LCCC ENGLISH DAILY
Quotation For Today/Watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles
Romans 16/:17-20:"I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you."
Pope Francis's Tweet For Today
A Christian brings peace to others. Not only peace, but also love, kindness, faithfulness and joy.
Un chrétien porte la paix aux autres. Et non seulement la paix, mais aussi l’amour, la bonté, la fidélité et la joie.
analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 15-16/14
Druze on edge over jihadi incursion fears/Nicholas Blanford/The Daily Star/November 15/14
Will the new Congress push Obama into being tougher on Iran’s nuclear weapons program/ALAN DERSHOWITZ//Jerusalem Post/November 15/14
Israel's Arab leaders are only selling isolationism/Ben-Dror Yemini/Ynetnews/November 15/14
Alliance of evil: ISIS and al-Qaeda join forces in Syria/By: John Hayward /Human Events/November 15/14
A Dead Caliph vs. the Hydra of Jihad/Raymond Ibrahim/November 15/14
Assad’s Old Tricks/Tariq Alhomayed /Asharq Al Awsat/November 15/14
Obama, Khamenei and the making of Syrian tragedy/Hisham Melhem /Al Arabiya/November 15/14
Lebanese Related News published on November 15-16/14
Catholic Patriarchs Council: Presidential Candidates Must Abandon Personal Aims for National Ones
Rifi Rejects 'Arbitrary Arrest of Any Religious or Bearded Man'
MP Hamadeh to Make Political Testimony before STL Next Week
One Killed, 2 Wounded in Army, Gunmen Clashes in Baalbek
Report: ISIL, Nusra Allow Relatives to Visit Arsal Captives
Report: U.S. Complains to Lebanese Govt. for Attempting to Strike Russian Tank Deal
Report: Bkirki Seeks International Pressure to End Presidential Deadlock
Lebanon justice minister: Wearing beard no justification for arrest
STL puts Assad under scrutiny in Hariri case
Iran hopes Lebanon can facilitate arms transfer
Canadian-Lebanese accused of 1980 Paris synagogue bombing lands in France
Paris synagogue bomber lands in France
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon: Resistance is futile
Hezbollah to hold talks with rival parties
Lebanese say government mishandled refugee crisis
Army ambushed by militants, finds explosives
Abu Faour demands closure of two restaurants
Apple could swallow whole Russian stock market
PSP switch in AUB polls may be game changer
Lebanese blame government for mishandling refugee crisis: report
Security Forces Arrest Sheikh and Fugitive in North, 11 Syrians in Bekaa
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on
UAE Lists over 80 Muslim 'Terrorist' Groups
ISIS committing war crimes, crimes against humanity in Syria: UN
Israel eases Al-Aqsa age restrictions
G20 leaders vow to ‘extinguish’ Ebola outbreak
Top U.S. general in surprise visit to Iraq amid ISIS airstrike campaign
Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis claim deadly Sinai attack
'Iran opens gold plant to fight nuclear
How to prevent a further escalation
Iran nuclear negotiations set for extension under face-saving agreement: Iran sources
UN: Islamic State commanders liable for mass war crimes
At least 25 injured in a bloody brawl between Druze and Arabs in the Galilee
Erdoğan says America discovered by Muslims, wants mosque on Cuba hill
New British strategy to crack down on returning jihadists
Top US general in Iraq amid IS airstrikes
Islamic State Faces War of Attrition in Syria's Kobane
Report: Turkey, U.S. Agree Plan to Train 2,000 Moderate Syrian Rebels
Hungry Syrians Clash with Rebels Over Food Cache
Egyptian Militants Loyal to IS Claim Deadly Attack on Soldiers
U.S. Sees No Sign of Qaida-IS Pact, Says Clapper
Below Jihad Watch
Posts For Friday
Woman proclaiming Christ ejected from Muslim prayers at National Cathedral
Bosnia police arrest 11 Muslims for involvement in jihad in Syria and Iraq
Morocco arrests four Muslims from France with jihad terror links
Robert Spencer in FrontPage: Brookings Institution’s Old New Ideas
UK: Cameron will ban jihadis returning from Islamic State for two years
Somalia: Islamic jihadists kidnap 20 civilians, behead two women
Raymond Ibrahim: A Dead Caliph vs. the Hydra of Jihad
Lebanese-Canadian accused of Paris synagogue bombing
lands in France
Hassan Diab charged with 1980 PLO attack on Paris synagogue extradited to France, set to face terror charges.
AFP /Published: 11.15.14/Ynetnews
A Canadian academic accused of the deadly 1980 bombing of a Paris synagogue arrived in France Saturday after losing his six-year legal battle against extradition, an airport source told AFP. University professor Hassan Diab, a Canadian of Lebanese descent, was due to face an anti-terror judge later Saturday in Paris after arriving in the French capital from Montreal.The 60-year-old had been fighting his extradition to avoid what he said would be an unfair prosecution in France for a crime he insists he did not commit. Diab was arrested at his home in an Ottawa suburb in November 2008 at the request of French authorities who alleged he was a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The extremist group pioneered armed jetliner hijackings in the 1960s and was believed to be behind a string of deadly attacks in Europe, including the Paris bombing. Canada's justice minister signed an order in April 2012 to send Diab to France after a Canadian court 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. Diab became a Canadian citizen in 2006 and is now the father of a nearly 2-year-old girl with his common-law wife.
Lebanon justice minister: Wearing beard no justification
Nov. 15, 2014/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi rejected profiling of all bearded men as potential militants by the security forces Saturday, while calling for judicial reforms to ensure proper due process for all suspects. “Whoever did not fight against the Army should be released and we refuse to accuse or detain any conservative person under the pretext of him being bearded," the minister said at the Harba Mosque in the northern city of Tripoli, where he had toured damaged shops and met with several people there. “In Tripoli we pride ourselves with our religion and our commitment to it.”In the aftermath of the fighting in Tripoli and other parts of northern Lebanon, the Army launched a crackdown in search of gunmen who took part of the clashes and militants suspected of belonging to terrorist groups such as ISIS and the Nusra Front. There have been numerous reports that some of those arrested in the crackdown were targeted for their facial hair, due to the association of wearing a full beard with jihadis. However, Salafis – who also are known for maintaining a full beard – protest that they are unfairly being lumped in with militants. "As a minister, I will give this case priority and speak to the Army commander about [young men who were falsely detained] and we thank the commander for his recent remarks when he said Tripoli residents were not terrorists but supported the military,” Rifi said. Rifi said he toured Tripoli, his hometown, and listened to the concerns of the residents especially over arbitrary arrests and the destruction of their businesses and properties as a result of last month’s clashes between militants and the Army. Rifi also called for the abolition of military tribunals and the Higher Judicial Council, saying that judges had predispositions about detainees given some security measures taken during the Syrian tutelage years. “There is a need to abolish the military tribunal and the Higher Judicial Council or amend their laws,” Rifi said . “There is prejudice in the sentences issued by the military tribunal, and that is rejected.” The prejudice, according to Rifi, was the result of wanted lists circulated among security agencies in the country made up of individuals named by informant tip-offs “We are working on removing all remnants of the Syrian presence in Lebanon including wanted lists that are used to detain our young men without a proof or charge,” Rifi said. In July, the Cabinet decided to abolish the lists dating back to the period when Lebanon was under Syrian tutelage and were largely believed to include anti-Syria citizens. “The court at the military tribunal should not be based on predispositions, and we are Lebanese citizens just like everybody else and everyone should be treated equally.”
MP Hamadeh to Make Political Testimony before STL Next
Naharnet/MP Marwan Hamadeh is scheduled on Monday to make his political testimony before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, reported the daily An Nahar on Saturday.His testimony will pave the way to tackling the political motivations linked to the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, added the daily. The Prosecution had compiled two days ago the factors that characterized Hariri's “very tense” relationship with Syrian President Bashar Assad in the period that preceded the assassination.
These factors include the pressure that Assad had imposed on Hariri, which prompted the STL to call for hearing political testimonies linked to this aspect of the case, continued An Nahar. Hamadeh will be the first of a list of politicians who will appear before the court.
His testimony will last three to four days, said the daily..Other officials to follow include head of the Mustaqbal bloc MP Fouad Saniora, former MP Salim Diab, and MP Saad Hariri's media advisor Hani Hammoud, revealed al-Akhbar newspaper on Saturday, reported al-Akhbar newspaper Saturday. Commenting on the development, Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq hoped that “the repercussions of the very difficult political testimonies will be contained in Lebanon.”“We hope the testimonies will not create new crises,” he added according to As Safir newspaper on Saturday. The in absentia trial of four Hizbullah members accused of murdering former PM Rafik Hariri in February 2005 kick off at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in The Hague in January. The February 14, 2005 seafront blast killed 22 people including Hariri and wounded 226. Although the attack was initially blamed on four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals, the court in 2011 issued arrest warrants against Mustafa Badreddine, 52, Salim Ayyash, 50, Hussein Oneissi, 39, and Assad Sabra, 37, all members of Hizbullah. The four suspects were indicted in 2011 with plotting the attack, but have not been arrested. A fifth, Hassan Habib Merhi, was charged late last year in the case and is also still at large. To date, 36 witnesses have testified before the tribunal and a total of 461 exhibits were admitted into evidence. The March 14 alliance that was produced in the aftermath of the assassination accuses Syria of being behind the murder and string of other assassinations that have plagued Lebanon over the years. Syria and Hizbullah were blamed for the December 27, 2013 assassination of former finance minister Mohammed Shatah, an aide to Saad Hariri, in a downtown Beirut bombing. Shatah was the ninth high-profile critic of the Syrian regime to be killed in Lebanon since Hariri's assassination.
Rifi Rejects 'Arbitrary Arrest of Any Religious or Bearded Man'
Naharnet/Minister of Justice Ashraf Rifi on Saturday called for “the release of those who did not fight the army” in the clashes in Tripoli and the north last month, rejecting “the arbitrary arrest of any religious or bearded man.” Rifi, who toured in Bab al-Tabbaneh where the clashes began between the army and armed groups, stressed on “the importance of canceling the military court and the judicial council or modifying it's laws.”"Every self-respecting countries has abolished the exceptional courts and the trials to one level,” he added.
“The verdicts issued by the military court are bias and this is rejected.” Rifi explained: “The trials in the military court should not begin from prejudgments and we are citizens just like all the other citizens and all the citizens should be treated equally and put under the laws.”
"I've inspected al-Tabbaneh neighborhoods and listened to the pain of the citizens, due to the arbitrary arresting their children and the destruction of their homes and stores,” added Rifi. “They deeply hurt since a large number of young people, who were not involved in the clashes against the army, were arrested. "He also stressed: “As the minister of justice I will give priority to this case and I will talk with the army commander who is thanked for his position, where he declared that the citizens of Tripoli and the Bab al-Tabbaneh are not terrorists and they were beside the army.” Moreover, he insisted that, “those who did not fight the army should be immediately released to his parents.” Rifi rejected “accusing or arresting any religious or bearded person, and in Tripoli we are proud of our religiousness and our commitment to it.” Concerning the compensations, the minister of justice said: “We conducted in the Cabinet several decrees concerning the payment of compensation to those affected in the recent rounds of violence and clashes between militants and the army.”But he stressed that "the area needs a lot of developments from schools to hospitals and open up job opportunities for our young people by encouraging the establishment of laboratories and factories for our children, to live in dignity and heyday.”The clashes that Tripoli witnessed and specifically in Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood transformed this impoverished neighborhood into an afflicted one. Leader of al-Mostaqbal Movement Saad al-Hariri donated a grant to the city to compensate for those affected by the clashes. "Tripoli proved that it is with the government and its legitimate institutions, mainly the army, but the government should prove that it is with Tripoli and embrace its citizens and go into its neighborhoods with development and vital projects, not with iron and fire.”While the army continues with its military operations in Tripoli and the north and carries out raids during which many people are bring arrested.
One Killed, 2 Wounded in Army, Gunmen Clashes in Baalbek
Naharnet/Clashes erupted at dawn on Saturday between the army and a number of gunmen in the eastern Bekaa city of Baalbek as the army cracked down on wanted suspects, reported the National News Agency. It said that one person was killed, while two others were wounded in the unrest that broke out in the Dar al-Wasaa area in western Baalbek. The victim was identified as Nadimeh Makhzi, while the wounded are her husband, Sobhi, and son, Romeo. The wounded are receiving treatment at Dar al-Amal university hospital. The army's raid was part of a crackdown against wanted suspects that was kicked off earlier this week in the Bekaa region. The military had earlier surrounded the town of Brital on all sides, blocking all roads leading to it. It had also set up checkpoints ahead of a likely raid of the town. The army and security forces had been carrying out in recent months raids in various regions throughout Lebanon in search of wanted fugitives and suspected terrorists
Catholic Patriarchs Council: Presidential Candidates Must Abandon Personal Aims for National Ones
Naharnet /The Council of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops stressed on Saturday the need to end the presidential vacuum in Lebanon, calling on lawmakers to assume their responsibilities to that end. It said: “All presidential candidates must abandon their personal interests in favor of national ones.”The remarks were made at the end of the 48th meeting of the council of catholic patriarchs and bishops in Lebanon. “Lawmakers should free themselves of foreign pressure and assume their duties,” said the clerics after the week-long meeting that concluded with talks with Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi on Saturday. Furthermore, they demanded the approval of a fair parliamentary electoral law “that would ensure just representation and guarantee the rights of all sects in accordance with the principles of coexistence in Lebanon.” In addition, they called on officials “to rise above their disputes and support the army and all other security agencies in Lebanon.” “These forces alone are able to meet the aspirations of the Lebanese people,” they declared.
Lebanon has been without a president since May when the term of Michel Suleiman ended. Disputes between the rival March 8 and 14 camps over a compromise candidate have thwarted the polls. Al-Rahi has repeatedly called on lawmakers to elect a president, highlighting the detrimental effects the vacuum has on the country. “Lebanon can no longer persist in this state of fragmentation caused by the schemes of powerful politicians,” he had remarked on Sunday.
Report: U.S. Complains to Lebanese Govt. for Attempting to Strike Russian Tank Deal
Naharnet /The United States has reportedly questioned Mustaqbal Movement leader MP Saad Hariri's decision to “diversify” the number of countries from which to obtain weapons as part of the Saudi military grant to the army, said As Safir newspaper on Saturday.
Widely informed sources told daily that the U.S. filed an official complaint to the Lebanese government, the army command in particular, for attempting to strike a deal with Russia on supplying the army with used T-72 tanks. The U.S. is set to provide the army with new tanks. The sources said that the U.S. presented the Lebanese powers documented information that “Lebanese and Russian mediators are set to make commissions worth the sum of the entire deal.”The details of the figures were not disclosed, but they exceed 100 million dollars, said As Safir. The Saudi grant is worth a billion dollars, which will be directed to the army and other security agencies in Lebanon. Meanwhile, South Korea had expressed an interest in joining the list of countries partaking in the military deal.
It proposed that the Lebanese army purchase Korean military equipment, while it will grant Lebanon a modern frigate. China had also proposed selling Lebanon weapons at reduced prices. A Lebanese military delegation had traveled to Beijing recently to that end.
In August, Hariri announced that Saudi Arabia has provided Lebanon's army with one billion dollars to strengthen security. Earlier in November, Saudi Arabia and France inked in Riyadh a deal to provide the Lebanese army with $3 billion worth of French weapons.
Iran hopes Lebanon can facilitate arms transfer
The Daily Star/Nov. 15, 2014/BEIRUT: Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Fathali said Saturday that Tehran never wanted to embarrass Lebanon with the recent offer of aid to the Army, expressing hope that the government could overcome obstacles to facilitate the arms transfer. "We want to develop ties in a way that does not embarrass the Lebanese government. We thought it was our duty to stand by Lebanon in these tough circumstances,” Fathali told reporters after meeting with Speaker Nabih Berri in Ain al-Tineh.
“We demonstrated our good intentions with this grant, and we hope that the Lebanese government can overcome all legal obstacles that they are talking about and that are preventing this grant from going through.” Fathali, however, declined to comment when asked if Iran’s proposal to assist the Lebanese Army had sped up the Saudi grant to the military that was stalled for several months. Defense Minister Samir Moqbel visited Iran last month and discussed the grant from Tehran and is expected to present a proposal to the Cabinet.
Several ministers have raised concerns that the arms transfer would be a violation of U.N. sanctions on Iran, and some media reports have said that Western diplomats have pressured Lebanon to reject the offer. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1747 states that “Iran shall not supply, sell, or transfer directly or indirectly from its territory or by its nationals or using its flag vessels or aircraft any arms or related material, and that all States shall prohibit the procurement of such items from Iran by their nationals.” Hezbollah and other March 8 coalition politicians have urged the government to accept what Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah has described as "unconditional" and only met the demands of the military.
Hezbollah to hold talks with rival parties
Nov. 15, 2014/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Hezbollah will hold talks with rival factions in the upcoming phase, the party’s deputy head said Friday, hoping that the move would help end the country’s political crisis. “The upcoming phase will witness a series of meetings and talks between factions that haven’t been meeting before because of some tension or some differences in opinion,” Sheikh Naim Qassem said during a ceremony at the Ghobeiry southern suburb of Beirut. “This could open the door for a new phase if there was a serious will,” he added.
Qassem said that dialogue could build confidence between rival groups which could help solve the country’s political crisis. “Thank God that all parties have realized that dialogue should be the choice, as nobody can rule this country alone,” he added.
His remarks come more than one week after Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah voiced his group’s readiness to engage in dialogue with its rival the Future Movement. Future Movement leader Saad Hariri has recently launched an initiative in which he expressed his willingness to hold talks with all Lebanese factions, including Hezbollah, in a bid to reach consensus on a new president. In his speech, Qassem said that the optimal president should be representative of his sect, committed to his pacts, would have the ability to assure his rivals of political participation and nation building, and would not succumb to regional and international projects. “We have announced our choice [for the presidency] and we consider it to be in complete harmony with these important qualifications,” he said, referring to Free Patriotic Movement Michel Aoun, who was personally endorsed by Nasrallah last week. “The available path to the presidency is specific and well-known, elections could be held quickly,” Qassem said, while warning of a prolonged vacuum if political factions “don’t act on the basis of the available objective facts.” Future bloc MP Mohammad Hajjar said that time has come to search for a consensus president. “Head of the Change and Reform bloc Michel Aoun and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea cannot each secure the quorum needed to elect a president. Thus, it is time to look for a consensus candidate to fill the presidential seat,” Hajjar told a local TV station
Lebanese blame government for mishandling refugee
Nov. 15, 2014 /Mazin Sidahmed| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The Syrian refugee crisis has deepened Lebanese people’s lack of trust in the state, according to a new report on people’s perceptions of the country’s security situation, which also pointed to mixed feelings toward the country’s police force. “What I conclude from [the report] is that clearly people are worried about the Syrian refugees,” Sami Attallah, executive director of the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies, told The Daily Star. “[The report highlights that] a lot of these problems or fears could be dealt with ... if there was a government that is serious enough to deal with the economic challenges as a result of the Syrian refugee crisis.”The report was the result of a collaboration between the peace-building NGO International Alert and the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies.
The study, titled “People Centered Approach to Security Sector Reform,” was aimed at understanding how Lebanese people perceive the security situation in Lebanon, particularly in relation to the refugee crisis.
According to the U.N.’s refugee agency, around 1.1 million Syrian refugees fleeing their country’s ongoing civil war are hosted in Lebanon, equalling almost a third of the Lebanese population.
The research was conducted over 30 months and involved focus groups and interviews with security officers and MPs, among others. The results of the report were presented Friday during an all-day conference at the Phoenicia Hotel attended by security experts, civil society actors and members of the Internal Security Forces.
Predictably, 74 percent of people surveyed by the report said that they felt Lebanon was now less safe than it was when the Syrian civil war started more than three-and-a-half years ago, especially in the north. The report attributed this to the fact the north holds a Sunni majority and Sunnis have felt an increased “sense of persecution” following the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. However, Dr. Omar Hallaj, the project adviser for International Alert, stressed that respondents did not consider sectarian balance a direct concern. He emphasized that location plays a larger role in one’s perception of threats. For instance, a Sunni in the south may have different concerns than a Sunni in the north. The report found that all Lebanese place a large portion of the blame for the precarious security situation on local government institutions. Hallaj highlighted the fact that 63 percent blamed the combination of ineffective government and the refugee crisis for the problems they are experiencing. Politicians are not seen as a positive factor in solving the refugee crisis; 88 percent of respondents said that there was no politician that was working seriously on the issue of the Syrian refugee crisis. Hallaj lamented that there was not a “coherent national policy in place to mitigate the risks stemming from the refugee crisis” and the government has not collected adequate data to deal with the issue. Despite this lack of trust in the state, the report found that respondents said they felt much safer when an ISF station was nearby. The perception of the likelihood of sexual or political violence, and assaults dropped dramatically when comparing people who lived near an ISF station to those that did not.
“I think it’s the difference between assuming that the ISF or any police force will have some kind of deterrent effect just by being there,” David Chuter, an expert on security questions and former U.K. diplomat who spoke at the conference, told The Daily Star.
“If there’s somebody with a uniform and a gun then you feel, potentially, it can only be useful in deterring other people,” Chuter said. “After all, if you’re a bit afraid of the police, maybe criminals will be a bit afraid of the police as well.”
The topic of changing the ISF uniforms was also raised during the conference. ISF members currently wear camouflage uniforms and carry heavy assault rifles similar to the Army. Chuter questioned whether demilitarizing was a wise choice.
“You’re sending out [ISF personnel] to the street at the moment in heavy, thick, military-style uniforms ... as though there’s a war,” Chuter said. “If you put them in European-style uniforms would they be more approachable? Possibly. Would they be seen as less of a deterrent to crime? Again, possibly.” He went on to cite the example of South Africa, where an attempt to demilitarize the police was followed by public call from people living in the slums to remilitarize them again. Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk, whose ministry is responsible for the ISF, slammed the report for being unfair, saying it did not consider the problems faced by the agency. During his highly politicized speech, Machnouk said that the ISF was paralyzed by sectarian differences at the executive level, making it hard to come to a consensus on most topics. He also stressed that it was understaffed and underfunded. Machnouk claimed that non-Lebanese – “especially Syrians” – contributed to the crime rate in Lebanon and reiterated the government’s new policy of not allowing Syrian refugees into Lebanon barring exceptional circumstances.
Lebanese support ISIS airstrikes: survey
The Daily Star/Nov. 15, 2014
BEIRUT: The majority of the Arab public opposes ISIS and supports the U.S.-led coalition airstrikes against the group's elements in Syria and Iraq, according to a survey. However, most Arabs still believe that Washington and its closest ally, Israel, remain the greatest threat to the region.
The Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies Saturday released its findings from a public opinion survey on attitudes toward the airstrikes carried out by the international coalition against ISIS.
Survey respondents took part by telephone and were asked questions designed to determine their attitudes toward both the international coalition’s aim in carrying out the airstrikes against ISIS in both Iraq and Syria and ISIS itself.
The researchers surveyed 600 respondents in each of seven Arab countries: Tunisia, Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Iraq. A further sample of 900 Syrian refugees was drawn equally in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.
The center reports that 59 percent of Arabs expressed varying degrees of support for the airstrikes by the international coalition against armed extremist groups including ISIS. In contrast, 37 percent of respondents voiced varying levels of opposition to the campaign.
Notably, twice as many respondents were strongly in favor of the military campaign as were strongly opposed to it: 25 percent compared to 12 percent.
Lebanon showed the highest levels of support for the international coalition against ISIS: 76 percent of Lebanese respondents support the airstrikes compared to 24 percent who were opposed.
The lowest levels of support for the strikes came from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Palestine, with only 50 percent of Saudis expressing support for military action against armed extremist groups. Saudi Arabia is a member of the international coalition and has participated in airstrikes in Syria.
In Palestine, 52 percent said they supported the airstrikes.
The proportion of Egyptians who were “strongly” supportive of military action was the lowest of any individual country at 6 percent. Opposition to the strikes was highest in Egypt, with 48 percent of Egyptians opposing the airstrikes.
Across all population groups, 22 percent of respondents expressed confidence in the international coalition achieving its stated aims to “destroy and degrade ISIS,” while one-third believed the coalition would not be able to do so.
Saudis and Lebanese showed the highest levels of confidence in the coalition’s abilities.
“Yet Lebanon was also very polarized, having the highest proportion of respondents who lack confidence in the coalition’s capabilities: 41 percent of respondents in that country expressing the opinion that the coalition would not achieve its aims,” the report said.
Thirty-eight percent of Syrian refugees believed the coalition’s aims were unachievable.
Asked about Arab countries’ involvement in the anti-ISIS campaign, a total of 61 percent of Arab respondents supported the move while 12 percent of them “strongly” opposed it.
The highest levels of support for Arab participation were found in Lebanon, with roughly 75 percent of respondents in that country expressing varying levels of Arab support. Lebanon was followed by Saudi Arabia.
Respondents from Palestine were the least supportive of Arab participation, with 50 percent of Palestinians opposing it.
As for the possibility of Western boots on the ground, 45 percent were “absolutely” opposed to such a move by the U.S. and its Western allies. This was compared to 31 percent of respondents who were “definitely” in favor of such a deployment.
“Lebanon was the only country where a majority (51 percent) was 'definitely' in favor of the deployment of ground troops by the United States and its Western allies,” the report said.
However, 40 percent of the Arab public is in favor of the deployment of Arab ground forces to confront ISIS compared to 36 percent of respondents who were opposed.
The overall results show that 31 percent of the Arab public named the United States to be one of the two biggest beneficiaries of the military campaign, while 27 percent named Israel as one of the two parties who stood to gain the most.
The largest proportion of respondents who believed their own country to be a major beneficiary of the military campaign was found in Lebanon. This was followed by Saudi Arabia and Tunisia.
The Lebanese Army has clashed repeatedly with militants after the Nusra Front and ISIS attacked and briefly overran the northeastern border town of Arsal in August. The militants, who were driven out of Syria's Qalamoun region, are currently holed up in the porous border region between the two countries, along with 27 Lebanese soldiers and policemen they are holding captive.
Respondents were also asked to identify the two largest threats to the security and stability of the Arab region. Results indicate that 28 percent of public opinion surveyed listed Israel as the largest threat to regional security, followed by the United States (21 percent), Iran (17 percent), and armed Islamic groups (13 percent).
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon: Resistance is futile
The Daily Star
Next week will offer additional proof that the passage of time doesn’t always smooth over the unpleasant events of the past. In the case of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and its predecessors, the quest for truth and justice survives, even if decades go by before the guilty are finally punished.Naturally, the STL has been attacked ever since it was established, as were all of the attempts to achieve justice in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri which claimed 22 lives nearly a decade ago.
Next week, the prosecution will be allowed to delve into the political context of the assassination, when relations were particularly bad between Hariri and the Syrian leadership. The court will hear testimony from more than a dozen journalists, advisers and politicians close to Hariri who are expected to provide important information on this front. Volumes could be written on the attempts to derail the STL, as leading parties have either failed to cooperate or actively tried to obstruct the course of justice. Hezbollah has refused to cooperate even though five of its members are now on trial. All along, there have been efforts to convince people that Hariri was killed due to a personal dispute of some kind, even though all of the indications point to the opposite, namely political motives.
The accusations against the STL have proven to be worthless and those who have systematically rejected the tribunal should realize that their campaigns of defamation aren’t going to succeed.
The STL is not going to disappear, and Hezbollah should abandon the lost cause of blocking the course of justice. The party’s tactics only cast doubt on its long-held stance that it is innocent of any involvement in the crime.
STL puts Assad under scrutiny in Hariri case
Nov. 15, 2014/Kareem Shaheen/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Nearly a decade after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Syria’s alleged role in Lebanon’s worst political crime in recent history is set once again to take center stage. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon decided Friday to allow prosecutors to present evidence on the breakdown of relations between late Hariri and Syrian President Bashar Assad, paving the way for the first serious, courtroom examination of Syria’s alleged role in the run-up to the massive bombing. Defense lawyers said the admission of the evidence would be a “sea change” and major expansion in the scope of the Hariri trial, saying prosecutors were now pointing the finger to Syria as being ultimately behind the assassination. “Let us not be coy about it: The prosecutor now is putting his case on the basis of Syria being behind the assassination of Rafik Hariri,” said Iain Edwards, a defense lawyer for Mustafa Badreddine, a senior Hezbollah operative accused of complicity in the attack. “Let’s call a spade a spade your honor,” Edwards said, adding that it was clear the prosecution were saying that Syria, Assad and his security apparatus wanted the Lebanese prime minister killed. “With such a dramatic change of course, the defense now has, to a very significant extent, considers how the rest of its trial strategy is to be amended,” he added.
The dramatic development in the case comes at an inopportune time for the Syrian president, who is battling an uprising that has lasted nearly four years.
In an oral ruling, the trial chamber’s Presiding Judge David Re said the court would hear the evidence of MP Marwan Hamade, who survived an assassination attempt in Oct. 2004, Monday.
Hamade is the first of over a dozen politicians, journalists and advisers of Hariri who are scheduled to give testimony in the coming months detailing tensions in the relationship between Syria and Lebanon, aimed at pinpointing a political motive for the 2005 Valentine’s Day bombing that rocked Lebanon and led to street protests that ended Syria’s military presence in its smaller neighbor.
“Is Bashar Assad going to be formally named as a co-conspirator in the killing of Rafik Hariri? Rustom Ghazaleh? Are they going to be added to the indictment?” Edwards asked rhetorically, saying the prosecution ought to amend their indictments if they intend to pursue the Syrian track in trial. “We are entitled to know.” Ghazaleh, head of Syrian military intelligence in Lebanon during the assassination, had allegedly threatened to break Hariri’s arm if he didn’t support the 2004 extension for ex-President Emile Lahoud’s term.
No Syrian official has ever been charged in connection with the Hariri assassination, and prosecutors have not indicated so far that they intend to formally accuse any officials. The Hague-based court indicted five members of Hezbollah in the case, and their trial in absentia is ongoing. The announcement came a day after defense lawyers revealed that the prosecution had asked in October to add a telephone number belonging to Assad to a court document, in addition to an attempt to link Hezbollah to the green network of telephones used by the alleged leaders of the assassination plot, including Badreddine.
The Assad revelation led Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk to assert that the Syrian president had a direct link to Hariri’s killers. “Bashar Assad had direct contact with the people that killed martyr Rafik Hariri,” Machnouk told a security conference at the Phoenicia Hotel. Prosecutors say the political evidence will provide important context to the case and to the telecommunications evidence that shows the movements of the suspects and their tracking of Hariri, and allege that the suspects acted in tandem with political events. They said the evidence may provide the long-sought political motive for why Hariri was assassinated.They say Hariri’s surveillance began in conjunction with the breakdown of relations with Assad, the extension of Lahoud’s term, the passage of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559 ordering Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon and the disarmament of Hezbollah, Hariri’s resignation from office and the formation of an anti-Syrian opposition movement that Hariri joined.
In addition, prosecutors say the plot to assassinate the former premier accelerated immediately after a meeting between Hariri and Ghazaleh in Qoreitem Palace in early January 2005, in which he told the Syrian intelligence chief that he intended to bolster Lebanon’s independence from Syria. Defense lawyers argued that prosecutors have essentially come up with a new theory of the case that implicated Syria, which should have been made clear in the indictment.
The indictment itself does not delve into the political motive behind the assassination, and now only mentions Hezbollah in passing, as a political and military organization in Lebanon that the suspects support.
“The Syrian connection, [or] element, of the prosecution case is indeed a material fact underpinning the charges and therefore ought to have been pleaded in the indictment,” Edwards said. “It is approaching abusive that this significant change of course is happening so very late in the day, 11 or so months after the trial has started, and only a few weeks before the second phase of this trial is due to start. It has happened very late in the day indeed.”
UN: Islamic State commanders liable for mass war crimes
Ynetnews/Published: 11.14.14/ Israel News
Report urges world powers to bring terror group commanders before ICC for spreading terror by beheading, carrying out mass killings, shooting and stoning civilians. Islamic State commanders are liable for war crimes on a "massive scale" in northeast Syria, where they spread terror by beheading, stoning and shooting civilians and captured fighters, UN investigators said on Friday. Their report, based on over 300 interviews with witnesses and victims, called on world powers to bring the commanders before the International Criminal Court for both war crimes and crimes against humanity. "In carrying out mass killings of captured fighters and civilians following military assaults, ISIS (Islamic State) members have perpetrated egregious violations of binding international humanitarian law and the war crime of murder on a massive scale," said the report. Foreign fighters have swollen the group's ranks and dominate its leadership structure, the report said. A separate UN report has said 15,000 foreigners have gone to fight in Syria and Iraq. "The commanders of ISIS have acted wilfully, perpetrating these war crimes ... They are individually criminally responsible," the report added, saying the group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, wielded "absolute power". Paulo Pinheiro, who chaired the UN panel, told a news conference that its findings would add to a secret list of war crimes suspects from all sides in Syria's civil war, in which some 200,000 have been killed since March 2011. Since US-led air strikes began targeting Islamic State in Syria in late September, its fighters have begun taking up positions in civilian houses and farms, leading to civilian casualties, the report said. It found that Islamic State, also known as ISIS, was depriving 600,000 people in the north of deliveries of food and medical aid, and enforcing its radical interpretation of Islamic law through "morality police".
These ordered lashings and amputations for offences such as smoking cigarettes or theft; one female dentist in Deir al-Zor had been beheaded for treating patients of both sexes. "ISIS has beheaded, shot and stoned men, women and children in public spaces in towns and villages across northeastern Syria," the report said. Children were being pressed to inform on their parents, women stoned for unapproved contact with men, and Christians, Kurds and other minorities forced to convert to Islam or pay a tax: "Witnesses saw scenes of still-bleeding bodies hanging from crosses, and of heads placed on spikes along park railings." Among those slaughtered in Syria were 200 soldiers captured from the Tabqa airbase in Raqqa province, and hundreds of members of the al-Sheitat tribe in Deir al-Zor
Analysis: Will the new Congress push Obama into being
tougher on Iran’s nuclear weapons program?
By ALAN DERSHOWITZ \ 11/15/2014/Jerusalem Post
Now that both Houses of Congress are under the control of Republicans, will President Obama have as free a hand in making a deal with the Iranian mullahs regarding their nuclear weapons program?
Many members of Congress, in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle, believe that President Obama is willing to allow Iran to become a threshold nuclear weapons power, as long as they don’t actually develop a nuclear bomb during his watch. Israeli leaders, both in the majority and in opposition fear the same thing. Nobody wants to see a nuclear armed Iran, and few want to see a military attack on Iran’s nuclear weapons program, except as an absolute last resort. Everyone would like to see a good deal that assures the world that Iran will never develop nuclear weapons, and in return for that assurance ends the crippling sanctions against the Iranian people. The questions are what sort of a deal will bring us closer to this desirable outcome, and are the United States and its European allies demanding enough from Iran to assure compliance with a commitment not to weaponize its “civilian” program.
The newly elected Congress would like to play a role in addressing these questions, but the White House insists that the constitution empowers the executive branch alone—the president, his cabinet and his staff—to conduct the foreign policy of the United States. The White House is wrong.
The constitution divides the conduct of foreign policy between the executive and legislative branches, depending on the issue. For example, Article I expressly empowers Congress to “regulate commerce with foreign nations”; to “define and punish” crimes committed “on the high seas” and “against the law of nations”; to declare war; and to make rules governing “land and naval forces.”
Even when it comes to making treaties, the senate must approve presidential decisions by a two thirds vote, and it must approve the appointment of ambassadors by a majority vote.
The framers intended this division of authority as part of its insistence on checks and balances, to assure that important decisions—including those affecting foreign policy—had to achieve the support of both the executive and legislative branches.
Its purpose was not to assure gridlock, but neither was it to allow one branch alone to make all important foreign policy decisions. Its purpose was to try to achieve a modicum of agreement, through negotiation and compromise, between the branches.
How does this constitutional division of power impact the current negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, especially in light of the current partisan division between a Democratic president and a Republican-controlled Senate and House?
The answer depends on whether Congress chooses to assert its constitutional power to participate in foreign policy decisions. It is arguable that any deal with Iran will be enough like a treaty to warrant Senate approval, but even if that were not the case, any deal would necessarily require the removal of sanctions enacted by Congress. And Congress plainly has the power to refuse to reduce sanctions and indeed to strengthen them.
So President Obama will not have a completely free hand in making a deal with Iran. Nor should he. A president’s term is fixed by the constitution, and there is a danger that a president may be somewhat shortsighted in his view of foreign policy, and willing to kick the can down the road in order to preserve his legacy. Congress, on the other hand, is a continuing institution with overlapping terms and significant responsibility in assuring that the short term interests of any given administration do not endanger the long term interests of the country. That is why Congress should demand a role in the ongoing negotiations with Iran.
The president may, however, insist that he and he alone has the authority to make a deal with Iran. This may create a constitutional conflict between the popular branches that may have to be resolved by the third branch of our government, namely judges appointed for life. It is unclear how the Supreme Court would resolve such a conflict. Indeed a case currently pending before the justices poses the issue of which branch gets to make foreign policy decisions in the context of a dispute between the executive and the legislature over whether Jerusalem is part of Israel for purposes of the passport of an American child born in Jerusalem. Although this issue is both narrow and highly technical and involves passports which are administered by the executive branch, the High Court may render a decision using broad language that implicates the Iranian negotiations. So we have to wait and see what the Supreme Court does and says. In the meantime Congress should not abdicate its responsibility to advise the president on this important foreign policy issue.
At least 25 injured in a bloody brawl between Druze and Arabs in the Galilee
Jerusalem Post.15.11.14/At least three are injured seriously by a grenade after a fight broke out in Abu Snan between tens of Muslims and Druze.At least 25 were injured late Friday night during a brawl in the village of Abu Snan in the Western Galilee between tens of Arabs and Druze. The injured, mostly in their 20s and one man in his 50s, were taken to the hospital in Nahariya. Three sustained serious injuries from a grenade, according to Magen David Adom. A large police force arrived at the scene in order to calm tensions in the village, which is about 60% Muslim while the remainder are Druze and Christians. Louis Baytem, a Muslim who was lightly injured during the fight, spoke to Walla! about the brawl, which he encountered on his way to visit a friend in the village: "I saw people throwing stones. I stopped and asked what was happening, and they said this is a continuation of tensions between Muslims and Druze that began several days ago. Suddenly, a Druze threw a grenade into the crowd of Muslims. The scene was shocking. There were a lot of people around me lying on the floor, wounded and bleeding. It was unbelievable - they just tried to kill us." A friend of Louis's, Annan, a resident of Abu Snan, added: "From where did they bring a grenade? They serve in the army and I'm almost sure they brought it from there."
According to Annan, relations between Muslims and Druze in the village began to erode when two Muslim students came to school wearing kaffiyehs in solidarity with the protest of the killing of 22-year-old Kheir a-Din Hamdan, who was shot dead by police last week after he threatened them with a knife. In addition, he said, some Druze students posted on social networks that one of the Muslim girls in the village is the "whore of all the Druze."The district police commander is expected to meet soon with the leaders of the village in order to deal with the incident.
Druze on edge over jihadi incursion fears
Nicholas Blanford| The Daily Star/Nov. 15, 2014
AIHA, Lebanon: An air of unease stalks the picturesque Druze villages and towns clinging to the steep stony hills and mountains of the Rashaya district in southeast Lebanon. Recent fighting between Syrian Druze loyal to the regime of President Bashar Assad and the militants of the Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s Syrian franchise, on the other side of Mount Hermon from Rashaya has rattled nerves.
The two Lebanese and Syrian Druze communities lie only a few kilometers apart, separated by the imposing Mount Hermon which towers over the surrounding landscape, its lofty summit already dusted with the first of the winter snows.
“We are not sleeping comfortably at night. We are keeping an eye on everything,” said a middle-aged Druze sheikh, one of two dressed in black baggy trousers and white knitted skullcaps sitting on a wall in Aiha enjoying the morning sun.
The concern is that the fighting on the Syrian side of Mount Hermon could spill into Lebanon, similar to developments further north along the border in the area between Tfail and Arsal in the northern Bekaa, where Syrian rebel groups and militants have fought the Lebanese Army and Hezbollah.
Indeed, close attention has been paid to this remote southeast corner of the country in recent weeks. Even before last week’s outbreak of clashes near the Druze village of Arneh on the eastern slopes of Mount Hermon, there has been much speculation that extremist groups in Syria, namely the Nusra Front, could seek to gain a foothold in the Sunni town of Shebaa, 20 kilometers south of Aiha, replicating the situation found in the Arsal area where several hundred militants are holed up in the adjacent mountains.
Given the violence that has gripped Arsal, and the northern Bekaa more generally, for almost two years, such concerns are understandable.
But does the Nusra Front have an interest in deploying forces into southeast Lebanon, either to build a safe haven around Shebaa or to attack Druze villages further north?
Even if it did, can the group overcome the logistical hurdles of entering Lebanon across Mount Hermon and defending itself against the Lebanese Army, Hezbollah and possibly local defense paramilitary forces similar to those that have sprung up in some Christian villages near Arsal?
Over the summer, Syrian rebel groups, a mix of Free Syrian Army, nationalist Islamists and Nusra Front jihadis, advanced northward through the Golan Heights, seizing the area around Qunaitra at the end of August.
Rebels currently hold the ground extending to Jbata al-Khashab, 11 kilometers north of Qunaitra.
From there to the village of Bqassam east of Mount Hermon, the territory is contested between the Syrian army and the rebels with both holding some villages in that area.
Beit Jinn is thought to be the most northerly village presently under full control of the rebels, reportedly the Nusra Front.
The fighting last week between Druze fighters with the loyalist National Defense Force militia and the Nusra Front occurred around 5 kilometers north of Beit Jinn in the vicinity of Arneh.
According to Druze residents of the Rashaya area, the Syrian army informed the Druze NDF in Arneh that it planned to attack local Nusra Front forces.
But once the fighting began, the Syrian troops swiftly withdrew, leaving the Druze militiamen to face the militants. More than 20 Druze fighters were reported to have been killed in the clashes, a relatively high number for the small tight-knit community on the eastern slopes of Mount Hermon, an area that has seen little fighting since Syria’s civil war broke out three years ago.
Lebanese Druze opposed to the Assad regime believe that the incident was a cynical attempt by the Syrian authorities to foment hostilities between minority Druze and majority Sunnis in the Mount Hermon area to ensure the former continues to remain loyal to the regime.
The Druze in the Rashaya district say they wish to remain on good terms with their Sunni neighbors and have no intention of becoming embroiled in Syria’s conflict. But they say they will defend their villages if they come under attack.
Still, it is difficult to see what advantage the Nusra Front, or any other Syrian rebel faction, would have from crossing into Lebanon in the Mount Hermon area.
The Sunnis of Shebaa have stated quite clearly that they have no desire to see their town turned into another Arsal, despite their general sympathies for the Syrian opposition.
Unlike the terrain east of Arsal which is unpopulated and consists of hundreds of square kilometers of rugged mountains, the Shebaa-Rashaya area is relatively densely populated with few transport links, making it easier to control by the Army.
For example, the main road running south along a valley from Rashaya to Shebaa, a distance of 18 kilometers, has only two turnings to the west, one that leads to the village of Beit Lahia and the other to Ain Ata.
But the Beit Lahia road is blocked by the Army at the eastern approach to the village, which leaves only one passable opening to the west through an Army checkpoint at the Ain Ata-Shebaa-Rashaya intersection.
But a more formidable logistical difficulty for militants wanting to move into Lebanon is the absence of routes open to vehicles across Mount Hermon. There are tracks running west up the eastern sides of Mount Hermon from both Beit Jinn and Arneh.
But the tracks terminate at the crest of the Mount Hermon mountain chain and are used by peacekeepers from the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force to reach the position on the mountain’s summit.
The tracks do not descend into Lebanon from the top of Mount Hermon, meaning that anyone wishing to enter Lebanon here, whether militant or refugee, has to follow the old smuggling trails on foot or at best by donkey.
That effectively rules out the large-scale deployment of militants into Lebanon from Beit Jinn. By contrast, Syrian militants in Qalamoun, north of Damascus, had multiple unguarded and drivable tracks to move in and out of Lebanese territory near Arsal.
The first track crossing the border lies on the lower northern slopes of Mount Hermon 5 kilometers north of the Syrian village of Qalaat Jandal.
There are approximately nine more crossings, mainly rugged dirt tracks, before Deir al-Ashayer, but all of them lie in territory under Syrian army control. Some of the tracks are used exclusively by the Syrian army to reach their positions inside Lebanon in a valley south west of Deir al-Ashayer.
On the Lebanese side of the border, the Army secures the area through patrols and checkpoints and long ago blocked the tracks with earth berms to make them impassable to vehicles.
Even if there is a desire by the Nusra Front to deploy significant numbers of fighters into Lebanon – which is doubtful – the logistical difficulties involved given the current geographical disposition of forces on the Syrian side of the border suggest such a move would be futile.
Israel's Arab leaders are only selling isolationism
Silent majority of the Arab community prefers Israel to any other country, and we would do well to give them a voice instead of their agitator MKs.
Published: 11.14.14, 23:34 / Israel Opinion
Most Israeli Arabs are loyal citizens – and when I say most, I mean the vast majority. Within a population of around 1.25 million people (excluding East Jerusalem) there are not only hundreds of hooligans, but thousands, who are likely to have the support of an additional percentage or two. Troubled times see the extremists flourish. On the backdrop of Islamic Movement leader Raed Salah's ongoing incitement, it would only take one incident to set the sector ablaze. The majority don't attend the demonstrations. But hundreds of youths do. Maybe even thousands. The impression created stains the entire Arab minority. It's a false impression – because recent years have witnessed not only a process of radicalization among a few thousand, but also one of moderation among tens and hundreds of thousands. Most Israeli Arabs prefer Israel to any other country. Not that it's a paradise. And not that there's no discrimination. There most certainly is. But London for Muslims is no bed of roses. And neither is Paris. And when it comes to the immediate surroundings, one need not elaborate. It's better to live in Kafr Kana than Ramallah.
The desire to integrate is there for all to see. More and more young Arabs are choosing to sign up for National Service; and there are many more who want to but are being deferred due to a shortage of places to fill. Polls, too, indicate that most young Arabs are in favor of National Service.
The Arab leadership, however, is working to the contrary. It wants to increase the alienation. Not only have the National Service recruits been branded "lepers," but the Arab leadership has also established a so-called Anti-National Service Committee. Heading the new panel, set up by the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, is Hadash Secretary-General Aiman Ouda.
So instead of being dragged along by the violent, racist and rowdy minority, one should bear in mind the silent and peaceful majority. There's a political dispute in play. This majority is far from being Zionist. But it is still a loyal majority, which finds little voice. Rather than repeatedly interviewing the leaders who incite, it would be a good idea to sound out the representatives of the sane majority.
And one of the sane majority's representatives, Israel Police Superintendent Kalef Ka'abiye spoke out this week on a radio talk show. Ka'abiye is a patrol officer in the Zevulun Police – a proud Arab and a proud Israeli. The same talk show also featured Nazareth Mayor Ali Salam. One need not agree with every word he said to be able to say that he made some sense. If they and their ilk, and not the likes of Raed Salah and Haneen Zoabi, were heard three times a day, one could assume, the mood among the Arab sector would be different; and the benefit would be twofold – for the Arabs, and for the Jews.
This is not a predicament unique to Israel. National minorities, in all countries, are no small problem. Israel is not an emigration state. It is the nation state of the Jewish people. Arabs will always sense this inconsistency, even if they can, and do, serve on the Supreme Court or in the role of hospital directors or college presidents; because the solution of both Jewish and democratic is far from perfect. The problem is that all other alternatives, from the "One State" or "State of All its Citizens" department, are far worse.
It didn't work in Czechoslovakia, and it didn't work in Yugoslavia, and it isn't working in Iraq; and Sweden, too, has problems with minorities. Because even in the most tranquil of places in Europe, where there's no occupation, no Temple Mount, and no provocation, national minorities sometimes also comprise a radical minority that creates a violent and frightening presence. There are no easy solutions to these circumstances of friction.
There are no magic cures. But one thing's for sure: One of the conditions for maintaining calm stems from distinguishing between just demands for equality and violent riots. More responsiveness is called for when it comes to the demand for equality. Far less appeasement is required when it comes to manifestations of incitement and violence.
And one more thing: Everything said here about the Arabs also holds true for the Jews. I have argued time and again in recent weeks that the Israeli public for the most part is not stricken with violence, and certainly not racism – despite the incidents of racism and violence in recent months. But left-wing activists, who were backed recently by the president and the education minister, claim something different. They like to label the Jewish sector racist and violent. And this is interesting. Because it is exactly, but exactly, what the rightists do vis-à-vis the Arab sector. Such is the case under normal circumstances.
And such is certainly the case these days. Anyone who believes there is a difference between the margins on the right and the margins on the left is making a mistake. One only needs to listen to them. One only needs sometimes to replace the generalizations about Israelis with generalizations about Arabs, and the claims made against Jews with those made against Muslims. There are no differences. Insofar as margins go, we’re dealing with twins.
US General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, surprised everyone a few days ago when he said that "Israel went to extraordinary lengths to limit collateral damage and civilian casualties" during the recent war in Gaza. This declaration contradicts previous statements by the US administration, which accused Israel of not doing enough to avoid civilian casualties.
When US State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki was questioned on the contradiction between the two positions, she stuck to the old viewpoint and argued: "We believed that Israel could have done more to prevent civilian casualties, and it was important that they held their selves to a high standard." But the AP news agency correspondent pressed Psaki on the issue, charging that the commander of the US military is expected to have a better understanding of matter – to no avail, however. Psaki reiterated the position.
Dempsey's remarks carry special weight in light of a report released by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which examined the results of American airstrikes carried out in Pakistan in the framework of targeted-killing operations using drones. Well, between 2004 and 2014, these airstrikes resulted in the death of 2,379 people, of which just 295 were identified as "militants" – in other words, only 12 percent. Or, to clarify the severity of the findings, it turns out that 88 percent of the fatalities were, in all likelihood, innocent civilians. The findings in other reports on the subject of civilian casualties are no less severe.
Dempsey appears to know what he's talking about. That's why a US military delegation was sent to Israel to learn how to protect innocent civilians. These are the facts. But they won't confuse the US administration's highly important spokesperson.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif published two posts on Facebook against David Keyes, an Israeli American human rights activist who posed awkward questions to Zarif about the imprisonment of Majid Tavakoli, an Iranian human rights activist. Zarif denied knowing of Tavakoli. Shortly thereafter, and with a little more pressure, Tavakoli was released.
Human rights has become a term that is synonymous with detached entities and activists who have either lost all touch, on one level or another, with the struggle against dark regimes, or work in the service of organizations like Hamas. The darkest body of all is the UN Human Rights Council. Instead of fighting the council, most rights organizations cooperate with it. The Goldstone Report, for instance, is an example of the connection between a dark council and rights organizations.
But there is another way – and an organization like Advancing Human Rights, led by Keyes, is a fine example. Google Inc. itself has stepped in to help was enlisted to help, on a new platform called Movements.org, which allows thousands of genuine rights activists to connect directly with the free world and decision-makers.
Key figures in the dark countries, like Zarif, are swayed by these networks because they are active in them. The New York Times dubbed Keyes "a pioneer in online activism." Many of the rights organizations have given human rights a bad name. There hasn't been a change – only the first small sign of one. We should welcome it
White House reviewing its Syria policy/.Proven failure
Published: 14/11/2014/Now Lebanon
One can think of several reasons why the White House has made public, yet again, that it is “reviewing” its Syria policy.
As we enter the critical stage of the P5+1's nuclear negotiations with Iran, we learn more and more about how much the deal means to President Barack Obama. In the White House’s vision, a nuclear deal with Iran means removing the worst impediment to a new relationship with the Islamic Republic. A deal clears the way for the president to finish what he has already started: integrating Iran into the regional order. Thus, Obama reportedly wrote in a secret letter to Iran’s supreme leader that the deal constitutes the first step toward broader security cooperation against the “shared enemy” of the Islamic State (ISIS).
But partnering with Iran against Sunni groups will not stabilize the region. On the contrary, it will inflame it in familiar ways that we have already seen over the last three years — and in new ways that we have yet to witness.
The underlying premise for working with the Islamic Republic, as Obama has made clear, is that Iran is a “large, powerful,” and “strategic” state that rationally pursues its interests. These capabilities set Iran apart from the traditional allies of the US, like Saudi Arabia, which in the view of the White House have not been able to do much to stem the threat of extremists. As Michael Doran explained, “Iran, in the administration’s view, should thus be seen as a force multiplier for the United States.”
While all this might sound logical as a political theory, in reality it’s already proven to be false.
Three months into the US-led campaign against ISIS, Washington's boots on the ground in Iraq have been Iran’s assets, along with the Kurdish Peshmerga, which has also been working closely with Tehran. While these forces have managed to take back some points along the fault lines of their areas and the Sunni provinces, ISIS still maintains an iron grip on those provinces. The chances are nil that Iranian-backed units, whether they are irregulars or Iraqi government forces, will reclaim those areas. The fact that the administration is backing a plan to have Iraqi Sunnis fight ISIS is a tacit admission that Iran cannot resolve the ISIS problem. Obama is caught in a contradiction of his own making. His rapprochement with Iran, and his acquiescence to Iranian hegemony in Baghdad ensures the Sunnis of Iraq, to say nothing of the traditional Sunni regional allies of the US, will never give his anti-ISIS campaign sincere support.
Little wonder, then, that the effort to recruit Sunni tribes has come to naught. A tribal sheikh in Iraq summarized the issue well: “The Sunni community has two options… Fight against ISIS and allow Iran and its militias to rule us, or do the opposite.” Clearly, the tribes aren’t impressed by Obama’s insistence that he has put together a supposedly “inclusive government” in Baghdad. What’s more, the stream of photos of Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani on the ground with his militias (a member of which now runs the Interior Ministry) speak of an entirely different reality that deeply distresses the Sunnis.
The Syrian campaign against ISIS further underscores the failure of the president’s vision. On Wednesday, administration officials told CNN they now realize that “to genuinely defeat ISIL, we need not only a defeat in Iraq but a defeat in Syria.” As in Iraq, Syria’s Sunnis will not sign on to an agenda that disregards their interests and leaves Iran’s assets in place.
One can think of several reasons why the White House has made public, yet again, that it is “reviewing” its Syria policy. One reason noted in the CNN report is pressure from regional coalition allies, who see that their interests and priorities continue to be ignored. The White House is also likely taking heat from the Pentagon brass, who want to see a credible strategy.
The source of friction is not only the White House’s reported micromanagement but also its desire to keep the US from another entanglement in the region. But the Pentagon is now saying the anti-ISIS campaign might require combat troops on the ground in Iraq. The administration last week agreed to deploy an additional 1,500 military personnel there, in a “non-combat” role. This increased military involvement flies in the face of the driving principle behind Obama’s overall Middle East policy, which is to reduce the American footprint in the region. That vision is predicated on extracting the US while leaving in place a revamped regional structure, with Iran as a security pillar. But the US is now into the fourth month of daily aerial sorties against ISIS in support of Iranian assets on the ground, and the returns have been quite meager.
Of course, the Iranians are more than happy to watch American jets strike the Sunni areas ISIS controls, while the US shares intelligence with Tehran and repeatedly reassures it that its assets are safe. Recognizing that Obama’s vision and desire for a deal has boxed him in, the Iranians have made the US hostage to their preferences. Their calculation has been reinforced by top American officials, like General John Allen, telegraphing how careful they are not to upset the Iranians in Syria or Iraq. "Iran is very attentive in terms of what we are doing and saying in terms of Syria,” Allen said in an interview last month. “We recognize that Iran is a key influence in Iraq, in Syria and in the region. As we continue to move forward we are going to continue to listen very carefully to the things they [Iran] have to say."
These are the failures we’ve seen so far. There also have been glimpses of the consequences of Obama’s pro-Iran tilt that we’ve yet to see. One example is Hezbollah’s attack against Israel last month. The attack came on the heels of an Iranian threat that Israel's security would be at risk should the US decide to make a push against Assad. In other words, the Iranians are leveraging the US against their regional adversaries — Washington’s traditional, if now slighted, allies. And as the US seeks to protect the fragile arrangement with the Iranians, it loses all commonality with its old allies. This Iranian policy of blackmail has the potential of playing out in nasty, violent ways moving forward. Making the Iranians an interlocutor on regional security gives Tehran dangerous leeway, which it’s sure to exploit, and puts US allies in an impossible situation they are sure to reject. For instance, Israel cannot tolerate seeing Iran, whose rockets are deployed in Gaza and Lebanon, legitimized as an interlocutor on Israeli or Eastern Mediterranean security. And we’ve seen what Sunni rejection of Iran’s domination looks like.
Those cheerleading the White House's Iran policy seem not to understand the nature of the American role historically in the Persian Gulf. They imagine that the US is merely choosing the Iranians over the Saudis as their chief interlocutor. But the US didn’t subcontract regional security to its local allies. Rather, it underwrote regional security directly by managing its allies. Bringing in the Iranians to anchor a new framework, while the US withdraws, is a recipe for failure — the shape of which we’ve experienced up close in the past few years.
There’s no positive precedent for integrating a revolutionary, expansionist power into an alliance system. This strategy is predicated on a US retreat and eagerness to appease Iran. The result, which we see plainly, is an emboldened, unreconstructed Iran that presses its advantage, while the region both fractures and resists — in ways we have come to know, but also in others that are sure to be uglier still.
**Tony Badran is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He tweets @AcrossTheBay.
Alliance of evil: ISIS and al-Qaeda join forces in Syria
By: John Hayward /Human Events
So much for “degrading and ultimately destroying” the Islamic State with a combination of safe bombing runs and shoving proxy armies into the field against the head-choppers. The effectiveness of the air campaign remains highly debatable, despite weekly promises from the Obama Administration that the tide is turning. NBC News reviewed data that suggested ISIS has, if anything, “stepped up” attacks since the bombings began, with the head of Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Center concluding, “The airstrikes certainly aren’t impairing their ability to intensify their attacks or carry out their campaign… they’re not cowed by them, they’re not afraid.”
The New York Times claims the air strikes have “blunted” ISIS but angered civilians, although it turns out they’re referring exclusively to the Syrian theater:
American airstrikes on the Syrian city of Raqqa, the vaunted capital of the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate, have scattered its fighters and disrupted the harsh system they had imposed, residents and visitors there say. But they see no gratitude toward the United States.
Rather, they suggested in interviews, many people are angry at the Americans. Food and fuel prices in Raqqa have soared, power blackouts have prevailed, and order is now threatened by a vacuum of any authority.
For all their violence and intolerance toward disbelievers, the fighters of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, at least functioned as a government, providing basic services and some semblance of stability.
“People don’t want some outside power to attack,” Khalid Farhan, a Raqqa resident, said during a recent trip to Turkey.
The anger in Raqqa underscored the potentially destabilizing consequences of the United States-led military campaign, in a place where there was little desire to see the Syrian government or other rebel groups return to power. The campaign also risks further alienating Syrians in opposition areas in the north who were already angered by the Obama administration’s narrow focus on destroying the Islamic State and refusal to counter attacks by the Syrian military.
The people who live in the area said, in essence, that they found the savagery of ISIS off-putting, but at least they brought a sense of order to an area that used to be a Wild West shoot-out between rebel factions. Some of the residents told the New York Times that the primary benefit they see to the U.S. bombing campaign is a halt to “indiscriminate bombings by the Syrian Air Force.” Not exactly the target we’re supposed to be shooting at, is it? The Syrians are our de facto allies against ISIS, now that ISIS is no longer our de facto ally against the Assad regime in Syria.
Pressure has been mounting against President Obama, particularly from the Turks, to expand the war into a direct attack on the Assad regime. This is not only a matter of long-standing emnity between Turkey and Assad, but also unhappiness over refugees from the Syrian civil war flooding into Turkey, and the ambitions of the Muslim Brotherhood to expand its influence in a post-Assad Syria. Sources tell CNN that Obama has “asked his national security team for another review of the U.S. policy toward Syria after realizing that ISIS may not be defeated without a political transition in Syria and the removal of President Bashar al-Assad.” The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), has apparently heard the same rumors.
“The President has asked us to look again at how this fits together,” one senior official said. “The long-running Syria problem is now compounded by the reality that to genuinely defeat ISIL, we need not only a defeat in Iraq but a defeat in Syria.” The U.S. government refers to ISIS as ISIL.
Multiple senior administration officials and diplomats spoke with CNN on condition of anonymity to discuss internal discussions. The White House referred questions about the review to the State Department.
Meanwhile, other sources denied to CNN that Obama has ordered a review, but admit there is concern about some core aspects of the strategy. A senior administration official, responding to a CNN report, says there is an ongoing discussion and “constant process of recalibration.”
CNN follows this up with some argle-bargle from Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes about how everything is going great, just like the White House constantly insists to the media, but running a world-class five-star degrade-and-ultimately-destroy operation requires taking a hard look at what you’re doing on a regular basis, and maybe the latest round of hard looks indicated that fine-tuning this brilliant strategy involves launching a second war on top of the first one.
A “senior Administration official” then allows as to how gosh, you know what, the existing strategy of “Iraq first” is starting to look “untenable” due to “developments on the ground,” so maybe it’s time to look at a range of options including a no-fly zone on the Turkish border, plus that old standby of wishful Assad-ISIS thinking, more training and weapons for the moderate opposition.
It’s going to take some awesome training and wrath-of-God weapons to help that “moderate” opposition defeat both Assad and the evil elements of the resistance, because the Associated Press reports that a long-feared alliance has been struck:
Militant leaders from the Islamic State group and al-Qaida gathered at a farm house in northern Syria last week and agreed on a plan to stop fighting each other and work together against their opponents, a high-level Syrian opposition official and a rebel commander have told The Associated Press.
Such an accord could present new difficulties for Washington’s strategy against the IS group. While warplanes from a U.S.-led coalition strike militants from the air, the Obama administration has counted on arming “moderate” rebel factions to push them back on the ground. Those rebels, already considered relatively weak and disorganized, would face far stronger opposition if the two heavy-hitting militant groups now are working together.
IS – the group that has seized nearly a third of Syria and Iraq with a campaign of brutality and beheadings this year – and al-Qaida’s affiliate in Syria, known as the Nusra Front, have fought each other bitterly for more than a year to dominate the rebellion against Syrian President Bashar Assad.
There’s still bad blood between ISIS and their old mentors in al-Qaeda, so it’s a limited alliance, and the intelligence community thinks the new deal could unravel easily, although that sounds like bit of fingers-crossed best-case thinking. The “moderates” were outgunned to begin with, and there’s always the chance successful tactical cooperation will lead to more integration between the forces of darkness. It sounds like that farmhouse meeting was quite the monster’s ball:
According to the opposition official, the meeting included an IS representative, two emissaries from Nusra Front, and attendees from the Khorasan Group, a small but battle-hardened band of al-Qaida veterans from Afghanistan and Pakistan. Also reported present at the meeting was Jund al-Aqsa, a hard-line faction that has sworn allegiance to IS; and Ahrar al-Sham, a conservative Muslim rebel group.
The official said IS and the Nusra Front agreed to work to destroy the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, a prominent rebel faction armed and trained by the United States and led by a fighter named Jamal Maarouf. They agreed to keep fighting until all of the force, estimated to be 10,000 to 12,000 fighters, was eliminated, the official said.
During the meeting, IS also offered to send extra fighters to Nusra Front for an assault it launched last week on Western-backed rebels from the Hazm Movement near the town of Khan al-Sunbul in northern Syria, the official said. IS sent about 100 fighters in 22 pickup trucks but Nusra ended up not needing the assistance, he said, because Hazm decided not to engage in the fight. Sixty-five Hazm fighters defected to Nusra, he said.
Ahrar al-Sham is the group we suddenly started bombing a week ago, on the theory that they were poised to swear allegiance to al-Qaeda, even though they’ve cooperated with Western-backed rebels in the past. This led one Syrian activist to growl, “We are tired of people saying they are coming to help us, and then they kill us.” It sounds like the bloody chaos in Syria is providing the Big Uglies with fertile ground for alliances and recruiting efforts. Knocking out Assad would relieve some of those pressures, and free up the “moderate rebels” to turn their full strength against ISIS and al-Qaeda… assuming they want to follow up the defeat of Assad with a bloody battle against his even more brutal erstwhile enemies. That seems like a very shaky bet.
As it stands, the “moderate” rebels are so put-upon that the Administration is looking at establishing a “safe zone” in northern Syria where they can hole up, lest they be massacred or driven out of Syria entirely. The Turks are demanding such support for the moderate rebels after forces armed and trained by the United States were routed by al-Qaeda and its allies last week.
That’s not a situation that fills one with confidence that the Free Syrian Army and its chums can take out al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Assad. It’s hard to see how a new reality can be created without a significant American presence on the ground, especially given that Assad is unlikely to take the establishment of a “safe zone” on his turf in good humor. That means Obama will be forced to do something he swore up, down, and sideways he’d never do, as foreshadowed by CBS News:
In Washington, U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress on Thursday that the United States would consider dispatching a modest number of American forces to fight with Iraqi troops as they engage in more complex missions in the campaign against ISIS militants.
“I’m not predicting at this point that I would recommend that those forces in Mosul and along the border would need to be accompanied by U.S. forces, but we’re certainly considering it,” Dempsey told the House Armed Services Committee.
If the war expands to either an incursion on Assad’s territory or direct attacks on his regime, the number of American troops sent into the fray won’t remain “modest” for long.
In another bummer development, it looks like ISIS mastermind Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is considerably less dead than previously hoped, as he released an audio recording that mentioned events following his hoped-for death in an airstrike last weekend, encouraged his followers to “explode the volcanoes of jihad everywhere,” and blew raspberries at the Obama Administration’s degrade-and-destroy efforts:
Al-Baghdadi said in his statement that the coalition effort had failed to repel his fighters.
“They thought and they estimated, they planned and they conspired, and they prepared to hit the Islamic State, and then they emerged with a failed plan that was to shell the sites of the Islamic State, and its brigades and its vehicles and its soldiers to halt its advance … but quickly the failure of this plan was apparent,” he said. “Soon the Jews and Crusaders will be forced to descend to earth, and to send its ground forces to its end and destruction, by God’s will.”
He pointed to the announcement of additional troops as proof the airstrikes were not working.
“And here is Obama, sending another 1,500 troops, claiming they are advisers, because the strikes of the Crusaders that continue night and day on the sites of the Islamic State have not halted its advance,” al-Baghdadi said.
He urged Muslims to wage holy war everywhere, and to attack and kill “apostates” in Saudi Arabia and Yemen specifically. He also vowed that his group’s advance would “reach Rome.” Islamic militants often refer to Rome as a symbol of Europe.
It’s a lot of hot air, but then again, so is everything emanating from the Obama White House. Even as we hope al-Baghdadi is delivering this address from a blood-soaked deathbed in an ISIS field hospital, we should note that he’s right about one thing: if ISIS is able to force Obama to make the kind of strategic adjustments he promised the American people he would never, ever make, then Obama is not currently winning this war. If his moderate Syrian proxies are crushed, it’s hard to see how his old strategy could possibly work. Every military effort has a few reversals of fortune; no plan survives contact with the enemy. But when the essential elements of a grand strategy are compromised, to the point that one of the armies integral to success is getting wiped out, something more than a minor setback has occurred.
A Dead Caliph vs. the Hydra of Jihad
November 14, 2014
Abu-Bakr-al-Baghdadi Is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-styled “caliph” of the Islamic State, injured or dead, as some in the media are eagerly speculating?
Better question: does it really matter?
For almost a decade now, every time an Islamic jihadi leader is killed, the Western mainstream media exult, portraying the death as a major blow to the jihad. And, for almost a decade now, I have responded by posting an article that I first wrote in 2006 for Victor Davis Hanson’s website, Private Papers.
Although I changed the names of the jihadi leaders killed to suit the occasion—first Abu Mus‘ab al-Zarqawi, then Abu Laith al-Libi, then Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayub al-Misri, and finally Osama bin Laden—my conclusion has remained the same:
The West’s plight vis-à-vis radical Islam is therefore akin to Hercules’ epic encounter with the multi-headed Hydra-monster. Every time the mythical strongman lopped off one of the monster’s heads, two new ones grew in its place. To slay the beast once and for all, Hercules learned to cauterize the stumps with fire, thereby preventing any more heads from sprouting out.
Similarly while the West continues to lop off monster heads like figurehead Zarqawi [or bin Laden, al-Baghdadi, etc.] it is imperative to treat the malady — radical Islam—in order to ultimately prevail. Victory can only come when the violent ideologies of radical Islam are cauterized with fire.
But alas, the Hydra-monster is myth, while radical Islam is stark reality.
Eight years later, this “stark reality” has manifested itself into a head-chopping, infidel-crucifying, mass-murdering, female-enslaving Islamic State.
And yet, in the previous years, proclamations of “victory” were habitually made by media and politicians whenever a top jihadi was killed.
Recall all the exultation that took place in 2006 after al-Zarqawi—the forefather of the Islamic State, or “Al-Qaeda Second Generation”—was killed. Then, almost every major politician, including President Bush, Prime Minister Blair, and Iraq’s Prime Minister Maliki, gave some sort of victory speech. The New York Times called his death a “major watershed in the war.”
Similarly, in 2008, after Abu Laith al-Libi was killed, Congressman Peter Hoekstra issued a statement saying that his death “clearly will have an impact on the radical jihadist movement.”
More myopic triumphalism was in the air after Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayub al-Masri were killed in 2010 during a joint U.S.-Iraqi operation. Then, U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden said the “deaths are potentially devastating blows to al-Qaeda in Iraq [the original name of the Islamic State],” adding “This operation is evidence in my view, that the future of Iraq will not be shaped by those who would seek to destroy that country”—an assertion that has now proven woefully wrong.
Similarly, U.S. commander Gen. Raymond Odierno asserted that “The death of these terrorists is potentially the most significant blow to al-Qaeda in Iraq since the beginning of the insurgency,” adding that it would be “very difficult” for the al Qaeda network to replace the two men.
And who could forget all the media triumphalism, if not hysteria, surrounding the 2011 death of Osama bin Laden? Then, CNN security analyst Peter Bergen declared that “Killing bin Laden is the end of the war on terror. We can just sort of announce that right now.” Insisting that the “iconic nature of bin Laden’s persona” cannot be replaced, Bergen further suggested that “It’s time to move on.”
Another CNN analyst, Fareed Zakaria, assured us that “this is a huge, devastating blow to al-Qaeda, which had already been crippled by the Arab Spring. It is not an exaggeration to say that this is the end of al-Qaeda in any meaningful sense of the word.”
In retrospect, surely all these assertions and assurances have proven to be immensely puerile—even for mainstream media “analysts.”
To recap, for years, U.S. leadership and its media mouthpiece so misled Americans about the status of al-Qaeda (code name for the amorphous jihad)—thus directly contributing to the rise of the Islamic State: we were repeatedly told that al-Qaeda was suffering “devastating blows”; that the killing of individual jihadis were “major watersheds in the war”; that “the end of the war on terror” occurred in 2011, when bin Laden died (“it’s time to move on,” counseled Peter Bergen); and “that the future of Iraq will not be shaped by those who would seek to destroy that country,” according to Biden.
Yet, lo and behold: an Islamic State, a caliphate engaged in the worst atrocities of the 21st century, has been born—despite the deaths of Zarqawi, bin Laden, et. al.
When it comes to the significance of the killing of this or that jihadi leader, the best prediction I have ever read—a prediction that has proven too true—comes not from U.S. politicians, “experts,” or media. It comes from al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Asked in a 2005 interview about the status of bin Laden and the Taliban’s Mullah Omar, he confidently replied:
Jihad in the path of Allah is greater than any individual or organization. It is a struggle between Truth and Falsehood, until Allah Almighty inherits the earth and those who live in it. Mullah Muhammad Omar and Sheikh Osama bin Laden—may Allah protect them from all evil—are merely two soldiers of Islam in the journey of jihad, while the struggle between Truth [Islam] and Falsehood [non-Islam] transcends time (The Al Qaeda Reader, p.182, emphasis added).
And there it is: jihad “transcends time” and is not personified by this or that leader—something our myopic leaders and experts, who apparently can’t see beyond their noses, will never comprehend (and how can they, when Barack Obama has banned knowledge of Islam from U.S. intelligence?).
Jihadi leaders, ideologues, emirs, sultans, caliphs, even the prophet of Islam himself, have come and gone for nearly 1,400 years—but the jihad rages on. It’s time Western leaders began to respond to the jihad and not just its individual practitioners.
Erdoğan says America discovered by Muslims, wants mosque
on Cuba hill
November 15, 2014, Saturday/ 13:42:33/ TODAYSZAMAN.COM / ISTANBUL
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said Muslims, not Christopher Columbus, were the first foreigners to set foot in America, suggesting the construction of a mosque on a Cuba hill where he said there used to be a mosque built by those Muslims.
“Latin America's contact with Islam dates back to 12th century. Muslims discovered America in 1178, not Christopher Columbus. Muslim sailors arrived in America 1178. Christopher Columbus mentions the existence of a mosque on hill along the Cuba coast. I would talk to my brothers in Cuba and a mosque would suit well on the top of that hill today as well. It is enough they [Cuban rulers] say okay. Islam had expanded in the American continent even before Columbus arrived,” Erdoğan said on Saturday while speaking in İstanbul at the 1st Latin American Countries Muslim Religious Leaders Summit hosted by Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs. Cuba, one of the few remaining communist countries in the world and one of the most populated in the Caribbean with a population of 11 million, has a tiny Muslim minority. Muslims in the country have long complained that they have not a place to practice their religion collectively. Turkey is known to be willing to build a mosque in the Cuban capital of Havana. A Turkish delegation travelled to Havana earlier this year to seek permission for a mosque in the capital. Turkish media reported last month that Cuban authorities rejected the request submitted by Turkey's Religious Affairs Foundation (TDV).
Assad’s Old Tricks
Tariq Alhomayed /Asharq Al Awsat/Saturday, 15 Nov, 2014
Syria’s state-owned news agency, SANA, recently quoted Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad as saying that the ceasefire proposal by the UN’s special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, was “worth studying.” But it would be wrong to believe that this statement represents a shift in Assad’s position. The facts tell us that Assad has manipulated every proposal put forward since the Syrian revolution started. Once he agrees on an initiative, he empties it of its content and wastes time procrastinating. Ever since he succeeded his father, Assad has used the ruse of flooding his opponents with details, in the process undermining every political plan without even raising objections. He has mastered the art of wriggling out of tight corners and acting as though nothing is wrong, which he achieves by either escalating or complicating negotiations. He did this with the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which investigated the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri; the Arab initiative on Syria following the revolution; the Arab League inspectors; and the UN–Arab League Joint Special Representative for Syria Kofi Annan, and later Lakhdar Brahimi. He also pulled his tricks at the Geneva I and II conferences. Throughout his rule and during the Syrian crisis, Assad has been machinating and delaying. He has shown a lack of commitment on all levels, with the exception of the chemical weapons deal—obviously due to pressures from Russia, not the US, to hand over his cache. Nevertheless, no one can confirm whether Assad has turned over his entire stock of chemical weapons. Why, then, should the international community and the wider region believe his remarks regarding the ceasefire plan for Aleppo? Indeed, there is no evidence to support his assertions. Assad has lost all credibility as he has not made good on his past pledges. Certainly, the president is trying to empty de Mistura’s proposal of its substance, just as he did with proposals put forward by other UN envoys. Assad will continue to kill Syrians, with the help of Iran and the shabiha (armed thugs) of Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah. Nothing points to the likelihood that Assad and his backers may be credible this time, particularly since they have been operating under the “Bashar and no one else” slogan. Listening to Assad’s recent comments on the ceasefire plan is a waste of time. As long as there are no international efforts to stop his crimes, all such cooperation with the regime will only prolong the Syrian crisis
Obama, Khamenei and the making of Syrian tragedy
Saturday, 15 November 2014
Hisham Melhem /Al Arabiya
For all its agony, in full display frame by bloody frame for almost four years, Syria, the mother of all tragedies in the 21st century, remained a sideshow for President Barack Obama. The slow death of an ancient land where great cultures and civilizations are layered with their entire splendor on top of each other – Phoenician, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Jewish, Christian and Muslim – never penetrated the insular cold world that Obama inhabits.
Sure, there were the occasional, and sometimes eloquent, expressions of sympathy and sorrow, following the massacre of an entire village, the destruction of a whole neighborhood, the sectarian and ethnic cleansing of towns, but Syria never warranted a truly serious, honest deliberation on the part of the president as to what the United States can do with Syrians and others to stop the abominations of the Assad regime and his Russian enablers and Iranian protectors. In the scheme of things that occupied Obama’s mind in the Middle East; a nuclear agreement with Iran, a Palestinian-Israeli political settlement, a formula to deal with the Arab uprisings, or as is the case now; how to “degrade and defeat” the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Syria at best was a second thought.
From the beginning of the peaceful uprising in the spring of 2011 until today, where what is left of the Syrian state is more or less an Iranian protectorate, the Obama administration’s approaches to the myriad of conflicts in Syria ranged from studied ambiguity, ambivalence, denial, disingenuousness and yes subterfuge. When the Assad regime used violence and sectarianism to militarize the protest movement and labeled it a terrorist-Islamist uprising, President Obama dubbed it then “somebody else’s civil war.” The Obama administration initially kept the political Syrian opposition at arm’s length and then gave them tepid political support. With the security and humanitarian situation deteriorating rapidly and horrendously in Syria, the administration began to provide humanitarian and non-lethal aid to the opposition. President Obama and his White House staff (the young aides he brought with him from Congress who regard him as the Pericles of Washington) refused the recommendations of the adults in his administration; CIA director David Petraeus, and secretaries of state and defense Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta to train and arm moderate Syrian rebels. Later, under mounting pressure and when the depredations of the Syrian regime became impossible to ignore, a modest program of training and equipping a small group of fighters under CIA supervision commenced in Jordan. But, since the Obama administration never believed in a military solution to the conflict between the Assad regime and its opponents, it was clear that the CIA program would remain modest, almost a pro-forma endeavor.
“Obama administration’s approaches to the myriad of conflicts in Syria ranged from studied ambiguity, ambivalence, denial, disingenuousness and yes subterfuge.”
Throughout the conflict, President Obama used the inevitable divisions and squabbling among some of the Syrian opposition groups that sought Washington’s support to highlight their deficiencies and to distort who they are. President Obama was disingenuous, to say the least, when he kept referring to the moderate opposition with his now infamous labels of: farmers, pharmacists and teachers, ignoring the fact that many of those who took up arms against the Assad regime initially were former members of his armed forces. These were the nationalists who preceded the Islamists who would dominate the later stages of the conflict. Obama’s inaction at that crucial time; that is before the destruction of some of Syria’s famed cities such as Aleppo and Homs, before the emergence of the murderous Nusra Front and ISIS and more importantly before Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah took charge of the counter revolution, that inaction is in part responsible for Syria’s descent to hell.
.… and stunning naïveté
In a moment, certainly not befitting the memory of Pericles, President Obama at an impromptu press conference on Aug. 19, 2012, issued a warning to Assad that the use of chemical weapons would constitute crossing a red line that “would change my calculus.” Obama stressed that “We’re monitoring that situation very carefully. We have put together a range of contingency plans.” A year later, the Syrian army unleashed a barrage of rockets laden with sarin gas against the Ghouta suburbs of Damascus, killing 1,429 people, a third of them children. What followed were an embarrassing series of fumbles and missteps that exposed Obama’s leadership to severe criticism and ridicule. After committing himself publicly to punish the Assad regime militarily and after dispatching naval assets to the Eastern Mediterranean to deliver the pounding, Obama characteristically backtracked saying he would seek congressional approval. The military option died when the Russians saved Obama by committing Assad to discard his chemical arsenal. As David Rothkopf noted in his excellent new book National Insecurity: “The red-line fumble prompted an avalanche of questions from some of Obama’s closest allies and supporters about not only his own leadership but on America’s future role in the world.”
Two disturbing points relevant to Obama’s character and leadership need to be mentioned in this context. The infamous “red-line” warning was a spontaneous verbal arrow shot by Obama against Assad without prior consultations with his national security aides, as was later revealed. The other one is more sinister. For months before the August 2012 chemical weapons atrocity, which was the worst use of chemical weapons since the Iran-Iraq war, the Obama administration knew that Assad had been using chemical weapons against his own people, but on a smaller scale. There were reports about 13 prior chemical attacks.
Unlike the “red-line” warning, President Obama’s decision to call on Assad to “step aside” in August 2011 (it seems that August is the cruelest of months for Obama in the Middle East) was taken after inter-agency deliberations. Some experienced old hands who knew Syria cautioned that the president should not make such a demand unless he has an “or else” option he can resort to when Assad in all likelihood ignored or scuffed at the proposition. One young White House aide close to Obama, and blessed by ignorance of things Syrian, cavalierly dismissed the caution, saying something to the effect that the tsunami called by some “the Arab Spring” that swept Tunisian and Egyptian presidents Bin Ali and Mubarak from power would surely sweep Assad away. The source who related this exchange to me summed up his frustration thus: “stunning naïveté.”
Iran, as a silent partner
The Obama administration’s approach to Syria is heavily influenced by the on-going nuclear negotiations between the United States and Iran. The United States is trying hard not to do anything in Syria that could undermine the Assad regime and negatively impact Iran’s posture in the negotiations, given Tehran’s tremendous strategic, economic and political investment in the survival of the Assad regime.
“The Obama administration’s approach to Syria is heavily influenced by the on-going nuclear negotiations between the United States and Iran.”
The emergence of ISIS has created some sort of a silent partnership with Iran or a de facto co-habitation in Iraq. President Obama spoke matter-of-factly about “Iran has influence over Shiites, both in Syria and in Iraq, and we do have a shared enemy in ISIL [ISIS].” Obama confirmed again Syria’s status as a second thought when he defined his objectives there by saying: “obviously, our priority is to go after ISIL and so what we have said is that we are not engaging in a military action against the Syrian regime, we are going after ISIL facilities and personnel who are using Syria as a safe haven in service of our strategy in Iraq.” Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, in a recent testimony in congress, said that the United States has no military partner on the ground in Syria, as if the United States never dealt with the groups operating under the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army. The U.S. plan to train and equip 5,000 Syrian fighters in 12 to 18 months does not reflect the dire needs of the nationalist Syrian rebels who are being attacked simultaneously by the Assad regime and ISIS and Nusra Front. Hegel rebuffed calls by members of the coalition like France and Saudi Arabia to accelerate arming and training the Syrian opposition and establishing a no-fly zone. He counseled time and patience. But Hagel essentially admitted that the United States is willing to co-exist with the Assad regime indefinitely when he said: “You can change Assad today, and that’s not gonna change all the dynamics quickly.” He drove his point home adding: “Who are you going to replace Assad with, and what kind of army will take on ISIL?
Iran today is the dominant outside power in four Arab capitals; Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and recently Sanaa. The United States is increasingly acquiescing to this new regional strategic balance. President Obama had no qualms stating and accepting the fact that “Iran has influence over Shiites, both in Syria and in Iraq, and we do have a shared enemy in ISIL.” Clearly, Iran has a regional strategy, and in Iraq and Syria it is willing to fight directly or by proxy. It was Iran and its Lebanese Shiite proxy Hezbollah, along with Shiite militias from Iraq that saved the Assad regime in Damascus from imminent collapse. The Assad regime is totally beholden to Iran. Governments in Baghdad – even when the United States had a sizable military force in Iraq – cannot be formed without considerable input from Iran. The enigmatic supreme leader Ali Khamenei keeps getting letters from his America suitor Barack Obama, proposing cooperation. But the old Ayatollah, true to form, keeps bashing the United States and leaving it to perplexed officials and scholars to try to decipher his mood, words, gestures and grunts.
In Lebanon, Iran’s influence is channeled through Hezbollah, which has hijacked the Lebanese state and its brittle institutions. Hezbollah is trying to enlist the weak Lebanese army in its confrontations with ISIS and Nusra Front in the border area and recently there were reports that Hezbollah has begun recruiting economically disenfranchised members of the Christian, Druze and even Sunni communities in Eastern Lebanon, paying them monthly salaries ranging between $1500 and $2500. Hezbollah is brazenly exploiting the genuine fears of many Lebanese that the hordes of ISIS and Nusra Front fighters will sweep into their towns and villages unless they are stopped in Syria. Hezbollah’s narrative, which is being echoed by some of their Christian allies, is that if we did not fight in Syria, ISIS would be rampaging throughout Lebanon. What is missing in this narrative is that it was Hezbollah’s military intervention in Syria in the first place that brought the ISIS and Nusra Front’s monsters to Lebanon.
The living embodiment of Iran’s regional ambitions is the cunning and ruthless Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Qods Force, the elite division of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Soleimani, for all intents and purposes, is Iran’s viceroy in its immediate but restive provinces of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. In recent weeks and months, the usually media shy Soleimani has been pictured smiling broadly with Shiite militias and Kurdish Peshmerga units. Watching how Soleimani has been received and treated over the years by his admiring Arab satraps is a testimony to Iran’s rising strategic influence and the collapse of the old order in Baghdad and Damascus. (I am chuckling at remembering the Persian roots of the word satrap).
“The living embodiment of Iran’s regional ambitions is the cunning and ruthless Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Qods Force, the elite division of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.”
Iran in Syria
A new report published by the campaign group Naame Shaam, which is funded and led by the Netherland-based Rule of Law Foundation, chronicles in shocking details Iran’s domination of Syria. The report, “Iran in Syria: from an ally of the regime to an occupying force,” provides a wealth of information and many examples and case studies of human rights violations, including war crimes committed in Syria by Iranian-controlled militias.
Naame Shaam, a group of Syrian, Iranian and Lebanese activists headed by Fouad Hamdan, seeks to establish a new narrative about the war in Syria which says essentially that the Iranian Pasdaran and Hezbollah are fighting and leading the major military operations in Syria. Iran’s huge investment in Syria is driven by its strategic interests in maintaining its military supply lines to Hezbollah in Lebanon which serves as Iran’s first line of defense when and if Israel attacks Iran’s nuclear facilities. The total dependence of the Syrian regime on Iran has introduced a fundamental shift in the relationship between the old allies whereby the Iranian regime now acts like an occupying power in the regime-held areas of Syria.
The report delineates ways of bringing possible legal charges of complicity in various crimes committed in Syria against Iranian officials such as Qasem Soleimani, who is considered by the group as the de facto ruler of Syria. Mr. Hamdan, who is currently visiting the United States to discuss the group’s report, told me that the timing of issuing the report is linked to the expiration date of the nuclear talks between Iran and the P-5 plus 1 group.
“We wanted to generate a discussion that could focus on the need to address openly, legally and politically the fundamental problems created by Iran’s hegemony over Syria.”
Unfortunately, the U.S. government is nowhere near this conclusion. Informed sources revealed that Secretary John Kerry has requested recently from his Near East Bureau a review of the Syria conflict with practical recommendations. But there was one proviso: no recommendations that could upset Iran to the point that it could undermine the nuclear talks.