June 24/14

Bible Quotation for today/
For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him

Luke 1,57-66/Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Her neighbours and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, ‘No; he is to be called John.’ They said to her, ‘None of your relatives has this name.’ Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing-tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came over all their neighbours, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. All who heard them pondered them and said, ‘What then will this child become?’ For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him.

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For June 24/14

Can ISIS make real gains in Lebanon/By: Ana Maria Luca/Now Lebanon/June 24/14

What does the fall of Mosul mean/A briefing by Daniel Pipes/June 24/14

Saudi Funding of ISIS/By: Lori Plotkin Boghardt/Washington Institute/June 24/14

Maliki is a new Saddam, and its America’s fault/By: Faisal J. Abbas/Al Arabiya/June 24/14

How much support does ISIS enjoy/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/June 24/14


Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For June 24/14

Lebanese Related News

At Least 12 Hurt in Suicide Bombing near Army Checkpoint, Cafe in Tayyouneh

Hizbullah, Syrian Army Incursion Compels Residents of Tufail to Leave Homes
Lebanon is stable and secure: Salam

French national interrogated over suicide attacks

US: Full support for Lebanese fight on terrorism

U.S.: 'Region's Battles Must Not be Fought in Lebanon'

Hezbollah: Gulf states will regret funding ISIS

UCC calls for another strike over wage hike bill
Kataeb Urges Election of President, Preventive Measures to Preserve Security
Lebanon and Saudi have deep bonds: Asiri

Berri urges unity to protect Lebanon

One vision or Lebanon will vanish: Jumblatt

Workshop calls to transform Tripoli into trade hub
Fitch maintains negative outlook on Lebanon

Salameh calls for private Beirut bourse

Miscellaneous Reports And News For June 24/14

Egypt sentences Christian convert to 5 years

Israel launches strikes on targets in Syria

Ya'alon: Assad responsible for Syrian attacks

NGO: 10 Syrian soldiers killed in IAF strikes

Jordanian air force bombs Al Qaeda-Iraq incursion. ISIS also stands at Saudi border. Kerry’s snags in Iraq

Kerry visits Baghdad, urges political reform as insurgents keep up their offensive

Syria hands over remaining chemical weapons for destruction

Hamas leader Mashaal applauds abduction of Israelis, but says has no information

Canada Concerned with Verdict in Mohamed Fahmy Case

Egyptian-Canadian journalist sentenced to 7 years

White House condemns sentencing of Al Jazeera journalists in Egypt
Egypt rejects foreign criticism of judiciary after Al Jazeera sentencing

Sudani Christian Mother Sentenced to Death for Christian Faith Released, Returns Home

Husband of slain Iraqi woman could get life in prison for killing that drew world attention


At Least 12 Hurt in Suicide Bombing near Army Checkpoint, Cafe in Tayyouneh

Naharnet /A suicide car bombing took place around midnight Tuesday in the Tayyouneh area at the entrance to Beirut's southern suburbs, leaving at least 12 people wounded.
The explosion happened near an army checkpoint and a cafe where football fans were watching the World Cup.
The Lebanese Red Cross said "no one was killed in the bombing, which caused light injuries among the customers at the Abou Assaf Cafe."
Quoting medical sources, al-Jadeed TV said 12 people were injured, most of them lightly.
State-run National News Agency also said that twelve people were lightly wounded.
Military sources told LBCI television that no soldiers were hurt in the attack.
MTV said a "female suicide bomber" wanted to cross the checkpoint but blew up the vehicle "when troops detected her suspicious behavior."
Meanwhile, media reports said "General Security members opened fire at the car before it blew up."A witness told a TV station that he saw a white Mercedes car traveling fast on the wrong side of the road before exploding.
NNA said "a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a Mercedes 180 carrying a license plate with the number 144631."
"The force of the blast ejected the terrorist's corpse to the wall of the fourth floor of a building at the site of the explosion," the agency added. The car bombing came three days after a suicide attack at the Dahr al-Baydar checkpoint in the east of the country left one person dead and 30 wounded. The attack was the first inside Lebanon since March.
On the same day, the busy Hamra district in Beirut was the scene of a major security crackdown, with security forces raiding two hotels in the area and interrogating around 102 people. Around three suspects remain in custody, including a French national with Arab origins who reportedly confessed to plotting a terrorist attack against a certain Lebanese region.

Hizbullah, Syrian Army Incursion Compels Residents of Tufail to Leave Homes
Naharnet/The residents of the town of Tufail were forced to leave their village after an infiltration by the Syrian army and Hizbullah fighters that was accompanied by air raids. According to al-Mustaqbal newspaper published on Monday, the residents of Tufail, which lies in eastern Lebanon in an area surrounded by Syrian territory, informed Lebanese authorities that the town has been under attack for the past two days. Higher Relief Council acting chief General Mohammed Kheir told the newspaper that around 50 Lebanese families left their homes in Tufail on Sunday and headed to the town of Arsal, while only eight families stayed there. He pointed out that 60 Syrian families also left the Lebanese village and headed to several areas, in particular, the border town of Arsal. In April, the village of Tufail was isolated after the only road that leads to the town came under the control of Syrian government troops. The town is located at the end of the eastern mountain belt's plains, in an area that is 24 kilometers inside Syrian territories. Tufail is surrounded by Syrian lands to its north, east and south, and by the Lebanese villages of Ham, Maarboun and Brital to its west. More than 4,000 Lebanese nationals reside in Tufail, Christians and Muslims, among them there are around 25 soldiers in the army and some 5,000 Syrian refugees


U.S. offer full support for Lebanese fight on terrorism: Hale
June 23, 2014/The Daily Star 
BEIRUT: U.S. Ambassador David Hale said Monday that Washington is offering Lebanon its full support to combat terrorism. “We stand by your side and offer full support, assistance and partnership to the ISF and Lebanese Army,” Hale said on his Twitter account. His comments came following a meeting with Prime Minister Tammam Salam where the two men discussed U.S. support for Lebanon’s security and management of the spillover from the war in neighboring Syria. Internal Security Forces (ISF) and Army troops have beefed up measures over the weekend to crack down on terrorism following Friday’s car bombing that left one police officer killed and 32 people wounded. Hale acknowledged the hard work by Salam’s government and the security institutions. “Lebanon’s government and security institutions are working hard and effectively to counter terrorism and maintain stability,” he said, highlighting the ISF and the Army. He urged the Hezbollah-led March 8 and Future Movement-led March 14 coalitions to end political rivalry in order to maintain stability. “This is a time to close gaps so that Lebanon’s security and stability can be reinforced,” Hale tweeted. He also said it was “essential” to uphold the Baabda Declaration and adopt a true policy of diassociation from the Syria crisis. “The region’s battles must not be fought in Lebanon. That means Lebanese should not be drawn into the battles being fought by others.” But Hale said for international assistance to be effective, Lebanon “needs fully functioning governance in presidency, Parliament and Cabinet.” Lebanon has been without a head of state since President Michel Sleiman’s term ended May 25 with lawmakers botching several voting sessions over lack of consensus. “Decisions are for Lebanese, but costs of indecision felt by everyone with a stake in Lebanon’s stability and prosperity,” Hale said. He urged intensified efforts to elect a president.


Lebanon is stable and secure: Salam
June 23, 2014/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Prime Minister Tammam Salam Monday said the situation in Lebanon was stable and reiterated the readiness of the security forces to handle terror threats, in a meeting with Saudi representatives.
Salam was addressing representatives comprised of business women and female journalists currently on a visit to Lebanon to launch the summer tourism season by going on tours across the country and conducting interviews with political figures. The visit will be televised and broadcast across the kingdom in order to promote tourism in Lebanon. In his visit to Kuwait on Sunday, Salam said his the security situation was under control despite a suicide bombing that targeted a checkpoint in Dahr al-Baidar Friday. For his part, Speaker Nabih Berri announced plans to boost recruitment to the security forces, saying he would persuade the government to recruit 3,000 new Army soldiers and 1,000 General Security personnel in a bid to strengthen security. According to Berri, “Even if this matter is costly, it will be less costly than the loss of the tourism season from which tens of thousands of Lebanese and Lebanese families make a living.” "The Lebanese are always waiting for the arrival of Saudi Arabians and other brethren from the Gulf,” said Salam during his visit, stressing on the importance of maintaining friendly ties between Lebanon and the Gulf states. Shortly after his meeting with the Saudi delegation, Salam met with Minister for the Displaced Alice Shabtini, Youth and Sports Minister Abdul Muttaleb al- Hinawi, and Defense Minister Samir Moqbel to discuss the Cabinet’s mechanism to work in light of the presidential vacuum. Last week’s agreement over the governing mechanism stated that certain ministers would be authorized to sign Cabinet decrees on behalf of the president.
According to Shabtini, the meeting discussed the ways the Cabinet would convene in the future and mechanisms to distinguish between ministerial work and the duties of the president. She added that “There are two categories we must separate, our category as ministers and our category as agents working on behalf of the president.”Salam also met with Health Minister Wael Abu Faour to discuss recent developments.


Kataeb Urges Election of President, Preventive Measures to Preserve Security
Naharnet/The Kataeb Party on Monday urged an end to the ongoing presidential void and “preemptive measures” to spare Lebanon the repercussions of “the security blazes in the region.” “The party warns of the threats of security violations, which returned to Lebanon last week, benefiting from the security blazes in the region,” Kataeb said in a statement issued after the weekly meeting of its political bureau.
And as it lauded authorities for “addressing this phenomenon seriously and responsibly,” the party called for further steps to prevent any terrorist attacks. Kataeb urged a speedy election of a new president, warning that “this vacuum is the main reason for the deterioration of political, security and economic situations, in addition to its negative impact on Lebanon's status in the world and foreign relations.”In addition to political efforts, the party called for “boosting preemptive measures and coordination between military and security agencies to suppress any suspicious cells before they implement their plots.”Kataeb also stressed the need to “keep Lebanon out of the regional clash and to stop using the country as a pawn to support or oppose the (regional) axes.” Turning to the work of the government, the party called for limiting the cabinet's mission to “the security, social and economic priorities” in order to prevent any “coping with political vacuum.”  It also urged “a plan to rescue the threatened tourism season,” noting that Lebanon was preparing to welcome expats and Arab and foreign tourists before the latest security developments. On Friday, a suicide car bombing rocked an Internal Security Forces checkpoint in the Bekaa area of Dahr al-Baydar, killing an ISF member and wounding over 30 people. The attack was the first inside Lebanon since March. On the same day, the busy Hamra district in Beirut was the scene of a major security crackdown, with security forces raiding two hotels in the area and interrogating around 102 people. Around three suspects remain in custody, including a French national with Arab origins who reportedly confessed to plotting a terrorist attack against a certain Lebanese region.


Can ISIS make real gains in Lebanon?

Ana Maria Luca/Now Lebanon
Published: 23/06/2014 08:24 PM

Tensions are mounting over the possibility of a growing ISIS presence
An image uploaded on June 14, 2014 on the jihadist website Welayat Salahuddin allegedly shows militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) waving the trademark Jihadists flag over the heads of dozens of captured Iraqi security forces members at an unknown location in the Salaheddin province ahead of executing them  Six months ago, on January 25, a man who called himself Abu Sayyaf al-Ansari, reportedly from Tripoli, pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). "We pledge allegiance to the prince of the believers, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi... and we ask him to guide us past the obstacles, and make us your spearhead in crushing your enemy, and not a single man among us will hold back in helping you," said Ansari in a translated report. Prior to Ansari’s declaration, ISIS in Lebanon had claimed responsibility for a bombing in Arsal and another in Beirut’s Hezbollah-aligned southern suburbs.
According to analysts, these were small cells based either in rural northern Lebanon, the eastern Beqaa, or the Palestinian camps, where law enforcement remains very difficult. But in the past few weeks, after ISIS’ surge in Iraq and its related success in securing popular support from Sunni tribes and former Baathist groups in northern Iraq, fears are growing that the Sunni-Shiite sectarian struggle might catch fire in Lebanon too. Recent developments in Iraq and Syria should be worrisome: ISIS' goals of creating an Islamic state across the Sunni Arab world and erasing the borders drawn by colonial powers have energized jihadist factions across the region and even the world. In a video released last week, a group of jihadist fighters from several countries showed their support for ISIS. “We have participated in battles in Al-Sham and we will go to Iraq in a few days, and we’ll come back. And we’ll go to Jordan and Lebanon with no problem,” Abou Mouthana al-Yemeni, a fighter raised in Britain, says in a video addressed to Baghdadi, to whom he referred as his sheikh. The video was later removed by YouTube.
But the threat does not come from outside Lebanon’s borders, according to a security source in Ain al-Helweh Palestinian refugee camp. The source told NOW that he has been receiving information during recent months about jihadist factions mobilizing in several areas of Lebanon, including Palestinian refugee camps.
“The fanatic groups will try to take control over a big geographical area in Akkar and the Palestinian camps,” he said. “I have information from Akkar about ISIS and [Jabhat al-]Nusra training camps. They’re trying to move toward Tripoli and from there their plan is to get closer to Beirut. There are also sleeper cells in different Lebanese regions, such as Beirut, the Beqaa Valley, and North Lebanon.” The source told NOW that he knows it could all end if there was a political agreement at the regional level, but he says that would be impossible at this moment.
“[Jihadists] are not mobilizing only inside the [Palestinian] camps: it is happening across Lebanon, especially after the developments in Iraq and Syria – the Qalamoun second battle. Fanatic Muslims and takfiris are spreading very fast. What is happening in Iraq and Qalamoun shows that the situation will soon be very dangerous in the region, including Lebanon. It will all be a jihad battlefield,” the source said.
Many residents in majority-Sunni Tripoli, Lebanon’s second-largest city, feel a sense of solidarity with the Iraqi Sunnis. Mohammad Khalaf is convinced that the region is experiencing one big revolution. “This is not ISIS: this is a popular revolution with a religious impact. It happened because of all the injustice Iraqi people endured for the past few years,” he told NOW. Khalaf, a former social worker, has recently become the leader of a brigade that frequently engages in battle with Alawite fighters in the rival neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen. He wears the black flag of jihad as a bandana on his head – in order to scare the enemy. But he is not a jihadist, he says, and nor are his neighbors.
“ISIS would not get support from people in Tripoli. Tripoli’s people are with the Syrian and Iraqi revolutions. Nobody supports the takfiri ideology,” Khalaf insisted. “In this region, people don’t support fanatics and terrorists.”
Salafism is not a new phenomenon in Lebanon. But the Syrian conflict, the influx of Syrian refugees, and Hezbollah’s involvement in the fighting on the side of the Syrian government have strengthened the Salafist movement and radicalized parts of the Sunni community. Several Salafist religious leaders gained greater popularity in the past few years, many taking advantage of the lack of a strong Sunni moderate voice. Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir, the most prominent of these until his movement ended in a bloodbath a year ago, quickly became popular because of his anti-Iranian and anti-Hezbollah rhetoric. Assir and many of his followers are currently in hiding, and many analysts see them pledging allegiance to ISIS if given the opportunity.
“People who supported Ahmad al-Assir would probably support ISIS as well,” An Nahar commentator Mohammad Abi Samra told NOW. “ISIS is a network that promotes Salafist ideas more than it is an ideology or an organization. It will definitely try to recruit people in Lebanon, but it’s difficult to say who would support its ideology,” he added. Although some of these recruits could be Syrian refugees, “One thing is sure,” he concluded: “Syrian people have unbearable lives wherever ISIS took control.”
*Myra Abdallah contributed reporting and translation..


Kerry visits Baghdad, urges political reform as insurgents keep up their offensive
The Canadian PressBy Lara Jakes And Hamza Hendawi, The Associated Press | The Canadian Press – BAGHDAD - The fate of Iraq may be decided over the next week, the top U.S. diplomat said Monday, and largely depends on whether its leaders keep their commitment to meet looming deadlines to seat a new government before a Sunni insurgency sweeps away hopes for lasting peace.
It was a dire message to leaders of Iraq's bitterly divided Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish political coalitions who have lived through more than three decades of dictatorship, sanctions and wars. And it sought to hold the officials to a government transition that the U.S. believes will stave off the threat of a new civil war by giving more power to Iraq's minorities. "This is a critical moment for Iraq's future," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said at a press conference in Baghdad. "It is a moment of decision for Iraq's leaders and it's a moment of great urgency." Kerry offered few details of his closed-door meetings in Baghdad. But he said each of the officials he met with — including Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — committed to seat a new parliament by July 1 as the constitution requires.
"The very future of Iraq depends on choices that will be made in the next days and weeks, and the future of Iraq depends primarily on the ability of Iraq's leaders to come together and take a stand united against ISIL," Kerry said, referring to the insurgency known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. "Not next week, not next month, but now." He also said no country — including the U.S. — should try to pick new leadership for Iraq. "That is up to the people of Iraq," Kerry said. Al-Maliki is facing growing calls for his resignation as disgruntled Sunnis say they do not believe he will give them a greater voice in the government.
After suffering together through more than eight years of war — which killed nearly 4,500 American troops and more than 100,000 Iraqis — Washington and Baghdad are trying to shelve mutual wariness to curb the very real prospect of the Mideast nation falling into a fresh bout of sectarian strife.
Sunnis frustrated with being cut out of power are increasingly joining the ISIL, a bloody insurgency that has been emboldened by battlefield successes in neighbouring Syria's civil war.
Parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, one of Iraq's top-ranking Sunnis, told Kerry that the insurgents pose "a threat to the entire world." Al-Nujaifi, is from Mosul, Iraq's second largest city which was overrun earlier this month by militants. Of the insurgents, al-Nujaifi said "we have to confront it through direct military operations, political reforms so that we can inject a new hope into our own people so that they can support the political process and the unity of Iraq." Iraqi officials briefed on Kerry's talks with the Iraqi prime minister said al-Maliki urged the United States to target the militants' positions in Iraq and neighbouring Syria, citing training camps and convoys with airstrikes. The officials said Kerry responded by saying a great deal of care and caution must be taken before attacks are launched to avoid civilian casualties that could create the impression that Americans are attacking Sunnis.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media on the record.
President Barack Obama, in a round of television interviews that aired in the U.S., said al-Maliki and the Iraqi leadership face a test as to whether "they are able to set aside their suspicions, their sectarian preferences for the good of the whole.""And we don't know," Obama said. "The one thing I do know is that if they fail to do that then no amount of military action by the United States can hold that country together." Kerry arrived in Baghdad just a day after the Sunni militants captured two key border posts, one along the frontier with Jordan and the other with Syria, deepening al-Maliki's predicament. Their latest victories considerably expanded territory under the militants' control just two weeks after the al-Qaida breakaway group started swallowing up chunks of northern Iraq, heightening pressure on al-Maliki to step aside. The offensive by ISIL takes the group closer to its dream of carving out an Islamic state straddling both Syria and Iraq. Controlling the borders with Syria will help it supply fellow fighters there with weaponry looted from Iraqi warehouses, boosting its ability to battle beleaguered Syrian government forces. On Monday, gunmen ambushed a police convoy transferring prisoners about 85 miles (140 kilometres) south of Baghdad, killing nine policemen and 13 prisoners, according to police officials. The officials said some of the prisoners, some of whom were convicted of terrorism-related charges, were being taken to a high-security prison in the southern city of Nasiriyah 200 miles (320 kilometres) southwest of Baghdad. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. The militants' stunning battlefield successes in the north and the west of Iraq have laid bare the inadequacies of the country's U.S.-trained forces. In the north, troops fled in the face of advancing militants, abandoning their weapons, vehicles and other equipment. In some cases in the west, they pulled out either when the militants approached or when they heard of other towns falling.
Sunday's capture by the militants of crossings bordering Jordan and Syria followed the fall on Friday and Saturday of the towns of Qaim, Rawah, Anah and Rutba, all of which are in Sunni-dominated Anbar province, where the militants have since January controlled the city of Fallujah and parts of the provincial capital, Ramadi.


Syria hands over remaining chemical weapons for destruction
ReutersBy By Anthony Deutsch | Reuters –
THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Syria on Monday handed over the remaining 100 tonnes of toxic material it had declared to the global chemical weapons watchdog, but the country cannot be declared free of the weapons of mass destruction, the organisation's chief said. The chemicals, roughly 8 percent of a total 1,300 tonnes reported to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), had been held at a storage site which the government of President Bashar al-Assad previously said was inaccessible due to fighting with rebels. The security situation in the area has now improved and the containers of chemicals were taken by truck to the Syrian port of Latakia and loaded onto a ship to be destroyed at sea on a specially equipped U.S. vessel, said OPCW chief Ahmet Uzumcu.
"A major landmark in this mission has been reached today. The last of the remaining chemicals identified for removal from Syria were loaded this afternoon aboard the Danish ship Ark Futura," Uzumcu told a news conference in The Hague. The bulk of Syria's chemical stockpile had already been shipped out of Latakia, part of a multi-million-dollar operation involving some 30 countries.
Syria agreed last September to destroy its entire chemical weapons programme under a deal negotiated with the United States and Russia after hundreds of people were killed in a sarin gas attack in the outskirts of the capital, Damascus. The agreement averted U.S. military strikes in response to the worst chemical weapons attack in decades, which Washington and its European allies blamed on Assad's regime. Assad blames rebels battling to oust him for the chemical attack. It will be several months before Syria's entire chemical weapons programme can be destroyed, Uzumcu said.
Uzumcu said an investigation into alleged use of chlorine in Syria's civil war and a review of the list of chemicals Syria has admitted possessing would continue. Western governments have raised questions over the list provided by the Assad government. "All declared chemical weapons have left Syria (but) clearly we cannot say as the secretariat of the OPCW that Syria doesn't possess any chemical weapons any more," he added. "While a major chapter in our endeavours closes today, OPCW's work in Syria will continue. We hope to conclude soon the clarification of certain aspects of the Syrian declaration and commence the destruction of certain structures that were used as chemical weapons production facilities," said Uzumcu. The process of neutralising the chemicals will take up to 60 days, he said, meaning Syria will miss a June 30 deadline to completely eliminate its chemical weapons programme. Speaking in Cyprus on Monday, Sigrid Kaag, head of the joint U.N. and OPCW team of experts overseeing the removal of the chemical materials, said work would start within three months on a process to destroy 12 production sites and tunnels inside Syria linked to the chemical weapons programme. Under the initial agreement, Syria had until next Monday to hand over its entire chemical stockpile and destroy all production and storage facilities in the country. Syria has missed several deadlines set out in the agreement. It will take up to two months to neutralize and process the highly-toxic agents - including mustard gas, sarin and other highly-poisonous precursors for chemical warfare - with special equipment on board the U.S. cargo ship Cape Ray. Assad's government said it wants the U.N.-OPCW mission led by Kaag to end once all chemicals have been shipped. But Western governments want the mission to continue to investigate numerous ambiguities in Syria's chemical weapons declaration and several alleged chlorine gas attacks, which they also blame on Assad's forces. Last week OPCW investigators said preliminary information supported the view of Western governments that chlorine-like chemicals not declared to the watchdog have been used in Syria.  "We have to maintain pressure on Syria to ensure that the chemical weapons programme is completely and irreversibly dismantled, including remaining production facilities," said the European Union in a statement welcoming Monday's announcement. "The EU urges all parties to help revive the political track as there can be no military solution to this conflict." The civil war in Syria, now in its fourth year, has killed 150,000 people, displaced half the country's 22 million population and forced 2.8 million to flee.

Egypt court sentences Egyptian-Canadian journalist, 2 colleagues to 7 years
The Canadian PressBy Sarah El Deeb, The Associated Press | The Canadian Press –
CAIRO - An Egyptian court convicted three Al-Jazeera journalists, including an Egyptian-Canadian, and sentenced them to seven years in prison each on terrorism-related charges in a verdict Monday that stunned their families and was quickly denounced as a blow to freedom of expression. International pressure mounted on Egypt's president to pardon the three.
"I swear they will pay for this," Mohamed Fahmy, the Egyptian-Canadian who was Al-Jazeera English's acting Cairo bureau chief, shouted angrily from the defendants' cage after the sentences were announced in the Cairo court.
The verdicts were against Fahmy, who is also accused of belonging to the Brotherhood, Australian correspondent Peter Greste and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed, who also received an extra three years in prison on separate charges. The verdicts came after a 5-month trial that Amnesty International described as a "sham," calling Monday's rulings "a dark day for media freedom in Egypt."
The three, who have been detained since December, contend they are being prosecuted simply for doing their jobs as journalists, covering Islamist protests against the ouster last year of President Mohammed Morsi. Three other foreign journalists, two Britons and a Dutch citizen, were sentenced to 10 years in absentia.
Media groups have called the trial political, part of a fight between the government and the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera network , which authorities accuse of bias toward the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi. The network denies any bias. Prosecutors charged them with supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been declared a terrorist group, and with fabricating footage to undermine Egypt's national security and make it appear the country was facing civil war. But the prosecution presented little evidence in the trial. Greste, an award-winning correspondent, silently raised a clinched fist in the air. "They just ruined a family," said Fahmy's brother Adel, who was attending the session. His mother and finance broke down in tears. "Who did he kill" to get this sentence? Fahmy's mother, Wafa Bassiouni shouted.
Fahmy's brother said they would appeal the verdict but added that he had little faith in the system. "Everything is corrupt," he said.
Greste's brother Andrew said he was "gutted" and also vowed to appeal. Attending the session, Canadian Ambassador David Drake said there are many questions over the verdict. "We are very disappointed," he said. "We are digesting this... We have to put our faith in the judicial system. We don't understand this particular verdict." In Canada, Lynne Yelich, Minister of State (Foreign Affairs and Consular), released a statement later in the morning echoing the ambassador's sentiments and calling on the Egyptian government to protect the rights of all individuals "including journalists."
"Canada is very disappointed with the verdict in the case of Mohamed Fahmy and is concerned that the judicial process that led to his verdict is inconsistent with Egypt's democratic aspirations," said the statement. "A fair and transparent legal system is a critical pillar of a future stable and democratic Egypt."
British Ambassador James Watt also said he was disappointed, adding, "Freedom of expression is fundamental to any democracy." The three received sentences of seven years each in a maximum security prison. Mohamed, the team's producer, received an extra three years because of additional charges of possession of ammunition. Al-Jazeera has said that charge was rooted in a spent shell found in his possession — a souvenir he'd picked up from protests.
Australian Foreign Minister Julia Bishop said, "We are all shocked by this verdict." She said Egypt's government should "reflect what message is being sent to the world ... We are deeply concerned that this verdict is part of a broader attempt to muzzle media freedoms." Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Monday that he told Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi that the jailed Australian journalist is innocent of charges that he supported the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. Britain's Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said he was "appalled."
El-Sissi has the power to commute the sentence or pardon the three — but only after appeals are finished, a process that could take months. The three would remain in prison throughout the appeals, unless they win a separate "suspension of verdict" ruling. An appeal can grant them a retrial, but only if flaws in the court proceedings are found.The trial has had a strong political dimension from the start, tied into the July 3 ouster of Morsi by then-army chief el-Sissi and the subsequent crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. Security forces have killed hundreds and arrested thousands more, trying to crush protests by Morsi supporters.
Qatar, which owns Al-Jazeera, was a top ally of Morsi, and the military-backed government has since treated it as a bitter opponent. Amid the crackdown, Egyptian authorities accused Al-Jazeera of being a mouthpiece for the group, an accusation the station denies. During the trial, Fahmy shouted in court that their prosecution was an extension of the fight between Egypt's government and Qatar.
There were 14 other co-defendants in the case. Eight being tried in absentia each received 10-year prison sentences. Two of them were acquitted, including the son of Mohammed el-Beltagy, a senior figure in the Muslim Brotherhood. Most of the co-defendants were students, arrested separately and accused of giving footage to the journalists. The managing director of Qatar-based Al-Jazeera English, Al Anstey, said in a statement that "not a shred of evidence was found to support the extraordinary and false charges against them."
"To have detained them for 177 days is an outrage. To have sentenced them defies logic, sense, and any semblance of justice," he said.
Greste, Fahmy and Mohamed were arrested in December when police raided the Cairo hotel room they were using as an office. Police confiscated their equipment, computers and other items. During the trial, prosecutors contended they would present fabricated footage aired by the defendants as evidence they aimed to undermine Egypt's security.
Instead, they presented some footage showing clashes between pro-Morsi protesters and police, but without any indication it was falsified. They also cited as evidence leaflets that the three had picked up at the protests. Mostly, they presented random video clips also found on the three that had nothing to do with the case — including a report on a veterinary hospital in Cairo, another on Christian life in Egypt and old footage of Greste from previous assignments elsewhere in Africa, including video of animals.
The defence also complained repeatedly that it did not have access to the prosecution evidence.
"The only reason these three men are in jail is because the Egyptian authorities don't like what they have to say," Amnesty International said in a statement. The group's observer at the trial, Philip Luther, said the prosecution "failed to produce a single shred of solid evidence linking the journalists to a terrorism organization or proving they had falsified news footage."
"Consigning these men to years in prison after such a farcical spectacle is a travesty of justice," said Luther. "The Egyptian judiciary has proved time and time again that it is either unwilling or incapable of conducting an impartial and fair trial when it comes to those perceived to support the former president."
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says that the sentencing of the three Al-Jazeera journalists in Cairo to 7-to 10-year prison terms is chilling. He says he is voicing his concern to Egypt's foreign minister. Kerry says the verdict flies in the face of the essential ingredients of a civil society and free press. He urged Egypt to move quickly to address international concerns.
Yelich, the Canadian minister said in her statement:
"Senior Canadian officials, including Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and myself, have raised and will continue to raise Mr. Fahmy's case with senior Egyptian authorities. We will continue to provide consular assistance to Mr. Fahmy, including engaging local Egyptian authorities to ensure his medical needs are being met."Baird has previously said he has discussed Fahmy's case with his Egyptian counterpart, but Canadian officials have warned Fahmy's family that the journalist's dual citizenship has placed limits on how much they can do.
--With files from The Canadian Press

Husband of slain Iraqi woman could get life in prison for killing that drew world attention
The Canadian PressBy Julie Watson, The Associated Press | The Canadian Press –
EL CAJON, Calif. - An Iraqi immigrant could get life in prison for his wife's fatal beating, which initially drew international condemnation when authorities believed it was a hate crime.
Kassim Alhimidi was scheduled to be sentenced Monday in San Diego Superior Court for killing Shaima Alawadi at their home in 2012 in the city of El Cajon, a suburb east of San Diego that is home to the second largest Iraqi population in the United States. The sentencing follows an emotional trial. Alhimidi shook his head and wagged his finger as jurors delivered the guilty verdict. His oldest son shouted obscenities and proclaimed his father's innocence before several deputies wrestled him out of the courtroom. Another son also shouted in his father's defence, while the victim's mother said in Arabic that Alhimidi deserved worse, according to an official court translator. "In Iraq, normally if he kills her, he is supposed to be killed in the same way," Rehima Alhussanwi told reporters through the translator after Alhimidi's conviction in April. The couple's eldest daughter found Alawadi, 32, in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor in March 2012, and she died two days later, suffering from multiple fractures to her head. A note found nearby read: "This is my country, go back to yours, you terrorist," setting off a hate-crime investigation. Muslim community leaders in the United States and Iraq initially condemned the attack against Alawadi, who wore a hijab and volunteered at the local mosque, fearing it was a hate crime. But investigators later determined the note was a photocopy of one found a week earlier outside the home. Prosecutors indicated the note may have been planted by Alhimidi to steer the investigation away from him. They say Alhimidi killed the mother of five because she wanted to divorce him and move to Texas. They argued Alhimidi lied to police about his troubled marriage and apologized to his wife as she lay dying in a hospital. Defence lawyers said there is no forensic evidence against Alhimidi and that he loved his wife and was not a violent man. They say he also returned from Iraq after burying his wife there when he could have stayed in his homeland and avoided prosecution.


Egypt sentences Christian convert to 5 years

 The Associated Press, Assiut, Egypt
A security official says a southern Egyptian court has sentenced a journalist who is a Christian convert to five years in prison on charges of inciting sectarianism. The Criminal Court of Minya issued its verdict on Monday against Beshoy Armia, a 32-year-old Christian convert who works as a reporter for a U.S.-based Christian TV network called “The Road.” He was arrested last December and charged of publishing false news to incite sectarian strife.The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press. Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population. Converting from Islam to Christianity is a taboo in Egypt.

Sudani Christian Mother Sentenced to Death for Christian Faith Released, Returns Home

Attorneys Overwhelmed with Joy Following Meriam Yahia Ibrahim's Release after 126 Days of Imprisonment
06/23/2014 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) - International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Meriam Yahia Ibrahim, her 22-month-old son, Martin, and 4-week-old daughter, Maya, from the Omdurman Federal Women's Prison have been released per an order issued by the Khartoum Court of Appeals. Ibrahim, a 27-year-old doctor and wife to American citizen, Daniel Wani, was sentenced to 100 lashes for adultery and death by hanging for apostasy on May 15, following her initial detention on February 17. Ibrahim's legal defense filed their client's case with the Khartoum Court of Appeals on May 22. The court formally convened a committee to deliberate on Ibrahim's appeal on June 1. The decision, delivered Monday, June 23, was issued later than expected by the defense. According to state media, the Court of Appeals ordered Ibrahim and her children be released and all charges filed against Ibrahim be dropped earlier this morning. SUNA, a state-sponsored radio broadcast in Sudan, reported that "the appeal court ordered the release of Mariam Yahia and the cancellation of the (previous) court ruling." In speaking with ICC this morning, Thabit Elzubir, a member of Ibrahim's legal defense, said, "[Meriam] has been released, she is out now and with her husband." Elzubir reported that Ibrahim, her children and husband have returned safely to their south Khartoum home. Though he did not make their intentions clear, Elzubir told ICC that the Ibrahims "may want to travel, but not right now." Elzubir, who appeared overwhelmed with joy over the day's proceedings, said, "Thank you so much for all of your support." The acquittal comes 10 days after protests co-hosted by ICC at the White House and Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C. called for Meriam's release. On Thursday, 38 members of the United States House of Representatives wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry, asking him to further prioritize the case. Over the course of Ibrahim's detention, more than a million signatures calling for her release were gathered across the globe.


What does the fall of Mosul mean?
A briefing by Daniel Pipes
June 16, 2014
Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum and a former official in the U.S. departments of State and Defense, briefed the Middle East Forum in a conference call on June 16, 2014.
The implications of the fall of the key city of Mosul to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), a designated terror group, can be understood in three ways:
•Iranian influence over the Iraqi government: Shiite Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's oppression of Sunnis set the stage for the vastly outnumbered ISIS militia to take Mosul with little resistance from Iraqi government forces, bringing the Sunni-Shiite conflict to a new height.
•Dissolution of the modern Middle Eastern political order: The post-WWI European-created Middle Eastern system based on territorial states has been transformed into a regional battlefield with national governments controlling only portions of their territories.
•Limits of U.S. influence and defeat of American policy: The folly of George W. Bush's campaign to remake the Middle East is now fully exposed as the U.S. failed to invest the time and effort necessary to solidify its gains prior to the 2011 withdrawal.
Washington should protect its interests in the Middle East, not attempt to fix the region. In the short term, it should let its adversaries and enemies battle it out among themselves with neither side winning. Over the long run, America should endeavor to end the kind of political systems that produced despots like Hafez Assad and Saddam Hussein. The large territorial states built on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire have run their course and should be replaced with smaller ethnic states that are more in tune with regional realities. An independent Kurdistan in northern Iraq would be far less oppressive and aggressive than an Iraqi or Syrian state. So would an Alawite state in northwest Syria, a Sunni state in Iraq's triangle, and a Druze state in southwest Syria.
Until that happens, America should channel its energies to remedying the humanitarian disaster occasioned by the Arab upheavals and to diminishing the flow of arms from Turkey, Russia, Iran, and China. This may help turn the upheavals' tragic short-term consequences to a catalyst for a long term regional transformation.
Summary account by Marilyn Stern, Associate Fellow with the Middle East Forum

Canada Concerned with Verdict in Mohamed Fahmy Case

June 23, 2014 - The Honourable Lynne Yelich, Minister of State (Foreign Affairs and Consular), today released the following statement:
“Canada is very disappointed with the verdict in the case of Mohamed Fahmy and is concerned that the judicial process that led to his verdict is inconsistent with Egypt’s democratic aspirations. A fair and transparent legal system is a critical pillar of a future stable and democratic Egypt.
“Canada calls on the Egyptian government to protect the rights of all individuals, including journalists, in keeping with the spirit of Egypt’s new constitution and the desire of all Egyptians to build a fully democratic country.
“Senior Canadian officials, including Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and myself, have raised and will continue to raise Mr. Fahmy’s case with senior Egyptian authorities. We will continue to provide consular assistance to Mr. Fahmy, including engaging local Egyptian authorities to ensure his medical needs are being met.”
For further information, media representatives may contact:
Saro Khatchadourian
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of State (Foreign Affairs and Consular)
Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada
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Jordanian air force bombs Al Qaeda-Iraq incursion. ISIS also stands at Saudi border. Kerry’s snags in Iraq’s-snags-in-Iraq

DEBKAfile Special Report June 23, 2014/The Jordanian air force hit ISIS contingents, Monday night, June 23, as they drove into into the kingdom through the Turaibil border crossing which they seized Saturday, debkafile’s military sources report. The jets destroyed 4 Islamist State of Iraq and Levant (ISIS) armored personnel carriers, which were already on the move. Also Monday, ISIS completed its capture of the strategic Tal Afar and its environs in northern Iraq, capping its conquest in the last two weeks of Nineveh Province and Mosul, all but one town (Ramadi) of the western Anbar Province, and Iraq’s key border posts in the north, west and southwest.
Jordan called up military reserves Sunday, after discovering that its capital Amman was to be the Islamist organization’s next prey.
Instead of making straight for Baghdad, ISIS turned west and south for what it saw as softer targets, deploying two forces for shooting into Jordan – one from Syria, for which they also captured Al Walid, through which to head into the kingdom from the north; and one pointing from Turaibil (which the Jordanians call Karame) and aiming for the eastern Jordanian towns of Zarqa, Irbid and Amman.
By seizing Turaibil, the Islamists were able to cut off the main Iraqi-Jordanian artery for trade and travel between the two countries. They may have been stopped for now by the Jordanian air strike, espcially if there is a follow-up.
Their capture of the key town of Rutba Saturday is seen by Western military sources tracking the Iraqi conflict as marking out the Islamists’ next target. That force split in two – one heading southwest toward the Saudi Arabia border and the other heading west to Jordan.
Sunday, June 22, the Islamists put on the world web a new site called “ISIS in Saudi Arabia.”
debkafile’s military and intelligence sources report that the US and Israel have laid on a battery of advanced intelligence-gathering measures in the last few hours, including military satellites, drones and reconnaissance planes for keeping track of the Islamist fighters’ rapid advance.
A 500-km broad expanse of desert separates the Iraqi border from Amman which would be no picnic for the ISIS to navigate without discovery. However, they were counting on al Qaeda cells planted in most Jordanian towns to help them make their way across.
It is important to remember that the US and Israel are both bound by military pacts to defend the throne of the Hashemite King Abdullah II.
As for Iraq’s southwestern neighbor, Saudi Arabia, our sources report that the main topic of conversation between King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi Saturday, June 21 at Cairo airport, was the Iraq crisis and the threat the Islamist extremists threat present to the two kingdoms.
The Saudi king made it his business to stop over briefly at Cairo airport on the way to his summer palace in Morocco, and invite the Egyptian president aboard his plane for that conversation. He wanted to hear El-Sisi promise to reward the oil kingdom and Gulf emirates for the generous financial aid they bestowed on him with a pledge of Egyptian military commando units to the rescue in the event of an al Qaeda invasion.
Interestingly, the Saudi monarch’s companion on the royal flight - he also took part in the conversation with El-Sisi - was Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who five months ago was relieved of his posts as Director of General Intelligence and senior strategist of the Saudi campaigns in Syria and Iraq, the first of which failed in its goal to unseat Bashar Assad.
It looked very much as though the king had a change of heart and decided to restore Bandar to his inner circle of advisers under the looming threat of ISIS and its lightening advances in Iraq.
That threat also drove US Secretary of State John Kerry to pay an unannounced visit to Baghdad Monday, June 23, after discussing the Iraqi crisis in Cairo with the Egyptian president.
His arrival was accompanied by further rapid ISIS territorial gains in Iraq and actions to consolidate its grip. After talking to Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, Kerry said at the US embassy that US support will be “intense, sustained, and effective” – provided Iraq’s leaders came together to form a government representing the rival sects.
debkafile adds: Kerry canvassed Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish leaders for a consensual candidate to lead a government representing all of Iraq’s sects and communities. He had in mind a Shiite prime minister able to gain the endorsement of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Secretary Kerry planned to visit Irbil Tuesday for talks on this and on Kurdish military aid against the ISIS offensive with the heads of the autonomous Kurdish region. However the Kurds wanted first to hear what they will get from Baghdad for sending their pershmerga militia to fight the Islamists in northern Iraq. Since Maliki is the object of Kerry’s maneuvers to replace him, he is not ready to offer the Kurds any concessions at this point. So Kerry’s Iraq mission has so far struck a high wall.

Saudi Funding of ISIS
By: Lori Plotkin Boghardt/Washington Institute
June 23, 2014
Significantly undermining ISIS's financial base would require rolling back the group's access to local Syrian and Iraqi income sources.
On June 13, U.S. Treasury Department officials stated that Saudi Arabia sees "eye to eye" with the United States on the importance of halting activities by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), the former al-Qaeda affiliate currently waging jihad in Iraq and Syria. Yet questions continue to arise about Saudi financial support to the group. Addressing these questions requires a better understanding of three issues: the scope of official Saudi government support to ISIS, if any; government allowance of private donations to the group; and the relative importance of Saudi donations compared to the group's other sources of income.
At present, there is no credible evidence that the Saudi government is financially supporting ISIS. Riyadh views the group as a terrorist organization that poses a direct threat to the kingdom's security. The Interior Ministry formally designated ISIS as a terrorist entity in March, along with Jabhat al-Nusra, the Muslim Brotherhood, Yemen's Houthi rebels, and Saudi Hezbollah. The designation outlawed various forms of support to the group by residents of the kingdom.
To be sure, many governments in the region and beyond sometimes fund inimical parties to help achieve particular policy objectives. Riyadh has taken pleasure in recent ISIS-led Sunni advances against Iraq's Shiite government, and in jihadist gains in Syria at Bashar al-Assad's expense. Nevertheless, official financing of the group may be precluded by Riyadh's perception that the ISIS terrorist threat is immediate and serious (though it would not be surprising to learn of limited, perhaps indirect contact, logistical coordination to further Sunni positions in Syria and beyond, or leaking of funds and materiel from Saudi-supported rebels to ISIS).
An Interior Ministry statement in early May underscored Saudi perceptions of the ISIS threat at home. In it, officials accused Saudi ISIS members in Syria of encouraging fellow citizens to assassinate leading religious figures and security officials inside the kingdom and plot attacks against government installations and foreign interests. Some of the individuals involved in these domestic plots allegedly had contacts with ISIS and the Yemen-based group al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) -- the kingdom's most acute terrorist threat. At the time of the announcement, police had arrested fifty-nine Saudi citizens and three foreign nationals in the case and were still searching for forty-four additional suspects.
There is a misconception that the kingdom does not get in the way of private Saudi financing of terrorist groups operating in Syria, including ISIS. Yet one of Riyadh's most observable counter-terrorism financing activities is its monitoring of the country's formal financial sector in order to block suspect donations. Indeed, social media fundraising campaigns highlight the challenges of sending such funds from Saudi Arabia to Syria. To ensure that their contributions actually reach Syria, Saudi donors are encouraged to send their money to Kuwait, long considered one of the most permissive terrorism financing environments in the Persian Gulf.
Riyadh's concern about blowback -- namely, the belief that allowing citizens to support terrorist groups hostile to the al-Saud monarchy will eventually spawn attacks on Saudi soil -- helps drive the kingdom's counterterrorism approach. In the mid-2000s, the country suffered a series of dramatic al-Qaeda attacks linked to Saudis returning home from the jihad in Afghanistan, and that experience was important in shaping the current mindset. As mentioned above, Riyadh formally outlawed private donations to ISIS and other groups when it designated them as terrorist organizations in March. That move may have been connected to increasing government concern about Saudi membership in foreign terrorist groups, and may have coincided with the investigation of the domestic ISIS-linked cell announced in May.
Today, Saudi citizens continue to represent a significant funding source for Sunni groups operating in Syria. Arab Gulf donors as a whole -- of which Saudis are believed to be the most charitable -- have funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to Syria in recent years, including to ISIS and other groups. There is support for ISIS in Saudi Arabia, and the group directly targets Saudis with fundraising campaigns, so Riyadh could do much more to limit private funding. U.S. officials have hinted that a combination of politics, logistics, and limited capabilities have impeded more effective Saudi efforts to counter terrorism financing. One particularly difficult problem is how to monitor cash transfers, a method common among Saudi donors.
Although Saudi donors and other private contributors were believed to be the most significant funding source for ISIS in the past, the importance of such donations has been marginalized by the group's independent sources of income. This income, which is now estimated to overwhelmingly exceed private donations, is generated by activities such as smuggling (of oil, weapons, antiquities), extortion (e.g., the group levies around $8 million per month in "taxes" on local businesses), and other crimes (e.g., robberies, counterfeiting). The group's June 11 seizure of Mosul's central bank alone netted tens of millions of dollars (though U.S. officials note that the $400 million figure often cited in connection with the heist is not accurate).
Recent ISIS gains in Iraq present an opportunity for Washington to tighten counter-terrorism financing cooperation with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, whose concerns about ISIS terrorist threats on their soil are deepening. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew's visit last week to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- the closest U.S. partners on this issue in the Gulf -- is a positive step. Another constructive move would be to gauge the potential for altering Washington's contentious dynamics with Kuwait and Qatar regarding terrorism financing. There are signs that ISIS "successes" may fuel higher levels of private Saudi and other Gulf support to a variety of Sunni extremist groups operating in Iraq and Syria, which would be important to counter.
At the same time, the current reality -- that of ISIS acquiring major independent sources of income -- demands a counter-terrorism financing approach that shifts away from focusing on private donations made by residents of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries. Significantly undermining ISIS's financial base would now require rolling back the group's access to local Syrian and Iraqi income sources.
*Lori Plotkin Boghardt is a fellow in Gulf politics at The Washington Institute.

Maliki is a new Saddam, and its America’s fault
Monday, 23 June 2014
By: Faisal J. Abbas/Al Arabiya
Many American Iraq war veterans must be disappointed; after all, they didn’t risk their lives for all those years so that the country they believed they were helping liberate can fall into the hands of extremists.
However, what most of them failed to realize is that Iraq had already been lost to an extremist, even before the rise of the current ISIS insurgency.
Indeed, while the United States may have liberated the Iraqi people from one dictator, Saddam Hussein, it ended up only handing them over to another: Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Throughout two disgraceful terms, Maliki’s only agenda was to consolidate power for himself. By sacking, arresting or limiting the authority of a number of key Iraqi ministers and officials, the PM has been and continues to be in total control of the country’s defense, interior and finance ministries as well as the judiciary, security and intelligence services.
With such a vast power grab, Maliki plotted to extend his tenure for an illegitimate third term and managed to secure a federal Supreme Court order to enable him to do so. But who would have opposed him anyway, had he not?
He remains aided by Iranian agents who he left Iraq’s doors wide-open for, and has benefited from a dysfunctional president (Jalal Talabani, whose health has been in decline for more than two years and is still receiving treatment in Germany) and most importantly, a shameless, ill-advised and hesitant U.S. government that seems to think that the region’s problems will solve themselves if one simply looks the other way.
Now, while being equated with Saddam Hussein is bad enough for any world leader, Maliki has more than surpassed the late Iraqi dictator in terms of damage he has caused to his country, its people and any prospect of national unity.
This is because as bad as he was, Saddam Hussein (a Sunni) was a secular who had top Christian aides and Shiites forming a significantly large portion of the Baath party. Furthermore, Saddam never claimed to be democratic nor did he arrive to the throne promising to turn Iraq to a beacon of democracy and a model for a new Middle East.
Yes, Saddam was brutal but, as a number of Iraqis are now putting it, “at least, he was just with his injustice,” having slaughtered Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis alike (including his own son-in-law).
“Many people tend to forget that Maliki DOESN’T have the support of the top Shiite clerics in his country”
Maliki (a Shiite) on the other hand, played on increasing the rift between Sunnis and Shiites when he could have easily benefited from a golden opportunity throughout his two terms to create a true and lasting national reconciliation. Instead, he marginalized Sunnis and favored Shiites and openly served Tehran, which frustrated not only many neighboring countries, but a large number of his own people: Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds alike.
Indeed, many people tend to forget that Maliki DOESN’T have the support of the top Shiite clerics in his country. Just a few days ago, Iraq’s highest Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, joined the list of disapprovers as he called for the formation of a new and “effective” government (a process Maliki has taken hostage in order to safeguard his illegitimate third term).
Such wise statements from such senior Shiite figures are certainly helpful, as contrary to what Maliki is trying to portray, many people in Iraq realize that HE is the problem and the current crisis is not a sudden burst of extremism or a conspiracy that was being brewed abroad, but a result of years of systematic, unfair and deliberate targeting of the country’s Sunni population.
Furthermore, Maliki can speak of conspiracies and plots all he wants, but at the end of the day, he is the Prime Minister (not to mention that Minister of Defense and Interior as well) and this happened on his watch; as such, he MUST take responsibility.
ISIS is Maliki’s fault
Before dwelling further into the details, it is important to state that ISIS doesn’t only threaten the safety and security of Syria and Iraq, but the whole region, and especially Saudi Arabia which has labeled the group a terrorist organization.
On that note, it is the duty of all Arabs and Muslims (Sunnis and Shiites alike) to join in exposing ISIS for what it really is: a terrorist group of thugs and a cult of opportunists with no moral code, who are taking advantage of people’s legitimate grievances and needs to claim land and resources, cement their authority and freely rape and decapitate under the name of religion.
“ISIS doesn’t only threaten the safety and security of Syria and Iraq, but of the whole region, especially Saudi Arabia”
Yet, one has to wonder how this extremist group is gaining support among Iraqi Sunnis? And how did it manage to conquer cities which were supposed to be guarded by the official Iraqi army?
It is believed that most of the anti-Maliki militants are not ISIS fighters, but are Sunni tribesmen, former Baath party members and people who have genuinely had enough of the Prime Minister’s long-standing marginalization policy which left many of them without a say, with extremely poor living conditions and no prospects of a better life.
If you think this rings a bell, it is because this has all happened before and it is truly despicable that Maliki and the White House have allowed the same scenario to re-occur.
When Saddam’s regime collapsed in 2003, Paul Bremer stupidly oversaw the complete dissolve of the Baath party and the Iraqi army, possibly the only two institutions which could have kept the country intact had they been properly managed or restructured. As such, a large number of trained soldiers, experienced politicians and security forces members were suddenly left without a role or income.
Seizing the moment, many Shiites scrambled to fill in the vacuum with Maliki’s blessing. Left hopeless, some Sunnis embraced al-Qaeda, which was beginning to converge in Iraq at the time. And it wasn’t until 2006 when the Americans helped broker a deal with Sunni tribal leaders that al-Qaeda’s threat was eliminated at the hands of what became known as the “Sahawat.”
Unsurprisingly, once the threat was gone, neither the Americans nor Maliki kept their word to the tribal leaders; And Iraqi Sunnis were left once again to rot. Without much challenge to his rule, Maliki grew even more arrogant, arresting key Sunni figures or overseeing them being sentenced to death in absentia, such as the case was with Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi (the position remains vacant as Hashimi now resides in Turkey).
Maliki also denied Sunnis the right to self-govern themselves (a la the Kurds) and when they began organizing peaceful protests to demand their rights, Maliki sought to crush them (using American weapons, I may add!). The situation in Iraq continued to deteriorate and Iraqis are now trapped between two evils: an illegitimate Prime Minister and an evil terrorist organization.
‘If you break it, you own it’
What is most shocking that all of this occurred under the nose of the U.S. administration, which begs a question of how U.S. security analysts didn’t see this coming? And if they did, why did President Obama continue to support such a disgraceful Prime Minister?
Indeed, Maliki didn’t only commit crimes against Iraq, but also betrayed the sacrifice of thousands of U.S. soldiers which enabled him to reach the premiership position to start with. One of his many crimes is the release of the notorious Qais al-Khazali from prison, who is not only a free man today, but a free man with a political career thanks to PM Maliki.
“Maliki didn’t only commit crimes against Iraq, but also betrayed the sacrifice of thousands of U.S. soldiers”
Faisal J. Abbas
For those who don’t know who he is, Khazali is the leader of the Iranian-backed paramilitary group “Asaib Ahl Al-Haq” (AAH), a group said to be operating under direct patronage of the infamous Iranian General Qassim Suleimani and the Revolutionary Guard. AAH have reportedly been involved in around 6000 attacks on American, coalition and Iraqi forces. He is directly responsible for the killing and kidnapping of U.S. soldiers and British civilians.
Qais Khazali. (Reuters)
Furthermore, Khazali remains controversial today, as he is said to have a direct connection with Iraqi warlord, Abu Deraa, better known as the “Zarqawi of the Shiites” who is said to have returned to Iraq from Iran recently.
One can’t help but question why Maliki would want to be connected to such men, yet, everything this illegitimate PM does stinks of promoting sectarianism to serve his own self-interests (ironically, the same can be said of ISIS!).
Is the U.S. to blame for this one? Well, the rule is: “you break it, you own it”. As such, not only should Maliki leave, but you perhaps President Obama should consider Senator John McCain’s call for the White House’s National Security team to resign for failing to keep Iraq safe.

How much support does ISIS enjoy?
By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya

Monday, 23 June 2014
In the Jordanian city of Ma’an and following last Friday’s prayers, around 20 to 30 people took out to the streets holding banners saluting the terrorist organization of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Syria (ISIS) and announcing that their city supports what they called the state of Islam.
Of course, the number of these men shows a small support for the organization - compared with old protests during major political events. But the story may be deeper than it appears to be, because sympathizers will tend to hide their feelings out of fear of being monitored due to the terrorist nature of the group, which is being pursued and viewed as a threat that cannot be tolerated by the government.
Even political extremists reflect this worry. Abu Sayyaf, a leader of the Jordanian jihadi movement, disowned the protest and what it was calling for. He even disowned some of the movement’s young members saying they were deceived and that ISIS neither serves his movement nor represents it.
“When the number of Western Muslims who joined the fighting in Syria reaches the hundreds, then we are practically talking about the success of ISIS”
If what happened in Ma’an is too small trigger warnings, Twitter is crowded with people who support and sympathize with ISIS and who are interested in following it. It’s a phenomenon we’ve seen nothing like since al-Qaeda attacks. Back then, Arabic media marketed al-Qaeda as a group that supports Islam and defends the persecuted. When most al-Qaeda leaders were either arrested or killed and when particularly leader Osama Bin Laden was killed, there were hopes that the concept and the organization were buried with Bin Laden in the sea and that Muslims will begin a new chapter.
Shattered hopes
But this new reality has shattered these hopes. The reason that terrorist intellect has been revived is due to the Syrian war which greatly advertised the isolated group as a result of leaving the Assad regime commit crimes against millions of people without anyone doing anything to protect them. Iraq is following the same footsteps and the Iraqis in the areas where there’s fighting are saying the same thing. They see ISIS as their savior and they haven’t yet seen the group’s hideous face.
How popular is ISIS, which is more brutal than al-Qaeda itself? I think it’s unlikely that anyone has realized the truth yet, and I fear that ISIS has made it to the youth’s heart and minds by exploiting sectarian causes and the persecution committed in the Syrian war.
When a woman tries to sneak from Saudi Arabia to Yemen along with her kids in order to go to Syria and work with the jihadists, then such an act represents ISIS’ capability to mobilize support. It also means that ISIS has agents that recruit members for it. When the number of Western Muslims who joined the fighting in Syria reaches the hundreds, then we are practically talking about the success of ISIS, the global organization and not just a group enthusiastic to the Syrian cause.
The advertisement will doubly increase with ISIS victories in Iraq, and the sectarian war on both sides will mobilize more fighters. This makes us call on the international society to think well about the repercussions of what’s happening and of the threats resulting from these two wars. Without real concern and insistence to politically intervene and impose political solutions, we are heading towards a disaster that’s dangerous on everyone.