LCCC ENGLISH DAILY
Bible Quotation For
Today/Condemnation Of Peter's Hypocrisy
Galatians 01/01-21: "Then after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain. Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. As for those who were held in high esteem—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism—they added nothing to my message. On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised. For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along. When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?
“We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. “But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker.
“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
(Cephas: a Syriac surname given by Christ to Simon (John 1:42), meaning "rock." The Greeks translated it by Petros, and the Latins by Petrus. )
analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 22-23/14
Cornered but unbound by nuclear pact, Israel reconsiders military action against Iran/MICHAEL WILNER/J.Post/November 22/14
Assad will use a truce to rearm/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed /Al Sharq AlAwsat/November 22/14
Slouching towards the abyss/Hisham Melhem /Al Arabiya/November 22/14
A War Only We Can Win/Osman Mirghani /Asharq Al Awsat/November 22/14
Syria goes back to old colonial games/Amir Taheri /Asharq Al Awsat/November 22/14
Lebanese Related News published on November 22-23/14
Iran: New Hezbollah missiles can reach Dimona
Salam Blames 'Immature' Political Performance for Country's Crises
Lebanese Form Giant 'U' for Unity on Independence Day
Soldier Killed, Three Injured in Car Accident in Hermel
Activists, Bar Association March to Baabda Palace on Independence Day
Berri Says Parliament Could Elect President in 36 Hours if Maronites Agree
Father: Better my son died in battle than as captive
Bar Association: We want a president for Baabda
Jumblatt: We're to blame for lack of president
Google Doodle Celebrates Lebanon's Independence with 'Dabke'
Choice of president Lebanon’s decision alone, Obama says
Mawlawi, Mansour in Ain al-Hilweh camp: sources
Council debates extension amid protests
Supposed hostage dead since Arsal battles
Prominent Figures to Head to Saudi Arabia for Talks with Hariri
More slaughterhouses, food outlets closed
Heavy rain expected across Lebanon over weekend
For physiotherapists, the battle has just begun
Internet woes take center stage at Accelerate
Shaker Residing in Ain el-Hilweh, Says Relations with Asir Cut
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on November 22-23/14
Iran nuclear talks: The narcissism of minor differences the EU and US
Iran: Success of N. Talks Blocked by Republicans' Victory in Elections
Kerry, Zarif hunker down for crunch talks in Vien
Iran Media Weighs in on Nuclear Deal Options
Biden, Erdogan Did Not Reach End to Disputes Over Syria
Jihadis launch major assault on Ramadi Assault on 2 Israelis after quiet Al-Aqsa prayers
Iran Says Inspectors May Access Suspect Nuclear Site, Still 'No Significant Progress' in Vienna Negotiations
Bahrain Election Overshadowed by Opposition Boycott
Berlin Says 550 Germans Joined Jihadist Cause in Syria, Iraq
U.S.-led strikes have killed 910 people in Syriak
Up to 300 Swedes Fighting with Islamic State
IS kills at Least 23 Iraqi Tribesmen Near Ramadi
HRW: Punitive Israeli House Demolitions a 'War Crime'
Bodies of Armenian pilots removed from crash site
Turkey training peshmerga forces
Jordanian PM reportedly sends condolence letter to families of Jerusalem synagogue terrorists
HRW: Israeli house demolitions a 'war crime'
Iraqi forces, ISIS battle in Ramadi
Combatting ISIS requires ground forces: Saudi Prince Miteb
Yemen ruling party faces splintering of ranks
Egypt tightens closure on Gaza; Israel eases it
Suspected Al-Shabab militants kill 28 in Kenya
Below Jihad Watch
Posts For Friday
Oklahoma: Muslim attacks Christian with knife, says Muslims need to “step up” beheadings.
Robert Spencer in FrontPage: Hamas-linked CAIR: A terror organization.
Islamic State jihadi tells Muslims in France to attack non-Muslims: “Kill them and spit in their faces and run over them with your cars”.
Islamic State accumulating gold, silver and copper to mint its own currency.
China says Internet censorship needed to fight terrorism.
Italy: Muslim teenager viciously beaten by her family for being “too Western”.
Video: Robert Spencer on Sun TV on the Jerusalem synagogue jihad mass murder attack.
Elliot Abrams: When presidents say Islam is a religion of peace, “the average American thinks this is crap”.
Israel: Muslims throw acid on car of imam who condemned synagogue jihad murders.
Ghazavatu’l-Hind: A matter of Faith.
Shaker Residing in Ain el-Hilweh, Says
Relations with Asir Cut
Naharnet/Singer turned fugitive Islamist Fadel Shaker stressed on Saturday that his ties with Salafist cleric Sheikh Ahmed Asir has ended after the 2013 Abra clashes. “I will not hand my self over to the judiciary,” Shaker said in comments to al-Fajr radio station, denying that he assaulted the military during the clashes with the army in the southern town of Abra, near the city of Sidon. Shaker had fled justice more than a year ago following bloody incidents that erupted in June 2013 in Abra, between the army and supporters of al-Asir. Sidon’s clashes were the most intense bouts of violence in Lebanon linked to the conflict in Syria, and have resulted in the death of at least 16 troops. Al-Asir, is still on the run. Shaker rejected any negotiations to enhance his situation, revealing that he is currently residing the southern Ain el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp. He considered that there's no “Lebanese authority in Lebanon because of the control imposed by Hizbuallah and Iran.”Shaker also denied that his son Mohammed will become a singer, describing the entertainment field as “trash.”Now in his mid-forties, Shaker was born to a Palestinian mother and Lebanese father in the country's biggest Palestinian refugee camp, Ain el-Hilweh. Shaker became the best-known face of Asir's small movement of openly sectarian Sunni radicals and praised the cleric as "the lion of the Sunnis". Judicial authorities have issued a detention order for Asir and 123 of his supporters, including Shaker, whose brother was killed in clashes with the army in Sidon last year.
Soldier Killed, Three Injured in Car
Accident in Hermel
Naharnet/A soldier was killed and three others were injured on Saturday after their car flipped over in the Bekaa town of Hermel due to bad weather. The state-run National News Agency reported that three soldiers were critically wounded.
“Two of them were admitted to Hermel public hospital,” NNA said. The soldiers were in a red Volkswagen Golf. “Misha”, the first major storm of the season, has made landfall on Lebanon on Friday, with downpours and heavy winds raging throughout the country. Misha will reach its climax on Saturday, bringing snow to areas as low as 1,700 meters above sea level. The storm, coming from Greece, will continue until Thursday. Later on Saturday, NNA explained that the four soldiers are from the North and “they were on their way there through the Hermel road when speeding and the heavy rain led to the flipping of their car and it broke into two parts.”The soldier who was killed is Ahmed Kamal Hamad (21 years old) from the army's airborne regiment. While the injured soldiers are Ibrahim al-Ali (26 years old), Ahmad al-Rifai (22 years old) and Waleed Salahaldine (25 years old). .
Lebanese Form Giant 'U' for Unity on Independence Day
Naharnet/Nearly 2,000 people gathered in Beirut Saturday to form a giant letter "U" -- standing for unity -- as the country struggles to contain the fallout from neighbor Syria's civil war. Organised by the Beirut Celebration non-governmental organisation, the event marked Lebanon's 71st Independence Day anniversary. Due to a political crisis that has left the country without a president and which has delayed parliamentary elections, no formal celebrations were held Saturday to mark Lebanon's independence from France.
The cancellation of an annual commemorative military parade was the first since the end of Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war. Organizers said the 1,860 participants in Saturday's stunt were mainly children and teenagers, and claimed to set a new world record for the largest human letter. Agence France Presse.
Activists, Bar Association March to
Baabda Palace on Independence Day
Naharnet /Students, lawyers and activists marched on Saturday towards the Presidential Palace in Mount Lebanon's Baabda region to reject the cancellation of the country's Independence Day celebrations. The rally was organized by the Joy of Giving Association (Farah al-Ata), Private and Public Schools, the Lebanese Bar Association and the Civil Society. Heavy rains and wind didn't prevent gatherers from marching the Baabda Palace. The rally was held under strict security measures by the Lebanese army that closed all the entrances leading to the presidential palace and searched participants. School buses drove students from different areas to the gathering point in al-Sayyad roundabout. The rally was held under the slogan: “You canceled the celebration but we are the independence.”
The head of Bar Association, George Jreij, told protesters that the association is “keen to preserve democracy... We have no right to move backwards.” He demanded politicians to carry out actions and elect a new head of state. Demonstrators raised during the rally the Lebanese flags, chanting the national anthem. The Lebanese 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. Lebanon was due to mark the 71st anniversary of its independence on Saturday with a parade involving all the country's security forces. The Lebanese Independence Day is a national day celebrated in remembrance of the 1943 liberation from the French Mandate which was exercised over Lebanese soil for over 23 years.
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 Suleiman, who stepped down in May. 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.
Prominent Figures to Head to Saudi
Arabia for Talks with Hariri
Naharnet /Prominent political figures are expected to head in the upcoming hours to Saudi Arabia to discuss with al-Msutaqbal Movement leader Saad Hariri the latest local and regional developments. According to An Nahar newspaper published on Saturday, the talks come in light of the presidential standstill and the efforts exerted to open communication channels between al-Mustaqbal and Hizbullah, Lebanon has been without a president since May when the term of Michel Suleiman ended over differences among the parliamentary blocs on a compromise head of state. Al-Akhbar newspaper reported that Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq, who is affiliated to al-Mustaqbal, will head the delegation to meet with Hariri. The newspaper said that the talks will focus on al-Mustaqbal's dialogue with Hizbullah.
Concerning a Saudi request made to the United Nations Security Council to add Hizbullah to its sanctions list and and whether it could affect the dialogue, sources close to al-Mustaqbal said that the Saudi “stance doesn't concern them.”
The sources denied that the “visit is to inform Mustaqbal officials that contacts with Hizbullah should be cut.” Al-Akhbar quoted sources close to Hariri that “al-Mustaqbal separates between the Saudi stance and the dialogue” with Hizbullah.
“We are convinced that Lebanon should be dissociated from all regional developments.”Speaker Nabih Berri stressed that he is exerting efforts to kick off dialogue between the two rival parties. The speaker's visitors quoted him as saying in comments to the An Nahar that the dialogue will “not be delayed.”Berri considered that Hariri and Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah are “serious” in their efforts to bridge the gap between them. On Firday, Berri, who is the head of the AMAL Movement, denied in comments to local newspapers that preconditions were set for a dialogue between Hizbullah and al-Mustaqbal. Berri is coordinating his initiative with Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat, who is a centrist. On October 28, Hariri launched an initiative based on the election of a new president and exerting efforts to prevent Lebanon from being turned into an “arena witnessing destruction similar to that that is ravaging Syria.”Nasrallah responded positively a few days later, announcing that his party is ready to “engage in dialogue” with al-Mustaqbal.
Berri Says Parliament Could Elect President in 36 Hours if Maronites Agree
Naharnet /Speaker Nabih Berri blamed on Saturday the rival Maronite parties for the ongoing presidential vacuum, estimating that the elections could be staged in less than 36 hours if they agreed on a consensual candidate. “I would retreat and hold a sit-in at the parliament until they head to the legislature,” Berri said in comments to An Nahar newspaper, saying that the sharp rift between the Christian rival parties is behind the ongoing vacuum. “We are able to elect a president in less than 36 hours if they agree.” Lebanon has been without a president, who is also the commander-in-chief, since May because of disagreements between the March 14 and 8 alliances. Hizbullah and the Change and Reform bloc have been boycotting electoral sessions due to a disagreement with the March 14 camp over a compromise presidential candidate. Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, who is a candidate, had previously accused them of adopting such measures in order to blackmail political blocs into electing Free Patriotic chief MP Michel Aoun as president. The Lebanese government has decided on Friday to cancel Independence Day celebrations for the first time since the 1975-1990 civil war because of the country's presidential vacuum. Lebanon was due to mark the 71st anniversary of its independence on Saturday with a parade involving all the country's security forces. The cancellation is the first since the end of the civil war. 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.
Ministerial Meeting with Economic
Committees in Solidarity with Food Safety Campaign
Naharnet /Ministers stressed on Saturday their support to the food safety campaign waged by Health Minister Wael Abou Faour, considering it a necessity to end the chaos in the country. “Establishing a food safety association would end such a crisis on the long term,” Agriculture Minister Akram Shehayeb said during a meeting between several ministers and the Economic Committees at the Chamber of Commerce Industry and Agriculture in Beirut's Hamra area. “Minister Abou Faour created a positive shock through his campaign,” Environment Minister Mohammed al-Mashnouq told reporters. He stressed that all violators should be held accountable. “The stance adopted by Abou Faour isn't personal,” Mashnouq said, pointing out that the culture of accepting and turning a blind-eye to violations must end. For his party, Tourism Minister Michel Pharaon, who previously rejected the health minister's tactics in announcing the names of institutions violating food safety measures via new conferences, said that “Abou Faour's measures shed the light on a huge problem.”
“We all agree on the importance of (providing citizens) with health nutrition.”Abou Faour had announced so far three lists of violating institutions that include some popular restaurant chains and supermarkets that are serving customers food contaminated with bacteria and other inedible substances. Violations included the presence of flies on the refrigerators of dairy products, the presence of open garbage bins in kitchens, workers not wearing gloves, and frying oil that was not changed for months. Economy Minister Alain Hakim said that the “state has long neglected the food safety case,” warning that the scandal will have an impact on the country's economy. Industry Minister Hussein al-Hajj Hassan called on ministers not to point fingers regarding the food scandal but to assume responsibilities in order to reach integration. Abou Faour vowed to continue the campaign, stressing that “protecting citizens doesn't oppose the country's economy.”
Salam Blames 'Immature'
Political Performance for Country's Crises
Naharnet/Prime Minister Tammam Salam said on Saturday that the immature performance by some political leaders drove the country to a standstill, stressing that only compromises will resolve the crises gripping the country. “The immature political performance... is preventing us from reaching solutions to end the impasse,” Salam said in an interview with Aqlam Touhawer program on Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3). He stressed that “a country similar to Lebanon cannot heal without carrying out settlements.”
“Any agreement (between the rival parties) will benefit us all and spread stability amid the conflicts raging in the region,” the PM told his interviewer. Despite his pessimism, Salam considered that the local situation is “relatively holding up.”
He noted that the delay in electing a new head of state is due to the “preoccupation of foreign powers with matters that are more dangerous than the situation in Lebanon.”Salam stressed that his cabinet's work is to carry out reforms and lessen the repercussions of the general situation on Lebanon. “The collapse of the government will have repercussions that exceeds the presidential vacuum and the extension of the parliament's tenure,” the premier warned.
Lebanon has been without a president since May when the term of Michel Suleiman ended over differences among the parliamentary blocs on a compromise head of state. The cabinet assumes the executive tasks of the president as stated by the constitution until a new head of state is elected. In May 2013, the parliament voted to extend its own mandate for 17 months after the rival political parties failed to reach a deal on a new electoral law other than the one based on 50 small-sized districts in a winner-takes-all system.
Earlier this month, lawmakers also deepened the political deadlock in the country after they voted once again to delay elections and announced they would extend their mandate until 2017, which was met by a huge popular dismay.
Asked about the dialogue between Hizbullah and al-Mustaqbal Movement, Salam lauded the efforts exerted by Speaker Nabih Berri, saying: “The speaker has capabilities that he can use in a positive way to find solutions.”
He also revealed that he is “playing a positive role in this regard.” On October 28, Hariri launched an initiative based on the election of a new president and exerting efforts to prevent Lebanon from being turned into an “arena witnessing destruction similar to that that is ravaging Syria.”Nasrallah responded positively a few days later, announcing that his party is ready to “engage in dialogue” with al-Mustaqbal. Concerning the ongoing abduction of Lebanese soldiers and policemen by jihadists, who briefly overran the northeastern border town of Arsal, Salam said that his cabinet “is adopting all the possible means to free them,” refusing to waiver the state's dignity and rights. Three hostages have already been killed by their captors, and the country has been on edge for months over the fate of the remaining soldiers and policemen. Lebanon is deeply divided over the war in Syria. Earlier on Saturday, Salam expressed regret that Lebanon had to to cancel Independence Day celebrations due to the vacuum at the Baabda Palace and the abduction of Lebanese soldiers and policemen, stressing the importance of resolving the political differences through dialogue. He said in comments to As Safir newspaper that “the only solution is to resume dialogue and practice openness.”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. 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.
Choice of president Lebanon’s decision alone, Obama says
Hussein Dakroub/The Daily Star
Nov. 22, 2014
BEIRUT: U.S. President Barack Obama sent a strong message Friday calling for the election of a Lebanese president without foreign interference, while pledging that Washington would continue to support Lebanon in the fight against terror.
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, meanwhile, decried the continued presidential vacuum, saying it was an insult to the founding fathers of Lebanon’s independence, and called for immediate consultations to elect a president.
The two figures’ statements came on the eve of the 71st anniversary of Lebanon’s independence from France in 1943. The government has decided to cancel Independence Day celebrations because of the deadlock over electing a president.
“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,” Obama said in a letter released by the U.S. Embassy on the occasion of Independence Day which falls Saturday.
“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 said.
Parliament failed this week for the 15th time since April to elect a president over a lack of quorum, fueling fears of a prolonged vacuum in the country’s top Christian post. The rival March 8 and March 14 parties have traded blame for the delay in picking a successor to former President Michel Sleiman, whose six-year term ended May 25.
Senior government officials have acknowledged that the key to ending the 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.
In his letter, Obama stressed that the Lebanese Army and security forces should alone be responsible for defending Lebanon’s borders and expressed pride in Lebanese-American ties, particularly in terms of combating the rise of extremist threats.
“We are also proud of our long-standing 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,” Obama said. “The U.S. will continue to stand with our Lebanese partners in the face of the threat extremists pose to our countries and the world.”
He praised the Lebanese for their resilience, saying he was confident Lebanon would be able to overcome security challenges facing the country.
The British Embassy also posted a video on YouTube with Ambassador Tom Fletcher reading a statement from Queen Elizabeth II congratulating Lebanon on its national day.
“It gives me great pleasure to send the people of Lebanon my congratulations and warmest greetings on the celebration of your National Day, together with best wishes for good fortune, stability and happiness in the coming year. Elizabeth R,” Fletcher said. The camera then moves to several embassy staff singing the Lebanese national anthem.
For his part, Hariri said it was shameful for Independence Day to fall with the country lacking a president.
“The insistence to spin in the circle of vacancy and keep the presidency the hostage of external changes is an insistence to keep Lebanon in the whirlpool of division and loss,” Hariri said in a statement.
“It is also the biggest insult to those elite Lebanese men who achieved independence and took it as a base for the birth of the National Pact and the coexistence formula,” he said.
The head of the Future Movement renewed his call to begin immediate consultations by the rival factions to agree on the election of a new president, saying such talks would be part of a road map to protect Lebanon from the repercussions of regional turmoil.
“Independence Day is an occasion to renew the call for a road map that protects Lebanon from the surrounding storms, and to initiate, without any delay, consultations to agree on electing a president who would make his priority the revival of national dialogue, the prevention of strife and the disengagement of [Lebanese] militarily from the Syrian war,” Hariri said in a clear allusion to Hezbollah’s military intervention in Syria.
This road map, Hariri said, represented the “solid foundation for the required stability and a suitable environment for the Army to successfully carry out its role in controlling the border, fighting terrorism and freeing the kidnapped soldiers.”
ISIS and Nusra Front militants are still holding hostage 26 Lebanese soldiers and policemen they captured during clashes with the Lebanese Army when they overran the northeastern town of Arsal in early August.
Hariri said this Independence Day was the most bitter given the absence of a president who should be a national symbol. “And the feeling of bitterness is even stronger, because of the heartache of the mothers, wives, fathers and children of the kidnapped soldiers that resonates in the homes of all Lebanese,” he said.
“It is shameful and deplorable that Independence Day falls while Lebanon is without a president, to whom the Constitution bestows the exclusive honor of taking the oath of preserving the nation’s independence and territorial integrity,” Hariri added.
Speaking on the same occasion, Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi vowed to uproot terrorist organizations in Lebanon and free the kidnapped servicemen, while commending soldiers for thwarting a plot by militants to establish an “emirate of darkness” in the country. “The anniversary of independence comes as Lebanon is threatened by the most dangerous terrorist plot in the entire region,” Kahwagi said in his Order of the Day.
Addressing troops, Kahwagi said: “You were the ones who foiled this plot with your blood and the blood of the martyrs. You thwarted a dream to establish an emirate of darkness from the country’s eastern border to the sea.”
“This plot, if it were allowed to happen, would have led to destructive sectarian events across the country and we would have entered a vortex of a civil war more dangerous than some might imagine,” he added.
“Your confrontation of the terrorist organizations, isolating them in the Arsal region and ending their abnormal presence in the city of Tripoli and its surroundings with a record speed have been appreciated and admired by the Lebanese and the world,” Kahwagi said. “Our decision is clear: The war against these organizations is ongoing. No leniency, no complacency in fighting terrorists until we root them out of Lebanon.”
In addition to fighting ISIS and Nusra Front militants in Arsal, the Lebanese Army also crushed Islamist militants in the northern city of Tripoli last month.
Kahwagi said the Army would spare no effort to secure the release of the kidnapped soldiers. He urged soldiers to remain alert on Lebanon’s southern border and be wary of Israel which, he said, was taking advantage of regional conflicts to achieve its own goals.
Israel: Muslims throw acid on car of imam Sheikh Samir Assi who condemned synagogue jihad murders
Robert Spencer/Jihad Watch
Nov 21, 2014
Here is yet another illustration of why we don’t see more sincere Muslim reformers. Those who buck the accepted line are all too often targeted for violence or, at very least, ostracized and vilified.
Note also that although Hamas-linked CAIR has condemned the Islamic State, no one has thrown acid on any CAIR leader’s car. Could supporters of the Islamic State know something we don’t?
“Acid Thrown on Car of Imam who Condemned Synagogue Attack,” by Nir Har-Zahav and Ari Yashar, Arutz Sheva, November 21, 2014 (thanks to Twostellas):
Anonymous vandals on Friday threw acid on the car of Sheikh Samir Assi who serves as the Imam of Akko, a mixed Jewish and Arab city located near Haifa.
After the horrific terrorist attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood this Tuesday – in which two Arab terrorists murdered four Jews at prayer with hatchets and guns and also killed a Druze police officer before themselves being shot dead – Assi initiated a call for interfaith tolerance.
The imam was one of the organizers of an interfaith meeting of religious leaders with the Jews who pray at the synagogue that came under attack.
Police estimate that the attack on Assi’s car was committed by Muslim extremists who opposed his gesture of solidarity, but note that all angles of investigation are being pursued.
“Jewish and Arab residents of the city of Akko proved that they know to honor each other and to live together amid mutual honor and understanding,” stated Akko Mayor Shimon Lankri.
The mayor continued “this incident is very troubling and there is nothing left but to hope that the radical sources will be taken care of with the full severity of the law.”
Despite Lankri’s assessment of coexistence in Akko, it has been documented that some Arab residents of the city have been flying flags of the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group, hinting at the extremist undertone lurking among the city’s Arab community.
Likewise Arab extremists have reportedly attacked Jewish homes in the city with rocks.
Robert Spencer in FrontPage: Hamas-linked CAIR: A terror organization
Robert Spencer/Jihad Watch
Nov 21, 2014
The United Arab Emirates last week approved a list of 86 “designated terrorist organisations and groups, including the usual suspects – the UAE Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic State – along with two surprises, both with ties to Hamas: the Muslim American Society and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
This surprising listing probably stemmed from both groups’ links to the Muslim Brotherhood. UAE President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan doesn’t want to find himself overthrown by Islamic hardliners, and replaced by a Sharia government.
When the story first broke, I wrote at my website Jihad Watch: “If this is authentic, no doubt Hamas-linked CAIR’s Nihad Awad and Ibrahim ‘Honest Ibe’ Hooper are furiously working the phones today, calling on all their contacts in the U.S. government and elsewhere to get this reversed. What fun it would be to be a fly on the wall in Honest Ibe’s sumptuously appointed office today. Will the Obama administration’s Justice Department now denounce the UAE for ‘Islamophobia’?”
Close. It wasn’t Justice, it was State. U.S. State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said Monday that the Obama Administration was “aware that two U.S.-based groups, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Muslim American Society, were included on the list.” Rathke said that the government was “seeking to gain more information on why, and “engaging UAE authorities” in order to do so.
A reporter then asked Rathke: “The State Department works…with CAIR all the time, no? I mean, there’s all sorts of outreach programs between the government and CAIR, right?”
Rathke seemed taken aback by the question: “I don’t know offhand whether we have a particular…I don’t have that information at my fingertips. But at any rate, we’re engaging UAE officials. These are U.S.-based groups so of course our – we are not in the lead then for domestically-based groups generally.”
It’s perfectly clear why CAIR and MAS were listed as terror organizations: because of their links to the Muslim Brotherhood. But the Obama Administration cannot accept that, as it has itself done so much to aid the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere. Hence their inquiries to Emirati officials, which are a fresh indication of the unwholesome influence these groups wield in Washington. But the UAE has the right idea, even if it reverses itself under pressure from State — and we can only hope for a restoration of sanity in Washington that will end these groups’ influence before they do more damage.
CAIR is not a terrorist organization, if one considers violent acts an essential part of what defines terrorism: it doesn’t blow things up or exhort others to do so. It is, however, an Islamic supremacist organization with the same goals as those of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State: the imposition of Islamic law wherever and whenever possible. And while CAIR is quite mainstream these days, this self-styled “civil rights group” was actually named an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas terror funding case by the Justice Department. CAIR operatives have repeatedly refused to denounce Hamas and Hizballah as terrorist groups. Several former CAIR officials have been convicted of various crimes related to jihad terror. CAIR’s cofounder and longtime Board chairman (Omar Ahmad), as well as its chief spokesman (Ibrahim Hooper), have made Islamic supremacist statements. Its California chapter distributed a poster telling Muslims not to talk to the FBI. CAIR has opposed every anti-terror measure that has ever been proposed or implemented.
CAIR’s dark side has been well known for years. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) said that CAIR is “unusual in its extreme rhetoric and its associations with groups that are suspect.” Another United States Senator said of CAIR that “we know it has ties to terrorism,” and “intimate links with Hamas.” Those were the words of Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), and they have been proven correct.
Congressman Bill Shuster (R-PA) has said: “Time and again the organization has shown itself to be nothing more than an apologist for groups bent on the destruction of Israel and Islamic domination over the West.”
In June 2007, Federal prosecutors named CAIR as a participant in what the New York Sun called “an alleged criminal conspiracy to support a Palestinian Arab terrorist group, Hamas.” This was when CAIR was first designated an unindicted co-conspirator for its support for the Holy Land Foundation. The federal prosecution document described CAIR as a present or past member of “the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestine Committee and/or its organizations.” The Muslim Brotherhood is the parent organization of both Hamas and Al-Qaeda.
CAIR was founded in 1994 by Nihad Awad and Omar Ahmad. Awad had been the President of the Islamic Association of Palestine (IAP), and Ahmad its Public Relations Director. The IAP, which was shut down by the government in 2005 for funding terrorism, was founded in 1981 by a Hamas operative, Mousa Abu Marzook. Marzook currently heads Hamas’s “political bureau,” and is engaged in negotiations with Fatah in hopes of forming a Palestinian unity government. In the course of these negotiations, Hamas reaffirmed its refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist – which is tantamount to vowing its total destruction.
According to a report dated August 14, 2001, from the Immigration and Naturalization Services, the IAP was dedicated to “publishing and distributing HAMAS communiqués printed on IAP letterhead, as well as other written documentation to include the HAMAS charter and glory records, which are tributes to HAMAS’ violent ‘successes.’“ The same report also stated that IAP had received “approximately $490,000 from [Mousa Abu] Marzook during the period in which Marzook held his admitted role as a HAMAS leader.”
Randall Todd (“Ismail”) Royer was CAIR’s communications specialist and civil rights coordinator. He was part of the “Virginia jihad group,” which was indicted on forty-one counts of “conspiracy to train for and participate in a violent jihad overseas.” They were accused of association with Lashkar-e-Taiba, a jihad terrorist group.
Matthew Epstein of the Investigative Project has said that Royer helped recruit the other member of the group to the jihad while he was working for CAIR.
Royer was also among those charged in a separate indictment saying that they conspired to help Al-Qaeda and the Taliban fight against American troops in Afghanistan. And Royer admitted to a grand jury that he had already waged jihad warfare in Bosnia – with and that his commander took orders from Osama bin Laden.
According to Daniel Pipes, “Royer eventually pleaded guilty to lesser firearms-related charges, and the former CAIR staffer was sentenced to twenty years in prison.”
Then there was Ghassan Elashi, the founder of CAIR’s Texas chapter. He was charged in July 2004 with giving Hamas more than 12 million dollars while he was running the Holy Land Foundation. Elashi was convicted in November 2008 of providing material support to terrorism in connection with his role in the HLF. Earlier, Elashi was convicted in July 2004 of illegally shipping computers to two state-sponsors of terrorism, Libya and Syria. Then he was convicted in April 2005 of knowingly doing business with Mousa Abu Marzook, the senior Hamas leader who founded the IAP. Elashi was found guilty of conspiracy, money laundering, and dealing in the property of a designated terrorist.
Bassem Khafagi was CAIR’s community relations director. He pled guilty in September 2003 to lying on his visa application and passing bad checks, and he was deported. Before he worked for CAIR, he was president of the Islamic Assembly of North America (IANA) — which is under investigation by the Justice Department for terrorism-related activities. According to court documents, the IANA was devoted to spreading “radical Islamic ideology, the purpose of which was indoctrination, recruitment of members, and the instigation of acts of violence and terrorism.”
Rabih Haddad was a CAIR fundraiser who was arrested in December 2001 and deported. Again the charges were terror-related.
Maybe all these people had jihadist sentiments either before or after working for CAIR, but were completely moderate while working for it. Maybe. But this is just part of the picture. CAIR is, evidently, a moderate group has several onetime employees arrested on terror charges. It is a moderate group came out of another group that has been identified as the “primary voice in the U.S.” of a terror group. A moderate group that traffics in legal threats and intimidation against those of which it disapproves.
A moderate group?
No, the UAE was right: it’s a terrorist organization.
Elliot Abrams: When presidents say Islam is a religion of peace, “the average American thinks this is crap”
Robert Spencer/Jihad Watch
Nov 21, 2014
Abrams_dlIt is good to see that this discussion took place at all, as usually it is foreclosed with charges that even to broach it is “Islamophobic.” But as usual, it was held on a quite superficial level, with Michael Gerson throwing out knee-jerk moral equivalence arguments that don’t appear to have been addressed adequately. Neither Gerson nor Abrams appear to have gotten into the actual teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah, and without that, discussions like these will always whirl around in the ether with attempts to compare the virulence of various atrocities and acts of violence, and get nowhere.
“Should Presidents Call Islam a ‘Religion of Peace?’ Two George W. Bush Officials Debate,” by Napp Nazworth, Christian Post, November 21, 2014:
MIAMI BEACH — Two former George W. Bush administration officials, Elliot Abrams and Michael Gerson, debated Monday whether it is appropriate for presidents to call Islam a religion of peace.
“What is authentic Islam? Is ISIS an authentic form of Islam, or is it not? I think it’s very important that the United States government shut-up about that question,” Abrams, senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, declared at the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s Faith Angle Forum.
“It used to annoy me enormously when President [George W.] Bush, for whom I was working, would say, ‘Islam is a religion of peace,'” continued Abrams, who served as deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser.
Abrams was speaking on a panel, “Religious Conflict and the Future of the Middle East,” with Shadi Hamid, a fellow with the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World in the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.
The “real response” to Bush, and later President Barack Obama, declaring the Islam is a religion of peace, he said, should be “where is their theology degree from?”
“For American government officials to be telling Muslims, ‘I know real Islam’ … is ridiculous,” he added. “… It would be an outrage about Judaism and Christianity as well. … For government officials who are 99 percent Christians to be trying to find what is authentic in Islam seems to me to be a fool’s errand.”
Abrams’ comments came during the question and answer session and were not part of his prepared remarks. The whole session lasted about three hours and he made similar remarks later in the session in response to another reporter’s question.
When presidents say Islam is a religion of peace, “the average American thinks this is crap,” he said, because the average American reasons that “the only people doing the beheadings are Muslims, so don’t tell me it’s all wonderful.”
It would be better, Abrams continued, for political leaders to ask, “is there something in Islam that has led some Muslims to behave in a way we consider to be terrible? And what’s the debate within Islam?” Because, “that’s a real description of a real problem,” but, “saying ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ isn’t [realistic].”
After those remarks, Gerson asked for the floor to offer a different point of view.
“We do praise Christianity as a religion of peace on Christmas, we do praise Judaism as a religion of courage on Hanukah and other things. We praise Islam. And every president from now on will praise Islam on religious holidays because their are millions of peaceful citizens who hold this view,” he said.
Gerson was a speechwriter for Bush and may have helped craft the statements that Abrams found objectionable. He now works as a columnist for The Washington Post.
Presidential statements about Islam as a peaceful religion is not only proper due to the many peaceful Muslims who are American citizens, Gerson continued, it is also “theologically sophisticated” because presidents should promote the cause of those who hold values consistent with democratic governance, and this is not unique to Islam.
“Every religious tradition,” he said, “has forces of tribalism and violence in its history, background and theology; and, every religious tradition has sources of respect for the other. And you emphasize, as a political leader, one at the expense of the other in the cause of democracy.
“That is a great American tradition that we have done with every religious tradition that comes to the United States — include them as part of a natural enterprise and praise them for their strongly held religious views, and emphasize those portions that are most compatible with those ideals.”
Abrams countered that Islam is different due to its relationship to terrorists. By calling Islam a “religion of peace” after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Abrams said, Bush was “basically lying about the problem,” because, … the terrorists “view themselves as good Muslims.”
“How is that exclusively a problem with Islam?” Gerson responded, then mentioned other religious groups, such as Christians in Nigeria, who commit violence in the name of their faith.
Part of the role of political leaders, Gerson reiterated, is to acknowledge the parts of every religious tradition that “encourage respect for the other.”
Abrams conceded Gerson’s point but maintained that presidents are not doing that when they call Islam a religion of peace because the presidential statements lack the nuance of Gerson’s argument.
“I think you’re being much more sophisticated than the political statements that have been made, which are blanket statements that say, ‘this has nothing to do with Islam,'” he told Gerson.
“Well, it does have something to do with Islam … even if it is a perversion of it, it has something to do with it, and the sophistication of that statement I think would be interesting to hear from a political leader, but we have not had that.”
A similar debate between actor Ben Affleck and comedian Bill Maher recently gained national attention. Affleck accused Maher of being “gross,” “disgusting” and “racist” for claiming that most Muslims are unsupportive of Democratic norms.
That debate, however, saw both sides paint Islam with broad brushes. The Faith Angle Forum panel, on the other hand, highlighted the complicatedness of the religion and politics issues within Islam and especially in the Middle East.
“It was nice to see Ben Affleck defend Muslims,” said Hamid, an American Muslim, during his prepared remarks. “It was well intentioned and a lot of us were cheering him on because no one defends Muslims in the public sphere. At the same time, Ben Affleck’s analysis was a bit superficial. … I do think Islam is distinctive in how it relates to politics but I don’t think that is necessarily good or bad, I think it just is.”
Iran Says Inspectors May Access Suspect Nuclear Site, Still 'No Significant Progress' in Vienna Negotiations
Naharnet /World powers and Iran have still made no real progress in negotiations over Tehran's nuclear program and it looks "physically impossible" to strike a comprehensive deal by Monday's deadline, a European source said Saturday.
The source close to the negotiations said "no significant progress" has been achieved until now and "there is even a chance that we will not" reach an agreement by Monday's deadline.
"For us to reach an agreement, the Iranians will have to move in a substantial way," the source told journalists on condition of anonymity.
At any rate, "the goal is to reach a precise agreement... At this stage the idea that we can wrap up the whole thing (by Monday) is physically impossible," the source said.
"Even if we reach a political agreement, the technical annexes will not be ready. Now in our mind nothing will be agreed until everything is agreed, including the annexes," the source said.
The European source suggested that an eventual political agreement would necessarily be followed by detailed and difficult negotiations.
Earlier on Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Vienna, their first direct talks of the day, a U.S. official said, two days ahead of the deadline for a nuclear deal.
"Secretary Kerry will meet with (former EU foreign policy chief Catherine) Ashton and Foreign Minister Zarif this afternoon," the official said.
Kerry said meanwhile as he met German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier that there were still "serious gaps" in the nuclear negotiations, two days before a deadline for a deal.
"We're working hard," Kerry said, "and we hope we're making careful progress, but we have big gaps, we still have some serious gaps, which we’re working to close."
He added he would "not say anything substantive about the discussions while they're going on, but a lot of serious work is going on by a lot of people."
Moreover, Steinmeier said that the outcome of Iran's nuclear talks with six world powers was "completely open".
Despite huge gaps in the negotiations, "we have never been closer in more than 10 years," Steinmeier said as he joined the talks in Vienna.
"If Iran is ready to take this opportunity then movement is possible ... Whether we can get a result is right now completely open," he said.
"We will do whatever we can and if we can't then we will leave ourselves open to the accusation that we have missed out on something that could have resolved this standoff," Steinmeier added.
At stake in the Austrian capital Vienna is a historic deal in which Iran would curb its nuclear activities in exchange for broad relief from years of heavy international economic sanctions.
It could end a 12-year standoff with the West that has even raised the threat of Israeli military strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities.
Steinmeier was due to be briefed by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who has met with his Iranian counterpart here three times since Thursday.
Iranian sources said Zarif was also due to meet the German top diplomat.
Besides Iran, Germany and the United States, the talks involve Russia, China, France and Britain.
Later on Saturday, Tehran is ready to allow nuclear inspectors access to its Marivan military site, an Iranian official said, a facility long suspected of being used to develop explosive weapons.
The declaration comes as Iran and six world powers hold talks in Vienna to reach a lasting agreement on Tehran's disputed nuclear program before November 24.
Such a deal, after 12 years of rising tensions, is aimed at easing fears that Tehran will develop nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian activities -- an ambition the Islamic republic has always fiercely denied.
The Marivan site, close to the Iraqi border, was mentioned in a 2011 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Iran's alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons.
The UN agency suggested at the time that "large scale high explosive experiments" may have been carried out at the complex.
Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany have been locked in talks with Iran since February after an interim accord gave it some relief from economic sanctions in return for nuclear curbs.
"We are ready to allow the IAEA controlled access to the Marivan site," Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, was quoted as saying by the IRNA news agency.
He said the IAEA's view of Marivan was based on "false" information.
IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor said the watchdog "will discuss the offer" with Tehran.
"The situation regarding a visit to the Marivan region is not as simple as that conveyed by Iran," she told AFP.
As well as Marivan, IAEA inspectors are also interested in the Parchin military base, where they suspect tests that could be applied to a potential nuclear site have been carried out.
Iran has so far denied access to Parchin. Agence France Presse
Bahrain Election Overshadowed by
Naharnet /Bahrain went to the polls Saturday for its first legislative elections since a failed pro-democracy uprising in 2011, with the opposition boycotting the vote in the tiny Gulf monarchy.
The key U.S. ally remains divided nearly four years after security forces in the Sunni Muslim-ruled kingdom crushed Arab Spring-inspired protests led by majority Shiites.
Al-Wefaq, the main opposition group, warned on the eve of the vote that failure by Bahrain's rulers to ease their "monopoly" on power could trigger a surge in violence.
In the Shiite village of Sanabes, west of Manama, clashes erupted between youths and security forces in the afternoon, an AFP reporter said. Security forces fired tear gas to disperse the demonstrators, some of whom were masked and armed with petrol bombs.
Voting had been due to last 12 hours until 1700 GMT, but this was later extended for two more hours, according to state media, in a likely bid to boost turnout. The move came after officials said only 10 percent of eligible voters had cast ballots two hours before polling stations were to have been closed. Almost 350,000 Bahrainis have been called to elect a 40-member parliament, with most of the 266 candidates Sunnis.
The vote has been denounced by critics as a farce.
The boycott means turnout will be a key marker of the validity of the vote, which comes nearly four years after authorities crushed a month-long uprising calling for democratic reform.
Al-Wefaq withdraw its 18 lawmakers after the crackdown.
In Sanabes, and other Shiite villages around the Bahraini capital rocked by clashes overnight and during the day, shops were shuttered, witnesses said.Security forces were deployed and plumes of smoke were seen rising from at least three districts.
On Saturday, hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of the Shiite village of Diraz, with police firing tear gas to disperse them.
"Boycott! Boycott!" they chanted. In other villages AFP reporters saw downed trees, concrete blocks and burnt rubbish bins authorities said were aimed at preventing people from going to vote. "The elections have no meaning," said Yassin, an unemployed 35-year-old.
Umm Hussein, a woman draped in black, said "it's a farce," describing the boycott as a "success".By contrast voting appeared to be brisk in Sunni-dominated districts like Rifaa, in south Manama, where dozens of voters, mostly men, lined up outside pollings stations from early morning.
"This election will help the development of the country under the leadership of the king," said Naima El-Heddi, a civil servant in her 30s.
Shiite demonstrators have frequently clashed with security forces in villages outside the capital, and hundreds have been arrested and tried since the month-long uprising was crushed in early 2011.
The country's political rivals have struggled to bury their differences through a so-called "national dialogue" that fell apart despite several rounds of negotiations.
Al-Wefaq chief Sheikh Ali Salman said the lack of accord could lead to an "explosion" of unrest in Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet and a partner in the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.
The boycott stems from "the people's demand for democratic reforms," Salman told AFP, predicting a maximum 30 percent turnout.
The opposition wants a "real" constitutional monarchy with an elected prime minister independent from the Al-Khalifa royal family.
But the Saudi-backed Sunni dynasty that rules over the majority Shiite kingdom has rejected the demand.
In October, a court banned Al-Wefaq for three months for violating a law on associations.
The movement refused to resume talks with the authorities in September despite a new proposal announced by Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa.
Salman said he did not expect the opposition to reach an agreement with the government, following Shiite-led protests he said had cost "at least 100 lives" in the past three years.
Information Minister Samira Rajab stressed ahead of the polls that the government would not tolerate "chaos, unrest and foreign meddling" -- a reference to Shiite Iran.
Authorities ignored pleas by human rights groups last year to release political prisoners, instead increasing the punishment for violent crimes.
Attacks that cause death or injuries can now be met with capital punishment or life imprisonment.
Municipal elections are also being held on Saturday.
Agence France Presse
Slouching towards the abyss
Saturday, 22 November 2014
Hisham Melhem /Al Arabiya
Let’s begin with some basic truths. The Palestinian and Israeli peoples are condemned to live together; even though the fundamental question was, is and will continue to be, the nature of the cohabitation. To be sure, there are Palestinians and Israelis who believe that the historic land they call home is not big enough for the two peoples and they wish the other away. The maximalists among them still believe that their century-old existential conflict will end with a bang and not a whimper, resulting in a victor and a vanquished. The recent killing of worshipers at a Jerusalem synagogue, the latest in an ugly series of attacks on civilians of both sides, is particularly ominous because it portends a deeper descent to the basest and nastiest of human conflicts; religious wars, where combatants are driven by absolutist convictions, hatreds and fears that cannot be reconciled, like conventional conflicts by political solutions or alternative horizons.
Sanctum, sanctity and sanctuary
In this context, another basic truth presents itself – after a century of struggle- and that is deliberate, cold-blooded violence against civilians, regardless of whom they are, should be condemned and rejected categorically, and in the absolutist of terms. Violence against civilians is morally repugnant and politically counterproductive particularly in a place like Jerusalem where Palestinians and Israelis lead complex and strangely intimate and interlocking lives. My first reaction to the news was expressed briefly in a tweet: “Whatever happened to the concepts of sanctum, sanctity and sanctuary? Killing people while worshipping is especially repugnant. #Jerusalem”. The synagogue attack was reminiscent of the 2008 killing of eight Jewish students at a Jerusalem Yeshiva. But the worst killing of worshippers since the occupation of the West bank was the massacre committed by the religious extremist Baruch Goldstein who killed 29 Palestinian worshipers at a mosque in Hebron in 1994. Jewish settlers regularly violate and vandalize Mosques, as part of their relentless attacks on Palestinians and their property in the West Bank.
The occupier/occupied dichotomy
Another stubborn truth is that, unless the symbiotic relationship between the Israelis and Palestinians which is based on the dichotomy of the occupier/occupied is radically altered they will continue to bleed each other inconclusively. Israeli politicians can talk endlessly and revoltingly about “transferring” The Palestinians elsewhere - a not so subtle euphemism for ethnic cleansing- or about the “demographic threat,” but the Palestinians who lived on the contested land for centuries, are not going anywhere. Radical Palestinians, of the Islamist or the leftist varieties can deny any Jewish claim to the land where the Israelites had roots and sacred places and call incessantly for the restoration of all of mandated Palestine – a not so subtle euphemism for the dismantlement of Israel- but the Israelis too are not going anywhere.
To survive and to prosper, countries and societies develop national narratives that are usually infused with myths, manufactured realities, legends, heroes and demons. Palestinians and Israelis are not strangers to this tradition. Their encounter in mandated Palestine under British rule, and because of it, was destined to be tragic and bloody. Traumatized by long years of pernicious anti-Semitism, violent pogroms and the ultimate crime that sought their total destruction, the Holocaust; the waves of European Jews who came to Palestine under British control to establish a Jewish homeland could not or would not realize that establishing such a homeland will lead eventually to the dismantlement of Palestinian polity and society, and producing “a new category of refugees, the Arabs “, as the great Hannah Arendt observed. The Palestinians who were threatened by the newcomers and their national ambitions would not or could not, for a variety of reasons, adopt alone or with other Arab states effective and creative strategies and tactics that would have allowed them to protect their rights, but at the same time propose different political outcomes based on compromises to thwart the revisionist Zionists.
“Both sides have built an array of stereotypes, myths and manufactured realities including an ugly legacy of demonization and dehumanization”
For decades, but specifically since the 1967 war and the occupation of what was left of mandated Palestine; the West Bank including East Jerusalem and Gaza, both sides have built an array of stereotypes, myths and manufactured realities including an ugly legacy of demonization and dehumanization that comes in handy following the atrocities the extremists commit. That explains in part the despicable display of support for the synagogue killings by some extremist Palestinians and its justification by Hamas. Goldstein was celebrated as a hero by his supporters at his funeral, and his gravesite became a pilgrimage site for extremist settlers.
From secular nationalism to religious fury
For most of the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the dominant narratives on both sides were overwhelmingly secular and nationalist in nature, with an occasional dose of religious seasonings sprinkled on the discourse for the purpose of mobilization and the exploitation of religion to serve political ends. The founder of Zionism, Theodore Herzel and most of his companions were secularists and had a jaundiced view of religion. Many of the early Jewish settlers in Palestine were decidedly leftists not religious. The theoreticians of Pan-Arabism and later Palestinian nationalism were mostly secularists not Islamists, and a considerable number of them were Christians. To be sure, religious figures were involved on both sides, and at times very loud, but certainly were not dominant.
The eventual failure of Arab secularists and nationalists in building viable economies, good governance, and their 1967 defeat led to the rise of political Islam - from the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to Hamas in Palestine. Political Islam presented itself as the alternative of the defunct Arab Nationalism. The ineptitudes of the Palestine Liberation Organization, and later the Palestinian Authority, and the corruption of its aging leadership, ushered in a more assertive Palestinian Islamism. The weakening of the Labor party which dominated Political life in Israel until the 1970’s, and the proliferation of small religious parties reflecting the demographic changes in Israel, marked the ascendency of the religious discourse and the societal turn towards a more conservative-religious polity. The narratives of the religious right in Israel and Palestinian Islamists (Hamas and Islamic Jihad) mirror each other in their maximalist demands and absolutist posturing.
In the past the conflict was framed in political categories: self-determination, national patrimony, natural resources and borders, and as such political compromises can be, theoretically at least, proposed. In this context the Jewish settler’s movement and the creeping annexation of the West Bank has strengthened the theocratic tendencies in Israel in recent years, just as the rise of political Islam in the Arab world (and Iran) has influenced and strengthened Hamas and the other smaller Palestinian Islamist groups. Israel’s wars against Gaza in recent years, Israeli settlement activities in occupied East Jerusalem, coupled with rising demands from the religious right for control of the al-Aqsa Mosque have sharpened the religious discourse. The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized the religious overtones of the recent attack, describing the victims as “four innocent and pure Jews” who were “slaughtered” while wearing prayer shawls. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was unnecessarily provocative when he warned that a “holy war” would erupt if al-Aqsa was “contaminated.” Finally, it is naïve for the Israelis, and the Palestinians to think that their contested land can escape being infected by the malignant virus of sectarianism and religious hatreds sweeping the Middle East from the Gulf to the Mediterranean. If the status quo continues for the next few years, the conflict will become more communal and religious, with the Arab identity of the Palestinians receding to be replaced by Islamist identity. This will be also true of Israel’s Palestinian citizens who will increasingly fall back on their bedrock Islamist identity.
If I Forget Thee, O Jerusalem
Yet, for all the religious overtones and fury exhibited by both sides, the fundamentals of the struggle in Jerusalem ( and the rest of the occupied territories) are in essence political and economic. The more than 300 thousand Palestinians in the city lead lives of quiet – and at times not so quiet- desperation, with almost 80 percent of them below the poverty line and many live in squalor. They live in legal limbo, they are cut off from the rest of Palestine, but they are not Israeli citizens, although they live in the supposedly undivided “eternal” capital of Israel. They are discriminated against politically and economically, they don’t have leaders who represent them, they watch with justifiable anger their land being pulled from under their feet to build Jewish settlements on it and they live in constant fear of losing their residency status. These Jerusalemites don’t need President Abbas to incite them to cross the territory of Henry Thoreau’s “quiet desperation” to commit individual desperate acts of random and nihilistic violence as we have seen at the Jerusalem synagogue.
In recent weeks and days, following the spate of violence committed by young Palestinians acting unilaterally, and without any central planning, people have begun to ask whether what we are witnessing now is a third Intifada. The Palestinian Authority of President Abbas seems to be more irrelevant than ever before when it comes to providing meaningful leadership to the Palestinian people; it is aging, corrupt, terrified of change and obsessed with maintaining its privileges. The Palestinian people today are bereft of real leaders. It is one thing to have a well-organized, peaceful uprising and a campaign of civil disobedience against the structures of occupation by making it costly to maintain and that would lead eventually to a negotiated end to occupation and peace. It is another, to see random acts of meaningless violence that will ultimately devour its perpetrators in the absence of a political strategy that would appeal to those forces in Israeli society who truly believe in the two-state solution, and are willing to help end the occupation in the context of a final peace. Even then, the obstacles to peace will remain formidable unless the U.S. plays a decisive role, something cannot be expected in the next few years.
Slouching towards the abyss
There are many other basic truths that need to be recognized for the full picture to be fully and tragically clear. There will be no more serious talk of a peace agreement or a two state solution as long as Netanyahu is in power. To a lesser extent the same can be said about President Abbas, although, since Israel is the powerful party and holds most of the levers of powers it is mainly responsible – because of its settlement activities, and discriminatory policies- for the current impasse. The American sponsored “peace process” the way we have known it for years, is no more. President Obama tried intermittently, hesitantly and half-heartedly to revive the peace talks, but he does not have what it takes to stand up to Mr. Netanyahu’s powerful American enablers, particularly in Congress. In the absence of American leadership there is only void and vacuum. Israel’s friends in the U.S. will prevent President Obama from leaving Netanyahu exposed at the Security Council of the United Nations without the warm blanket of Washington’s veto power. The European Union cannot lead and there are no other viable candidates to mediate. The Palestinians and Israelis are on their own, slouching slowly but surely towards the abyss of a religious war with passionate intensity and intense pain.
Iran: Success of N. Talks Blocked by Republicans' Victory in Elections
22.11.14/TEHRAN (FNA)- Iran and the US were on the verge of a nuclear deal in the recent talks in Masqat, Oman, but Zionists' pressures and Republicans' control over the Senate after their win in the midterm election blocked the path of progress, a high-ranking Iranian commander said. "What the Americans said in Masqat were the Israelis' words," Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Hassan Firouzabadi told reporters in Tehran on Saturday. Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Hassan Firouzabadi "All the yearlong negotiation with all the endeavors and time and money put into these negotiations was troubled with a political event which happened in the US," he added. Firouzabadi said he doubted if the Americans could handle the situation and take a correct decision in their talks with Iran, and added, "I think that the US officials are indebted to the money (campaign donations) that Zionists spend to bring them to power and cannot, thus, realize what the Islamic Republic of Iran says."The Republicans gained the majority of the US Senate as Iran and the six major world powers had held 8 rounds of nuclear negotiations after inking an interim agreement in Geneva on November 24, 2013, and had less than three weeks time to strike a final deal before the November 24 deadline. The 9th round of talks between Iran and the Group 5+1 (the US, Russia, China, Britain and France plus Germany) included two days of trilateral talks among Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, US Secretary of State John Kerry and EU's Chief negotiator Catherine Ashton as well as an hour-long multilateral meeting between the Iranian and G5+1 top negotiators in the Omani capital on November 11 without any tangible results. In July, Tehran and the six countries agreed to extend negotiations until November 24 after they failed to reach an agreement on a number of key issues. The 10th and last round of negotiations between Iran and six world powers is now underway in Vienna as the seven nations have only two more days to work on a final deal.
A War Only We Can Win
Osman Mirghani /Asharq Al Awsat
Saturday, 22 Nov, 2014
A Global Terrorism Index report, released on Tuesday, suggests that 107,000 people have died in 48,000 terrorist attacks between 2000 and 2013. The revelation may be terrifying, but it is not surprising. Excluding sectarian wars and tensions, terrorism is the biggest enemy threatening the stability of several Arab and Muslim countries that have suffered the highest number of attacks and casualties. In 2013 alone, around 18,000 people were killed in 10,000 terrorist attacks, of which the majority, of course, took place in Arab and Muslim countries, raising serious questions about the efforts being exerted there to fight terrorism. Statistics show that Arab and Muslim countries have been the most affected by terrorism. Data also suggests that these countries will remain under threat in light of the growing activity of extremist and terrorist groups, particularly since the eruption of the Arab Spring and the chaos, fighting, and political and sectarian conflicts that have accompanied it.
There are solo efforts and there could be implicit or explicit security cooperation taking between some Arab and Muslim countries, but genuine teamwork remains absent. It should not be forgotten that individual countries cannot confront a phenomenon as global and complex as terrorism alone.
Arab and Muslim organizations are successful at issuing statements while African countries, for example, have succeeded in forming joint forces to face the threat or halt the advance of extremist and terrorist groups, be that in Somalia, Mali, or Nigeria. The bitter truth is that disputes, conflicts and skepticism prevent teamwork among Arab and Muslim countries. Even worse, these differences mean that some countries support and fund extremist organizations and as a result contribute to the growth of terrorism. Overlapping regional calculations and conflicts have allowed the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other extremist groups to grow in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen. Moreover, Al-Qaeda previously found a safe haven in some Muslim countries and received support from some Arab media outlets.
Experience shows that military and security efforts, despite their importance, will not succeed on their own in eliminating terrorism and extremism. The same report suggested that most of the terrorist groups that have ceased to operate were dealt with politically, while only 7 percent of them were defeated through the use of military force. Addressing terrorism requires analysis of the roots of the phenomenon, and then confronting it by means of internal and collective efforts to counter the ideologues of extremism.
There is also the issue of sectarianism, a phenomenon that continues to eat away at the region and poses a real threat to its stability. Confronting sectarianism is an urgent issue that requires intellectual and political efforts from within the countries affected, as well as collective steps to be taken under the umbrella of regional organizations such as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
Many Western media outlets and analysts have grown accustomed to associating terrorism and extremism with Islam itself, a harmful simplification or sometimes a deliberate distortion. But what is remarkable about the report is that it does not deem religion, or what it refers to as “religious ideology,” as the sole motivation behind terrorism. It is true that religious factors play a key role, but other issues such as racial and ethnic tensions, political chaos and violence and oppression, as well as feelings of injustice also contribute to the emergence of extremist organizations that resort to terrorism. The report also highlights a well-known fact: that terrorism is not organically linked with poverty or low education rates. Some countries, although poor, are not considered hotbeds of terrorism, while other rich ones suffer as their youth are entrapped in the web of terrorism. Today’s terrorists do not lack education and many come from middle class families, though this is not to deny that extremist and terrorist organizations exploit areas with high levels of poverty and youth unemployment by stirring up feelings of injustice.
Confronting terror is, first and foremost, an Arab and Muslim responsibility. This is not because the four organizations responsible for 66 percent of terrorist attacks (ISIS, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and Boko Haram) fight—falsely—under the banner of Islam, nor because 80 per cent of the victims of terror were killed in five countries, four of which are Muslim (Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan). Rather, it is because defeating terrorism intellectually and acquitting Islam of terror charges and the distortions of its nature that stem from this phenomenon will not be achieved without inclusive and comprehensive Arab and Muslim efforts. No one can fight this disease on our behalf. The West’s war on terror will not eradicate this phenomenon, which has somehow become a lifeline for preachers of extremism and terrorism. The responsibility, first and foremost, rests with the Arab and Muslim worlds.
Assad will use a truce to rearm
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed /Al Sharq AlAwsat
Saturday, 22 Nov, 2014
I cannot understand United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura’s plan for resolving the Syrian crisis, the leaks of which have recently been published. The leaked plan suggests there are two contradictory projects being considered as part of one package: a regime ruled by Bashar Al-Assad and areas ruled by armed opposition groups; all of whom would agree to stop fighting for two years.
I am not certain that my analysis is 100 percent correct, as some of the details may be intentionally ambiguous so that solutions can be drawn up according to each party’s ability to make concessions at a later stage. To reduce the ambiguity, we will assume there are four readings of de Mistura’s project, in light of the reality on the ground in Syria today. His idea suggests the solution is one where power in Syria is decentralized given the myriad of players in the conflict and the diminishing presence of the regime on the ground. As a result, the plan suggests that each party would continue to rule the areas they presently control.
The first interpretation would see Assad remain as president in Damascus but would open the government up to opposition participation. Assad’s authority, however, would be limited to whatever areas he still controls in Syria while the Free Syrian Army would continue to manage its areas and other belligerent parties would manage theirs. Of course, terrorist groups—such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Al-Nusra Front, and Ahrar Al-Sham—would be excluded from this partnership. This means that the regime and the opposition must not only accept Assad staying in power, but they must also ally with him to fight against terrorist organizations. If my interpretation is correct, I would tell de Mistura to keep watching Hollywood movies, as they are closer to reality than this far-fetched proposal.
My second reading is that the plan calls for making concessions and setting the minimum of acceptable demands. In this scenario, Assad would exit power and a hybrid administration consisting of the remains of the current government and the moderate opposition would be formed, and each party would continue to control the areas it currently oversees. This interpretation is closer to what was proposed at the Geneva I conference, but it does not foresee a centralized government. Although this solution carries within it the seeds of dispute, it’s a relatively reasonable formula. However, Assad will refuse to leave power.
The third reading is that the plan calls for concessions to be made but without forming a joint government, in addition to a two-year ceasefire. The Assad regime would thus remain in power but without Assad himself, and his successor would govern Damascus. This solution would make all parties feel as though they have won, albeit partially.
The last possibility—and I’m afraid this is the most likely one—is similar to the third one in terms of freezing the situation for two years with a truce. This solution, however, would see the same regime and the same president stay in power. Meanwhile, the opposition would run its own areas but would not be allowed to arm itself, all the while the regime would be repairing its broken army and refilling its warehouses with ammunition.
De Mistura’s suggestion in the latter case is similar to the Israeli solution for the Palestinian territories: a local administration submissive to the enemy! Just like the first interpretation, most open-minded and moderate opposition parties would reject it, and anyone who agreed to such a plan and signed up to it would be killed on his doorstep.
It seems to me that all possibilities are inspired by the case of Somalia. The African country of Somalia has divided as a result of domestic fighting and ended up without one single regime and lacks a centralized government. The situation has been left to stagnate due to the presence of some ten squabbling factions.
If de Mistura insists on promoting the idea of a truce without concessions, this will mean extending the regime’s rule for two more years. We smell an Iranian-like scheme here. Since the beginning, playing for time has always been the scheme of Assad and his Iranian ally. In the summer of 2011, i.e. around five months after the anti-Assad revolution erupted, the Syrian president promised to adopt Turkish suggestions for reform and promised Ankara that he would carry out political reform to end the peaceful protests calling for his removal. However, everyone later found out that this was a mere trick to begin mass murder operations.
In the spring of 2012, Assad promised the Russians that he would end the revolution in two months if they supported him. He thus involved them in the war and actually lost more than he gained. Last year, he resorted to using foreign militias and groups from Iran, Hezbollah, and other groups from Iraq, thinking this would help him to achieve qualitative and quantitative victory. His supporters cheered this move, but a year and a half later the opposition continues to besiege him and is still capable of blocking the airport road in Damascus itself. What’s worse is that chaos erupted and the monster that is ISIS surfaced.
Therefore, the passage of time has been something that has worsened the situation for Syria and the world. Now de Mistura is suggesting a two-year truce which might mean keeping Assad in power. He’s thus repeating the Iranian idea of buying the Syrian regime time to strengthen itself. The trick is that instead of the opposition paying attention to the time factor, they will be preoccupied with territorial details and with issues of governance, without resources or arms to fight their enemy.
Syria goes back to old colonial games
Amir Taheri /Asharq Al Awsat
Friday, 21 Nov, 2014
It was, perhaps, sometime last year that whoever runs the Assad regime in Damascus discovered a colonial-era manual left by the French on how to hang on to power in Syria. Reflecting the aggressive policy of President Alexandre Millerand, the manual recommends a number of stratagems for controlling the newly carved-out country against the wishes of a majority of its people.
The method used was designed to reflect the Balkanization of Greater Syria and the divide-and-rule policy based on promises of mini-states for religious minorities. The fact that Millerand was a socialist and that France was supposed to be a secular state was neither here nor there. Two recommendations stand out in the manual. The first is that the colonial administration should focus its resources on controlling what is termed la Syrie utile, that is to say “useful Styria.” The concept excludes the large part of Syrian territory that consists of thinly populated desert. Instead, it emphasises the value of the coastal strip between Damascus and the Mediterranean plus Aleppo, the country’s most populous city, and two key roads connecting Syria to Lebanon in the south and Turkey in the northeast. Throughout the Syrian national struggle for independence, the French followed that recipe with much zeal but, in the end, failed to dictate the outcome.
Today, the Assad regime is trying to walk in the footsteps of the French colonialists.
It has retreated from large chunks of territory to concentrate its resources on “the useful Syria.” The vacuum this has created has favored the emergence of a dozen armed groups in an archipelago of jihad spanning from the southwest to the northeast.
According to best estimates, the Assad regime now controls some 40 per cent of Syrian territory. The percentage of the population that lives in this segment remains a matter for speculation, and estimates vary between 35 and 60 per cent. Part of the discrepancy is due to the fact that many Syrians registered as refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, and to some extent even Turkey, spend part of their time in or near their former homes, producing the ebb and flow effect of a human tide. Such return-ticket refugees make it hard to estimate the number of people present in a locality at any given time.
The French colonial manual included another, perhaps more important, stratagem: the recruitment of police and army personnel from among religious and ethnic minorities. To that end, a number of tricks were employed.
Though boasting of its “secular republican” identity, colonial France cast itself in the role of “protector of Christians in the Levant.” The French state financed the sending of dozens of Christian missionaries to Syria, paid for the repair of churches there and encouraged the teaching of Christianity at many schools, something forbidden in France itself.
The French courted the Nusairi community, later renamed Alawite and not to be confused with Alevis in Turkey, with the promise of a mini-state on a strip of coast along the Mediterranean. Some Nusairis, including Bashar Al-Assad’s grandfather, bought into that swindle and became ardent supporters of French rule.
The French also courted the Kurds, a major ethnic minority in the northeast, by founding an institute supposedly to study their culture and allowing free movement across the borders with the newly created Republic of Turkey and Iraq. Other minorities, including the Druze and the Turcoman, were also courted in a variety of ways, including invitations to their leaders to visit Paris and have their offspring educated in classy French schools.
All those efforts were given an overarching theme with the French warning that, unless they cooperated with colonial rule, Syrian minorities would face extermination by the Sunni Muslim majority. To make sure that the message was spread far and wide, the French bribed a number of community leaders and pretended that young men from minorities were volunteering to serve France. In practice, however, many such young men were in effect rounded up by press gangs and forced into joining the colonial police and army.
In his seminal book Occupying Syria Under The French Mandate, first published in 2012, Daniel Neep documents the violence that French colonialists used to maintain control with the help of recruits from minorities.
Today, the Assad regime is using a similar stratagem by trying to promote a “coalition of minorities” by using the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Daesh in Arabic, as a bogeyman. The fact that ISIS has killed more Sunni Muslims and destroyed many more Sunni Muslim towns and villages is conveniently forgotten. Thus, we witness a bizarre spectacle in which ISIS and Assad are partners in a deadly pas-de-deux.
Christian, Druze and Turcoman sources tell me that press gangs, sometimes including Lebanese Hezbollah gunmen and their mentors from Iran, are trying to force or tempt some young men into joining Assad’s half-broken machinery of repression, which is backed by Moscow and Tehran.
Using minorities as foot soldiers of imperial rule is nothing new. The army of Xerxes that sacked Athens included many minority recruits from across the Persian Empire. In Rome, Scipio used soldiers from Hispania and Africa in his successful campaign against Carthaginians led by Hannibal. From the reign of Emperor Augustus onwards more than half of the Roman legions consisted of recruits from minorities.
More recently, the British Empire in India depended heavily on recruits from such minorities as Muslims and Sikhs, not to mention the Nepalese “Gurkhas” (in Persian: Seekers of tombs!). The French set up the Foreign Legion to recruit all over the world, while Belgium’s King Leopold built himself an African empire with an army of mercenaries drawn from 30 different nationalities.
However, one lesson that history teaches is that even the best-trained armies, if largely made of minorities, cannot prevent the demise of a system imposed against the wishes of the majority. Though they enjoyed a monopoly of arms, the British were ultimately forced to abandon their Indian Empire. The French failed to tame Syria and, later, to retain control of Algeria despite a massive recruitment of Harkis. Assad and his backers in Tehran and Moscow are unlikely to do any better.
However, by playing the sinister game of setting different communities against one another, they could produce a new framework of suspicion and hatred that a future Syria, hopefully one free of Assad at last, might find hard to ignore, at least in the early phases of its national rebirth. The war in Syria is not between a majority and minority communities. It is a war between all those Syrians wishing to live in freedom and dignity against a minority regime that claims to be socialist, pan-Arab, and secular, yet is playing a quintessentially colonialist game on behalf of its foreign masters.
Exclusive: Cornered but unbound by nuclear pact, Israel reconsiders military action against Iran
By MICHAEL WILNER/J.Post/ 11/22/2014/
WASHINGTON – Historic negotiations with Iran will reach an inflection point on Monday, as world powers seek to clinch a comprehensive deal that will, to their satisfaction, end concerns over the nature of its vast, decade-old nuclear program.
But reflecting on the deal under discussion with The Jerusalem Post on the eve of the deadline, Israel has issued a stark, public warning to its allies with a clear argument: Current proposals guarantee the perpetuation of a crisis, backing Israel into a corner from which military force against Iran provides the only logical exit.
The deal on the table
World powers have presented Iran with an accord that would restrict its nuclear program for roughly ten years and cap its ability to produce fissile material for a weapon during that time to a minimum nine-month additional period, from the current three months.
Should Tehran agree, the deal may rely on Russia to convert Iran's current uranium stockpile into fuel rods for peaceful use. The proposal would also include an inspection regime that would attempt to follow the program's entire supply chain, from the mining of raw material to the syphoning of that material to various nuclear facilities across Iran.
Israel's leaders believe the best of a worst-case scenario, should that deal be reached, is for inspections to go perfectly and for Iran to choose to abide by the deal for the entire decade-long period.
But "our intelligence agencies are not perfect," an Israeli official said. "We did not know for years about Natanz and Qom. And inspection regimes are certainly not perfect. They weren't in the case in North Korea, and it isn't the case now – Iran's been giving the IAEA the run around for years about its past activities."
"What's going to happen with that?" the official continued. "Are they going to sweep that under the rug if there's a deal?"
On Saturday afternoon, reports from Vienna suggested the P5+1 – the US, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany – are willing to stop short of demanding full disclosure of any secret weapon work by Tehran.
Speaking to the Post, a senior US official rejected concern over limited surveillance capabilities, during or after a deal.
"If we can conclude a comprehensive agreement, we will have significantly more ability to detect covert facilities – even after its duration is over – than we do today," the senior US official said. "After the duration of the agreement, the most intrusive inspections will continue: the Additional Protocol – which encompasses very intrusive transparency, and which Iran has already said it will implement – will continue."
But compounding Israel's fears, the proposal Jerusalem has seen shows that mass dismantlement of Iran's nuclear infrastructure – including the destruction, and not the mere warehousing, of its parts – is no longer on the table in Vienna.
"Iran's not being asked to dismantle the nuclear infrastructure," the Israeli official said, having seen the proposal before the weekend. "Right now what they're talking about is something very different. They're talking about Ayatollah Khamenei allowing the P5+1 to save face."
Officials in the Netanyahu government are satisfied that their ideas and concerns have been given a fair hearing by their American counterparts. They praise the US for granting Israel unprecedented visibility into the process.
But while those discussions may have affected the talks at the margins, large gaps – on whether to grant Iran the right to enrich uranium, or allow it to keep much of its infrastructure – have remained largely unaddressed.
"It's like the chemical weapons deal in Syria," the official said. "They didn't just say: Here, let's get rid of the stockpile and the weapons, but we will leave all the plants and assembly lines."
Yet, more than any single enforcement standard or cap included in the deal, Israel believes the Achilles' heel of the proposed agreement is its definitive end date – the sunset clause.
"You've not dismantled the infrastructure, you've basically tried to put limits that you think are going to be monitored by inspectors and intelligence," said the official, "and then after this period of time, Iran is basically free to do whatever it wants."
The Obama administration also rejects this claim. By e-mail, the senior US administration official said that, "'following successful implementation of the final step of the comprehensive solution for its duration, the Iranian nuclear program will be treated in the same manner as that of any non-nuclear weapon state party to the NPT – with an emphasis on non-nuclear weapon."
"That has in no way changed," the American official continued, quoting the interim Joint Plan of Action reached last year.
But the treatment of Iran as any other signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty –189 countries are members, including Iran – would allow Tehran to ultimately acquire "an industrial-sized capability," the Israelis say. "The breakout times [to a nuclear weapon] will be effectively zero."
Israel and world powers seek to maximize the amount of time they would have to identify non-compliance from a nuclear deal, should Iran choose to defy its tenets and build a bomb.
But in the deal under discussion in Vienna, Iran would be able to comply with international standards for a decade and, from Israel's perspective, then walk, not sneak, into the nuclear club.
"You've not only created a deal that leaves Iran as a threshold nuclear power today, because they have the capability to break out quickly if they wanted to," the Israeli official contended. "But you've also legitimized Iran as a military nuclear power in the future."
From the moment this deal is clinched, Israel fears it will guarantee Iran as a military nuclear power. There will be no off ramp, because Iran's reentry into the international community will be fixed, a fait accompli, by the very powers trying to contain it.
"The statement that says we've prevented them from having a nuclear weapon is not a true statement," the Israeli official continued. "What you've said is, you're going to put restrictions on Iran for a given number of years, after which there will be no restrictions and no sanctions. That's the deal that's on the table."
Revisiting the use of force
Without an exit ramp, Israel insists its hands will not be tied by an agreement reached this week, this month or next, should it contain a clause that ultimately normalizes Iran's home-grown enrichment program.
On the surface, its leadership dismisses fears that Israel will be punished or delegitimized if it disrupts an historic, international deal on the nuclear program with unilateral military action against its infrastructure.
By framing the deal as fundamentally flawed, regardless of its enforcement, Israel is telling the world that it will not wait to see whether inspectors do their jobs as ordered.
"Ten, fifteen years in the life of a politician is a long time," the Israeli said, in a vague swipe against the political directors now scrambling in Vienna. "In the life of a nation, it's nothing."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has threatened the use of force against Iran several times since 2009, even seeking authorization from his cabinet in 2011. Iran's program has since grown in size and scope.
According to his aides, the prime minister's preference is not war, but the continuation of a tight sanctions regime on Iran's economy coupled with a credible threat of military force. Netanyahu believes more time under duress would have led to an acceptable deal. But that opportunity, in his mind, may now be lost.
Whether Israel still has the ability to strike Iran, without American assistance, is an open question. Quoted last month in the Atlantic magazine, US officials suggested that window for Netanyahu closed over two years ago.
But responding to claims by that same official, quoted by Jeffrey Goldberg, over Netanyahu's courage and will, the Israeli official responded sternly: "The prime minister is a very serious man who knows the serious responsibility that rests on his shoulders. He wouldn't say the statements that he made if he didn't mean them."
"People have underestimated Israel many, many times in the past," he continued, "and they underestimate it now."
Iran nuclear talks: The narcissism of minor differences the EU and US
By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL/11/23/2014/J.Post
With the negotiation process to end Iran’s illicit nuclear weapons program about to enter the final stretch, nuanced differences still exist among the Western powers toward Tehran.
Nevertheless, the rift has significantly shrunk since the Geneva interim accord last November. To invoke Sigmund Freud’s famous phrase, the narcissism of minor differences among the US, Germany, France and the UK will not be a deal breaker.
“There are few substantive differences between the EU and American positions at this stage. During the Obama administration, Ashton has been very careful to follow Washington’s policies. The US as well as the main European players – Germany, France, and the UK – clearly want an agreement and are ready to make major concessions on enrichment, as well as allowing Tehran to cover up its illegal weapons development,” Prof. Gerald Steinberg of Bar-Ilan University told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday.
Profound differences existed last November.
France tossed a wrench into the Geneva process, with its foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, saying his country did not want to be part of a “fool’s game.” Fabius – and French officials in charge of the Iran nuclear file – remain the most distrustful of Iran’s claim to be seeking peaceful nuclear energy.
However, a soggy French economy, coupled with competition with the highly advanced capitalist countries of Western Europe, seem to be changing attitudes in France. Didier Billion, deputy director at Paris-based think tank IRIS, said: “I think Fabius, who has pushed for a new economic diplomacy, knows that we are potentially losing a very big market that will open to the world.”
Steinberg, a prominent political scientist, gleaned a similar small-scale clash between the US and Europe.
“The Europeans have been much quicker than the US in restoring the trade infrastructure with Iran, following the easing of sanctions and anticipating an agreement that will eliminate these barriers. This behavior is similar to the Russian and Chinese policies, which see Iran primarily as a market with important growth potential. The rush to sign contracts further undermines Europe’s negotiating leverage with the regime.“
Germany has ramped up its overtures to Iran’s captains of industry. A mere day before the expiration of the Iran nuclear talks on November 24, a large Iranian business delegation is slated to begin a visit to Hamburg, Berlin and Hannover. Germany’s powerful business community is determined to regain its multibillion Euro export trade to the Islamic Republic. The Iranian economic delegation consists of representatives from the gas and oil sectors as well as petrochemicals and financial branches.
Last month, London hosted The 1st Europe-Iran Forum. Hundreds of eager businesspeople met to hear former foreign secretary Jack Straw and Iranian tycoons promote investment.
While economic engines may drive short-term gains for France, Germany and the UK, it remains difficult to fathom that Iran’s regime will abandon decades of work building a nuclear weapons device. It is worth recalling that the Bundesnachrichtendienst, Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, concluded in a 2008 report that “development work on nuclear weapons can be observed in Iran even after 2003.”
This helps to partly explain why nuclear proliferation experts expressed shock on Twitter on Saturday that Western powers are willing to gut their demand for full disclosure about Iran’s nuclear weapons development. According to Reuters, a senior Western official said there is a need for a “creative” solution to the transparency crisis because it is neither realistic nor expected that Iran will own up to its work on nuclear weapons devices.
Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher said of former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev: “I like Mr. Gorbachev, we can do business together.” The Western powers believe Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani is a kind of Persian manifestation of Gorbachev.
It is an odd – perhaps incurably naive – posture toward Rouhani. After all, Rouhani boasted that his diplomatic team created a divide-and-conquer strategy to peel away Europe from the US.
Desperation diplomacy and severe fatigue among the Western powers have led to a narcissism of minor differences that might, just might, create a very bad deal for global security.
Benjamin Weinthal reports on European affairs for The Jerusalem Post and is fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Jordanian PM reportedly sends condolence letter to families of Jerusalem synagogue terrorists
By JPOST.COM STAFF \ 11/22/2014 08:31
Jordanian Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour reportedly sent a condolence letter on Friday night to the families of the Palestinian terrorists who carried out Tuesday's attack on a Jerusalem synagogue, according to Channel 2.
The purported letter was addressed to the families of east Jerusalem cousins Abed Abu Jamal and Ghassan Muhammad Abu Jamal, whose attack lead to the deaths of four rabbis and a police officer at the Kehilat Bnei Torah Synagogue in Har Nof.
Police shot dead the two terrorists during an exchange of fire at the synagogue's entrance.
"I ask that Allah will surround them with abundant mercy and satisfaction, and give you all patience, solace and recovery from your grief,” Channel 2 quoted the letter from Ensour as saying.
The letter came days after the Jordanian parliament paid respects by observing a minute of silence and reading verses from the Koran for the two Palestinians.
“In regards to the martyrs that smashed and murdered the Zionists, I am asking for this respected parliament to stand up and read the al-Fatiha (the prayer at the beginning of the Koran) to glorify their pure souls and to glorify the souls of all the of the martyrs in the Arab and Islamic nation,” a Jordanian parliament member said during the commemoration of the murderers.
Ariel Ben Solomon contributed to this report