LCCC ENGLISH DAILY
Bible Quotation For
Today/Who Formerly Persecuted Us Is Now Preaching The
Galatians 01/01-24: "Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers and sisters with me, To the churches in Galatia: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus. Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie. Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they praised God because of me."
Question: "What does the Bible say about
GotQuestions.org/Answer: Thankfulness is a prominent Bible theme. First Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Did you catch that? Give thanks in all circumstances. Thankfulness should be a way of life for us, naturally flowing from our hearts and mouths.
Digging into the Scriptures a little more deeply, we understand why we should be thankful and also how to have gratitude in different circumstances.
Psalm 136:6 says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.” Here we have two reasons to be thankful: God’s constant goodness and His steadfast love. When we recognize the nature of our depravity and understand that, apart from God, there is only death (John 10:10; Romans 7:5), our natural response is to be grateful for the life He gives.
Psalm 30 gives praise to God for His deliverance. David writes, “I will exalt you, O Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. O Lord my God, I called to you for help and you healed me. O Lord, you brought me up from the grave; you spared me from going down into the pit. . . . You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever” (Psalm 30:1-12). Here David gives thanks to God following an obviously difficult circumstance. This psalm of thanksgiving not only praises God in the moment but remembers God’s past faithfulness. It is a statement of God’s character, which is so wonderful that praise is the only appropriate response.
We also have examples of being thankful in the midst of hard circumstances. Psalm 28, for example, depicts David’s distress. It is a cry to God for mercy, protection, and justice. After David cries out to God, he writes, “Praise be to the Lord, for he has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song” (Psalm 28:6-7). In the midst of hardship, David remembers who God is and, as a result of knowing and trusting God, gives thanks. Job had a similar attitude of praise, even in the face of death: “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised” (Job 1:21).
There are examples of believers’ thankfulness in the New Testament as well. Paul was heavily persecuted, yet he wrote, “Thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him” (2 Corinthians 2:14). The writer of Hebrews says, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28). Peter gives a reason to be thankful for “grief and all kinds of trials,” saying that, through the hardships, our faith “may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:6-7).
The people of God are thankful people, for they realize how much they have been given. One of the characteristics of the last days is a lack of thanksgiving, according to 2 Timothy 3:2. Wicked people will be “ungrateful.”
We should be thankful because God is worthy of our thanksgiving. It is only right to credit Him for “every good and perfect gift” He gives (James 1:17). When we are thankful, our focus moves off selfish desires and off the pain of current circumstances. Expressing thankfulness helps us remember that God is in control. Thankfulness, then, is not only appropriate; it is actually healthy and beneficial to us. It reminds us of the bigger picture, that we belong to God, and that we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3). Truly, we have an abundant life (John 10:10), and gratefulness is fitting.
analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 21-22/14
Female Genital Mutilation in the West: A Creeping Crime Against Humanity/Phyllis Chesler/Breitbart/November 21/14
Lebanon’s independence: Reality or dream/Hussein Dakroub/The Daily Star/November 21/14
Stopping an Awakening in Iraq before it can start/David Ignatius/The Washington Post/November 21/14
Remarks at a Solo Press Availability/John Kerry/US State Of Department/November 21/14
Islamic State vs its far enemy/PAUL ROGERS/Open Democracy/November 21/14
Lebanese Related News published on November 21-22/14
Obama Congratulates Lebanese on Independence Day, Regrets Presidential Vacuum
Hariri Says 'Disgraceful' to Mark Independence Day without President
Qahwaji Vows to 'Root Out' Terrorists, Lauds Army for Thwarting their Plot
Lebanon Scraps Independence Rally in First Since Civil War
University Complex, Garden Announced on Anniversary of Pierre Gemayel's Assassination
Arsal Captives' Conditions 'Very Bad' as Soldier Reported Killed in August Clashes
Report: Salam Plans to Meet with EU Officials over Refugee Crisis
Bassil Calls for 'Political Independence,' Rejects 'Interference'
Syria wanted to turn Lebanon into a dictatorship
Lebanon’s independence: Reality or dream
LF welcomes Aoun’s call for faceoff
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Storm Misha Lashes Lebanon, Flooding Roads, Pouring Hail
4 Suspects, Including Cleric, Arrested for Working for ISIL
Theft Gang Member Caught Red-Handed in Beirut
Bone-Crushing Factory in Beirut Indefinitely Shut as Farm Closed in Choueifat
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Lebanon’s independence: Reality or dream?
Hussein Dakroub/The Daily Star
Nov. 21, 2014
BEIRUT: More than 70 years after the French mandate rule ended, the majority of Lebanese are unconvinced that their politically divided country, reeling under the influence of regional and international powers that are using Lebanon as a venue to vie for influence in the region, is really independent.
“Lebanon is certainly not independent,” Sami Nader, a professor of economics and international relations at the Universite St. Joseph, told The Daily Star. “The country has lost the components of its sovereignty – as well as its resilience – as a result of its sectarian system and interference by regional powers in its internal politics.”
This week marks the 71st anniversary of Lebanon’s independence from France and the country faces uncertainty and serious threats to its security and stability as a result of the spillover of the war in Syria into Lebanese territory.
But although French rule ended in 1943, many today would question whether Lebanon, its history marked by sectarian wars and political instability, is really independent, especially given the growing meddling by regional and international powers in its domestic politics.
One question being asked by the Lebanese is: Is a country that fails to elect a president without foreign interference and hold parliamentary elections on time, and whose government is crippled by internal divisions, really independent?
Senior government officials publicly admit that the key to ending the political deadlock that has left Lebanon without a president for nearly six months lies with regional and international powers, citing particularly a long-awaited rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which back opposing sides in the country.
Such a declaration enhances the widely held view that Lebanon does not have the freedom to choose its own president, let alone decide its own destiny, without foreign input.
“The presidential election is a matter of a regional consensus rather than a consensus among the Lebanese,” Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk said in a TV interview this week.
In another interview screened on Future TV recently, he said: “The presidential election is a regional and international decision and no one from inside [Lebanon] can decide on it.”
Critics of Hezbollah, both local and foreign, contend that Lebanon cannot be independent and sovereign while the powerful Shiite party maintains its arsenal in defiance of state authority. The March 14 coalition, along with regional and international powers, have repeatedly called for Hezbollah’s disarmament in line with U.N. resolutions and for the Lebanese state to have the sole monopoly over the use of arms.
Ironically, the Lebanese will not be able this week to enjoy official celebrations of Saturday’s independence anniversary in the absence of an elected president, just one of the consequences of the vacuum in the country’s top Christian post.
Prime Minister Tammam Salam, whose half-Muslim, half-Christian government is exercising full executive powers in the absence of the Maronite president, said there would be no celebrations, which usually include a military parade, on Independence Day this year while the country remained without a head of state.
Salam said he refused to hold independence celebrations on behalf of the president.
Celebrations marking Army Day on Aug. 1 were also canceled for the same reason.
The word “independence” rings hollow among ordinary citizens who contend that Lebanon is far from being an independent and sovereign country, given the fact that its long-simmering internal problems, further aggravated by the presence of more than 1 million Syrian refugees and an estimated 400,000 Palestinian refugees, have become entangled with the region’s wider conflicts.
“What independence are you talking about when all the major regional and international powers are interfering in Lebanon’s domestic politics and trying to play a role in the election of a president and the Cabinet’s formation?” said Mohammad Najdeh, a grocer in Beirut’s southern suburbs. “After the Syrians withdrew from Lebanon, now we have the Americans, French, Saudis, Iranians and even Israelis jockeying for influence in the country.”
Dr. Bassem Saab, a family physician at the AUB Medical Center, concurred that Lebanon’s independence had been undermined by regional and international powers that use the country to further their own ends.
“I don’t feel Lebanon is really independent because its internal politics is affected by external powers,” he said.
In addition to a power struggle within Lebanon between regional and Western countries, Saab blamed what he called the “absence of a powerful state” as well as the country’s sectarian system, for the lack of genuine independence.
“Unfortunately, Lebanon is a fertile ground for rival politicians who exploit the country’s sectarian system for their benefit by sharing the spoils of power. The politicians’ endemic bickering over influence and government posts is a major hindrance to the creation of a powerful state,” Saab said.
Imad Salamey, political science professor at the Lebanese American University, said Lebanon had never been independent, despite officially gaining independence in 1943. “The country’s domestic politics has always been decided by regional and international powers,” Salamey told The Daily Star. “Lebanon has never truly been independent to decide its own destiny. Lebanon has sought regional and international guarantees for its domestic political arrangement, whether it pertains to the election of a president or its power-sharing formula.”
He added that negotiations were ongoing between the U.S., Iran and to some extent Saudi Arabia, to enable the election of a new president to take place.
Salamey said Lebanon nowadays was linked to the region. “We cannot speak about Lebanon’s independence while Lebanon depends on financial, economic and military support of other countries, like Saudi Arabia, the U.S. and Iran,” he said.
“We are living in a globalized world and a small village. All states are interdependent and interlinked. So what happens in one state affects what happens in another state.
“If there is an economic problem in the U.S., it affects Dubai. The security of the world is also inter-linked. So the stability of one country has implications for the stability of another.”
Despite acknowledging the role of regional and international states in the country’s domestic politics, Salamey said Lebanon today was “better off than when it was under Syrian and Israeli occupation.”
Nader, the USJ professor, said that despite the absence of independence and the popular upheavals currently sweeping across the region, “the good news is that Lebanon still exists and its sectarian coexistence formula has survived unscathed during the sharp political crises that have gripped the country since its independence.”
“Lebanon still maintains its free enterprise system, a private initiative and a vibrant civil society,” said Nader, who is also the director of the Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs, a Beirut-based think-tank.
“The Lebanese coexistence formula has proved viable despite all setbacks. Lebanon is more viable than any other country in the Arab region. This is a sign of hope. This formula could be applied in all Arab countries that have been jolted by pro-democracy popular upheavals,” Nader said. The parliamentary Future bloc, which has blasted Hezbollah’s military intervention in Syria, lamented that the independence anniversary this year came amid “critical and harsh circumstances” for the Lebanese, and while the country was without a president. After its weekly meeting Tuesday, the bloc issued a statement that said: “The bloc sees that genuine independence is [attained] by working to extend the Lebanese state authority and prestige over all its territories without the presence of any other rival authority and by putting an end to violations by outlaws or de facto forces and militias that are still trying to proliferate and expand.”
Obama Congratulates Lebanese on
Independence Day, Regrets Presidential Vacuum
Naharnet /21.11.14/U.S. President Barack Obama congratulated the Lebanese people on Friday on the occasion of Lebanon's 71st Independence Day, lamenting on the anniversary the current vacuum in the presidency. He said in a message to Lebanon: “As a friend of the Lebanese people, the United States regrets this anniversary day passes without an elected president of the Lebanese Republic, an important but missing symbol of the unity of the nation and a key factor in promoting Lebanese sovereignty and stability.”“The election of a president must be a Lebanese decision only, but it is a decision that must be taken for the sake of the Lebanese people,” he added. “The United States strongly supports Lebanon's founding principles of sovereignty and independence, and the exercise of freedoms for all,” he continued. “The United States is proud of our strong relations with the Lebanese people. These include economic, cultural, and educational ties over many generations.,” said Obama. “These ties have been bolstered by the numerous contributions of Americans of Lebanese descent,” he stressed. “We are also proud of our longstanding relationship with the Lebanese Armed Forces, and the Internal Security Forces, and of our contributions to the development of these state institutions, which alone have the legitimacy and responsibility to defend Lebanon's borders and safeguard its citizens, and are accountable to all Lebanese,” he remarked. “The United States will continue to stand with our Lebanese partners in the face of the threat extremists pose to our countries and the world,” stated the U.S. president. “The Lebanese people are among the most resilient in the world. I am confident that, with the support of the international community, they can continue to overcome adversity and build a path to stability and prosperity in the face of the numerous challenges Lebanon is facing in the region today,” he noted. “The Lebanese people deserve this and more. On this happy occasion, I pay tribute to them and to the enduring ties between our two countries,” he concluded.
Independence Day falls on November 22, marking Lebanon's independence from the French mandate in 1943.
Lebanon Scraps Independence Rally in First Since Civil War
Naharnet/21.11.14/Lebanon's government has decided to cancel Independence Day celebrations for the first time since the 1975-1990 civil war because of the country's presidential vacuum, the information minister said Friday. The failure of parliament to elect a new president reflects a profound political crisis linked to the war in neighboring Syria. "Yesterday Prime Minister (Tammam) Salam gave a message during the parliamentary session that we would not celebrate Independence Day this year... because of the presidential vacuum," minister Ramzi Jreij told AFP. Lebanon was due to mark the 71st anniversary of its independence from France on Saturday with a parade involving all the country's security forces. The cancellation is the first since the end of the civil war, and comes amid a stalemate over the election of a successor to president Michel Sleiman, who stepped down in May. "For the first time, the Independence Day celebrations are being cancelled, because of the presidential vacuum," a military source confirmed. The day is usually marked with a speech to the nation by the president on the eve of the holiday and a military parade on the day itself in Beirut, attended by the country's political leadership. Another military source said the decision to cancel the celebrations was also influenced by an ongoing crisis involving the kidnapping of 27 security forces by jihadists. The men -- soldiers and police -- have been held since August, when jihadists from the conflict in Syria briefly overran the town on Arsal, on the Lebanese border. Three hostages have already been killed by their captors, and the country has been on edge for months over the fate of the remaining 27. Lebanon is deeply divided over the war in Syria. Powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah has deployed thousands of troops in Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad's regime. Most of the country's Sunnis support Syria's anti-Assad revolt. Lebanon was dominated politically and militarily by Damascus until 2005. Syria continues to exert a strong influence over Lebanese politics through its allies. Agence France Presse
Hariri Says 'Disgraceful' to Mark Independence Day without President
Naharnet /21.11.14/Al-Mustaqbal movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri said on Friday that it was “disgraceful” for Lebanon's Independence Day to be celebrated amid a vacuum at the Baabda Palace, calling for the election of a head of state whose priority lies in fighting strife. “It is disgraceful for Independence Day to come in the absence of a president, who is given by the constitution the honor of oath to preserve the independence and the territorial integrity of the nation,” said Hariri in a statement. The Lebanese will not be able to enjoy official celebrations on the independence's 71st anniversary on Saturday. Prime Minister Tammam Salam said there would not be a military parade on Independence Day this year because the country remains without a head of state. President Michel Suleiman's six-year term ended in May. “Independence is meaningless if there is an intention to replace the authority of the (French) mandate with a vacuum in constitutional institutions,” said Hariri. “The insistence to remain in the circle of vacuum ... means there is an urgency to keep Lebanon divided and lost,” he warned. “This is an insult to the elite of men who made the independence and transformed it into a foundation for the National Pact and coexistence.” Lebanon received its independence after French troops arrested Lebanese national leaders Beshara al-Khoury, Riad al-Solh, Pierre Gemayel, Camille Chamoun, and Adel Osseiran in Rashaya. After national and international pressure, the prisoners were released on November 22, 1943 and that day was declared the Lebanese Independence Day. Hariri reiterated his call for a “roadmap” to preserve Lebanon amid the regional turmoil and to hold consultations to agree on a presidential candidate. The head of state's priorities should be “the revival of national dialogue, disabling landmines that cause strife and ending the security-military ties with the Syrian war,” he said. “This roadmap forms the basis for the required stability and the embracing environment for the army and its role in controlling the border in addition to fighting terrorism,” Hariri added.
Qahwaji Vows to 'Root Out' Terrorists, Lauds Army for Thwarting their Plot
Naharnet /21.11.14/Army chief Gen. Jean Qahwaji hailed troops for thwarting the “dream” to form a terrorist “Emirate” in Lebanon, vowing to root out radicals and secure the release of hostages. Qahwaji warned in his Order of the Day that Independence Day comes as “Lebanon faces the biggest terrorist plot in the entire region.” “You thwarted the plot … to form an emirate of darkness (that spans) from the nation's eastern border to the coast,” he said, addressing troops. Had the terrorists succeeded in their plan, there would have been “devastating sectarian consequences,” said Qahwaji. “We would have also entered a whirlpool of civil war.” The army commander said last month that the Islamic State group and al-Nusra Front militants wanted to ignite civil war and create a passage to Lebanon's coastline by linking the Syrian Qalamoun mountains with Arsal on the northeastern border and the northern district of Akkar. Media reports said that several terrorists arrested by the army in the past weeks have admitted to the plot.
“Our decision is clear. The fight against these organizations will continue,” Qahwaji said, promising “to root out the terrorists from Lebanon.”He also promised to continue to exert all efforts to guarantee the freedom of soldiers and policemen who were taken captive by the jihadists from Arsal. The militants from the IS and al-Nusra Front overran Arsal in August and took with them the hostages. They later executed three of them. Qahwaji said the army was able to garner the support of the Lebanese people through its unity.
“On the 71st anniversary of the independence, the people are looking at you as a symbol for the nation's sovereignty and independence and as the protector of its coexistence,” he told troops. But Qahwaji lamented that the Independence Day ceremony will not be held on Saturday over the vacuum at Baabda Palace. This is the second time since the expiry of President Michel Suleiman's term in May that Lebanese soldiers failed to make a military parade. In August, the traditional parade held to mark Army Day was canceled. Qahwaji hoped a president would be elected “swiftly,” a move, which he said would contribute to the consolidation of constitutional institutions.
Arsal Captives' Conditions 'Very Bad' as Soldier Reported Killed in August Clashes
Naharnet /21.11.14/General Security Abbas Ibrahim informed on Friday the family of soldier Ali Qassem that he was killed in the August clashes in the northeastern border town of Arsal, reported al-Jadeed television. LBCI television reported that he was killed while being kidnapped by Islamist gunmen who had overrun the town in August. His corpse is however still with the gunmen who engaged in clashes with the army. The extremists kidnapped a number of soldiers and security forces from the town. Three have since been executed, a number were freed, while the rest remain kidnapped. MTV reported that Qassem was killed when he attempted to toss a grenade at the captors. Earlier, it was reported that the family of kidnapped soldier Ibrahim Mgheit was able to meet him on the outskirts of Arsal.
They said that the conditions of the captives are “very bad.”The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and al-Nusra Front were behind the kidnapping. They had recently allowed the relatives of the captives to visit them. 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. 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.
University Complex, Garden Announced on Anniversary of Pierre Gemayel's Assassination
Naharnet/21.11.14/Kataeb Party leader Amin Gemayel announced on Friday that a university complex and garden will soon be established in the memory of his son, slain former Industry Minister and MP Pierre Gemayel. The Pierre Amin Gemayel university complex will be established in the Bikfaya region on land donated by the area's municipality. The Kataeb chief made the announcement during a mass marking the eighth anniversary of the assassination of the former minister. The garden will be set up at Beirut's Martyrs' Square through a donation from the city's municipality, he added. It will host cultural, artistic, and youth events, he explained at the mass held at Mar Mikhael church in Bikfaya. “These two achievements aim at bolstering culture and dialogue,” stressed Gemayel. “Culture and dialogue will fortify Lebanon against mounting challenges,” he explained. “We hope that these modest achievements will pave the way to greater ones,” he stated. Pierre Gemayel was assassinated on November 21, 2006, when gunmen opened fired at close range on his car in the Northern Metn district of Jdeideh, killing the then industry minister and his bodyguard, Samir Chartouni.
Constitutional Council Discusses Parliament Extension Appeal
Naharnet/21.11.14/The Constitutional Council held a meeting on Friday to discuss the appeal of the Free Patriotic Movement MPs against the law that extended the term of parliament until June 2017. No decision was taken following the talks. Al-Joumhouria newspaper quoted a Council member as saying ahead of the meeting that the study of the report on the appeal requires more than one session. The members were expected to make their “preliminary observations” on it, he said. But he stressed that the Council could no longer limit the extended term to a “technical or administrative” mandate of less than a year because the parliament's new term started Thursday. The Council held last Thursday its first meeting to discuss the issue. Its head Issam Suleiman pledged that the body would meet the quorum to discuss the extension law. Earlier this month, 95 lawmakers voted to extend their mandate by another two years and seven months. They skipped scheduled elections for the second consecutive time claiming Lebanon's security situation is too dire to allow holding polls amid neighboring Syria's civil war. But the FPM claimed when challenging the law that Lebanon is not at war and that the security situation is not bad enough to prevent the general elections. The vote gave parliament eight full years in power— double its allowed mandate — to June 2017. The FPM MPs and Kataeb party representatives boycotted the session while two voted against the law. Lebanon has been without a head of state since May, when President Michel Suleiman stepped down after his six-year term ended without a replacement.
With four days left on clock, Kerry to meet Zarif to try to clinch nuclear deal
By REUTERS /11/21/2014 /J.Post
VIENNA – Iran and the United States on Friday intensified efforts to overcome deep divisions in talks on Tehran's nuclear program days ahead of a deadline for agreement.
With the deadline for a deal to defuse a 12-year stand-off over Iran's nuclear ambitions due to expire on Monday, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif unexpectedly met for a second time in Vienna on Friday evening.
The United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China began a final round of talks with Iran on Tuesday, looking to clinch a pact under which Tehran would curb its nuclear work to help ensure it cannot be diverted to bomb-making in exchange for a lifting of economically crippling sanctions.
But officials close to the negotiations in Vienna said at mid-week the two sides remained deadlocked on key issues, were unlikely to secure a definitive accord by Nov. 24, and might need to extend the deadline.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Kerry agreed that "additional efforts" were needed to reach a deal by the self-imposed deadline, Russia's Foreign Ministry said.
"The sides did not rule out the possibility of holding a ministerial meeting of the parties to the talks on Iran's nuclear program, if the prospect for progress appears," the ministry said in a statement.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said after separate meetings on Friday with big power peers in Vienna: "These are complex issues and there are still significant gaps between the parties. We're all going away to have technical discussions with our experts and we'll resume again over the ... weekend."
Western powers suspect Iran has aimed to covertly acquire a nuclear bomb capability from its enrichment of uranium. Iran says the programme is for producing civilian energy only. The lingering dispute has raised fears of a wider Middle East war.
Zarif cancelled announced plans to return to Tehran for top-level discussions with the deadline looming, Iranian media reported. The reason for his reversal of course was not immediately known.
"The talks have not reached a stage that necessitates Zarif to go to Tehran," an unnamed senior member of the Iranian delegation told the IRNA and ISNA news agencies. "Therefore he is not going to Tehran and the talks will continue."
US and French officials said earlier that Kerry and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius would return to Paris later in the day for consultations. US officials said Kerry would still travel to Paris after his meeting with Zarif. Both Kerry and Fabius were expected to return to Vienna during the weekend.
Kerry spoke on the telephone with Lavrov on Friday and the two men agreed that "additional efforts" were needed to secure a deal by Monday, Moscow's Foreign Ministry said.
A source close to the talks told Reuters that Zarif had received a document from the powers that outlined the main principles of a possible agreement on removing sanctions on Tehran in exchange for limits on its nuclear program.
Jordan arrests deputy head of Muslim
Brotherhood for criticizing UAE
AMMAN - J.Post/Jordan on Thursday arrested the deputy head of the country's mainstream Muslim Brotherhood for critical statements against the UAE's move to designate the Brotherhood as a terrorist group, where he attacked the oil Gulf state's role in a regional crackdown on political Islam, official sources said. They said Zaki Bani Rushaid was detained shortly after a late night meeting of the Shura Council at the party's headquarters in Amman, and were told the state security prosecutor general had ordered his arrest on charges of "souring relations with a friendly country."
UN's Ban calls Netanyahu, Abbas,
urging leaders to take stand against extremists
By JPOST.COM STAFF \ 11/21/2014 /UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon placed separate telephone calls to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday, expressing extreme alarm at the upsurge in violence in recent weeks. According to a readout of the calls released by Ban's office, he warned the leaders that the "dangerous downward spiral must urgently be reversed." Ban emphasized to the two leaders that "at this delicate and dangerous juncture, courage and responsibility are required from both the president and the prime minister to take a stand that may be contrary to extremists in their own domestic constituencies." He expressed hope that confidence-building measures and firm commitments made by both sides at separate meetings the leaders held with US Secretary of State John Kerry and Jordanian King Abdullah in Amman last week to maintain the status quo at the Temple Mount would be further translated into a de-escalation of tensions. "Absent this, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may quickly morph into a religious conflict, over which the international community will have limited, if no, leverage," Ban stated.
Israeli official: Erdogan rhetoric befits Tehran or Damascus, not a NATO capital
By HERB KEINON/J.Post/11/21/2014
Israel's “barbaric” attack on al-Aksa is an attack on Turkey, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday in remarks immediately slammed by Israel as “malicious and extremist” rhetoric not befitting the leader of a NATO country.
According to a report Thursday in Today's Zaman, Erdogan, during a speech in Algeria to Turkish and Algerian businessmen, said "Israel's barbaric attack on al-Aksa Mosque is tantamount to an attack on Turkey and Algeria because al-Aksa Mosque belongs to all of us." Erdogan is well known for his strident and extreme anti-Israel rhetoric. One government official said that Israel has been facing “a malicious campaign of slander concerning a so-called threat to al-Aksa. This campaign has been led by Islamist extremists who claim there is a Jewish threat to al-Aksa. This is baseless and ridiculous, it is slander that has no relationship to the truth whatsoever.” The official said that Jerusalem was disturbed when Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the PA “echoed these baseless charges,” and when Abbas said that Jews were “contaminating” the Temple Mount. “We are equally troubled when we hear this sort of thing from a leader of a NATO country,” the official added. “Ultimately this sort of extremist and malicious rhetoric is what one expects to hear from Tehran and Damascus, not from a NATO capital.”
LF welcomes Aoun’s call for faceoff
Nov. 21, 2014
Hasan Lakkis/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: MP Michel Aoun’s initiative to break the presidential deadlock was met with mixed reactions Thursday, with the Lebanese Forces hailing the proposal, while the Future Movement and the Kataeb Party considered it undemocratic.
Lebanese Forces MP Fadi Karam welcomed Aoun’s proposal to limit the presidential race to himself and to LF leader Samir Geagea. “Although Gen. Aoun’s suggestion on restricting competition between him and Dr. Geagea came late, and is not fully democratic, it is very logical and suits the nature of Lebanon’s political system,” Karam posted on his Twitter account. “It is worth thinking about by everyone.”
In an interview Wednesday evening, Aoun, the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, said he was ready to attend a Parliament session to elect a president if the race was restricted to himself and to Geagea.
George Adwan, another LF MP, approved of Aoun’s pitch. “We made this proposal from the beginning. We said let Gen. Aoun attend the session for elections,” Adwan said. “Gen. Aoun adopted this proposal now and this is something good.”
Adwan’s remarks came after he attended a meeting of a parliamentary subcommittee representing March 8 and March 14 lawmakers which discussed draft election laws.
MP Henri Helou, a third presidential candidate backed by MP Walid Jumblatt, asked Aoun to clarify his intentions behind restricting the contest to just two candidates.
“We believe in democracy in Lebanon, where every Maronite has the right to run for the presidency without any condition, and through which only a vote in Parliament can lead to victory,” Helou told Akhbar al-Lyawm, a local news outlet. “I am still running.”
Gemayel described Aoun’s proposal as a“war of elimination.”
“Where is democracy in Aoun’s proposal on presidential polls? It is a war of elimination, he wants to eliminate others,” Gemayel said during an interview with LBCI, adding that he was still a presidential candidate.
Future bloc MP Mohammad Hajjar said Aoun’s initiative violated the Constitution by restricting the race to two candidates only. “Why this insistence on violating the Constitution and all the conventions and mechanisms adopted to elect a president since independence and up to 2008?” Hajjar told Al-Manar TV.
MP Jamal Jarrah, also from the Future bloc, said Aoun’s proposal undermined democracy.
Ibrahim Kanaan, a lawmaker from Aoun’s bloc, said whoever opposed Aoun’s initiative wanted to elect a candidate who did not actually represent Christians.
“Those who did not respond positively to the proposal of a competition ... between Gen. Aoun and LF leader Samir Geagea, both of whom represent Christians the most, according to statistics, want someone who does not represent [Christians],” Kanaan told Al-Manar TV. MPs attending the subcommittee meeting told The Daily Star that a draft election law backed by the LF, the Progressive Socialist Party and the Future Movement was discussed.
According to the proposal, 60 MPs would be elected under proportional representation while the remaining 68 would be chosen under a winner-takes-all system.
The subcommittee has until the end of the year to agree on one draft election law and refer it to Parliament for endorsement.
In case talks fail, Speaker Nabih Berri will put all draft laws referred to the legislature to a vote in a Parliament session early next year.
The discussions also focused on the need for all parties to achieve a quorum during the session, which Berri may call for next year.
A third session for the subcommittee will be held Tuesday.
Separately, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri will appear in a televised interview next week. He is expected to respond to Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah’s support of dialogue with the Future Movement which he announced earlier this month.
Remarks at a Solo Press Availability
John Kerry/Secretary of State
Paris, France/US State Of Department
November 20, 2014
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, good afternoon, everybody. As you know, I’ve spent the last couple of days in Europe, in London, and now in Paris. And during the course of that time, I’ve had very worthwhile meetings with Foreign Secretary Hammond of Great Britain, Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal here in Paris today, and of course, with Foreign Minister Fabius, and other meetings that I have had during that time.
During these meetings, we’ve discussed a range of the challenges that we face together as partners – obviously, Syria, ISIL, Iraq, Libya, Ukraine, others, but particularly, as you can imagine, the focus has been on the nuclear negotiations with Iran. As all of us know, we are now a little less than a week away from the November 24th deadline for these negotiations. And none of us came to this process, I assure you, with anything except serious purpose and realism. We knew the stakes in getting into this, and we also knew the challenges.
But we’ve also – I want to make it clear – come a long way in a short period of time. After all, it was only last year when our nations first resumed high-level contact after decades of stalled relations, I think more than 35 years since we had even talked. It was only last year that President Obama spoke with President Rouhani by phone, and it was only last year when I sat down for the first time with Foreign Minister Zarif in New York at the United Nations.
Work also had to be done during that time with our European partners and the P5+1 partners and with the Iranians in order to be able to test seriously what might be possible at the negotiating table. These steps all together created an opening that we hadn’t seen or been able to possibly experience since the time or the advent of the Iranian nuclear program. As a result, last November we did conclude a Joint Plan of Action with Iran in which they agreed to freeze – effectively freeze their nuclear program while the P5+1 provided limited sanctions relief. And together, we set a frame for these negotiations on a comprehensive agreement.
And despite the skepticism that many expressed when we first reached the JPOA, as it was known – the Joint Plan of Action – the world is already safer because of it. And all sides have stuck to their commitments made under that agreement. Consequently, we are today closer to resolving the international concerns around Iran’s nuclear program through diplomatic means.
Now, we have the chance – and I underscore the word chance – to complete an agreement that would meet our strategic objectives, that would guarantee that Iran’s four pathways to fissile material for a nuclear weapon cannot be used, and thereby to be able to give the world the needed confidence that the Iranian program is exclusively and conclusively peaceful as Iran has said it is. And then at the same time, enable the Iranian people to be able to have the economic opportunities that they seek.
Clearly one can envision an agreement that is fair and possible. But it still will require difficult choices. Now, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – Iran has continued to state it has no interest in obtaining a nuclear weapon. Ultimately, if you want to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that your program is a peaceful one, that is not, from a technical perspective, very hard to do. We and our European and P5+1 partners are working to secure an agreement that accomplishes that goal. And in the days ahead, we’re going to try to work very, very hard to see if we can close the gaps and get to where we need to be.
I would emphasize both sides are taking this process seriously and both sides are trying to find the common ground. That doesn’t mean that we agree on everything. Obviously, there are gaps. We don’t yet. But it does mean that we have discussed in detail the full range of relevant issues that have to be part of a durable and comprehensive agreement, including infrastructure, stockpiles, research, equipment, timing, and sequencing.
And I would also emphasize that we all know our principles in this process, and our principles as a group are rock solid. As we have said every single step of this process, an agreement like the one we are seeking is not built on trust, as much as anybody might like it to be. It is built on verification. And no member of the P5+1 is prepared to or can accept any arrangements that we cannot verify or make any promises that cannot be kept.
In a few hours, I will head to Vienna. And now more than ever we believe that it’s critical that we not negotiate in public and that the ideas discussed among the negotiations remain among the negotiators so that misunderstandings are prevented and the integrity of the discussions is preserved. So you’re going to hear, I’m sure, a lot of rumors. There’ll be conflicting reports. The bottom line is nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, and it’s the negotiators who have to speak for these negotiations. We intend to keep working hard to resolve the differences, to define the finish line, and do everything in our power to try to get across that line.
I thank you very much, and I’d be happy to tke a couple questions.
MS. PSAKI: The first question will be from Nicolas Revise from AFP.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. You just said at the (inaudible) that the P5+1 is united. But don’t you see some divisions, even minor divisions between the United States and France about how to get to an agreement on the nuclear program? And if so, did you manage to solve these disagreements with your French counterpart? Did you agree on everything, especially on the enrichment capacity? And don’t you fear, Mr. Secretary, that the French could repeat what they did in November 2013 when they spoiled the whole thing?
And speaking about divisions, if I may, did you raise with Laurent Fabius the issue of the warship Mistral? Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, first, I just – I don’t agree with the assumptions that you’ve made in the course of that question, in many of them. And I think Laurent Fabius just spoke for France and said nous sommes en commun, we are in common. We are. He gave me a piece of paper – which we’ve had for some period of time – in which he lays out France’s four ideas about what they believe are important. I’m not going to go into them because I said we’re going to negotiate this privately. But we agree with every single one of them. We may have a minor difference here or there on a number of something or whatever, but not on the fundamental principles. We are in agreement that you have to be able to verify this, that there are limits. There has to be an acceptable level, and we’re confident about our unity as P5+1.
So I’m – we’ve had a terrific partner in France in this effort. France made a very courageous decision with respect to the Mistral, for example, which is not directly related to Iran, but it’s a courageous decision with respect to its impact, its economics, and other things. We have admiration for that kind of decision of principle. And believe me, I know people will try to find a division or create a division, but when we say the P5+1 is united, we mean it. And we’re going to work together as colleagues closely. I’ll be in close communication with Foreign Minister Fabius even today and into tomorrow and for the next few days. And we’re going to work as a team. It’s that simple.
MS. PSAKI: The next question will be from Jonathan Allen of Reuters.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir. I wanted to just ask you about Mr. Hammond’s remarks. He doesn’t seem very optimistic that you will make the deadline. So – and he thinks an extension will probably be necessary. So I wondered if you would talk a bit about what sort of extension might be palatable to you, how long this might drag out for.
SECRETARY KERRY: No. We’re not talking about an extension, not among ourselves. We have not talked about the ingredients of an extension or – we’re talking about getting an agreement. Now, I know that Secretary Hammond is concerned about the gaps. We all are. And I think he’s expressing his personal concerns about how to close those gaps over the next few days, and it’s very fair for him to have those concerns. But we are not discussing extension; we are negotiating to try to get an agreement. It’s that simple.
And look, if you get to the final hour and you’re in need of having to look at alternatives or something, we’ll look at them. I’m not telling you we’re not going to look at something. But we’re not looking at them, not now. This is – we’re driving towards what we believe is the outline of an agreement that we think we can have. And a lot of work has been done, including on annexes and other things, over the course of these last months by some very effective technical and expert people in the field of nuclear power and so forth. And we’re quite confident about the groundwork that’s been laid.
MS. PSAKI: Thank you, everyone.
SECRETARY KERRY: That’s it?
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, everyone. (Laughter.)
Hamas planned to assassinate Israeli
Yoav Zitun./Ynetnews /Published: 11.20.14/Israel News
Cleared for publication: Shin Bet, IDF stop Hamas terror unit that planned attacks against top Israeli officials, including Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. A Hamas terrorist cell planned to assassinate Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the IDF, Shin Bet and police said in a statement Thursday evening. According to the statement, the group, comprised of members of Hamas military wing from the Bethlehem area, planned to target top Israeli officials, including Lieberman, and even bought an RPG rocket launcher for the mission. The statement claimed they plan to hit his car with the rocket. Ibrahim Salim Mahmoud al-Zir, 37, from the village of Harmela near Bethlehem, led the terror cell behind the mission. Al-Zir is known to Israeli security forces and has in the past served time for security offenses he conducted with Hamas. Al-Zir planned the attack during Operation Protective Edge in order to send a message to Israel to stop its war in Gaza.
Al-Zir recruited his brother, Ziad Salim Mahmoud al-Zir, 35, and fellow Hamas operative Adnan Amin Mahmoud al-Zir, 31, to join his terror cell, both released prisoners from Ramallah. In their interrogation, both Adnan and Ziad admitted to have been recruited to the cell and to have agreed to aid in executing the attack. Al-Zir also turned to another prominent Hamas military operative, Yusef Ibrahim Yusef al-Sheikh, 50, who previously aided Hamas' leader in Bethlehem Ali Alaan (who was involved in a suicide bombing and killed by IDF troops). Ibrahim asked al-Sheikh to help him procure an RPG rocket launcher for the attack. Investigation by Israeli security forces found that the members of the terror cell gathered intelligence on the movements of the foreign minister's convoy.
As the only senior minister who lives in the West Bank (in the Gush Etzion settlement Nokdim), Lieberman is a potentially easy target for the terror cell. The foreign minister lives near Bethlehem and the cell could easily observe his convoy driving on Highway 60 from his house to Jerusalem. The road is also exposed to potential fire from the Palestinian houses on the hill near Bethlehem and from other vantage points in the area. The members of the cell have been indicted for conspiring to premeditated manslaughter and conspiring to trade in arms at the Judea Military Court. Following the interrogation of the cell members, Israeli security forces uncovered and foiled another Hamas plan to commit additional shootings and vehicular attacks against settlers and IDF troops in Gush Etzion.
Stopping an Awakening in Iraq before it can start
By David Ignatius/The Washington Post
A centerpiece of President Obama’s strategy for defeating the Islamic State is mobilizing tribal fighters to join the Iraqi military in retaking Anbar province and others dominated by Sunnis. But new research shows that the jihadists have been working since 2009 to gut the very Sunni tribal leadership on which Obama’s rollback depends — making the U.S. campaign much more difficult. U.S. strategists want to create a “national guard” version of the tribal militia known as the Awakening, which in 2007 and 2008 crushed al-Qaeda in Iraq, the predecessor of the Islamic State. But overlooked evidence shows that the jihadists have worked systematically to destroy the Awakening and assassinate tribal leaders who might challenge their rule. The jihadists’ long-running intimidation campaign against the Sunni tribes is one more sign that, as Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told me in September, the United States “underestimated” the Islamic State. Obama later told CBS’s “60 Minutes” that he shared Clapper’s critique.
Despite these mea culpas, U.S. planners may be making a similar mistake in assuming that the tribal networks can be rebuilt quickly. U.S. officials believe that Sunni support has been galvanized by the removal of polarizing Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite. That’s true, but fighting the jihadists will be a long uphill road. Research documenting the Islamic State’s onslaught was compiled by Craig Whiteside, a former Army officer who fought in Iraq and now teaches at the Naval War College. By his count, at least 1,345 Awakening members have been killed in Iraq since 2009 by the Islamic State or its predecessor organizations. “In the Sunni areas where the Iraqi government had little control, it did not take long for the Islamic State to slowly and methodically eliminate resistance one person at a time,” he writes in a military blog called “War on the Rocks.”
Whiteside cites the example of the strategic town of Jurf al-Sakhar, south of Baghdad. Between 2009 and 2013, 46 Awakening members were killed in 27 different incidents there. The dead included four sheiks from the local Janabi tribe. Similar killings across Sunni areas of Iraq “were barely noticed by the Iraqi government or in the media,” Whiteside writes. The jihadists documented their assassination campaign in a grisly video called “The Clanging of the Swords,” which Whiteside cites in his report. Watching the video, you see a series of drive-by assassinations, accompanied by heroic Islamic music, as Islamic State fighters gun down selected vehicles on the road or pedestrians on the streets. “The hungry lions chase their prey,” says an Arabic narrator, whose words are translated into English. It’s clear that the assassins’ intelligence is precise. The Islamic fighters also targeted Iraqi police and army units in Sunni areas and Baghdad itself, starting more than two years ago. Islamic State communiques released in February 2013 claimed that in the second half of 2012, the group conducted 37 attacks in Baghdad and 43 assassinations in other areas of Iraq. U.S. analysts failed to see this gathering storm. As its campaign against the Sunni tribal forces gained momentum in 2012 and 2013, the Islamic State began offering amnesty to Sunnis who had been part of the Awakening militia or the Iraqi security forces. The jihadist video shows scores of Sunnis experiencing “the joy of repentance” in an auditorium in Anbar. They recite a pledge of penitence together and then embrace masked jihadists on stage, one by one.
To swell its ranks further, the Islamic State staged a series of daring prison raids it called “Breaking the Walls.” Whiteside counts seven prison assaults between July 2012 and July 2013, culminating in a raid on Abu Ghraib prison that freed more than 500 senior Islamic State fighters, including one named Abu Wahib, who later became the group’s leader in Anbar. The importance of this prison-break campaign in the rapid build-out of Islamic State forces wasn’t understood by U.S. analysts.
U.S. officials argue that Sunni tribal leaders still want to work with American military advisers — all the more so after the jihadists’ brutal campaign of intimidation. As Sheik Zaydan al-Jibouri told me in Amman last month, “We want to create a strategic relationship with the Americans.” But this time around, the tribal leaders must combat a deeply entrenched enemy. The Islamic State controls the ground; it has the intelligence; it has fierce, combat-hardened fighters. Obama is right to seek Sunni “boots on the ground” for the campaign against the jihadists, but he needs to explain better to the American public the roots of this conflict, and how difficult and protracted it will be.
Islamic State vs its far enemy
PAUL ROGERS/Open Democracy/ 21 November 2014
Behind the flux of conflict on the ground in Syria-Iraq, all sides are digging in for a long war.
Much of the recent attention on the war against Islamic State has focused on the intense conflict between the movement and local Kurds in and around Kobane, close to the Syria-Turkey border. Its 60,000 people had been relatively undisturbed by the Syrian war until a few months ago, when thousands of people displaced by the escalating conflict began to swell its population.
Within a short period, as many as 400,000 had arrived. Most fled across the border to Turkey when the town was besieged by Islamic State (IS) militias. Today, control of otherwise deserted and ravaged Kobane is divided between these militias and Kurdish fighters, including some from Kurdish Iraq (see Tim Arango, “In Syria battle, a test for all sides”, New York Times, 20 November 2014)
Kobane is strategically important for IS, not least as seizing it would give the movement command of a long stretch of the border. The repeated targeting of IS positions by US airstrikes has made the battle there even more pivotal. At the same time, it is but one part of a wider war with many other elements. Three of these involve western and Iraqi governments, and three the Islamic State.
In the first category:
* The Pentagon is deploying a further 1,500 troops to Iraq. This will take the acknowledged total to around 3,000, although this may not include special-force units whose deployment is seldom reported
* The US chair of the joint chiefs of staff, General Martin Dempsey, has not ruled out deploying US ground troops to the frontline with Iraq army units
* Both US and Iraqi sources have strongly discounted talk of an Iraqi army “spring offensive” in Anbar province in 2015, on the basis that rebuilding, retraining and re-equipping Iraq's army will take many months.
In the second category:
* The Islamic State is reported to have concluded some sort of limited agreement with the al-Nusra Front (the al-Qaida affiliate in Syria) in order to bring inter-militia violence to an end there. In turn this development follows al-Nusra’s success in capturing a number of towns and villages from other Syrian militias with a more secular agenda
Al-Nusra is also reported to have overrun arms dumps containing modern weapons provided by western states for use against Bashar al-Assad's regime. These may include as many as eighty US-made BGM-71 anti-tank missiles (see Columb Strack, “Jihadists make gains in Syria after weapons seizure”, Jane’s Intelligence Review, December 2014).
* The Islamic State has reputedly secured the allegiance of the most violent of Egypt's militant groups, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (see David D Kirkpatrick, “Militant Group in Egypt Vows Loyalty to ISIS”, New York Times, 10 November 2014). If confirmed this would be its biggest international boost, as the group is fighting Abdel Fattah al-Sisi government in Cairo and challenging the latter's violent suppression of Islamist and other dissent (see Sara Khorshid, “Egypt’s new police state”, New York Times, 17 November 2014).
* Iraqi Kurdish sources say that western agencies are underestimating IS's military capacity. The true number of IS paramilitaries may be over six times larger than the 31,500 often quoted (see Patrick Cockburn, “War with ISIS: Islamic militants have army of 200,000, claims senior Kurdish leader”, Independent on Sunday, 16 November 2014).
In other aspects of this complex conflict, the Islamic State's ability to make major advances has stalled. The movement is now preparing for a long conflict. A priority will be maintaining and enhancing its transnational support, in terms both of personnel (an estimated 15,000 have already come to join IS from across the Middle East and beyond, but it needs more) and finance (with individuals in western Gulf states playing a key role). These efforts require IS to determinedly promote its core narrative, which may be extreme by western perceptions but does have a sufficient basis to attract support.
This sees the Islamic State as a vanguard movement in the global defence of Islam at a time when Islam is under attack and leaders of Muslim states across the Middle East are either apostate or utterly untrue to the tenets of Islam. The movement has established a renewed caliphate, currently centred on Raqqa (the early capital of the most durable caliphate, the Abbasids of 1,200 years ago) with plans to extend it to Baghdad (the later and much longer-lasting Abbasid capital. In turn it will spread to Saudi Arabia, ousting the House of Saud and claiming guardianship of Mecca and Medina (sites of the "two holy places") - and, ultimately, reclaim the "third holy place" in Jerusalem.
The Islamic State is leading this historic renewal against the "far enemy" of the United States and its allies that have brought chaos to Afghanistan and Iraq, killing over 200,000 Muslims and wounding many more in the process. These enemy forces have also killed Muslims in Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, Mali and many other states, while propping up corrupt and un-Islamic regimes (al-Sisi’s Egypt being the latest). IS points to the far enemy’s practice of rendition, torture and detention without trial, and it emphasises the role of the Zionists. Indeed, Israel is seen as little more than an extension of the United States, and Israel strike-aircraft and helicopter-gunships as US military hardware with Israeli markings.
The reality of the Islamic State is very different from its self-portrait. The progress it has made since mid-2014 has owed much to largely secular Ba'athists and others who hardly buy into its theology or long-term vision are prepared to make common cause against the hated Iraqi government and the United States. The narrative does resonate, though, with a small minority of young Muslims, for whom Islamic State answers a longing even more seductive than did al-Qaida after 9/11. The fact that IS has created a territorial entity, a physical manifestation of the prmised caliphate, adds to its aura.
This narrative is not easy for western analysts to comprehend, especially given the brutality of many of the movement’s operations. But it is being worked on and developed relentlessly, then propagated over and over in many different forms (especially through new social media). It is helped greatly by the actions of the Israeli government of Binyamin Netanyahu, and would dearly like a serious ground war with western troops - which the current "mission-creep" may well provide. If that war comes, there will no doubt be elements in Islamic State that look forward to the capture of American soldiers, their detention, waterboarding, and on camera execution in orange jump-suits.
Perhaps a few western policy-advisers and analysts are thinking such a narrative through, recognising its seductive nature and acting accordingly. There is, though, not too much sign of that, which makes it all the more likely that this will be a lengthy war.
Iran’s hidden prisoners
DAVID HAYES /Open Democracy
21 November 2014
Those arrested in Iran after the presidential election of June 2009 join the detainees from earlier moments of repression. The blogger and openDemocracy author Hossein Derakhshan is one of the latter. The anniversary of his incarceration is being marked by efforts to publicise his case, reports David Hayes.
(This article was first published on 30 October 2009. Hossein Derakhshan was released from prison on 19 November 2014)
The wave of arrests in Iran that followed the presidential election of 12 June 2009 means that many more Iranians are now experiencing the brutal treatment already endured by thousands of their fellow citizens. For the repressive response to the civic uprising that followed the shocking declaration of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's landslide victory has many precedents in the thirty-year history of the Islamic Republic of Iran (as of its imperial predecessor).
The capacity of the Iranian regime to render its prisoners invisible and voiceless is one of its most potent weapons. In turn, the dissemination of reliable information on individual cases is a hugely valuable resource for those on the outside - the families, colleagues and friends of those incarcerated, and the justice and human-rights groups working to make Iran a state of law.
Iranian citizens with western connections can often be among the most vulnerable to sudden detention, usually in times of internal political crisis and/or tension between Iran and the west (especially the United States). For example, Iranians who have dual citizenship or who work for foreign broadcasters or think-tanks have been a favoured target. At the same time, such connections also mean an opportunity to organise publicity about their fate and campaign for their freedom (see Reza Fiyouzat, "Saberi is free: How about all the others?", OnlineJournal, 12 May 2009).
This has in recent times been the experience of, for example, the scholar Haleh Esfandiari; the journalist Parnaz Azima; the journalist Roxana Saberi; the businessman and peace activist Ali Shakeri; the diplomatic aide Hossein Rassam; and the Newsweek journalist Maziar Bahari. The current haul of detainees includes the scholar Kian Tajbakhsh, whose case is an instructive example of the psychology animating Iran's hardline core (see Karim Sadjadpour, "The New Hostage Crisis", Foreign Policy, 23 October 2009).
The pioneering blogger Hossein Derakhshan, who was arrested in Tehran on 2 November 2008, also belongs to this melancholy pattern; though, as do all the above examples, his case has its unique and individual characteristics.
A singular journey
Hossein Derakhshan (widely known as "Hoder") earned a place in internet as well as Iranian history when - by combining Unicode with Blogger.com's tools to enable Persian characters - he created the first Persian-language blog in Canada in September 2001. He had moved there from Iran in 2000 after writing about technology and the internet for two newspapers: Asr-e Azadegan, and Hatay-e No (for which he wrote a column, Panjere-i roo be hayaat [A Window to the Yard]).
His early blog soon gained a large following; at its high-point, and until Iran's cyberpolice was able in 2004 to jam it, it received 35,000 page-views per day. Editor: Myself was in time supplemented by an English-language version, allowing him to reach an audience eager for insight about Iran via a new medium of exciting potential.
Hoder's writing extended to other media, including (in 2004-06) five articles for openDemocracy. He became involved in Stop Censoring Us, a record of internet censorship in Iran. He made two visits to Israel in 2006-07, and in 2007 registered for a master's degree at London's School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas).
Hoder returned to Iran in October 2008, and reputedly was positive about his early experiences there. The news of his arrest on 2 November could not be confirmed for several weeks; but on 30 December 2008, a week before Hoder's 34th birthday, Ali Reza Jamshidi - spokesman of the revolutionary court, which oversees cases related to national security - announced at a news conference in Tehran that he was being charged with "insulting religious figures".
The accusation, a variant of the familiar range of post-facto off-the-shelf charges in the authoritarian's litany, was not supported by any known evidence; and almost a year on, there is no sign that any progress in actually examining it or bringing it to court has been made. Instead, Hoder is confined in Tehran's Evin prison - a place almost always qualified by the term "notorious" - from where only the most meagre reports of what he is going through have emerged.
The respected collective known as Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRA) published a brief account of Hoder's incarceration on 17 October 2009. It says:
"HRA has received reports which suggest that the blogger, Hossein Derakhshan, who was arrested on 2 November 2008, has spent the first eight months of his detention in solitary confinement and different wards of the Evin prison upon his return to Iran. During that time he has been subjected to various physical and psychological pressure tactics and multiple transfers.
He has been beaten repeatedly and has been forced to do squats in cold showers. His interrogators have threatened to arrest his father and his sister unless he confessed to espionage charges.
With the start of the massive arrests after the presidential election, and as a result of cell shortages in Evin prison, Derakhshan was transferred to Ward 2A of the IRGC [Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps] prison, where he shared his cell with newly arrested people.
Derakhshan has been given false promises of his release on multiple occasions: during the Fajr celebrations and Nowrooz. Despite all the promises he is still being held on a temporary detention-order. His detention-order has been renewed several times, the last of which expired on 10 October 2009. Derakhshan reportedly intended to start a hunger-strike if his situation remained unchanged after this date. HRA has no information as to whether he has started the hunger-strike.
During his detention, Derakhshan has been pressured by his interrogators to collaborate and confess to the charges brought up against him. In September 2009 he was taken to court to sign documents granting permission to his lawyer to represent him. He told the judge that all his confessions had come under pressure. According to the reports received by HRA, Derakhshan had agreed to televised confessions under pressure, but the matter was cancelled after one recording."
A family matter
The lack of hard information about what had happened to Hossein Derakhshan after his return to Iran meant that the attention to his case was more limited than to other comparable situations. The fact that an unusual intellectual-political trajectory had seen him gradually express a degree of support for the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - and vehement criticism of some of its Iranian critics in the west - probably also contributed to this relatively low-key response.
But as awareness of his arrest spread, several initiatives calling for Hoder's release began to appear. They include the strong letter from a group of Iranian bloggers; the "free Hoder" blog and a Facebook group; and efforts by several media organisations and networks (such as Internet Sans Frontières) to highlight his ordeal and keep it in the public eye.
The approaching anniversary of his detention has now led his family in Iran to take the decision to speak out on his behalf. His younger brother Hamed, in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), criticised the Canadian authorities for their inaction in the case, said that his parents had been able to see Hossein only twice during his incarceration, and explained why the family was only at this stage seeking to draw attention to the case. "My father believed it was better to use the connections, prove that he is loyal to them, work within the system" (see John Nicol, "Iranian-Canadian blogger's family pleads for help", CBC News, 29 October 2009).
Hossein's father has written a letter to Ayatollah Amoli Larijani, the head of Iran's judiciary department, which the reformist newspaper Salaam published on its website on 21 October 2009. The California-based journalist, Cyrus Farivar, provides an English translation of the letter on his blog:
"To the Presence of Ayatollah Amoli Larijani, the Respected Head of the Judiciary:
Greetings and respect to you. One year has passed since the day that my son was arrested.
In all these months, days, and hours, my family, my wife and I were hoping that in the arms of Islamic law and the mercy of the Islamic judiciary, Hossein's case will be dealt with in the way it deserves.
There is no need to mention the numerous times that we refused the requests of foreign media to explain Hossein's situation.
Even when we heard the worst gossip about his treatment in semi-official media, we were silent and in fact, no government organisation has ever denied this worrisome news, not just to calm our very worried hearts down, but at least to respect the independence of judiciary about this case.
During this entire time, our son has had just two short meetings with us for only a few minutes. Please imagine that for every six months we just saw him for very few minutes. We have no information about his legal situation.
No court has been held yet and we don't even know which institution or security organisation Hossein is under the control of. Many times, from many different ways, we tried to get some precision about his situation, but we couldn't. Does a detainee's dignified manner deserve such treatment?
Many times, my son admitted in his writings and conversations that he would love to serve his country. And he came back to Iran on his own to answer his accusations. Does such a person who has come back to his country and his beliefs, deserve such a welcome?
Our complaint is not because you are exercising the law, but to the contrary, because of its suspension, lack of information and disrespecting of the law. The accused have rights, the family of the accused has some rights, and we know that the ruler of society has some rights as well, and that rules and regulations are valuable.
We are certain that you'd agree that one year of a brutal arrest of a person who has come voluntarily and on his own to the bosom of Iran and dear Islam, is not an appropriate welcome.
I, my wife and our family are still looking forward to your just treatment.
A case to answer
The cycle of arrests, show-trials, incarcerations and violations in Iran continues. The state's internal-security apparatus, emboldened by its ability to contain and then beat back the challenge to its rule following the stolen election, remains unbending.
But there is multiple evidence too that the regime's behaviour since the election has resulted in a critical loss of legitimacy in the eyes of Iran's people. Their resourceful search for new and creative forms of opposition is vividly conveyed in a number of openDemocracy articles (see Asef Bayat, "Iran: a green wave for life and liberty" [7 July 2009], and R Tousi, "Iran's ocean of dissent" [28 October 2009].
Those imprisoned in Iran on account of their peaceful protest, their criticism of the authorities, or merely because they represent a convenient target to unaccountable power, need to be freed in order that they can resume their lives and speak in their own voices. An end to their confinement will be the beginning of the new era of respect for human rights and civic freedoms that Iranians more than ever deserve.
Female Genital Mutilation in the West: A Creeping Crime Against Humanity
by Phyllis Chesler/Breitbart
November 19, 2014
Sohair el-Batea died in June 2013 at the age of 13.
Tomorrow, on November 20, 2014, an Egyptian doctor, Raslan Fadl, will for the first time in history be sentenced because his 13-year old patient died during a female genital mutilation (FGM) procedure; he claims she was allergic to penicillin. [update: Fadl was unexpectedly acquitted.]
This girl died—but she was probably viewed as among the lucky few who have real physicians perform the mutilation in a clinic, as opposed to a midwife or tribal elder who performs the mutilation on a mud floor and with a rusty knife or razor blade.
We know that this horrendous practice is pandemic in the Middle East and Africa. Some claim that FGM is not an Islamic practice per se but is, rather, an African and tribal practice. Thus, FGM is practiced in Muslim Africa (Egypt, Somalia, Sudan) but also in pagan and Christian Africa, as well as nations that are a mix of Christian and Muslim (Nigeria, Sierre Leone, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Kenya). It is also increasingly practiced in Muslim Indonesia.
Recently, a photographer was present at the FGM "ceremonies" of four teenage Kenyan girls of the Potok tribe. They look terrified.
According to UNICEF, 91% of Egyptian women have been genitally mutilated. The practice is supported by both women and men who view women as unclean and unmarriageable if they have not been "cut." A number of brave and poignant memoirs have been written by women who have undergone this procedure. Dr. Nawal el-Sadawii, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and Soraya Mire all come to mind.
But we also know that this practice flies under the radar in the West as well among immigrant communities, mainly from these regions. And we know that Western authorities have failed to stop it.
National Health Service data suggests that up to 170,000 women and girls living in the UK may have undergone female genital mutilation.
Last week, Detective Chief Supt Vanessa Jardine of Manchester stated that the genital mutilation (FGM) of girls in England should be treated as a form of "child abuse and not as a cultural issue."
In other words, it is a crime and perpetrators should be prosecuted. It is not a tribal, ethnic, racial, or cultural issue to which Western law enforcement should continue to turn a politically correct blind eye. Jardine stated that "this is about protecting a child, not (about) being a racist."
Recently, the British National Health Service documented "467 new cases of FGM in England." Half live in London. Estimates suggest that "up to 170,000 women and girls living in the UK may have undergone FGM."
FGM has been viewed as a violation of girls' and women's human rights by international treaties. This has changed nothing. UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon has announced a global campaign to end this atrocity within a decade.
I doubt this will happen. A number of countries have banned FGM, including Egypt, in 1959 and again in 2008. It did not stop this practice.
In 2008, a 12-year-old Egyptian girl died during a clinic surgery. That alone—her death—is what led Egypt to again ban FGM. In other words, the life-long agony and negative medical consequences which FGM inflicts upon girls and women does not matter. The fact that she will never be able to experience any sexual pleasure whatsoever does not matter. In fact, that is the object of this mutilation: to make sure that a woman will be less likely to have pre-marital or extra-marital sex; to ensure that a father need not worry about his daughter's "promiscuity" and a husband need not worry about whether her pregnancies belong to him, and not to another man.
A woman is meant to suffer—little enough punishment to pay for the crime of being born female.
It does not matter that she will probably be in agony each time she urinates, has sexual intercourse or, given the massive scarring involved, gives birth to a child. It does not matter that she may develop a fistula and become incontinent, that she may also smell "bad" and for this reason, be shunned by her family. It does not seem to matter that she may later die from an infection.
These are crimes against humanity. We may not be able to stop such crimes if they take place in Somalia, Sudan, Kenya, or Egypt. But we can and must stop such crimes if they take place in any Western country—even if the parents send the girl back home to be mutilated.
What might deter this practice? I fear that laws and treaties per se will not be able to do so. Here's what might. Parents and relatives of a mutilated girl who are complicit in the crime - including knowing about it and failing to tell police - should be deported if they are not citizens and jailed for many, many years if they are. This might give pause to the next set of parents who live in the West but whose hearts remain in the Middle East and Africa.
This is a radical suggestion. I would recommend it for honor killings in the West as well. A family can be "shamed" by having a non-mutilated daughter or they can be "shamed" for having mutilated their daughter and thereby being responsible for the deportation of their entire extended family. The choice is theirs to make.
**Phyllis Chesler, an emerita professor of psychology and women's studies and the author of fifteen books, is a Shillman-Ginsburg fellow at the Middle East Forum.