LCCC ENGLISH DAILY
Bible Quotation For Today/The Weak and
Romans 14/01-23: "Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 1 It is written:
“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’” So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall. So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.
analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 13-14/14
The fighters of Iraq who answer to Iran/Ynetnews /Reuters/November 13/14
What Will Follow the November 24 Deadline/Tariq Alhomayed /Asharq Al Awsat/November 13/14
In Syria, the Alliance of Minorities is Counterproductive/Eyad Abu Shakra /Asharq Al Awsat/November 13/14
Don’t underestimate ISIS’ Baghdadi/Joyce Karam /Al Arabiya/November 13/14
Your terrorism won’t divide us/Jamal Khashoggi /Al Arabiya/November 13/14
The Roots of the Yemeni Crisis/Ali Ibrahim/Asharq Al Awsat/November 13/14
Iran’s conservatives turn up heat on nuclear deal as deadline approaches/Ali M. Pedram /Asharq Al Awsat/November 13/14
A Turkish Quest to "Liberate" Jerusalem/Burak Bekdil/The Gatestone Institute/November 13/14
Lebanese Related News
published on November
Geagea with Polls under 1960 Law if Constitutional Council 'Shortens' Extension Period
IS Releases Audio of Chief Baghdadi after Death Rumors
FPM Challenges Parliament's Term Extension before Constitutional Council
Hizbullah Delegation from Rabieh: Aoun is Our Candidate and This is Final
Canada to Extradite Accused Paris Bomber to France
Daryan Meets al-Rahi: All MPs Must Take Part in Presidential Elections Sessions at Parliament
Peruvian police arrest Hezbollah member
U.N. urges Lebanon to finally select a president
UNIFIL chief presides over tripartite meeting
Hezbollah’s 'impunity' undermines stability: Hale
Lebanon health minister dishes up more food-safety violators
Lebanon food scandal causes Cabinet bellyache
Abu Faour set to expose Beirut’s dirty secrets
Czech FM: Lebanese Army first to defeat ISIS
Hezbollah officials to visit Aoun
Lebanon gets served on Twitter
Hajj Hasan: Protect productive sectors
Up close and personal with Canadian-Lebanese singer Karl Wolf
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on
Canada Denounces Attacks on Mosque and Synagogue
Iran’s conservatives turn up heat on nuclear deal as deadline approaches
US says Iraq remains priority over Syria in ISIS fight
Kerry meets Abbas as Israeli-Palestinian tensions soar
Kerry to meet Netanyahu and Jordan's king
Red Cross offers to help Syria 'reconciliation'
Syria jails veteran dissident detained at border
ISIS says Dutch suicide bomber struck Iraq police
French jihadi who spent days in Syria jailed
France urges Israel to reverse settlement decision
U.S. raps Israeli settler plans as tensions soar
Russia, U.S. urge Iran nuclear deal ‘as soon as possible’
Shocking ISIS photo: children gaze at decapitated men
Saudi Arabia to open embassy in Baghdad soon: Prince Faisal
Saudi beheads another Pakistani on drugs charges
Turkey set to issue temporary work permits to Syrian refugees
Turkish nationalists assault U.S. sailors
Car bombs target Egyptian, UAE embassy in Libya
Attacks in Egypt's Sinai kill two police, three soldiers
U.S. Senators: Iran Deal must Dismantle Nuclear Program
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Geagea with Polls under 1960 Law if
Constitutional Council 'Shortens' Extension Period
Naharnet ظLebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea on Thursday said he supports going to parliamentary elections if the Constitutional Council decides to shorten the extended term of parliament, stressing that Saudi Arabia did not influence his party's decision to vote in favor of extension. “If the Constitutional Council decides to shorten the extension period, we are with going to elections, even under the 1960 (electoral) law,” Geagea said in an interview on LBCI television.
Geagea described the appeal submitted earlier in the day to the Constitutional Council by the Change and Reform bloc as a "folkloric step," hoping the Constitutional Council will “shorten the extension period.”
“Has any minister asked the government about the reason that prevented it from preparing for elections? Are they playing smart now by filing a challenge?” said Geagea.
“It was not (head of the Change and Reform bloc Michel) Aoun who proposed the Orthodox Gathering law, we did,” the LF leader noted, in reference to a controversial electoral law under which each sect would elect its own MPs.
“Aoun opposed the Orthodox Gathering law when we proposed it in Bkirki,” said Geagea.
Defending his party's decision to vote in favor of extension, Geagea added: “Of course we were against extension when the choice was between extension and parliamentary polls, but we chose extension over the risk of falling into the unknown.”
“Speaker (Nabih) Berri kept saying that he would not approve extension and Hizbullah's stance was not clear, that's why we were afraid to fall into the unknown,” he explained.
Denying claims that his stance was influenced by Saudi Arabia, which he visited last month, Geagea stressed that “the issue of extension was not raised even for a single moment in Saudi Arabia.”
While in the kingdom, “I agreed with (al-Mustaqbal movement leader Saad) Hariri that I would not vote for extension, but the circumstances changed in Beirut,” Geagea pointed out.
“Hariri urged me several times to vote for extension and I told him that I would not vote for it and that this was the stance of the LF's executive committee,” he revealed.
However, the LF leader noted that he was “not convinced of the reasons announced by the interior minister to postpone the elections,” adding that “it would have been better to hold the elections.”
“We must become accustomed to holding elections regardless of the security situations,” Geagea stated.
“The other reason that pushed us to accept extension was that we did not want others to get accustomed to passing major decisions without the approval of Christians,” he added.
Asked whether the political paralysis in the country was aimed at reaching a constituent assembly that would reshape the entire political system, Geagea said “when you speak of a constituent assembly you must have a workpaper and it is inexistent at the moment.”
“If some believe that the Taef Accord is not valid, let them propose an alternative project and I'm not so fond of the Taef Accord,” said Geagea.
He accused the parliamentary blocs of Hizbullah and the FPM of “obstructing everything.”
“The Change and Reform bloc's priority is the election of General Aoun as president and I bet that if an agreement is reached today to elect Aoun is president, his MPs would go to the parliament to elect him, although they have labeled the legislature as illegitimate,” Geagea noted. On the issue of the stalled presidential elections, Geagea wondered “how can one say that the Aoun-Geagea competition has torpedoed the presidential vote.”
“What was the Lebanese Forces supposed to do other than attending all the electoral sessions?” he asked rhetorically.
“Aoun must be pressed to go to parliament and elect a president and there is another solution, which is reaching an understanding over a president,” added Geagea.
Asked about claims that his "historic mission" has always been to prevent Aoun from reaching the Baabda Palace, Geagea said: “I'm not carrying any historic mission other than my political project and I have carried this concern for 35 years -- during the war, in prison and during peace times -- and I have the right to announce my nomination.”
As for the stance of the March 14 forces, Geagea said he told the coalition's two other candidates – Kataeb Party chief Amin Gemayel and MP Butros Harb -- that he would “immediately withdraw in favor of anyone who can secure more votes.”
Last week, 95 out of 128 lawmakers voted to extend their term in office for a second time, amid a boycott by the FPM and the Kataeb Party.
Lebanon has been without a president since May when the term of Michel Suleiman ended.
A dispute between the rival March 8 and 14 camps over a compromise candidate has thwarted the election of a new president.
IS Releases Audio of Chief Baghdadi
after Death Rumors
Naharnet /he Islamic State group released a defiant audio recording Thursday it said was of chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, after air strikes on jihadist leaders in Iraq sparked rumors he had been wounded or killed.
In the 17-minute message, the man purported to be Baghdadi vowed that IS, which has overrun swathes of Iraq and Syria, will continue to expand despite international air strikes, and that its opponents will be drawn into a ground war.
"Be assured, O Muslims, for your State is good and in the best condition. Its march will not stop and it will continue to expand," said the man in the recording, whose voice sounded like Baghdadi's but whose identity could not be independently confirmed.
"Soon, the Jews and Crusaders will be forced to come down to the ground and send their ground forces to their deaths and destruction," he said.
U.S. President Barack Obama has announced plans to double the number of U.S. military personnel in Iraq to up to 3,100 to help advise and train Baghdad's forces -- a move the man in the audio recording said was the start of the ground war between the two sides.
The message was the first said to be from Baghdadi since a video released in July, shortly after IS proclaimed a "caliphate" over parts of Iraq and Syria, of the jihadist leader delivering a Friday sermon in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.
While the recording seemed aimed at dispelling speculation that Baghdadi was seriously injured or dead, it did not mention the strikes against IS leaders.
But it did reference the decision by Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, Egypt's deadliest militant group, to pledge allegiance to Baghdadi and IS, which was announced after the strikes.
The United States said that coalition aircraft launched strikes targeting IS leaders in the area of their northern hub of Mosul on Friday, setting off a flurry of speculation that Baghdadi was wounded or killed.
Some reports meanwhile pointed to another alleged strike near Iraq's border with Syria, saying Baghdadi was hit there instead.
But officials in both Iraq and the United States have made clear that no one is yet certain about Baghdadi's fate.
Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steven Warren said Monday that "the bottom line from our perspective is we simply cannot confirm his current status."
And senior Iraqi officials from the interior and defense ministries and the intelligence service said investigations were ongoing.
The death of the elusive IS leader would be a major victory for the U.S.-led coalition, but with both areas where strikes were rumored to have hit Baghdadi far from government control, confirming anything there will be difficult if not impossible.
Rumors of Baghdadi's demise have surfaced before and the absence of video in Thursday's release by the IS group's media arm is likely to fuel further speculation he was indeed wounded.
IS spearheaded a militant offensive in June that overran Iraq's second city Mosul and then swept through much of the country's Sunni Arab heartland, adding chunks of a second country to territory it already held in Syria.
It has carried out atrocities in both countries.
The group has killed hundreds of Iraqi and Syrian tribesmen who opposed it, attacked members of the Yazidi and other minorities, sold women as slaves, executed scores of Iraqi security personnel and beheaded Western journalists and aid workers on camera.
IS is one of the most powerful forces in Syria's civil war, a blood-soaked conflict that, combined with former Iraqi premier Nuri al-Maliki's divisive policies, facilitated the group's rise.
Activists and a monitoring group said Thursday that United Nations aid has reached the last rebel-held area in the central Syrian city of Homs for the first time in six months. "On Tuesday and Wednesday, 30 trucks of aid arrived in Waer for the first time in six months," Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights told AFP. IS meanwhile claimed responsibility on Thursday for a suicide bombing targeting police in Iraq the day before, saying it had been carried out by a Dutch national. It is the second attack allegedly involving a suicide bomber from a Western country in less than a week, after a British national blew up a truck packed with explosives in a northern town on Friday. Thousands of foreign fighters have joined jihadist groups including IS, sparking fears in Western countries that the militants may seek to return and carry out attacks at home. Agence France Presse
Hizbullah Delegation from Rabieh: Aoun
is Our Candidate and This is Final
Naharnet/Hizbullah secretary-general's political aide Hussein Khalil announced Thursday that Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun can be considered a “consensual” presidential candidate, describing the disagreement between the party and the movement over the extension of parliament's term as a “minor” issue. “Our meeting today was aimed at reiterating that the relation between Hizbullah and the FPM has surpassed the memorandum of understanding to become an 'existential relation',” said Khalil after meeting Aoun in Rabieh. The talks were also attended by Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil and head of Hizbullah's Liaison and Coordination Unit Wafiq Safa. “The FPM and us have become one body,” Khalil added. “We must put our hands together and close ranks in the face of the fierce storms that are lashing our country and the region in general,” he said. Recalling recent remarks by Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, who voiced support for Aoun in the presidential race, Khalil said “what the Sayyed said about the presidency was the normal thing to say, because General Aoun represents the pinnacle of national leadership.” “He has his own decision and he is not subordinate to a foreign agenda and he's almost the sole leader of Christians in Lebanon and the Middle East,” the Hizbullah official explained.
Asked about the divergent stances over the issue of extending the parliament's term, Khalil said “the issue of extension was a minor thing.” “We don't impose our ideas on our allies, the same as our allies do not accept to impose their will on us,” he added.
“We believe that General Aoun is the best candidate for the presidency and this is our final stance,” Khalil said, in response to another question. “We consider General Aoun to be a consensual man and he has the characteristics of the prominent leader. He is a man of decision at the level of Lebanon and the region and we'll defend our point of view till the end and this is our firm stance which we will not change,” Khalil added. Last week, 95 out of 128 lawmakers voted to extend their term in office for a second time, amid a boycott by the FPM and the Kataeb Party. Lebanon has been without a president since May when the term of Michel Suleiman ended. A dispute between the rival March 8 and 14 camps over a compromise candidate has thwarted the election of a new president.
FPM Challenges Parliament's Term Extension before Constitutional Council
Naharnet /The Free Patriotic Movement submitted on Thursday a challenge before the Constitutional Council over the parliament's new term extension. Change and Reform bloc secretary and FPM member MP Ibrahim Kanaan presented the challenge. Kanaan called on citizens “not to lose faith in state institutions during the darkest times.”He pointed out that democracy means the staging of elections and rotation of power, demanding the Constitutional Council to issue a decision based on the constitution and that serves the nations interests. Al-Joumhouria newspaper reported earlier on Thursday that the FPM, led by FPM chief Michel Aoun and affiliated to the Change and Reform parliamentary bloc, prepared a thirty-page document explaining the reasons behind the challenge. Sources close to the FPM criticized in comments to the newspaper those who are saying that the “challenge is merely a formal step that will not change anything.”
“We regret that referring to the Constitutional Council in Lebanon became a formality... which indicates the extent of corruption in the state and its institutions.”The sources demanded the council to prove to skeptics and all the Lebanese that the state still exists.
On Wednesday, President of the Constitutional Council Issam Suleiman stressed that members of the council will deal with any challenge against the extension of the parliament's mandate according to norms.
The Constitutional Council failed to meet in 2013 to discuss a challenge by the Free Patriotic Movement due to the absence of members close to Speaker Nabih Berri and Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat, who both backed the extension.
The FPM had challenged the first tenure extension in June 2013 before the Constitutional Council and vowed to challenge the latest extension after lawmakers agreed to extend in a speedy session legislature's mandate until 2017. The extension decision was met by a huge popular dismay. It was boycotted by FPM chief Aoun's lawmakers and the Kataeb party, which is affiliated to the March 14 alliance.
Media reports said recently that lawmakers loyal to the Change and Reform parliamentary bloc, which is comprised of the Tashnag party, Marada movement and the FPM, would join FPM chief Aoun's party in challenging the extension.
Marada MPs had voted in favor of the extension, while Tashnag lawmakers had rejected it.
Daryan Meets al-Rahi: All MPs Must
Take Part in Presidential Elections Sessions at Parliament
Naharnet/Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Daryan stressed on Thursday the need to elect a new president following last week's extension of parliament's term. He said: “All lawmakers must take part in presidential elections sessions held at parliament.”He made his remarks after holding talks at Bkirki with Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi. “MPs must participate in the elections in order to prevent Lebanon from being exposed on all levels,” noted Daryan. “All sides must reach an agreement in order to save Lebanon from crises,” he stated. “Lebanon belongs to all the Lebanese people and this nation deserves for us to elect a president in order for life to return to state institutions,” said the Mufti.
“The patriarch and I are keen on Lebanon and it is our duty to make the call for officials to elect a president,” he continued. “All sides must launch dialogue to help end the crisis and avoid further dangers,” he stressed.
Last week, 95 out of 128 lawmakers voted to extend their term in office for a second time. Parliament's new term will end in 2017. Lebanon has been without a president since May when the term of Michel Suleiman ended. A dispute between the rival March 8 and 14 camps over a compromise candidate has thwarted the election of a president.
Canada to Extradite Accused Paris
Bomber to France
Naharnet /Canada's top court refused Thursday to hear a university professor's final plea to halt his extradition to France, effectively ensuring he will face trial for the 1980 bombing of a Paris synagogue. The decision brings to an end 60-year-old Hassan Diab's six-year legal battle to avoid what he said would be an unfair prosecution in France for a crime he insists he did not commit. The Supreme Court of Canada issued its decision in a one-line statement, saying his appeal of a lower court ruling and the government's extradition order was "dismissed without costs." Diab, who was taken into custody Wednesday afternoon pending the announcement, could now be flown to France at any time. French sources told AFP a police escort would arrive in Ottawa soon to bring Diab to Paris. The 1980 bombing on the narrow Copernic Street was the first fatal attack against the French Jewish community since the Nazi occupation in World War II. It left four dead and 40 wounded. Canada's justice minister signed an order in April 2012 to send Diab to France after a Canadian court the previous year approved his extradition despite its concerns that the French case was "weak." Diab has said he has "absolutely no connection whatsoever to the terrible 1980 attack," while his legal team argued he should not be extradited because a conviction in Canada would be unlikely. In proceedings, Diab's lawyers mainly sought to discredit what they've called "fatally flawed" handwriting analysis of a Paris hotel slip in evidence. France says the slip was signed under a false identity -- "Alexander Panadriyu" -- which was also used to purchase a motorcycle used in the bombing. Diab's lawyers also challenged fingerprint evidence saying it does not match Diab's, and noted that the suspect who signed the Paris hotel slip was described by witnesses as middle-aged while Diab, would have been 26 at the time, and that his passport shows Diab was not in France in 1980. They also sought to prove that then-justice minister Rob Nicholson reached beyond his jurisdiction in ordering Diab's surrender, and that some of the evidence in the case came from unsourced intelligence from the French government, raising questions about its reliability. The intelligence used to gather evidence has a "plausible connection" to torture, they said. But an appeals court said it was satisfied the minister had properly tested the allegations of torture, citing him as saying that Diab "is not being surrendered to a country that condones the use of torture-derived evidence." As for whether Canada should extradite a Canadian citizen to face a foreign prosecution, the appeals court noted that Diab was not a Canadian national at the time of the alleged offense and so Canada is treaty-bound to extradite him. Diab only became a Canadian citizen in 2006, and is now the father of a nearly two-year-old girl with his common-law wife. He claims he was studying in Beirut in 1980.Agence France Presse
Peruvian police arrest Hezbollah
By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News/Thursday, 13 November 2014
Peruvian authorities have arrested a member of Lebanese militant group Hezbollah who is suspected of planning to attack Jewish targets in the country, The Times reported Thursday. Police said Mohammed Amadar was arrested on Oct. 28, and will be charged in connection with possession of explosives, the newspaper reported. Amadar had “traces of explosives” when he was arrested at an apartment he was residing in, and was reportedly “surveying Jewish and Israeli targets in the capital.”The authorities have not disclosed what prompted the investigation, but Israeli spy agency Mossad had reportedly tipped off Peruvian police about Amadar. Israeli media reported that Amadar arrived in Peru last November, and married a woman with U.S. and Peruvian citizenship within two weeks. After Mossad tipped off Peruvian authorities, Amadar was closely monitored, and it was discovered that neither the suspect nor his wife worked, but received money via Western Union.
Hezbollah’s 'impunity' undermines stability: Hale
Nov. 13, 2014 /The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Lebanon will not find stability as long as Hezbollah is strong enough to act with impunity and enforce its will, U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale said Thursday. Hale’s remarks came in a speech he gave at the American Lebanese Chamber of Commerce, which focused on the threat of ISIS. “But we all know defeating [ISIS] alone will not restore stability to Lebanon. We all know there are underlying problems,” Hale said. “High on the list of risks is the continued ability of one militia, Hezbollah, to bear arms and act with impunity.”“So long as that is the case, stability will be absent, and growth impeded.”Hale said that only national dialogue and the adherence to the Baabda Declaration can pave the way for Lebanon’s stability. But until then, Hezbollah’s power remains one of the main obstacles.Until that dialogue advances, and its principles are not just agreed to but adhered to, the risks to this country’s stability will remain very real, Hale said. “The security institutions of the state should have the capability, and sole legitimacy, to defend Lebanon’s territory,” he added. “For they alone – and not a militia – are accountable to the people." He said the decisions of war and peace directly affect every Lebanese citizen, and should thus be held by a constitutional government accountable to the people, and “not to a militia accountable to a foreign government.”
U.N. urges Lebanon to finally select a president
By The Associated Press | United Nations /Thursday, 13 November 2014
The United Nations Security Council is expressing concern and strongly encouraging leaders in Lebanon to show “urgency and flexibility” in choosing a president, as the country has been without a head of state since May. The current council president, Australian Ambassador Gary Quinlan, read out the press statement Wednesday after a briefing on the situation. President Michel Suleiman stepped down after his six-year term ended without a replacement. The presidency is the country’s top Christian-held position. Lawmakers last week voted overwhelmingly to extend their mandate, skipping scheduled elections for the second consecutive time. They say Lebanon’s security situation is too fragile to allow elections during neighboring Syria’s civil war. Rights groups worry that lawmakers are eroding the right to vote in a country with a tradition of free elections.
Lebanon food scandal causes Cabinet bellyache
Hasan Lakkis/The Daily Star/13.11.14/BEIRUT: A Cabinet meeting got underway Thursday with the food security scandal expected to be the hottest issue on the table, ministerial sources told The Daily Star. The meeting's agenda of 49 items excluded the controversial contract issues - for the mobile phone operators, fuel suppliers for EDL and for garbage collection - that have plagued recent sessions, the sources said. The food security scandal, which came to light after Health Minister Wael Abu Faour began Tuesday naming well-known restaurants and supermarkets that were caught selling contaminated foods, drew both criticism and praise. Economy Minister Alain Hakim criticized Abu Faour Thursday after the health minister added several more food sellers to the black list. “The [food control] process at the Health Ministry is a routine measure, but the way the minister talked about it is terrorizing,” Hakim said. Minister of State Nabil de Freij acknowledged the importance of Abu Faour’s revelations, criticizing, however, “the way they were disclosed.”
Both ministers made their comments as they walked into the Cabinet meeting. The sources said discussion of the contentious issues related to the cellular phones, garbage collection and the renewal of contracts of the two Algerian and Kuwaiti fuel companies supplying EDL with the fuel had been postponed to future meetings. Prime Minister Tammam Salam is expected to brief the Cabinet on the latest developments in the government’s efforts to secure the freedom of the captive security personnel held by the Nusra Front and ISIS, without giving any details, the sources added.
Lebanon health minister dishes up more food-safety violators
The Daily Star/Nov. 13, 2014/BEIRUT: Health Minister Wael Abu Faour Thursday revealed the names of more restaurants, bakeries and supermarkets selling contaminated food, in the latest high-profile food industry scandal that has dominated Lebanese headlines since Tuesday. Among the food establishments Abu Faour named were three renowned supermarkets in Beirut: Monoprix, TSC and Aoun. Other establishments included well-known restaurants like Halabi in Antelias, north of Beirut, Abu Joseph in nearby Jal al-Dib and Hashem in the Kesrouan province. Abu Faour vowed to push ahead with his clamp down, despite the heavy attacks by his colleagues in the cabinet who thought his move was destructive. "The campaign is ongoing," he told a news conference. "We will not stop," he said while stressing that he would not succumb to intimidation. The highly anticipated naming provoked a flurry of criticism from certain ministers accusing Abu Faour of recklessnes, while others reiterated their support for the campaign. Economy Minister Alain Hakim accused Abu Faour of commiting “terrorism against the restaurants.”“It is like shooting ourselves in the head, not even in the foot,” he told reporters before entering Thursday’s Cabinet session. Tourism Minister Michel Pharaon said he was opposed to Abu Faour publicly naming the restaurants, saying the announcement damages their reputations while the problem of contiminated meat might not be their fault, but that of the suppliers. “The restaurants take from sources that might be themselves the problem, and the read inspection should be done on the suppliers,” he said, stressing that Lebanon’s restaurants have a great reputation worldwide. Pharaon said his ministry was very proud of Lebanese restaurants and especially the franchises mentioned by Abu Faour like McDonald’s, Roadster Diner, Kababji and Hallab Sweets. MP Walid Jumblatt, who has stood by Abu Faour over the past two days, reiterated his support in a tweet Thursday, saying the initiative is meant to protect consumers. Meanwhile, the Internal Security Forces said that all the establishments listed by Abu Faour Tuesday had since pledged to stop selling the products in question until the situation is legally resolved.
UNIFIL chief presides over tripartite meeting
The Daily Star/Nov. 13, 2014/BEIRUT: UNIFIL commander Maj. Gen. Luciano Portolano presided over a tripartite meeting with Lebanese and Israeli military officials in Naqoura over the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1701, a statement said Thursday. “It was a constructive meeting and I was encouraged that the parties reaffirmed their support and commitment to working with UNIFIL for the implementation of the relevant provisions of resolution 1701," the UNIFIL statement quoted Portolano as saying at the Wednesday meeting. "The parties committed to maintaining calm in the area and preventing incidents and tension along the Blue Line.” He added: “In light of the challenging regional developments, stability has prevailed in UNIFIL’s area of operations. I commend both parties for their commitment and effective use of UNIFIL’s liaison and coordination arrangements that have proven to be vital in de-escalating tensions.”The parties discussed violations of the 2006 resolution that ended the Lebanon-Israel war, and the issue of Israeli forces from northern Ghajar.
Ahmad Hariri defends extension, blasts rivals
Nov. 13, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Future Movement Secretary General Ahmad Hariri defended his party's lawmakers who voted last week to approve Parliament's extension by more than two years, telling AUB student supporters that holding elections during a presidential vacuum was never an option. “The reason [Future] voted for the extension is not that we are afraid of elections as some people claim,” Hariri told a crowd of student leaders and supporters from AUB Thursday. “But in the case of extension, our position was clear from the beginning, which is that oppose conducting elections during presidential vacuum.” Hariri also attacked his political rivals Hezbollah, Amal and the Free Patriotic Movement, accusing them of obstruction. “There is a political faction that wants to drag the country into total void, while it aims at amending the Constitution and achieve the tripartite power sharing formula,” he said. A tripartite formula calls for a 33-33-33 distribution of Christians, Shiites and Sunnis in Parliament. The current system, based on the country’s 1943 National Pact, give half the seats to Christians, and the other half to Muslims. “In parallel, another faction wants to generalize vacuum, and extend its duration, according to the logic that gives two choices: either him becoming president or keeping the state without a head,” he said in reference to FPM chief Michel Aoun. Hariri’s meeting with the students was held at the old Kantari presidential palace, and came five days before AUB student council elections.
Kerry meets Abbas as Israeli-Palestinian tensions soar
Nov. 13, 2014/Hazel Ward/Agence France Presse
AMMAN: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Jordan Thursday for talks aimed at calming a wave of violence gripping Israel and the occupied territories. The meeting in Amman came hours after fresh clashes broke out in East Jerusalem where Israeli police fired tear gas, percussion bombs and rubber bullets to disperse Palestinian demonstrators. Monthslong unrest in annexed East Jerusalem has in recent days spread to the occupied West Bank and Arab communities across Israel, raising fears of a new Palestinian uprising. The meeting between Abbas and Kerry, who arrived in Jordan late Wednesday, came a day after Israel approved plans for another 200 settler homes in occupied East Jerusalem, a move sharply criticized by Washington.
Kerry and a somber-looking Abbas embraced and had a brief whispered exchange as they met at the Palestinian leader's hillside home in Amman where the U.S. and Palestinian flags hung in front of a large night-time photo of Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Much of the unrest in Jerusalem has been fueled by Israeli moves to step up settlement activity in the city's eastern sector and by religious tensions at the Al-Aqsa compound, a site holy to both Muslims and Jews. Earlier, a tense confrontation erupted in the city's Issawiya neighborhood as about 100 residents, including schoolchildren, tried to block a main road after police closed off several neighborhood entrances with concrete blocks. A local activist denounced the blocks as "collective punishment" against Palestinians in Jerusalem.
The Palestinians have also been infuriated by a far-right Jewish campaign for prayer rights at the Al-Aqsa compound, although Israel insists it has no plans to change the decades-old status quo. Israel's Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said the authorities were on alert for more unrest, after several attacks in recent weeks by Palestinians wielding knives or plowing cars into pedestrians. "I believe there will still be terror attacks and other incidents in the near future," he said. Abbas's spokesman said the Palestinian leader was expected to tell Kerry of his growing concerns over Israel's actions, particularly in Jerusalem. "The Palestinian position will be made crystal clear: the Israeli violations are a red line and cannot be tolerated, especially with the tension and Israeli escalation in Al-Aqsa and Jerusalem," Nabil Abu Rudeina told AFP. In a letter to the U.N. Security Council sent Wednesday, Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour demanded international intervention over Al-Aqsa, warning that tensions could "spiral out of control."
Clashes at the mosque compound have drawn sharp criticism from both the Palestinians and Jordan, which has custodial rights at the shrine. Ahead of Kerry's arrival, King Abdullah met Abbas in Amman for talks in which he expressed his "total rejection" of Israel's "repeated aggression and provocations in Jerusalem," a palace statement said. In a move likely to further heighten tensions around the Al-Aqsa compound, Aharonovitch said late Wednesday that he would reinstall metal detectors at the entrances along with new facial-recognition technology. "We'll increase the supervision of people entering the compound, both Jews and Muslims," he said. But Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, head of the Islamic Waqf which runs the compound, rejected the idea.
"This is unacceptable to all Muslims. It cannot be installed," he told AFP. The U.S. State Department sharply condemned Israel's announcement of 200 new homes in the East Jerusalem settlement neighborhood of Ramot. "We are deeply concerned by this decision, particularly given the tense situation in Jerusalem," spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon demanded both sides do everything possible "to avoid further exacerbating an already tense environment." On Wednesday, suspected Jewish extremists staged a pre-dawn arson attack on a West Bank mosque two days after Palestinian knife attacks killed a settler in the southern West Bank and an Israeli soldier in Tel Aviv.
Don’t underestimate ISIS’ Baghdadi
Thursday, 13 November 2014 /Joyce Karam /Al Arabiya
As death rumors swirl around Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed Caliph of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), it would be a mistake to underestimate his role within ISIS itself and on the global Jihadi front at large. Baghdadi is the closest Jihadist figure today to fill Osama Bin Laden's shoes bringing ideological as well as strategic strengths to his organization. While there is no U.S. confirmation that Baghdadi is either wounded or dead, projecting a low impact of his demise misses key aspects of his leadership and persona that prompted the rise of ISIS in the first place. In the event of Baghdadi's death, ISIS undoubtedly won't be finished but its victorious momentum that it has been building since June would be significantly undercut and the movement will no longer be perceived as invincible. Replacing Baghdadi won't be an easy task, however, given what he brings to the table in stage presence, religiosity, Iraqi tribal roots and political methodology. ‘Bin Laden’s heir’ Even before we had heard from Baghdadi in his only public appearance in Mosul on July 5, the capture of the Iraqi city and the skyrocketing rise of ISIS led prominent Washington Post columnist David Ignatius to dub him as “the true heir to Osama Bin Laden.” One can argue that Baghdadi went a step further than Bin Laden by claiming territory then declaring a so-called Caliphate and an Islamic state. “While Bin Laden was more careful and deliberate in maneuvering regional politics, Baghdadi follows a more ruthless and savage playbook”
Baghdadi’s speech in Mosul mosque and his audio message on the eve of Ramadan days prior to that, tell of a refined speaker, and one who similar to Bin Laden, is calm, humble and at the same time treacherous in his approach. The 44 year old son of Samara told his audience in that sermon “I’m no better than you. Advise me when I err and follow me if I succeed. And assist me against the false deities.” His thugs killed the imam of the mosque right after they captured the city. Unlike al-Qaeda’s Ayman Zawahiri, and Jabhat al-Nusra leader Mohamed al-Golani, Baghdadi can command an audience and excel in stage presence. While that might sound trivial, this quality has become a rarity when contextualized in today’s Arab world. Except for Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, very few in the Arab world today are good orators or have eloquent grip of the Arabic language. Baghdadi’s Mosul speech was not read from prepared remarks, but was delivered in perfect Arabic.
Baghdadi, or Dr. Abu Dua as his nom de guerre goes, brings to his portfolio a PhD in Islamic studies from the University of Baghdad, and was born into a family of preachers. This attribute helped the so-called Caliph in overshadowing frail and outdated Zawahiri, who is a doctor in training, and his appearances lack the media craft that ISIS orchestrates for Baghdadi. It also puts him in a different light from his predecessor Abu Musaab Zarqawi who was seen more of a cold-blooded gangster. Baghdadi is ”more violent, more virulent, more anti-American” than Zawahiri a U.S. official told the Washington Post, and according to The Independent, he is very organized, methodical and strategic who reviews annual reports of Iraqi provinces under the group's control.
While Bin Laden was more careful and deliberate in maneuvering regional politics, for instance not going too far against Iran and not massacring Shiites, Baghdadi follows a more ruthless and savage playbook. His strategy is focused on rallying the disenfranchised Sunni base, exploiting political and economic grievances of the locals, and building on the leadership vacuum regionally. He combines some of Bin Laden’s aura with the skills of Anwar Awlaki, recognizing the significance of foreign recruitments and outcasting Al-Qaeda in less than six months by reaching 15,000 foreign recruits.
Stands out within ISIS
The biography of the ISIS Caliph published by Site Intel Group reveals key aspects of why Baghdadi has an edge over his equally ferocious ISIS members. His Iraqi background growing up in Samara and with strong tribal credentials, in addition to being detained by U.S. forces in Bucca Camp in 2005, and a reported Jihadist resume of eight years carried him to the helm of the terrorist group, with a $10 million bounty on his head by U.S. Department of Justice.
Highlighting his tribal background as a “descendant from the tribes of the Badriyeen (al-Bobadri) that are Radhawiyyah, Husseiniyyah, Hashimite, Qurashiyah, Nazariyah, and Adnaniyah,” is essential to ISIS in marketing him to the locals of Anbar and Mosul. Further emphasizing the tribal component, Baghdadi’s biography even touts his mother as “one of the notables of the Bobadri tribe, loves religion, and calls for decency and goodness.” Being detained by the U.S. from 2005 to 2009 solidified his anti-Americanism and introduced him to other detainees who sit on ISIS' Shura Council today. But mostly, Baghdadi’s religious background, as a “preacher, a former educator”, stands out in contrast with his fellow ISIS leaders who are floated as potential successors.
Baghdadi’s two deputies Abu Muslim al-Turkmani and Abu al-Ali Anbari, don’t have the religious appeal that Baghdadi commands. They were both former generals in the Iraqi army under Saddam Hussein, and pitting them as potential leaders of ISIS if Baghdadi is dead, voids the group from the religious semblance that the current “Caliph” possesses. Other names such as Abu Musab al-Suri and ISIS spokesman Abu Mohamed al-Adnani, while skilled in the Islamic narrative, their Syrian background at a time when ISIS is more focused on Iraq, and their lack of deep tribal network, could complicate matters in Anbar for ISIS. Baghdadi’s fate and whereabouts after last weekend’s airstrikes will add to his enigma without promising a definitive answer anytime soon. His ruthless, invisible yet decisive leadership of ISIS however, earned him the title of most powerful Jihadist today, and adds more complexity to finding a replacement.
Your terrorism won’t divide us
Thursday, 13 November 2014
Jamal Khashoggi /Al Arabiya
Saudi Arabia’s al-Jazirah newspaper published a wonderful headline last Wednesday. It read in bold red: “Your terrorism won’t divide us.” It’s a reassuring message that Saudis need at a time when they see their neighbors fighting and killing one another after being divided into sects and parties. However, is it true that “they won’t divide us?” Has the Iraqi Sunni or the Iraqi Shiite chose to live through the war they are currently facing? Should we contemplate how sectarianism flared up in Iraq and who ignited it?
Sectarianism and hatred are not the choice of the general public. Most people are moderate centrists like the people of the Saudi town of al-Ahsa who were shocked last Monday evening by the first and most dangerous sectarian incident to happen in their governorate. The aggressors were not from the area and they do not represent the majority of Saudis. They are a group with deep hatred towards the Shiites or rather towards “the other,” regardless of who this other is. Their vision of the country and society does not harmonize with that of the majority. Even if elections happen in Saudi Arabia, they wouldn’t win. But why are they capable of dragging us all into the fire of sectarianism as they did in Iraq? It’s because they are willing to do so and because we haven’t fortified ourselves from the infection of sectarianism when they spread it among us. Most of us refuse to make such a confession; however it’s the truth. Take a quick tour of a religious education workshop and listen to the sectarianism and insults when other sects, particularly the Shiites, are discussed. Take another quick look at satellite television channels and you will hear even more hateful statements under the excuse of defending what’s religiously right. School books, fatwas (religious edicts), articles, social media and conversations in gatherings’ have all instilled sectarianism and intolerance in us and have prepared us to become involved in sectarian strife either by taking action or by making statements.
Attack on a husseiniya
The leader of the attack on a husseiniya in the village of al-Dalwa embodies this very well. All we know about him is that he snuck back from Syria into Saudi Arabia and that he was member of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). We can therefore imagine what kind of intellect and doctrine he espouses. He certainly did not go through the risk of sneaking back into Saudi Arabia just because he hates the Shiites.
“Don’t underestimate the threat of al-Qaeda, ISIS or salafist jihadism by saying they’re incapable of disintegrating our national unity”He returned to Saudi Arabia, planned and conspired because he and his ISIS state have a sinful scheme that targets the kingdom and its national unity. His plan, as we later learnt, sought to cause as much harm as possible to the Shiites. He and his gang tried to target the women’s section in the husseiniya (a Shiite gathering place) first because he knew that killing women causes more anger. He wanted to stir hatred in order to drag in moderates from all sides. This would anger the Sunnis who in turn would verbally attack the Shiites. The state would arrest the assailantant and tension would increase among us. Al-Qaeda or ISIS would then respond with an attack and the victims would always be moderate citizens who did not choose to be part of the struggle between the two parties. People would then forget who started the fight but they would remember who killed who. They would exchange photos of victims and each party would exaggerate the brutality of the other - brutality that forms the basis of extremism between Sunnis and Shiites. The victory of the Khomeini revolution and the rise of Sunni fundamentalism are what will fuel great sedition.
Don’t underestimate the threat
Don’t underestimate the threat of al-Qaeda, ISIS or salafist jihadism by saying they’re incapable of disintegrating our national unity. I hope the Shiites also clarify their stance towards extremists on their side, such as towards Nimr al-Nimr who has been detained and sentenced to death and who attacked the pillars of the Saudi state. Don’t be reassured by the romantic stories of Sunnis and the Shiites eating dates together in a farm in al-Ahsa. The Iraqis also ruefully speak of the days of co-existence between their Shiites and Sunnis but look how they ended up when they submitted to people like Nouri al-Maliki and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi who are capable of dragging everyone into their sectarian agenda.
Yes, tension with Iran contributed to increasing sectarian strife but it’s in Saudi Arabia’s interest to refrain from using sectarianism as one of the tools in this struggle with Iran. Despite the latter’s obvious sectarianism, we must rise above this. We cannot act like them and hang every Shiite opposition figure on gallows like they are doing to Sunni Ahwazi people every Friday. We are not helping the Syrian people because they are Sunnis but because they want freedom. We did not oppose Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq because he’s a Shiite but because he tore his country apart. We must prevent any preacher from attacking the Shiite sect because by attacking the latter sect, he is harming all Saudi citizens, tearing the country’s unity apart and creating the foundation for al-Qaeda and similar groups to act.
Let us neutralize sects when it comes to the struggle with Iran as the latter is like al-Qaeda - it hopes for chaos and strife in our country because that is how it seeks to expand.
Up close and personal with Canadian-Lebanese singer Karl Wolf
By Stephanie Farah | Al Arabiya News
Thursday, 13 November 2014 /Canadian-Lebanese singer Karl Wolf has made a comeback with the release of his fifth studio album. Al Arabiya News got in touch with Wolf, who is currently on tour across North America. Having grown up in Dubai, the musician and producer found fame with the release of his first album “Face Behind the Face” in 2006. He went on to release four more albums, with chart-topping hits including “Africa”, “Carrera”, “Ghetto Love” and “Yala Habibi.” In creating his own label, Lone Wolf Entertainment, Karl has taken his music into his own hands. The multi-award-winning, triple-platinum-selling artist features numerous eminent songwriters, musicians and producers on his latest album, such as Show Stevens, David Neale, Jim Beanz, Fatman Scoop and Timbaland.
“Magic Hotel,” featuring Timbaland and BK Brasco, was a number-one hit. Timbaland is “one of the most creative and out-of-the-box urban producers out there,” said Wolf. “I’ve always been a fan, and when we connected it was literally magic on my song, no pun intended.”m Having taken two years to release his latest album, there was a great deal of anticipation.“I really wanted to make an album that was respected by the music community as well as by fans - catchy, yet super-creative and special. I believe I’ve done just that, and I’m extremely proud of it,” said Wolf. After breaking worldwide with his hit “Africa,” he was often described as acquiring fame by sampling Toto’s version. This motivated Wolf to demonstrate his originality through his latest album “Stereotype.”
He said: “I wanted to prove everyone wrong, that I was an original songwriter and producer before I became an artist.”However, “Africa” was “the song to break the door wide open.Ever since that single, I continued releasing records that went gold and platinum.”Wolf got in touch with his roots this year when he shot the music video for “Summer Time” in Beirut. The shoot was inspired by his intent to show the West that people in the Middle East are “not as primitive and blind to popular culture as some might believe.
“We have parties like no other, we know how to have fun, we have beautiful, smart, talented people, and we’re with it. “Besides, I’m Lebanese and I wanted an excuse to visit my grandmother and the rest of my family,” Wolf laughed.
What Will Follow the November 24 Deadline?
ariq Alhomayed /Asharq Al Awsat/Thursday, 13 Nov, 2014
The media spotlight is currently focused on the talks between the US, EU and Iran in Muscat, ahead of a November 24 deadline to reach a comprehensive deal on Tehran’s nuclear program. But the question is: what happens after the deadline? US Secretary of State John Kerry said last week that Washington and its partners will not consider extending it again if there is no agreement. Nevertheless, Kerry did not rule out the possibility of extending the deadline in the event an agreement on the key issues had been reached, with only the technical details remaining to be finalized. Will the deadline be extended? What will be the alternative if the talks fail to reach an agreement? What will the situation in the region be like? What will relations between the West—and the US in particular—and Iran be like? Will they be in a state of war? Or will the “no-war, no-peace” situation continue? Does this mean that Iran will carry on with its nuclear program? What will the position of Israel be on that? Strangely enough, these significant questions are being ignored, not only by media, but by some Arab politicians who use a strangely optimistic tone when talking about the negotiations with Iran. Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Iran will not abandon its nuclear rights but is still committed to the negotiations. On the other hand, US President Barack Obama said a big gap still exists between Iran and the Western powers in terms of reaching an agreement guaranteeing Tehran’s inability to produce nuclear weapons. He added that reaching an agreement may be a long shot. Obama maintained that a final step would include Iran offering guarantees it will not develop nuclear weapons, adding that the talks may not achieve any progress. Obama’s comments do not reflect his administration’s realistic approach; rather, Obama is himself facing internal difficulties after the Republicans won a majority in Congress and the Senate in the midterm elections earlier this month. It is no secret that the Republicans will not show any sympathy to any concessions Obama makes to the Iranians.
Therefore, the pressing question remains: what will follow the November 24 deadline? The Obama administration, due to the nuclear talks, has neglected some significant regional issues, exposing one of its most significant regional allies to danger, all with the hope of achieving a political victory, namely a nuclear agreement with Iran. Obama is approaching the final stretch of his second and last presidential term with his approval rating in the basement, given his lack of real achievements. The question I pose to the US and the West is this: what will come after November 24? As for the region, is it prepared for the worst? Whatever it is, what is next is going to be absolutely worse.
In Syria, the Alliance of Minorities is Counterproductive
Eyad Abu Shakra /Asharq Al Awsat/Thursday, 13 Nov, 2014
Sultan Al-Atrash, a leading figure in the Great Syrian Revolt against the French in 1925, remains a larger-than-life hero in Druze folk culture. These days, the Druze of Syria find themselves at a crossroads, and need to decide where their loyalties lie, as the country faces the threat of disintegration as well as extremist takfirists seeking to impose their hegemony over the land. For the Druze, this a situation they have always sought to avoid.
As an esoteric Muslim minority that grew out of Ismaili Shi’ism, the Druze have almost always acted as a community that was keenly aware of its small size, and consequently its interests, and thus has rarely committed anything approaching a fatal mistake. Even after the Fatimid Caliph Ali Al-Zahir destroyed their confessional “call” in Egypt, and later the demise of the Shi’ite Ismaili presence there at the hands of the Ayyubid dynasty, the latter—who were Sunni Kurds—recognized the Druze as the military rulers of Mount Lebanon, in appreciation of their valiant defense of the Muslim Levant against the Crusaders.
Indeed, while they suffered massive persecution and massacres at the hands of Al-Zahir and his clients—the most prominent of which were the Shi’ite Merdassi Arab rulers of Aleppo—the Druze were never truly engaged in sectarian confrontations with their majority-Sunni neighbors. In fact the opposite was true, as the two great Mamluk and Ottoman states continued to respect the Druze control of, and privileges in, Mount Lebanon and adjacent areas. In turn, the Druze were astute in their dealings with these two dominant regional powers, always keeping their options open during times of turmoil and change.
Then, when the Safavids of Iran challenged the Ottoman Empire during the 16th century, the Druze, led by the princely Ma’an dynasty, which hails from the great Arab mother tribe of Rabi’a Bin Nizar, sided politically and militarily with the Ottomans.
When Ma’anid rule came to an end, the Druze of Mount Lebanon accepted the Sunni Shihab princely dynasty, who are related through marriage to the Druze Ma’anids. Later on, as the Jumblatti–Yazbaki factionalism dominated Mount Lebanon politics in the 18th century, Druze, Sunni, and Christian clans joined the two non-sectarian rival factions.
This coexistence was a feature of what became present-day Lebanon, as well as Syria and Palestine. The skirmishes and larger clashes the Druze were part of here and there were primarily examples of clashes between villagers and Bedouins. In northern Palestine, the Druze were engaged in two local confrontations, both of which were of a feudal–tribal nature and not really sectarian at all—the first in the 16th century with Sheikh Ahmad Bin Tarabay Al-Harithi, the chieftain of the Hawareth tribe, and the second in the 18th century with Sheikh Dhaher Al-Omar Al-Zaydani of the Zayadena tribe. Such confrontations were commonplace between the settled villagers and marauding Bedouins, competing feudal clans, as well as rival sub-clans. (It is worth remembering that the pre-Islamic Arab Qaysi–Yemeni rivalry continued in Palestine well into the 20th century, unlike Lebanon, where it ended in 1711 with the Qaysi victory in ‘Ayn Dara.)
The same situation occurred in Mount Hawran in southern Syria, settled by Druze immigrants from Aleppo, Mount Lebanon, Wadi Al-Taym (southwest Lebanon), and northern Palestine. It was obvious that the increasing numbers of new settlers would lead to clashes with existing local inhabitants, most of whom were also Bedouins living in the region that divided the desert from farmland. Here, too, clashes were connected with rights to wells and pastures rather than religion and sect. During the Great Syrian Revolt of 1925, the Druze of Mount Hawran in the east and the Sunnis of the Hawran plain in the west fought side-by-side against the French. Furthermore, when modern secular party politics came onto the scene, the Ba’ath Party attracted Druze, Sunni, and Christian alike from both the mountain and the plain.
Another aspect worth analyzing is that the notion of an alliance of minorities against the vast sea of Sunni Islam was never truly taken seriously by at least two Levantine religious minorities: the Druze from the Muslim camp, and the Orthodox Church of Antioch from the Christian camp. It is said that when the Mutasarrifate (Special District) of Mount Lebanon was created in 1861, the Orthodox refused to be part of a newly created entity with a Maronite Christian majority, preferring, rather, to remain part of the Ottoman Province of Syria (Damascus). One of the Orthodox leaders of the time remarked it was “better [to] stick with the Turks than join the Maronites.”
Add to the above the fact that the internecine conflicts among the minorities themselves have always been quite acute and had nothing to do with any overarching strategic alliance, which runs contrary to what some powers like Iran are now promoting as a bulwark against takfirist and jihadist groups like ISIS and its ilk.
Antiochian Orthodox Christians, for example, were allies of the Druze in their sectarian battles against the Christian Maronites in the mid-19th century, while the the Alawi–Ismaili animosity in northwest Syria was so severe it resulted in the uprooting of whole communities; likewise, Shi’ite–Druze relations were far from cordial under the pro-Ottoman Ma’anids of Mount Lebanon, while the Shi’ites sided with the Safavids of Iran.
Based on such a history, the call made by wise Druze leaders to their community, urging them to distance themselves from a bloodthirsty regime that has ruined Syria and brought suffering to all its communities, is based on several considerations.
First, a rejection of violence, dictatorship and corruption, and a desire to preserve the country from fragmentation and bloody intrigues, as well as exposing those who are willing to base their rule on murder and subjugation.
Second, a patriotic vision of a Syria that is a nation for all its citizens—instead of pushing its constituent religious, sectarian, racial and linguistic communities into the abyss of endless civil war. While some may say it is a struggle against extremists, in truth this would just be an attempt, via moves to exploit extremism, to incite counter-extremism in order to justify preserving the status quo.
Finally, considerations of geopolitical interests. The Druze are geographically scattered in disjointed areas, except in Sweida Province. However, even in this province they have no interest in being enemies of their kin and neighbors on the Hawran plain to the west. Their area, bordered on the east and south by desert, is simply not viable as a separate entity. Thus, neither the Druze, nor other minorities, have a vested interest in forming an alliance that can only serve the purpose of extremists among the Sunni Muslim population of Syria. Instead, it is their duty to reassure the Sunnis, especially during these dangerous times, that Syria’s minorities stand against any regional or international conspiracy that targets them; that they have absolutely no interest in being “human shields,” in protecting a gang hell-bent on implicating them in its crimes, and hiding behind them rather than protecting and defending them.
The Roots of the Yemeni Crisis
Ali Ibrahim/Asharq Al Awsat
Ever since the union of North and South Yemen was declared in 1990, political conflicts and differences in the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest country have never ceased, reaching their climax in the 1994 bloody civil war between former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Southern secessionist leaders, who eventually turned their backs on the union and attempted to secede once again.
The union between these two regimes—who differ widely, both politically and economically—was not carefully worked out. It almost appeared to be an attempt at ignoring the country’s domestic problems (though, at the time, this escapist attitude applied more to the South than the North). For the Yemeni Socialist Party, this union—which came on the back of a bloody power struggle that saw tanks deployed on the streets of Aden in 1986—came as an insurance policy guaranteeing its remaining in power, particularly since, at the time, the Soviet Union was no longer capable of providing it with support and funds. As for the North, the union was a political opportunity not to be missed.
This whole porcelain enterprise of uniting North and South resembles the futile act of using beautiful colors to paint a house with cracked walls, an empty roof, and shaky foundations—to thunderous public applause. In any case, it took a mere four years for the house to collapse, partly due to the authorities. Alliances shifted and the friends and partners of yesterday—the Yemeni Socialist Party and its leadership—became today’s enemies. A new alliance between Saleh and the Al-Islah Party soon emerged, with radical groups being used to subjugate Southern leaders who used all kinds of weapons—including Scud missiles—in their war with the Yemeni government. Eventually, Saleh won and the union continued. But the whole thing was botched up, and no efforts were made to lay any firm foundations to secure its continuity or to make all sides feel they had emerged victorious following the bitter struggle. As such, the sense of injustice and unfairness, whether justified or not, continued to emerge every now and then, particularly since the public uprising of the Yemeni people in 2011 and the subsequent emergence of the Southern Al-Hirak secessionist movement and the political vacuum that emerged.
Moreover, during the five years in the run-up to the 2011 uprising in Sana’a, nearly three wars broke out between Saleh’s government and the Shi’ite Houthi movement, claiming hundreds of lives and inflicting heavy material losses. Now it seems that the enemies of the past are the allies of today, with the objective being to gain power in the country. This has led the US and the international community to impose sanctions, comprising travel bans and asset freezes, on Saleh and two Houthi leaders.
Everyone had high hopes about the Gulf Initiative, which sought to secure a peaceful and organized transfer of power and prevent the country from slipping into chaos and collapse following the public protests calling for Saleh’s departure. His deputy, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, eventually emerged to lead the transition process under regional and international sponsorship. But now it seems that, just like the case with the union, the colors were beautiful but the house remained ridden with cracks and fissures—and still without firm foundations. Consequently, it was natural that Yemen would turn into an arena open to foreign powers interfering in its destiny and attempting to move the country in certain directions.
The crisis in Yemen has its roots in a series of accumulated negative political practices and clashes of interests that have divided more than united Yemen’s disparate factions. On the other hand, no serious efforts were made to address the country’s problems, particularly economic development, which remains Yemen’s biggest problem. No progress will be achieved in Yemen without regional cooperation and support. Such support needs political stability and politicians capable of rising above their narrow interests and personal vendettas.
Iran’s conservatives turn up heat on nuclear deal as deadline approaches
Ali M. Pedram /Asharq Al Awsat
Thursday, 13 Nov, 2014
Sources in Tehran told Asharq Al-Awsat that “Shamkhani’s sharply worded comments can be viewed as an indirect reaction of the supreme leader to recent negotiations in Muscat and difficult decisions Iran has to make to finalize the deal.”
US, EU, and Iranian officials have been meeting this week in the Omani capital in an attempt to thrash out a deal on Iran’s nuclear program before a November 24 deadline. Although Iran insists that its nuclear activities are peaceful, the US and its allies are seeking rigorous safeguards to prevent any nuclear material being diverted to a possible atomic weapons program.
Shamkhani, who served as Iran’s defense minister under reformist President Mohammad Khatami between 1997 and 2005, is widely-regarded as a moderate and close to both President Hassan Rouhani and former President Hashemi Rafsanjani.
During a briefing for members of staff at Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Shamkhani reiterated the official Islamic Republic’s policy towards the nuclear issue and regional crises by referring to “disastrous US Middle Eastern foreign policy” as a root cause.
Shamkhani, who is one of two representatives of the supreme leader on Iran’s National Security Council, also lambasted “the paradoxical US foreign policy in the region, and in particular towards Iran, that only serves Israel’s interests.”
However, Shamkhani also acknowledged that Iran has cooperated with the P5+1 and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) by giving inspectors access to Iran’s nuclear and military facilities, in order to refute any doubts about Iran’s “peaceful nuclear intentions,” according to the website Iranian Diplomacy.
Shamkhani’s comments mark the first time an Iranian official has confirmed that international inspectors have been given access to Iranian military bases.
After three days of intensive negotiations between Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and the US Secretary of State John Kerry in Muscat this week, Iran’s top leadership is mulling over details of the American offer to close the nuclear dossier.
It is understood that the US is ready to accept Iran retaining the capacity to enrich uranium under stringent monitoring measures. Although the level of enrichment acceptable to the US is likely to be lower than that desired by Iran, it nevertheless represents a compromise on the part of the US and Washington’s eagerness to reach a deal.
On the Iranian side, the issue of Iran’s right to enrich uranium has lost some of its previous importance, given the US acceptance of a domestic Iranian enrichment capacity. However, the timing and extent of the removal of economic sanctions on Iran has now moved center stage, and is seen as the key factor to be resolved to seal a deal.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his team are mandated to conduct the negotiations with the P5+1, and in particular with the US government, for two clear goals: to preserve Iran’s existing nuclear program and ease the sanctions that have taken a serious toll on the Iranian economy.
The negotiations have now entered a critical stage in which any proposed agreement must be accepted by domestic hardliners in both Iran and the US.
Ironically, the Iranian government under President Rouhani is now acting as a broker between Western powers and Iran’s strong conservative faction, closely associated with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, with its political survival at stake.
Prior to arriving in the Azerbaijani capital Baku on Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told reporters that a “one-sided deal will not last.”
A Tehran based political analyst told Asharq Al-Awsat that Rouhani’s comments indicate that Rouhani is committed to reaching a deal for both political and economic reasons.
“However, if the deal is not seen as favorable for Iran in terms of the lifting of economic sanctions, Rouhani’s conservative and radical opponents within Iran will again attempt to unseat [him] in the next election, and replace his government with another version of Ahmadinejad’s government, a similar scenario that triggered the fall of Khatami and reform movement in Iran in 2005,” he said.
In a sign of how sensitive the nuclear talks are within the Iranian political system, Iran’s conservative parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani mocked Obama’s most recent letter to Ali Khamenei by saying: “when one writes a love letter, he ought not to be bullying too.”
Larijani added: “On the nuclear issue, Iran has been acting very rationally throughout the negotiations, but the Western powers are sabotaging [them],” according to the ISNA news agency.
A deal between Iran and the US and its allies will also leave the issue of relations with neighboring states to be resolved.
“Now Iran is keen to strike a direct and clear deal with the US over the nuclear issue in return for the sensible removal of sanctions. However, Iran is keen to enter sub-regional negotiations with regional states and actors to address multilateral security concerns after the nuclear deal,” an Iranian official told Asharq Al-Awsat on condition of anonymity.
Syria: Islamic jihadists blow up church dedicated to victims of Armenian Genocide
Robert Spencer/Jihadi Watch
Nov 12, 2014
Christian leaders in the West pursue “dialogue” with Muslim leaders, who smilingly tell them that they condemn the Muslim persecution of Christians, and that is that. The Muslim leaders don’t actually do anything to stop their coreligionists from committing acts like these, but everyone has a nice dinner and some coffee, and goes home feeling great. Not a thing is accomplished, of course, except the complicity of those Christian leaders, who happily accept the line that to speak out against this jihadist savagery would be “Islamophobic” and harm the “dialogue.” And so they stay silent, and forbid any honest discussion of what leads to incidents like this, and to the Muslim persecution of Christians in general.
A great many bishops have a great deal to answer for. All too often in the Church in the West these days, many bishops and priests are coddled, cossetted boys who have never held a real job, never had any real responsibility, have no idea of hardship, and are interested above all not in truth or self-sacrifice but in maintaining their comfort and privileges. They are soft, cowardly, weak, ignorant, and regally immune from being challenged in any way. They are as far from the Christian leaders who became saints and martyrs in the times of persecution as it is humanly possible to be. “Jabhat al-Nusra blows up Armenian church in Deir el-Zour: A savage blow that echoes through Armenian history,” by Robert Fisk, the Independent, November 10, 2014 (thanks to Pamela Geller):
In the most savage act of vandalism against Syria’s Christians, Islamists have blown up the great Armenian church in Deir el-Zour, which is dedicated to the one and a half million Armenians slaughtered by the Turks during the 1915 genocide. All of the church archives, dating back to 1841 and containing thousands of documents on the Armenian Holocaust, were burned to ashes, while the bones of hundreds of genocide victims, packed into the church’s crypt in memory of the mass killings 99 years ago, were thrown into the street beside the ruins. This act of sacrilege will cause huge pain among the Armenians scattered across the world – as well as in the rump state of Armenia which emerged after the 1914-1918 war, not least because many hundreds of thousands of victims died in death camps around the very same city of Deir el-Zour. Jabhat al-Nusra rebels appear to have been the culprits this time, but since many Syrians believe that the group has received arms from Turkey, the destruction will be regarded by many Armenians as a further stage in their historical annihilation by the descendants of those who perpetrated the genocide 99 years ago.
Turkey, of course, miserably claims there was no genocide – the equivalent of modern day Germany denying the Jewish Holocaust – but hundreds of historians, including one prominent Turkish academic, have proved beyond any doubt that the Armenians were deliberately massacred on the orders of the Ottoman Turkish government across all of modern-day Turkey and inside the desert of what is now northern Syria – the very region where Isis and its kindred ideological armed groups now hold. Even Israelis refer to the Armenian genocide with the same Hebrew word they use for their own destruction by Nazi Germany: “Shoah”, which means “Holocaust”….
The fighters of Iraq who answer to Iran
Ynetnews /Reuters/Published: 11.13.14/Israel News
Shi'ite militias backed by Iran have become the most powerful military force in Iraq since the collapse of the national army in June, and have been instrumental in fighting the Islamic State. They are key to Iran's power and influence inside neighboring Iraq.
Among the thousands of militia fighters who flocked to northern Iraq to battle militant group Islamic State over the summer was Qais al-Khazali.
Like the fighters, Khazali wore green camouflage. But he also sported a shoulder-strapped pistol and sunglasses and was flanked by armed bodyguards. When he was not on the battlefield, the 40-year-old Iraqi donned the robes and white turban of a cleric.
Khazali is the head of a militia called Asaib Ahl al-Haq that is backed by Iran. Thanks to his position he is one of the most feared and respected militia leaders in Iraq, and one of Iran's most important representatives in the country.
His militia is one of three small Iraqi Shi'ite armies, all backed by Iran, which together have become the most powerful military force in Iraq since the collapse of the national army in June
His militia is one of three small Iraqi Shi'ite armies, all backed by Iran, which together have become the most powerful military force in Iraq since the collapse of the national army in June.
Alongside Asaib Ahl al-Haq, there are the Badr Brigades, formed in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq War, and the younger and more secretive Kataib Hezbollah. The three militias have been instrumental in battling Islamic State (IS), the extremist movement from Islam's rival Sunni sect.
The militias, and the men who run them, are key to Iran's power and influence inside neighboring Iraq.
That influence is rooted in the two countries' shared religious beliefs. Iran's population is overwhelmingly Shi'ite, as are the majority of Iraqis. Tehran has built up its influence in the past decade by giving political backing to the Iraqi government, and weapons and advisers to the militias and the remnants of the Iraqi military, say current and former Iraqi officials.
That was clear this summer, when fighters from all three militias took on IS. During IS's siege of one town, Amerli, Kataib Hezbollah helicopter in 50 of its best fighters, according to Abu Abdullah, a local Kataib Hezbollah commander. The fighters set up an operations room to coordinate with the Iraqi army, the other militia groups, and advisers from the Quds Force, the branch of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps that handles operations outside Iran and oversees Tehran's Iraqi militias.
Over days of fierce fighting in August, and with the help of U.S. bombing raids - a rare example of Iran and the United States fighting a common enemy - those forces successfully expelled IS.
Tehran's high profile contrasts sharply with Washington's. Both Iran and the United States are preparing for a long battle against IS. But Iraqi officials say the two take very different views of Iraq.
"The American approach is to leave Iraq to the Iraqis," said Sami al-Askari, a former member of Iraq's parliament and one-time senior adviser to former prime minister Nuri al-Maliki. "The Iranians don't say leave Iraq to the Iraqis. They say leave Iraq to us."
The danger, Iraqi officials say, is that Iran's deep influence will perpetuate sectarian conflict in Iraq. Many Iraqi Sunnis complain that Maliki, who was Iraq's leader until he was forced out in August, was beholden to Tehran and prevented Sunnis from getting greater political power. Maliki has denied sidelining Sunnis.
Former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a secular Shi'ite who left office in 2005, told Reuters that "Iran is interfering in Iraq. Foreign forces are not welcome here. And militias controlled by foreign powers are not welcome also."
Iraq's Shi'ite militias have certainly fuelled sectarian violence. In the past few months they have taken revenge on Sunnis thought to be sympathetic to IS, burned homes and threatened to stop Sunnis returning to their towns. Shi'ite fighters have kidnapped or killed civilians, say Sunni family members.
"The militias are a problem," said Askari, the former Maliki adviser. "What do you say after Islamic State ends? Thank you very much and go home?"
Echoes of Lebanon
The main body funding, arming, and training the Shi'ite militias is Iran's Quds Force. The model it uses is Hezbollah in Lebanon. Created by Tehran in the early 1980s, and operating as both a military outfit and political party, Hezbollah has grown to become the most powerful force in Lebanon.
Like Hezbollah, Iran's three big Iraqi militias have political wings and charismatic leaders.
Coordinating the three is Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, who, at least until the IS victories in Iraq this summer, had gained a reputation as one of the region's most effective military leaders.
After the collapse of the Iraqi military in June, Soleimani visited Iraq several times to help organize a counter-offensive. He brought weapons, electronic interception devices and drones, according to a senior Iraqi politician.
"Soleimani is an operational leader. He's not a man working in an office. He goes to the front to inspect the troops and see the fighting," said one current senior Iraqi official. "His chain of command is only the Supreme Leader. He needs money, gets money. Needs munitions, gets munitions. Needs materiel, gets materiel."
The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is the most senior religious authority in Iran and wields huge constitutional power.
Soleimani, who Reuters was unable to reach, knows the heads of the three big Iraqi militias personally, Iraqi officials say. A picture posted on a Facebook page in August shows him in an olive shirt and khaki pants next to Khazali, who is in clerical robes. A picture on Facebook and Twitter late last month showed Soleimani and the leader of the Badr Brigades grinning and wrapped in a tight hug after what was reportedly a victory against IS.
In an interview with Iranian state television in September, a senior Revolutionary Guard commander, General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, said that Soleimani, with a force of only 70 men, had prevented IS from overrunning Arbil. "If Iran hadn't helped, Daesh would have taken over Kurdistan," he said, using a common Arabic name for IS.
The way Iran and Soleimani work is "completely the opposite of Saudi intelligence that just gives money but are not on the ground," said the current senior Iraqi official. "Soleimani sees a target and he has the powers to go after it."
The Badr Brigades
Iran's oldest proxy in Iraq is the Badr Brigades, which is headed by Hadi al-Amri, a veteran of both combat and politics. The group renamed itself the Badr Organization once it entered politics.
Amri fought alongside Iran's Revolutionary Guard against Saddam's army during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. After the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, he won a seat in parliament and served as Minister of Transportation during Maliki's second term.
Amri, who could not be reached for comment, is feared and loathed by many Sunnis for his alleged role in running death squads in recent years. In July, Human Rights Watch accused Badr forces of killing Sunni prisoners.
In recent battles with IS, Amri replaced his suit with a military uniform and transformed into a battlefield commander overnight, giving television interviews from the frontlines.
Look at Amri's uniform and then compare it to any Iraqi uniform ... It's completely different," said a senior former security official. "Look for the uniform of the IRGC" - Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps - "it's exactly one of them."
The head of Iran's second proxy, Kataib Hezbollah, goes by the nom de guerre Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes. Many Iraqi officials simply call him al-Mohandes, or "the Engineer."
Mohandes, who could not be reached for comment for this story, is Iran's most powerful military representative in Iraq, according to senior Iraqi officials. At 60, he has distinctive white hair and a white beard. He studied engineering in Basra and joined Dawa, a political party banned by Saddam, according to a Facebook page set up in his name.
He began working with Iran's Revolutionary Guard in Kuwait in 1983, organizing attacks against embassies of countries that supported Saddam in the war against Iran. He has repeatedly denied involvement in such attacks.
Following the first Gulf War, Mohandes lived in exile in Iran. After the United States invaded Iraq, he returned home and was elected to parliament. Even then, it was clear where his allegiances lay. On a 2006 trip to Tehran, when protocol dictated that the Iranian and Iraqi delegations sit apart, "he sat with the Iranians," said Askari, the former Maliki adviser. "This was not normal."
Kataib Hezbollah is the most secretive of Iraq's militias, and the only one the U.S. Treasury labels a terrorist organization. In 2009 the Treasury sanctioned Mohandes for his alleged role in committing and facilitating attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces. Mohandes has denied those charges, though his group's website features several video clips showing improvised explosive devices blowing up American Humvees.
He has a house in Baghdad's Green Zone close to Maliki, Iraqi officials say. In recent years, he occasionally delivered messages between Maliki and Iranian officials. He frequently visits Iran, where his family lives, according to a former senior Iraqi official
When Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq's most powerful cleric, called on Shi'ites to rise up and fight IS earlier this year, Mohandes took charge of the tens of thousands of new volunteers. "He's involved in everything: administration, funding, logistics and planning," said a senior Iraqi security official.
Asaib Ahl al-Haq
The third big Iraqi militia, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, started as a splinter group of the Mahdi Army, a paramilitary force formed by anti-American Shi'ite leader Moqtada al-Sadr during the US occupation.
Under leader Khazali, Asaib gained notoriety for kidnapping and killing Sunni civilians and carrying out attacks against U.S. forces.
In 2007 he was arrested by U.S. military forces for his alleged role in an attack on an Iraqi government compound in Karbala, which left five American soldiers dead. Khazali managed to use a kidnapped British consultant as a bargaining chip to win his own release. (British and U.S. military denied striking such a deal.)
Askari, the former Maliki adviser, played a key role in negotiations. When a senior British commander was sceptical that Khazali could wield power from Camp Cropper, the high security facility where he was imprisoned, Khazali asked for a phone. "They brought him a phone and he made a call," said Askari. "Within two weeks the attacks stopped."
Asaib has grown stronger in recent years. Sunnis say Maliki allowed Shi'ite militias, particularly Asaib, to kidnap and kill ordinary Sunnis to solidify his grip on power. Some Sunnis began to see Asaib as Maliki's personal militia.
Khazali was not available to be interviewed. At Asaib's offices in an upscale Baghdad neighborhood, the group's spokesman, Naim al Aboudi, denied that Asaib is closely linked with Maliki or that the group targeted Sunni civilians. "We are ... working toward building a more stable country," he said.
The Syrian connection
Fighters from all three militias have sharpened their combat skills in Syria in recent years. In late 2011, as the Syrian conflict grew, Iran stepped in to defend Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Assad is a follower of the Alawite faith, an offshoot of Shi'ism.
Iraqi Shi'ite fighters also flocked to Syria. Billboards and posters in Baghdad praise Iraqi "martyrs" in the conflict.
Syria has also helped militia fighters hone their media skills. Internet videos set to a booming soundtrack of Shi'ite militant religious songs show fighters shooting rocket-propelled grenades, sniping from rooftops and firing heavy machine guns from pickup trucks.
Some Iraqi Shi'ite militia commanders concede that defending Assad has been unsavory. But they argue that fighting in Syria was necessary for broader regional reasons, namely the struggle that Iran and its allies are waging against Israel.
"Bashar is a dictator," said Abu Hamza, a burly commander from Kataib Hezbollah who has fought in Syria. "But his presence there preserves the line of resistance."
Breaking the siege
One of the biggest rallying points in recent months was Amerli, an Iraqi town of some 15,000 Shi'ites, which was besieged by IS for two months. Most residents there are Turkmen, not Arabs, but that did not change the symbolism of the conflict for Shi'ites. Graffiti sprayed outside the town in August read "Amerli is the Karbala of the age" - a reference to a seventh century battle that is a defining moment for Shi'ites.
Iran helped train Kataib fighters in the use of AK-47 assault rifles, heavy machine guns, mortars, rockets and IEDs, according to Abu Abdullah, the Kataib commander. Kataib fighters also used a camera-equipped drone to gather information on IS positions. A Reuters reporter met two men who spoke Farsi, the language of Iran, accompanying Asaib fighters during the battle. A third man said he had come from Iran to train police.
When the battle began in late August, Shi'ite militias teamed up with Kurdish fighters to attack IS positions, as American aircraft bombed around the town. The importance of the battle for Iran was underscored when photographs and videos surfaced on the Internet that allegedly showed Revolutionary Guard commander Soleimani in the town.
In early September, a group of Shi'ite fighters and Kurdish peshmerga fought to protect a small village near Amerli called Yangije. Some 50 IS fighters had attacked the village in the early morning. After nearly eight hours of fighting, the Shi'ites and Kurds pushed the fighters out. The next morning, Shi'ite and peshmerga fighters went house-to-house to check IS had cleared out. They came across an IS fighter hiding beneath a blanket. The man shot and killed one peshmerga and detonated a suicide belt, injuring several others.
Around midday, the burned and mangled body of the IS fighter was lying in the sun when a group of Shi'ite fighters approached. A Reuters team saw one Shi'ite fighter behead the corpse with a large knife while a handful of fighters filmed with their phones. The dead fighter's head was mounted on a knife, and one Shi'ite fighter shouted, "This is revenge for our martyrs!"
The Shi'ite fighters put the head in a sack and took it away with them.
A Turkish Quest to "Liberate" Jerusalem
By: Burak Bekdil/The Gatestone Institute
November 13, 2014
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu delivered the opening speech of the "International Meeting on the Question of Jerusalem" held in Ankara in May.
Turks have a different understanding of what constitutes an occupation and a conquest of a city. The Turkish rule is very simple: The capture of a foreign city by force is an occupation if that city is Turkish (or Muslim) and the capture of a city by force is conquest if the city belongs to a foreign nation (or non-Muslims).
For instance, Turks still think the capture of Istanbul in 1453 was not occupation; it was conquest.
In a 2012 speech, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (then Prime Minister) said: "Just like Mecca, Cairo and Istanbul are cities of the Qur'an." In truth, there is no mention of any city's name in the Qur'an. Never mind.
"Conquest," Turkey's top Muslim cleric, Professor Mehmet Gormez, declared in 2012, "is not to occupy lands or destroy cities and castles. Conquest is the conquest of hearts!" That is why, the top Turkish cleric said, "In our history there has never been occupation." Instead, Professor Gormez said, "in our history, there has always been conquest." He further explained that one pillar of conquest is to "open up minds to Islam, and hearts to the Qur'an."
Most Turkish Islamists think they have an Allah-given right to take infidel lands by the force of sword.
It is in this religious justification that most Turkish Islamists think they have an Allah-given right to take infidel lands by the force of sword -- ironically, not much different from what the tougher Islamists have been doing in large parts of Syria and Iraq. Ask any commander in the Islamic State and he would tell you what the jihadists are doing there is "opening up minds to Islam, and hearts to the Qur'an."
Both President Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu have declared countless times that Gaza and Jerusalem (in addition to Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Somalia and the Maghreb) are Turkey's "domestic affairs."
This author wrote in this journal on Oct. 30:
In reality, with or without the normalization of diplomatic relations between Ankara and Jerusalem, the Turks have never hidden their broader goals in the Arab-Israeli dispute: that Jerusalem should be the capital of a Palestinian state; and that Israel should be pushed back to its pre-1967 borders. Until then, it will be 'halal' [permitted in Islam] for Erdogan to blame Israel for global warming, the Ebola virus, starvation in Africa and every other misfortune the world faces.
As if to confirm this whimsical view, Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan has blamed Israel for democratic failings in the Arab world. "Israel works with [undemocratic] regimes and keeps its ship afloat." So, it is because of Israel that Arab nations have never established democratic culture -- before or after 1948; or before or after the Arab Spring revolts. But fortunately, Palestinians have a new "protector."
From Prime Minister Davutoglu's public speech on November 7:
Al-Aqsa [mosque in Jerusalem] will one day be liberated. The Israelis should know that the oppressed Syrians have a protector. The oppressed Palestinians too have a protector. That protector is Turkey. Just as Bursa [the Turkish city where he spoke] ended its occupation, the honorable Palestinians, honorable Muslims will end the [Israeli] occupation. Just as Osman Gazi [a sepulchre in Bursa] was liberated, al-Aqsa too will be liberated. Al-Quds [Jerusalem] is both our first prayer direction and has been entrusted with us by history. It has been entrusted with us by Hazrat Omar. The last freedom seen in Jerusalem was under our [Ottoman] rule. Al-Quds is our cause. It is the occupying, oppressive Israeli government that has turned the Middle East into a quagmire.
Echoing that view, President Erdogan said that protecting Islamic sites in the Holy Land is a sacred mission (for his government), and bluntly warned that any attack against the al-Aqsa mosque is no different than an attack on the Kaaba in the holy city of Mecca.
Spot the difference: In the eyes of Turkey's political and religious leadership, Istanbul and its Hagia Sophia (once a Greek Orthodox Basilica) were legitimately "conquered" by the Muslim Ottomans, while Jerusalem and its al-Aqsa mosque (built atop the ruins of the Jewish Temples) are illegally "occupied" by Israel.
No doubt, after Gaza, al-Aqsa (and Jerusalem) has become a powerful Turkish obsession, and a treasure-trove of votes, especially in view of Turkey's parliamentary elections next June. And do not expect the Turkish leadership only to corrupt facts. Plain fabrication is a more favored method. All the same, someone, sometimes, would unwillingly reveal the truth often when trying to corrupt other facts.
Since Davutoglu claimed that "Jerusalem has been entrusted with the Turks by Hazrat Omar," it may be useful to refresh memories. Hazrat Omar is Omar bin Al-Khattab (579-644), one of the most powerful and influential Muslim caliphs in history. Within the context of "conquest vs. occupation," he was referenced by the top cleric, Professor Gormez in a 2012 speech:
After Hazrat Omar conquered al-Quds [Jerusalem], he was invited to pray at a church [as there were no mosques yet in Jerusalem]. But he politely refused because he was worried that the [conquering] Muslims could turn the church into a mosque after he prayed there.
Since medieval historical facts cannot have changed over the past two years, the top Turkish ulama [religious scholar], referencing a most powerful Muslim caliph, is best witness that when the Muslims had first arrived in Jerusalem there was not a single mosque in the city. Why? Because Jerusalem was not a Muslim city. Why, then, do Turkish Islamists claim that it is Muslim? Because it once had been "conquered." Would the same Turks surrender Istanbul to the occupying forces that took the city after World War I because its capture in 1920 made it a non-Turkish city? No, that was not conquest, that was occupation!
Had Messrs Erdogan and Davutoglu been schoolchildren, such reasoning might have been called bullying and cheating.
**Burak Bekdil, based in Ankara, is a columnist for the Turkish daily Hürriyet and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.
Canada Denounces Attacks on Mosque and
November 13, 2014 - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today released the following statement:
“Canada condemns the arson on a mosque in the village of Mughayar, near Ramallah in the West Bank, and the firebombing of a synagogue in the village of Shfaram, in Northern Israel, earlier this week.
“Such actions perpetrated against any faith community must not be tolerated. Attacks on places of worship are completely unacceptable and violate the right to religious freedom.
“Perpetrators of these hate-filled acts are responsible for further aggravating an already volatile situation and should be held accountable.”
U.S. Senators: Iran Deal must
Dismantle Nuclear Program
Naharnet/Two U.S. senators responsible for introducing strict sanctions on Iran renewed their warning Wednesday over nuclear negotiations with the country, saying any final pact must "dismantle" the Islamic republic's nuclear program. Their remarks follow three days of nuclear talks in Oman between Iran and the P5+1 – U.N. Security Council permanent members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany -- with a November 24 deadline looming to strike a comprehensive agreement.
"We believe that a good deal will dismantle, not just stall, Iran's illicit nuclear program and prevent Iran from ever becoming a threshold nuclear weapons state," Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez and Republican Senator Mark Kirk said in a statement. Should a potential deal fail to achieve such goals, including a robust inspection and verification regime and strict limits on nuclear-related research, "we will work with our colleagues in Congress to act decisively, as we have in the past." Menendez and Kirk have worked since 2011 to draft and pass multifaceted economic sanctions against Tehran, and their statement was aimed at pressing international negotiators for a strong deal that would keep Iran's feet to the fire on its nuclear program.
"Gradual sanctions relaxation would only occur if Iran strictly complied with all parts of the agreement," the lawmakers said.
Their most recent bill, which would impose new measures should the negotiations fail, has been blocked since the end of 2013 by President Barack Obama's Democratic allies in the Senate.
His administration had wanted the negotiations to proceed without interference from Congress.
But Republicans, who snatched the Senate majority from Democrats in last week's midterm elections and take control when the next congressional session convenes on January 3, may not show the same deference.
"I want a vote on sanctions in case the deal falls apart," Senate Republican Lindsey Graham told reporters on the first day back after a seven-week recess. "This is the most important foreign policy issue that any president will decide in generations."
Faced with the prospect of unilateral action by the U.S. Congress, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that "each country must resolve its own problems," although he did not name the United States.
Final nuclear talks between the P5+1 and Iran are set for November 18 in Vienna. Agence France Presse