word and change His mind—two things that Scripture tells us God never does.
The most frequent objections to the belief that a Christian cannot lose salvation are 1) What about those who are Christians and continually live an immoral lifestyle? 2) What about those who are Christians but later reject the faith and deny Christ? The problem with these two objections is the phrase “who are Christians.” The Bible declares that a true Christian will not live a continually immoral lifestyle (1 John 3:6). The Bible declares that anyone who departs the faith is demonstrating that he never truly was a Christian (1 John 2:19). Therefore, neither objection is valid. Christians do not continually live immoral lifestyles, nor do they reject the faith and deny Christ. Such actions are proof that they were never redeemed.
No, a Christian cannot lose salvation. Nothing can separate a Christian from God’s love (Romans 8:38-39). Nothing can remove a Christian from God’s hand (John 10:28-29). God is both willing and able to guarantee and maintain the salvation He has given us. Jude 24-25, “To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”
Recommended Resources: Eternal Security by Charles Stanley and Logos Bible Software.
Pope Francis's Tweet For Today
There is so much indifference in the face of suffering. May we overcome indifference with concrete acts of charity.
Il y a beaucoup d’indifférence devant la souffrance. Cette indifférence est contrée par des actes concrets de charité
Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For June 21/14
Turkey's Support for ISIS Islamist Terrorists/By: Daniel Pipes/The Washington Times/June 21/14
Maliki blames Saudi Arabia for own political failure/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/June 21/14
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei: A supreme autocrat not a messiah/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Al Arabiya/June 21/14
Iraq: a joint U.S.-Iran ‘intervention’ is not the solution/By: Dr. Naser al-Tamimi/Al Arabiya/June 21/14
Political Islam and the West/By: Eyad Abu Shakra/Al Arabiya/June 21/14
Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For June 21/14
Lebanese Related News
One Killed in Dahr al-Baydar Checkpoint Bombing, Abbas Ibrahim Says Blast Missed
Suicide attacker hits checkpoint in east Lebanon
102 Held as Security Forces Raid Hamra Hotels over Suspected Terror Plot
Mashnouq Says Dahr al-Baydar Blast 'Exceptional Security Violation,' Qahwaji Rejects 'Exaggeration'
Lebanese Officials Denounce Dahr al-Baydar Bombing, Call for Further Support to
Hizbullah Urges 'Solidarity in the Face of Terrorist Conspiracy'
Mossad Document Says Armed Group Plotting to Assassinate Ibrahim
Unknown Assailants Briefly Abduct Man in Halba
Western Countries Condemn Dahr al-Baydar Bombing
Mashnouq Asks Berri to Cancel AMAL's UNESCO Rally as 'Precaution'
Hariri, Jumblat Hold Talks in Paris
Report: France Asks What Aoun Can Offer as 'President'
Rival Parties Resolve Cabinet Dispute over Power Mechanism
Army Ups Security after Obtaining Terrorist Plots Reports
Army Detains Abdullah Azzam Members in Beirut, Tripoli
Miscellaneous Reports And News For June 21/14
U.S., EU intensify talks on Russia sanctions
Russia Is Sending More Tanks Into Ukraine
Israeli teen kidnapping proves Palestinian unity is impossible
ISIS mocks Michelle Obama with new hashtag
UK police: slain Saudi student may have been ‘targeted’ for being a Muslim
Israel raids West Bank, kills Palestinian teen
Iran's FM Says No Agreement on Main Issues in Nuclear Talks
Sistani: Jihadists Must Be Expelled from Iraq Now
Truck Bomb Kills at Least 35 in Syria's Hama
Obama’s “up to 300 US military advisers” won’t stop ISIS-Sunni entrenchment in Iraq
Sunni-Shi’ite Tensions are Nothing New
Iran rejects 'excessive demands' in nuclear talks with Western powers
Suicide attacker hits checkpoint in east Lebanon
Associated Press, Beirut /Friday, 20 June 2014
A senior Lebanese security official says a suicide bomber has detonated his car at a police checkpoint in eastern Lebanon. He says there are casualties.
The explosion occurred on Friday in the town of Dahr el-Baidar, at the entrance to eastern Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. The official says was not immediately clear how many people were killed or wounded.
The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to media.
Syria’s civil war has spilled over into neighboring Lebanon on multiple occasions and inflamed sectarian tensions. A series of car bombs have struck Shiite areas across Lebanon, killing dozens of people.
Friday’s explosion was the first in Lebanon in several months.
Last Update: Friday, 20 June 2014 KSA 12:19 - GMT 09:19
Israel raids West Bank, kills Palestinian teen
Staff writer, Al Arabiya News/Friday, 20 June 2014
As Israeli forces continued on Friday their search for three Israeli teenagers missing for more than a week, an army raid on the West Bank killed a 15-year-old Palestinian and seriously wounded three others, Palestinian hospital officials said. Mohammed Dudin, a Palestinian teenager was killed in the village of Dura, near Hebron in the southern West Bank, close to where the three Israeli teenagers went missing eight days ago, Reuters reported. A hospital official told the Associated Press that Dudin was killed by a bullet in the chest. Another hospital official said three Palestinians were wounded by army fire in the Qalandiya refugee camp. Both hospital officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. The army had no immediate comment. Dudin was the second Palestinian killed since Israel began its operation across the West Bank a week ago. Some 280 Palestinians had been detained by Thursday and troops had made more arrests overnight, the military said on Friday. Israel said their teens were abducted by the Islamist Hamas group, although did not offer proof. Palestinian youths threw stones early on Friday when soldiers entered the town of Dura, drawing army fire. Israel has said its West Bank operation is twofold: to find Gil-Ad Shaer and U.S.-Israeli national Naftali Fraenkel, both aged 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19, and to deal a substantial blow to Hamas. Before dawn, Israel also carried out air strikes on three locations in the Gaza strip after militants launched two rockets from the territory into Israel on Thursday night, Reuters reported.(With Reuters and Associated Press)
ISIS mocks Michelle Obama with new hashtag
By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News/Friday, 20 June 2014
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has made a mockery of the U.S. first lady Michelle Obama through series of tweets accompanied by the hashtag: #bringbackourhumvee.
The militant group photo-shopped a popular image of Michelle carrying a sign that reads #bringbackourgirls, part of a global campaign to rescue 276 Nigerian school girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram last month. The #bringbackourhumvee tweets being shared by ISIS members and their supports on Twitter refer to American-made Humvees confiscated by the extremist militants in Iraq last week, the UK-based Daily Mail said. The image posted on Twitter by a self-proclaimed Oxford student shows the alleged Humvee transported from Iraq to Syria. (Photo courtesy: Twitter)
The group which had been fighting in Syria’s civil war gained control of many swathes of Iraqi territories since last week, including Mosul, the country’s second largest city.
The U.S.-made military hardware seized by ISIS in Iraq could be used for in battles against the forces of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
A senior official from the opposition Free Syria Army said ISIS moved Humvees and helicopters among smaller weaponry, like Kalashnikovs, across the border from Iraq to Syria, the International Business Times reported last Thursday.
Iraq’s government requested on Wednesday U.S. military help to help quell the ISIS-led rebellion in the Sunni heartland of Iraq.
President Barack Obama on Thursday said he was prepared to carry out “targeted” and “precise” military operation in Iraq.
“We will be prepared to take targeted and precise military action if and when we determine that the situation on the ground requires it,” Obama said at the White House after meeting senior members of his national security team.A U.S. intervention in Iraq would be a good investment for Washington, if it prevented ISIS fighters from establishing strong bases, which would ultimately threaten the West’s security, the president added.
UK police: slain Saudi student may have been ‘targeted’ for being a Muslim
Staff writer, Al Arabiya News/Thursday, 19 June 2014
Nahid al-Manea, a 32-year-old Saudi student who was found bleeding to death on Tuesday in a park in the UK town of Colchester, may have been targeted because she was a Muslim, British police say. Her distinctive clothing - reportedly an abaya (a black cloak worn by some Muslim women) and a headscarf - have led police to investigate the possibility that her murder was religiously motivated, UK newspaper The Telegraph reported on Thursday. However, despite detaining one suspect so far - a 52-year-old man - UK authorities still have no “firm evidence” of the motivation behind her murder. “We are conscious that the dress of the victim will have identified her as likely being a Muslim and this is one of the main lines of the investigation but again there is no firm evidence at this time that she was targeted because of her religion,” said Detective Superintendent Tracy Hawkings, the Daily Mail reported. Appealing for witnesses to come forward, Hawkings said that “there is a high likelihood” people would have been near the location of the “brazen, reckless attack” where she died. Details of the circumstances surrounding Manea’s death and her time in the UK are still coming to light.
Dead on the scene
“The student was stabbed in the head and chest and was killed near the university where she studies. (Authorities) interrogated her brother Raed who accompanied her (to Britain) and released him on Wednesday 1:30 a.m.,” sources told Al Arabiya News. Although still breathing when paramedics at the scene, she passed away from her injuries, according to the Mail.
Manea hailed from Saudi Arabia’s Najaf region and had traveled to Britain six months ago as part of the King Abdullah Foreign Scholarship Program, sources said.
She had been taking a language course at Essex University ahead of starting a PhD program in life sciences. The sources also told Al Arabiya News that Nahed - who is reportedly the paternal cousin of a former Saudi minister - was killed while on her way to college and “wasn’t robbed” as all her possessions were still with her when the police found her body.
In response to her killing, the kingdom’s ambassador to the UK, Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz that his embassy was maximizing all efforts to follow up with the case.
Omar Ali, president of the UK Federation of Student Islamic Societies, on Wednesday paid tribute to Manea. “My heart sank after hearing the traumatizing news an innocent life had been brutally snatched away,” he said, according to The Telegraph. “This is the saddest piece of information I have received in all my years of activism in the student sector.”“This isn’t the first attack on a Muslim student and certainly is not the last on a member of the Muslim community in the UK,” he added.
Maliki blames Saudi Arabia for own political failure
Friday, 20 June 2014/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
Saudi Arabia started distancing itself from Iraq a long time before Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki reached power in Iraq eight years ago.
The kingdom believed that the United States was too tangled in Iraq and should have left the Iraqis to deal with their problems alone. After toppling Saddam Hussein, the U.S. asked Saudi Arabia to intervene and help them in the political process to form the new Iraq. But Riyadh chose to distance itself from post-war Iraq, even to the extent of banning its businessmen from dealing with Iraqi and American operations in Iraq. All the multi-billion-dollar projects were assigned to Kuwaiti companies and others. When the U.S. empowered Ghazi al-Yawar al-Jarba, an Arab Iraqi Sunni who is close to Saudi Arabia, (He lived and studied in the kingdom) and made him Iraq’s first president after the fall of Saddam Hussein, through the governing council in 2004 - Riyadh refused to deal with him.
Persuading in vain
Jarba used to visit Saudi Arabia on a personal level and not as a President. Many have tried in vain to convince Riyadh to change its self-distancing policy and participate in drawing the future of Iraq. Maliki - far from being a religious leader - is a politician who is always keen on exploiting Shiite fanatics to rally his ranks within the Sunni-Shiite struggle
Hence the problem was not with Maliki in person and not even with Shiite politicians. It was the Saudi government’s policy, no matter if we think it was right or wrong.
Instead of thanking Saudi Arabia for distancing itself from Iraq and not supporting any party for 10 years, Maliki has consistently attacked the kingdom, although knowing that it is a powerful neighboring country that includes eminent Sunni religious authorities.
On good terms
Maliki knew that the kingdom was on good terms with the U.S. and could have changed the balance during the occupation years, but it didn’t. Maliki’s mistake was not that he attacked Saudi Arabia; it is a tactic that he adopted along with many of his ministers for political reasons. He committed a huge mistake against his country and citizens.
For eight years, he purposely refrained from instituting a national reconciliation process, even though he had all the abilities to do so, especially in light of the wide system of government that can embrace everybody. Instead of reconciliation and participation, he adopted an extreme centralization policy, without engaging anyone although he was in charge of a coalition government. He maintained the tension between all parties, thinking that it will weaken his rivals..He is not the leader of the Dawa party that he belongs to, has no religious authority, and is not a national politician who can unite the numerous factions. He adopted a sectarian policy and did not act against Sunnis who were against him but he prosecuted Sunnis who accepted to work with him, and dared to stand against other Sunni fanatics, like Saleh al-Mutlaq, Rafeh al-Issawi, al-Nujaifi and others.
Keen on exploitation
In my opinion, Maliki - far from being a religious leader - is a politician who is always keen on exploiting Shiite fanatics to rally his ranks within the Sunni-Shiite struggle. Shiites who are against him are well-known for being from clerical dynasties, like Muqtada al-Sadr and Ammar al-Hakim, who are supported by millions of Iraqis.
Both Sadr and Hakim have developed a better political project than Maliki and ironically are less sectarian than he is. Maliki believes that by oppressing Sunnis and resorting to intimidation and incitement, he will gain more popularity and isolate all other Shiite leaders. Maliki has also marginalized the majority of Shiite party representatives who led him into the government, by monopolizing authorities, to the extent that he has established in the premiership a huge-budgeted office to deal with key ministries, thus taking away the powers of ministers.
The new Saddam
He is doing what Saddam did before him. When Mosul and other cities and regions fell in the hands of ISIS, he started blaming the army since there is no one else to blame - he is the minister of defense, interior, finance and intelligence. This is why Maliki is searching for a solution to evade his responsibilities. If he were in another country, he would have been put on trial and held accountable. To be exempted from blame, he invented a conspiracy theory, but who are the conspirators? He did not name anyone, because if he had gone into the details it would not have been convincing.
He is the defense minister who appointed all army commanders, including those in Mosul and the rest of Nineveh: they all let him down despite being in their majority Shiites. The same applies for military and security intelligence.
A victim of Maliki
When Homs was attacked by ISIS militants and local armed men, the army did not fight back. Instead, its officers fled, leaving thousands of soldiers in danger. The army was also the victim of Maliki’s decisions, wrong choices and corruption. He blamed regional countries, including Saudi Arabia. How can Saudi Arabia conspire against a country that has more troops than it has, and that are also trained by the U.S.? Why would Saudi Arabia conspire against changing the regime, after avoiding intervention in forming a new regime for 10 consecutive years? Finally, Iraq cannot handle more problems, and neither does the region, especially that the conflict-ridden country is at a fork in the road. Iraq needs to restore its broken parts and start addressing its real problems through internal reconciliation, and should establish a government that can embrace all parties, or follow the lies and sink deeper into further fatal errors.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei: A supreme autocrat not a messiah
Friday, 20 June 2014/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Al Arabiya
Although the media, policy analysts, and politicians have been depicting Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as the man who has the final say in Iran, the man who wields ultimate power in the Islamic Republic, the Supreme Leader, but a tactical shift in Ayatollah Khamenei’s policies indicate that he has increasingly become less powerful or “Supreme” as the mainstream media reveals or as his title indicates. Ayatollah Khamenei totally distrusts any domestic institution, even the clergy. More specifically, he distrusts two categories: the Iranian population as well as foreign countries and powers including Arab and Western states. In the last few months, Iran’s supreme leader has been delivering speeches in contradiction, hypocrisy and double standards. In every other speech, he backs up one institution (executive branch, judiciary, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ Corps, Intelligence, Parliament, or Majlis) and undermines other. For example, when it comes to Iran’s nuclear program, Ayatollah Khamenei points out that he supports President Hassan Rowhani’s technocrat team to resolve Iran’s nuclear problem by making temporary and short-time concessions. He famously called it “heroic flexibility” and insisted on a tactical shift stating, “A wrestler who sometimes shows flexibility because of technical reasons, should not forget his opponent.”On the other hand, in his next speech he takes the side of the general of Revolutionary Guards, which reject any concessions and demand reaching nuclear breakaway capacity and ultimately obtaining access to nuclear weapons.
Velayate Faqih, the supreme leader’s lifelong authority
The main question is, why are Khamenei’s speeches filled with a multitude of inconsistencies and contradictions? Despite the fact that Ayatollah Khamenei attempts to depict a picture that he is a spiritual leader, a Shia messiah who represents a divine guide until Imam Mehdi returns, and an impartial figure in the political economy of the Islamic Republic, he has shown to be a shrewd, Machiavellian, and autocratic politician. In the last few months, Iran’s supreme leader has been delivering speeches in contradiction, hypocrisy and double standards
After realizing that Western sanctions had hit Iran’s economy hard, and endangered the survival of the Islamic Republic and his rule, Khamenei tactically and masterfully shifted his policies and reliance on some powerful institutions. On the one hand, Ayatollah Khamenei is desperate to ensure the economic survival of the Islamic Republic and his grip on power. As a result, he began to support people such as former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani as well as the technocrat elites of Rowhani, in order to obtain some sanction reliefs through temporary concessions.
Military dictatorship and authoritarianism
On the other hand, in order to appease the high generals and commanders of the IRGC, Khamenei backs their defiance in every other speech against any concessions and normalization of relations with the West, particularly the United States. The fact is that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei needs the Revolutionary Guard in order to retain the consolidation of his power while the IRGC cracks down on any domestic oppositions, and pursues Iran’s hegemonic ambitions in the region by operating in countries such as Iraq, Syria, and supporting proxies such as Hezbollah. In other words, Khamenei is switching his support in every other speech from one institution to other, due to the fact that this necessitates his grip on power.
Modus operandi of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Although Khamenei is transforming and watching how the Islamic Republic has rapidly turned into a military dictatorship by the evolution Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and intelligence— the most powerful political and economic tools— these institutions solely report to him and he regularly changes and handpicks the commanders. He has masterfully used the tremendous oil revenues by saving billions of dollars in his assets such as Bonyad (which reportedly controls an estimated 25% of Iran's GDP), Setad (headquarters for executing the orders of the Imam, worth an estimate of $98 billion and is considered as his economic empire), and spending the revenues on his jurisdiction, state-controlled religious institutions and foundations. Khamenei has always tried to keep a low profile and hide behind the scenes by wielding power without holding himself accountable through the judiciary and executive branches, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, and Iran’s parliament—the Majlis.
Most of the commanders and members in the judiciary, intelligence, and executive branches (as well as the IRGC, and Majlis), are either directly or indirectly handpicked by Khamenei, and remain loyal to him.
Unique bureaucratic group
Although Ayatollah Khamenei is influenced by the aforementioned institutions, he mostly relies on the other recognized and unique bureaucratic group he created: the House, Bayt-e Rahbar, House of the Leader, or Office of the Supreme Leader. Intriguingly, Khamenei avoids using clergy memebers as his advisor in the Bayt-e Rahbar, and depicts himself as the most knowledgeable figure in political, religious and economic affairs. The moment that the Islamic Republic receives the required sanctions relief and when Khamenei can ensure that his rule and economic survival of his power are not in danger anymore, he will return to his traditional modus operandi— relying on the House (office) of the Supreme Leader, ministry of intelligence, judiciary, and Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Finally, it is crucial to point out that Khamenei’s reliance on his handpicked commanders and members of Office of the Supreme Leader will create a resistance and gap between himself and the most powerful clergy members of Iran, particularly in city of Qum.
Iraq: a joint U.S.-Iran ‘intervention’ is not the solution
Friday, 20 June 2014/Dr. Naser al-Tamimi/Al Arabiya
Events in Iraq have accelerated in a dramatic way, even stunned many of the regional and international security services who have been following the situation very closely. The rise of the Sunni extremists was not a surprise, yet the speed of the collapse of the Iraqi army, who were equipped and trained by the United States of America. Of course there are many factors that led to these developments, but it seems that the United States continues to correct the mistake with yet another mistake. We need to remember that the U.S. committed a series of fatal mistakes, beginning with the invasion of Iraq, through to the so-called “Arab Spring,” down to its current policy towards Syria, not to mention Egypt, Palestine and Libya. Perhaps the biggest new mistake that could be added to Obama’s administration is to adopt the policy that has been promoted by some advocating that America should join with Iran to fight against Sunni extremism in Iraq, Syria and even Afghanistan.
The U.S. experience in Iraq showed that the one who could fight Sunni extremism are the Sunnis themselves. As long as the Sunnis look at Maliki or any government as the main reason of their suffering, it is difficult to convince the silent majority of them to join the battle against the extremisms. The U.S. experience in Iraq showed that the ones who could fight Sunni extremism are the Sunnis themselves
For many years everyone has known, including the United States that the policy of the Iraqi government, which is based on the exclusion of the Sunni Arabs and sectarianism, will only lead to disaster. This is a new catastrophe in the making, if the current U.S. administration adopts the policy of coordination with Tehran to support the Maliki government and fight the so-called Sunni extremism led by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). Let us speak openly and unequivocally: The current development has become a win-win situation for both Sunni and Shiite extremists.
Any direct Iranian intervention will strengthen Shiite groups associated with Tehran, and will also increase the resentment in Sunni Arabs, both Islamists and nationalists inside and outside of Iraq. Iran, for its part, believes that it may succeed in replaying the Syrian scenario, weakening the opposition and transform the case into fighting against terrorism. Nevertheless, the Syrian situation is not over yet and it may be premature to declare Assad’s victory. The United States is trying to persuade other regional powers, especially Turkey and Saudi Arabia to join the fight against the extremists, but the risk is that the fight against extremist groups, without a genuine political solution in Iraq or Syria could backfire. Even if Maliki’s government succeed (with the support of the U.S. and Iran) to regain the military initiative, this will not lead to stability, but will deepen the sectarian polarization and increase support for the Sunni Islamists and nationalist groups, and perhaps destabilize other countries in the region. It will raise the morale of the jihadi organizations in Syria, Iraq or other countries and represents a rallying point to attract new fighters and promote their beliefs. Just look at the quantity of weapons and money seized by ISIS’s fighters in Mosul, on their own they are sufficient to fund these militants’ for many months without relying on aid from abroad.
The real solution
The U.S. military’s hasty support to rescue Maliki will without any doubts boost the support for the extremists, especially in Syria. It will reinforce the argument (regardless of its validity or accuracy) which is common among many Sunni circles, that Iran, United States and Israel are in one front to support Maliki and Assad to weaken the jihadist groups, or marginalise the Sunni Arabs in Iraq and Syria.
It has become evident that Maliki is part of the problem, and any U.S.-Iranian coordination to maintain the status quo and make him part of the solution, is a recipe for a new disaster and could increase the extremism agenda in an unprecedented way. The real push in fighting against terrorism or extremism is to develop a political agenda that meets the legitimate demands for all Iraqis, including Sunni Arabs.
Political Islam and the West
Friday, 20 June 2014
Eyad Abu Shakra/Al Arabiya
The only thing that could have further destroyed the already crumbling and turbulent mosaic of the Middle East was the return of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to the heart of the political scene. Now, black clouds are increasingly gathering over the region. To any fair-minded observer there is nothing strange about Iraqis rising up against the sectarian and malicious policies of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The same is true of the Syrian people, who have risen up against the sectarian dictatorship of the Assad family that has dominated Syria for more than four decades, during which it destroyed any sense of citizenship, trading in and bankrupting once-noble rallying cries. Nor should we forget the Palestinians rising up against the confiscation of their land, the Judaization of the state, and the discounting of their most basic human rights. Last but not least, it is similarly easy to understand the exasperation of the Lebanese people with the state of sectarian division that has been created in their “occupied” country by the armed factions on the ground calling for “resistance.” After all, they have always claimed their legitimacy from their objective of “liberating” Lebanon from “occupation.”
Sometimes, people find themselves caught between two bitter choices. In this case, the choice is death or humiliation. What the Fertile Crescent region—or, more precisely, Iraq and the Levant- has witnessed since 2003 in particular has been a general move towards the humiliation of Iraq’s Sunnis as a result of the conceit and arrogance of the country’s ruling pro-Iran, Shi’ite leadership.
Passion for revenge
As a result, Sunni extremists have been overcome with a passion for revenge for what they view as the historic injustices perpetrated against them.
This group has been present in Syria for years, fighting against the moderate rebels with the implicit blessing of the Assad regime and indirect assistance from the Maliki government
From a sectarian perspective, we have returned to the days of the Battle of Siffin, the main engagement of the First Fitna, or first Islamic civil war, between Ali Ibn Abi Taleb and what would become the Shiites on the one side and Muawiyah I and what would become the Sunnis on the other. Iraq’s Shiites, as well other non-Shiite Iraqi citizens and neighboring countries, suffered from the injustices of Saddam Hussein’s rule. Meanwhile, in Syria the country’s Sunnis and other minority citizens, as well as the people of neighboring countries, suffered from the injustices of the Assads’ rule. Over the past decades, these Assad regimes, which trumpeted Arabism, secularism and “progressive” politics, abused everything they claimed to represent or believe in. As for the international community, which has constantly been lecturing others on democracy and human rights, it turned a blind eye to the transgressions being committed by these two regimes as long as its own interests were safe. But as soon as these interests were threatened, we saw that their memory suddenly returned and their archives opened to produce statements and documents ready to justify a desire to seek revenge.
In essence, the Middle East crisis is one caused by denied rights and the decision to retreat back into the safety of religion in the face of political and social challenges. At this point, it is important to mention that the international community did not always oppose that “escape to religion,” as can be seen in its strong support for the Afghan mujahideen against the Soviet Union during the 1980s.
The international community also used religion—whether we are talking about Islam, Christianity or any other religion—against several national liberation movements during the Cold War.
Following the Afghan experience, however, extremist organizations were disappointed by the realization that the West was only using them to weaken the Soviet Union. This resulted in a sense of bitterness towards the West and its principles.
After that, we saw the rise of al-Qaeda and several vaguely defined organizations that operated under its banner. The U.S. anti-Taliban campaign in Afghanistan and its occupation of Iraq on a flimsy pretext as part of its “war on terror” have served to create a new and dangerous political reality in the Arab Mashreq. I suspect that Iranian hegemony over Iraq following the collapse of the Saddam Hussein regime came as no surprise to the U.S.. It is also unlikely that the specter of regional division along religious and sectarian lines did not cross the minds of those who have been proclaiming a new Middle East.
Arab and Islamic words
Sunnis make up more than 75 percent of both the Arab and Islamic worlds, and so the emergence of Sunni–Shi’ite tensions must be a natural consequence of Iranian bullying—and that is before we take into consideration the West’s decision to ignore Iran’s nuclear program and machinations in Iraq and Lebanon. All this must have certainly crossed the minds of Western thinkers and planners.
On the other hand, the West is well aware of the ideological objectives of extremist religious groups, including the so-called “jihadist” and “takfirist” groups that are claiming to be “Islamic.” They understand that there are two particularly dangerous sides to such groups. First, such groups put forward an ultra-simplistic and exclusionary religious facade that does not attempt to understand how other people think, nor does it really care much about the issue. Such groups cannot recognize a balance of power that is not in the interests of Muslims, which means dragging them into confrontations where they are out-muscled. In such a situation, it is easy to create such groups by ensuring conditions on the ground are favorable to their emergence and proliferation.
This would come as a prelude to involving them in political and security battles that will ultimately end in their defeat, followed by the implementation of an unfavorable strategic “arrangement” on the ground.
Obeying without question
Second, these groups are usually based on cells under the leadership of an “emir,” whose members obey without hesitation or question. This explains the ease with which such groups can be infiltrated by security agencies and then deflected from the original path set forth by the leadership—regardless of that leadership’s goodwill or astute tactics. We are now three years into the Syrian uprising, which the international community has unscrupulously let down and even betrayed, as well as eight years of Maliki’s sectarian rule in Iraq. And yet, only now has the U.S. suddenly decided to wake up to the threat represented by ISIS in western Iraq.
This group has been present in Syria for years, fighting against the moderate rebels with the implicit blessing of the Assad regime and indirect assistance from the Maliki government. Perhaps the most portentous manifestation of this is that the militants who “escaped” from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2013 joined the fight in Syria under the ISIS banner. In school, we learned Newton’s famous Third Law of Motion, that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Today, we are witnessing the start of a campaign to incite and mobilize public opinion in Western states, which even sober media outlets are taking part in, promoting regional political and security cooperation with Iran on the pretext of confronting the ISIS specter.
On Tuesday, I anxiously listened to two British media figures who claimed to be Middle East “experts” as they discreetly sought to prepare the ground for the general public in Britain to accept the idea of cooperation with the mullah’s regime in Tehran against “jihadists” and “takfirists.”Of course, this would mean strengthening the grips of Maliki, Assad and Hezbollah on the Fertile Crescent, which tomorrow may be transformed into a “Shi’ite crescent.” This would only incite greater frustration and despair among the region’s Sunnis, subsequently resulting in even more hatred and suicidal reprisals.
Injustice cannot be addressed by counter-injustice. This is the lesson everybody must understand before it is too late.
Israeli teen kidnapping proves Palestinian unity is impossible
Brooklyn Middleton /Al Arabiya
Friday, 20 June 2014
Despite recent weeks when the Palestinian Authority and Hamas seemed to be making genuine progress on forming a unity government, the tragic and indefensible kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank is the latest event to serve as a reminder that Hamas-Fatah unification is impossible. Hamas has not claimed responsibility for orchestrating the abductions of 19-year old Eyal Yifrach and 16-year olds Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frankel as they reportedly hitchhiked home from their religious schools located in Jewish settlements in the West Bank on 12 June. But Hamas’ subsequent actions and incitement - and the Palestinian Authorities’ support for the Israeli operation to bring back the three teenagers - underscores the irreconcilable differences between the two Palestinian groups. Israel’s blaming of Hamas for the abductions was swift and public with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indicating it was an absolute fact Hamas was responsible; in the one week period since the boys went missing, the Israeli military launched a sweeping operation in the West Bank, titled, “Bring back our brothers,” leading to the arrest of at least 280 Palestinians with alleged ties to Hamas - at least 50 of whom were reportedly released during the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal in 2011.
The IDF also raided multiple Hamas affiliated organizations including the al-Aqsa radio stations’ offices in both Hebron and Ramallah as well as several other Hamas-linked institutions in Jerusalem and surrounding areas. The crackdown and rearresting of freed prisoners has caused tensions between security forces and Palestinians - predictably - to skyrocket across the West Bank.
Hamas remains committed to terrorism and the PA’s decision to unify with them makes them complicit in such acts
Notably however, security cooperation between the IDF and the PA has proven solid during this - much to the disgust of Hamas officials. Further, the operation appears unlikely to end in the near term, with the IDF vowing it would “continue to deliver a strong blow to Hamas and strike down anything that is related to Hamas.” In retaliation for the crackdown, Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip have fired at least 15 rockets at southern Israel in the past seven days with the Israeli Air Force responding as expected with air strikes, injuring at least several people. The significance of the PA’s and Hamas’ actions during this period are twofold; firstly, the fact that the PA has cooperated to such a high degree with the IDF in the West Bank as it rounds up Hamas militants is indicative that sustained Israel-PA security cooperation isn’t just a remote possibility but a current reality.
Secondly, it proves that even amid renewed efforts to reconcile, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas fail to agree even on the most basic tenets of governance.
While in the past the two groups have failed to reach unity due to both sides ultimately seeking dominance, the missing Israeli teenagers have forced the PA and Hamas to publicly review their positions on cooperation with Israeli security forces - and it is evident they still feel a little differently about the matter. Despite Prime Minister Netanyahu’s initial lambasting of the PA - accurately pointing out that Hamas remains committed to terrorism and the PA’s decision to unify with them makes them complicit in such acts - President Abbas stood in front of the Arab world in Saudi Arabia condemning the abductions. “Those who perpetrated this act want to destroy us…The three young men are human beings just like us and must be returned to their families.”
President Abbas’ statements should not go unacknowledged especially as Hamas continues lashing out with senior official Salah Bardawil threatening that launching a third intifada remains an “irrevocable right.” Abbas again was clear in his rejection of such violence stating, “I say it frankly, we will never have another intifada — that would destroy us.” An assertion that Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri indicated was “based solely on the Israeli narrative.” As Hamas and the PA continue disagreeing over very basic issues of governance and security, it is increasingly likely recent attempts at unification will once again spiral into nothingness. Meanwhile, continued IDF and PA combined efforts could prove effective at uncovering the location of the missing Israeli teenagers and at the same time increase the likelihood of future negotiations and peace talks due to this level of cooperation. But Abbas must take this a step further and once again distinguish his party from Hamas politically and end the absurd attempts at reconciliation with the militant group.
Turkey's Support for ISIS Islamist Terrorists
By: Daniel Pipes/The Washington Times/June 17, 2014
The battle in Iraq consists of "Turkish-backed Sunni jihadis rebelling against an Iranian-backed Shi'ite-oriented central government," I wrote in a recent article.
Some readers question that the Republic of Turkey has supported the "Islamic State in Iraq and Syria," the main Sunni group fighting in Iraq. They point to ISIS attacks on Turkish interests, within Turkey, along its border with Syria, and in Mosul and a successful recent meeting of the Turkish and Iranian presidents. Good points, but they can be explained.
First, ISIS is willing to accept Turkish support even while seeing the Islamist prime minister and his countrymen as kafirs (infidels) who need to be shown true Islam.
Second, the presidential visit took place on one level while the fighting in Syria and Iraq took place on quite another; the two can occur simultaneously. Turkish-Iranian rivalry is on the rise and, as the distinguished Turkish journalist Burak Bekdil notes in the current issue of the Middle East Quarterly:
Recent years have often seen official language from the two countries about prospering bilateral trade and common anti-Israeli ideological solidarity. But mostly out of sight have been indications of rivalry, distrust, and mutual sectarian suspicion between the two Muslim countries. Ankara may deny helping ISIS, but the evidence for this is overwhelming. "As we have the longest border with Syria," writes Orhan Kemal Cengiz, a Turkish newspaper columnist, "Turkey's support was vital for the jihadists in getting in and out of the country." Indeed, the ISIS strongholds not coincidentally cluster close to Turkey's frontiers. Kurds, academic experts and the Syrian opposition agree that Syrians, Turks (estimated to number 3,000), and foreign fighters (especially Saudis but also a fair number of Westerners) have crossed the Turkish-Syrian border at will, often to join ISIS. What Turkish journalist Kadri Gursel calls a "two-way jihadist highway," has no bothersome border checks and sometimes involves the active assistance of Turkish intelligence services. CNN even broadcast a video on "The secret jihadi smuggling route through Turkey."
Actually, the Turks offered far more than an easy border crossing: they provided the bulk of ISIS' funds, logistics, training and arms. Turkish residents near the Syrian border tell of Turkish ambulances going to Kurdish-ISIS battle zones and then evacuating ISIS casualties to Turkish hospitals. Indeed, a sensational photograph has surfaced showing ISIS commander Abu Muhammad in a hospital bed receiving treatment for battle wounds in Hatay State Hospital in April 2014. One Turkish opposition politician estimates that Turkey has paid $800 million to ISIS for oil shipments. Another politician released information about active duty Turkish soldiers training ISIS members. Critics note that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has met three times with someone, Yasin al-Qadi, who has close ties to ISIS and has funded it.
Why the Turkish support for wild-eyed extremists? Because Ankara wants to eliminate two Syrian polities, the Assad regime in Damascus and Rojava (the emerging Kurdish state) in the northeast.
Regarding the Assad regime: "Thinking that jihadists would ensure a quick fall for the Assad regime in Syria, Turkey, no matter how vehemently officials deny it, supported the jihadists," writes Cengiz, "at first along with Western and some Arab countries and later in spite of their warnings."
Regarding Rojava: Rojava's leadership being aligned with the PKK, the (formerly) terrorist Kurdish group based in Turkey, the authoritative Turkish journalist Amberin Zaman has little doubt "that until recently, Turkey was allowing jihadist fighters to move unhindered across its borders" to fight the Kurds.
More broadly, as the Turkish analyst Mustafa Akyol notes, Ankara thought "anybody who fought al-Assad was a good guy and also harbored an "ideological uneasiness with accepting that Islamists can do terrible things." This has led, he acknowledges, to "some blindness" toward violent jihadists. Indeed, ISIS is so popular in Turkey that others publicly copy its logo.
In the face of this support, the online newspaper Al-Monitor calls on Turkey to close its border to ISIS while Rojava threatened Ankara with "dire consequences" unless Turkish aid ceases.
In conclusion, Turkish leaders are finding Syria a double quagmire, what with Assad still in power and the Kurdish entity growing stronger. In reaction, they have cooperated with even the most extreme, retrograde and vicious elements, such as ISIS. But this support opened a second front in Iraq which, in turn, brings the clash of the Middle East's two titans, Turkey and Iran, closer to realization.
**Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum.
U.S., EU intensify talks on Russia
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States blacklisted seven separatists in Ukraine on Friday and threatened "scalpel" sanctions on Russia's financial, defense and high-tech industries as more Russian military material has flowed into Ukraine. The U.S. moves respond to what American officials say is Russia's recent increase in support to Ukrainian separatists, including the provision of Russian tanks and the preparation of more to cross into eastern Ukraine. Separatist rebellions erupted in eastern Ukraine in early April after street protests in Kiev toppled the Moscow-backed leader Viktor Yanukovich and Russia in turn annexed the Crimean peninsula. Eastern rebels have called for union with Russia. The U.S. Treasury named seven people, including separatist leaders in Donetsk, Slovyansk, Luhansk and the Crimean city of Sevastopol, whose assets under U.S. jurisdiction will be frozen and with whom U.S. individuals and firms will be generally barred from dealing. The Treasury identified one of the seven as a Russian citizen but gave no information on the citizenship of the other six. A senior Obama administration official said the United States had information that Russia was preparing to send more tanks into Ukraine and that the tanks had "departed from a deployment site in southwest Russia yesterday."The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said the United States had intensified its conversation with the European Union about imposing additional sectoral sanctions on Russia because of the flows of Russian materiel to Ukraine. "We have been in active conversations with our EU partners on what we call 'scalpel' sanctions, which would be targeted primarily in the financial, defense and high technology sectors," the official told reporters. "The idea here is to deny Russia the kinds of investment and next-generation technology that it needs to continue to grow," the official said. "This conversation has been on going for some time but it has intensified over the last week as we have seen Russian materiel move into Ukraine," the official said. Those conversations are continuing today and over the weekend and next week Secretary (of State) Kerry will be making calls.
(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Eric Beech)
Iran rejects 'excessive demands' in
nuclear talks with Western powers
With the deadline for an agreement just a month away, US official said it was Iran that would need to shift its position.
Iran talks REUTERS
Iran told six big powers on Friday it would not accept their "excessive demands" after the latest talks on lifting sanctions against Tehran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear work yielded no breakthrough, with a deadline for a deal just a month away.
US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman said it was Iran that would need to shift its position: "What is still unclear is if Iran is really ready and willing to take all the necessary steps to assure the world that its nuclear program is and will remain exclusively peaceful."
The stakes are high in the Vienna talks, which will resume on July 2, as the powers seek a negotiated solution to a more-than-decade-long standoff with Iran that has raised fears of a new Middle East war and a regional nuclear arms race. Sherman noted at the end of five days of negotiations in the Austrian capital that Tehran had always maintained that it wants only civilian nuclear energy. "If that is indeed the case, then a good agreement is obtainable," the US delegation chief said.
Iran and the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany are striving for a comprehensive settlement by July 20, a deadline set as part of an interim deal struck last year.
A six-month extension of the talks is a possibility but could be politically difficult for the United States, since the administration of President Barack Obama would almost certainly seek the approval of Congress, where hawkish lawmakers are suspicious of Iran and dislike the idea of engagement with it.
Diplomats from the six powers told Reuters earlier in the week that the most formidable dispute in the talks was over the number of centrifuges Tehran will be allowed to keep to enrich uranium under any deal. Western officials say that the six powers want this number to be in the low thousands, below the capacity that could allow Iran to quickly accumulate enough material for a nuclear bomb.
Iran insists on tens of thousands of centrifuges to churn out fuel for a future network of civilian nuclear power stations, although this would take many years to build.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif highlighted the wide gulf between the sides, urging the six nations to "abandon excessive demands which will not be accepted by Iran."
"Still we have not overcome disputes about major issues," he told reporters as five days of negotiations in Vienna wound up. "There has been progress, but major disputes remain."
He made clear there was no agreement yet between Iran and the six on a draft text of an agreement. A senior Chinese official said the two sides had put together a "textual framework", though gave no details.
"The fact that (we came up) with this text is progress ... in procedural terms," China's Wang Qun told reporters.
Sherman described the text as a "working document" that is "heavily bracketed" due to remaining disagreements, making clear much work remains to reach an accord.
So far, diplomats said, Russia and China - traditionally more accommodating of Iran's nuclear stance - have backed up the US and European demands on Tehran's centrifuge capacity, though they support the idea of moving more swiftly to ease the sanctions that have crippled the oil-dependent Iranian economy.
A senior diplomat from one of the major powers said all six were united in their positions on the permissible scope of Iran's enrichment program and that they had presented "pretty detailed" proposals on that issue. "There are very, very difficult decisions to be taken here by Iran," said a senior US official, asking for anonymity.
There are other sticking points in addition to centrifuges. One official from the six told Reuters that the Western powers want the duration of any agreement to be two decades, while Tehran has said it would be willing to accept five years. Still, senior officials close to the talks said both sides are keen for a deal. Perhaps signaling its desire for a successful outcome, Iran has acted to eliminate virtually all of its most sensitive stockpile of enriched uranium gas, the UN nuclear watchdog reported on Friday.
That requirement was included in the interim deal reached in Geneva last November that bought time for the current negotiations on a long-term agreement.
A spokesman for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who coordinates the talks, said only that the two sides had begun drafting the text of a deal during their fifth round of negotiations this year. "We have worked extremely hard all week to develop elements we can bring together when we meet for the next round in Vienna, beginning on July 2," Michael Mann said in a statement.
Iran denies any nuclear arms ambitions and demands crippling economic sanctions, eased slightly in recent months, be removed fast under any settlement - something Western governments are loath to do too soon, believing Tehran will otherwise lose incentive to comply fully with terms of a final deal.
Other issues awaiting resolution include the breadth and depth of UN nuclear watchdog monitoring of Iranian nuclear sites and the future of Iran's planned Arak research reactor, a potential source of plutonium for atomic bombs. Iran says the reactor will make isotopes for medical care and agriculture.
Israel's government, which has vocally opposed diplomacy with its arch-enemy Iran, has suggested it could bomb Iranian atomic facilities if diplomacy fails to head off the risk of a nuclear-armed Iran. Tehran says it is Israel's presumed nuclear arsenal that is the main threat to regional peace and stability.