LCCC ENGLISH DAILY
Quotation For Today/Imitating Christ’s Humility
Philippians02/01-11/: "Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 17-18/14
Peter Kassing’s Traumatic Death & Ingratitude/Elias Bejjani/November 17/14
Hezbollah’s Folly/Tariq Alhomayed/Asharq Al Awsat/November 17/14
Weekend murder stirs tensions in Baalbek/Rakan al-Fakih/Nidal al-Solh/The Daily Star/November 17/14
Netanyahu: Iran compromise over Islamic State is to win battle, lose war/Attila Somfalvi /Ynetnews/November 17/14
Abbas' third intifada trap/Yaron Friedman/Ynetnews/November 17/14
Israel's peace delusionists/Shaul Rosenfeld/Ynetnews/November 17/14
The Islamic State's Archipelago of Provinces/Aaron Y. Zelin /Washington Institute/November 17/14
Qatar Makes Peace With Its Gulf Neighbors/Simon Henderson/Washington Institute/November 17/14
The Next President's Mideast Mess/Robert Satloff /Politico/November 17/14
The decisive Emirati blacklist/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/November 17/14
It’s democracy and not political Islam/Jamal Khashoggi/Al Arabiya/November 17/14
It’s crunch time as Iran’s nuclear deadline looms/Camelia Entekhabi-Fard/Al Arabiya/November 17/14
Related News published on November 17-18/14
In Dubai, Salam Says Govt. Negotiating with Jihadists but Won't Bow to 'Blackmail of Terrorism'
Geagea Urges Calm as Btedei Incident Victim Succumbs to Injuries
Families of Captive Servicemen Reopen Beirut Roads as Jihadists Continue Threats
Hariri killed over Syria debate: Hamade
MP Suleiman Franjieh Rejects President with No 'Christian Legitimacy', Rules Out Election of 'Centrist'
Captors Threaten to Kill 7 Servicemen if Life Sentences of Roumieh Inmates Executed
ISIS postpones beheading of seven Lebanese soldiers
Sectarianism prevents model state: Hezbollah MP
South Lebanon relatively stable: Machnouk
Salam Voices Hope Rival Parties Agree on New Electoral Law
ISIS postpones hostage executions: Abu Faour
Parliamentary Committee Limits Agreement on Electoral Law to One Month
Berri, Jumblat Working for Hizbullah-Mustaqbal Dialogue
STL to hear evidence suggesting Syria complicity
Eyeing Hezbollah, navy ups joint training with air force, infantry
Jumblatt: PSP to expand health ministry campaign
Jumblat: PSP Will Forge ahead in Tackling Different Aspects of Food Safety
Army Nabs Four Terrorist Kingpins in Chtaura
Report: Female Extremist Group Recruiting Girls in North Lebanon
Ground being laid for Future-Hezbollah talks
Baalbek school boy killed playing basketball
Developers shrink flats further as market sinks
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on
Parents of US aid worker, Peter Kassig slain by Islamic State say they're 'heartbroken' but proud of him
Netanyahu: To imagine a nuclear Iran, just look at what ISIS does with guns and trucks
Obama: Beheading of US hostage 'an act of pure evil'
Possible’ second Frenchman in ISIS execution video
Obama rules out alliance with Assad in ISIS fight
Surprise GCC meeting smooths over Qatar tensions
Indifference to misery
Liberation of Mosul will start early next year: Nineveh governorate council
ISIS claims Baghdad bomb attack on U.N. convoy
Dempsey says battle with ISIS starting to turn
Abbas: Israel failed to change Jerusalem features
GCC Leaders End Dispute with Qatar, Decide to Return Envoys to Doha
Yemeni tribes say they will resist Houthi takeover of oil facilities
Saudi Crown Prince meets world leaders at G20 as plan to boost global economy is announced
Deadly ghosts on Libya’s border
Egypt to deepen buffer zone with Gaza after finding longer tunnels
Top Nigerian cleric backs vigilantes, doubts military in Boko Haram fight
Pakistani army chief in first US visit
Taliban splinter group vows allegiance to ISIS
Three get death in Saudi for plots to 'wreak havoc'
Missouri governor declares state of emergency ahead of grand jury
Palestinian driver found hanged in Jerusalem bus
Below Jihad Watch Posts For Sunday
Iran TV airs Muslim cleric’s threats to raze Tel Aviv, target US bases
Robert Spencer in PJ Media: 6 Failed Policies Obama Won’t Stop Pushing
U.S. prison was ‘terrorist university’ for Islamic State
Nigeria: Female jihad-martyrdom suicide bomber murders 8 at market
Ibn Warraq speaks at Yale
Terror org CAIR denounces Kassig beheading as “anti-Islamic”
Israel: Muslim stabs man in the back with screwdriver in Jerusalem
Mehdi Hasan goes full fascist, calls for sanctions for criticism of Muslims
Turkey’s top dog Erdogan: Muslims found Americas before Columbus
Islamic State releases video showing beheading of US hostage Kassig
Peter Kassing’s Traumatic Death & Ingratitude
What distinguishes human beings that God created in his image and likeness from other creatures, mainly the animals, are the gracious Godly graces and gifts of sensations, emotions, feelings, intellectual capabilities, the ability to communicate with others, reason, logic, and the distinction between good and evil. Sadly when human beings for any reason lose these graces and gifts or abandon them voluntarily they descend to the level of animal, and lose their humanity, and become entirely no longer human beings.
In this context all those in some Arabic and African countries who call themselves Jihadists and fundamentalists, being countries, organizations, individuals or groups who are savagely committing bloody, brutal and barbaric atrocities are not human beings, but animals based on all human, scientific, religious and ethical standards.
In the realm of love, empathy, and humanity, Peter Kassig, the young Samaritan American citizen was emotionally touched by the on going tragic suffering and agony of the Syrian people at the hands of the criminal President Bashar al-Assad dictatorship regime,and the brutal Jihadi organizations. Peter motivated by his human passion left his country the USA, family, friends, job and the peaceful -secure life and headed to Syria through Lebanon. As an aid worker Peter endeavored to give a hand to the needed Syrian oppressed people.
What was Peter’s reward from those who falsely allege to protect the Syrian people? and how did they portray their gratitude? He was taken by them a hostage and then mercilessly slaughtered and beheaded!!
In reality and actuality, condemning and deploring statements are not any more effective or fruitful due to fact that those so called Jihadi criminals that the statements target are entirely void of any human feelings or traits and completely detached from all that is humanity, faith, fear of God and conscience.
We call on all free world nations, especially the USA, as well as on the Islamic countries, clergy, media, and intellectuals to deal urgently and seriously with this world-wide monstrous and cancerous dilemma.
All Those countries, individuals, groups, institutions and organizations who practice the bloody atrocities or finance, adopt or advocate for them must be made accountable for their acts.World-Wide, All capabilities, means and resources should be utilized to totally eradicate all sorts of terrorism from all countries especially from numerous unfortunate Arabic and African countries.
We offer our deeply felt condolences for Peter’s family and friends praying that Almighty God shall shower on them abundantly all graces of endurance, forgiveness, hope and patience.
We pray that the soul of Peter is peacefully and eternally resting in Paradise where there is no anguish or pain, but happiness and joy.
May Al Mighty God Bless Peter’s Soul and all the souls of the Terrorism victims all over the world.
Canadian-Lebanese Human Rights activist, journalist and political commentator
Web sites http://www.eliasbejjaninews.com http://www.10452lccc.com & http://www.clhrf.com
Tweets on https://twitter.com/phoeniciaelias
Face Book LCCC group http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=17974722934
Parents of US aid worker, Peter Kassig slain by Islamic State say they're 'heartbroken' but proud of him
The Canadian Press/By Rick Callahan, The Associated Press 17/11/14
INDIANAPOLIS - The parents of an American aid worker captured last year while delivering relief supplies to refugees in Syria said Sunday they are "heartbroken" by his death at the hands of Islamic State militants but "incredibly proud" of his compassion and humanitarian work. Ed and Paula Kassig of Indianapolis said in a statement that their 26-year-old son, Peter Kassig, "lost his life as a result of his love for the Syrian people and his desire to ease their suffering."
"We will work every day to keep his legacy alive as best we can," they said.
Kassig was captured last year in eastern Syria while delivering relief supplies to refugees of Syria's civil war. The Indianapolis man, a former U.S. Army Ranger who founded a relief organization, converted to Islam while in captivity and took the first name Abdul-Rahman.
The White House confirmed Kassig's death Sunday after the Islamic State group released a video showing that Kassig had been beheaded. The video also showed the beheadings of about a dozen men identified as Syrian military officers and pilots.
President Barack Obama called Kassig's killing "an act of pure evil" and said the Islamic State group "revels in the slaughter of innocents, including Muslims, and is bent only on sowing death and destruction.
The Kassigs said in their statement that their hearts also go "out to the families of the Syrians who lost their lives, along with our son." They said they also grieve "for the families of the other captives who did not make it home safely."
The Kassigs learned of their son's capture last year, but did not disclose his captivity while family and friends quietly worked to secure his release. In October, their son appeared in another video released by the Islamic State group that showed the beheading of a fellow aid worker, Britain's Alan Henning. The militants vowed that Kassig would be next, leading his parents to plead publicly for mercy while stressing his humanitarian work and conversion to Islam.
Kassig first went to the Middle East with the U.S. Army, which he joined in 2006, according to his military records. He ultimately served in the 75th Ranger Regiment, a special operations unit, and served in Iraq from April until July 2007 before being medically discharged as a private first class that September.
His desire to perform aid work in the region was kindled during a March 2012 spring break trip to Beirut while he was studying political science at Butler University. Kassig, a certified emergency medical technician, left school and returned two months later to Lebanon, where he worked as a medical assistant and humanitarian worker and treated people from all sides of the conflict in neighbouring Syria.
In September 2012, he founded Special Emergency Response and Assistance, or SERA, which suspended its relief work after his capture.
Kassig, who grew up in an Indianapolis family with a long history of humanitarian work and teaching, said during a January 2013 interview with Time magazine that he travelled heavily throughout Lebanon to assess the needs of people there. SERA, he said, focused on supplementing the work of larger organizations by delivering aid that could "do the most good for the most people over the longest period of time possible."
Kassig's friends and family say he understood the risks of working in the region, but he felt called to help.
Burhan Agha, a 26-year-old Syrian, worked with Kassig in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, delivering aid to Syrian refugees before Kassig moved his operations to southern Turkey. Speaking by phone from Switzerland, where he is seeking asylum, Agha described his friend's purported killing as senseless.
"If I could apologize to each American, one by one, I would," Agha said while weeping. "Because Peter died in Syria, while he was helping the Syrian people. And those who killed him claimed to have done it in the name of Islam. I am a Muslim, and from Syria, and he is considered a part of the Syrian revolution."
**Associated Press writer by Diaa Hadid in Beirut contributed to this report.
In Dubai, Salam Says Govt. Negotiating with Jihadists but Won't
Bow to 'Blackmail of Terrorism'
Naharnet/Prime Minister Tammam Salam on Monday stressed that the government will not bow to “the blackmail of terrorism,” after the abductors of the Lebanese servicemen threatened to murder seven of them. “Terrorism is trying to impose its conditions on us and there is suffering, but we have to mend the wounds of the families” of the hostages, Salam said at a reception organized by the Lebanese community in Dubai, where he arrived earlier in the day for a two-day official visit.
The hostages' relatives have escalated their protests in recent days, after they received phone calls from the extremist Islamic State group, which threatened to slaughter their sons unless Lebanese authorities revoke life imprisonment sentences against Fatah al-Islam inmates at the Roumieh prison. The IS has seven troops and policemen in its custody while the Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front is holding 17 servicemen hostage. The security personnel were abducted during bloody clashes with the two groups in and around the Bekaa border town of Arsal. “We are not negotiating over Lebanon, but rather to liberate these abductees while preserving Lebanon's dignity,” said Salam. “We won't yield to blackmail and we won't show weakness in the face of the threats,” the premier pledged. Earlier in the day, Salam told reporters aboard the plane that carried him to the UAE that the Lebanese judiciary has moved to facilitate the trials of Islamist detainees and that death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment verdicts.
Salam also noted that his talks in the Gulf state will tackle “the issue of assisting Lebanon in its efforts to counter terrorism” and “the possibility of offering more (military) helicopters to Lebanon.”
Families of Captive Servicemen Reopen Beirut Roads as Jihadists Continue Threats
Naharnet /The relatives of abducted soldiers and policemen briefly blocked on Monday several roads in the capital Beirut to demand the judiciary to lift sanctions against several Islamist inmates after jihadists threatened to start killing the captives. The families blocked Beirut's Saifi road and near the port by setting tires on fire. The relatives had vowed earlier to escalate their measures, setting tires on fire near their protest site in Beirut's Riad al-Solh square. They later however reopened the roads after holding talks with Health Minister Wael Abou Faour who visited their rally at Saifi. The relatives' vows came after jihadists threatened to start killing the captives if the state failed to suspend sentences issued on Friday against Islamist Roumieh prison inmates. OTV reported that the kidnappers later extended the ultimatum until 4:00 pm. The brother of Ibrahim Mougheit told media outlets on Monday that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), one of the jihadists groups that took the servicemen captive, threatened to start killing soldiers within two hours if sentences against inmates were not suspended. “We will escalate our endeavors,” several members of the families warned. They expressed surprise over the sentences that were issued on Friday by the Judicial Council against Nahr al-Bared prisoners, the latest in the ongoing trials of Lebanese and other Arabs accused of involvement in the months-long 2007 battles at the northern refugee camp. The families were joined by a delegation from al-Mustaqbal movement that listened to their demands. Al-Nusra and the Islamic State groups have been holding several troops and policemen hostage since August 2, when they overran the northeastern border town of Arsal and engaged in bloody clashes with the army. The two groups have since executed three troops and threatened to murder more hostages if Lebanese authorities didn't fulfill their demands. Nusra said that the three-month hostage crisis would end if 10 inmates held at Lebanese prisons would be freed for each hostage or seven Lebanese inmates and 30 female prisoners held in Syria would be released for each abducted soldier and policeman or if five Lebanese and 50 women inmates would be freed. The group added that the swap with the prisoners held at Syrian prisons should take place in Turkey or Qatar, while the exchange with the Lebanese authorities should take place on the outskirts of Arsal.
The cabinet had previously totally rejected any swap deal with the jihadists.
Geagea Urges Calm as Btedei Incident Victim Succumbs to Injuries
Naharnet/A Lebanese man succumbed to his injuries on Monday after his wife was killed and his son injured over the weekend during clashes between the Lebanese army and a number of gunmen west of Baalbek, which prompted Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea to urge calm and promise that the culprits will be brought to justice. Sobhi Fakhri, who was in critical condition, died at Dar al-Amal hospital.
His wife Nadimeh was killed and his son Romeo were wounded in the Saturday crime committed by fugitives from al-Jaafar clan in the Baalbek town of Btedei. The gunmen were fleeing raids carried out by the Lebanese army in the Dar al-Wasaa area when they entered the Fakhri house with the intent of taking their vehicle. The family refused to meet the demands of the armed men, which prompted them to shoot the couple and their son. The residents of Btedei have warned they would go after the criminals if the authorities failed to arrest them. They held the Jaafar clan responsible for the crime. The Jaafar clan, however, issued a statement in which they voiced regret over “the martyrdom of Nadimeh and Sobhi Fakhri.” The statement noted that the clan's gunmen “entered the house with the aim of seeking protection and help, since they have had ties with the sons of the Fakhri family for tens of years.” “A stampede ensued inside the house and shooting started from several sides, which resulted in the martyrdom of dear brothers,” the statement explained. But Geagea dismissed the clan's statement on Monday, noting that “an entire family was attacked because fugitive criminals wanted to add to their record the assassination of an entire family.” “The criminals will be brought to justice and I have contacted several officials, who expressed determination to pursue the criminals until the end,” he said at a press conference. “The criminals acted like the ISIL (Islamic State group) and their records are full of criminality,” the LF leader added. He called on the residents of Btedei and neighboring Deir al-Ahmar to “preserve civil peace, because if evil won one round, the law, right and justice will win a thousand rounds.”Geagea expressed regret over the statement issued by the Jaafar family, while describing them as “neighbors.”
“But their statement was against truth and reality. They should have tried to appease people and the victims instead of issuing blatant accusations,” said Geagea. He urged residents to show restraint, pledging to them that “the criminals will be prosecuted and brought to justice.”Geagea also call on the Bekaa prosecutor to probe the statement issued by the Jaafar clan, “because some people have decided to stand by the criminals against the innocents.”
Pope Francis: Nurture your God given talents, don’t disappoint Him!
At the Angelus, Francis invites the faithful to "go home, pick up the Gospel and read the passage from Matthew on talents. Meditate on what you do with them: do we share them, nurture them or keep them locked up?. After the Marian prayer, an appeal to Rome: "Tensions are too high, both sides should meet - even in the parish - to discuss and help dialogue win out".
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - What do we do with our talents? Do we nurture them or keep them locked up? This was the question Pope Francis asked faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square for the Sunday Angelus. The pontiff has invited everyone to do "a good thing: go back home pick up the Gospel and read the passage from Matthew on talents. Meditate on your talents and remember that God has faith in us. Don't disappoint Him!".
As is tradition, the Pope's reflections were based on the Sunday Gospel: "The parable of the talents has a clear meaning: the man in the parable represents Jesus, we are the servants and the talents are the assets that the Lord has entrusted to us, his Word, the Eucharist , faith in the Heavenly Father, His forgiveness ... in short, many things, His most valuable assets. While in common usage the term 'talent' indicates a strong individual quality - for example in music, sports, etc. - , in the parable of the talents, they are the goods of the Lord, that He entrusts to us so we can render them fruitful. The hole dug in the ground by the "wicked and lazy servant" (v. 26) indicates the fear of risk which blocks the creativity and the fecundity of 'love. Because the fear of the risks of love blocks us! ".
Jesus, the Pope continued, "does not ask us to keep his grace locked up in the safe, but he wants us to use it for the benefit of others. All the goods that we have received are to give to others: and this is how they grow. It is as if he were telling us : 'Here's my mercy, my tenderness, my forgiveness: take them, and make extensive use of them'. And we, what have we done with them? Who have we 'infected' with our faith? How many people have we encouraged with our hope? How much love have we shared with our neighbor? These are questions that we would do well to ask ourselves. Whatever environment, even the most distant and impractical, can become a place where talents bear fruit. There are no situations or places that preclude Christian presence and witness. The witness Jesus asks of us is not closed, it is open".
This parable, Francis pointed out, "urges us not to hide our faith and our belonging to Christ, not to bury the word of the Gospel, but to share it in our lives, in relationships, in concrete situations, as a power that challenges, purifies and renews. Likewise with forgiveness, that the Lord gives us especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation: let's not keep it closed within ourselves, instead we should release its power, that breaks down those walls that our selfishness has raised, that makes us take the first step in relationships that have faltered, resume dialogue where there is no communication ... We must make sure these talents grow for others, bearing fruit through our witness".
The Lord, the Pope concluded, "does not give everyone the same things and in the same way: He knows us personally and entrusts us what is right for us; but He places in all of us the same, immense trust. God trusts us; God has hope in us. Do not disappoint Him! Do not be fooled by fear, but reciprocate trust with trust! The Virgin Mary embodies this attitude in the most beautiful and fullest way. She received and accepted the highest gift, Jesus in person, and in turn offered him to humanity with a generous heart. Let us ask her to help us to be 'good and faithful servants', to participate in 'the joy of Our Lord.' "
After the Marian prayer, the Pope appealed to the authorities of the Italian capital: "In these days in Rome there were quite strong tensions between residents and immigrants. They are events that occur in several European cities, especially in outlying areas marked by other discomforts. I invite the institutions, at all levels, to prioritize what now constitutes a social emergency and which, if not addressed promptly and appropriately, risks degenerating further. May the Christian community engage in a concrete way to promote dialogue over confrontation. May the citizens and immigrants, with representatives of the institutions, come together, even in a room of the parish, and talk about the situation. The important thing, is to not give into the temptation to confrontation, but to reject all violence. It is possible to dialogue, to listen to one another, to make plans together, and in this way to overcome suspicion and prejudice, and to build a coexistence that is ever more secure, peaceful, and inclusive".
STL to hear evidence suggesting Syria complicity
The Daily Star/Nov. 17, 2014/BEIRUT: Monday is slated to be a pivotal day at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, where Judge David Re will hear evidence suggesting Syria’s complicity in the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005. MP Marwan Hamade, who survived an assassination attempt in 2004, is set to testify at a court hearing in The Hague. Hamade, and others to follow, are expected to highlight the deep tensions between the Syrian regime and Hariri at the time of the latter’s death. While five Lebanese Hezbollah supporters have been accused of orchestrating Hariri’s assassination, rumors have long swirled Syria was somehow involved in the plot. Initial investigations suggested a level of Syrian involvement, but no solid evidence has been produced to date. The issue remains a serious point of contention today, with high-ranking officials like Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk convinced of Syria’s culpability in the crime. “Bashar Assad had direct contact with the people that killed martyr Rafik Hariri,” Machnouk said recently. The admission of Syria-related evidence dramatically widens the scope of the trial. Defense attorneys for the accused have cried foul, saying that the course of the trial would be dramatically altered. The prosecution, however, hopes to show that there was a political motive for Hariri’s assassination.
Tariq Alhomayed/Asharq Al Awsat
Monday, 17 Nov, 2014
The Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar has revealed that Hezbollah is seeking to “recruit Christian, Sunni Muslim, and Druze youth, as well as providing them with training and weapons to confront the danger of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria [ISIS] and sister groups.” Hezbollah is addressing the youth by claiming that they share one destiny, a slogan “more attractive than that of confronting the Israeli enemy, because the danger ISIS poses is closer [than that of Tel Aviv],” the newspaper reported.
It also revealed that the recruiting process is not limited to Lebanon, but takes place in Syria as well, yet not under the label of “resistance.” Young people there are being “directly recruited with large salaries by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.” The report said that “those arriving in Lebanon tell of dozens of cases of relatives fighting unemployment and defending their existence [in Syria] for monthly salaries ranging between 1,500–2,500 US dollars.” This recruiting process certainly means blackmailing and buying mercenaries, as organized crime gangs do. But this is not the end of the story. The report reveals two significant issues. First, it points to Hezbollah’s predicament in the region and Syria. Clearly, the militia now realizes that the lie of “resistance” has been exposed, and that Iran’s efforts to reach a nuclear deal with the US require it to soften its denunciations of Israel. If Iran reaches a deal of any kind with the Americans, this means that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah will turn into a guardian of the Israeli border with Lebanon, just as Bashar Al-Assad is, and his father Hafez was before him. This predicament, which has pushed Hezbollah to recruit mercenaries, is not due to Iran alone; rather, it is also an indication of the heavy losses in lives the militia has suffered in Syria. Moreover, it suggests that Hezbollah now requires a sectarian cover to justify its presence there. By doing this, Hezbollah wants to say that it is not the only side defending Assad, nor is it implementing Iran’s sectarian agenda, claiming instead that its presence there is part of an array of forces defending the whole of Syria. Obviously, Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Guard drew inspiration for this idea from the US-led international coalition against ISIS, built under a Sunni Arab umbrella. On the other hand, the recruitment operation confirms Assad’s predicament, particularly after The Washington Post reported that Syria’s Alawites are growing restless and disillusioned with their president. The second issue underscoring the stupidity of Hezbollah in recruiting mercenaries is that it can lead to two things: first, the Lebanese militia could be infiltrated by several intelligence agencies. Second, it means that Hezbollah is nurturing a dangerous animal that will eventually turn on it, a familiar scenario facing any side that uses violence and terror for its own ends. Therefore, the recruitment process Hezbollah has turned to is a foolish step that will prove to be a disastrous mistake in the future. Then, of course, no one will feel sorry for the sectarian, terrorist Hezbollah or its officials.
Captors Threaten to Kill 7 Lebanese Servicemen if Life Sentences of Roumieh Inmates Executed
Naharnet/The captors of the Lebanese troops and policemen threatened Sunday to murder seven of them if Lebanese authorities enforce recent life imprisonment sentences against a number of Islamist inmates at the Roumieh prison. “The wife of the abductee Khaled Moqbel Hassan received a phone call from the captors, who threatened to kill 7 servicemen if life imprisonment sentences against 5 Roumieh Islamist inmates were not revoked,” LBCI TV reported in the evening. Earlier, al-Jadeed television said a brother of hostage soldier Abbas Msheik received a similar phone call. As the news broke out, the families of the captive troops started burning tires at the Riad al-Solh Square in central Beirut, where they have been observing a sit-in since several weeks.
The emir of the Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front in Syria's Qalamun region has refused to discuss the Lebanese cabinet's response regarding the demands of the group to release the abducted soldiers and policemen. According to the Kuwaiti al-Qabas newspaper, the so-called emir informed the Qatari-appointed mediator, Syrian national Ahmed al-Khatib, that the group rejects to tackle the Lebanese proposal. Al-Nusra and the Islamic State groups have been holding several troops and policemen hostage since August 2, when they overran the northeastern border town of Arsal and engaged in bloody clashes with the army. The two groups have since executed three troops and threatened to murder more hostages if Lebanese authorities don't fulfill their demands.
Nusra said that the three-month hostage crisis would end if 10 inmates held at Lebanese prisons would be freed for each hostage or seven Lebanese inmates and 30 female prisoners held in Syria would be released for each abducted soldier and policeman or if five Lebanese and 50 women inmates would be freed. The group added that the swap with the prisoners held at Syrian prisons should take place in Turkey or Qatar, while the exchange with the Lebanese authorities should take place on the outskirts of Arsal.
The cabinet had previously totally rejected any swap deal with the jihadists. Meanwhile, some families of the abducted servicemen continued to visit their sons. The family of captive soldiers Mohammed Youssef and Hussein Ammar have recently met with them separately in the outskirts of Arsal, a day after the family of soldier Khaled Hassan also met with him. Media reports had said that the Islamist captors of the servicemen have agreed to allow their loved ones to visit them. According to the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat published on Sunday, the mother of Ammar, his brother and uncle and the wife of Youssef and his mother headed to Arsal on Saturday morning to meet with the two abducted soldiers. Gunmen reportedly transferred the two families to meet their loved ones. Ammar informed his family during the 10-minute meeting that the jihadists are forcing them to dig tunnels, adding that the gunmen accused Hizbullah of impeding the negotiations. He added that strikes by Hizbullah, the Lebanese army and the Syrian army are forcing the jihadists to continuously change their whereabouts.
MP Suleiman Franjieh Rejects President
with No 'Christian Legitimacy', Rules Out Election of 'Centrist'
Naharnet /Marada Movement leader MP Suleiman Franjieh on Sunday said he rejects the election of any president who does not enjoy so-called “Christian legitimacy,” noting that he prefers continued vacuum at the Baabda Palace over the election of a “centrist president.”
“There is nothing new in the issue of the presidency and the circumstances are not ripe for the election of a president,” Franjieh said in an interview on al-Jadeed television. The country's top Christian post has been vacant since May 25 although the parliament has held 15 electoral sessions. Fourteen of the sessions lacked the needed quorum for voting due to a boycott by the Free Patriotic Movement and Hizbullah. “I prefer vacuum over a weak president. A strong president is not necessarily one of the current top leaders but he must enjoy Christian legitimacy … We won't accept a president who does not have Christian legitimacy,” Franjieh added. “There won't be consensus over a centrist president. If the election of a centrist was possible, we would not be going through vacuum now,” the Marada leader stated. In response to a question, Franjieh said “a local agreement would speed up the election of a president and a foreign agreement would encourage this election.”“We do not want a president who would lead us into the abyss and we won't elect a president who is not better than his predecessor,” said Franjieh. Playing down concerns that presidential void has a negative impact on the country, Franjieh added: “As a Christian, how does presidential vacuum harm me? What is the use of a president without powers? What is the use of a president who does not reflect popular representation? Vacuum does not scare us.” The northern leader reiterated that he will not nominate himself for the presidency unless his ally Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun decides to withdraw from the race.
“As long as he keeps his nomination, I will stand by him and support him unconditionally,” Franjieh said. “If the General pulls out, it would be my right to announce my candidacy,” he added. Franjieh, however, rejected a recent proposal by Aoun on the direct election of the president by the people. “General Aoun believes that the president must not be imposed on Christians. I do not think that his proposal would lead to this result,” he explained. Asked about remarks by Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi that politicians receive orders from foreign powers, Franjieh said: “I will not respond to His Eminence but I do not approve of his remarks and I don't consider myself one of those he referred to.”
Weekend murder In Btedaai, west of Baalbek stirs tensions in Baalbek
Rakan al-Fakih/Nidal al-Solh/The Daily Star
Nov. 17, 2014
BAALBEK, Lebanon: The killing of Nadimeh Fakhri and the wounding of her son and husband in Btedaai, west of Baalbek have opened the door to security chaos in the Bekaa Valley.
It has emerged that the Fakhri family is Christian and the murderers belong to the Shiite Jaafar clan, which exerts huge pressure on the area’s political, security and tribal local community, in particular Hezbollah.
The criminals are wanted by the security forces and were fleeing extensive raids by the Lebanese Army in the Dar al-Wasaa area when they committed the crime.
The husband is in critical condition. The son, Romeo, was hit by two bullets but is in stable condition.
Speaker Nabih Berri Sunday voiced support for the security plan being implemented by the Lebanese Army in the Bekaa Valley.
“Our people in the Bekaa have been harmed by kidnappings, thefts and other acts at the hands of some thugs in the region,” Berri was quoted as saying by visitors at his Ain al-Tineh residence.
He said the Army had a free hand to crack down on outlaws in the Bekaa region, adding that political parties and tribes would not give protection to any criminal.
The incident prompted the local community and the residents of Deir al-Ahmar and other neighboring areas to meet in the Baalbek-Deir al- Ahmar Maronite Diocese, headed by Bishop Semaan Atallah.
The head of the union of municipalities Milad Aaqoury, the mayor of Deir al-Ahmar and the mukhtars of the area were among those who attended the meeting.
After the meeting a statement was released, saying: “The ‘outlaws’ committed their crime while they were fleeing toward the Baalbek valley and as they passed through the village of Btedaai. They went into the Fakhri family’s house while they were sleeping, with the intent of taking their SUV, which led to the hideous murder that took place. We consider this assault an assault on every house in the area.
“We hold the Jaafar clan responsible for the crime ... We ask them to present those involved in the crime to the security forces in order for us to put them on trial and punish them so we can eliminate strife.”
The statement demanded that all Lebanese institutions remove any protection afforded to criminals and called on the Lebanese Army command to continue its security operation to the fullest extent in order to strengthen its presence in the area.
The Jaafar clan also held a meeting Sunday, to discuss the demand to hand over the perpetrators, and to coordinate the clan’s stance on the crime.
Speaking to The Daily Star, one of the leaders of the Jaafar clan, Abu Assad Jaafar, explained his version of the incident.
He said some of the wanted members of his group were on good terms with the Fakhri family and were used to hiding in their house while on the run from the Army. So when one of their cars broke down while they were being chased Saturday, the Jaafar members had gone to the Fakhri house to try to get a substitute car.
Events only turned violent when the family would not give it to them, he said.
The Jaafars issued a statement late Sunday condemning the killing and urging the judiciary to pursue investigations into the issue. They said they would not accept any attacks on their Christian “brethren.”
The extended Fakhri family protested at the entrance of Deir al-Ahmar-Shilfa near Baalbek, where they blocked the main road. Father Hanna Rahmi, Aaqoury, Btedaai Mayor Samir Fakhri and Bashwat Mayor Hamid Kayrouz joined them, along with representatives from the local area.
Rahmi, deputy general of the Baalbek-Deir al-Ahmar Maronite Diocese, emphasized that no one should cover up for these criminals.
“Those responsible for the crime are known to be from our loved ones, the Jaafar clan,” Rahmi said. “They should take responsibility to protect coexistence.”
Patrick Sobhi Fakhri, another son of the family, said the family would not be satisfied by mere statements of condemnation from the Jaafar family.
He also slammed the government’s silence: “We love the government and we are under its umbrella, but what the government is saying today is protect yourself on your own. We want the government to protect us.”
The motorcade for the funeral took off from Fakhri’s house and went to St. Nahra Church in Btedaai, where a Mass was held at 3 p.m. by Bishop Atallah, his assistant Elias Rahan and Father Rahmi, in the presence of religious, political and local officials.
“These crimes are rare and are classified as terror attacks,” Atallah said. “While we were afraid of terrorism on the border, here it is coming from inside and targeting an otherwise calm town.”
Jumblatt: PSP to expand health
The Daily Star/Nov. 17, 2014/BEIRUT: The Progressive Socialist Party will persist with the food safety campaign and will expand its scope, the party’s leader Walid Jumblatt said Monday. “The battle that is being waged by the PSP will not stop but will continue until it covers different links related to food safety such as monitoring imports and clean water,” Jumblatt said in his weekly column in Al-Anbaa, taking credit for Health Minister Wael Abu Faour's investigation into contaminated food sellers. Earlier this week, Abu Faour, a member of the PSP, unleashed havoc in the food industry by publicly naming dozens of renowned restaurants and supermarkets selling contaminated poultry and beef in several parts of the country. Unlike other campaigns, the health minister’s measures can’t be interpreted as a win or loss to March 14 or March 8, Jumblatt said, arguing that food safety doesn’t distinguish between sect or geographical location. According to the PSP chief, the health minister’s campaign directly confronts “stakeholders and influential people who don’t care about the citizen since [they] exclusively care about making profit.” These figures, Jumblatt said, are the same people who are criticizing the objectivity of the health minister’s campaign, in an effort to deflect their responsibility over the issue. Over the weekend Abu Faour said water suppliers in Lebanon would be the next target of investigation for the ministry. There are hundreds of unlicensed water providers in Lebanon that do not undergo regular testing and are suspected of distributing contaminated water. In recent months, reports have emerged about farmers in the Bekaa Valley irrigating crops with sewage water as well.
Eyeing Hezbollah, navy ups joint training with air force, infantry
By YAAKOV LAPPIN / 11/17/2014/J.Post
In light of increased tensions with Hezbollah in Lebanon, the air force, ground forces and navy have increased the number of joint exercises in recent weeks. The changes have seen a “significant” rise in integrated drills, the IDF said. The drills focus on a range of combat scenarios, including underwater missions, air-based missions and the deployment of infantry units. Infantry-only combat exercises have also been increased, the IDF said. The Israel Navy’s northern Security Company, based at Haifa, is taking part in the strenuous combat preparation program. Its leader, Cmdr. Ronen Hagigi, told the IDF’s official website that drills are focusing on threats in which “the enemy fires missiles, sends fishing vessels, underwater divers, and perhaps sets off a bomb near our vessels.”
This, Hagigi said, is a change from past threats that formed the center of exercises, such as an infiltration into Israeli waters with a jet ski, or a bomb-laden fishing vessel. In one recent exercise, units deployed live fire, and the air force dispatched a rescue helicopter, which hovered over a Dvora fast patrol boat to hoist up a stretcher.
Lt. Shahar Boim, commander of a security patrol squad, said coordination with other military services has noticeably risen. “In every operational activity, we are synchronized with the infantry, and we hold an ongoing dialog with them,” he said. “Battalion commanders from the ground join us for sea journeys, and they in turn brief us on their work,” Boim added. Last week, Israel Aerospace Industries announced a successful trial of its Barak 8 air and missile defense system – the next generation of defenses currently being installed on Israel Navy ships to protect them from a variety of threats, including the Yakhont surface-to-sea guided missiles in the possession of Hezbollah. In October, Hezbollah planted and detonated two bombs in the Har Dov region along the Lebanese-Israeli border, wounding two IDF soldiers. The wounded soldiers belonged to the Combat Engineering Corps bomb squad unit, which was accompanying Golani Brigade soldiers on patrol in the area. Both bombs were planted on the Israeli side of the border. The IDF responded by shelling two Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon.
Netanyahu: To imagine a nuclear Iran, just look at what ISIS does with guns and
By TOVAH LAZAROFF/ 11/16/2014/J.Post
To imagine what the world would look like if Iran had nuclear bombs, one need only think about what Islamic State does with guns and trucks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday. He spoke on the CBS program Face the Nation as part of the public relations offensive he has embarked on ahead of the November 24 deadline for the six world powers to reach an agreement with Iran to halt its nuclear program. Netanyahu is worried that the six powers prefer to reach a bad deal rather than walk away from the talks without any agreement, and has urged them not to make a deal with Iran at any cost, arguing that a stiff sanctions regime can offer a viable alternative to a bad deal. “Look at what ISIS [Islamic State] is doing now with assault rifles and pickup trucks. Just imagine what Iran would do if it had nuclear weapons,” he told CBS. “I think it’s important to continue the sanctions. The alternative to a bad deal is not war. The alternative to a bad deal is more sanctions, tougher sanctions, that will make Iran dismantle its capacity to make nuclear bombs,” Netanyahu said. There are two groups of radical Islamist fighters battling each other in the Middle East, he said. There is Islamic State and al-Qaida on the Sunni side, and Iran and Hezbollah on the Shi’ite side. “We want both of them to lose. The last thing we want is to have any one of them get weapons of mass destruction,” the prime minister said, adding that it’s a mistake to strengthen one enemy over the other. Israel stands with the US in its struggle against Islamic State, Netanyahu said, but warned that Iran was not an ally in that war.
“Iran is not your friend. Iran is your enemy. It’s not your partner. Iran is committed to the destruction of Israel,” he said. While the US – along with Russia, China, France, Germany and Great Britain – is negotiating with Iran, its supreme ruler, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is participating in rallies with chants of “death to America,” Netanyahu said.
Khamenei is also calling for Israel’s destruction, Netanyahu said. “Four days ago, he specified nine ways and reasons by which Israel should be destroyed,” the prime minister said. The US and Israel are committed to halting Iran’s nuclear program but differ on their understanding of how that should happen. Israel fears that unless Iran is forced to dismantle the facilities it uses to enrich uranium, it can become a nuclear threshold state, even with an agreement. The six powers are working on the understanding the facilities can remain.
“I want to be clear [on] what has to be achieved,” Netanyahu told Face the Nation. “It’s not merely preventing Iran from having nuclear weapons today, it’s to prevent them from having nuclear weapons tomorrow.
“That means that Iran should not be left with the residual capacity to enrich uranium that you need to have an atomic bomb, nor to have the long-range ballistic missiles – the ICBMs, intercontinental ballistic missiles – to launch them,” he said.
Iran doesn’t need ballistic missiles to hit Israel. It wants them so it can use them against the US, Netanyahu warned. He delivered this same message to German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier when the two met in Jerusalem on Sunday evening.
Steinmeier plans to meet with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Tuesday to discuss Iran. Netanyahu told him that a bad deal on Iran “would also make it very difficult to achieve a diplomatic solution, because Iran would have the capacity to break [out] to a nuclear bomb or to sneak to a nuclear bomb within a matter of a few months or even less than that, and that is something that would threaten everyone.” Germany and Europe as a whole are in danger from Iran’s longrange missiles, he stressed.
He repeated to Steinmeier the same message that he told Face the Nation – that he supports US President Barack Obama’s efforts to defeat Islamic State. Steinmeier assured him that if an agreement was reach between the six powers and Iran, it would not be a bad one.
“There will be a responsible agreement or no agreement,” Steinmeier said, adding that the two sides had not yet found common ground on all the issues. “You know, on the working level we are not yet there, so therefore we are trying really hard to have an agreement that is very clear in this one and important issue: that Iran [should not have] any access to nuclear weapons,” he said.
Israel's peace delusionists
Published: 11.16.14/Israel Opinion
Op-ed: Those who praised Oslo Agreement and disengagement from Gaza still have plenty of human raw material left for their experiments in Judea and Samaria vicinity.
There is a story about a peace-seeking and perplexed poultry farmer who saw a major skirmish break out between the chickens in his henhouse. After failing to pleasantly establish peace between the rivals, he turned to a rabbi for help.
The rabbi began offering a series of tips in the spirit of the poultry farmer's beliefs, but the implementation of this advice only aggravated the bloodbath among the chickens. Hopeless, the poultry farmer returned to the rabbi and asked if he has any other advice of the same kind. "I have a lot of advice, the question is whether you have any chickens left," the rabbi responded.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict may be much more complicated than an appeasing poultry farmer and a haughty rabbi who seek to alleviate the aggressions of chickens, but it has quite a few things in common with them.
For example, people who take off their uniform and find it difficult not to adopt the crushing mantra of "where there is no peace, the people get out of control." Retired major generals who refer to a prime minister who fails to bring us peace as nothing less than chickenshit (a coward afraid to take risks). Plenty of "peace victims," who were seen by the supporters of peace during the bleeding Oslo years as sort of penance chickens for the supreme idea of reconciliation.
And there is also one weariless Shimon Peres, who will persist in his praise for peace, even when his own actions during Oslo and his advice are drowning in the sea.
"Those who have given up on peace - they are the delusional ones, and those who have surrendered and stopped seeking peace - they are the naive ones," Peres stated two weeks ago at the rally marking the 19th anniversary of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's murder, just after he called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to finish what Rabin started in Oslo and bring us the inevitable peace.
Yes, the father and creator of the new Middle East, who was wrapped again and again around arch crook Yasser Arafat's little finger, who promised that following our pullout from Gaza the Strip would turn into Singapore of the Levant, and who has been living for more than 20 years in an imaginary regional reality, has become a firm critic of those caught up in illusions and naivety.
Several days before the rally, Major-General (res.) Amnon Reshef, the former chairman of the Council for Peace and Security, began gathering former security officials to sign a petition which also calls on the prime minister to bring about that inevitable peace.
Reshef managed to find 105 colleagues to support the petition urging Netanyahu to pursue a peace agreement and stop his intimidations – while that same petition includes a slew of intimidations about what will happen if we fail to implement its demands.
"If you don't take the road of achieving peace, we will find a different leader," stated the petition's signatories, turning themselves into a sort of "supreme council of sages" which crowns kings and appoints leaders to be its yes men, seek peace, and of course bring it over now. Otherwise, the sky will fall, they will renounce Netanyahu and likely stop seeing him as the donkey of the messiah leading them to a state of tranquility and peace on earth.
And so Peres, as well as the 106 petition signatories, most of whom have in the past praised the Oslo Agreement, the need to withdraw from the Golan Heights and the security benefits of the disengagement, are returning to the good old indicator of the camp, which distinguishes between the sons of light, who are seeking peace and reconciliation, and the sons of darkness, who are making their way up the paths of occupation and intimidation which are bringing us to the verge of destruction.
The tiny problem with this "realistic, non-delusional and non-naïve" demand for peace is that not a single one of its followers has a shred of response to the question why should Mahmoud Abbas accept the suggested historical compromise which he and Arafat already rejected in Camp David, in Taba and in Annapolis.
Abbas has been busy recently glorifying the terrorist who shot Yehudah Glick, failing to renounce the murderer of a three-month-old baby, continuing to sanctify the "shahidim" (martyrs) and seeing Jews' visits to the Temple Mount as a desecration of the site.
None of them have a clue on how to guarantee that the Gaza model, in which the Palestinian Authority's superior forces were defeated by Hamas' resolve, would not be replicated in Judea and Samaria, with tunnels underneath and rockets from above becoming part of the daily life of all the residents of central Israel.
It is very important that these superior people continue offering this remarkable advice. Why there is still plenty of human raw material for this type of advice and experiments, this time in the Judea and Samaria vicinity.
Obama: Beheading of US hostage 'an act
of pure evil'
Ynetnews/Reuters/Published: 1.16.14/Israel News
US confirms authenticity of execution video, as Obama honors American aid worker Peter Kassig, as family mourn 'treasured son'.
US aid worker and Indiana native Peter Kassig, beheaded by Islamic State militants who captured him in Syria last year, was remembered on Sunday for his courageous devotion to helping people whose lives were upended by civil war. President Barack Obama confirmed Kassig's death after US government agencies authenticated a video posted online of a masked man standing over the decapitated head of the 26-year-old medic and former US Army Ranger. Kassig "was taken from us in an act of pure evil by a terrorist group that the world rightly associates with inhumanity," said the president, who offered his condolences to the relief worker's family. Earlier on Sunday, Kassig's parents, Ed and Paula Kassig of Indianapolis, had asked news organizations to refrain from distributing the video images, saying they wanted their "treasured son" to be remembered for his humanitarian work. "We are aware of the news reports being circulated about our treasured son and are waiting for confirmation from the government as to the authenticity of these reports," Kassig's parents said.
They referred to him as Abdul-Rahman, the name he took upon completing his conversion to Islam after being taken hostage. According to his family, he was detained on Oct. 1, 2013, as he traveled for a relief project in an ambulance headed to the eastern Syrian city of Deir al-Zor. Kassig, who briefly served in Iraq in 2007 during a year-long stint in the Army, returned to the Middle East in 2012 for a spring break trip while studying political science at Butler University, his family said. Moved by the suffering of Syrian refugees displaced by war, Kassig relocated a couple months later to Lebanon to volunteer at a hospital as an emergency medical technician. In September 2012, he founded Special Emergency Relief and Assistance to provide food and medical supplies to refugees and first aid training to civilians in Syria. Mourners, including the governor of Indiana and president of Butler University, described Kassig as selfless and an inspiration. "His murder is a loss for all of us," Nick Schwellenbach, an American who met Kassig while both were studying Arabic in Beirut in 2012, said in an email to Reuters. "His big heart and his outreached hand made a difference in the midst of the cruelty of war." In a letter to his parents, parts of which they released last month after Islamic State threatened him in a video that showed the beheading of British aid worker Alan Henning, Kassig had said he was doing his best to cope with captivity. "If I do die, I figure that at least you and I can seek refuge and comfort in knowing that I went out as a result of trying to alleviate suffering and helping those in need," he wrote.
Abbas' third intifada trap
Yaron Friedman/ Ynetnews/Published: 11.16.14/Israel Opinion
Analysis: By supporting popular struggle, Palestinian president risks losing control over West Bank. Therefore, he must continue security cooperation with Israel, undermining his legitimacy among his people. Can he have it both ways?Mahmoud Abbas is already 79 years old. The rise to presidency of the man with the misleading appearance of a loveable grandfather raised hopes in the hearts of supporters of the peace process. But the higher the hopes, the greater the disappointment.
Last week, the Palestinians marked 10 years since the death of PLO leader and Fatah founder Yasser Arafat. These were also 10 years of failure for Abbas' attempts to reach an agreement based on the 1967 borders.
Today, it is clear that Abbas does not possess Arafat's abilities to lead the Palestinian people to peace or war. After he witnessed both the failure of the "armed struggle" of his rivals in Hamas and the failure of his negotiations with Israel, the following question is raised: What choices is Abbas left with? Won't an appeal to the United Nations or International Criminal Court worsen his situation? The Palestinian leadership is caught in a trap.
Lived through Palestinian history
Abbas himself has lived through almost the entire Palestinian history. At the age of 13 he experienced the 1948 war, and his family fled Safed and settled in Damascus. He devoted his time to his studies while showing a growing interest in the Zionist Movement.
After studying at the Damascus and Cairo universities, he arrived in Moscow to write his thesis about what he called "the secret link between Nazi Germany and the Zionist Movement." Later on, he wrote another doctoral thesis on Zionist history. His research in Moscow about the "Zionist enemy" was published in Arabic.
He became part of the educational system in Qatar thanks to his academic abilities, and joined Fatah in the late 1960s.
Although he belonged to the first generation of Fatah, he resided in Damascus and did not participate in the organization's terroristic struggle from Jordan until 1970 and from Lebanon until 1982. Abbas worked to recruit young people to the organization from Qatar and Syria and then served as the PLO's administration and finance manager. He slowly climbed up the organizational ladder until he became Fatah's No. 2 after Arafat, mostly due to the assassination of Fatah co-founder Abu Jihad by the Israeli Mossad in the 1980s.
Due to his expertise on the "Zionist enemy," he was put in charge of the negotiations with Israel ahead of the Oslo Agreements in the 1990s. Arafat did not let Abbas work when he was appointed prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, leading to his resignation. Only in 2005, after Arafat's death, Abbas was elected president, a position he holds till this very day.
Unpopular among his people
As an academic and an administration and finance manager, it's only natural that Abbas was not associated with the Palestinian popular struggle and was never particularly liked on the Palestinian street. His popularity also suffered due to his association with the talks with Israel.
Many Palestinians today, not only in Hamas, see Abbas as a puppet of the United States and Israel. His declarations against violence and in favor of the peace process have gained him a lot of popularity in the West and among left-wing circles in Israel, but not among his own people.
Commentators on the Lebanese Al-Mayadeen network estimated recently that a third intifada does not have much of a chance of succeeding, although a national-religious uprising is beginning in the territories and among Israel's Arabs.
Unlike the first intifada in 1987 and the second in 2000, however, today's Palestinian leadership is incapable of leveraging the uprising to advance an overall struggle against Israel under its command, as it has lost its legitimacy in the eyes of the Palestinian people.
Moreover, Abbas has already lost control over the Gaza Strip in the Hamas upheaval in 2007. A third intifada may cause him to lose control of the West Bank as well. Therefore, whether he is interested or not, Abbas must continue the security cooperation with Israel, although it is perceived by the Palestinians as an act of betrayal.
He is caught in an equation of survival at the cost of losing legitimacy or supporting the Palestinian struggle at the cost of losing the leadership in favor of his rivals. Is there any way he can still have both legitimacy and a struggle?
Abbas' despair of the futile negotiations with the Israeli government on the one hand, and his reluctance to adopt Hamas' failed actions on the other hand, have led him to the third option: A diplomatic struggle against Israel.
The appeal to the UN to recognize a Palestinian state and force Israel to accept the solution of withdrawing to the 1967 lines is unpractical due to the American veto power. Although Western Europe has begun recognizing a Palestinian state (recently in Sweden and now in Spain), with the lack of Israeli cooperation this move only carries a symbolic meaning.
The other option is turning to the International Criminal Court in The Hague in order to accuse Israel of committing crimes against the Palestinian people during the IDF's military operation. This way, Abbas will be able to claim that he is joining the Gaza residents' struggle despite his criticism against Hamas' actions during Operation Protective Edge.
The appeal to the ICC may get Qatar and Turkey in trouble over their support for Hamas. Such a legal claim will lead to cross action on the Israeli side against Hamas for firing missiles at a civilian population, and a criminal commission of inquiry may summon Hamas' leaders. As a result, there will be pressure to turn in Hamas' political bureau chief, Khaled Mashal, who currently resides in Doha, and Sheikh Saleh al-Arouri, a founder of Hamas's military wing, who is taking refuge in Ankara.
Not only will Qatar and Turkey be seen as sponsoring terrorist leaders, but an investigation will be launched into the transfer of funds from these countries to Hamas. Such an investigation could also uncover the transfer of funds to other Islamic terror organizations like the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra.
It is no wonder, therefore, that Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki referred to an ICC appeal a "double-edged sword."
The bilateral channel between Israel and the Palestinians has been failing time and again for more than 20 years since the Oslo Agreements. The current terror crisis in the Middle East (with ISIS and its branches) and the Shiite threat (from Iran and its allies) are creating joint interests for Israel and the moderate Sunni axis.
An opportunity is being created for a multilateral channel in which Israel and the Palestinians will negotiate as part of a comprehensive agreement with other Sunni countries, including Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states and maybe even north African countries (excluding Libya).
The success of Friday's talks between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordan's King Abdullah in Amman, which helped calm the situation down and allowed unrestricted Muslim access to the Temple Mount, points to the potential of Arab states' mediation. The end of the crisis with Hamas this summer was also made possible thanks to the Egyptian government's help.
Abbas has no options left, and his government is caught in a trap. He is afraid of an intifada, afraid to get Turkey and Qatar in trouble at the ICC and afraid to repeatedly face an American veto and the UN and undermine his relations with the American administration. But continuing the security cooperation with Israel without an agreement undermines his legitimacy in the eyes of his people.
The US and Europe are busy in other arenas right now, mainly in Syria, Iraq and Iran, and the Palestinian issue is being pushed aside.
With the absence of an Israeli initiative to launch the multilateral negotiations, the stalemate continues. Abbas is incapable of forcing his authority on Gaza and is incapable of dealing with Hamas. There is a high probability that his survival in the West Bank depends on the IDF's control and that the Israeli presence it is the only thing preventing a Hamas upheaval.
Abbas has no control over the Palestinians, he is not holding negotiations and his achievements in the international arena are purely symbolic. Hamas, on the other hand, is popular and can force agreements. Hamas can and doesn’t want to, while Abbas wants to but can't.
Arafat is the only person who combined both abilities. He was in favor of combining the armed struggle with the dialogue and zigzagged between terror and negotiations. Abbas took the terror attacks off the agenda, but his diplomatic efforts have failed so far.
Israel and the new Middle East
The ball is now in Israel's court. The government must decide whether to take advantage of the last years of Abbas' control of the Palestinian Authority and launch negotiations which might yield a solution to the conflict and pave the way to regional peace, or keep things the way they are and avoid taking risks at a time when the Middle East is experiencing swift and radical changes. Should it act or should it wait?
It all depends on the key issues: Will Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's regime in Egypt survive and continue the oppression of the Muslim Brotherhood? If it will, will that make Hamas weaker? With the absence of an alternative to the Hams rule, will organizations affiliated with ISIS gain strength in Gaza? Will Hamas' weakness strengthen Abbas? Will the Saudi kingdom survive the terror within it and on its borders (the Sunni ISIS and the Shiite Houthi rebels) and continue to support Abbas and the Egyptian regime? Will Iran continue making progress towards a nuclear program? And if it will, will that bring Saudi Arabia closer to Israel?
The answer to all these questions appears to be yes. That raises the last question: Is Israel willing to pay the price?
Netanyahu: Iran compromise over
Islamic State is to win battle, lose war
Attila Somfalvi /Ynetnews
Latest Update: 11.16.14/ Israel News
Prime minister reiterates support for Obama's fight against IS, repeats warning over Iranian nuclear threat.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed support Sunday for the US fight against Islamic State militants, but cautioned against any softening toward Iran: "To defeat ISIL but leave Iran as a nuclear threshold state is to win the battle and lose the war and we cannot afford to lose this war, Netanyahu said.
Meeting with visiting German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Netanyahu stressed that Iran's missile program is "intended for Europe and the United States, and their only purpose is to carry a nuclear payload."
Netanyahu also slammed the Palestinian President Abbas for what he called ongoing incitement against Israel. According to Netanyahu, despite working with Jordan and the US to maintain the status quo in Jerusalem, "Palestinian Authority media, controlled media, called for what they called 'a day of rage' in Jerusalem, which further incites violence."
Netanyahu rejected the Palestinian's attempts to gains statehood through international recognition, and said nations recognizing the Palestinian state are damaging peace chances. "I think that the calls that have been coming from European countries, from European parliaments, to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state pushed peace backwards because they don't tell the Palestinians that they have to make their peace with a nation-state for the Jewish people. They just give the Palestinians a nation-state. They don't tell the Palestinian Authority that they will have to make genuine compromises."
Earlier, in an interview with CBS Face the Nation, Netanyhu commented on past tensions between Israel and the White House, but also reiterated Israel's committment to the fight agianst the Islamic State group, while warning against Iran: "We want them both to lose. The last thing we want is to have any one of them get weapons of mass destruction/"
His comments came shortly after IS claimed the beheading of another Western hostage, US aid worker Peter Kassig, along with that of 18 men described as Syrian soldiers.
In an undated video, a masked black-clad jihadist seen standing above a severed head says: "This is Peter Edward Kassig, a US citizen of your country."
Netanyahu expressed support for US President Barack Obama's leadership of a coalition against IS and said "we're with all the American people who understand the savagery that we're all up against." IS "has to be defeated and it can be defeated," he said.
But Netanyahu portrayed the situation as a "global conflict" against militant Islam, not just Sunni-based IS and al-Qaeda but also Shiite Iran-backed Hezbollah.
"We want them both to lose," he said, insisting: "Iran is not your ally. Iran is not your friend. Iran is your enemy."
Netanyahu also weighed in on the recent diplomatic clash in US-Israel relations, which reached its zenith when an unnamed official in the White House referred to Netanyahu as a "chickensh*t" in an Atlantic article.
"Look, I'm not going to deal with anonymous sources that issue all sorts of critical statements. I think that's not appropriate. I will say this: I think the relationship between Israel and the United States is very, very strong. I mean, there is bipartisan support for Israel, which we appreciate. And not only that, I think support for Israel among the American people is at an all time high," Netanyahu said.
"People instinctively understand that Israel is America's best ally in the Middle East. The best ally of the United States. And you know, in Israel we think America is our best ally too. There's a very, very strong bond there," he added. "Yes, we can have disagreements between governments. That happens in the best of families, but we are one family."
The United States and other Western powers have been negotiating with Iran to limit its nuclear program, with a November 24 deadline for a deal fast approaching.
Netanyahu reiterated Israel's opposition to any agreement that leaves Iran with a residual capacity to enrich uranium, and urged tougher sanctions on Tehran as an alternative to a deal.
"The alternative to a bad deal is not war. The alternative to a bad deal are more sanctions, tougher sanctions, that will make Iran dismantle its capacity to make nuclear bombs," he said.
AFP contributed this report/First Published: 11.16.14,
Indifference to misery
The Daily Star/Nov. 17, 2014
President Barack Obama spent some of his weekend tour of Asia discussing his country’s policy on confronting the extremist group ISIS, and he had significant things to say about President Bashar Assad. Observers have been watching the American president closely of late as accusations mount that the White House is coordinating its airstrikes against jihadi groups with the Syrian authorities, who can only benefit from the actions of the U.S.-led coalition. Obama made it clear that Washington had no intention of joining forces with Assad to defeat ISIS, calling such a move counterproductive. But when asked whether his team was busy discussing ways to remove Assad from power, Obama answered flatly, “No.” While eradicating ISIS is necessary to deal with the Syria crisis, it’s not enough. Obama and his team have become adept at saying what they oppose – and acting on it – when it comes to the jihadis, but they’re not good at spelling out what they support – or acting on it – when it comes to Syria. Granted, there is talk of a desired “political solution,” but U.S. rhetoric and actions remain muddled on how such a process can be accelerated to save more lives. The words and deeds are carefully calibrated to play to the supposed American public’s preferences, namely fight terror, and don’t send U.S. troops. However, the words have nothing to offer to the majority of Syrians who are anxiously wondering how and when the war will end, with all sides benefiting from stability, justice and better government.When it comes to deeds, the Obama team’s casual indifference to Assad’s future translates into indifference to millions of Syrians as they prepare for another miserable winter. Washington has been prompted to act because of ISIS’ gains in Iraq, and it has a policy there, but its Syria policy simply can’t be placed on autopilot.
GCC Leaders End Dispute with Qatar,
Decide to Return Envoys to Doha
Naharnet/Gulf leaders agreed Sunday to return Saudi, Emirati, and Bahraini envoys to Qatar, ending eight months of tense relations with the gas-rich state over its support for the Muslim Brotherhood. Earlier, leaders including the emirs of Kuwait and Qatar, the king of Bahrain and the UAE vice president arrived in Saudi Arabia for a previously unannounced summit aimed at resolving their differences. Local media reported last week that leaders of the six-nation alliance, which also includes Oman, were expected to hold a meeting ahead of their annual summit in Doha on December 9-10, in a last-ditch bid to overcome internal differences. Kuwait's emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah has been leading a mediation effort to bridge the gap between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Qatar is accused of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and offering a safe haven to other banned Islamist groups. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain all withdrew their ambassadors to Doha in March, sparking one of the Gulf Cooperation Council's worst diplomatic rows since its creation in 1981. A GCC statement on Sunday said the agreement for the ambassadors to return to Doha "promises the opening of a new page that will present a strong base, especially in light of the sensitive circumstances the region is undergoing.""Based on this, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have decided to return their ambassadors to Doha," it said. The dispute had led to reports of the venue for the annual GCC summit being moved from Doha, although Kuwait last week denied any change.
A GCC foreign ministers' meeting which had been scheduled on November 10 to prepare for the summit was postponed as mediation efforts continued. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE have accused Qatar of meddling in their internal affairs by supporting the Brotherhood. Riyadh and Abu Dhabi label the Brotherhood a "terrorist" group, and the UAE has jailed dozens convicted of links to the Islamist organization. Doha earlier this year asked Brotherhood leaders to leave Qatar following diplomatic pressure from Saudi Arabia.
The UAE on Saturday issued a list of 83 Islamist groups which it classified as "terrorist organizations", among them the Qatar-based International Union of Muslim Scholars, which is headed by the Brotherhood's spiritual guide Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a Qatari citizen.
Agence France Presse
Terror org CAIR denounces Kassig
beheading as “anti-Islamic”
Robert Spencer/Jihad Watch/Nov 16, 2014
NihadAwadMoToonThe Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations, which the United Arab Emirates has just designated a terror organization, says that the beheading of Abdul-Rahman Kassig was “anti-Islamic.”
This AP story doesn’t explain what they’re basing that claim upon, and Hamas-linked CAIR probably didn’t explain. It could be several things. They could be trying to get away with claiming that Islam forbids or condemns beheadings, counting on Americans not knowing that the Qur’an says, “When you meet the unbelievers, strike the necks” (47:4), and that Muhammad beheaded between 600 and 900 men of the Jewish Qurayzah tribe. Or they could be basing it upon the Qur’an’s prohibition of Muslims killing other Muslims (4:92). Yet while Abdul-Rahman Kassig was indeed a convert to Islam, he was a former U.S. Army Ranger. The video of his beheading made mention of his service in the U.S. military and called him an “American Crusader.” A Muslim who fights against other Muslims is to be put to death according to Islamic law, and that’s what the Islamic State did. The third possibility is that terror org CAIR thinks the beheading “anti-Islamic” because it makes their job of deceiving Americans into thinking that the Qur’an and Sunnah are benign and peaceful, and that Americans need not be concerned about Sharia, all the harder.
“CAIR condemns ‘barbaric murder’ of US aid worker,” Associated Press, November 16, 2014 (thanks to Kenneth):
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Council on American-Islamic Relations has condemned what it calls the “barbaric murder” of an American aid worker who was apparently beheaded by Islamic State group militants.
The Washington, D.C.-based Muslim advocacy organization issued a statement Sunday denouncing the purported killing of 26-year-old Peter Kassig and other civilians.
CAIR says it repudiates “the anti-Islamic ideology that produces such brutality.”…
Ibn Warraq speaks at Yale
Robert Spencer/Jihadi Watch
Nov 16, 2014
Ibn_Warraq_070(Editor’s note: The renowned scholar of Islam recently spoke at Yale. Here is an outline of the talk he gave. — RS)
First, I should like to thank The William F. Buckley, Jr. Program at Yale for inviting me. I should also like to thank my friends and colleagues whose ideas have profoundly influenced what I am going to say today: Sebastian Gorka, Katherine Gorka, Robert Reilly, and Hugh Fitzgerald.
James Burnham’s book Suicide of the West is full of insights on US Foreign Policy, which I find relevant to this day. In fact one has only to substitute “Islam” for “communism” in many of his observations to realise their continuing pertinence. I shall limit myself to one of his observations from Chapter XII, Dialectic of Liberalism:
“The communists divide the world into “the zone of peace” and “the zone of war”. The zone of peace means the region that is already subject to communist rule; and the label signifies that within their region the communists will not permit any political tendency, violent or non-violent, whether purely internal or assisted from without, to challenge their rule. The “zone of war” is the region where communist rule is not yet, but in due course will be established; and within the zone of war the communists promote, assist and where possible lead political tendencies, violent or non-violent, democratic or revolutionary, that operate against non-communist rule. Clear enough, these definitions. You smash the Hungarian Freedom Fighters, and support Fidel Castro; you know where you are going.” Pp.227-228. The above could easily have been a dictionary definition of the Islamic doctrine of Jihad, and its notions of “Dar al-Islam” –the Zone of Peace, and Dar-al Harb –Zone of War”
Now onto my main points:
Our foreign policy should be guided by understanding and admitting the following realities:
1.We are engaged in a war of ideas, with our principal enemy: an ideology.
An ideology that will not collapse out of economic incompetence.
.2.The ideology of the terrorists is religiously based and derived from Islam and its founding texts, the Koran, hadith, and the sunna, and the history of the early caliphate.
3.One, but not the only, way we know this is because they tell us so. First , if you want to understand the enemy “Read what they say”. They constantly justify their acts with accurate and apt citations from the Koran and Hadith. They also refer to, among others, Sayyid Qutb’s work Milestones, Abdullah Azzam’s Defense of the Muslim Lands, S. K. Malik’s The Quranic Concept of Power, and Ayman Al-Zawahiri’s Knights Under the Prophet’s Banner. Some of the latter have doctorates from recognized Islamic universities, and to hear John Kerry trying to tell them their ideas have nothing to do with Islam is comical.
4.Islamic terrorism is not caused by “poverty, lack of education, sexual deprivation, psychological problems, or lack of economic opportunity..”, Western Imperialism, or Western decadence, or the Arab-Israeli conflict.
5.There are two kinds of Jihad: terrorism, and slow penetration of Western institutions subverting Western laws and customs from within.
6.Ignorance, naivety, arrogance, political correctness , sheer laziness, sentimentality, and Saudi, Qatari and Iranian money have led to Islamist successes in penetrating Western institutions, from the Voice of America, The Pentagon, CIA, FBI, DHS, PBS, to the universities and colleges where Islamic propaganda is shamelessly and openly disseminated.
7.While groups such as ISIS, al-Qaeda, and others are non-state actors, they are funded by states such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. These three countries, for example, also provide the necessary Islamic support, framework, and propaganda that spews forth anti-Western and and anti-American hatred. They should be warned or face the consequences.
8.It is also important to point out that it is not something we have done that is impelling the Islamists. Constantly apologising, Mr President, is pointless; they will not like or respect you the more.
9.We must learn the lessons of the cold war, for there are striking similarities between the Islamist ideology and that of Soviet Russia [Cf B.Russell, Jules Monnerot, Maxime Rodinson]
10.Speak out in support of the Christians who are being persecuted, and being killed almost every day in Islamic countries. Profound importance of this act of solidarity not realised by many in West.
11.In order to succeed we need urgently to recover our civilizational self-confidence.
12.One way we can fight jihadist ideology is to undermine their certainties, and one can accomplish this with Koranic Criticism. In the West, Spinoza hastened the Enlightenment by his Biblical Criticism.
There is an obvious need to understand the Islamic ideology to understand the mindset of the Islamic terrorists. Terrorism is not caused by poverty, and so on. It is their ideology that motivates them and is the source of its moral legitimacy. Without it, terrorism cannot exist.Terrorists are produced by a totalitarian ideology justifying terrorism.
While America has had some impressive tactical successes, and has managed to kill Osama bin Laden (May 2011) and Anwar al-Awlaki (in Sept.2011) it still fails to understand their goals, their ideology. The reasons for this failure are many:
First, there is a reluctance to address the religious inspiration of the acts of terrorism,to admit that their ideology is derived from Islam and its founding texts, the Koran, the Hadith, the Sunna and the early history of the Caliphate. Instead, the present administration exhorts us to use euphemisms such as “violent extremist”. “WhereasThe 9/11 Commission Report, published under the presidency of George W. Bush in July 2004 as a bipartisan product, had used the word Islam 322 times, Muslim 145 times, jihad 126 times, and jihadist 32 times,The National Intelligence Strategy of the United States, issued by the Obama administration in August 2009, used the term Islam 0 times, Muslim 0 times, jihad 0 times.” Now Obama’s policy applies to internal government documents as well, which can only have disastrous consequences for our understanding of political groups and events in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and South and South East Asia. “How can one possibly analyze the power and appeal of this ideology, the way that ideas set its strategy and tactics, why it is such a huge menace if any reference to the Islamic religion and its texts or doctrines isn’t permitted?”
Perhaps it was only in 1946, when George Kennan’s wrote his classified ‘Long Telegram’ that America began to understand the nature of the Soviet Union, why it acted the way it did, how the Kremlin thought, and why the USSR was a grave threat to America. In other words it took three decades to understand the mind of the enemy.
To complicate matters further, today there are two enemies: first, non-European, religiously informed non-state terrorist groups, like ISIS. Second, and equally dangerous, states that, in fact, fund and support them. There is evidence that, as the The Atlantic reported in June, 2014, “Two of the most successful factions fighting Assad’s forces are Islamist extremist groups: Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). And their success is in part due to the support they have received from two Persian Gulf countries: Qatar and Saudi Arabia.”
Our ability to fight al Qaeda and similar transnational terrorist actors will depend upon our capacity to communicate to our own citizens and to the world what it is we are fighting for and what it is that the ideology of Jihad threatens in terms of the values we hold so dear.
To quote Sun Tsu, in war it is not enough to know the enemy in order to win. One must first know oneself. However, with the end of the Cold War America and the West understandably lost clarity with regard to what it was about its way of life that was precious and worth fighting for.
James Burnham explains with exemplary clarity the reasons for this loss of self-confidence, and what he wrote is still, mutatis mutandis, relevant:
“Judging a group of human beings- a race, nation, class or party- that he considers to possess less than their due of well-being and liberty, the liberal is hard put to it to condemn that group morally for acts that he would not hesitate to condemn in his fellows.
“When the Western liberal’s feeling of guilt and his associated feeling of moral vulnerability before the sorrows and demands of the wretched become obsessive, he often develops a generalized hatred of Western civilization and of his own country as a part of the West. We can frequently sense this hatred in …[journals like] The Nation.”
In order to succeed we need urgently recover our civilizational self-confidence.
Ronald Reagan was able to succeed because he was supremely confident of the moral and spiritual superiority of his cause. He was thus able to state with certainty and without hesitation that the SovietEmpire was evil. He was not afraid to confront reality. He was able to defend our values because he believed in them totally. He told an audience at Moscow State University, “Go into any schoolroom [in America], and there you will see children being taught the Declaration of Independence, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights-among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness-that no government can justly deny….”
John Lenczowski describes what Reagan advocated unapologetically, “Altogether, the various ideas of freedom, democracy, human rights, moral order, and the dignity of the human person were promoted not only by the President’s rhetoric and personal moral witness but by the Administration as a whole in numerous forms: in Voice of America editorials, Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty broadcasts, in articles in United States Information Agency-published magazines targeted at Soviet-bloc populations, on the USIA-run billboard on the sidewalk outside the U.S. embassy in Moscow, in American diplomats’ addresses at various international fora, in the distribution of books to Soviet bloc audiences and U.S.libraries abroad, in films distributed abroad, and so on.”
To quote Asian columnist Banyan in the Economist,“For all its flaws and mis-steps, [America] represents not just economic and military might, but an ideal to aspire to, in a way that China does not. And when American leaders appear to give less weight to that ideal, they not only diminish America’s attractions, they also lend more credence to the idea of its relative economic and military decline.”
The rest of the world recognizes the virtues of the West. As Arthur Schlesinger remarked, “when Chinese students cried and died for democracy in Tiananmen Square, they brought with them not representations of Confucius or Buddha but a model of the Statue of Liberty.”
**Ibn Warraq is the author of Why I Am Not A Muslim, Defending the West, and many other books. His latest is Christmas in the Koran.
The Islamic State's Archipelago of Provinces
Aaron Y. Zelin /Washington Insitute
November 17, 2014
The group's now-formalized annexation model could have direct political and security consequences in several countries, creating a more complex threat environment for the U.S.-led coalition.
This week, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, released a rare public message in which he declared the creation of several new "provinces" in various Arab countries. It was the first time that he and his organization have acknowledged groups that have pledged baya (religiously binding oath of allegiance) to the so-called "Islamic State" since the announcement of its "Caliphate" six months ago. The audio message offers insight into the group's expansion model and its plans for exacerbating religious tensions between Sunnis and Shiites beyond Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. Whether Western governments want to admit it or not, the reality is that the Islamic State has expanded in a non-contiguous manner outside its base and now has authority over satellite groups and small amounts of territory outside Iraq and the Levant.
FROM GROUPS TO WILAYAT
Since the caliphate announcement in June, a cacophony of different individuals and groups have pledged baya to Baghdadi. Yet in this week's audio message, he only recognized the annexation of jihadist elements in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, along with jihadist groups in Algeria (Jund al-Khilafah), Libya (Majlis Shura Shabab al-Islam), and Sinai (Ansar Beit al-Maqdis). He ignored non-Arab factions based in Pakistan, Indonesia, the Philippines, and elsewhere that have made similar pledges to him. This could suggest tighter links with fellow Arab jihadists, or that the organizations outside the Arab world are not ready for exploitation and growth.
Baghdadi also noted that his declaration entails "nullification" of the local groups in the five places mentioned above, as well as "the announcement of new wilayat (provinces) of the Islamic State and the appointment of wulat (governors) for them." While he claimed to annex these "territories," publicly available information indicates that only the groups in Libya and Sinai can legitimately claim to control land -- the validity of such claims in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Algeria remains to be seen.
That said, those groups that do have proven territorial control -- which are now being dubbed Wilayat Libya and Wilayat Sinai -- could follow the same economic model of sustainability that the Islamic State has pursed in Iraq and Syria over the past couple years. If they have not done so already, the Libyan and Sinai groups are prime candidates for fully grafting their jihadist networks onto the traditional criminal enterprise networks that have been used for trafficking, smuggling, and other black market activities over the years. Therefore, these two new "provinces" could have some level of viability, at least in the short term. Questions remain about whether this model can be employed by the Islamic State's new Algerian, Saudi, and Yemeni members, who do not seem to control any territory at this juncture.
TARGETING SHIITES FIRST
In addition to declaring the annexations, Baghdadi made clear to his associates in Saudi Arabia and Yemen that it is time to start an overt military campaign against the rafidah, a derogatory term for Shiites that literally means "rejectionists." He also emphasized the order of priority, stating that jihadists in Wilayat al-Haramayn ("The Province of the Two Holy Places," meaning Saudi Arabia) and Wilayat Yemen should first target Shiites (including the Houthis), then the Saudi dynasty, and then finally the "Crusaders." In doing so, he formally clarified how the Islamic State perceives its enemies and its most immediate threat, while also illustrating its differences from al-Qaeda, an organization that has historically given precedent to fighting the "Crusaders" first.
If the Islamic State's followers in Saudi Arabia or Yemen follow through on this call for a campaign against Shiites, outsiders will be better able to measure the group's true influence and its level of command and control over those outside its base territory. Whatever happens, Baghdadi's message highlights his desire to continue projecting power in new areas. The Islamic State is staying true to its slogan of "remaining and expanding," in part to show the anti-ISIS coalition that while it may not have the same battlefield momentum it had this summer, it is still controlling territory in Iraq and Syria. For the group's leaders and adherents, this is a victory in of itself, supposedly highlighting how the will of God is on their side even as the world is against them.
In the end, the Islamic State's ability to expand its reach and its writ will depend on how successful this now-formalized annexation model proves to be. For now, and perhaps for the long term, this means the U.S.-led coalition will have to deal with a more complex threat environment.
**Aaron Y. Zelin is the Richard Borow Fellow at The Washington Institute and founder of the website Jihadology.net
Qatar Makes Peace With Its Gulf
Simon Henderson/Washington Insitute
November 17, 2014
A late-night agreement in Riyadh appears to have resolved the diplomatic spat between Qatar and its GCC partners, opening up the possibility of more diplomatic coordination and greater unity.
Yesterday, Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani of Qatar was shown kissing the cheek of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia during a meeting of Gulf leaders in Riyadh, a goodwill gesture underscored by the announcement that the Saudi, UAE, and Bahraini governments will return their ambassadors to Doha. Both moves signal the likely end of a dispute that has festered for more than a year and erupted into the open in March when the envoys were withdrawn. The Saudi Press Agency also announced that Gulf Cooperation Council governments had reached what it called the "Riyadh Complementary Arrangement," suggesting that they acknowledge the need to at least patch over differences preventing a united front against the "Islamic State"/ISIS and other challenges.
Although Qatari officials have been saying for weeks that the disagreement is over, differences between the fellow GCC members have been apparent even in recent days. For example, Bahrain and the UAE had announced they would boycott a world handball championship being hosted by Qatar in January, while a meeting of foreign ministers planned for next month's GCC summit in Doha was cancelled. And the day before the Riyadh meeting, the UAE -- which has been the most vociferous in complaining that Qatar is supporting the Muslim Brotherhood opposition in other GCC countries -- released a long list of MB-affiliated groups that it declared to be terrorist organizations.
Yesterday's reconciliation was a consequence of mediation by Emir Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah of Kuwait. King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa of Bahrain was also in attendance, while the UAE was represented by Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayed al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi and Sheikh Muhammad bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai. The only GCC member absent was Oman, whose ruler, Sultan Qaboos bin Said, is undergoing medical treatment in Germany and is also believed to oppose any further financial and economic union between council states -- a possibility implied in the Saudi Press Agency report, which mentioned moving "toward a bold and cohesive Gulf entity."
The details of the agreement were not revealed. Qatar expelled some leading Brotherhood officials in September and has denied funding extremist groups, but it often seems to enjoy its reputation as a maverick, epitomized by its hosting of the Aljazeera satellite television channel, which has often infuriated Arab governments. Despite hopes to the contrary, thirty-four-year-old Sheikh Tamim appears to be little different from his father, who abdicated last year. Both men aligned with Muhammad Morsi's Brotherhood administration in Egypt and opposed the military takeover led by current president Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, who is backed by Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. And despite ousting some MB members, Sheikh Tamim has given no indication that he will fully abandon his policy of supporting Islamist groups.
Nevertheless, when faced with the prospect of GCC leaders declining to attend the December 9-10 Doha summit, Sheikh Tamim appears to have blinked first. Assuming the summit will now take place, it remains to be seen whether the ninety-one-year-old King Abdullah, who regards the GCC as a very important institution and has been exasperated by Qatar's policies, will make an appearance.
The summit has a full agenda apart from its perennial denunciations of Israeli policies and Iran's long-running occupation of three UAE islands in the Persian Gulf. In Syria, the air forces of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Qatar have already joined the U.S. military campaign against ISIS, and removing Bashar al-Assad from power remains a key objective for each government. To varying degrees, GCC members are also worried by Iran's propensity to exert influence in their territories, as well as the progress of the ongoing nuclear talks.For the immediate future, then, greater confluence of policy seems likely between GCC states, which seem to recognize the need to display a more united front. This will create opportunities for the United States to push faster against the Assad regime and harder against ISIS. Notions of increased financial and economic union in the GCC will likely remain a mirage, though, at least for the current generation of leaders.
**Simon Henderson is the Baker Fellow and director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at The Washington Institute
The Next President's Mideast Mess
Robert Satloff /Politico
November 16, 2014
Try as he might, there's just too much for Obama to fix in the next two years.
Even God, it seems, is tired of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute -- and the never-ending standoff between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu. When a third intifada threatened to erupt recently following Israel's temporary closure of Muslim prayer at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in response to stone-throwing against Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall below, Palestinian leaders called for a "day of rage," and Israel dispatched more than 1,000 riot police to prepare for the worst. Commentators across the political spectrum competed with "I-told-you-so" predictions about the start of another Palestinian uprising.
And then it poured. A torrential, almost biblical rain kept Palestinian crowds down and Israel's powder dry -- for the moment, at least.
It will likely take an even more dramatic brand of divine intervention to prevent a slew of worsening Mideast problems -- renewed Israeli-Palestinian tensions, Islamic terrorism, Iranian nukes and so on -- from landing squarely on the desk of the next U.S. president, whether it's Hillary Clinton or anyone else. All indications are that President Obama is going to try to make a difference in his last two years, especially in securing what he reportedly believes could be a transformative nuclear agreement with Iran. But the overwhelming odds are that most of these problems will still be unresolved by the next inauguration -- and that the 45th president's tenure will be as engulfed by the Middle East as Obama's has been.
The Al-Aqsa episode occurred in the wake of the latest in a series of mini-crises between Washington and Jerusalem that have also raised the odds against a breakthrough. Most recently it was the "chickenshit" fracas, when journalist Jeffrey Goldberg reported that a senior U.S. official -- almost surely reflecting the view of the president himself, given Goldberg's record of access to the Oval Office -- had used this unusual epithet in response to Netanyahu's alleged preference to prioritize political survival over risk-taking for peace.
That in turn came on the heels of another mini-crisis, when the White House refused to grant a meeting to visiting Israeli defense minister Moshe Yaalon, who had previously insulted Secretary of State John Kerry's "messianic" badgering about peacemaking. Squeezed in between was a mini-crisis (or two) about Washington's denunciation of Israeli building projects in contested areas in and near Jerusalem, which the State Department said called into question Israel's commitment to peace.
And that's not all, as you might expect, since this is the Mideast. All of this followed a more serious crisis during the 50-day Hamas war, when the White House -- irate, if not well-informed, about Israeli fire-control policy against rockets launched from Gaza urban areas -- placed temporary administrative impediments to the standard release to Israel of Hellfire missiles from prepositioned stocks. In doing so, Obama shook what he likes to term the "unshakable" U.S.-Israeli defense cooperation relationship.
That added up to no fewer than four U.S.-Israel spats in just three months. Throw in the fact that Israel was on the receiving end of nearly 4,000 Hamas rockets over the summer and that, in September, Obama effectively declared war on the murderous Islamic State, also known as ISIL, the aspiring caliphate that has gobbled up large chunks of Iraq and Syria and now has Israel (along with peace partner Jordan and other Sunni Arab allies) in its sights, and this pattern of crisis seems especially abnormal for allies as close as the United States and Israel.
And we haven't even talked about Iran yet. Israelis and their friends on Capitol Hill -- not to mention Mitt Romney -- were outraged by Obama's not-so-secret missive to Iran's supreme leader, sensing another concession from Washington with the approaching November 24 deadline for the nuclear talks. Ayatollah Khamenei responded not with a letter of his own but with a nine-point "how-to" plan for the destruction of Israel, which only deepened contempt for what many view as the White House's naivete toward Iranian intentions.
The question is, what now? On one hand, with midterm elections having produced a more Republican, Israel-friendly (and Netanyahu-admiring) Congress, and with Barack Obama now a lame duck, Jerusalem has reason to think that the worst is now over. Indeed, it may be a good time for the president to decide to avoid head-on collisions with Israel and focus the last quarter of his presidency instead on the long list of common challenges the two countries face.
On the other hand, if Obama is a lame duck, he's also a free bird. With two years remaining in office and no elections left to contest, the president now has the latitude to pursue relations on issues relevant to Israel without regard to the domestic political fallout -- or concerns about further riling Bibi. Depending on the path he follows, his party might protest and Hillary Clinton might move more quickly and dramatically to distance herself from the boss she so faithfully served as secretary of state, but lame-duck presidents have legacy on their mind, not payback from party bosses.
There is little doubt that the game-changing breakthrough the president seeks most is a nuclear deal with Iran. Testing the possibility of turning a new leaf with the ayatollahs has been a constant of Obama's foreign policy; it explains his reluctance to aid the Green Revolution in 2009, his refusal to retaliate for Iranian troublemaking in Iraq prior to the U.S. withdrawal, and his willingness to face down senators from his own party who wanted to tighten sanctions in the wake of the interim nuclear deal last year. The president might now believe that there is an added bonus to a nuclear breakthrough with Iran in the form of cooperation against the Islamic State.
Although Jerusalem frequently praised the president for artfully arranging tight international sanctions that brought Iran to the negotiating table, the Israelis don't trust Washington's promises on the content of a putative deal. That's both because the administration has periodically surprised Israel on key issues, such as the secret talks in Iran that launched the current negotiations, and staked out tough positions to win political points only to dial them back when they proved diplomatically inconvenient.
When, for example, the Israelis buckled under intense White House pressure and opted not to launch military action against Iran's nuclear program in autumn 2012, they were soon buoyed by the president's comments in his third debate with Romney that the goal of U.S. policy was to seek Iran's implementation of U.N. resolutions. At that critical moment in the election campaign, the president had effectively endorsed Israel's long-sought demand for Iran's full suspension of nuclear enrichment. But confidence that Obama would hold that line was short-lived; a few months after his reelection, the president's chief Iran negotiator dismissed that same stance as "maximalist" and equated it with Iran's own extreme bargaining position. With that comment, it was clear that the Persian bazaar was open and no one -- certainly no Israeli -- could be sure where the deal would be struck.
On the other enduring U.S.-Israel quagmire -- the Middle East peace process -- the president is reportedly weighing four options for his last hurrah: launching one more Sisyphean effort to reach a breakthrough accord between Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas; issuing a sort of "last will and testament" on peacemaking, laying out an American plan that Obama would bequeath to his successor; abstaining on, rather than vetoing, a Palestinian statehood initiative at the U.N. Security Council whose wording would be drawn heavily from the president's past pronouncements; and fighting a guns-a-blazing final shootout with Jerusalem over Israel's settlement policy, the item that the president and his advisers consider the most serious obstacle to diplomatic progress (and, it should be said, to Israel's long-term survival as a Jewish and democratic state).
Each approach has its appeal and, at a different time with a different president, some of these ideas might even be constructive steps toward peace. But in the current environment -- when a dithering Abbas still hasn't answered Obama's questions from the last go-round at peacemaking in March; when the president looks like he might end up as politically radioactive to his successor as George W. Bush was to his; when a volte-face at the Security Council would probably trigger a Republican effort to defund the entire U.N. infrastructure; and when the only two beneficiaries of a no-holds-barred face-off on settlements are likely to be Hamas and Israel's hard right -- all these ideas would pave a road to diplomatic hell, good intentions notwithstanding. None would achieve its objectives, and each would instead underscore either Washington's insanity, its irrelevance or its incompetence.
Short of these Hail Mary passes, a more modest approach could still yield important dividends. A real effort to work with Netanyahu and Abbas to scale back tensions in Jerusalem, create visible economic improvement for Palestinians, shore up vital Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation that miraculously still survives, inject some common sense into U.S.-Israel dynamics on construction for Jewish housing in Jerusalem and nearby communities and, through that process, begin to restore political appeal to the possibility of peace among both communities would be a legacy the president's successor might be able to parlay into diplomatic progress. A key component here would be to capitalize on changed regional dynamics, especially the growing entente between Israel and Sunni Arab states and the Saudi, Egyptian and Emirati-led counterrevolution against the Muslim Brotherhood (including its local version, Hamas).
With its emphasis on practical cooperation over high-profile breakthroughs, such a strategy would not win any Nobel Peace prizes. It would, however, go far toward preventing the unwelcome distraction of Israeli-Palestinian confrontation at a time when the administration should be focused on achieving results in the fight against ISIL. In any case, the president has already checked that box.
Regrettably, however, chances are slim that the president pursues this approach. Incrementalism, step-by-step, bottom-up -- these conflict-management ideas have all been dirty words in an administration that committed itself, from its earliest days, to the mission of conflict resolution. To some, that has been a badge of honor; to others, a mark of Cain. In either case, it is difficult to imagine that the president would embrace a contrary strategy in the twilight of his term. If Obama rejects all four activist options outlined above, he is more likely to run away from the peace process altogether rather than invest in a less heroic version that could, as a byproduct, repair six years of strained relations between Washington and Jerusalem.
For those inclined to despair, it's worth noting that the disputes that seem especially frequent and virulent in the Barack and Bibi era have typically been the norm in the history of U.S.-Israeli relations.
Indeed, going back to Israel's founding, when the Truman administration recognized Israel just minutes after its birth and then slapped an arms embargo on the Jewish state even as it fought for its survival, the relationship has been tested by two sets of tensions. First, there is the inner tension: Washington and Jerusalem have disagreed since 1948 in a way that America disagrees with no other country on the most basic aspects of Israel's national character -- what is the legitimate size of the state? What should its borders be? Where is its capital?
Second is the outer tension: Powerful segments of the Washington national security establishment have, since Israel's founding, viewed the Jewish state as a one-stop shop of burdens, problems and obstacles to developing mutually beneficial relations with oil-rich sheikdoms and other key players in the Arab and Muslim worlds.
Under normal circumstances, this combination of tensions would long ago have made America and Israel bitter antagonists, if not outright enemies. But these two democracies -- one, the world's oldest; the other, its most boisterous -- share remarkably deep political, cultural, historic, moral and emotional connections. These connections did not erase the tensions, but they did give birth to two policies that effectively mediated them -- the Arab-Israeli peace process (born in the Nixon administration) and U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation (born in the Reagan administration). The former was a way to turn the zero-sum nature of the Arab-Israel dispute into a win-win proposition in which Arabs regain land lost in war, while Israel gets the peace and security it has long craved; the latter was a way to inject useful, substantive content into bilateral relations and push the more disagreeable elements to the margin.
It might seem odd to say it in a region that knows so little good news, but both policies have worked beyond the wildest imaginations of the statesmen and bureaucrats who originally conceived of them. The peace process might not have yet brought lasting peace to the Holy Land, but it has succeeded in shrinking a broad regional confrontation that pitted Israel against the entire Arab world into a much more limited conflict between two communities competing for control of territory west of the Jordan River. At the same time, this shrinking of historic enmities has opened avenues for Israeli coordination with Sunni Arab states based on shared concerns about the spread of ISIL-style extremism and Iran's hegemonic ambitions. One implication is that the tensions in Jerusalem in recent weeks triggered more reaction in Washington than in any Arab capital except Amman, which has a Palestinian majority.
What makes the Obama-Netanyahu relationship seem so especially troubled is that it comes after 16 years -- namely, the otherwise very different Clinton and George W. Bush administrations -- in which the United States and Israel shared both an ideological outlook on peacemaking and a practical approach to problem-solving.
Much of that was a function of those presidents' emotional affinity for Israel; some of that, of course, was fate. Bill Clinton was blessed to have leaders he admired -- Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak -- as partners for most of his term; similarly, Israel's leaders in the Bush years -- Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert -- were soulmates with the post-9/11 crusader. But Clinton also had a first-term Netanyahu as a counterpart for three years, and although he was no more enamored of Bibi on a personal level than Obama is today, the man that many friends of Israel only half-jokingly called "America's first Jewish president" found a way even to make diplomatic progress during that period.
The Obama-Netanyahu relationship is thus more reminiscent of the cold, calculating, distant relationship of two ex-spies -- Bush pere, the former CIA director, and Yitzhak Shamir, a one-time Mossad agent -- than anything seen since. That the former community organizer and the decorated army commando detest each other and wish each other political failure is well known. However, it is not very consequential. More significant is that each apparently believes the other has purposefully chosen to pursue policies injurious to his partner's strategic interests.
To caricature, if only slightly, views ascribed to Netanyahu, Obama's naive outreach to political Islamists (including the Muslim Brotherhood and Turkey's ruling AK party), his single-minded pursuit of detente with Iran and his refusal to hold Palestinian leader Abbas even partially accountable for stagnation in peace diplomacy, let alone for the Jew-hatred that spews forth from official Palestinian statements and media, suggest the American leader is an Islamist Manchurian candidate.
On the opposite side of the ledger, the president is said to be incensed by Netanyahu's slavish deference to Israel's neo-neanderthal right wing, his repeated announcements of provocative settlement plans that seem expertly timed to embarrass Washington, his creativity in finding excuses to avoid even the tiniest step toward compromise with the Palestinians, his timorous reluctance to use political power for any purpose other than to sustain political power and his unabashed embrace of the Republican Party, all of which points to the Israeli prime minister as not just an empty suit tailored by Sheldon Adelson but an unwitting recruiter for radical Islamists.
What is remarkable is that Barack and Bibi had such a deep well of mistrust of each other from the very start. Here, the original sin was, in my view, the Obama administration's refusal to affirm what insiders call "the Bush-Sharon letters" of April 2004. This was a set of understandings worked out between George W. Bush and Ariel Sharon that injected realism into U.S. peace diplomacy by recognizing that there would be no return to the 1949 armistice lines but that a resolution to the conflict would be governed by "new realities on the ground." That was a euphemistic reference to the existence of a substantial Jewish presence in blocs of settlements just east of the 1967 Green Line, whose growth would be governed by limitations agreed to by Washington and Jerusalem. The letters did not signify that Bush supported settlements; he didn't. Rather, they signaled his appreciation of the need to contain the U.S.-Israel dispute over settlements lest it undermine larger shared interests between the two countries.
By refusing to endorse the letters, Obama guaranteed that U.S.-Israel relations would face precisely the sort of mini-crises that have plagued his tenure. Indeed, by adopting an unrealistic Palestinian position on settlements, he even made life worse for Abbas by denying the Palestinian leader any wiggle room on the topic. Most importantly, Obama had taken the dramatic step of renouncing a presidential commitment. The rules had changed, and everyone in the Middle East -- Israeli, Arab, Iranian and Turk -- took note.
Netanyahu, of course, was far from blameless. By never using his strong domestic position to articulate a clear plan for peace that could attract American support and through a series of what seemed to Washington as spectacularly ill-timed provocations, he, his ministers, his handlers and his bureaucrats did an expert job confirming the Obama team's assessment that the prime minister was either untrustworthy or weak -- or even worse, both.
The result has been six years of a tortured, awkward relationship characterized by forced smiles, stabbed backs and leaked slurs. To be sure, each leader could argue he went the extra yard on behalf of the other -- for Netanyahu, this included a little-known but huge concession given to Washington in early 2014 to accept the 1967 lines as the basis for negotiations with the Palestinians; for Obama, this included an official visit to Israel in 2013 designed to repair the errors of the first term and put the relationship on surer footing. Both, however, could add that such acts were met with only ingratitude and insult.
Through it all, it is important to mention, the president identified three issues that would be cordoned off from the ill will in the bilateral relationship -- military cooperation, intelligence sharing and countering one-sided anti-Israel initiatives at the United Nations -- and he championed important initiatives in each arena. In this regard, generous U.S. funding for Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system was the poster child of the administration's vaunted commitment to Israeli security.
In reality, however, all these arenas were, in some way, infected by the poisonous atmosphere of the U.S.-Israel political relationship. This is evidenced, for example, by the brouhaha over deliveries of Hellfire missiles during the Hamas war and U.S. pique at Israel's periodic assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists as an unusually direct nonproliferation tactic. Most perplexing in this regard was the severity of White House pressure on Israel to ask its Capitol Hill friends to accept a waiver in U.S. law that would give the president a way out of suspending payments to U.N. agencies that recognize an independent state. Through it all, the Obama administration did not quite seem to realize that, in the eyes of allies and adversaries alike, political disputes have strategic consequences.
Despite all the headaches the Middle East has provided him, Obama might see the region not as a vast expanse of quicksand that could smother what's left of his ambition but as fertile territory for legacy-building in the final years of his administration. By all accounts, a strategic breakthrough with Iran would meet that test. But even with his best efforts -- in the form of concessions in key areas of negotiations and willingness to cede considerable regional influence to Tehran -- the president might not be able to secure the supreme leader's agreement to a deal. Indeed, there are many possible reasons Iran might just not take yes for an answer. In that case, Washington almost surely would prefer a face-saving extension of the existing interim agreement rather than a total collapse of talks that could trigger a spiral of sanctions and retribution whose end cannot be infallibly foreseen.
In the current environment, Israel prefers an extension of the interim deal to either of the two other options -- a comprehensive agreement, whose terms will almost surely include far more Western concessions than even many dovish Israelis can accept, or diplomatic breakdown, which could very well end international sanctions on Iran and open the path toward nuclear breakout. As the clock ticks toward the November 24 deadline for these talks, however, Israel's ability to affect the outcome is limited. That is the reality encapsulated so eloquently in the "chickenshit" interview.
In terms of peacemaking, the president faces a dilemma. When he came to office nearly six years ago, he declared this a top foreign policy priority and appointed former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell as his special envoy, and he could leave office with a concerted push to make his lasting legacy some form of progress here. This could either be trilaterally, as midwife to an Israeli-Palestinian agreement; internationally, at the United Nations; or bilaterally, via a clarifying face-off on settlements between Washington and Jerusalem. But two major U.S. diplomatic efforts have already come a cropper -- the 10-month settlement freeze that led to just two weeks of negotiations in 2010 and Secretary of State Kerry's dogged if quixotic peace effort in 2013 and 2014 -- and Obama probably doesn't want to emulate Bill Clinton, who devoted the last year of his presidency pursuing what proved to be an impossible peace dream.
But in the upwelling of more and more bad news, there could be a remarkable silver lining. The emergence of a new Middle East crisis unconnected to the Arab-Israel conflict -- the rise of the Islamic State -- might have the perverse effect of convincing regional players themselves to work together and, in the process, advance a long-sought U.S. policy objective.
Sunni Arabs and Israel have built their own quiet set of strategic understandings in recent years, based in large part on shared disappointment with Washington and fueled by a common sense of threat from both Sunni and Shiite extremists. While this has so far been muted and under the table, it is not crazy to imagine this carrying over into peace diplomacy. Thus, if Obama presses forward with a bold new peacemaking effort that proves nettlesome to Israel and a distraction to the Arabs, he might be confronted with what Jimmy Carter faced in 1977. That is the year Arabs and Israelis -- in that case, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin -- came together to thwart Carter's ill-conceived idea of a joint U.S.-Soviet international peace conference by pursuing an initiative on peacemaking on their own, Sadat's journey to Jerusalem. Today, one should not discount Arab and Israeli leaders reacting with shared revulsion at ham-fisted diplomacy by the White House to create their own platform for regional peacemaking.
Imagine that: Arabs and Israelis coming together in unprecedented fashion to talk peace not because of a presidential initiative but to spite a presidential initiative. Now, that's a legacy.
**Robert Satloff is executive director of The Washington Institute.
The decisive Emirati blacklist
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
Monday, 17 November 2014
The United Arab Emirates is the second Arab Gulf country after Saudi Arabia to designate the Yemeni Houthi movement of Ansar al-Allah as a terrorist group. This step is significant on many levels, especially as it reorganizes relations in a region which has seen dangerous political changes. The group was blacklisted because it takes directives from Iran and because it is being employed to take over the Yemeni state amid a regional war.
The Houthi movement was one of 84 groups to be officially designated by the UAE on Saturday as terrorist groups. The Emirati move angered some parties and particularly angered the media outlets affiliated with Muslim Brotherhood groups who were ranked at the top of the terror list. “The majority of objections to the Emirati terror list came from the Muslim Brotherhood”
Instead of defending the Brotherhood’s record or exonerating them, these media outlets reacted by condemning the exclusion of Lebanon’s Hezbollah from the list. Of course, Hezbollah was blacklisted and banned a long time ago. The recently endorsed Emirati list includes factions that support Hezbollah such as the Hezbollah in Saudi Arabia’s Hijaz, a group that follows Iran, Hezbollah in the Gulf region, the Badr organization and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq in Iraq. All these groups are extremist Shiites.
The list also included extremist Sunni organizations such as al-Qaeda, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Harakat Ahrar ash-Sham in Syria, Ansar al-Sharia in Libya, Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia, Bayt al-Maqdis in Egypt, al-Gamaa al-Islamiyya in Egypt, Ajnad Misr in Egypt and the Uma Parties in the Gulf and Arabian Peninsula which are extremist Salafist groups.
In the past, terrorist groups were limited in number and they had clear platforms. However, today, as a result of chaos and raging wars in one third of Arab countries, these groups have increased in number and all resemble each other in the eyes of many people.
Keeping in quiet
There have always been these lists and all states have them. However, keeping these lists confined to the ministries of interior and foreign affairs is no longer politically useful as making the names public is an important part of the move to besiege such groups. Houthi supporters will, for example, find out that their rivals include Saudi Arabia and the UAE in addition to the weak transitional government of Yemen. The Houthis must therefore choose which camp they prefer.
The majority of objections to the Emirati terror list came from the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been engaged in battles against the UAE for a while now on behalf of other parties. One notices that the excuses they resort to can actually be used to condemn them. They said that Lebanon’s Hezbollah was not listed and this is not true as the party was banned a long time ago. Hezbollah is also a long-time ally of the Brotherhood itself. Another rebuttal of theirs is that they are a political and an intellectual group and it makes no sense to have them banned along with the likes of ISIS and al-Qaeda terrorist groups. This was true in the past; however, events in Egypt and Gaza and the Muslim Brotherhood’s activities in the Gulf prove that the group will not hesitate to resort to violence to achieve its goals – just as the case is in Egypt today. The Brotherhood-rooted Hamas killed dozens of Fatah members in Gaza to seize and maintain power there for years.
Brotherhood groups in the Gulf called for revolting against local governments, thinking that it was appropriate to ride the Arab Spring wave of chaos in a bid to take power. When it failed to do so, it allied with these countries’ foreign rivals. The roles of the Brotherhood’s political and military wings have become blurred over the past three years as they have begun to work closely together. This prompted countries like the UAE and others to view the Brotherhood as even more dangerous than ISIS.
Clarity in the current phase of chaos makes it easy for everyone to understand what’s going on and to differentiate between an enemy and a friend.
It’s democracy and not political Islam
Jamal Khashoggi/Al Arabiya
Monday, 17 November 2014
In the bid to shift to democratic systems in the Arab world, questions on religion and its role in politics and the state have hampered the transition. Such issues have divided elites and pushed them toward an unhealthy state of entrenchment and polarization. Such divisions, entrenchment and polarization negatively affect society and obstruct the democratization process. So is it a real case or a made-up one? I used to think it was real. I participated in many seminars on democratization in the last quarter of the previous century, the beginning of which was marked by the fall of the Berlin Wall that sparked a series of democratization moves in Eastern Europe. Most of these succeeded in a short space of time and those that didn’t eventually did. “Progressive governments found their consolation in Salafism and encouraged it to grow. They clashed with it sometimes and made use of it at other times” During the seminars, participants had voiced a desire for a similar transformation in the Arab world. The question among intellectuals back then was: Can political Islamist parties be “rehabilitated” and integrated in political life as partners in the electoral process.
Right around the corner
This question was raised as if democracy were waiting for Arabs right around the corner. However, it turned out that the aim of the question was not to prepare Arab countries for democratic transformation but to actually to serve of warning of it. The expression “one man, one vote for one time” was espoused as a warning to the West not to push Arabs toward democracy as Islamist parties would win in the elections and then renege on the democratic process. The events in Algeria in 1992 and in Egypt in 2013, when militaries intervened in the democratic process with the approval and encouragement of “civil liberal” forces, totally overturned that theory and transferred the problem of dealing with democracy to the democratic camp. However, observers, oddly, persistently ask the question of whether political Islamist parties are qualified to engage in democracy! This kind of rhetoric, which cannot be taken seriously, is being used by liberal forces to cover up their shameful stance on democracy. It is also a call to a return to an Arab condition that ended and there is no returning to. During that “distant” period, political analysts, Arab researchers, Westerners and local reformists dealt with a stubborn political bloc holding on to power and enjoying some sort of legitimacy as a result of its domination. Back then, this bloc seemed to be the political fate of all Arabs.
Old Arab system
This constitutes the old Arab system which was formed of three elements: the military institution as a leader, an obedient bureaucracy running the country’s affairs and a civil faction benefitting from the arrangement. There were thus attempts to limit the participation of Islamists in state institutions. These attempts came after they failed to eliminate Islamists despite the abuse they suffered such as unjust executions, never-ending detentions and smear campaigns. These practices against Islamists were not the result of an awakened conscience or of a desire to reform but rather a campaign in reaction to the Islamists’ popular support on the streets. Official media outlets tried to minimize the support the Islamist factions had in fact really in neighborhoods and mosques.
This issue found its way to cultural seminars and newspaper columns with the title “political Islam and democracy.” At one point, it appears as a desire toward reform and openness; at another, a desire to justify the distorted implementation of democracy. Thus emerged the alleged pretext stating the need to protect civil society from the predominance and underdeveloped ideas of political Islam which both threatened achieved social reforms.
Progressive governments found their consolation in Salafism and encouraged it to grow. They clashed with it sometimes and made use of it at other times by encouraging the Salafist school of obedience, which calls on poor people and the public in densely populated neighborhoods to be obedient. They also benefitted from Salafism’s lack of openness, which makes it incapable of accepting democracy as they view it as heresy and aggression against God’s governorship and sharia law. This narrow vision was generalized to cover all political Islamist parties. Intellectuals in support of their respective governments were thus like Don Quixote – they enjoyed fighting a non-existent idea in the core of active Islamism which has made up/ synchronized with democracy since the 1930’s.
However, encouraging Salafist ideas led to the relapse of some activists with regard to pushing for democracy. This occurred with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt after Hosni Mubarak was toppled. During the two years of short-term democracy, the Brotherhood’s deviation from the traditional Egyptian patriotic project – which set them apart during the 1940s – was clear.The Brotherhood has thus paid the price in terms of its popularity, particularly among the intellectual elite.
Dialogue and competition
Dialogue and competition between political Islamist parties and the old Arab governments were not always distinguished by struggle. There has been co-operation between the two in some Arab countries such as in Yemen where the Brotherhood allied with ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh for more than two decades. This alliance did not end until the Arab Spring erupted. Another example is Sudan, where an alliance was formed between the army and Islamists. This latter partnership was established according to the rules of the old Arab regime – i.e. it came at the expense of democracy. Arabs’ problem - whether they are liberals or Islamists – is with democracy and not with political Islam or any other ideology. Their hesitant and selective stance on democracy is what obstructed the democratization process in the region. It’s time to raise questions for the future. Democracy, popular participation or shura – call it what you wish – will inevitably be realized. It’s a natural and inevitable development of history. One of its most important conditions is the right to choose. This right, which seems simple, is what changed the face of Europe when the government of the German Democratic Republic announced on Nov. 9, 1989, that its citizens have the right to cross the infamous Berlin Wall and visit West Berlin. This right transformed into waves of people tearing the wall down and ending the rule of the totalitarian regime, not only in the “democratic republic” of Germany but in the entirety of Eastern Europe.
Democracy is the right to choose. No elites, no matter how aware they are, can specify who has the right to participate in this game of democracy and who doesn’t. Gamal Abdel Nasser did so via his coup against a democratic regime on July 23, 1952.
Abdel Nasser rested himself and the regime when he formed what he called the “socialist union” to resolve the crisis of his totalitarian regime which had been threatened by the wish for democracy that was engraved in the Egyptians’ conscience. The parliament was thus made up of Abdel Nasser’s club and was not a popular parliament operating according to the rules of liberal democracy. He therefore set a bad example which was followed by other coup leaders in the Arab world.
There is either complete democracy as promised by any civilized constitution or no democracy at all. I also think that democracy cannot be postponed until prosperity prevails and the economy improves and people’s awareness increases. The time-tested theory is that past attempts at democracy did not achieve their aims due to tyranny. Therefore, tyranny cannot achieve prosperity and ensure a stable economy because the rules of “disclosure, accountability and punishment” will not be respected. The premise is clear and there’s no need for another article on the disadvantages of tyranny.
It’s crunch time as Iran’s nuclear
Camelia Entekhabi-Fard/Al Arabiya
Monday, 17 November 2014
While the world holds its breath over the Iranian nuclear talks, with a week to go before the November 24 deadline it is still not clear whether the agreement will be reached in time.
Two days of trilateral intense meetings between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and EU representative Catherine Ashton wrapped up on Monday 10 November in Muscat with “no news.”
Iran’s nuclear file key to reaching peace and stability in the region and many people are anxiously following the latest news to know if the moderate government of Hassan Rowhani and democrat U.S. president Barak Obama would be able to tackle this long standing issue.
Some said the talks in Oman were frustrating but this depends on the expectations held. The talks were not totally unsuccessful as the core aim of this meeting was to find a mutual under-standing between Iran and the United States. Oman offered Iran and the U.S. a friendly hand at this crucial time and tried helping them reach the conclusion before momentum was lost, as Oman’s Foreign Minister Yousef Bin Alwai said.
“A nuclear deal is the first step toward Iran becoming a “great power” by enabling it to escape international isolation”
Alawi emphasized the fact that his counterparts in the GCC had talked to him on the phone and they showed support for the talks in Oman. “ The breakthrough [on nuclear talks] will be followed by a situation of stability and cooperation on the region and international levels and all misunderstands will be becoming friendship.” FM Alwai told the press on November 11.
The meeting in Oman was a call for peace between the U.S. and Iran offered by a mutual friend.
Eye on the talks
The next round of the talks and the last one before the interim agreement expires on November 24 has been scheduled to be taking place in Austria on Tuesday November 18.
The foreign ministers of the negotiating countries of the P5+1 (five permanent members of the U.N. security council plus Germany) have been told to make themselves available between 18-24 November to come to Vienna when they are needed.
But why have the negotiations been lagging? I feel that what has been preventing Iran and the U.S. from reaching the nuclear deal is beyond the sanctions and the number of the centrifuges. Of course, their difference is mainly about Iran’s demands for the removal of all sanctions and for the U.S., it is about the level of uranium enrichment and the number of centrifuges Iran can attain.
Sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program are only one piece of the international sanctions regime. For example, sanctions related to Iran’s ballistic missile program and human rights violations would still be in place. They can’t be removed right away with the other sanctions like the embargoes on oil or the banking system being removed. This is particularly since Iran refused to include the bal-listic missile issue in nuclear negotiations.
A nuclear deal is the first step toward Iran becoming a “great power” by walking out from international isolation and becoming a natural partner of the big players – but it won’t come without compromise.
The region is waiting to see if whether after more than three decades of animosity between Iran and the U.S. peace could be granted once and for all. For Israel, they are waiting to see if the talks will fall apart and perhaps hope that the Republican-dominated Congress will restrain Obama from further flexibility toward Iran.
Lastly, if the talks are to be extended, Iran runs a risk because international politics and will quickly change and the momentum that picked up in Oman shouldn’t be lost.