LCCC ENGLISH DAILY
Bible Quotation For Today/Israel’s Unbelief
Romans 09/29-33: "What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone. As it is written: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame."
analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 05-06/14
Iran’s General Qassem Suleimani ‘masterminds’ Iraq ground war/By The Associated Press/November 05/14
How the U.S., Not Iran, Is Making Concessions/Michael Singh /Wall Street Journal/November 05/14
Don’t Blame the Mediator/Ali Ibrahim/Asharq Al Awsat/November 05/14
Who will Iraq and Syria jihadists target next/Dr. Naser al-Tamimi/Al Arabiya/November 05/14
Lebanese Related News
published on November 05-06/14
Lebanon MPs extend Parliament's mandate by more than 2 years
Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai blasts 'illegal' parliamentary extension
Geagea Slams Aoun's 'Failed Wars', Says Extension Better than 'Toppling the State'
President Amin Gemayel Holds onto Presidential Elections, Calls for Control of Lebanese-Syrian Border
Derbas: No favoritism in Saudi donation to Army
Nasrallah: Hezbollah achieving 'great victory' in Syria
Leader of Syria Al-Qaeda wing threatens strikes against Hezbollah in Lebanon
Religious figures reject sectarian conflict label
Tripoli sheikh: Warrant against me will have consequences
South Lebanon woman gives birth to quintuplets
Hizbullah on Front Lines as Iran General Said to Mastermind Iraq Ground War
Army Thwarts Infiltration by Gunmen into Arsal
Asiri Says Riyadh Keen on Lebanon’s Security
Israel Threatens to Return Lebanon to Stone Age after Nasrallah Speech
Army Arrests Arab Democratic Party Member in Akkar, 5 Suspects in Bhannine
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on November 05-06/14
Disaster for Obama as Republicans Win U.S. Senate
Two Saudi police among 4 dead in anti-Shiite attack
Suspect in Saudi gun attack killed in clash
Kurdish fighters helping ISIS in battle for Kobani
Peshmerga fighters 'heavily shelling' ISIS
New Egyptian ambassador arrives in Beirut Thousands of Gaza civil servants strike Jordan recalls envoy to Israel over mosque clashes
Yemen's Shiite rebels take city south of capital
Kenyan Muslim preacher shot dead: police
Egyptian militant group denies pledging loyalty to ISIS
Mortar fire on Syria school kills 11 children
18 dead as Egypt school bus collides with tanker truck
Saudi blames Al-Qaeda for deadly anti-Shiite attack
Saudi security arrest 15 in counterterror raids across Kingdom
ISIS seeking to eradicate Anbar’s Albunimr tribe: Iraqi MP
U.S. slams Egypt's human rights record at U.N. meeting
Palestinian kills Israeli, injures 13 in Jerusalem car attack before being shot dead by police.
Below Jihad Watch
Posts For Wednesday
Islamic Republic of Iran: Christian preachers get 18 years prison and exile
Islamic Republic of Pakistan: Muslim mob murders Christian couple for “desecrating Qur’an”
Nigeria: Boko Haram cuts hands off civilians for not following Sharia law
Islamic State: We will set up caliphate in Sinai, “first step towards the invasion of Jerusalem”
UK Muslim killed fighting for Islamic State
Seattle jihad murderer may have been recruited in jihadi barber shop
Boston Marathon jihadi’s sister avoids jail by admitting she misled police
As Iran and US plan nuke talks, Iranians hold “Death to America” parades
NZ PM: Number of Muslims from NZ joining Islamic State will “surprise” most people
Malaysian official: MH370, MH17 tragedies due to un-Islamic behavior
Interrogating Muslim Masculinities?
U. of Arizona instructor: U.S. military “greater threat” than the Islamic State
Tennessee: A victory for the freedom of speech
Lebanon MPs extend Parliament's mandate by more than 2 years
Nov. 05, 2014
Hasan Lakkis/Wassim Mroueh| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Parliament voted Wednesday to extend its mandate by an additional two years and seven months, as protesters rallied downtown to denounce the extension. Sources told The Daily Star that 95 MPs voted in favor of the extension, while two opposed.
But the extension law was coupled with a provisional clause promising a parliamentary vote after the election of a president, in which case Parliament's term would be shortened. The vote was boycotted by the Change and Reform bloc, led by MP Michel Aoun and Kataeb Party lawmakers. Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, a member of Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement, slammed the session as a “holdup of Parliament.”
"Holding [parliamentary] elections could have been a solution to the presidential election and not vice versa," he told a news conference from the FPM headquarters in Rabieh. “When they respect Christians’ choices, we can face ISIS and the takfiri ideology,” Bassil said.
"We understand being slaughtered by ISIS, but we don’t understand being politically slaughtered by our political partner in the homeland."Wednesday's vote was the second time the current lawmakers, elected in 2009 ostensibly to four-year terms, extend their mandate.
Parliament last voted to extend its term in May 2013 by 17 months, arguing at the time that elections would constitute a major security risk given the fragile situation. Aoun, and his arch Christian foe, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, had proposed last-minute plans to try to avert the much-criticized extension.
But LF lawmakers ended up voting in favor of the extension, because they considered it a national duty, MP Strida Geagea, speaking on behalf of the party, told reporters after the vote. “We would have preferred not to reach the extension [decision],” she said. But ultimately the extension was necessary “to preserve the Lebanese formula and the charter of co-existence.” MP Walid Jumblatt, head of the Progressive Socialist Party, offered a somber tweet after the vote. "Sometimes some decisions are unpopular. But risking the void would lead the country to chaos. This [is] why renewing the mandate was a must," he wrote.
Speaker Nabih Berri had told lawmakers at the onset of the session that he would prefer if they elected a president instead. "We're having a legislative session right now. I don't mind that after I close the session, I turn it to one for electing a president, if quorum was maintained," Berri told lawmakers. He made the remarks in response to MP Boutros Harb's call to hold a presidential election. Aoun on Tuesday reiterated his party's opposition to the parliamentary extension, saying lawmakers sought to extend their term under the excuse of a vacuum in the government. "Our preliminary stance is to reject the extension and there is nothing called vacuum in the Lebanese state. The alternative to extension is holding the election,” he said. Samir Geagea, in turn, offered his own idea to avoid a parliamentary extension, calling on Change and Reform MPs to attend Wednesday’s session and cast their vote for Aoun as president. LF MP Elie Keyrouz appealed to Aoun in an open letter Wednesday before the vote to “reconsider your objectives and take an initiative in the face of the vacuum and extension options.”“It is time to return to the constitutional logic and the logic of the continuity of the state and the political system and take a bold decision to participate in today's session to elect a new president and vote on a proposal to amend some deadlines in electoral draft law,” Keyrouz said in his letter read from Parliament shortly before the session was scheduled to begin. Dozens of protesters, many waving Lebanese flags and holding anti-extension signs, gathered near Martyrs' Square in downtown Beirut to denounce the proposed extension. The protest was the latest in a series of demonstrations organized by activist group the Civil Movement for Accountability against the extension. “Your extension is occupation [of Parliament]. No to extension,” read a banner held by one protester. Some protesters labeled lawmakers thieves. “There are thieves in there,” one activist told television reporters, pointing his finger toward Parliament. “They [MPs] are stealing our voting rights,” another protester added. Another believed that lawmakers were “conspiring against the country.”
Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai blasts 'illegal' parliamentary extension
Nov. 05, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai Wednesday blasted the renewal of Parliament’s mandate as “illegal and unconstitutional,” hours before lawmakers voted to extend their tenure for another two and a half years.
“The extension of the tenure of Parliament is against the constitution and is not legal,” Rai said, as he met Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott as part of his two-week pastoral visit to Australia which he started at the end of October. “We pray for the election of a new president of the republic and for peace in the world and the Middle East in particular,” Rai said, according to media reports. He called on Australia to play a bigger role within the international community in order to have countries curb wars and stop support for extremist groups, which he stressed are “hostile and against religions, including Islam.”During his talks with Abbott, the prelate also called on Australia to help alleviate the burden of refugees from Syria and Iraq under which Lebanon is reeling. Abbott assured Rai that his government is following up closely and with deep concern the situation in Lebanon and the Middle East.
Geagea Slams Aoun's 'Failed Wars', Says Extension Better
than 'Toppling the State'
Naharnet/05.11.14/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea launched a scathing attack on Wednesday against the Change and Reform bloc led by MP Michel Aoun, accusing it of seeking to “change the political system” and noting that the LF voted for extending the parliament's term in order to prevent the fall of the state.
“It has become obvious that the aim of the Change and Reform bloc is toppling all state institutions as a prelude to changing the entire political system through a constituent assembly,” Geagea said at a press conference in Maarab, hours after the parliament voted to extend its own term for another 27 months.
The LF's MPs were among 95 lawmakers who voted in favor of extension.
The Change and Reform and Kataeb blocs boycotted the session while the two MPs of the Tashnag Party voted against the move.
“The constituent assembly was a dangerous and destructive idea that we couldn't accept from the (Change and Reform) bloc, so we found ourselves obliged to approve the extension decision,” Geagea explained.
“Between extension and elections, we choose elections, but between extension and toppling the state, we choose extension,” he pointed out.
“A member of the (Change and Reform) bloc said that 'what happened today was a robbery of the parliament,' but the decision to hold the polls was in the hand of the entire government, not only in the hand of the interior minister,” Geagea noted, arguing that the bloc could have pressed for holding the polls through its ministers in the cabinet.
Continuing his criticism of Change and Reform, the LF leader said that “for the sake of a presidential candidate, they left the country without a president for five months.”
“Why didn't one of their ministers tell the government that they can't continue to take part in a cabinet that did not prepare for elections?” Geagea asked.
He charged that the Change and Reform bloc “is lamenting extension while it was one of the parties that colluded to torpedo the elections.”
“The Change and Reform bloc was at least standing idly by if we don't want to say that they colluded” to prevent the organization of the polls, added Geagea.
Describing Aoun as “the champion of failed adventures and wars,” the LF chief noted that the rival Christian leader “had several times admitted that we cannot hold elections in these circumstances.”
“How can you accuse the LF of breaching Christian consensus after your Christian allies (Marada bloc) voted in favor of extension? Who said that extension is a Muslim demand and its rejection is a Christian demand? The LF's men were killed during the war under the excuse of abolishing militias while today, during peace times, you have an agreement with militias,” Geagea added, addressing Aoun and his bloc.
Noting that the LF was “the only Christian party to submit a draft electoral law to the parliament,” Geagea dismissed as “lies” claims that his party had breached “Christian consensus” over the controversial electoral law proposed by the Orthodox Gathering -- under which each sect would elect its own MPs.
“We must return to Bkirki's statement” in this regard, Geagea said.
“The 2013 extension occurred due to (the dispute) over the electoral law and today the reason behind extension is your obstruction of the presidential vote,” the LF leader added.
“All your acts are an attempt at deceiving people and you didn't want elections in the first place,” he said, addressing Change and Reform.
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.
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.
President Amin Gemayel Holds onto Presidential Elections,
Calls for Control of Lebanese-Syrian Border
Naharnet/Kataeb Party leader Amin Gemayel has reiterated that the most important form of legislation is parliament's election of a new head of state, blaming the presidential vacuum for the extension of the lawmakers' mandate. “The first necessary legislation lies in the election of a president,” Gemayel said during a visit to Paris. “The presidential vacuum is a clear violation of the constitution, the National Pact and coexistence,” he said. “Those who are scared of vacuum and are keen on democracy, should elect a president,” Gemayel, who is a former head of state, added. The Kataeb chief refused to back the officials who “contributed to the paralysis” of state institutions. The vacuum at Baabda Palace “is the major reason for the extension of parliament's mandate,” he stressed. Lebanon has been without a president since May. Rival MPs have been unable to find a successor to ex-President Michel Suleiman over their differences on a compromise candidate. Fears that the vacuum at the country's top Christian post would spill over to other institutions have compelled the majority of MPs at the parliament to agree on the extension of their term. Gemayel spoke before the legislative session on the extension. Kataeb MPs have declared they would boycott it. Some are claiming if parliamentary elections were held amid a vacuum in Baabda, the government would become illegitimate because the constitution states that the head of state should name a new prime minister to form the cabinet. During his visit to Paris, Gemayel called for the strict control and monitoring of the porous Lebanese-Syrian border. “The border is a source of concern and danger on Lebanon,” he said. Jihadists from al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State group are entrenched in an area that lies on the border between the two countries. They overran the northeastern border town of Arsal in August and engaged in bloody gunbattles with the Lebanese army. They also took with them hostages from the army and police and executed three of them.
Israel Threatens to Return Lebanon to Stone Age after
Naharnet/Israel's Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz has warned that Israel would return Lebanon to the stone age if Hizbullah attacked the Jewish State. “In order to avoid any doubt on the matter, (Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan) Nasrallah the cowardly braggart should know this: that option does not exist for us!,” Katz wrote on his facebook page, according to Israeli media. “If such a scenario does materialize, we will raze Lebanon to the ground! We will return it to the Stone Age and bury (Nasrallah) under the rocks,” he said after a fiery speech by the Hizbullah chief on Ashura. Nasrallah said Tuesday that “Israel's threats of another war on Lebanon do not stem from its power because it has lost hope and is concerned.” He reiterated that Hizbullah “is fully ready in southern Lebanon” despite the presence of the party's fighters in Syria. “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,” Nasrallah warned.
Asiri Says Riyadh Keen on Lebanon’s Security
Naharnet /Saudi Ambassador Ali Awadh Asiri said King Abdullah was keen on preserving the security and stability of Lebanon, stressing that Riyadh's military aid is aimed at helping the country confront terrorists. Asiri made his remark as France and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement on Tuesday for Paris to provide the Lebanese army with $3 billion worth of weapons paid for by Riyadh. The diplomat told the Saudi Okaz daily in remarks published on Wednesday that the grant aims at preserving the unity and safety of Lebanon at a time when the country's border is under threat. Such threat requires a strong and united Lebanon, said Asiri. The Lebanese army unites the Lebanese from all sects, he told Okaz, stressing that Riyadh continues to back Lebanon with deeds and not words.
“King Abdullah is keen on preserving the security, sovereignty and stability of Lebanon,” Asiri said. The deal, first announced in December, aims to boost Lebanon's military as it struggles to contain a rising tide of violence linked to the civil war in neighboring Syria.
Lebanon announced the surprise $3 billion grant from Saudi Arabia in December under ex-President Michel Suleiman's tenure. Since then, Riyadh's regional rival, Iran, has also said it is ready to provide aid to the Lebanese army. Many Lebanese view these offers as part of a competition for influence over the country, which is riven by sectarian fissures. The Lebanese army is generally seen as a unifying force in Lebanon, and draws its ranks from all of the country's sects. But it has struggled to contain the escalating violence since the outbreak of the Syrian conflict. It has confronted jihadists who are present on the porous Lebanese-Syrian border and who in August overran the northeastern border town of Arsal and engaged in bloody clashes with troops. The militants from the Islamic State group and al-Nsura Front took with them hostages from the military and police and later executed three of them.
Hizbullah on Front Lines as Iran General Said to Mastermind
Iraq Ground War
Naharnet /Associated Press/05.11.14
When Islamic State militants retreated from the embattled town of Jurf al-Sakher last week, the Iraqi military was quick to flaunt a rare victory against the extremist group, with state television showing tanks and Humvees parading through the town and soldiers touring government buildings that had been occupied by the militants since August.
However, photos soon emerged on independent Iraqi news websites revealing a more discrete presence — the powerful Iranian general Ghasem Soleimani — whose name has become synonymous with the handful of victories attributed to Iraqi ground forces. Local commanders said Hizbullah was also on the front lines.
Shiite militias have played a key role in driving the Islamic State group out of the so-called Baghdad Belt of Sunni villages ringing the capital. But the sectarian militias have long been implicated in brutality against the country's Sunnis, and while they have benefited from U.S.-led airstrikes, their advance could undermine efforts to knit the troubled country together.
Militia commanders told The Associated Press that dozens of advisers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Hizbullah were on the front lines in Jurf al-Sakher, providing weapons training to some 7,000 troops and militia fighters, and coordinating with military commanders ahead of the operation.
One commander, who agreed only to be identified by his nickname, Abu Zeinab, said Soleimani began planning the Jurf al-Sakher operation three months ago. The cleared town, 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of the capital, lies on a road often used by Shite pilgrims, who will be heading in droves to the holy city of Karbala this week to commemorate the death of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson, Imam Hussein, in a 7th century battle that marked the beginning of the Sunni-Shiite divide.
Iraqi military officials declined to discuss Soleimani's presence in Jurf al-Sakher, or in previous victories where he is known to have played a commanding role, including in the besieged town of Amirli in August and in the Shiite holy city of Samarra in June.
Hizbullah has openly joined Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces against the mainly Sunni militants fighting to topple him — a decision that has fueled sectarian tensions in Lebanon. The Iran-backed group, however, has not commented on its involvement or lack thereof in Iraq. In Beirut, Hizbullah officials were not available for comment and did not return calls from The Associated Press to discuss the matter Tuesday.
In July, officials in Lebanon said a Hizbullah commander was killed while on a "jihadi mission" in Iraq. Ibrahim Mohammed al-Haj was buried in Lebanon and his funeral attended by top Hizbullah officials. It was the first known Hizbullah death in Iraq since the Islamic State group's lightning advance in June.
Iraqi officials have said that a handful of advisers from Hizbullah are offering front-line guidance to Iraqi Shiite militias fighting the Sunni extremists north of Baghdad. But it is not known if any Hizbullah men are actually fighting.
The U.S. and Iran have found themselves on the same side in the war against the Islamic State group, which rampaged across much of northern and western Iraq in June, seizing the country's second-largest city, Mosul. But while U.S. military advisers have been coordinating coalition airstrikes from within heavily fortified bases, Soleimani and his commanders are on the front lines and would assume a key role in the retaking of major cities.
That could prove a major impediment to addressing the grievances of Iraq's Sunni minority. The militias were implicated in the mass killing of Sunnis at the height of the country's sectarian carnage in 2006 and 2007 and have more recently been accused of brutalizing Sunni captives.
Sunnis are also deeply suspicious of Shiite powerhouse Iran, which has played an outsized role in Iraqi affairs since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated government.
"It is true that Iraq needs any kind of help in the current situation, but this help should be public and part of the international efforts," Sunni lawmaker Hamid al-Mutlaq told the AP. "This undeclared Iranian help harms national reconciliation and the sovereignty of Iraq."
Amnesty International said last month that Shiite militias have abducted and killed scores of Sunni civilians with the tacit support of the government in retaliation for Islamic State attacks.
Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has pledged to reign in the Shiite militias and establish a national guard to mobilize Sunnis against the extremists. But it could take months to assemble such a force, and in the meantime Soleimani's militias are the best placed to aid Iraq's beleaguered military in regaining the initiative against the Islamic State group.
Soleimani's Quds Force, the special operations arm of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, has been involved for years in training and financing Iraq's Shiite militias. It has also long worked with Hizbullah in Lebanon and has been aiding Assad's forces.
In June, Revolutionary Guard advisers under Soleimani provided guidance for Shiite militiamen in shelling Sunni insurgent positions around Samarra, a Sunni-majority city north of Baghdad that is home to a revered Shiite shrine, local commanders said. Soleimani was also seen as playing a key role in relieving the Islamic State siege of the Shiite Turkmen town of Amirli. And a top Revolutionary Guard general said in September that Soleimani had even helped Kurdish fighters defend their regional capital Irbil.
Militia commanders, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the media, describe Soleimani as "fearless" — one pointing out that the Iranian general never wears a flak jacket, even on the front lines.
"Soleimani has taught us that death is the beginning of life, not the end of life," one militia commander said..
Nusra warns Nasrallah: Real battle yet to begin
Nov. 05, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The leader of Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate the Nusra Front has threatened Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah with “hidden surprises,” saying the real battle is yet to begin. “Nusra Front in Qalamoun has hidden surprises for the Iranian party [Hezbollah] and the real battle has not yet started,” the group’s leader Abu Mohammad Al-Joulani said in a tweet. “Hasan Nasrallah will bite his fingers in regret,” Joulani said. His threat came hours after Nasrallah vowed to press on with the battle against Islamist militants, saying they would be defeated across the region. Hezbollah fighters have been battling rebels in Syria alongside government troops for nearly two years, drawing a series of deadly reprisals in Lebanon. Jihadist groups, inluding Nusra and ISIS, have been behind several car bombs and suicide attacks in Beirut's southern suburbs and the eastern Bekaa Valley in areas where Hezbollah draws its main support. Last month Nusra militants launched a surprise raid on Hezbollah posts in eastern Lebanon, killing at least eight Hezbollah fighters. Nusra and ISIS have been holding 27 Lebanese soldiers and policemen captive on Lebanon's northeast border since a five-day battle broke out between the Army and militants.
Derbas: No favoritism in Saudi donation to Army
The Daily Star/Nov. 05, 2014 /BEIRUT: Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas insisted Wednesday that military donations to Lebanon, including the $3 billion Saudi grant signed Tuesday, are offered without favoritism for one party or another.
“When assistance goes to the military institution, it is not given as a donation for a (subservient) client,” Derbas said in a radio interview, adding that Saudi Arabia has a long history of assistance to Lebanon without differentiation between the country's different communities.
“It helped Lebanon’s central bank protect the national currency (in the past) and today we are in deep need of reinforcing our relations with Arab countries,” Derbas said. The remarks came one day after Saudi Arabia and France signed a $3 billion grant to equip the Lebanese Army.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. The details on the list of weapons to be supplied were not immediately made available. The minister also underscored the urgent need to rebuild the war-damaged neighborhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh in Tripoli which was the scene of fierce battles between the Army and jihadist militants last Month. At least 42 people, including 11 soldiers and eight civilians, were killed in clashes that overtook the port city and other parts of the north. The government last week declared Bab al-Tabbaneh a “disaster-stricken area” and allocated $20 million in compensation and reconstruction projects. Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri matched the donation with $20 million pledge of his own to areas damaged by the clashes in north Lebanon, including the Minyeh village of Bhenin. Derbas hailed the support and solidarity of Tripoli’s residents with the Army, stressing that “the Sunnis (in Tripoli) proved that they do not provide a fertile ground for terrorists, but one that they support the Army and the state.”
Mortar fire on Syria school kills 11 children
Diaa Hadid/Associated Press/Nov. 05, 2014
BEIRUT: Mortar shells struck a school east of Damascus on Wednesday, killing at least 11 children, said activists, and the death toll was likely to rise. It was the most serious violence against Syrian minors since a twin suicide bombing killed at least 25 children near a school in October. The children of the Haya School in the town of Qaboun were struck by three mortars, said a local activist who uses the name Abu Akram al-Shami. Another local activist, Amar al-Hassan, based near Damascus, also confirmed the incident, as did Rami Abdurrahman of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory For Human Rights. Abdurrahman said 11 children were confirmed killed, but the number was likely to rise because of the seriousness of many of the children's wounds. One woman screamed as she beat her chest in grief and shock. "My son, my son!" she wept, in a video uploaded of the incident. Another showed at least five boys bloodied and lying lifeless on the ground of what appeared to a medical faculty. The videos appeared genuine and corresponded to Associated Press reporting of the incident. The local activist collective, the Qaboun Media Office, said at least 17 children were killed. Conflicting death tolls are common after such incidents. It was not immediately clear who fired the rockets. Both pro-government forces loyal to President Bashar Assad and rebels opposed to his rule use the weapons. There has been a truce in Qaboun for about the past five months between rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar Assad, and the town has not experienced any serious violence since then. The town hosts thousands of Syrians who have been forcibly displaced from other rebel-held areas. Activists said they believed Assad loyalist forces fired the mortar shells - if only because it was unlikely that rebels would fire at their own people. Government officials had no immediate comment. Syrian children have often been the victims of the country's war, now in its fourth year, but they are rarely specifically targeted. But in October, two suicide bombers targeted a school in the central city of Homs, killing 32 people, including 25 children.
Also in Syria, in the Kurdish-dominated far north and northeastern regions, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory said Kurdish forces were distributing leaflets to residents, ordering them to report to security offices to undertake compulsory military service. Syrian Kurds run their self-declared largely autonomous area, called Rojava. They have been at the frontlines of fighting the expansion of ISIS militants. Their battle against the extremists in the Syrian border town of Kobani has captured international attention, and the U.S. has assisted the fighters with airstrikes. Senior Syrian Kurdish official, Anwar Muslim said the move was necessary to repel the extremists. "We want all of the people to come, train and learn to carry weapons, without discriminating between men and women. We need all people to learn how to carry weapons in order to be able to defend themselves and protect their areas and their villages," Muslim said. He spoke in Irbil, the capital of the largely autonomous Kurdish area of northern Iraq.
Republicans take control of Senate, increase House majority
as voters deliver rebuke to Obama
The Canadian PressBy The Associated Press | The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON - Republicans seized control of the U.S. Senate and bolstered their majority in the House of Representatives as Americans delivered a stinging rebuke to President Barack Obama in elections Tuesday. Obama now faces the final two years of his presidency contending with a Congress fully controlled by a party that firmly opposes his policies.
While Democrats had braced for a tough election night, their battering was beyond expectations. Republicans picked up seven seats — giving them 52 seats in the 100-member Senate and have the potential to win several more, while Democrats didn't take a single Republican seat. In the House, Republicans were on track to meet or exceed the record 246 seats they held during President Harry S. Truman's administration more than 60 years ago.
Democrats not only lost high-profile gubernatorial races in Florida, Wisconsin and Kansas, where they had strong hopes of toppling Republican incumbents with poor approval ratings, they also lost in Democratic-leaning Massachusetts, Maryland and Illinois, Obama's adopted home state..
The vote gives Republicans momentum heading into the 2016 presidential race, which will be the focus of American politics for the next two years. Republicans will be especially encouraged by their gubernatorial victories in battleground states that can sway presidential races, such as Florida, Ohio and Michigan.
Republicans had made Obama's presidency the core issue of their campaigns, even though he wasn't on the ballot. They rallied supporters against a president they see as pushing the government too deeply into American lives. They tapped into a well of discouragement at a time many Americans are upset with a sluggish economic recovery and are besieged by troubling news, such as the spread of Ebola and the beheading of Americans by Islamic State militants.
Nearly two-thirds of voters interviewed after casting ballots said the country was seriously on the wrong track. Only about 30 per cent said it was generally going in the right direction
Republican congressional leaders are also unpopular, but it's the president who inevitably gets the brunt of the blame. His approval ratings are near lows for his presidency. Democratic candidates in close races tried as best they could to distance themselves from him.
With Republicans taking control of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, a canny yet uncharismatic senator from Kentucky, will likely become majority leader, one of the most powerful positions in Washington. McConnell has been a severe critic of Obama, but has also helped broker bipartisan deals that ended last year's government shut down and averted at 2011 federal default. On Tuesday, he easily defeated Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes who was once seen as a strong challenger.
Voters are "hungry for new leadership. They want a reason to be hopeful," McConnell said at a victory rally.
Republicans will likely launch a strong assault on budget deficits, pressure Democrats to accept sweeping changes to the health care law that stands as Obama's signal domestic accomplishment and try to reduce federal regulations.
"It's time for government to start getting results and implementing solutions to the challenges facing our country, starting with our still-struggling economy," said House Speaker John Boehner.
Obama was at the White House as results came in. With lawmakers set to convene next week for a postelection session, he invited the congressional leadership to a meeting on Friday.
It's a political low point for a president who electrified the world with his election in 2008 as the first African-American president and was comfortably re-elected in 2012. Though he saw Democrats lose the House in 2010, partly in a backlash to the health care overhaul, this will be the first time he will also have to deal with a Republican-led Senate.
At stake Tuesday were 36 of the 100 Senate seats, all 435 House districts and 36 of 50 governors' seats. The spending was unprecedented for a non-presidential year. Congressional races alone cost an estimated $4 billion.
It was bound to be a difficult election for Democrats. Governing parties historically lose seats in midterm votes and a number of Democrats were defending seats in states that lean Republican. Some were first elected to six-year terms in 2008, riding the wave of excitement over Obama's initial candidacy.
Republicans needed a pickup of six seats to take control of the Senate. Three were almost assured — West Virginia, Montana and South Dakota — after long-time Democratic incumbents retired. They also defeated Democratic incumbents in Arkansas, Colorado and North Carolina and won a Democratic-held seat in Iowa left open by a retirement.
"Thanks to you, Iowa, we are headed to Washington, and we are going to make them squeal," declared Iowa Republican Joni Ernst, who vowed to cut pork in Washington in television ads that memorably cited her growing up castrating hogs.
Republican gains could continue. Democratic Sen. Mark Begich was trailing Republican Dan Sullivan in Alaska, and Louisiana is headed for a Dec. 6 runoff after no candidate won a majority. In a further sign of Democratic woes, one of the races that is too close to call is Virginia, where few suspected that the Democratic incumbent, Mark Warner, was vulnerable.
In the House, only a few dozen races were truly competitive. The dominant parties in state legislatures tend to carve out congressional districts to maximize the number of seats their parties can win, a process known as gerrymandering.
With dozens of House races uncalled, Republicans had picked up 14 seats in Democratic hands, and given up only one. A net pickup of 13 would give them more seats in the House than at any time since 1946.
Democrats could not even beat Republican Michael Grimm, a New York congressman indicted on tax fraud and other charges who gained national fame by threatening to throw a reporter off a balcony in Congress.
Democrats had few bright spots. New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Gov. Maggie Hassan, who campaigned with potential 2016 candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton last weekend, both won re-election. In Pennsylvania, businessman Tom Wolf dispatched Republican Gov. Tom Corbett
Islamic Republic of Iran: Christian preachers get 18 years
prison and exile
Robert Spencer/Jihad Watch
Nov 5, 2014
behnam-irani-3-irThey were convicted of “acting against national security and organizing a group to over-throw the regime,” which is absurd — although the Iranian regime no doubt considers the very practice of Christianity to be a threat to its power as the guardians of an Islamic Republic.
“Iranian Court Sentenced Three non-Trinitarian Preachers to 18 Years in Prison and Exile,” Mohabat News, November 3, 2014 (thanks to The Religion of Peace):
A Revolutionary Court in Karaj, capital of Alborz province, sentenced three members of a non-Trinitarian group to long term imprisonment and exile. The length of this sentence has shocked many of these men’s fellow group members.
This is an initial ruling, meaning convicts, Messrs. Behnam Irani, Reza Rabani and Abdolreza Ali Haghnejad have 20 days to appeal. Their sentence translates into 18 years in jail and exile to Zabol and Minab, in southern Iran.
Behnam Irani had already been sentenced to one year in prison and also had a suspended five year prison term from an earlier court. In addition to these, he was convicted of a new charge and received another six year sentence. The ruling states that he has to spend the six year term in Zabol prison.
Mr. Irani had been arrested in 2006 and a court gave him a suspended five year prison term for “action against national security”. Later, in 2009, he was sentenced to one year in prison for “propagating against the regime”. He has already served this one year prison term and is currently serving his suspended five year term. If the appeals court approves this new sentence, he will serve a total of 12 years in prison.
He has been in prison since 2010.
Reports state that Seyyed Abdolreza Ali Haghnejad (Matias), and Reza Rabani (Silas), were each sentenced to six years in prison as well.
Abdolreza Ali Haghnejad was arrested on August 18, 2011 and Reza Rabani was arrested in December 2013, both for evangelism. They are currently in custody in Rajaei-Shahr prison in Karaj.
Knowledgeable sources report that according to their sentence, they will be serving their prison term in Minab, a small town in Bandar Abbas.
The trial of these three was held on September 31, 2014, in the Revolutionary Court of Karaj. Legal activists believe that during their trial, the judiciary procedural code was not observed at all.
Although the trial began with charges of “enmity with God and corruption on earth” against these three men, by the end, the court convicted them of “acting against national security and organizing a group to over-throw the regime”. The judge, Mr. Asef Al-Hosseini, based his ruling on article 498 of the Islamic penal code….
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."
Lebanese religious figures reject sectarian conflict label
Nov. 04, 2014/Mohammed Zaatari| The Daily Star
SIDON, Lebanon: Christian and Muslim religious figures Tuesday rejected what they said was the sectarian label on regional conflicts, calling on Lebanese to unite in the face of terror threats, during Ashoura commemorations in south Lebanon. The Jaafarite Council, a Shiite religious body, in Sidon held a commemoration of Ashoura and brought together various religious, political and security figures including a representative of newly elected Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian, Sidon Maronite Bishop Elias Nasr, MP Ali Osseiran, a representative for MP Bahia Hariri, and the head of the Army Intelligence office in Sidon, Col. Mamdouh Saab. “What is happening in Lebanon and the region today is by no means a religious or sectarian conflict. It is not a conflict between Sunnis and Shiites but a political one over interests, and the Sunnis and Shiites are the fuel for this war,” Sheikh Bilal al-Malla, representing Derian, said in his speech. Malla urged the Lebanese to help the new mufti with his mission, which he described as difficult and critical, saying: “Let us help him overcome the danger facing Lebanon ... and prevent the fire surrounding us from reaching the country.”Derian is the head of Dar al-Fatwa, the highest Sunni authority in Lebanon. Nasr, the Maronite bishop, said it was unfortunate that religious symbols were being used as tools to commit and justify crimes against humanity, describing the current confict as merely a "political economic war." He said Lebanon had had its share of the terrorist phenomenon sweeping the Arab world, with militants attempting to import the sectarian strife into the country, referring to the August clashes between the Army and gunmen from ISIS and Nusra Front who sought to overrun the northeastern town of Arsal. “What is needed today is for everyone, regardless of their religion, sect and affiliation, to come together and help each other defend Lebanon from the terror threat and protect the country and its diverse community.” Shiite Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Osseiran blasted extremism, saying Islam had nothing to do with such behaviors and calling for dialogue among religions.
Shiite-dominated areas held rallies in south Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley and the capital, commemorating the death of the Prophet Mohammad's grandson, Imam Hussein, in a battle outside Karbala. In Beirut’s southern suburbs, which were sealed off due to security concerns, tens of thousands of people flocked to the streets in rallies organized by Hezbollah and Amal Movement. Amid unprecedented tight security measures, people dressed in black and carrying religious signs and symbols turned out despite fears of terrorist attacks by Islamist groups. The capital’s suburbs and other Shiite neighborhoods in the Bekaa Valley were the target of a number of suicide car bombings and rocket attacks earlier this year claimed by Islamist militants fighting in Syria. Nusra Front and ISIS, who said the bombings were in retaliation to Hezbollah’s role in the Syrian conflict, claimed some of the attacks. “I am here today in the rally to tell these takfiris that we do not fear them,” Ali Qoteish, carrying his son on his shoulders, told The Daily Star as he walked in a rally in the southern town of Tyre, which also witnessed large demonstrations in its streets.
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."
Two Saudi police among 4 dead in anti-Shiite attack
Agence France Presse/Nov. 04, 2014 /RIYADH: Two Saudi Arabian policemen and two suspects were killed in a security operation after an anti-Shiite attack killed five people in the kingdom's east, the Interior Ministry said on Tuesday. An exchange of fire occurred between security forces and suspects in Qassim region north of Riyadh, a ministry spokesman said, adding that two policemen were also wounded.
How the U.S., Not Iran, Is Making Concessions
Michael Singh /Wall Street Journal
By overlooking Iran's longstanding policies, making unrequited nuclear concessions, remaining ambiguous on Syria, and allowing tensions to persist with regional allies, Washington is sending the wrong message to Tehran.
Citing U.S. and Arab officials, the Wall Street Journal reported last week that U.S.-Iran relations have "moved into an effective state of detente over the past year." Detente implies a mutual easing of tensions, but the changes in U.S.-Iran relations have been decidedly one-sided. The central aim of American policy toward Iran in recent years had been to persuade Tehran to make a strategic shift: away from a strategy of projecting power and deterring adversaries through asymmetric means, and toward one that would adhere to international norms and reinforce regional peace and stability. Detente -- and, for that matter, a nuclear accord -- resulting from such a shift would be welcome by not only the U.S. but also its allies in the region and beyond.
Iran does not, however, appear to have undergone any such change. Iranian support for Hezbollah in Lebanon has continued unabated even as the group has thwarted efforts to strengthen Lebanese sovereignty and dispatched forces to Syria. According to the U.S. director of national intelligence, Hezbollah has increased "its global terrorist activity in recent years to a level that we have not seen since the 1990s." Tehran also continues to support non-state actors such as the Houthi rebels in Yemen and -- after a brief period of apparent estrangement accompanying the 2011 Arab uprisings -- Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups.
In Iraq, much is made of the supposed alignment of interests between the U.S. and Iran. But no such alignment is apparent. Iran's increased public profile in Iraq and its overt backing for Shiite militias -- which U.S. intelligence officials have warned would inflame sectarian tensions -- is directly at odds with President Barack Obama's strategy of seeking to restore Iraqi Sunnis' confidence in Baghdad, turn them against the Islamic State, and promote their inclusion in Iraq's government and institutions.
In Syria, the strategic rift between the U.S. and Iran is even clearer. Washington's stated policy is that Bashar al-Assad is illegitimate and that ending the Syrian conflict requires that he cede power to an inclusive, representative government. Iran, on the other hand, has worked to shore up President Assad, dispatching military advisers and paramilitary proxies, and organizing regular and irregular Syrian forces.
Nor when it comes to the Islamic State (ISIL) are the U.S. and Iran on the same page. Both countries are fighting the group, to be sure; but you wouldn't guess as much by listening to Iranian leaders. They accuse the United States of having created ISIL (which Iran's supreme leader says represents "American Islam") as a pretext for intervening in Syria and Iraq. Iranian leaders also pointed to Islamic State militants' recent seizure of errant American aid airdrops as evidence that Washington is providing ISIL with material support.
In short, what has changed is not Iran's strategy but the American response. We are choosing to overlook, rather than counter, long-standing Iranian policies. This -- combined with the concessions we have made in the nuclear talks, the ambiguity of U.S. policy toward the Assad regime and rising tensions with once-stalwart allies in the region -- reinforce the impression that the United States, not Iran, is undergoing a strategic shift.
Michael Singh is the Lane-Swig Senior Fellow and managing director at The Washington Institute. This article originally appeared on the Wall Street Journal's "Think Tank" blog.
Don’t Blame the Mediator
Ali Ibrahim/Asharq Al Awsat/Wednesday, 5 Nov, 2014
From the Gulf to the Atlantic, the UN has appointed official envoys, representatives and mediators to tackle the region’s urgent crises, fires which are spreading widely and which no one seems to be able to put out, and show that this region has become one of the world’s worst trouble spots. In Yemen, Jamal Benomar is making enormous efforts, some of which have borne fruit like the Gulf Initiative, though this has not stopped the country sliding towards dismemberment and collapse. In Syria, the UN is on its third envoy, Staffan de Mistura, who is still trying his luck though the world has reached the point of giving up in despair at attempting to resolve such a terrible crisis. In Libya, where the Special Representative of the Secretary-General Bernardino León recently stepped in, all the efforts of the opponents of chaos continue to stumble and the sound of bullets and missiles seems to be growing louder. In most cases, as the crisis worsens, the mediator or the international envoy becomes the target of accusations hurled by one party or another. This happened to Kofi Annan, the first UN envoy for Syria, who endured the mission for only a few months before he resigned. Then came Lakhdar Brahimi, who lasted two years in the job, during which he was able to persuade the combatants to attend the Geneva Conference, though it proved fruitless and failed to satisfy either of the two sides. Now Staffan de Mistura is a target for putting forth a modest proposal to the internationally-recognized opposition—one which fully accords with the thinking of the international community—to broker a ceasefire on the part of both the opposition and the regime, in order for the world to devote its efforts to tackling the terrorist organizations present in Iraq and Syria. The same thing is happening in Yemen, where Benomar is not safe from accusations leveled against him by local parties or observers either.
The mission of a mediator or envoy is not unimportant, and their missions are indispensable in times of crisis, especially attempts to contain the crisis and keep it from spreading. However, the situation would be simple if the dispute was between conflicting countries or if the country is in a state of war and entering a stage of post-war negotiations. This is because when it is an inter-state dispute, those in position to choose either war or peace can be addressed in the language of interests and diplomacy.
The situation is different in civil conflicts as in the three aforementioned crises: Yemen, Syria, and Libya. The combatants in these countries would not be locked in such fierce struggles battle if the situation in the countries had not become so dangerously volatile as to prompt them to eliminate their opponents completely. In Syria, at the beginning of the crisis, Annan or Brahimi’s mission would have been easier had each of the two conflicting parties been less confident of its ability to secure a total victory. The regime thought it could crush its opponents, whereas the opposition thought it could engineer a scenario similar to that of Libya, in which NATO would intervene on its side. However, the UN Envoy for Syria did not have the ability to mobilize the Security Council, unlike the situation now with Yemen, where Benomar can threaten anyone attempting to undermine political reconciliation with Security Council sanctions, a step which reflects the gravity of the situation, because all sides of the dispute must be part of the solution if Yemen is to survive.
Who will Iraq and Syria jihadists target next?
Wednesday, 5 November 2014
Dr. Naser al-Tamimi/Al Arabiya
Currently much of the Israeli coverage on jihadists in Syria and Iraq is trying hard not to link the Palestinian issue with the growing popularity of these militant groups. Indeed, they believe that Palestine is not the primary cause of their grievances. In this context, they see the flood of thousands of jihadists into Syria and Iraq in recent years as having nothing to do with Israel but related to the domestic situation and conflict between Sunnis and Shiites. Perhaps the political whirlwind that occurred as a result of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s statements linking the growing popularity of ISIS with the Palestinian plight reflects what was previously mentioned very clearly.
At first glance, these criticisms seem logical as it is true that ISIS (and other groups) have not targeted Israel directly so far. However, deep reflection on the ideas of jihad indicates that the criticisms may be deliberate or ignorant to the perspectives of these movements. Firstly, the jihadists presently do not have access to Palestine. Secondly, all the Palestinian factions (PLO, Islamic Jihad and Hamas) do not welcome the presence of jihadists among their ranks. Finally, the jihadists themselves reject fighting under the banners of secular parties or those affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.
However, this situation may change in the foreseeable future as the power of jihadists has increased dramatically and all the evidence seems to suggest that Israel could be the next target. Here we look at some of the indicators that support this argument.
“Imposing the ban on the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and some other Arab states has made the idea of forming the government through peaceful means or the ballot box no longer attractive to many Muslim youth today. ”
The first point is political frustration. Imposing the ban on the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and some other Arab states has made the idea of forming the government through peaceful means or the ballot box no longer attractive to many Muslim youth today. Also, with the return of military rule the so-called “political Islam” has become exposed to strong intellectual attacks from theorists in the jihadist movement. This situation coincided with some “military victories” by the jihadists in the Levant.
According to the latest available information, thousands of Egyptians, Palestinians, Jordanians and Lebanese youth have joined the jihadist movements (ISIS and the Nusra Front in particular) in Syria and Iraq. Ironically, there is growing evidence suggesting that a significant number of them used to be supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. Perhaps most importantly, with the economic and political crises plaguing countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine supporting the jihadist groups could become very attractive to many youths.
The other case which is working in the jihadists’ favor is the political and security situation in Libya and Sudan, two countries that remain unstable. As a result of the existence of a long, shared border between the two countries with Egypt, it is very logical to expect arms smuggling into Sinai, Gaza and possibly within Egypt itself to increase. Here we should point out that if we take into account the geographical area, smuggling weapons into Sinai may be easier than Gaza. More dangerously, at one point some of these jihadists may return to Gaza, the West Bank, Sinai and even to Israel. These fighters, who will have become battle-hardened militants, will have the skills to manufacture explosives and, perhaps most dangerously, contemplate spectacular attacks. They could soon pose a threat to Israel.
In this context, it should be said that with regard to finding a solution to the Palestinian issue the political prospects appear gloomy and therefore Hamas may not be able to maintain the status quo for a long time. After the recent war it is true that Hamas is seeking a relative period of calm to rebuild itself and for the reconstruction of Gaza.
However, for the jihadists this could turn into a win-win situation. If Hamas continues with its current political path, especially if accompanied by slowed or stalled reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, this may lead to increased frustration among important sectors of Palestinian youth and they might start looking to jihadist groups as their savior.
While attacking Israel will bring devastating responses, it could also increase the radicalization among young people. Hamas, despite its strained relations with Cairo, is not working against the Egyptian army but the danger for Israel and Egypt is that the jihadists in Gaza, Sinai and Israel could begin to cooperate and start planning joint operations. This dilemma was expressed by Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon in a recent interview in which he bluntly said: “Had Israel knocked out Hamas [in the recent war], no one would take charge ... so probably we were stuck ... So we prefer to reach a cease-fire according to our terms.”
Meanwhile, in Jordan there is strong sympathy for ISIS and this situation could shift as the time passes to the point of the formation of armed cells that may target Western interests in Jordan or attempt to carry out attacks against Israel. It is true that the coordination between Israel and Jordan has succeeded to a large extent, thus preventing many attacks, but the new skills and tactics gained by many elements of these jihadists are evolving dramatically and may be able to challenge the existing security measures.
“The new skills and tactics gained by many elements of these jihadists are evolving dramatically and may be able to challenge the existing security measures.”
In this regard, David Schenker, director of the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, warned in a recent article that the “ongoing dynamic in Syria guarantees a growing and potentially destabilizing reservoir of popular support for terrorists in Jordan,” consequently allowing ISIS threats to reach Israel more closely than before.
In the West Bank, the situation is more complicated as a result of the presence of the Palestinian and Israeli security services but with the “clinical death” of the peace process jihadist groups will perhaps in the near future be able to find a security loophole through which they can attack Israel. To be sure, what Kerry said is a reflection of reality – the Palestinian issue sooner or later will come back to the fore. Presently of course Israel can say it has the strongest army in the region and take comfort that the danger is “far away.” However, anyone following jihadist developments knows very well that they possess the capabilities, determination and the strategic patience to exploit any flaw. Ultimately, we should remember what John F. Kennedy once said: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”
Iran’s General Qassem Suleimani ‘masterminds’ Iraq ground war
By The Associated Press | Baghdad
Wednesday, 5 November 2014
When Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants retreated from the embattled town of Jurf al-Sakher last week, the Iraqi military was quick to flaunt a rare victory against the extremist group, with state television showing tanks and Humvees parading through the town and soldiers touring government buildings that had been occupied by the militants since August.
However, photos soon emerged on independent Iraqi news websites revealing a more discrete presence - the powerful Iranian general Qassem Suleimani - whose name has become synonymous with the handful of victories attributed to Iraqi ground forces. Local commanders said Lebanon's powerful Shiite Hezbollah group was also on the front lines.
Shiite militias have played a key role in driving ISIS out of the so-called Baghdad Belt of Sunni villages ringing the capital. But the sectarian militias have long been implicated in brutality against the country's Sunnis, and while they have benefited from U.S.-led airstrikes, their advance could undermine efforts to knit the troubled country together.
Militia commanders told The Associated Press that dozens of advisers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the Lebanese Hezbollah were on the front lines in Jurf al-Sakher, providing weapons training to some 7,000 troops and militia fighters, and coordinating with military commanders ahead of the operation.
One commander, who agreed only to be identified by his nickname, Abu Zeinab, said Suleimani began planning the Jurf al-Sakher operation three months ago. The cleared town, 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of the capital, lies on a road often used by Shite pilgrims, who will be heading in droves to the holy city of Karbala this week to commemorate the death of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson, Imam Hussein, in a 7th century battle that marked the beginning of the Sunni-Shiite divide.
Iraqi military officials declined to discuss Suleimani's presence in Jurf al-Sakher, or in previous victories where he is known to have played a commanding role, including in the besieged town of Amirli in August and in the Shiite holy city of Samarra in June.
Hezbollah has openly joined Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces against the mainly Sunni militants fighting to topple him - a decision that has fueled sectarian tensions in Lebanon. The Iran-backed group, however, has not commented on its involvement or lack thereof in Iraq. In Beirut, a Hezbollah spokesman declined to comment on Wednesday, saying he was not authorized to discuss the subject.
In July, officials in Lebanon said a Hezbollah commander was killed while on a "jihadi mission" in Iraq. Ibrahim Mohammed al-Haj was buried in Lebanon and his funeral attended by top Hezbollah officials. It was the first known Hezbollah death in Iraq since ISIS's lightning advance in June.
A Lebanese official close to the group said Hezbollah is known to have "a limited number of advisers" in Iraq who are not directly involved in fighting on the front-lines, and that al-Haj was one of them. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
Iraqi officials have also said that a handful of advisers from Hezbollah are offering front-line guidance to Iraqi Shiite militias fighting the Sunni extremists north of Baghdad. But it is not known if any Hezbollah men are actually fighting.
The U.S. and Iran have found themselves on the same side in the war against ISIS, which rampaged across much of northern and western Iraq in June, seizing the country's second-largest city, Mosul. But while U.S. military advisers have been coordinating coalition airstrikes from within heavily fortified bases, Suleimani and his commanders are on the front lines and would assume a key role in the retaking of major cities.
That could prove a major impediment to addressing the grievances of Iraq's Sunni minority. The militias were implicated in the mass killing of Sunnis at the height of the country's sectarian carnage in 2006 and 2007 and have more recently been accused of brutalizing Sunni captives. Sunnis are also deeply suspicious of Shiite powerhouse Iran, which has played an outsized role in Iraqi affairs since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated government.
"It is true that Iraq needs any kind of help in the current situation, but this help should be public and part of the international efforts," Sunni lawmaker Hamid al-Mutlaq told the AP. "This undeclared Iranian help harms national reconciliation and the sovereignty of Iraq."
Amnesty International said last month that Shiite militias have abducted and killed scores of Sunni civilians with the tacit support of the government in retaliation for ISIS attacks.
Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has pledged to reign in the Shiite militias and establish a national guard to mobilize Sunnis against the extremists. But it could take months to assemble such a force, and in the meantime Suleimani's militias are the best placed to aid Iraq's beleaguered military in regaining the initiative against ISIS.
Suleimani's Quds Force, the special operations arm of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, has been involved for years in training and financing Iraq's Shiite militias. It has also long worked with Hezbollah in Lebanon and has been aiding Assad's forces.
In June, Revolutionary Guard advisers under Suleimani provided guidance for Shiite militiamen in shelling Sunni insurgent positions around Samarra, a Sunni-majority city north of Baghdad that is home to a revered Shiite shrine, local commanders said. Suleimani was also seen as playing a key role in relieving ISIS' siege of the Shiite Turkmen town of Amirli. And a top Revolutionary Guard general said in September that Suleimani had even helped Kurdish fighters defend their regional capital Irbil.
Militia commanders, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the media, describe Suleimani as "fearless" - one pointing out that the Iranian general never wears a flak jacket, even on the front lines.
"Suleimani has taught us that death is the beginning of life, not the end of life," one militia commander said.
A plan to heal Syria?
By David Ignatius Opinion writer November 04 /14
With U.S.-backed “moderate” opposition forces on the run in northern Syria, a mediation group is proposing an alternative strategy for local cease-fires and a gradual de-escalation of violence in a future decentralized nation.
“The solution in the short term is neither transition nor power-sharing but freezing the war as it is, and acknowledging that Syria has been decentralized at the barrel of a gun,” argues the report, prepared by a European group that is funded by more than a dozen European and Asian governments. The report urges that the cease-fires should be followed by local elections and eventual national elections.
“Cease-fires will allow us to move towards a political solution and a negotiated political transition,” and bolster the embattled moderate opposition to President Bashar al-Assad, argues the report. It says the regime “knows it cannot take back the whole country or turn back the clock.”
The group has done extensive field work in Syria, meeting with top regime officials, moderate opposition leaders and members of the extremist groups Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State. The report has been shared with U.S. officials and other governments. It was provided by a U.S. source on condition that the mediation group’s name not be identified.
The report surfaces at a moment when the moderate Free Syrian Army rebels, the centerpiece of the U.S. strategy for defeating the extremists, have been driven from their strongholds in northern Syria. The moderate rebels have been pleading unsuccessfully for U.S. help to reverse these losses.
The Free Syrian Army’s requests to U.S. commanders make painful reading: “The FSA needs urgent Coalition support,” said an Oct. 28 message that noted the Islamic State was sending reinforcements to help Jabhat al-Nusra fighters attack moderates in Idlib province. Three days later, the FSA warned: “We’ve got major problems w Nusra in Idlib. . . . Close air support badly needed.” And then, on Nov. 2, “Morale is low . . . air support would be welcomed to stave off disaster.”
These latest reversals suggest that, without the kind of support the Obama administration has so far been unwilling to provide, the U.S. strategy for the moderates to defeat the jihadists is, as the report bluntly states, a “fantasy.” The report’s alternative plan for cease-fires may also be unrealistic, but it might offer a reduction in violence.
The local “reconciliation” approach was attempted, with mixed success, last year in Homs and the Damascus area. The report describes one example in al-Tal, near Damascus: “There has long been an informal agreement in which the regime and its security forces are absent from the town but state institutions function and the area is effectively self-governed with its own internal security force, and as long as insurgent attacks are not launched from it, then the regime does not respond.”
The report says some workable cease-fires have been negotiated by Fadi Saqr, commander in the Damascus region of a pro-regime paramilitary group known as the National Defense Forces. In other provinces, this group “is notorious for being an out-of-control predatory militia,” the report says, but in Damascus, “it has been the most progressive in striking sustainable agreements with insurgents.”
The report urges a similar cease-fire in Aleppo. Other areas where this de-escalation process might work are the Ghouta suburbs east of Damascus, the region around Daraa in the south and the deserts of eastern Syria.
“The only solution is local reconciliations,” a senior regime official told the authors of the report. “The state must be returned to all of Syria, and there must be respect for the rights and dignity of all, including the insurgents, in exchange for them respecting the state and its institutions.” The Syrian official proposed amnesty for insurgents and said they could also keep their weapons.
The report likens this de-escalation process to what Gen. David Petraeus achieved in slowing violence in Iraq in 2007. A Syrian official described as “a senior security and strategy adviser to the Syrian president” makes this comparison explicitly: “The reconcilables for the Americans in Iraq were the ones who accepted the state, so accept the [Syrian] state.”
The big problem with the group’s recommendations is that, to the rebels, this approach would probably look like surrender. Assad has become a magnet for jihadists, and as long as he remains in power, it’s hard to imagine any reconciliation process being seen by Sunni rebels as anything more than a temporary truce.
“There is a pathway that leads back out of this hell,” argues the European mediation group. If the Obama administration has a coherent alternative strategy, let’s hear it.
Palestinian kills Israeli, injures 13 in Jerusalem car attack before being shot dead by police
The Canadian PressBy Ian Deitch, The Associated Press | The Canadian Press
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - NOVEMBER 05
JERUSALEM - A Palestinian man rammed a minivan into a crowded train stop Wednesday in east Jerusalem and then attacked people with an iron bar after leaving the vehicle, killing one person and injuring 13 before he was shot dead by police.
The militant Hamas group took responsibility for the attack — the second-such assault in east Jerusalem in the past two weeks — which escalated already heightened tensions between Arabs and Jews in the city.
Earlier Wednesday, Israeli police dispersed dozens of masked Palestinians who threw rocks and firecrackers near a contested holy site in Jerusalem's Old City in response to a visit by a group of Jewish activists.
Neighbouring Jordan recalled the kingdom's ambassador to Israel for consultations in a gesture of protest over the police raid at the sacred site.
Jordan also said it would submit a complaint to the U.N. Security Council and would "take all necessary legal and diplomatic decisions and steps in order to stop Israel from its behaviour" at the holy site, said Jordan's State Minister for Media Affairs Mohammad al-Momani. Under a longstanding arrangement with Israel, Jordan retains custodial rights over Muslim holy sites in the Old City.
Police said the motorist slammed the white minivan into the train stop in east Jerusalem first, backed out and proceeded to drive off, hitting several cars along the way. He then got out and attacked a group of civilians and police officers on the side of the road with a metal bar before he was shot and killed. Security camera footage appeared to show him darting about a crowded intersection before he was shot.
Israeli police said "one person was killed and about a dozen people were injured in the terror attack." They later identified the slain man as a border policeman from the Druze minority.
Police identified the attacker as Ibrahim al-Akari, a 38-year-old Palestinian, and said he had recently been released from prison after serving time for security offences.
Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, said al-Akari was a member of the group. It said in a statement that al-Akari, "whose blood watered the land of the occupied holy city of Jerusalem, preferred but to retaliate for the blood of his people and the sacredness of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem."
Hamas official Fawzi Barhoum praised the "glorious operation" and called for more such attacks.
Israel and Hamas are bitter enemies, and fought a bruising 50-day war over the summer.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the attack was a result of continued incitement by Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and "his Hamas partners," an apparent reference to a Palestinian unity government led by Abbas and backed by the Islamic militant group. Abbas has called on Palestinians to guard the sensitive holy site from visiting Jews.
Israel's Minister of Public Security Yitzhak Aharonovitch said civilians and police officers were among the victims. He praised the police officer who killed al-Akari, saying that "a terrorist who attacks civilians deserves to be killed."
The attack was almost identical to one two weeks ago, also committed by a Palestinian from east Jerusalem who rammed his car into a crowded train station, killing a 3-month-old Israeli-American girl and a woman from Ecuador — not far from the scene of Wednesday's attack.
East Jerusalem has experienced unrest since the summer, with Palestinian youths throwing stones and firebombs at motorists and clashing frequently with Israeli police.
Israel captured east Jerusalem — with its sites sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians — from Jordan in the 1967 war. Palestinians demand the territory for their future capital. The fate of the area is an emotional issue for Jews and Muslims and its future lies at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Much of the recent unrest has focused around a sacred compound which is the holiest site for Jews, who call it the Temple Mount because of the Jewish Temples that stood there in biblical times. Muslims refer to it as the Noble Sanctuary, and it is their third-holiest site, after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.
Wednesday's car attack came shortly after clashes in the Old City, where Palestinians threw rocks and firecrackers at police to protest a visit to a key holy site by Israeli supporters of a rabbi shot by a Palestinian gunman last week.
The Israelis marked a week since the attack on American-Israeli activist Yehuda Glick, who has campaigned for more Jewish access to the holy site. Palestinians view such visits as a provocation and often respond violently. Glick remains in serious condition.
Several police officers were hurt in Wednesday's clashes, said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, adding that the police used stun grenades to disperse the Palestinians.
Muslim worshippers view Jewish prayer at the site as a provocation, and Israeli authorities place tough restrictions on it. Everyone visiting the area from the Israeli side has to be screened by police.
**Associated Press writers Fares Akram in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, and Omar Akour in Amman, Jordan, contributed to this report.