LCCC ENGLISH DAILY
Bible Quotation For Today/Life Through
Romans 08/01-17: Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory."
analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 31,
Senior IDF officer: Ben-Gurion, Haifa port would be closed from day one of new Lebanon war/Yoav Zitun /Ynetnews/October 31/14
US has turned Netanyahu into its punching bag/Ben-Dror Yemini/Ynetnews/October 31
How to prevent a religious war in the Middle East/Ron Ben-Yishai/Ynetnews/October 31
Reflections on Islamism: From the Muslim Brotherhood to the Islamic State/Shimon Shamir/Washington Institute/October 31
Karbala via Glasgow/Amir Taheri /Asharq Al Awsat/October 31/14
Tunisia’s Lesson for Lebanon/Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat/October 31/14
Iran’s human rights record is spiraling downwards/Majid Rafizadeh/Al Arabiya/October 31/14
Sinai: Terrorist presence becomes full-fledged insurgency/Abdallah Schleifer/Al Arabiya/October 31/14
In Lebanon, we are overcome with anger/Nayla Tueni/Al Arabiya/October 31/14
An Anatomy of Sisi’s Liberals/Nervana Mahmoud/Washington Institute/October 31/14
President Sisi’s Worldview/Marc Sievers/Al Arabiya/October 31/2014
Lebanese Related News
published on October 31,
Patriarch al-Rahi: I Will Soon 'Spill the Beans'
Peru foils Hezbollah terror plot against Israelis, Jews
Extension for the Lebanese Parliament session set for Nov. 5 Hariri pledges $20M to areas damaged by clashes
Ibrahim Threatens to Quit Arsal Mission, Dispatches Humanitarian Convoy to Syrian Refugees
Report: U.S., France Pressured Qatar over Arsal Mediation
Berri Says Extension Session's Constitutionality Hinges on Decision-Making
A time of triumph for Lebanon's armed forces Mediator holds talks with hostage-takers Drop in refugee registrants: UNHCR Syrian influx affecting Lebanese, Palestinians Date for Al Jadeed case to be decided
NGO urges state to enforce anal test ban
EDL workers to stage new strike
Lebanon on alert over 'digital drugs
Bassil meets UNIFIL chief in Naqoura Lebanon Army defuses bomb in Tripoli Lebanon bought Israeli-linked security system: MP
March 14 forced to choose lesser evil: Harb
Group accused of aiming to set up North Lebanon ‘emirate’
Profits of insurance firms to fall by 20 percent
Senior IDF officer: Ben-Gurion, Haifa port would be closed from day one of new Lebanon war
Lebanon's Arabic press digest – Oct.31, 2014
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on October 31, November 01/14
ISIS, Iran top agenda of US-Israel consultation
Baghdad not doing enough to combat ISIS in Anbar: tribal chief
ISIS kills 220 Iraqis from tribe that opposed them
Too much focus on Kobani in anti-ISIS campaign: Erdogan
ISIS kills 220 from opposing Iraqi tribe
Lebanon Army defuses bombs in Tripoli, seizes arms cashes
Pressure builds for US rethink of anti-ISIS war
Kerry urges restraint, expresses worry over tensions in Jerusalem
Netanyahu urges restraint in Jerusalem
Muslim men over 50 pray at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque amid tight security
Sweden officially recognizes Palestinian state
Sweden says relations with Israel excellent, despite recalling of ambassador
Israel pulls Sweden envoy over Palestine
Hamas, Islamic Jihad call for Palestinians to step up 'resistance' against Israel
Kerry: 'Chickenshit' remark 'disgraceful'
Pressure builds for US rethink of anti-ISIS war
Mass grave found of Iraqi Sunni opponents of ISIS
Iran foils sabotage attempt on heavy water tanks
Tunisia: Ghannouchi calls for national unity government
Below Jihad Watch
Posts For Friday 31.10.14
North Carolina Muslim pleads guilty to trying to aid Islamic State
Canada: Muslim arrested for ties to jihadis in Pakistan, has arsenal of firearms
Leaflets claiming to be from the Islamic State found at Quantico Marine base, but Arabic is upside-down and reversed
Hamas-linked CAIR “disappointed” that it failed to intimidate UC Berkeley into canceling Bill Maher appearance
Video: Robert Spencer and Michael Coren on the Islamic jihad against Christianity
Former US Ambassador to Iraq: Obama Administration was warned about rise of the Islamic State, “did almost nothing”
Mali: “Particularly violent combat” between French troops and Islamic jihadists; one soldier killed
UNRWA schoolbooks in Gaza stress jihad, martyrdom, denial of Israel, and return of “refugees” by force of arms
Maryland: Marine dad banned from school after complaining about Islam assignment
U.S. military ordered to hide identities, change routines to avoid jihad terrorist attacks
20 to 30 former Guantanamo detainees suspected of joining the Islamic State, other jihad groups
Arsal jihadists issue new demands for hostage release: source
Oct. 31, 2014/Nidal Solh| The Daily Star/BAALBEK, Lebanon: Islamist militants holding at least 27 Lebanese soldiers and policemen hostage have given the Qatari-appointed mediator a new, partial list of demands, a source involved in the negotiations to free the servicemen said Friday. “There are new, but limited demands by the captors,” the source told The Daily Star. The source declined to give details, saying the mediator's mission “is shrouded in secrecy.” It has been widely reported that the key demand of the kidnappers has been the release of Islamist prisoners held in Roumieh jail in exchange for the captives. The source, nevertheless, said secrecy itself is likely to be a good sign that negotiations were on the right track. The Qatari-chosen envoy, Syrian Ahmad al-Khatib, led a convoy of six trucks carrying humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees in the northeastern border town of Arsal Thursday. Sources following up on the hostage crisis told The Daily Star Thursday that the negotiator met with the captors holding the servicemen on the outskirts of Arsal. Jihadists belonging to ISIS and Nusra Front fought five days of gunbattles with the Lebanese Army in August. As they retreated, they took with them dozens of soldiers and policemen captive. They have so far released seven and killed three.
The hostage families Thursday also postponed for 48 hours a planned escalation in protests, pending the results of the ongoing negotiations.
Senior IDF officer: Ben-Gurion, Haifa port would be closed from day one of new
Yoav Zitun / Ynetnews
Published: 10.31.14,/ Israel News
High-ranking officer questions western alliance with Syria, Hezbollah against Islamic State, calls it a 'serious mistake' to join forces with Shi'ite extremists.
Ben-Gurion international airport and Haifa port would be closed on the first day of a third Lebanon war and Hezbollah officials would be viable targets for elimination, says a senior officer of the IDF General Staff, a conflict that the Israeli army envisions could well break out in the future. The officer was speaking against the backdrop of a series of violent incidents targeting IDF troops on the Lebanese border over the past year, some of which have been claimed openly by Hezbollah in response to what it called IDF attacks on its positions or fighters in southern Lebanon. "We continue to prepare for a state of widespread conflict in Lebanon, and it is foolish to think only that only identifying intelligence targets or bombing by the air force will induce the enemy to enter the fray," said the officer.
"The IDF will have to operate at full strength in a third Lebanon war. If during Operation Protective Edge there was an outcry because Ben-Gurion airport was closed for two days due to rockets, then in the next war with Hezbollah, Ben-Gurion airport and Haifa port will be closed from day one." He said that in the next war it would not make sense to attack state infrastructure targets in southern Lebanon as the IDF did in the 2006 Second Lebanon War.
"Historically, this has not been proven to be useful and would not make Hezbollah say 'I give up because of an attack on a power plant'," said the officer. "It would also be correct to forcefully attack targets and activists and senior organization officials."
The officer also warned that Hezbollah continues to grow stronger despite losing hundreds of fighters to the civil war in Syria. And, for the first time since the start of Syrian civil war three years ago, and in view of the collapse of countries such as Iraq due to the growing power of the Islamic State, the officer came out firmly against US-led Western alliance fighting the Islamic State, which seeks to topple the Assad regime."It is not Israel that alarms Iran, but the possibility that Iraq will be eaten alive by the Islamic State and Syria will falls into its hands. I'm not excited about the coalition against the IS. The West makes a serious mistake in its support, led by the US, England, Canada, France and Australia, for Shi'ite radicals, on the side of Assad, Hezbollah and Iran. It does not make sense."
Peru foils Hezbollah terror plot against Israelis, Jews
Itamar Eichner /Ynetnews
Published: 10.31.14, / Israel News
Lebanese national Muhammad Amadar was arrested in Lima; he is suspected of targeting the Israeli Embassy, as well as popular Israeli tourist destinations and Jewish centers. Peru's Counterterrorism Unit foiled a Hezbollah terror plot this week when it arrested a Lebanese man suspected of leading a terror cell planning to attack Jewish sites and popular Israeli tourist spots in the South American country. Peruvian security forces found materials for the production of military-grade explosives, detonators, TNT explosives and gunpowder in the apartment of Muhammad Amadar, 28. Amadar, who was arrested on Monday, has already gathered intelligence on Israeli and Jewish targets, including the Israeli Embassy in Lima, Chabad houses and Jewish community centers.
He was living in Lima's Surquillo neighborhood, close to the neighborhood that houses the Israeli Embassy and the homes of the Israeli diplomats. In his interrogation, Amadar denied having any ties to Hezbollah and claimed he was on his way to the US, to meet with his Peruvian-American wife. Peru's Interior Minister Daniel Urresti issued an official statement saying a man with ties to an "international terror organization" was arrested following intelligence information. An arrest warrant was issued by the Third National Criminal Court for Organized Crime. According to reports in Peru, the terror cell Amadar put together is linked to Hezbollah's vast network in the Triple Border area between Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil, where there's a large Arab population.
Israeli security forces were briefed by Peruvian authorities on the investigation. Peru has also increased security for the Israeli Embassy in Lima, as well as for Israeli tourist destinations and Jewish centers across the country, particularly in the capital.
Israel's Counterterrorism Unit and the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem refused to comment on the report. "A Hezbollah operative was arrested in Peru after he started building an infrastructure for terrorist attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets in Peru," Israeli security officials said. "They found explosives in his apartment. The man is linked to Hezbollah's international terrorism infrastructure. It proves what we've been saying for a long time - Hezbollah, sent by Iran, or Iran via Hezbollah, are building a terror infrastructure in South and Central America to attack Jewish and Israeli targets, Israeli tourists, embassies and Jewish centers. "This infrastructure is also meant to be used for attacks against Western targets and for attempts to smuggle weaponry to the United States," the officials went on to say.
March 14 forced to choose lesser evil: Harb
The Daily Star/Oct. 31, 2014
BEIRUT: The March 14 coalition will be forced to choose the lesser of two evils next week when its lawmakers will vote to extend Parliament’s mandate, Telecommunications Minister Boutros Harb said Friday, blaming MP Michel Aoun and Hezbollah for putting them in such a position. “Some officials were faced with two options: either we surrender to the political game, or confront it and have the needed courage to make tough decisions ... They placed us in this difficult situation,” Harb told reporters during a news conference at Parliament. “So we decided to confront it because there is no other alternative ... as we find ourselves forced to accept what we would have never accepted under normal circumstances: to extend the mandate of Parliament.”Harb said the coalition was forced to choose the extension after the Free Patriotic Movement and Hezbollah “disrupted” the presidential election and sought to “hijack the Lebanese public opinion and serve a blow to the democratic system.” “The coup on the Constitution began when lawmakers with the Free Patriotic Movement and Hezbollah withdrew from the second round of presidential election in Parliament ... and nothing happened since then,” the minister, an independent Christian MP allied with the March 14 group, said. He accused Aoun, the March 8 group’s undeclared presidential nominee, of seeking the presidential seat despite lacking the needed parliamentary majority to win the presidency. Lawmakers will meet next week to vote on the extension of Parliament’s mandate for two years and seven months as per a draft law presented by MP Nicolas Fattoush. Kataeb Party MPs and FPM lawmakers have opposed the extension of Parliament with the aim of piling pressure on officials to reach a compromise and elect a new president. Even if lawmakers hold the parliamentary election scheduled for Nov. 20 without a president, Lebanon would plunge into further paralysis given that the Constitution stipulates that the president would name a new prime minister to replace the current Cabinet. Harb ridiculed the FPM’s opposition to extending the legislature’s mandate, saying “we could never understand why the other Christian officials are rejecting the extension.”The minister also said that he would propose an amendment to the extension draft law to preserve rotation of power and the Lebanese system. “We want to add that the government should, after electing a new president, call for the parliamentary committees to convene to prepare and hold the parliamentary election, which would immediately terminate the mandate of the current parliament,” he said, noting that most parties had agreed to such a proposal.
A time of triumph for armed forces
Oct. 31, 2014 /The Daily Star
TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi inspected troops in north Lebanon Thursday, three days after the military crushed militants inspired by ISIS and the Nusra Front and took full control of the embattled city of Tripoli. The military, meanwhile, pushed ahead with a widespread manhunt for Islamist militants who fled after fighting soldiers over the weekend, rounding up more than 70 terror suspects in the north and the Western Bekaa region. During his inspection tour of troops deployed in Tripoli and its surroundings and the northern district of Akkar, Kahwagi was briefed by senior officers on the military measures taken to consolidate security and stability in the city and in the north in general, the National News Agency reported. “No one should be afraid. We have all the intention to preserve the homeland. I am not worried about the future because of your presence,” Kahwagi said, addressing troops. Kahwagi also met with military unit commanders and soldiers and offered his condolences on the deaths of their comrades during the four-day pitched battles with Islamist militants that left 42 people dead and some 150 wounded, in the worst spillover of the war in Syria into Lebanon. Twenty-three gunmen, 11 soldiers and eight civilians died in the clashes.
Kahwagi praised the troops’ competence and efforts and provided them with the necessary instructions for the next stage of their operations, the national news agency said. The Army chief’s tour came a day after he declared there would be no truce or compromise with terrorists, and vowed to hunt down Islamist militants who attacked the Army. The tour came as the Army announced it had arrested a total of 71 terror suspects Wednesday in north Lebanon, the Bekaa province of Rashaya and the northeastern border area of Wadi Hmeid, on the outskirts of Arsal. They were suspected of links to terrorist groups and involvement in gunbattles against Lebanese troops, according to an Army statement. The Army said assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, hand grenades, military gear, cameras and communication devices had been seized during the raids. Among the arrests was a Lebanese man identified as Abdullah Mahmoud Hujeiri, who failed to heed orders to stop at a military checkpoint in Wadi Hmeid. He admitted to having smuggled weapons and food supplies to “terrorists” on the outskirts near the northeastern border, an Army statement said.
According to one statement, three more gunmen handed themselves in to the Lebanese Army late Wednesday, bringing the total number of those who have surrendered to six. The national news agency said a Syrian man identified as Shadi K., one of the commanders of an armed group, had been detained. Some 20 individuals were arrested in north and south Lebanon earlier Wednesday, including eight Syrians detained during raids on Syrian refugee sites in Minyeh on suspicion of having links to armed groups.
The most recent arrests push to nearly 300 the number of suspected militants captured since the outbreak of the Tripoli fighting last Friday. Meanwhile, Lebanon’s military prosecutor Thursday charged an alleged ISIS commander along with 17 other people with attacking Army soldiers and attempting to establish an Islamic emirate in north Lebanon. Judge Saqr Saqr issued the charges against Ahmad Salim Mikati, who has links to ISIS, as well as two detained suspects and 15 fugitives, the National News Agency reported. The two suspects in custody were identified as Fayez Othman and Ahmad al-Ahmad. Mikati and the others are accused of forming an armed group with the aim of carrying out terrorist acts. They are also accused of recruiting people for ISIS and training them on using arms and preparing explosives, as well as “planning to invade the villages of Asoun, Bakhoun, Bqaa Sifrin and Seer Dinnieh to establish an Islamic emirate.”The group of suspects are also accused of taking part in operations against the Army, inciting people to kill soldiers and stirring up sectarian strife. If found guilty, Mikati and the others could face the death penalty.
Patriarch al-Rahi: I Will Soon 'Spill
Naharnet/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi lamented on Friday the “make or break” moral that the political parties raise their youth on, stressing that Lebanese politicians are still waiting for a green-light from foreign countries to elect a head of state.
“Soon I will spill the beans,” said the Patriarch, expressing resentment at the almost five month delay in electing a president. He made his remarks during his ongoing trip to Sydney, Australia. The politicians are still waiting for a green-light from abroad to elect a head of state, he was quoted as saying. “I have come to the conviction that they want to change the Lebanese entity. They want a tripartite coalition government which we strongly reject,” he concluded. Lebanon has been left without a president since May when the term of President Michel Suleiman ended. Ongoing disputes between the rival March 8 and 14 camps have thwarted the election of his successor.
Berri Says Extension Session's Constitutionality Hinges on Decision-Making
Naharnet/Speaker Nabih Berri has warned that a session on the extension of parliament's mandate next week would undermine constitutional partnership unless key Christian blocs participated in the vote. Constitutional partnership “is not represented only in attending the session, because a quorum is already secured,” Berri told his visitors late Wednesday. Partnership lies in “the participation in decision-making and consequently, the constitutionality of the session depends on Christian participation in voting on the draft-law to extend parliament’s mandate,” said Berri. His remarks were published in local newspapers on Friday. The speaker said Wednesday’s session would discuss several issues, mainly two draft-laws that call for “a technical extension through the suspension of an electoral law deadline for a limited period and a long-term extension” of the legislature’s mandate. The second draft-law has been proposed by Zahle MP Nicolas Fattoush for an extension of two years and seven months. Berri warned that if major Christian blocs or the “Christian nerve” did not attend, then “the session will be in jeopardy.”“I will speak out then,” Berri said about the stance of the major Christian blocs - Change and Reform, Lebanese Forces, Kataeb and MPs loyal to Marada leader Suleiman Franjieh. Kataeb MPs are not likely to attend Wednesday's session. As for the LF, its MPs will probably vote for the extension.The Change and Reform bloc, which is led by Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Michel Aoun, is also expected not to head to parliament. But its final stance will be announced during the bloc's weekly meeting next week, al-Joumhouria daily said Friday. It quoted Change and Reform sources as saying that lawmakers should have agreed on a new electoral law after the first extension of parliament's mandate last year. “Nothing happened so far. So what benefits a second extension would bring to us?” they asked. “We haven't received any sign or guarantees that serious efforts are underway to agree on an electoral law,” they said. Telecommunications Minister Boutros Harb, who is also an MP, said on Friday that the March 14 alliance's independent Christian lawmakers “will have to accept an exceptional extension of parliament's term pending the election of a president.” “We agree that the extension is undemocratic but our choice lies in salvaging Lebanon,” he said during a joint press conference with MP Dori Chamoun at the parliament. Parliament extended its term until November this year after the rival MPs failed to agree on a new law and claimed the security situation did not guarantee violence-free elections. A similar extension is set to take place next week to avoid a further vacuum in constitutional institutions, which began with the failure to elect a successor to President Michel Suleiman at the end of his term in May.
Extension session set for Nov. 5
Hasan LakkisHussein Dakroub| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Lawmakers will meet next week to vote on the extension of Parliament’s mandate for more than two years, despite opposition by the country’s major Christian parties. Speaker Nabih Berri, meanwhile, warned that the session would not be held unless some of the key Christian blocs participated in the vote on the extension of Parliament’s term. Berri Thursday scheduled a legislative session for Nov. 5 “to discuss and approve draft laws listed on the agenda, including an urgent draft law to extend Parliament’s current mandate, which expires on Nov. 20, 2014, to June 20, 2017,” according to a statement from Berri’s office. During the parliamentary session, likely to be boycotted by the Kataeb Party MPs who oppose the extension, lawmakers would debate and endorse a draft proposal presented by Zahle MP Nicolas Fattoush that calls for the extension of Parliament’s term for two years and seven months. Berri, according to visitors, said next Wednesday’s session would discuss a raft of draft laws, the most important of which are two bills that call for “a technical extension through the suspension of an electoral law deadline for a limited period and a long-term extension” of Parliament’s term. “Constitutional partnership is not represented only in attending [Wednesday’s] session, because a quorum is already secured. Constitutional partnership is participation in decision-making and consequently, the constitutionality of the session depends on Christian participation in voting on the draft proposal to extend Parliament’s mandate,” Berri was quoted as saying by visitors.
He warned that if major Christian blocs representing what he termed the “Christian nerve” – namely MP Michel Aoun’s Change and Reform bloc, the Lebanese Forces bloc, the Kataeb Party bloc and MP Sleiman Frangieh’s bloc – did not attend, the session would not be held. “If the Christian nerve is not present in the session during the voting, the session will be in jeopardy and I will speak out then,” Berri said. The major Christian parties, Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, the Kataeb Party and the LF, have spoken out against the extension, but it is unlikely that their members will boycott the session. MP Salim Salhab, from Aoun’s bloc, told the Central News Agency that the bloc would decide at its weekly meeting next Tuesday on whether it would attend the session and vote against the extension bill, or not attend the session at all. Meanwhile, the Cabinet declared Tripoli’s Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood a “disaster-stricken area” following the weekend clashes and allocated $20 million in compensation and reconstruction projects. “The Cabinet allocated LL30 billion ($20 million) for immediate compensation of citizens and for rehabilitation of damaged neighborhoods,” Information Minister Ramzi Joreige told reporters after an eight-hour session chaired by Prime Minister Tammam Salam. The Cabinet tasked the Council of Development and Reconstruction to prepare criteria to call for new tenders to organize street cleaning in Beirut and Mount Lebanon. “[The Cabinet also tasked the council] with administering tenders to produce energy from gas emanating from the Naameh landfill and produce energy,” Joreige said. Sources following up on the Cabinet session said the Cabinet had allocated around LL700 billion to pay public sector salaries, after months of dispute among various groups. After the Cabinet session, Salam met with a delegation from the families of the kidnapped servicemen.
Drop in refugee registrants: UNHCR
Oct. 31, 2014/Samya Kullab| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The number of Syrian refugees registering with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Lebanon has dropped drastically, the agency’s country representative said Thursday, adding that the decline resulted from restrictive border measures. “The number of refugees who approach our offices to be registered has decreased in the last few weeks, between 75 and 90 percent in any given day,” Ninette Kelley said during a briefing with reporters at the agency’s Jnah headquarters. “The main driver of that have been the restrictions being imposed on the border.”Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas announced last week that Lebanon would no longer accept refugees, but said the borders would remain open to exigent humanitarian cases and others crossing for transit purposes. Kelley said that despite numerous pronouncements by government ministers that Lebanon would change its policy toward refugees, the agency has yet to receive record of the official Cabinet decision. “In fact, we have a few versions but we don’t have the official one,” she said. “We’ve also requested to meet with Minister Derbas,” who is traveling, “to work out with him how he sees this unfolding and how we can transition, if that’s the intent, any new refugee, any new registration, over to the government.” Kelley said government officials had been clear about their policy intention to stabilize the situation in Lebanon. She also announced that in December, the UNHCR will convene a meeting of states able to admit Syrian refugees to encourage increased levels of resettlement “and also other forms of admission that will help to ease the burdens of other countries in the region.” “There is more that can be done, and this is the message that we need to communicate,” she said. She reiterated that UNHCR has not received the criteria used by the government to assess exceptions. “We understand that humanitarian exceptions are being made but again we don’t have the criteria,” she said, adding the agency has been in dialogue with the government about what they should entail. Among those permitted entry were individuals in need of medical attention and single-women headed households, but Kelley was reluctant to use anecdotal cases to draw generalized conclusions. “There has been no clear pattern that would allow UNHCR to speak with any authority as to what the criteria are.” She added that despite the strict entry measures, the UNHCR had not observed a stack up of Syrians at the border, “but we have observed a diminishing number of refugees crossing the border.”
Hariri pledges $20M to areas damaged by militant clashes
The Daily Star 31.10.14/BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri Thursday pledged $20 million to areas damaged by the recent clashes in north Lebanon. “Nothing can compensate the good people of Tripoli and the north for the losses inflicted on innocent youths, children and women, leading to serious casualties among them” Hariri said in a statement. The donation will especially target reconstruction in the embattled Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood in Tripoli as well the Minyeh village of Bhenin. The head of the Future Movement expressed gratitude to the residents of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Tripoli’s old souks for refusing to become tools in in the hands of extremists battling the Army, saying the stand adopted by residents of north Lebanon was the factor that ended the clashes. This national stance obstructed the attempts of unnamed parties who sought to incite strife in north Lebanon in an attempt to justify their participation in the Syrian war, he said in allusion to Hezbollah. The Lebanese Army restored total control of Tripoli and other parts of north Lebanon earlier this week after four days of clashes with Islamist militants. Hariri said he decided to appoint a team of engineers and specialists from the Future Movement to prepare studies to swiftly carry out the repairs.
Date for Al-Jadeed contempt of court case to be decided
Kareem Shaheen| The Daily Star/Oct. 31, 2014
BEIRUT: A judge at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon will likely decide Monday when to begin the trial of a senior editor at Al-Jadeed TV for contempt of court. Judge Nicola Lettieri will lead a pretrial hearing with the prosecution and defense lawyers for Karma al-Khayyat, the deputy head of news at Al-Jadeed and its parent company. The trial could begin as early as late November, although the defense is expected to ask for more time to prepare. The STL is tasked with prosecuting those responsible for the 2005 Valentine’s Day bombing that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others and plunged Lebanon into years of turmoil. The U.N.-backed court has indicted five members of Hezbollah in connection with the attack, and their trial in absentia is ongoing in The Hague.
Khayyat and Al-Jadeed are accused of contempt of court and obstruction of justice over news reports aired by the TV station that allegedly included the personal details of confidential witnesses in the Hariri case. The editor and the media outlet deny any wrongdoing.
Al-Akhbar newspaper’s editor-in-chief Ibrahim al-Amin is charged with similar offenses, though his case has not progressed as rapidly, largely because he has not fully cooperated with the court. If convicted, Khayyat would face a maximum penalty of seven years in prison, a fine of 100,000 euros, or both.The prosecution of the journalists, while not unprecedented in international tribunals, has exposed the STL to strong criticism. The court argues that the trial is necessary in order to protect witnesses from intimidation.Opponents say the court is attacking Lebanon’s cherished freedom of the press, and ought to focus on its core mandate, since it has been nearly 10 years since Hariri’s assassination. They also criticize the court for not prosecuting Western media outlets that have published sensitive details of the Hariri investigation. The prosecution has prompted various politicians, law faculties and officials in Lebanon to write to the court in protest at the case. In a submission before Judge Lettieri last week, the special prosecutor said he could be ready for trial within four to five weeks – time enough to prepare and arrange for witnesses to appear before the court. Khayyat and Al-Jadeed’s lawyers said that the trial ought to start in April next year, and said any trial that began before February would be unfair to the accused.
“The Defense submits that opening trial the week of Nov. 24, 2014, and indeed earlier than February 2015, would significantly undermine the fair trial rights of Ms. Khayyat and Al-Jadeed S.A.L,” Khayyat’s lawyer Karim Khan said in a court filing last week.
The pretrial hearing is scheduled for Monday, at 5:30 p.m. Beirut time. In addition to the timing of the trial, Judge Lettieri is also expected to address logistical issues, including the number of witnesses who would testify and the expected duration of the trial
Salam: Syrian influx affecting Lebanese, Palestinians
The Daily Star/Oct. 31, 2014/BEIRUT: The Syrian refugee crisis has had a grave impact not only on Lebanese, but also on Palestinians living in refugee camps, Prime Minister Tammam Salam said Thursday. “You certainly know that the camps are suffering from harsh living conditions in light of the lack of job opportunities and increasing unemployment rates due to the large supply of Syrian workers and the economic stagnation,” Salam said. He added that the influx of Syrian refugees increased the labor supply in Lebanon, resulting in fewer jobs for locals. Over 1.1 million Syrians have registered with the U.N.’s refugee agency since unrest broke out in the neighboring country in March 2011. His comments came during a session at the Grand Serail called for by the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee to discuss the situation of Palestinian refugees in the country. The meeting was attended by U.N. and EU officials, as well as the ambassadors of several countries. “This condition becomes even more dangerous knowing that many camps have hosted additional numbers of [Palestinian] refugees coming from Syria,” Salam said. He also thanked Saudi Arabia for its $15 million donation Wednesday toward the reconstruction of the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in north Lebanon, and called on other Arab states to fulfill their pledges to the effort.
Lebanon Army defuses bombs in Tripoli, seizes arms cashes
Antoine Amrieh| The Daily Star/Oct. 31, 2014/TRIPOLI, Lebanon: An explosives expert defused five bombs Friday in the northern city of Tripoli amid heavy Army deployment, a day after the military seized arms caches and arrested people as part of its widespread crackdown on suspected militants across north Lebanon. Soldiers discovered the first bomb in the city's bustling vegetable market, where soldiers engaged in fierce clashes with militants over the weekend. Soldiers later uncovered four others in the same area.
Army units were stationed at the entrances of Bab al-Tabbaneh, the vegetable market and Al-Asmar Square. Local media reported that soldiers also raided the house of Abdel-Kader Akoumi, a soldier who announced his defection earlier this month and was killed during an Army raid on a house in north Lebanon where an alleged ISIS commander was staying. In a statement, the military said it detained late-Thursday eight Lebanese for firing shots and tossing hand grenades at an Army center, plus another six Syrians for lacking proper residency permits. Soldiers raided several suspicious locations in the Abi Samra neighborhood in Tripoli and seized "arms caches containing quantities of rifles, machine-guns, shells, hand grenades and ammunition along with explosives and military gear."
The Army crackdown, which began during the four-day clashes with Islamist militants in Tripoli and other parts of the north from Friday till Monday, has resulted in the detention of hundreds of Syrians, Lebanese and Palestinians in the region.
The Army successfully drove out militants from Tripoli earlier this week, storming a militant bastion in the Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood. The clashes killed 42 people, including eight civilians, 11 soldiers and 23 gunmen.
Lebanon's Arabic press digest –
The Daily Star
The following are a selection of stories from Lebanese newspapers that may be of interest to Daily Star readers. The Daily Star cannot vouch for the accuracy of these reports.
Cash smuggled to soldiers’ captors
The Qatari mediator Thursday led a convoy of six trucks carrying food and medical supplies to Arsal, allegedly bound for Syrian refugees camping out on the town’s outskirts.
While political and security sources said the aid was strictly headed to the Syrian refugees, well-informed sources following up on negotiations to free the soldiers and policemen held hostage by Islamist militants said the humanitarian aid would be smuggled to the captors “occupying” Arsal’s outer edge.
Also during the past two weeks, cash was smuggled to the captors. The Lebanese Army had stopped the driver of a car who intended to deliver $250,000 to the kidnappers via intermediaries in Arsal. However, as a result of the intervention of "high political authorities," the driver, with the cash in his possession, was let go. Sources said the kidnappers had requested the money in exchange for not killing a soldier.
Aid allowed into Arsal to strengthen Qatar’s bargaining hand
According to information obtained by Al-Liwaa, the government – as a goodwill gesture and to strengthen the bargaining hand of the Qatari mediator in negotiations – has allowed the delivery of six truckloads of humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees in Arsal, in the hopes that the negotiator would return to Beirut carrying with him news from the kidnappers.
Prime Minister Tammam Salam met Thursday with a delegation of the hostage families, among the protesters camped out in Riad al-Solh Square in Downtown Beirut.
Ibrahim threatens to quit effort to free captive soldiers
Sources close to Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim told An-Nahar that the head of General Security was upset by the distorted statements made by the hostages' families.
The father of one of the captives has said that he received a call from his son's kidnappers complaining that Ibrahim was preventing a deal with the Islamists to free the servicemen.
Ibrahim threatened to quit his effort to free the captives if this “intentional” distortion continued.
Iranian military grant report delayed
Ministerial sources told Al-Joumhouria that some ministers had asked about the anticipated report on Iran's military grant to the Lebanese Army following Defense Minister Samir Moqbel’s visit to Tehran.
They were told that the military delegation that accompanied Moqbel was tasked with following up on the grant, so it stayed longer in Tehran, which contributed to the delay.
The sources said the report, however, was expected in the coming week or so.
US has turned Netanyahu into its punching bag
Published: 10.30.14, / Israel Opinion
Op-ed: Instead of engaging in self-examination over its failures in Muslim world, Obama administration is personally attacking Israel's prime minister. The American administration is going through something bad. It failed in Iraq. It failed in Libya. It failed in Afghanistan. It tried to be nice to the Muslim world, and in response, the Muslim world is becoming much more hostile towards the United States. But instead of engaging in self-examination, the American administration has turned Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu into its punching bag. Apparently, Netanyahu is to blame for Libya's disintegration and for the Taliban's slow takeover of Afghanistan. As far as US Secretary of State John Kerry is concerned, Netanyahu is also to blame for the Islamic State's growing number of volunteers.
The Obama administration has been trying to advance the peace process for years. Kerry tried to do exactly what Condoleezza Rice tried to do before him. She also came to Israel again and again, she also opposed the settlements, and she also failed.
But there is one difference. Rice knew exactly who was to blame for the failure. She tried, together with President George W. Bush, to advance a peace plan similar to the one President Bill Clinton had tried to advance. It had zero success. Rice was decent enough to accurately describe, in a book she published, that the refusal has Mahmoud Abbas' name written all over it. His name only. Bill Clinton, before her, clarified in his book that the entire blame should be placed on Yasser Arafat's shoulders.
Until we reach the Obama administration. There, everything is upside down. Ehud Olmert, the administration's darling, did not build any less than Netanyahu beyond the Green Line. The Yesha Council is complaining that the construction has been frozen. The Central Bureau of Statistics points to a drop in construction beyond the Green Line. And more importantly, Netanyahu's response to Kerry's draft was mainly positive. It was Abbas who rejected it out of hand.
And despite all that, almost all of the administration's wings have been enlisted to de-legitimize Netanyahu. It's true that the building starts announcements are annoying. But it's more about declarations than about actions. And in general, people say "construction in East Jerusalem" or "beyond the Green Line" and forget that we are talking about a neighborhood like Ramat Shlomo, for example, which will remain within Israel even according to the Clinton plan. Netanyahu may not worthy of an award, despite his willingness to withdraw from more than 90% of the territories. And there is no need for an award for the drop in construction. But ongoing personal attacks? Why? Considering the fact that he is the leader of the Likud party, Netanyahu has presented historical compromises. The Americans know that. They know that Abbas was the refuser. They know that Abbas is still insisting on the "right of return." They know that he is insisting on an impossible and unpractical evacuation of tens of thousands of settlers. And what does he get for his refusal? Mainly understanding and smiles.
The United States was and remains Israel's greatest and most important friend. This friendship is not just with the administration. It's a friendship with other centers of power, like the Congress, whose members understand as well that the administration is going too far.
Why this is the same administration that embraced the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and gave General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi the cold shoulder. And it's the same administration that is embracing Qatar, which continues to fund the global jihad, but is kicking Israel, which is fighting that same jihad. Israel should not enter a conflict with the American administration, but it is allowed to present its own truth, to the Congress and the public opinion as well. Not in order to harm the relations, but on the contrary – in order to point to those insisting on deteriorating them.
How to prevent a religious war in the Middle East
Published: 10.31.14/Israel Opinion
In wake of the attempted assassination of Yehuda Glick, Palestinians are closer than ever to a direct confrontation – and it may be worse than a third Intifada. There are steps that need to be taken to keep tensions from boiling over any further.
The worst-case scenario is happening before our eyes. The "Jerusalem Intifada" has turned into a religious war between Jews and Muslims. This religious war, at its heart the Temple Mount, has the potential of becoming a widespread conflict that will drag in not only the residents of Jerusalem, the West Bank, the citizens of Israel and Gaza – but also Hezbollah, Jordan and other states in the region. A religious conflict at this time has the potential to change the direction of the so-called "shaking off", or Arab Spring, and turn them against us. A tidal wave of clashes over the Temple Mount and Jerusalem could change the rules of the game during the rising tide of Islamic extremism currently sweeping through the Middle East, as well as Europe and North America.
The significance of swinging the pendulum of the conflict towards us is fairly clear. It may be expressed in terrorist attacks against Israeli targets abroad and rocket fire from Sinai, as well as suicide bombings in various locations. If we don’t stop the process that is taking place right before our eyes, we may find ourselves, due to the volatile situation in the Middle East, in the middle of a conflict far more destructive than a third intifada.
While these claims seem like dark prophecies and scare-mongering, it is important to note that similar predictions were made before the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the Second Intifada, which began, if memory serves, with Ariel Sharon's 2000 visit to the Temple Mount (and was dubbed the Al-Aqsa Intifada).
Which steps need to be taken in order to stop the escalation? Several measures must be implemented immediately:
* The IDF must bolster the Jerusalem police presence, and the Central Command should prepare and work towards the prevention of nationalist crimes, committed not only by Palestinians but by Jews as well.
Yehuda Glick, who was critically wounded on Wednesday, is a citizen of Otniel in the southern West Bank, but considering the growing positive sentiment towards him on the part of the right-wing, the Shin Bet, police and IDF need at all costs to deter hate crimes and religious attacks – otherwise known as "price tag" attacks. Equally, security forces must prepare for the possibility of Palestinian terror attacks, including mass stone-throwing, Molotov cocktail attacks and bombings as well as shootings at Israeli cars on the roads.
* Preventive arrests must be made among Jewish and Arab extremists. Do not be deterred. These extremists are pyromaniacs who have so far been treated leniently – a recipe for a great conflagration. The matches must be taken out of the hands of these pyromaniacs.
An example of the above step is what should have been done to the terrorist who wounded Glick on Wednesday. The fact that the Shin Bet managed to locate Muataz Hijazi so quickly shows both that he has been targeted for a long time and also that it was clear he was capable of carrying out such an attack. It is also clear that the man, a former prisoner, had been planned something for a while and knew precisely who he was going to hurt. It is safe to assume, therefore, that the Shin Bet knew something was brewing around this man. Hijazi is an example of a potential target for preventive arrests of Palestinians and Jews who are prone to inflame tensions.
* Mobilize politicians and clerics of Jews and Muslims, including Abbas and Netanyahu, called the public and especially religious fervor extremists percent to relax and return to sanity. Dialogue with religious leaders and politicians Palestinians - not only from the leaders of the Jerusalem police but from politicians and Israeli rabbis - may have a calming effect. It has been shown in the past.
* A major injection of police and IDF troops in riot gear and their deployment in larger frameworks in the capital, including West Jerusalem and the West Bank. Their presence must be demonstrable. Troops, less experienced than police officers in dealing with riots, must receive precise and detailed instructions on when to open fire and in the use of riot gear. They must also be provided with the correct equipment.
* And most importantly, to avoid possible killing. Each corpse leads to further deterioration and exacerbates the situation more.
It is likely that if all of these steps, and possibly further measures including night curfews in some areas of Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria, are taken in cooperation between the IDF, the police and the Shin Bet, tempers will subside within a few days and normalcy can be restored. Otherwise, fears of a real regional conflagration will become increasingly tangible.
Reflections on Islamism: From the Muslim Brotherhood to the Islamic State
2014 Zeev Schiff Memorial Lecture
Shimon Shamir /Washington Institute
October 31, 2014
On October 23, 2014, Prof. Shimon Shamir of Tel Aviv University delivered The Washington Institute's annual Zeev Schiff Memorial Lecture. The following is a rapporteur's summary of his speech and the subsequent question-and-answer session. To read his full speech,
In historical terms, Islamism is a modern movement. While its adherents claim that it is a purely indigenous effort to purge foreign elements that have penetrated Islam in the modern period, the irony is that Islamism itself was born of the friction between religious loyalties and modern, Western-dominated realities. From the start, the movement thrived in places where Western power and culture abounded -- many Islamist activists were Western-educated professionals who spent years in Europe or the United States, while many terrorist cells were formed by Muslims living in the cities of Germany, Britain, and Belgium. This Western connection facilitated the absorption of modern methods and instruments, including weaponry, Internet communications, aircraft, banking systems, smartphones, and so forth.
Beginning in the 1930s, the Muslim Brotherhood established some of the main elements of Islamism: defining the enforcement of sharia as the ultimate goal, proclaiming jihad, sanctioning political assassinations, placing the umma (community) of Islam above the nation-state, and creating a binding spiritual-political leadership. In the decades since, Islamist movements have undergone three major developments: radicalization, globalization, and territorialization.
First, popular thinkers such as Egypt's Sayyed Qutb inspired Islamists to emphasize offensive rather than defensive jihad, and to focus on the West -- and Western-allied Muslims -- as their target. Later, globalization played a role when mujahedin from all over the Muslim world flocked to conflicts in Afghanistan and Bosnia, then returned home thoroughly trained, indoctrinated, and ready to form extensive webs of Islamist activism. The Islamic State/ISIS is the latest example of the third trend: Islamists controlling territory of their own in which they are free to establish institutions, make sharia the law of the state, form regular armies, use schools and the media to disseminate their ideology, recruit more followers, and launch interventions in other countries.
As for why Islamism emerged and grew in the first place, it was largely a product of the disorientation, humiliation, and frustration that resulted from Western conquests of Muslim lands and the subsequent discovery that Westerners possessed greater wealth, more advanced science and technology, thriving industries, impressive political institutions, and innovative ideas. The eventual liberation of these lands only intensified the crisis because it revealed that their problems did not result just from occupation as claimed, but also from within. These problems have persisted ever since -- as the scores of Arab experts who prepared the UN's 2002 Arab Human Development Report showed, countries in the region lag behind most of the world in all dimensions of development: economic, social, civil, political, and cultural.
Among many Muslims, frustration about their circumstances turned into anger over the years, and Islamists gave expression to this mood, magnified it, and derived their strength and influence from its prevalence. In addition to externalizing blame, their doctrines pushed the argument one step further: if the West, particularly America, is the source of Muslim predicaments, then Muslims must mobilize for a holy war against it. This Islamist mindset persists today, stoked by a growing conviction that the fortunes of the West are waning. Meanwhile, Islamism has proven its durability, and policymakers should reconsider their expectations that a "war on terror" alone will eradicate the threat it poses. Islamism today is quite literally on the map and should be handled accordingly.
Yet far too many Westerners, especially in Europe, are unaware of Islamism's full dimensions and the fact that its adherents hate the West not simply because of what it does, but because of what it is. These and other misunderstandings impede the formulation of effective policies for coping with the Islamist challenge. For example, when Hamas first emerged in Gaza in the 1980s, Israeli authorities did not bother to examine its links with the Muslim Brotherhood, which would have shown them that there was no true separation between the group's socio-religious, political, and militant aims. Only later did they outlaw the group, after it grew significantly in strength.
More recently, U.S. officials made similar miscalculations in their handling of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. If Washington had better understood the group's temporary political pragmatism, it likely would have seen that the Brotherhood is the same movement it always was -- one that came into being as a militant response to the West and is still committed to imposing sharia on Egypt. This misapprehension raised eyebrows not only among many Egyptians, but also in Jordan and Saudi Arabia, whose leaders began to doubt the reliability of the U.S. partnership after 2011.
The take-home message seems clear: when situations such as the Egyptian revolution arise, an outside player who does not have a hand on the pulse of a different society, who is not adequately conversant with its culture, and who does not thoroughly apprehend the nature of the forces at play should not take sides. Only when one of these forces emerges as a grave threat to vital interests is intervention called for -- as is definitely the case with ISIS in Syria and Iraq today.
FROM THE Q&A
The United States and the West should understand that their expectations of a Middle Eastern society cannot be the same as their expectations of a Western society. To be sure, skepticism about whether Muslim countries can be democratic is as wrong as the 1930s skepticism about whether Catholic countries can be democratic. Some elements of Islam support democracy, and others do not; in the end, it depends on the people and how they interpret Islam.
Yet the prevailing assumption in the West -- that once a dictator is removed, democracy follows -- does not reflect reality. Elections do not mean democracy unless they develop from the grassroots, which is not happening yet in most Arab societies. Moreover, the role played by religious ideologies is much stronger than what can be understood based on Western experience. Separation between religion and state, a central theme in the West, is not accepted among most Arab Muslims.
Many of these issues are readily apparent in Egypt, where the people ousted Mubarak, held free elections, voted Islamists into power, and then, when they found out that was a mistake, looked for an alternative who was more or less a Mubarak type of a ruler: namely, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, a leader who came from the army like Gamal Abdul Nasser and Anwar Sadat before him. Despite the misgivings Westerners have about politics that do not match their expectations of democracy, they should realize that this is what Egyptians -- and most other Arab nations -- can sustain at this stage of their history.
Going forward, it is in America's interest to develop as much cooperation with Egypt as possible, since it is the most important country in the Arab world. The current government in Cairo is pragmatic -- it is willing to work with the West and is also open to cooperation with Israel on security matters.
Elsewhere, the U.S.-led campaign against ISIS is a positive sign, but the general impression is that the United Stated is tired from its interventions around the world. As a result, Washington has seemingly chosen a compromise approach: bombing ISIS targets without committing ground forces. The danger is that the bombing campaign validates the group's claims about its fight against the West, thereby boosting its recruitment efforts. The key to defeating ISIS ideologically is to defeat it militarily, since the group draws legitimacy from military success.
For its part, Israel sees the Islamic State as a very serious threat. The group's fighters are present on the Golan ceasefire line, along with al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra. Israelis also worry about Jordan, since ISIS is gathering on its border as well and sees the Hashemite regime as illegitimate. And in Sinai, the terrorist group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis is shifting toward ISIS.
As for the Palestinians, it is important to remember the central role that ideology plays in Middle Eastern politics. The PLO's ideology is political, and therefore compromise is possible if its supporters so choose. Yet religious ideology is a different matter: its claim to legitimacy is divine wisdom, not popular will, and so it cannot change goals, though it can agree to temporary compromises such as ceasefires. The Palestinian movement has a long history of combining political and religious ideology; Hamas, for example, has an Islamist ideology yet still aspires to represent Palestinian nationalism. But such contradictions are common among political movements and should not obscure the core nature of groups like Hamas.
This summary was prepared by Oula Abdulhamid Alrifai.
The Schiff Memorial Lecture Series
Each year, the Schiff Memorial Lecture Series brings to Washington a distinguished leader from Israel's political, diplomatic, or national security establishment. The series was established by a group of Washington Institute trustees to honor the memory of Zeev Schiff, dean of Israeli security experts, former Haaretz defense editor, and longtime associate of The Washington Institute. Previous lecturers have included Ehud Barak, Moshe Yaalon, Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, Amos Yadlin, Yoav Galant, and Amos Gilad.
Canada: Muslim arrested for ties to jihadis in Pakistan, has arsenal of firearms
Robert Spencer/Oct 30, 2014 (Reuters) – Police have jailed a Pakistani gun collector living in Ontario, alleging he is a terrorist threat to Canada, his lawyer said on Thursday, days after attacks in which two Canadian soldiers were killed. Muhammad Aqeeq Ansari, a 30-year-old software designer, was arrested on Monday on allegations he has ties to militants in Pakistan, has amassed an arsenal of firearms, and has expressed extreme views on Twitter, his lawyer, Anser Farooq, said. Ansari, who does not have Canadian citizenship, is being charged under Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act with being a danger to the security of Canada, Farooq said. He faces deportation. Farooq, who has defended other clients on terrorism-related charges, said he has received numerous calls from people who have been contacted by police and intelligence since the attacks last week that killed one soldier in Ottawa and another in Quebec…. On Ansari’s Twitter account, he describes himself as a “Convicted Radical (ConRad) xD. Gamer, Sleeper… Not used to taking anything seriously…. seriously.”
Karbala via Glasgow
Friday, 31 Oct, 2014
Amir Taheri /Asharq Al Awsat
Anxious to reach agreement with the P5+1 on Iran’s nuclear program, President Hassan Rouhani is trying to mobilize support for his divisive policy. Last month, he tried to woo nationalists with a speech in which there was no mention of Islam, let alone the “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei. He talked of Iran as “the builder of civilization for thousands of years,” long before Islam, and as a great power that knew when to fight and when to negotiate.
Last week, with the start of the Shi’ite mourning month of Muharram—the first month of the Islamic calendar—Rouhani tried to use the story of Karbala and the martyrdom of Husayn, the third Imam of Twelver Shi’ites, to justify negotiations with the “infidel.”
Rouhani claimed that Husayn had negotiated with Omar Ibn Sa’ad, sent by Umayyad Caliph Yazid to persuade the Imam to abide by the truce made by his elder brother Hassan with the founder of the Umayyad dynasty Mu’awyiah, and return to Medina.
Husayn refused and engaged in the battle of Ashura, the 10th day of Muharram, in which he and his 72 armed companions perished. Trying to portray Husayn as a man open to compromise and forgiveness, Rouhani also recalled that the would-be martyr had pardoned Hurr, an enemy officer, after he repented and joined the Imam’s companions.
Rouhani is right about both incidents but is wrong in his conclusions. Husayn did talk with Ibn Sa’ad before Ashura, but one could hardly describe the encounter as “negotiations.”
According to Abu-Mikhnaf in his Book of Husayn’s Slaying (Kitab Muqtal Al-Husayn), the oldest accounts of the tragedy, Ibn Sa’ad repeated Yazid’s demand that the Imam return to Medina and make no further trouble. Husayn refused, insisting he would not recognize Yazid as caliph. The session ended in acrimony. That could hardly be regarded as negotiations in any acceptable sense of the term. The method of the two sides was closer to “declamation,” known in Arabic as rajaz.
The Hurr incident occurred on a trajectory different from the one Rouhani claims. Hurr, whose surname incidentally was riahi which means “weathervane” in Arabic, simply changed sides without obtaining any concessions.
Rouhani’s idiosyncratic reading of the Karbala story has provoked a polemical storm in Iran. Some critics have branded his account as “the Glasgow version of Karbala,” because Rouhani holds a PhD in Constitutional Law from Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland.
In a sermon, Ayatollah Adib Yazdi urged Rouhani “to re-learn the Qom version” of the Karbala story. Another theologian, Heshmatallah Qanbari, went further, describing Rouhani’s version as “a glaring error.” Husayn, Qanbari says, did not want to sign “additional protocols” with Yazid, a mocking reference to Rouhani’s efforts to sign something, anything, with the P5+1. “The exchange between Husayn and Ibn Sa’ad was not negotiations,” Qanbari says. “It was a warning [inzar] to Yazid’s envoy from the Imam.”
Another theologian, Ayatollah Muhammad Qa’em-maqami, insists that the key lesson of Karbala was “rejection of truce with the Infidel.” “Those who preach agreement at whatever price speak against the message of Ashura,” Qa’em-maqami said.
As for Ayatollah Javad Suleimani, Rouhani’s “Glasgow Version” ignores “the very foundation of the Shi’ite faith which is seeking martyrdom in the way of God.”
“Today, downtrodden people everywhere in the world are looking to our Islamic revolution and its message of combat and martyrdom,” Suelimani wrote this week. “So, how could we claim that one of the founders of our faith was trying to make a deal with an oppressor?”
Even theologians on government payroll have found it hard to endorse Rouhani’s interpretation. Ayatollah Muhammad-Qassem Wafa, a religious commissar with the army, says that even supposing that the Imam did hold as discussion with the enemy, “the final lesson of Karbala is struggle and martyrdom.”
Ayatollah Mehdi Tabataba’i, a pro-Rouhani mullah, suggests that Husayn decided to fight to the bitter end only after negotiations with Ibn Sa’ad had failed. “Reason dictates that we negotiate,” Tabataba’i says.
The trouble with the “Glasgow Version” is that it tries to re-write an epic as a picaresque novel. The Karbala incident has always been called a hamassah, which means “epic” in both Arabic and Persian. Thus Husayn is an epic hero and, as such, cannot develop, change , mutate, alter or even mature in the course of events. The epic hero arrives fully formed with all his potentials already realized. Nothing, not even martyrdom or victory, would alter his predestined fate (maktoub). He is the translation of the divinely decreed “let-there-be” into the actual “is”.
In a novel, however, the hero could—indeed must—change by becoming older, or thanks to an elixir of youth, even younger, better, worse, richer, poorer, in love, out of love, powerful, or powerless, as the case may be.
In Husayn’s case, there is no circumstance one could imagine in which he might have changed with changing circumstances.
Another problem is that if we assume that Husayn’s position might have changed through negotiations, even imagining his total victory with Yazid agreeing to step down and giving his rival the caliphate, we would empty the Karbala story of its central theme: martyrdom.
The late Ayatollah Khomeini was not a great theologian. However, even he understood that it was not up to individuals to choose martyrdom; some are chosen, most are not. Husayn was chosen to become “Lord of the Martyrs” (Sayyed Al-Shuhada).
Husayn was not faced with an a la carte choice that included a deal with Yazid, return to Medina, taqiyyeh (dissimulation) to save his life, or even redeployment to Lake Razzaza to have access to water. Had he done any of those things he would have become a picaresque character rather than an epic hero. Rouhani also commits an error of categories when he claims that “reason” justifies negotiations. Faith involves belief in matters that “reason” might regard as unreasonable, even absurd. Vice-versa, faith probes into depths that reason does not pretend to reach. The “Glasgow version” is an example of mixing religion and politics, an exercise that harms both. Rouhani is a politician and ought to argue his case in political terms. If he believes that making a deal with the P5+1 is good for Iran, he should try to sell the idea in political terms, not by having recourse to religious themes that, his Scottish PhD notwithstanding, he seems to misunderstand.
Tunisia’s Lesson for Lebanon
Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat
Thursday, 31 Oct, 2014
Relations between Tunisia and Lebanon have a long history, and the connections between them do not stop with the Greek story of Elissa (Dido), daughter of the king of Tyre, who later became the founder and queen of Carthage, the nucleus of today’s Tunisia.
Throughout history there have been several similarities between Lebanon and Tunisia: Both have been blessed with great natural beauty and a lovely climate, both have been keen to interact with the outside world, and both have been proud of their strong belief in civilian rule. The latter, though, did not prevent them occasionally from succumbing to excessive veneration of “historic leaders” (cults of personality), or tolerating a police state masquerading as a civil government.
Here the similarities end, since Tunisia has succeeded more than any of the other “Arab Spring” countries in achieving a smooth and positive political transition, while Lebanon has dismally failed the test of coping with the repercussions of that “Arab Spring,” although its relationship with it was no more than that of geographical proximity.
The Tunisian people have passed the test of holding a democratic election with flying colors. During the polls, the parties of both the president and speaker of parliament were soundly defeated, and the parliamentary bloc of the largest party and main representative of political Islam was badly wounded. Meanwhile, a liberal civilian party won the biggest number of seats, and a committed but poorly funded leftist party came fourth. In this election, the Islamists were not in a hurry to impose their hegemony, nor were their opponents in a rush to get rid of them. Indeed, Tunisia lived relatively peacefully under a “cohabitation” arrangement that was barely shaken by the clashes with extremists in the Chaambi Mountains on the Algerian border, nor by the assassinations of leftist leaders Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi.
Alas, one finds Lebanon on the other side of the spectrum. Not only has it been without a president for several months, it also remains without a real government, without national consensus, or esprit de corps in its army and security forces. Lebanon is actually a country without a roof and walls. Its politicians and officials have no sense of responsibility, and those entrusted with its affairs do not understand what duty means. Last but not least, its citizens do not share the same allegiance, sense of belonging, or common fate. Given all this, it is not surprising that despite serving in the same cabinet, each minister behaves as an individual, totally free of any sense of collective government responsibility.
The Syrian revolt against Bashar Al-Assad has truly been an important test for various regional and international players, in addition to the Assad regime itself. As far as Lebanon is concerned, Hezbollah admitted openly that it was engaged in the fighting in Syria on the side of the regime. Other sources also claim that several Sunni groups have joined the fighting against the regime and the Shi’ite militia backing it under orders from Iran. Later on, Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Hezbollah, suggested to his adversaries within Lebanon that they should fight against his party inside Syria rather than bring the confrontation into Lebanon.
This is a clear sign that Hezbollah was always well aware of the consequences of its active military involvement in the Syrian war, specifically with regards to domestic Lebanese politics. The former Hezbollah-dominated Lebanese government headed by Najib Mikati was also cautious about these consequences, which led it to adopt—vocally—a policy of staying out of the Syrian conflict.
In the meantime, the Lebanese military establishment, composed of the army and security apparatuses, remain an honest reflection of the confessional and political divisions of Lebanese society, at least at the highest ranks. No senior commander is appointed without the blessing of his confessional leader. Furthermore, this military establishment was actually rebuilt during the period of Syrian hegemony over Lebanon between 1990 and 2005. As a reminder, it is worth mentioning here that following the Taif Agreement of 1989, all Lebanese militias agreed to disband and hand over their arsenals to the government, except Hezbollah—under the pretext that it was fighting against the Israeli occupation of south Lebanon. The disarmed militias welcomed this exception in appreciation of Hezbollah’s sacrifices.
Israel eventually withdrew its occupying forced in 2000, and the UN agreed a “blue line” as the border line between Israel and Lebanon. But Hezbollah still refused to disarm, claiming that the blue line ignores the fact that the Shebaa Farms and Kfarchouba Heights (Sunni areas in Southeast Lebanon) were “Lebanese territories,” and thus the withdrawal was incomplete.
Between 1998 and 2005, Lebanon witnessed a bitter political feud between the then-president Emile Lahoud, a former army chief and a staunch ally of Damascus, and ex-prime minister Rafik Hariri. This feud ended with the assassination of Hariri, for which Damascus-connected operatives were initially accused, before the Special International Tribunal for Lebanon formally accused five members of Hezbollah. The latter reacted strongly, by refusing to hand over the five suspects, and also refused to hand a sixth suspect over to a Lebanese court after being accused of the attempted assassination of cabinet minister Boutros Harb.
The rapid growth of Hezbollah’s influence in Lebanon culminated in the use of its military might against its fellow Lebanese in 2008, as it swept through predominantly Sunni Beirut and tried to attack the Druze mountainous heartlands. Such action provoked a bitter sectarian counter-reaction in Sunni areas, including the cities of Tripoli and Sidon, the capitals of northern and southern Lebanon respectively, and the town of Arsal in the northern Beqaa, in northeast Lebanon.
So when the Syrian revolt began, the Lebanese army was put to a critical test. In the short run, and on the face of it, it seems to have succeeded. However, the reality may be different. Moderate Sunni leaders have all rushed to declare their support for the army’s actions against Sunni jihadists, but even they know only too well that their popular bases may not be in agreement. It is true the Sunni masses dislike the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and the Al-Nusra Front, but they dislike the army leadership’s bias—and what they view as its subservience to Hezbollah—even more. The other day two Lebanese commentators appeared on a pan-Arab TV Channel, one Christian and the other Shi’ite. Both were very frank and brave, saying what Sunni politicians are trying to avoid speaking of. The gist of their argument was that Lebanon cannot do without the army, and that it is the only guarantor of the country’s sovereignty, but such an army must be an army for all Lebanese, and free of all factional and sectarian influence. It must not stop suspects from a certain sect because they may be carrying rifles while turning a blind eye to convoys of armed men from another sect transporting rockets and heavy weapons. It must not raid neighborhoods, towns and villages of one community in order to arrest suspects, when is not allowed to venture even close to the security zones of other groups harboring and protecting other suspects. These are stark facts, far more important than sweet-talk and insincere pledges.
ISIS kills 220 from opposing Iraqi tribe
Staff writer, Al Arabiya News
Thursday, 31October 2014
Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants executed at least 220 Iraqis in retaliation against a tribe’s opposition to their takeover of territory west of Baghdad, security sources and witnesses said.
Two mass graves were discovered on Thursday containing some of the 300 members of the Sunni Muslim Albu Nimr tribe that ISIS had seized this week. The captives, men aged between 18 and 55, had been shot at close range, witnesses said.
The bodies of more than 70 Albu Nimr men were dumped near the town of Hit in the Sunni heartland Anbar province, according to witnesses who said most of the victims were members of the police or an anti-ISIS militia called Sahwa (Awakening).
“Early this morning we found those corpses and we were told by some ISIS militants that ‘those people are from Sahwa, who fought your brothers the ISIS, and this is the punishment of anybody fighting ISIS’,” a witness said.
The insurgents had ordered men from the tribe to leave their villages and go to Hit, 130 km (80 miles) west of Baghdad, promising them “safe passage”, tribal leaders said. They were then seized and shot.
A mass grave near the city of Ramadi, also in Anbar province, contained 150 members of the same tribe, security officials said.
The Awakening militia were established with the encouragement of the United States to fight al Qaeda during the U.S. “surge” offensive of 2006-2007.
Washington, which no longer has ground forces in Iraq but is providing air support for Iraqi forces, hopes the government can rebuild the shaky alliance with Sunni tribes, particularly in Anbar which is now mostly under the control of ISIS, a group that follows an ultra-hardline version of Sunni Islam.
But Sunni tribal leaders complain that Shi’ite Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has failed to deliver on promises of weapons to counter ISIS’s machineguns, sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and tanks.
Sheikh Naeem al-Ga’oud, one of the leaders of the Albu Nimir tribe, said: “The Americans are all talk and no action.”
ISIS was on the march in Anbar this year even before it seized much of northern Iraq in June. As the
government and fighters from the autonomous Kurdish region have begun to recapture territory in the north, ISIS has pressed its advances in Anbar, coming ever closer to Baghdad.
In the north, government forces said they were closing in on the city of Baiji from two sides on Thursday in an attempt to break ISIS’s siege of Iraq’s biggest refinery.
A member of the Iraqi security forces said they might enter the city in the next few hours but he acknowledged that roadside bombs and landmines were slowing the advance.
“Now we are close to the checkpoint of southern Baiji, which means less than 500 metres from the town,” he said, requesting anonymity.
“We haven’t seen strong resistance by them (ISIS) but we are stopping every kilometre to defuse landmines.”
His account could not be independently confirmed.
ISIS fighters seized Baiji and surrounded the sprawling refinery in June during a lightning offensive through northern Iraq.
The group also controls a swathe of territory in neighboring Syria and has proclaimed a caliphate straddling both countries.
Ten Iraqi peshmerga fighters entered the conflict-ridden northern Syrian border town of Kobane, crossing over from Turkey on Thursday, the first from among a group of 150 Kurdish troops on their way into the embattled Kobane, activists said, the Associated Press.
The development followed heavy overnight clashes as Islamic State fighters unsuccessfully tried to capture the border crossing point, the only gateway in and out of the strategic Kurdish town besieged by the militants.
Kobane-based activist Mustafa Bani said the 10 entered Kobane first and that the rest will follow gradually later in the day because the border crossing point has been targeted by Islamic State fighters. Bani spoke to The Associated Press just minutes after the peshmerga forces arrived.
Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Thursday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may be benefiting from U.S. attacks on ISIS fighters in his country, but added that U.S. policy still supported Assad’s removal from power.
(With Reuters and AFP)
Iran’s human rights record is spiraling downwards
Friday, 31 October 2014
Majid Rafizadeh/Al Arabiya
The latest findings which were revealed this week to the United Nations General Assembly highlight the increasing alarm with regards to the human rights records in the Islamic Republic. The new report is provided by United Nations human rights investigator Ahmad Shaheed, who was a former diplomat from the Maldives and currently special rapporteur on human rights issues in the Islamic Republic
The recent U.N. report came a day after Shaheed expressed his shock in relation to the execution of an Iranian woman on Saturday. Reyhaneh Jabbari was 26-years-old and in an Iranian prison for allegedly killing the man who raped her. The alleged rapist, Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, was a former employee in Iran’s intelligence ministry.
“President Hassan Rowhani was partially elected by the majority of Iranian people as a moderate candidate who would potentially promote civil liberties, social justice, and individual freedoms ”
Shaheed particularly raised concerns with regards to due process and fairness of her trail in the judiciary system. Jabbari’s death sentence sparked an international outcry, specifically from the European Union, the United States, and human rights groups which condemned the sentence and asked President Hassan Rowhani to revoke the execution.
The structural surge in human rights violations
The surge in human rights abuses appears to have been carried out on several arenas. First of all, there has been an alarming increase in the number of prison and public executions in comparison to last year. The period of this surge in executions and human rights violations is during Rowhani’s time in office.
In 2012, under the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the recorded number of executions was 580 people. This indicates that there has been an increase of approximately 45 percent in executions under the presidency of Rowhani. In 2013, 687 people were executed.
In addition, the range of charges for executing Iranian citizens appears to have been widened. The legal reasons behind executions include political, economic, human rights activism, and drug trafficking. Addressing a General Assembly human rights committee this week, Shaheed stated: “a surge in executions in the country over the past 12-15 months.” Shaheed added, “at least 852 individuals were executed in the period since June of last year, including eight juveniles.”
The second human rights violation is targeted at those who are engaged in freedom of information, particularly journalists. In addition, other reporters such as bloggers, Facebook users, and people who are active on social media have been restricted as well. The number of journalists who have been detained in the Islamic Republic has also ratcheted up. According to Shaheed, there are currently 35 journalists under detention in Iran.
The third phenomenon appears to represent concerns regarding the persecution of religious minorities including the Christians, Sunnis, Dervishes, and Baha’i community. Currently, 120 people of the Baha’i community, as well as 49 Christians, are being documented to be in prison in Iran, solely for religious practices it seems. Some members of the Arab community, characterized as “cultural rights activists”, as well as juveniles have also been handed the death sentence.
The fourth category of human rights abuses is linked to the restrictions and deterioration of women’s rights in the Islamic Republic. For example, the Iranian government has also imposed quota on the admission of Iranian girls to universities. According to the U.N. human rights report, the number of Iranian women enrolled at universities have come down to 48 percent.
Hassan Rowhani and Iran’s international image
The timing of the increase in human rights violations is intriguing for several reasons. President Hassan Rowhani was partially elected by the majority of Iranian people as a moderate candidate who would potentially promote civil liberties, social justice, and individual freedoms (including freedom of speech, assembly and press).
In addition, the recent U.N. report, as well as the wave of acid attacks against Iranian women, and the execution of Jabbari comes at a time that Rowhani is at his final stages to seal a comprehensive nuclear deal with the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States).
Nevertheless, it is crucial to point out that based on the Iran’s constitution, presidents have minimal power over such developments in domestic affairs. The four crucial institutions are the Judiciary system (which is dominated by hardliners), Iran’s governmental vigilante groups, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, and the office of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Politically speaking, Iran’s Supreme Leader does enjoy a final say over all the decision made by any of the aforementioned governmental institutions. And historically speaking, whenever Iran has been led by a moderate or reformist president, these institutions and the hardliners have tightened up their control of power over the society, freedom of information, civil liberties, and political and economic freedoms.
As the nuclear talks continues, the latest events and surge in human rights abuses appear to have some impact on the Islamic Republic’s international image as well as President Rowhani’s moderate platform and slogan of “the government of prudence and hope.”
Notwithstanding the aforementioned issues, one of the key questions is whether these developments will have an impact on Iran’s nuclear negotiations. Based on examinations of Iran’s nuclear file of the over a decade, It is very unlikely that six world powers including the United States and European ones include the human rights issue or draw attention to these phenomena during the nuclear talks. In other words, civil liberties and human rights have not been on the top of the six powers’ foreign policy agenda when it comes to nuclear negotiations with Iran.
Sinai: Terrorist presence becomes full-fledged insurgency
Friday, 31 October 2014
Abdallah Schleifer/Al Arabiya
A week later, Egypt is still reeling from the coordinated attack in the Sinai that cost 31 soldiers their lives. Much of the reporting has focused on the government’s serious and measured response, and on reaction in Egypt, the region and beyond.
The price of all that reaction dominating media reports and commentary is that in many cases the impression remains – as indicated by the first reports – that the high loss of life was because of a single suicide bomber driving into a checkpoint in a vehicle loaded with explosives. As such, some may think that the government was overreacting.
“Cairo’s determined response - including a state of emergency and curfew in Sinai, and construction of a buffer zone along the border with Gaza - is totally justifiable”
But that was not the case. Insurgents had planted roadside explosives to target army or security forces rushing to the scene of the first explosion. The detonation of these hidden explosives contributed to the high death toll. Army investigators were reported as saying dozens were involved in this highly-coordinated attack, which benefited from experienced and possibly foreign hands not present until now in leading positions.
According to rumors circulating among Sinai tribesmen, there is now a working relationship between the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and a rejuvenated, enlarged Ansar al-Maqdis that has incorporated other local jihadist groups. There are reports from Syria that former Egyptian officers with jihadist sympathies, who had fled Egypt and now serve as a mainstay for ISIS intelligence, are involved.
In other words, Sinai is no longer a dangerous region subject to periodic terrorist attacks. This is now a full-fledged insurgency, in all likelihood operating from bases in Gaza close to the border with Egypt, and staffed increasingly by Egyptians and Gazans who are believed to have travelled to Syria and Iraq and have now returned.
As such, the government and army are taking measures quite typical of any authority seriously threatened by such an insurgency. Cairo’s determined response - including a state of emergency and curfew in Sinai, and construction of a buffer zone along the border with Gaza - is totally justifiable. Of course Hamas was quick to denounce the attack, chiefly so as not to provoke a massive Egyptian counter-attack.
Egyptian military courts are now responsible for attacks against state institutions, and the media have been formally called upon not to publish anything that undermines military operations against insurgents. There has been predictable, almost tiresome criticism of these security measures by human rights organizations in Egypt and abroad.
What would be more helpful and relevant would be expressions of concern that evacuating Sinai civilians and destroying their homes will be counter-productive unless they are quickly reimbursed.
Sinai’s Bedouin population has long had grievances over their treatment, including their exclusion from private development projects, and the confiscation of tribal grazing lands. As such, if those displaced by the buffer zone are not handled properly, they will not provide intelligence on the whereabouts and movements of insurgents. They may even join their ranks.
However, part of the problem is on the Gaza side of the border, where Hamas has tolerated the same jihadist groups. It is critical that the recently-formed Palestinian unity government take over the administration of Gaza from Hamas. As a participant in the unity government - even though its members do not hold cabinet posts - Hamas should have no objection. However, if it does object, then the unity government is a farce.
At that point, the threat of a Hamas-tolerated or clandestinely-aided jihadist insurgency based in Gaza and raiding the Sinai would be cause for the Egyptian military to enter Gaza and destroy the insurgency and any armed resistance to such an intervention. Washington will no doubt express disapproval.
In Lebanon, we are overcome with anger
Friday, 31 October 2014
Nayla Tueni/Al Arabiya
Al-Nusra Front’s emir in Qalmoun, Abu Malek al-Talli, called on his supporters via an audio recording to support their brothers in [Lebanon’s] Tripoli and threatened to ignite chaos in Lebanon.
We were overwhelmed with anger upon hearing this call and we will not push aside this anger, especially upon realizing that some parties, both inside Lebanon and beyond its borders, try to impose on its population.
No honorable Lebanese citizen can but revolt against this threat which targets all of us regardless of our sect, hometown and political affiliation. Supporting the Syrian revolution to topple a tyrannical regime does not at all mean supporting Islamized terrorism which is more tyrannical than the Assad regime. Al-Nusra and ISIS cannot be alternatives to the Syrian regime. There is a dire need to find a third power within the core of the revolution.
No sane man
No sane man in Lebanon can but stand behind the Lebanese army because the alternatives are ISIS and al-Nusra. The alternative will be the destruction of Lebanon all over again. It will be the restoration of 1975’s bitter experience when hesitation (to avoid using the term “conspiracy”) prevented the army from performing its role and thus weakened it, leading to its division which in turn divided the entire country.
“No honorable Lebanese citizen can but revolt against this threat which targets all of us regardless of our sect, hometown and political affiliation”
This is the bitter brew Lebanon must drink from. Lebanon has tasted its bitterness before and it has been capable - until this day - of dissociating itself as much as possible from Syrian events. It is true that some parties have certain reservations regarding the army and the security forces but truth be told, exposing these problems at this phase is considered a form of backstabbing. Criticizing the army over its so-called excessive use of power seems to be some sort of cover for terrorism as it’s not possible to impose control in Tripoli and the north or to protect civilians and prevent the establishment of an illegal statelet by distributing flowers!
Last week’s unrest in Tripoli reminded us of the Nahr al-Bared battles. That military feat lasted 105 days in 2007 and cost Lebanon 168 martyrs and hundreds of injured people. The situation ended up in a shameful political settlement in which Shaker al-Abssi and his supporters were allowed to escape. This shameful settlement led to the deterioration of the situation and to chaos and disobedience. This worsened in more than one area and more than one political party made use of it. This situation, in addition to several other factors, has paved the road to what we are currently suffering.
An Anatomy of Sisi’s Liberals
Nervana Mahmoud/Washington Institute
October 31/ 2014
Many self-proclaimed liberals in Egypt supported the military’s intervention in July 2013 that led to President Muhammad Morsi’s ouster. Their stance has baffled many Western observers, who wonder how anyone with liberal values can support an oppressive coup that removed a democratically elected president. There is no easy answer to this question, but an examination of Egypt’s contemporary evolution may explain the state of mind and perplexing behavior of the liberals who have coalesced around Egypt’s new president, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi.
The concept of the Egyptian military as a “liberal force” originated during the rule of Muhammad Ali Pasha, the founder of contemporary Egypt. Historically, themilitary was always run by foreign warriors, known as the Mamluks. They continued to exist under the Ottoman Empire. However, they posed a threat to Muhammad Ali, the ambitious ruler of Egypt. Ali declared independence from the Ottomans, got rid of the Mamluks, and strategically decided to incorporate native Egyptian peasants into the ranks of his modern and professional military force. For Egyptians, the idea that our loyal men are fighting for our country prompted a deep trust in the military as the savior of Egypt that remains to this day.
On the civilian side, although Egypt experienced an enlightenment movement in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it was not entirely successful. Not only did it face strong opposition from conservatives, but it was also marred by cowardice and ideological incoherence. For example, prominent nationalists and strong advocates for a modern, independent country opposed feminism. For them, the views of Egyptian feminists such as Qassim Amin regarding women’s rights were unsuitable for Egypt. In other words, they wanted an Egypt free of colonialism, but tolerant of oppressive attitudes toward women. This cherry-picking of modernity was the first step in creating a deformed liberal movement in Egypt.
Furthermore, these liberals failed to support one another in times of crisis. Very few stood by iconic Egyptian writer Taha Hussein after he wrote On Pre-Islamic Poetry, in which he challenged the authenticity of some of the stories in the Quran. Hussein was virtually left alone to defend himself against a barrage of criticism. Although no legal action was taken against him, he lost his position at Cairo University; other liberal intellectuals faced similar experiences later on.
Hussein’s experience taught liberals to embrace a softer approach to publicize their ideas, favoring mediums such as fiction, cinema, and the arts. The aim was to change society’s subconscious rather than conscious behavior, while avoiding confrontation with traditionalists and religious scholars. It worked, but only just. While Egyptians enjoyed their liberal movies, they were not necessarily happy to reciprocate them in real life. The gap between the cinema and ordinary Egyptian life in the 1930s and 1940s, therefore, was very wide.
While liberals focused on forging a progressive Egyptian identity as a pillar of the state, the Muslim Brotherhood aimed to undermine their mission. By claiming to defend Islam from a “liberal assault,” the Muslim Brotherhood succeeded in gaining empathy and sympathy from certain sections of Egyptian society. Although some analysts argue that the Muslim Brotherhood did contribute significantly to Egypt’s overall identity, I believe that Egyptians share only some of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Islamist values. The volatile dynamics of Egypt’s political and social arenas have prevented many Egyptians from reflecting deeply on this unharmonious, perhaps even contradictory, mix of conservatism and liberalism.
The 1952 revolution was a crucial milestone in the liberal-conservative standoff. On the one hand, President Gamal Abdul Nasser needed the liberals to help forge his political ideology that blended elements of classic liberalism with basic Islamic ones. On the other hand, the liberals needed Nasser’s authoritarianism in their battle against the Muslim Brotherhood, as they lacked the intellectual prowess to confront the ills of political Islam. Nasser therefore served as a patron who could help them evade an intellectual confrontation with the Islamists, while subtly fighting the Islamists at the same time.
Nasser’s reign was crucial in marginalizing the Muslim Brotherhood, while allowing a newly engineered identity to dominate Egyptian politics and society. Many Egyptians welcomed this new identity; the liberals embraced the concept of the “liberal military” and it seeped into the nation’s collective psyche. The cinematic productions of the 1950s and 1960s are glaring examples of this glorification of the military and its soldiers.
Unlike Nasser, President Hosni Mubarak drew scant affection from Egyptian liberals. Mubarak had abandoned Nasser’s contract with the liberals as part of his survival strategy. He uprooted many of them from various positions, particularly in the Ministry of Culture, a move that greatly minimized their influence on the younger generations. Moreover, Mubarak reduced the military into a shadowy, albeit rich, institution that was remembered in the context of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War.
Mubarak also allowed the Muslim Brotherhood to empty the liberal core of Egypt’s identity and expand their shadowy, conservative one instead. They were allowed to import the social mores and customs from other Islamic countries into the fabric of Egyptian society. Mubarak nonetheless set a clear directive to the Brothers: they were not to pierce the liberal veneer of the state. But it was finally penetrated after the 2011 uprising and Morsi’s subsequent election, a move that rattled both the liberals and the generals alike.
It is hard to identify Egyptian liberals’ true feelings about the military. They probably feel an eclectic mix of genuine respect and trust tied to dystopian thoughts. The marriage between the liberals and the generals grew weak under Mubarak, but was rekindled by Morsi’s overt Islamism. Inadvertently, Morsi made both understand the need to join together to survive. After the 2013 coup, the military succeeded in restoring its image as the patron of Egypt’s classical liberal values, allowing the liberals to defeat the Islamists without exposing the discrepancies in their beliefs.
Sisi’s liberals are the inevitable product of Egypt’s incomplete, contemporary evolution. Their manners, behaviors, and beliefs are stark examples of what has gone wrong in Egypt over the past 150 years. It is true that the military establishment is less conservative and more authentically Egyptian than the Muslim Brotherhood. But to define the military as a liberal force is wrong. There are plenty of ways to explain Sisi’s popularity among the public, but liberalism is certainly not one of them.
**Nervana Mahmoud is a blogger and writer on Middle East issues.
President Sisi’s Worldview
Marc Sievers/Al Arabiya
Egypt’s former defense minister and current president, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, is not yet a well-known personality outside of Egypt. In addition to his bilateral meeting with President Obama in late September, the Egyptian government took advantage of Sisi’s attendance at the United Nations General Assembly to arrange a series of meetings with American analysts, pundits, business leaders, and interest groups to formally introduce the country’s new president to American audiences perceived as having an influence on U.S.-Egypt relations. Yet Sisi remains the subject of conflicting and contradictory reports. For example, Sisi is the nemesis of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, but he is also known to be a pious Muslim who was appointed to the position of defense minister by former president Muhammad Morsi as part of an effort by Morsi to assert greater control over the military. The following is an attempt by an American diplomat who had the opportunity to attend a number of meetings with Sisi over the past year to offer some observations on one of the Middle East’s most important emerging leaders.
Sisi is first and foremost a product of the Egyptian military, where he spent much of his professional life since becoming a military cadet reportedly at age 15. Like most senior Egyptian military officers, Sisi comes from a traditional, Muslim middle class family, although unlike many officers who grew up in villages in the Nile Delta region, Sisi was born and raised in Cairo, first in the Gamaliya quarter of Islamic Cairo made famous in Naguib Mahfouz’s Cairo Trilogy, the Sisi family later moved to the modern urban suburb of Heliopolis, where he continues to live.
Certainly part of Sisi’s appeal to many Egyptians is his ability to communicate directly in colorful colloquial Arabic, even while he has mastered eloquent formal Arabic used for official occasions. Moreover, his attitude toward Islam, as he has explained both publicly and privately, is that of a traditional believer who is comfortably devout in his daily life but rejects the contemporary politicization of religion by Islamist preachers and movements. It is worth noting that when Morsi appointed Sisi as defense minister in August 2012, replacing Field Marshal Muhammad Hussein Tantawi, Cairo’s always-imaginative rumor mill churned out the idea that Sisi was actually a closet supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood. Within less than a year, Sisi ordered the arrest of Morsi and most of the Muslim Brotherhood’s leadership. Sisi now insists that the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organization and the original source of Islamist terrorism, but initially, as defense minister, he appeared to view the military as a mediator between Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood on one hand and Egyptian non-Islamist political parties on the other. As mediation efforts failed and violence in the streets became routine, the military began to issue statements that they would “not allow Egypt to enter a dark tunnel.” Sisi insists the military ousted Morsi to avert a civil war, but by that time, it was clear that the Muslim Brotherhood also perceived Sisi and the military as their primary foe. Morsi made many mistakes as president, but no doubt his most serious error of judgment was to view Sisi as a potential sympathizer due to his reputation for piety.
Regarding the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), Sisi urges Western governments to look for and shut down the recruitment centers that operate among Muslim communities in the West. Sisi insists that the Egyptian military’s counter-terrorism campaign in the Sinai Peninsula and perhaps over the border in Libya is part of the same battle against Islamist extremism that the U.S. is leading against ISIS. Sisi reacted sharply and defiantly to the October 24 jihadist attack on an Egyptian military position in the Sinai that resulted in the death of at least 30 soldiers, declaring a state of emergency in parts of North Sinai and accusing unnamed foreign powers of financing the attack and vowing to wage “extensive war” against terrorism. Reported Egyptian intervention in Libya, while officially denied by the government, probably marks a new departure from the cautious policies toward trans-border security threats followed by Mubarak, Tantawi, and Morsi, demonstrating the seriousness with which the new Egyptian leadership takes the threats posed by the presence of armed terrorist organizations in both the Sinai and Libya’s ungoverned desert. Echoing the views of Egypt’s Islamic religious establishment, Sisi insists that extremist organizations exploit religion and religious ideas for political ends, but do not represent a true understanding of Islam. At the same time, he continues to say that there is room for the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists not involved in violence to rejoin the political process. Efforts by Egyptians and others to promote dialogue between Sisi’s government and some remaining Muslim Brotherhood representatives or other supporters of Morsi have gone nowhere so far, but it will be interesting to watch to what extent Muslim Brotherhood and other pro-Morsi elements will be allowed to participate in upcoming parliamentary elections as independents, or if the Muslim Brotherhood will decide the boycott the process entirely.
Sisi has made clear that his priorities as president are to restore order and revive the economy. Sisi’s statements on Egypt’s economy indicate his understanding that the current subsidy system is unsustainable, and his first initiative as president was to implement a series of subsidy reforms that had been carefully planned by civilian economists. Sisi’s relations with Egypt’s business elite will be one key to whether his economic policies succeed. Some of his statements show him to believe that the military should continue to have an active role in the economy, especially in the development of infrastructure. Given his military background and education, he will need first-rate economic advice to get the policies right. His ambitious plans to expand the Suez Canal have been well-received by the Egyptian public, probably more due to the project’s nationalist symbolism than to its economic viability.
Political reconciliation is not at the top of the agenda, and in Egypt’s current hyper-sensitive nationalist environment, the term “reconciliation” is perceived by many as taboo because it implies that the Muslim Brotherhood remains a legitimate partner for dialogue. The government’s crackdown on political dissent, including the conviction of Al Jazeera journalists and a number of prominent left wing and liberal activists, has generated considerable international criticism. But among most Egyptians it appears likely that the success or failure of Sisi’s economic policies will play a larger role in determining whether he will be able to retain popular support. Unlike former president Hosni Mubarak, Sisi states openly that there has been a fundamental change in the relationship between Egypt’s rulers and its citizens. Sisi reportedly told a group of French parliamentarians, “If the Egyptian people decide they don’t want me, I will go.” Whether or not this statement is sincere, it represents an interesting acknowledgement that Egyptian rulers can no longer take popular legitimacy for granted.
Since the July 1952 overthrow of King Farouk by a group of military officers, military men have ruled Egypt for all but one year. Sisi fits the pattern in many ways, but in others he may represent a transitional figure. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and speaks warmly of his many years of close cooperation with the U.S. military, a marked contrast from the Soviet-trained Tantawi, his immediate predecessor as defense minister. Yet he is also a proud nationalist who insists that Egypt needs to develop its relations with other powers, such as Russia and China. And of course, Sisi has made restoring Egypt’s traditionally close ties to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates into a strategic imperative. Yet despite repeated media reports of a massive new arms deal with Russia, it appears that so far, Sisi’s Moscow connection is more of a matter of exploring options than a strategic shift, and Egyptian government spokesmen repeatedly state that Egypt is not seeking to replace one partner with another. Sisi’s close security cooperation with Israel in the Sinai and his understanding of Israeli security concerns in Gaza are underlined by private Egyptian military and intelligence expressions of appreciation for Israel’s supportive attitude. The October 24 attack in the Sinai led the Egyptian government to postpone hosting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on Gaza that were scheduled to be held in Cairo and will likely also lead to further behind-the-scenes Egyptian-Israeli security cooperation. The Egyptian government has indicated they suspect Palestinian groups in Gaza of involvement in the Sinai attack, but the basis of their charges are not clear. Despite new tensions between Egypt and Hamas, and barring some major breakthrough between Israel and the Palestinians, it appears unlikely that the new security cooperation will lead to a more openly friendly political relationship with Israel.
Even if no longer a U.S. client state, Egypt remains a strategic prize and a key element of Middle East stability. At least for the next few years, the direction it takes is likely to be determined by the fate of Sisi and his policies.
Marc Sievers is the Diplomat-in-Residence at The Washington Institute and former U.S. deputy chief of mission and charge d’affaires in Cairo. The views in this article are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. government.