LCCC ENGLISH DAILY
Quotation For Today/God’s Sovereign Choice
Romans 09/07-29: It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. For this was how the promise was stated: “At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.”Not only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses,“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? As he says in Hosea: “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one, In the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’there they will be called ‘children of the living God.’ Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved. For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality.” It is just as Isaiah said previously: “Unless the Lord Almighty had left us descendants, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah.”
A Pakistani Christian Couple Burned Alive for Alleged Desecration of Quran
International Christian Concern (ICC)
Shahzad Masih, 28, and Shama Bibi, 25 and pregnant, were killed in Kasur, Pakistan
11/04/2014 Washington, D.C.
(International Christian Concern) - A Christian husband and wife were beaten and then burned to death by a mob of angry Muslims at a brick kiln in Kasur, Pakistan. Incited by Islamic clerics who claimed the couple had committed blasphemy against Islam by burning pages of the Quran, the couple was taken hostage for three days before being violently killed early on Tuesday, November 4.
Mr. Shahzad Masih, 28 and Mrs. Shama Bibi, 25, used to work under the supervision of Mr. Muhammad Yousaf Gujjar, the owner of the factory, according to the facts collected by an ICC representative who visited Kot Radha Kishan in the Kasur district on Tuesday.
"On November 1st, the couple was locked up at the owner's office. They were tortured for three days and then accused of desecrating the Quran," Haneef Masih, 25, a local Christian, told ICC. "The clerics made announcements though the mosque's amplifiers and instigated the Muslims to kill the blasphemers," he continued.
he mob of more than 100 people, according to the BBC, came and violently took the couple from the room where they had been held. The mob stoned the Christian couple, tied them to a vehicle and dragged them to the brick kiln where they were burned alive, according to a local source.
While police did not take action to prevent the killings, they have reportedly detained 35 people for questioning regarding the incident, according to Breitbart. Mr. Shahbaz Sharif, Chief Minister of Punjab province has constituted a three-member committee to investigate the killings of the Christian couple.
Pastor Sardar Masih Gill confirmed that the couple had four children and that Shama was a few months pregnant with a fifth child. There were approximately 10 - 12 other Christian families working in the factory who have since left the area for security.
The exact details of what led to the couple being abducted originally remains unclear as various reports have indicated a dispute over money or employment prior to the couple being accused of desecrating the Quran and blaspheming Islam.
A senior human rights activist in Lahore condemned the incident, stating this is another case of the misuse of blasphemy laws. He urged the authorities to ensure the protection of the vulnerable segments, i.e. religious minorities, and demanded that the culprits should be arrested.
ICC Regional Manager Todd Daniels said, "The brutal killing of Shahzad and Shama once again highlights the extreme danger of religious fanaticism that Christians in Pakistan face on a regular basis. The accusation of blasphemy can be used for any dispute and can often prove deadly as it did today, inciting a mob to brutally murder this young couple. It remains urgent that the Pakistani government address the issue of false accusations of blasphemy. The actions taken by the federal courts in sentencing Christians like Asia Bibi to death provide motivation for mobs to carry out their own extrajudicial punishments."
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Lebanese Related News
published on November
A Pakistani Christian Couple Burned Alive for Alleged Desecration of Quran
Geagea: We Can Avoid Extension by Electing President instead of Renewing Parliament's Term
Kataeb Declares Boycott of Extension Session, Accuses MPs of 'Exceeding Powers'
Aoun: There's Nothing Called Vacuum, Elections are the Alternative to Extension
Al-Rahi Says Coexistence in Lebanon a Leading Example
France, Saudi Arabia Finalize Arms Deal for Lebanese Military
Nasrallah: Hezbollah achieving 'great victory' in Syria
Future sees positive signs in Nasrallah speech
Saudi Arabia, France sign long-awaited arms deal for Lebanon
Shahhal: Warrant against me will have consequences Police seal off Beirut suburbs for Ashoura Tripoli sheikh: Warrant against me will have consequences Emaar shying from Lebanon: chief Vatican Delegation Arrives in Beirut on Thursday
Officials Hail Nasrallah's 'Positive, Consensual' Ashura Speech
Army Arrests Arab Democratic Party Member in Akkar, 5 Suspects in Bhannine
Controversial Iranian Grant to Army Reaches Standstill, Delay Expected
'Hezbollah missiles can reach all of Israel'
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on
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Below Jihad Watch
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Inside every Brotherhood member is an Islamic State member,” says former Brotherhood member
Geagea: We Can Avoid Extension by
Electing President instead of Renewing Parliament's Term
Naharnet/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea renewed on Tuesday his opposition to the extension of parliament's term, while accusing the government and Change and Reform bloc of adopting double standards in this issue. He said during a press conference: “We can avoid the extension by heading to parliament and electing a president on Wednesday instead of voting for the renewal of its term.” He explained that since lawmakers would be present at parliament, “why shouldn't they exploit the fact that quorum would be met to elect a president?”The election of a president should then be followed by altering deadlines linked to the parliamentary elections in order to prepare for the polls, he suggested. Geagea noted that the Mustaqbal Movement and Hizbullah have adopted clear stances since the start over supporting the extension of parliament's term. The Change and Reform bloc however has been saying that it rejects the extension, while it has not taken any measures to actually avoid it and stage the parliamentary elections, added Geagea. “Can someone explain to me what the bloc, which has been so vocal against the extension, done to ensure that the polls are held?” he asked. He accused the bloc of seeking to create vacuum in Lebanon in order to alter the Lebanese political system. “The Change and Reform bloc has the right to express its views over the current system and it should take practical measures should it seek to change it,” explained Geagea. “How can we choose to alter this system without proposing an alternative to it?” he wondered.
“They want to impose the status quo on the people,” he remarked. “They want to return us to the situation witnessed before the civil war,” warned the LF chief. Geagea said that the Change and Reform bloc has 24 hours to respond to his initiative.
On the parliamentary elections, the LF chief said: “Why haven't those who are members in cabinet taken practical steps to ensure that the polls are held?” The Kataeb Party, which is represented at cabinet, has voiced its rejection to the extension, but it has not taken an steps to avoid it, he noted. The Mustaqbal Movement and Hizbullah, who are also part of the cabinet, did not take such measures since they have long advocated the extension, he said. Moreover, Geagea stated: “The government has exerted all efforts to extend parliament's term and avoid staging the elections.” “The officials have forced the people to choose between the extension or vacuum,” he lamented. Last year, the parliament extended its term until November 2014 after the 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 on Wednesday to avoid a further vacuum. The Baabda Palace has been vacant since the expiry of President Michel Suleiman's term in May. The rival MPs have failed to elect a new head of state over their differences on a compromise candidate. The majority of the March 8 camp's lawmakers have boycotted the sessions, insisting that there should be consensus on a candidate first. But their boycott has also been seen as a sign of their rejection of Geagea's candidacy, which was officially endorsed by the March 14 forces before the coalition suggested agreeing on a compromise nominee.
Aoun: There's Nothing Called Vacuum, Elections are the Alternative to Extension
Naharnet/Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun reiterated Tuesday his rejection of the proposed extension of parliament's term, as he noted that Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea's initiative on the parliamentary and presidential polls is not “realistic.”
“It is well-known that we reject extension. However, there are misleading interpretations and the issue is being approached in a wrong manner, as there is nothing called vacuum in the Lebanese state,” said Aoun after the weekly meeting of his Change and Reform parliamentary bloc in Rabieh.
“The alternative to extension is elections and if the polls do not take place on Nov. 20, the parliament will be dissolved but the government stays and would not be considered resigned, according to Article 69 of the Lebanese Constitution,” he pointed out.
Aoun also said that Article 74 of the Constitution “stipulates that should the presidential seat become vacant for one reason or another and the parliament is dissolved, the government should call immediate elections and the polls must take place.”
He underlined that no one should “claim that there will be vacuum if the extension does not happen.”
“They are speaking of the National Pact, the Constitution and the National Reconciliation Accord. The electoral law should respect equal Christian-Muslim power-sharing and the Constitution stipulates respect for coexistence, which can only be secured through justice among the Lebanese,” Aoun stressed.
He lamented that equal power-sharing “is not being respected in the parliament.”
“There is no effectiveness in this legislature because there is no partnership and they are refusing to correct the mistakes,” added Aoun.
“We cannot extend the term of a parliament that lost its credibility in regard to the drafting of a new electoral law,” Aoun underscored.
He noted that “violating the Constitution” is the biggest blow to equal-power sharing, “not the boycott of some MPs.”
The Orthodox Gathering law, under which each sect would elect its own MPs, “is the only law that can ensure fairness among the sects and it is not true that the elections will lead to the same divisions, because a new law will be adopted,” Aoun added.
Stressing that the parliamentary polls must be held, the FPM leader pointed out that the Lebanese “have drawn lessons and they will change some things, even if the electoral law remained the same.”
“How can we trust a majority that does not honor its promises and does not respect proper Christian representation? How can balance be ensured in the authorities? The same standards must apply to the president, parliament speaker and prime minister or else the process would be aimed at imposing hegemony over others,” Aoun added.
“We are counting on the Constitution and on the people, who are the real authority, and this is what we tried to do in the presidential vote,” he said, referring to his recent controversial proposal on the direct election of a president by the people.
Aoun warned that “after extending the parliament's term, the majority wants to control and manipulate everything and they want to elect a president without resorting to the people.”
“This is what makes us reject extension,” he said.
Aoun added that nothing can guarantee that a president will be elected during the proposed extension period.
“Is there a guarantee that we won't fall in the same dilemma? This majority has not respected the electoral law or the presidential elections,” he stated.
He noted that Lebanon “cannot bear for another 31 months a government that has failed to resolve the refugee crisis, to appoint a new army command or to approve funds.”
“The country's interests are being delayed and some ministers are exceeding their jurisdiction and violating norms, that's why we're against extension,” the FPM leader said.
Asked whether his bloc will attend Wednesday's parliamentary session during which extension is expected to be adopted, Aoun said: “We will announce our decision tomorrow.”
“I do not reject Geagea's initiative but I will respond to him when he turns it into something realistic,” Aoun added, in response to another question.
Earlier on Tuesday, Geagea renewed his opposition to the extension of parliament's term, while accusing the government and Change and Reform bloc of adopting double standards in this issue.
He said during a press conference: “We can avoid the extension by heading to parliament and electing a president on Wednesday instead of voting for the renewal of its term.”
He accused the bloc of seeking to create vacuum in Lebanon in order to alter the Lebanese political system.
Last year, the parliament extended its term until November 2014 after the 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 on Wednesday to avoid a further vacuum.
The Baabda Palace has been vacant since the expiry of President Michel Suleiman's term in May. The rival MPs have failed to elect a new head of state over their differences on a compromise candidate.
The majority of the March 8 camp's lawmakers have boycotted the sessions, insisting that there should be consensus on a candidate first.
But their boycott has also been seen as a sign of their rejection of Geagea's candidacy, which was officially endorsed by the March 14 forces before the coalition suggested agreeing on a compromise nominee.
Naharnet/Hizbullah is exerting last-minute efforts to convince its ally Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun to resolve the parliament extension crisis, As Safir daily reported Tuesday. The newspaper said that Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's aide Hussein Khalil and the party's liaison and coordination officer Wafiq Safa sought to convince Aoun's Change and Reform bloc members to resolve the problem ahead of Wednesday's parliamentary session. The two Hizbullah officials held contacts with Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, who is an FPM official, on Monday. The pressure they are exercising on Aoun is expected to last until the session is held. The Change and Reform bloc is expected to boycott the session. Despite the boycott of other Christian lawmakers, quorum is guaranteed at the legislature, whose term will be extended for two years and seven months. Nasrallah said Monday he supported the move to avert a vacuum, which has been exacerbated by the failure to elect a successor to President Michel Suleiman whose term ended in May.
Al-Rahi Says Coexistence in Lebanon a Leading Example
Naharnet/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi stressed on Tuesday the importance of equality between Muslims and Christians in Lebanon, reiterating that the fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are not linked to Islam. “Lebanon is a model for coexistence between Muslim and Christian. They both live equally,” al-Rahi said from the Australian capital Canberra. He pointed out that Christians should maintain their presence in the region to achieve integration with Muslims. “Christians shouldn't continue with their divisions,” al-Rahi said. The patriarch traveled to Australia at the end of October on a two-week pastoral visit. Concerning the rising threat of ISIL in the region, al-Rahi admitted that the Middle East is going “through difficult stages,” differentiating between terrorist organizations and takfiri groups. “The jihadists are not all Muslims... It (ISIL) includes all kinds of mercenaries and sick and worried people, who are being exploited,” he added. He called on ISIL group to engage in a humanitarian dialogue.
The IS group has declared a so-called Islamic "caliphate" in the territory it controls in Syria and Iraq, imposing its extreme interpretation of Islam and executing opponents. A U.S.-led coalition of Western and Arab nations has carried out a wave of air strikes on IS positions in Iraq and Syria, with around 34 nations committed to the fight against the group.
Army Arrests Arab Democratic Party Member in Akkar, 5 Suspects in Bhannine
Naharnet /A member of the Arab Democratic Party was arrested by the army on Tuesday as he was trying to cross from the northern district of Akkar into neighboring Syria, state-run National News Agency reported.
“The army arrested at one of its checkpoints in Akkar a man identified as A. Kh. as he was trying to cross into Syria,” NNA said. It noted that he is “one of the ADP cadres in Jabal Mohsen who had left the neighborhood as the security plan got underway in the city of Tripoli.”Separately, the army announced arresting four Lebanese citizens and a Syrian national in the northern town of Bhannine on suspicion of “involvement in armed attacks against army troops.”It identified them as Ibrahim Mohammed Malas, Khodr Saeed Malas, Alaa Khalededdine, Mohammed Khaled Shaker and the Syrian Mheidi Saleh al-Hmeid. The Tripoli security plan had kicked off on April 1 with the aim of putting an end to several rounds of deadly sectarian clashes between gunmen from Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh. ADP leader Ali Eid and his son Rifaat managed to flee to Syria although dozens of fugitives from both districts were arrested. Tuesday's arrests come amid heightened security measures by the army, which fought deadly clashes with Islamist gunmen last month in Tripoli and the nearby regions of Dinniyeh, Bhannine and al-Mhammara..
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea: Come to Parliament and vote - for president
Nov. 04, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea Tuesday asked his rivals in the Free Patriotic Movement to attend the legislative session Wednesday and vote for a new president rather than extending Parliament’s mandate, accusing the government of deliberately disrupting the parliamentary election. Describing it as his last-minute initiative to avoid extending Parliament’s mandate, Geagea said the FPM should attend the session given that Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah announced a day before that his party’s presidential nominee was MP Michel Aoun. “There is still a solution that could avoid the extension; all the lawmakers are attending tomorrow’s session and there will be quorum,” he said, during a televised news conference from his residence in Maarab. “Especially after Nasrallah announced that the March 8 presidential candidate is Aoun and the March 14 have already announced Samir Geagea as their own nominee, two strong Christian candidates, why don’t we all attend and vote on a new president?”“It’s either we have a presidential election filled with compromises and ready-made abroad or we do not have the election at all?” he asked. Geagea said he would congratulate and deal with Aoun as a president if he were elected and that his Christian rival would have to do the same. “After that, we would vote on a draft law prepared by the Lebanese Forces to amend the deadline for the parliamentary elections ... unless you are seeking the extension.” MPs are gearing up for Wednesday’s Parliamentary session in which Speaker Nabih Berri will put a draft law prepared by MP Nicolas Fattoush to extend the legislature’s mandate up for a vote. Fattoush’s proposal calls for the extension of Parliament’s term for two years and seven months to make it a full four-year mandate after lawmakers, citing security concerns, extended the House’s term for 17 months in May 2013. 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 name a new prime minister to form a new Cabinet. The Change and Reform bloc, headed by Aoun, have opposed the extension in a bid to pressure other lawmakers to agree on a consensus candidate. Aoun’s bloc as well as some allies in the March 8 alliance including Hezbollah have boycotted several presidential election sessions called for by Berri in the past few months, saying such meetings were futile in the absence of an agreement on a consensus candidate. Local media said Tuesday that Hezbollah was in the process of convincing Aoun to attend the session and perhaps vote in favor of the extension. The Kataeb Party lawmakers are expected to attend and vote against the draft law, which would secure a Christian representation demanded by Berri in line with the National Accord. Geagea blast the FPM’s opposition against the extension, saying ministers allied with Aoun should have voiced such rejections in Cabinet, which he said failed to implement any preparatory steps for the parliamentary election scheduled for Nov. 20. “The Free Patriotic Movement ministers should have put their foot down and made the Cabinet apply regulations related to the parliamentary election. You are represented in this government,” Geagea, whose party refused to take part in Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s Cabinet, said. “The problem is that the ministers, including our allies who refused the extension, did not prepare for the election,” he said. He said the government deliberately passed the deadline to call for the electoral committees and failed to set a budget for the polls as stipulated by the Constitution. “The government did everything not to hold the parliamentary elections.” The LF leader said the country would plunge into paralysis if MPs fail to extend their own term because such failure would deem the government illegitimate.
Saudi Arabia, France sign long-awaited
arms deal for Lebanon
Nov. 04, 2014/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Saudi Arabia and France signed a $3 billion grant to equip the Lebanese Army Tuesday, nearly a year after Riyadh announced the offer. According to Lebanon's National News Agency, Saudi Finance Minister Ibrahim al-Assad and Edouard Guillaud, the head of the ODAS organization set up by France for the export of defense equipment, signed the final agreement. Lebanese Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi was also present at the ceremony, the diplomat said, without giving details on the list of weapons to be supplied, a clause that had stalled the agreement for months, AFP quoted a French diplomatic source as saying. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius hailed the conclusion of the deal as a major boost to the Lebanese army's ability to tackle "terrorism" at a time when the former French colony is under mounting threat, AFP reported. The French foreign minister said: "This agreement, financed through Saudi aid, will contribute to strengthening the Lebanese army, guarantor of Lebanon's unity and stability. "It will help it to carry out its mission to defend national territory and fight terrorism, at a time when Lebanon is under threat." A source quoted by AFP Monday said the deal would be “rapidly implemented” with the first arms shipment to be delivered “within a month.” The Saudi aid was announced late last year, but Riyadh has reportedly held back on finalizing the deal over concerns that the weapons could benefit its archfoe Hezbollah. The deal, first announced in December by former President Michel Sleiman, comes as the poorly equipped Lebanese Army battles jihadists in the north and along its border with war-torn Syria. Lebanon has been engaged in battles with Islamist militants on its soil with the recent fighting in the northern city of Tripoli last month killing 11 soldiers and at least 28 militants. The Lebanese Army engaged in fierce clashes in August with fighters from Nusra Front and ISIS who attempted to overrun the northeastern town of Arsal. After the Arsal clashes, the U.S. has also provided the Army with several shipments of arms including sophisticated equipment and training.
Tripoli sheikh: Warrant against me
will have consequences
The Daily Star/Nov. 04, 2014/BEIRUT: Prominent Sheikh Dai al-Islam al-Shahhal said in remarks published Tuesday that the arrest warrant against him belittled the entire Sunni community and would have consequences, saying the Tripoli clashes would have been worse if he and his allies believed in the battle against the Army. “Hezbollah has a lot of influence on many measures and decisions and the way these decisions are carried out in Lebanon,” Shahhal, a prominent Salafist leader, told An-Nahar. “The warrant, if it meant anything, signified the low level of treatment that institutions in Lebanon are stooping to, including discrimination in treating citizens.” “I cannot remain silent toward such injustice and there will be consequences.”Many Sunni religious and political figures have repeatedly criticized security forces for discriminating against them and turning a blind eye to Hezbollah, whose fighters are freely crossing the border to fight alongside President Bashar Assad's regime. The Army has in recent days arrested dozens of militants and seized a number of arms caches in Tripoli, after the military clashes for four days with militants in the northern city as well as other northern villages. Last week, the military prosecutor issued an arrest warrant against Shahhal and Sheikh Bilal Deqmaq after the Army raided last week an arms cache at the residence of Deqmaq. Shahhal said the weapons the Army seized belonged to him and demanded that the military returned them. Shahhal has said Deqmaq had moved the arms to his own residence after rumors about possible Army raids on Shahhal’s residence and that of hard-line Akkar MP Khaled Daher. Speaking to An-Nahar, Shahhal said the measures against him were meant to force him to “kneel down to the Wilayat al-Fakih government and this will not happen. This warrant belittles the Sunni sect.”
The sheikh, who is currently in Turkey, said he would return to Lebanon soon despite the warrant. Asked about the large quantity of arms he possessed, Shahal said: “I have many enemies and I have an 18-man strong guard with several shifts. In case we are attacked or a security breach happened and the Army doesn’t' do anything, we will defend ourselves."Shahal also denied that he called on his supporters to attack the Army in Tripoli. "We warned several times that young men would be dragged into a confrontation with the Army. If we were convinced of that, we would have taken the streets along with our allies and hell would have broken loose in all areas."
Beirut southern suburbs closed by
police for Ashoura
Nov. 04, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: All the entrances to the predominately Shiite southern suburbs of Beirut were closed at midnight Monday to help prevent militant attacks against worshippers observing Ashoura Tuesday. No one will be able to enter the suburbs until the end of the religious ceremonies, the Internal Security Forces said in a statement. Reports Monday said security forces were carrying out extra searches of vehicles entering the suburbs on the eve of the holiday, creating heavy traffic jams. Dozens of police and Army checkpoints sprung up throughout the southern suburbs and at its entrances last year during a series of car bomb and suicide attacks targeting neighborhoods seen as sympathetic to Hezbollah. Many of the attacks in the southern suburbs and eastern Bekaa Valley were carried out by jihadists affiliated with the Nusra Front and ISIS, which are holding 27 Lebanese policemen and soldiers hostage near the northeast border town of Arsal. The municipality of Hermel said Monday that a 24-hour curfew on Syrians would be imposed for Ashoura in order to prevent violence. The Ashoura marches have been an issue of great concern due to the risk of bombings by jihadists, who say Hezbollah invited the attacks after intervening in Syria on the side of government forces. Ashoura marches are particularly vulnerable because of the massive participation in the events. Extremists have carried out a number of attacks on Shiite targets during the 10 days of Ashoura in other parts of the region. A bomb killed 14 Shiite pilgrims in the Sadr City area of Baghdad Sunday, after two similar deadly explosions had killed 20 people in the Iraqi capital. The day of Ashoura is on the 10th day of Muharram in the Islamic calendar and is commemorated by Shiites as the day when Hussein ibn Ali, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammad, was killed. His death came during a battle in the city of Karbala, 100 kilometers southwest Baghdad, in A.D. 680. Millions of Shiites are expected to march in Karbala Tuesday, while the Iraqi authorities have stepped up security measures to prevent any jihadist threat.
Nasrallah: Hezbollah achieving 'great victory' in Syria
Nov. 04, 2014/Dana Khraiche| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah boasted Tuesday that his party had the upper hand against Islamists in Syria, while warning Israel that the resistance was ready for any conflict on Lebanon's southern border. Addressing a crowd of tens of thousands commemorating Ashoura in Beirut’s southern suburbs, Nasrallah once again sought to defend Hezbollah’s intervention in the Syrian civil war. “The goal of the takfiris was to control Syria and eliminate all communities of other religions and Muslim sects and even those in the Sunni community who do not agree with their viewpoint,” the secretary-general said. “Syria was waiting to face what is happening from massacres in Mosul and Anbar ... As we enter the fourth year of the Syrian conflict, the takfiris have not yet been able to control Syria.” “Many Syrians remain safe in their villages. Isn’t that a great victory, a great achievement?” Hezbollah's intervention in the Syrian war, which started as peaceful protests in March 2011 but has turned into an armed rebellion that has killed nearly 200,000 people after a brutal crackdown by the regime, has sparked criticism from many Lebanese, who accuse Nasrallah of dragging Lebanon into the war.
The spillover from the Syrian war has grown from sporadic car bombings targeting Shiite neighborhoods in the country to an attempted invasion of northeast Lebanon by Nusra Front and ISIS since Nasrallah announced his party was fighting alongside regime troops in May of 2013. Nasrallah said his party was proud to fight alongside the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, saying the Syrians “are the original fighters, we are an addition.” The Hezbollah leader denied what he said were rumors circulated by local media outlets that the party was suffering heavy blows in Syria battles, particularly in Qalamoun, a mountainous region bordering Lebanon. “Every single day, we are hearing that Hezbollah will retreat,” he said. But “the situation is excellent in the Qalamoun. For months, the militants are fighting to regain control over a single village from the Syrian army and its allies, but they’re failing.” Nasrallah reiterated that what is happening in Syria was a “great victory so that the region would not fall in the hands of the [militants].”
“We are part of this battle waged to confront the biggest danger facing the region today,” he said. Nasrallah, who addressed the crowd by video after making a rare in-person appearance in the capital’s suburbs the previous evening, said Israel should fear Hezbollah in a future rockets. “Israelis are saying in the media that they would have to close down Ben Gurion Airport and the Haifa port and yes, that’s true,” Nasrallah, standing behind a white podium dressed in black, said.
“You should close all of your airports and your ports because there is no place extending on the land of occupied Palestine that the resistance’s rockets cannot reach.” He said Israel knew very well that Hezbollah was never distracted from watching Lebanon’s southern border contrary to what he said were Lebanese and Arab media reports that the Syrian conflict had exhausted the party’s capabilities. “They [Israel] know that going to war with the resistance will be very costly because we are more determined, stronger, more experienced ... and we are capable of achieving such accomplishments.”Nasrallah also touched on the recent clashes in occupied Jerusalem and subsequent incidents preventing Muslims from entering Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites, calling on Arabs to take a “historic, serious stance.” “There is a real, new danger against the mosque and it is the responsibility of Muslims worldwide to prevent such a catastrophe because it is a shame for Muslims to accept such disgrace to take place at the mosque,” he said.
“Conflicts in the region should not preoccupy the Muslim community from what is threatening Al-Aqsa Mosque."
Future sees positive signs in
Nov. 04, 2014/Hussein DakroubHashem Osseiran/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah Monday extended an olive branch to the Future Movement, offering to cooperate with his Sunni rivals to shield Lebanon as it faces mounting security threats linked to regional turmoil.
In rare praise of his rivals, Nasrallah said the national stances of the Future Movement as well as Sunni political and religious leaders during last month’s fighting between the Lebanese Army and Islamist militants in the northern city of Tripoli had spared Lebanon “a big disaster.”He also publicly announced for the first time that Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun is Hezbollah’s presidential candidate, while voicing his party’s support for the extension of Parliament’s mandate.
Nasrallah’s conciliatory remarks toward the Future Movement drew a quick response from the group.
“No doubt, Nasrallah’s remarks are positive with regard to reducing Sunni-Shiite tension,” Future MP Ammar Houri told The Daily Star Monday night.
However, he said the Future Movement would need some time to make “a careful reading” of Nasrallah’s speech before taking a final stance.
Houri recalled that former Prime Minister Saad Hariri had launched an initiative three months ago for dialogue with the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance to break the political deadlock that has left Lebanon without a president for more than five months.
“Nasrallah responded to Hariri’s initiative today,” Houri said.
Referring to a long-simmering political feud with the Future Movement that had sometimes erupted into street violence between supporters of the two parties, Nasrallah, making a rare public appearance in Beirut’s southern suburbs, told a roaring audience: “We disagree on a lot of issues, and we disagree with our local and regional analyses. Sometimes we become enemies and rivals, but our ethics teach us that we must thank and praise those who regard the national good.”
He was speaking on the last night of Ashoura commemorations which reach a climax Tuesday.
Nasrallah lauded the Future Movement and its leadership for helping bring an end to the deadly four-day clashes in Tripoli and other parts of the north last month that pitted the Army against militants inspired by ISIS and Nusra Front.
“If we want to neutralize and shield the country, then we need to talk to each other. During the last few weeks, allied and friendly factions have told us that the time has come for dialogue between the Future Movement and Hezbollah. We said we have no objection,” he said. “From this position, I announce that we are ready for this dialogue.”He lauded the Army as “the only true guarantor” of cohesion and civil peace in Lebanon.
“The resistance will never present itself as a security institution. A political institution, yes. But not a guarantor of internal security and stability like the Army.”
At least eight civilians, 11 soldiers and 23 militants were killed in the Tripoli clashes, the worst bout of internal violence since the five-day battle with ISIS and Nusra Front militants in the northeastern town of Arsal in early August.
“Lebanon has been spared a big disaster. It is clear now the magnitude of what was being planned for Lebanon and the north,” Nasrallah said, thanking the residents and Sunni religious and political authorities of Tripoli and the north for their solidarity with the Army.
He also publicly announced for the first time that Aoun is Hezbollah’s presidential candidate in the face of the March 14-backed candidate Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea.
Lebanon has been without a president since former head of state Michel Sleiman’s term ended in May, with rivals squabbling over a successor.
Aoun has said he is ready to be a consensus candidate, but has yet to officially declare his candidacy.
“In the country every faction blames the other for the stalemate. I believe that no one in the country wants a void in the presidential post,” Nasrallah said. “We all want a president at Baabda Palace as soon as possible.”
Nasrallah said it is time for the country to reclaim its right to choose a leader without the interference of regional powers, but insisted that neither Iran nor Syria is complicating the situation for Lebanon to elect a president.
“Syria has said that it would support any candidate that is approved by Hezbollah and the resistance,” Nasrallah said. “Iran, has said that the presidency is an internal file and we will not intervene, and it approves any candidate that makes the resistance comfortable.”
As Parliament is set to vote Wednesday on the extension of its mandate for two years and seven months despite opposition by the country’s major Christian blocs, Nasrallah said he supported the move to avert a parliamentary vacuum, that would add to the 5-month-old vacuum in the presidency.
“If you want elections, we are ready. And if you want an extension, we are also ready, but what we are not at all ready for is an institutional void,” he said.
Nasrallah said that Iran’s recent offer of military aid to Lebanon would benefit the Army, but added the decision to accept it or not was ultimately that of the government.
March 14 rivals have cautioned the government against accepting the aid, saying it would violate international sanctions against Tehran and compromise Lebanon’s relationship with the West.
“We don’t want to make a problem in the country over the acceptance of the aid. It’s the Lebanese government’s decision, not mine. But this aid would help the Lebanese Army and no strings are attached,” Nasrallah said.
The Hezbollah chief urged the families of the 27 soldiers and policemen being held hostage by Nusra and ISIS militants on Arsal’s outskirts to show more patience and cooperation to reach a “viable solution” to end the three-month-long hostage crisis.
Erdogan's Book of Defeat
By: Burak Bekdil
The Gatestone Institute
Shortly after the Arab Spring rocked several capitals in the Middle East, the Turks devised a plan that would enable their country to emerge as the new Ottoman Empire. While deliberately and systematically antagonizing Israel, Ankara would: replace the Shia-controlled Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad with a Turkey-friendly Sunni ruler; support the Sunni in Iraq and Lebanon and boost their political influence; support Hamas in the Palestinian territories and provoke it to violence against Israel; and make sure that the Muslim Brotherhood or their various brethren rule Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. Saudis were already "our Muslim brothers." Eventually, all former Ottoman lands would produce governments subservient to the emerging Turkish Empire.
Nearly four years later, Syria's Assad is comfortably sitting in his presidential palace in Damascus and possibly laughing at the mess the Turks created by supporting Syria's jihadists. These jihadists have only wreaked havoc along Turkey's nearly 900-mile-long borders with both Syria and Iraq.
The Shia in Iraq are as powerful as before, and remain obedient to Turkey's regional sectarian rival, Iran.
The Shia in Lebanon -- where Turks are a high-value currency on the hostage market -- are increasingly hostile to Turkey.
No one knows who rules Libya after the downfall of Colonel Qaddafi, but none of the warring factions want any Turks meddling in the former Ottoman colony.
Meanwhile, a coup in July 2013 toppled the Turks' most-trusted regional ally, Egypt's then president, Mohamed Morsi. Today, not only the Turks but also Turkish products -- including even soap operas -- are unwanted in Egypt.
With the downfall -- ironically, instead of Assad -- of their Islamist allies in the region, the Turks recently discreetly moved to win back Egypt, the most populous Muslim nation in the region.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu asked to meet with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Hassan Shorky Selim, on the sidelines of the UN summit in September. The Egyptian minister abruptly cancelled the meeting, citing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's "insulting words about [Egyptian] President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi." A statement from the Egyptian foreign ministry called Erdogan's words "lies and fabrication."
More recently, Cairo announced that it would not renew a three-year transit trade agreement with Turkey. The decision indicates a further worsening of bilateral ties, which had been downgraded, as in the instance of Israel, to the level of chargé d'affaires. The transit trade agreement, signed in 2012 when Morsi was in power, had facilitated Turkish exports to African nations and the Gulf through Egypt's mainland, via Egyptian ports. Turkish companies previously sent their cargo to Gulf and African customers through Syria, when relations with Syria were normal. After Erdogan chose cold war with Syria, the Syrian route was closed to the Turks. The Turks then signed the transit deal with Egypt to use their ports and mainland as the alternative route. Now that Egypt will terminate this agreement, Turkish companies will be deprived of an easy route to Gulf and African customers.
Ironically, only six weeks before General al-Sisi ousted Egypt's Islamist President Morsi, Turkey had granted Egypt a $250 million loan to finance Turkish-Egyptian joint defense projects. The loan, the first of its kind, was intended to boost defense cooperation and Turkish exports of defense equipment to Egypt. At that time, Turkey was hoping to sell Egypt scores of Turkish-made drones, tactical naval boats and helicopters.
Egypt's hostile move was a "shock" to Ankara, but only to Ankara. "Apparently everyone dealing with the Egyptians knew this was coming, except the Turks," said one EU ambassador in Ankara.
It was not a secret that Egypt and the Turks' "Muslim brothers, Saudi Arabia" aggressively lobbied against Turkey's failed bid in September to win the seat of the non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. The EU ambassador said: "There may be further Egyptian moves to retaliate against Turkish hostilities. After Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and Israel, Turkey has completely lost Egypt."
That mishap left Turkey's Islamists with one ideological ally in the former Ottoman lands: Tunisia, where the Muslim Brotherhood-inspired Ennahda party was in a coalition government -- until this past weekend.
In the entire Middle East, Turkey now has only two allies: Qatar, which looks more like a rich, family-owned gas station than a state; and Hamas, a terrorist organization.
Ennahda, the first Islamist movement to secure power after the 2011 Arab Spring revolts, conceded defeat in elections that are expected to make its main secular rival, Nidaa Tounes party, the strongest force in parliament.
This defeat is a huge setback for Erdogan's Tunisian ideological allies, who had headed a coalition government with two non-religious partners for more than two years.
Tunisia was the final chapter in Erdogan's book of defeat. Neo-Ottomanism was a childish dream. It is, now, a "sealed" childish dream.
In the entire Middle East, Turkey now has only two allies: Qatar, which looks more like a rich, family-owned gas station than a state; and Hamas, a terrorist organization. But Turkey has a rich menu of hostilities: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, (discreetly) Jordan, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, (as always) Cyprus, (now) Tunisia, (also discreetly) Morocco and Algeria, and (most warring factions of) Libya.
In an April 2012 speech, then Foreign Minister Davutoglu defined Turkey's policy goal as: "On the historic march of our holy nation, the AK Party signals the birth of a global power and the mission for a new world order. This is the centenary of our exit from the Middle East... whatever we lost between 1911 and 1923, whatever lands we withdrew from, from 2011 to 2023 we shall once again meet our brothers in those lands. This is a ... historic mission."
That was a not-so-covert message of a strategic goal of reviving the Empire. Only nine years before the deadline to "meet our brothers" and the birth of Turkey as "a global power with a mission to build a new world order," Turkey looks rather dramatically isolated.
**Burak Bekdil, based in Ankara, is a columnist for the Turkish daily Hürriyet and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.
Canada Condemns Terrorist Attack in Pakistan
November 3, 2014 - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today issued the following statement:
“Canada strongly condemns yesterday’s terrorist attack near the Wagah border crossing between Pakistan and India that has left at least 59 people dead and wounded well over 100. This heinous attack, which occurred before the day of Ashura, was clearly meant to target civilians who had gathered to view the iconic flag-lowering ceremony that takes place daily at the border post.
“I welcome the statements of condemnation from Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the call from Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for an immediate investigation into this despicable act.
“This attack underscores the need for continued, determined action against all terrorist groups that prey on innocents. There is no cause for which terrorism is an appropriate instrument in the civilized world.
“On behalf of all Canadians, we send our thoughts and prayers to those affected by yesterday’s violence.”
Losing Hope: What is Next for Iraq's Christian Community?
Todd Daniels, Regional Manager for the Middle East
11/03/2014 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) - The ethnic and religious cleansing of Iraq has created a disaster of staggering proportions. More than 1.2 million people have been driven from their homes just since June and are now living as internally displaced people (IDPs). Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities have been the victims of horrible atrocities. More than 12,000 civilians have been killed in just the first nine months of 2014, according to Minority Rights Group International.
For the Christian community that has called Iraq home for centuries, there are fears this may be the final exodus. More than 100,000 people have been driven out of their homes and are unsure if they will ever be able to return. The concerns are for both the short-term survival of those facing huge humanitarian needs, but also for their long-term presence in the country.
Surviving in the Short-Term
Esho Esho, an activist currently based in Erbil, gave International Christian Concern (ICC) an exclusive update on the current situation for Iraq's Christian communities. Esho works with A Demand for Action, a global initiative to support the protection of the Assyrians (incl. Syriacs/Chaldeans) and other minorities in Iraq & Syria.
"The IDPs are still suffering in their lives wherever they are, in schools, churches, caravans, or in the unfinished buildings. Now, since winter is around the corner, they will face the problem of rain and cold weather,"
Esho told ICC.
Just over two months ago, the concern was temperatures that were regularly in excess of 115 degrees. In August ICC's team visited a makeshift camp where at least five people, four infants and an elderly man, had died as a result of exposure to the intense heat.
Now the situation has changed. Rain has moved in, with torrential downpours turning the makeshift camps into muddy, disease-laden pits. Skin disease and other communicable illnesses have become a major concern, an ICC partner reported last week.
"The IDPs who faced the rain disaster last week, they have been moved to some caravans [temporary shelters], so this issue is partially solved, but this is a very short-term solution. When the real cold weather will start in about three weeks, the IDPs will suffer, especially those who are living in the unfinished buildings," Esho said.
The international community is trying to respond by providing shelter and heating equipment to many of these families before the deadly cold arrives, but unfortunately it has not been able to cope with the scale of the problem. Esho told ICC,"Assistance is arriving from different NGOs and from the UN, but the Iraqi government aid is very limited. The big aid is not arriving correctly; there was a project of a complex of tents was supposed to be done by now. The foundation was laid and then the tents disappeared? Where are they?"
The reality is that, while there are hundreds of thousands of people who have received assistance, hundreds of thousands more continue to fall through the gaps of the major relief efforts. According to a UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report, as of October, only 61 percent of those targeted to receive water, sanitation and hygiene had been reached, leaving 39 percent, more than 700,000, in need.
If these communities are going to survive in the short-term, then immediate assistance must continue to arrive to prepare them for a winter away from their homes. Yet, for many the feeling is that the current situation as IDPs is just a temporary stop and soon they will leave their country altogether.
Staying for the Long-Term?
Over the past decade, Iraq's Christian community has shrunk by more than one million. Now, with the ethnic cleansing of Iraq's religious minorities, this may be the final exodus, as many are looking to leave.
When Esho was asked about what can be done to help Christians stay in Iraq, his response was troubling. "Not much can be done, Assyrians, who also are called Chaldean and Syriacs, lost trust in both the Iraq and the Kurdish government. They are losing hope as well." There seems to be little hope for this trust to be restored. Christians have lost trust in their government to provide them protection when their cities were abandoned in the face of ISIS threats. More than 30,000 Iraqi soldiers were stationed in Mosul, and yet it fell to an estimated 800 fighters, sending some 500,000 people out of their homes. Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda expressed the frustrations of many with the government in Baghdad to assist with the humanitarian needs. "The reality is that Christians have received no support from the central government. They have done nothing for them, absolutely nothing," he said. Then Qaraqosh, Iraq's Christian capital, was "wiped clean" and the Kurdish Peshmerga forces withdrew, unable to match the weaponry acquired by ISIS fighters. While the Kurdish controlled region has welcomed many of them, the commitment for the long term is not guaranteed.
As the United States and others have formed a coalition to confront ISIS, the feeling of hopelessness has not yet changed. "They were relying on the international community, but they are very disappointed now, especially after what has been said by the U.S. administration that no forces will be sent on the ground and that the war against ISIS might take a very long time,"Esho said. "Many people are looking for any opportunity to leave the country, including those who once were against immigration," he continued. For Christians to be willing to stay in Iraq, they will need to be able to return home, according to Esho. The current situation, living as IDPs, finding shelter in schools, in the concrete shells of unfinished buildings or in over-crowded apartments, is not sustainable. Many will continue to stream out of the country."The only thing that will keep these people in Iraq is to liberate their lands as soon as possible and provide them with a protection zone under some international forces," he told ICC.
Retaking the land captured by ISIS, the ancient homelands of Iraq's Christians, and protecting it from future attacks, are what Esho says is necessary for Christians to stay in Iraq.
These actions will not happen unless there is significant pressure in the west, Esho said. "More powerful demonstrations need to be organized in the West, with some real action so our voice will be heard."
Human Rights Watch: Lebanon: Right to Vote For Parliament Under Threat
Suspending Election Would Violate Rights Obligations
November 4, 2014
There is never a convenient time to hold elections, particularly in Lebanon, but this country has held elections in difficult circumstances in the past, including 2005 and 2009.The failure of politicians to reach an agreement on a new election law or to nominate a new president does not justify suspending the right of Lebanese citizens to vote. Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East and North Africa director
(Beirut) – This week’s anticipated vote to postpone parliamentary elections would contravene Lebanon’s international human rights obligations, Human Rights Watch said today. Parliamentary elections were originally scheduled to take place in June 2013.
The proposed extension bill, for the second postponement since the legislature took office in June 2009, would contravene Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Lebanon ratified in 1972. Article 25 stipulates that every citizen shall have the right and opportunity to vote and be elected in genuine periodic elections.
“There is never a convenient time to hold elections, particularly in Lebanon, but this country has held elections in difficult circumstances in the past, including 2005 and 2009,” said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The failure of politicians to reach an agreement on a new election law or to nominate a new president does not justify suspending the right of Lebanese citizens to vote.”
Nicolas Fattoush, the Member of Parliament who introduced the draft bill in August 2014, contended the move was aimed at protecting civil peace.
Political factions supporting the bill have said that the current security situation is not conducive to holding elections. In 2013, Parliament voted to extend its mandate by 17 months, through November 20, 2014. At the time, political factions also said that the security situation would prevent the government from holding elections. Since then, parliament has failed to agree on a new electoral law or to address any obstacles to holding the elections.
Article 25 of the ICCPR states that “Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity…to vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors.”
The UN Human Rights Committee, a body of international experts which interpret the covenant, has defined periodic elections as meaning elections that are not held at unduly long intervals: “Genuine periodic elections…are essential to ensure the accountability of representatives for the exercise of the legislative or executive powers vested in them. Such elections must be held at intervals which are not unduly long and which ensure that the authority of government continues to be based on the free expression of the will of electors.”
Although the Human Rights Committee has not defined what constitutes an “unduly long interval,” other international documents offer guidance. The European Commission for Democracy Through Law, known as the Venice Commission, in its Code for Good Practices in Electoral Matters, has specified that “elections must be held at regular intervals; a legislative assembly's term of office must not exceed five years.”
Current proposals would extend the current parliament’s term to eight years, twice their elected mandate.
Only under specific provisions of exceptional and temporary nature may a state party to the ICCPR derogate, or limit, some of its rights and obligations. Furthermore, such power is not absolute. Under Article 4 of the ICCPR, it is stated that “In time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation and the existence of which is officially proclaimed, the States Parties to the present Covenant may take measures derogating from their obligations under the present Covenant to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation.”
The Human Rights Committee says that before a country invokes Article 4, two fundamental conditions must be met: “The situation must amount to a public emergency which threatens the life of the nation, and the State party must have officially proclaimed a state of emergency. The latter requirement is essential for the maintenance of the principles of legality and rule of law at times when they are most needed.”
Lebanon has not declared a state of emergency. Under such circumstances, any form of derogation from ICCPR article 25 is not permissible. Lebanon is therefore required to uphold its human rights obligations, which grant every citizen the right and opportunity to vote and be elected at genuine periodic elections. The canceling of elections and extending of parliament’s term would therefore contravene Lebanon’s human rights obligations under ICCPR.
The Civil Movement for Accountability, an umbrella initiative consisting of about 30 Lebanese nongovernmental groups, including the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections (LADE), as well as activists and student groups, have urged parliament to not extend its mandate. The movement has led protests and sit-ins calling for elections.
In October, the For the Republic movement, which has also been active in these protests, submitted a complaint to the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights. The complaint contends that canceling elections and extending the parliament’s term, contravenes both local Lebanese law and Lebanon’s international human rights obligations under Article 25 of the ICCPR and Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 21 says that “The authority to govern shall be based on the will of the people, as expressed in periodic and genuine elections.”
The complaint also says: “By extending their own mandate beyond the term to which they were originally elected, the Lebanese MPs have self-appointed themselves in the only constitutional institution that is directly elected by the people in the Lebanese Parliamentarian system…the lack of popular legitimacy of the non-elected Parliament has a devastating effect on the whole Lebanese democratic system.”
The complaint also notes that parliament has not exceeded the four-year term specified in the country’s election law except during the civil war era (1975-1990) and for the 2000 Parliament. That body had a term of four years and eight months because of a new electoral law.
“It would be a shame for Lebanon to go down the route of other Arab states where elections are held at the whim of their rulers or not at all,” Houry said. “Lebanon should instead play a leading role in political rights and civil liberties for other states in the region.”
Most Arab states are monarchies or autocracies where national elections either do not take place such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia, or are highly controlled exercises by autocrats such as the recent elections in Syria, Human Rights Watch said.
ISIS Albu Nimr tribe's Massacres ignored
Nov. 04, 2014/The Daily Star
Events this week in Iraq and Syria offer dramatic proof of how weak the international campaign against ISIS is, as if any proof were required.
When a foreign hostage held by ISIS is paraded before the camera, or later executed, the world learns his name.
In contrast, members of the Albu Nimr tribe in Iraq’s Anbar province have apparently rejected being ruled by ISIS. In response, ISIS militants have lined up tribesmen in public and shot them to death, in a process of methodical obliteration.
In next-door Syria, a smaller-scale massacre by ISIS is also underway. Again, there are public executions of people on charges of “collaborating with the regime” or “fighting ISIS,” with the bodies often left for several days in public places.
Every one of these victims has a name, and a family history, and a reason for being in the wrong place at the wrong time – just like the foreign victims of ISIS.
However, little to no outrage is being expressed in Western capitals, where not too long ago, officials were ready to talk at length about the threat posed by ISIS to the civilized world.
There is a stark difference between the help received by the Albu Nimr tribe, and the situation of Syrian Kurds besieged by ISIS in the town of Ain al-Arab, who are benefiting from airstrikes and airdrops of equipment. There is little urgency in the Iraqi authorities’ policy of arming tribes to fight back, and seeming little concern in Washington about this slowness.
If Western and other officials truly want to mobilize public support for their campaign against ISIS, they must be as serious and vocal when the victims aren’t being noticed by mainstream media and public opinion. All of these lives are sacred.
A new face in the Iranian nuclear negotiations
Nov. 03, 2014/David Ignatius/The Daily Star
An intriguing new figure is gaining prominence in the Iranian government just as regional conflicts in Iraq and Syria intensify and nuclear talks with the West move toward a Nov. 24 deadline.
The newly prominent official is Ali Shamkhani, head of Iran’s national security council. He played a key role last summer in the ouster of Nouri al-Maliki as Iraq’s premier. In interviews over the last few weeks, Iraqi, Iranian, Lebanese, European and U.S. officials have all described Shamkhani as a rising political player.
“He is a person in the middle,” with close links to both President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, says Hossein Mousavian, a former Iranian official who now teaches at Princeton University and knows the leadership well. “Shamkhani can play an influential role in managing the crisis in the Arab world,” he argues, in part because he is from an Arabic-speaking region of southern Iran.
The political balance in Tehran is important as the talks come to a head. Iranian and U.S. officials have been dickering with different formulas that would limit Iran’s nuclear stockpile and centrifuges. The U.S. wants to sharply limit the enrichment program and thereby extend the time it would take Iran to “break out” and build a bomb.
Shamkhani’s rise is noteworthy because he appears to bridge the radical and moderate camps at a time when opinion in Iran is divided about a nuclear deal. Khamenei will have to bless any agreement made by Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
“In contrast to Iranian Foreign Ministry officials, Shamkhani is a former Revolutionary Guard [IRGC] commander who has the clout to challenge his former comrades,” argues Karim Sadjadpour, a leading Iran expert at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. A European intelligence official agrees that Shamkhani may be “an honest broker” between Rouhani and Khamenei.
“Since this summer, Shamkhani has taken on a more prominent role in Iranian regional policy, especially in Iraq, which previously was the exclusive purview of the IRGC Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani,” explains a U.S. official who follows Iranian events closely.
“His star continues to rise,” the U.S. official says. But he cautions against assuming that Shamkhani’s new ascendancy means any diminution for Soleimani, who “remains firmly in charge of Quds Force activities” and whose “overall standing in Tehran does not seem to have tapered off.”
Shamkhani’s role in Maliki’s ouster was described by two Iraqi officials. They said the Iranian visited Najaf in July to meet with Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the Shiite religious leader, and carried back his message that it was time for the polarizing Maliki to go. At the time, the Iranians appeared to be holding out for Maliki or another pliant Iraqi politician, but they acceded in the eventual, U.S.-backed choice of Haider al-Abadi.
Shamkhani’s regional stature was also evident in a September visit to Beirut, where he floated the idea of Iranian support for the Lebanese military. Lebanese officials say such aid won’t be accepted, but it’s an interesting sign of how Iranian policy is working in parallel with that of the United States, which is the Lebanese Army’s main supplier of weapons.
A top Revolutionary Guard commander during the Iran-Iraq war, Shamkhani was defense minister under the moderate President Mohammad Khatami a decade ago; he then worked for Khamenei during the presidency of the fiery Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
As the P5+1 negotiations head toward a climax, U.S. and Iranian officials have been holding back-channel talks to explore possible formulas for agreement. It’s a classic bargaining process, especially on the crucial issues of the number of centrifuges and the size of the stockpile of enriched uranium. Iran reportedly began by demanding 22,000 centrifuges, and the U.S. insisting on a limit of 2,000. That gap is said to have narrowed considerably, with Iran suggesting it keep the roughly 9,400 it’s now operating, and the U.S. hinting it might accept a cap of 4,000 centrifuges, for three to five years.
The U.S. might compromise on the number of centrifuges if the Iranians agreed to sharply limit their stockpile of enriched uranium, cutting it from about 10,000 kilograms to a few hundred. A U.S. requirement for any deal is close monitoring of Iranian activities.
Mousavian, the former Iranian official, suggests that if the two sides can’t agree by the deadline, they should ask the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna to limit Iran’s capabilities at what the IAEA determines is its “practical need” for civilian power. “They need a judge to decide,” he says.
**David Ignatius is published twice-weekly by THE DAILY STAR.
Sex, Slavery, and ISIS
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat
Tuesday, 4 Nov, 2014
A recent video from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in which a group of fighters brag as they discuss enslaving women and selling them as if they were cattle begs once again the question about the group’s barbarism, from beheadings to using children as suicide bombers. No women were shown in the video, but from what we know of this the organization, we can safely assume that what they are discussing has taken place. The difference between the Al-Qaeda of old and ISIS lies in this unabashed public declaration of crimes. Previous research revealed that many youthful recruits were motivated by opportunities for sexual gratification offered by joining militant groups, with many reports noting that fighters in jihadist camps engaged in temporary sexual relationships within the Islamic context. However, Al-Qaeda concealed this aspect of its fighters’ lives and presented them as jihadists loyal to their cause and preoccupied with fighting and praying.
Conversely, ISIS fighters are not ashamed to acknowledge exploiting women—whether they’re members of the group or captives—and they tend to publicly post information regarding this. They have often shown women being either enslaved as prisoners or as members and bearers of arms. These latter female fighters come from Central Asia, Europe and Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, and they brag about how some of them have succeeded in fleeing their homeland with their children to join the group.
Author Fadila Al-Jaffal has come to some interesting conclusions on this matter. She argues that sexual repression in Muslim communities is the foremost reason behind these terrorist organizations’ popularity. In her opinion: “ISIS’s ideology is inherently sexual; sex is a great promotional weapon. [ISIS] markets itself by exposing this self-indulgence, between bohemianism and [noble] acts committed under the cover of jihad.”
The discussion among the readers of Jaffal’s article reflects the controversy surrounding the phenomenon of ISIS and its strange practices. A critical reader wrote: “Fear God when you write . . . [So] these people sold their souls and left their homes, wives and luxurious lives to look for sex?!” Another reader responded: “No-one forced them to sell their families and souls . . . These [people] bring shame to the religion of Islam.”
But whether ISIS’s recruitment is based on carnal or religious motives and whether it simply reflects the nature of the organization’s members—mostly males under the age of 30—debauchery is clearly a weapon in its struggle today.
However, we must note that cheap thrills are available almost everywhere and can be bought at a fraction of the cost of traveling to Syria, so it is not just sexual desire that motivates people to travel to Al-Qaeda and ISIS camps. There is also the aspect of the religious rulings which sanction lust according to Shari’a law, as those who issue such fatwas allege.
ISIS is a group with a political agenda and it uses the women it has enslaved or those who have joined the group to promote itself. It thus markets these women as a reward for fighting within its ranks. This is one of the oldest and most efficient tricks in the art of marketing. The fact that a few hundred fighters came from Western, liberal societies does not mean such an approach is not needed, because those tasked with recruiting youths address each pool of potential recruits according to what appeals to it. For example, in Europe, they talk about the persecution of Muslims, while in Syria they promise youths freedom from the Assad regime and also voice doubt regarding the aims of other groups engaged in fighting there. In other countries, they talk about the women they have enslaved and the promise of virgins in paradise.However, the weapon often backfires on its owner regardless of the motives behind the surge to join these groups. Revelations about ISIS’s use of sexual slavery will weaken its claims of being a group of pious Muslims fighting for justice and the oppressed.
In Bahrain, It’s Either the Parliament or the Street
Salman Aldossary/Asharq Al Awsat/
As Bahrain nears the fourth year of its crisis—more a security crisis than a political one—the internal troubles in the Gulf’s smallest country show no sign of abating: for neither have the security measures employed by the government recently had any tangible effects, nor has the Shi’ite opposition’s taking to the streets allowed it to fulfill its objectives. And despite a number of reforms put forward by the government in Manama recently, the opposition continues to insist on breaking bones and not playing ball.
Three main developments have taken place recently which the opposition would never in their wildest dreams have ever expected to happen so quickly. The first was the transition from the country’s National Assembly (the upper and lower house of parliament; or the Council of Representatives and the Consultative Council respectively) to the popularly elected parliament. The second development was a number of recent reforms which require the government to put forward any political programs to a parliamentary vote, as well as no longer allowing the King to dissolve parliament or the cabinet, and effecting mechanisms allowing the government and prime minister to be questioned by MPs on their policies and decisions. The third—previously the main sticking-point between the authorities and the opposition—are the reforms of voting constituencies, which will ensure a fairer vote among citizens. These were all measures long called-for by the Shi’ite Al-Wefaq opposition. However, when it finally got what it wanted here, it decided not only to boycott the parliamentary elections, but also to engage in a scaremongering campaign to discourage any potential Shi’ite candidates from running in the race.
In my opinion, the Bahraini government has a problem when it comes to publicizing its reforms. The aforementioned developments count as serious, substantive reform measures—measures which were in effect kick-started all the way back in 2001 by Bahrain’s King, Sheikh Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa, long before the so-called “Arab Spring.” Despite this, however, all these reforms have gone virtually unnoticed, with Manama unable to attract the attention they deserve to them. As such, none of the numerous reforms the government has enacted recently have reached the ordinary Bahraini, leading some citizens to see the government as being negligent in resolving the crisis. Nor have these reforms gained much attention outside the country, where the government is now as a result seen as stubborn and implacable with regards to dealing with the crisis.
Political life in Bahrain has now become limited to inflaming passions on the street, burning cars, closing off roads, or holding isolated protests—in other words, practically worthless. When I visit Bahrain, I don’t really see or feel anything that gives me the impression this small country is currently undergoing a serious crisis. In fact, I’ve noticed that the King Fahd Causeway linking Bahrain and Saudi Arabia is more crowded these days, with hordes of visitors coming to Bahrain from all over the Gulf. It is certainly more crowded than it was before February 2011, when the recent troubles began amid the aftermath of the protests spreading across parts of the Arab world—giving the impression that there is no crisis at all.
Al-Wefaq has bet on regional events, putting all its eggs in one very unsafe basket. It has also moved away from its core supporters on the Bahraini street, day after day becoming more and more embroiled with the Supreme Foreign Ally—something which has discredited its position drastically. And as for relying on Western assistance, this is a matter that is unreliable to say the least and dependent on ever-changing political interests: here, for example, is the European Union, now requesting the opposition reconsider its boycott of the elections in the interests of “returning confidence and stability” to the country; and here we have UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon saying virtually the same thing.
Bahraini thinker Ali Fakhro says: “Working towards establishing a democracy is a long-term struggle. Other countries did not achieve democratic political systems in one step, but through many painstaking steps, one after the other.” So long as the Shi’ite opposition insists on playing the political game outside the legitimate arena of parliament, and so long as it continues to bet on street power and its memories of the country’s fleeting “Arab Spring moment,” it will lose, and will thereby slowly transfer all the gains it has made in the last few years into the hands of the ruling government, so that by the time the elections in 2018 come about, it will have lost much more than it has gained.
By boycotting the elections, Al-Wefaq has effectively cut its last remaining link to political life in Bahrain and punctured its last hope in fulfilling its long-sought-after demands within the legitimate arena of parliament, preferring instead to lead and inflame passions on the street. Tell me, would a sensible, mature opposition commit political suicide in this way?
Standing up to the lethal volcano of fundamentalism
Octavia Nasr /Al Arabiya
Tuesday, 4 November 2014
ISIS exposed an angry, hateful and lethal volcano brewing under the surface in many countries across continents.
Radical Islam is now a reality we all must reckon with, although many remain in denial of its growing threat, while others distance themselves from the culprits claiming they are un-Islamic. As we watch authorities in North America and Europe step up security of fear of attacks, we realize this enemy does not need to strike to scare; all it has to do is live on. Even if dormant, its threat is real.
The reality is staring us in the face and we still refuse to admit that something is fundamentally wrong with all systems. The result is a worldwide status quo where moderate voices are stifled or ignored while extreme voices bask in the freedoms afforded to them by liberal and open systems as well as the tyrannical systems where they were initially born.
“The little freedom that is afforded to us outside of our nations and homelands is now threatened to disappear”
In the Arab world, archaic dictatorships hang on to power at any price despite a clear dissatisfaction by a large number of their constituents and despite the loud demand for reform of systems and infrastructures. Meantime, criticism of Islamic fundamentalism is considered criticism of the entire religion of Islam and therefore treated as a red line that no one can fathom crossing. The result is literally a deadly silence where shouts and protests are needed.
The little freedom that is afforded to us outside of our nations and homelands is now threatened to disappear. As we demand more freedoms and more independence from the various binding systems, others use the existing freedoms to spread their messages of hate and to recruit more disoriented youths into a bloodbath under a guise that does not make any sense to us.
Secret to success
This nonsensical reality should not be used as an excuse to dismiss the threat radical groups pose to all of us. Nor should the “non-Islamic” excuse be produced every time one is unable to speak up against fundamental Islam.
If we look at the prosperous traditionally Islamic nations in the world, we might find that the secret of their success is a clear separation of mosque and state. Can you for instance imagine a country like Indonesia, Malaysia or the United Arab Emirates treating non-Muslims as “infidels” and calling on them to convert or face death?
Let us stand up to all forms of fundamentalism before they are shoved down our throats more than it already is!