LCCC ENGLISH DAILY
Bible Quotation For
Today/Faith or Works of the Law
Galatians 01/01-26: "1You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. 16 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,”meaning one person, who is Christ. What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise. Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one. Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise."
Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 23-24/14
Message in a battle/What Jamil al-Sayyed told us about Syria’s aims/MICHAEL YOUNG/Now Lebanon/November 23-24/14
Jewish nation-state law can only cause damage/Daniel Friedmann/Ynetnews/November 23/14
What if Hitler had become an Artist/Mshari Al-Zaydi /Asharq Al Awsat/November 23/14
The Riyadh summit saves the GCC from disintegration/Raghida Dergham/Al Arabiya/November 23/14
The West’s flirtation with terrorists is a poor joke/Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor /Al Arabiya/November 23/14
ISIS continues its state-building project unabated/Dr. Theodore Karasik /Al Arabiya/November 23/14
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French President Francois Hollande congratulates Salam on independence
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President Amin Gemayel Disrupting presidential elections a dangerous strategy
Prospects for Hezbollah-Future dialogue strong
MP and presidential candidate Henri Helou: Aoun's proposal undermines democracy
Iran sent Hezbollah advanced missiles: report ISF shuts Tripoli butcher shop over bad meat
Report: New President Expected before New Year
Report: Hizbullah Awaiting Berri-Asiri Meeting for Clarification on Saudi's Remarks on Party
Meat Shop Shut in Tripoli for Failing to Meat Health Standards as Inspectors Attacked in Sabra
Army Arrests Suspect Linked to Bhannine Clashes
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French President Francois Hollande congratulates Salam on independence
The Daily Star/23, 2014
BEIRUT: French President Francois Hollande congratulated Sunday Prime Minister Tammam Salam on the occasion of Lebanon’s independence while also pledging support to its former colony. “France will continue to work, more than any other time in the past, in the interest [of Lebanon], its unity, stability and sovereignty,” read a letter issued by a Hollande to Salam. According to the French president, his country’s support will be manifest in the work of the International Support Group for Lebanon which was established to help Lebanon cope with the Syrian crisis - in terms of the overwhelming presence of Syrian refugees and the Syria-linked security crises - by supporting state institutions and the Lebanese Army. Hollande expressed his satisfaction with the fact that Lebanon is garnering international support in an effort to reinforce it security. In that regard, the president said that the implementation of the French-Saudi donation pledged to the Lebanese Army serves to enhance the military’s capabilities, especially with regards to counter-terrorism, he said. Shipments of French weapons for the Lebanese Army paid for by a $3 billion grant from Saudi Arabia are expected to begin arrive to Lebanon early next year. Hollande also called for Lebanon to speed up the election of a president in an effort to salvage state institutions.
The French president also voiced his support of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon that is investigating the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. “We will continue to...support the Special Tribunal for Lebanon that serves as a guarantee against fleeing punishment,” he said. The statement came one day after the 71st anniversary of Lebanon’s independence from France in 1943.
Report: Hizbullah Awaiting Berri-Asiri Meeting for Clarification on Saudi's Remarks on Party
Naharnet /Hizbullah has refrained from commenting on the recent Saudi Arabian remarks about listing the party as a terrorist group in anticipation of an upcoming meeting between Speaker Nabih Berri and Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awadh Asiri, reported the daily An Nahar on Sunday. It said that the speaker and ambassador are scheduled to meet on Tuesday. Clarification over Riyadh's statements will be expected at the talks. Meanwhile Berri has been exerting efforts to hold a meeting between Hizbullah and the Mustaqbal Movement of MP Saad Hariri. Hariri's camp has reportedly met with Berri's aides in order to set the agenda of the expected dialogue between the party and movement. The fact that these efforts have persisted despite the Saudi call is indication that the two sides are heading towards the path of dialogue without any obstacles in their way, said An Nahar. Hariri's scheduled televised appearance next week will likely clarify a number of political issues, added the daily. Saudi envoy Abdullah al-Muallemi had on Wednesday had called on the United Security Security Council to put Hizbullah on its list of “terrorist organizations.”Hizbullah on Thursday dismissed the call, shrugging it off as a “sonic bubble.”“The Saudi envoy's remarks at the U.N. Security Council served Israel's interests,” the party's sources had said. The development comes despite the fact that Hizbullah was not included in a recent Saudi terror list.
Report: New President Expected before New Year
Naharnet/The upcoming weeks could be decisive in determining the election of a president given the regional and international interest to end the vacuum at the Baabda Palace, reported the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat on Sunday. Christian sources from the March 14 camp told the daily that France, the Vatican, and Saudi Arabia are pressuring Lebanese powers to end the vacuum. Local officials are likely to have agreed on a new presidential candidate, who is not affiliated with the March 8 or 14 camps, before the end of the year, they added. They ruled out the possibility of Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji being this candidate. They explained: “No new candidate can be elected president without the approval of Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Michel Aoun and at the moment Qahwaji does not enjoy high standing with the lawmaker.”They did not give further details. The sources predicted that the outcome of Iranian-French talks over the presidential elections will begin to emerge, comparing them to the efforts that were exerted ahead of the formation of Premier Tammam Salam's cabinet. “Iran is has been embarrassed and the role of the government is no longer enough to protect the Sunni-Shiite status qou,” they added. “It has become convinced that a Christian pacemaker is needed and it is therefore pressuring Hizullah to elect a president,” they explained. Lebanon has been without a president since May when the term of Michel Suleiman ended. Disputes between the March 8 and 14 camps over a compromise candidate has led to the vacuum.
Meat Shop Shut in Tripoli for Failing to Meat Health Standards as Inspectors Attacked in Sabra
Naharnet /A meat shop was shut in the northern city of Tripoli on Sunday for failing to meet food safety standards as health safety inspectors were assaulted in the Sabra region in Beirut. The National News Agency said that the meat shop, located at the Abou Ali roundabout, was closed after spoiled food was discovered there. The meat was also packed and transported in a manner that violates food safety. A sample of the meat was taken and it will be subject to necessary testing to determine whether it meets health standards.
Later on Sunday, MTV reported that the owners of meat and poultry stores in Sabra assaulted the Health Ministry's food safety inspectors as they were touring the local market. However, the inspectors managed later in the day to enter the market and take food samples after they were escorted by members of “the popular committee, the Internal Security Forces, the General Security and the ISF Intelligence Bureau,” LBCI TV reported. Security forces acted upon a request from Health Minister Wael Abou Faour. “I will continue the food safety campaign and the inspectors will not leave the Sabra market,” he told MTV earlier on Sunday.The minister had in recent weeks launched a food safety campaign throughout Lebanon. He has announced so far three lists of institutions that do not meet safety standards. They 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.A number of shops and establishments have been shut as part of the campaign, including the temporary closure of the Beirut and Tripoli slaughterhouses until they meet health standards.
Prospects for Hezbollah-Future dialogue strong
The Daily Star/Nov. 22, 2014/BEIRUT: The prospects of a dialogue between Hezbollah and the Future Movement is growing stronger with a report published Saturday that a Future delegation is headed to Saudi Arabia to hold talks with the party’s chief, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, about several local matters, particularly the talks.According to An-Nahar in an article published Saturday, the delegation will comprise several politicians who will travel to the kingdom in the next few hours to discuss local and regional developments with Hariri. Al-Akhbar reported that Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk would head the delegation and that talks would focus on the dialogue with Hezbollah. Speaker Nabih Berri has been working on launching a dialogue between the Future Movement and Hezbollah in a bid to defuse tensions and pave the way for agreement on stalled issues primarily the presidential election. In remarks to An-Nahar, Berri said that both Hariri and Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah were serious about the dialogue initiative. “[The dialogue] will not be late and things are headed in the right direction and will not be finalized in a week,” Berri said. “The dialogue will happen so that we can fill that big gap between the two.” Al-Akhbar, quoting sources, said that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon’s hearings and the recent comments by a Saudi diplomat to blacklist Hezbollah would affect the prospects of dialogue
Disrupting presidential elections a dangerous strategy: Gemayel
Nov. 23, 2014/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Certain political parties in Lebanon are using the presidential vacuum as a strategy to achieve dangerous goals, Kataeb party leader Amin Gemayel said Sunday, making indirect references to Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement. “Delaying the election of a president has ceased to become a tactic to empower one leadership post against the other,” Gemayel said in a speech at a ceremony celebrating the 78th anniversary of the Karaeb Party's founding. “This disruption has rather become a strategic stand [that aims] to change the status-quo.”The remarks were directed towards Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement, whose MPs have been boycotting the presidential election for over five months. Gemayel said such a strategy does not only violate the political system, but also the formula by which the country was founded. “It is a risk that nobody can handle, neither by power nor by law,” he said, adding that the collapse of Lebanon’s social contract will hurt Muslims and Christians equally. The former president’s speech focused on Kataeb’s role in the history of Lebanon.“You cannot find one event in Lebanon’s modern history where the Kataeb was not a participant, an influential side or a resistance,” he said. Gemayel stressed that the Lebanese must not forget that they have an independent country with borders and a constitution. “We should not involve Lebanon in the game of wars and new maps,” he underlined.“And this is the reason why we refused the assault on the democratic system, we opposed engaging Lebanon [in the Syrian conflict], we refused presidential vacuum and the extension of the Parliament's mandate.
Sheikh Nabil Qaouk: Lebanon adept to face jihadists, Israel
Nov. 23, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Hezbollah, the Army and the support of the people have made Lebanon the most adept country in the region to fight fundamentalism and the most immune against Israeli attacks, a top Hezbollah official said Sunday. “Due to the comprehensive equation of Army, people and resistance, Lebanon has become the region’s most immune country in facing both the takfiri and the Israeli threats,” said Hezbollah’s Executive Council Chief Sheikh Nabil Qaouk. Qaouk backed his claim by saying both the leaders of the takfiri groups and the Israeli government acknowledge that Lebanon is not like any other country that can be violated. “Israel can speak about its superiority on the various armies in the region, but always admits that the main obstacle facing its plan in the region is the growth of the resistance’s missile power in Lebanon.”He said on the jihadist front, Lebanon has achieved more than what the international coalition has done in Syria and Iraq. Qaouk underlined that the current developments prove that Hezbollah was right three years ago when it said that its involvement in Syria was to protect Lebanon from the takfiri threat. “The takfiri danger is threatening both March 8 and March 14 camps, and all the Lebanese,” he said in a Hezbollah event commemorating the 30th anniversary of Sayyed Abdel-Latif al-Amin’s death. “The political tensions and sectarian incitement opens the appetite of the takfiri terrorism to hit Lebanon again.” Qaouk highlighted that it is only through dialogue and collaboration that the Lebanese political parties can safeguard the country against fundamentalism.
MP and presidential candidate
Henri Helou: Aoun's proposal undermines democracy
The Daily Star/Nov. 23, 2014 /BEIRUT: The proposal of Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun for a head-to-head presidential runoff between him and Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea is wholly undemocratic, MP and presidential candidate Henri Helou said.
"General Michel Aoun initiative contrary to the most basic democratic rights," the Democratic Gathering bloc candidate told Kuwaiti daily al-Anba in remarks published Sunday. He accused Aoun of trying to sabotage democracy, saying a "strong candidate" would not need to exlude others from a race. "Aoun's initiative was born dead ... as evidenced by the refusal of all parliamentary blocs" to endorse the proposal. Some parties have criticized the proposal. But LF figures have signalled that they would be willing to consider it.
Aoun is the favored candidate of the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance. In an interview last week Aoun said he was "ready to go to Parliament to fight the presidential battle against Geagea provided that all [blocs] pledge that there will be no deal under the table.”
“If the presidential battle is confined to me and Geagea, I will go to Parliament,” he said. “The offer I made includes Geagea only because he has been challenging me. I want guarantees the presidential vote will take place and the [Parliament] session will not be turned into a party.”Telecommunications Minister Boutrous Harb joined Helou in condemning the FPM chief's latest proposal. “Who gave Aoun the right to call for restricting representation to him and Geagea?” he asked during a radio interview Sunday, while highlighting that neither of the two rival candidates would secure a majority vote in parliament. Neither Aoun nor Geagea can secure a majority of parliamentary votes to win the presidency without the support of the Democratic Gathering bloc, which is affiliated with Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt. Jumblatt has outright rejected the proposal. Harb also slammed the FPM leader's previous proposal in which he called for a president to be elected through the people. “Aoun’s suggestion to elect a president via popular vote topples all the rules on which our system is founded,” Harb said. According to the telecoms minister, a popular vote would shift Lebanon’s political structure from a parliamentary system to a presidential one. This change would mean that the president’s prerogatives surpass that of any other political figure, he added
Iran open to extending nuclear talks
by up to one year
Nov. 23, 2014/Lachlan Carmichael/Siavosh Ghazi| Agence France Presse
VIENNA: The United States and Iran sought Sunday to bridge gaps in negotiations on the eve of a deadline for a nuclear deal, as Iran signaled it was open to extending the talks by up to a year. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry went into a fifth round of talks in Vienna with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif ahead of Monday's deadline. The two key players in the protracted on-off negotiations have been trying since Thursday to secure a deal that would curb Iran's disputed nuclear activities in exchange for broad relief from punishing international sanctions. It could end a 12-year standoff that has even raised the prospect of Israeli military strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities. Kerry spoke to Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by phone on Saturday.
"We're working hard," Kerry said Saturday in Vienna. "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." German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, also in the Austrian capital, called the weekend of talks a "moment of truth". - 'We must avoid confrontation' -An Iranian source told AFP that Tehran is open to having the nuclear negotiations extended by six months or a year if no real progress towards an agreement is achieved later Sunday.
Such an extension would be under the terms of an interim accord reached in Geneva a year ago that traded a temporary freeze on some aspects of Iran's nuclear activities for limited sanctions relief, the source said.
"We are still focused on agreeing to a kind of political" understanding which would not be written but which would allow for negotiators to fine-tune technical aspects of the agreement later, the source said. "But if between now and this afternoon or this evening we don't get there, the solution is we consider an extension of the Geneva accord," he said. "That could be for a period of six months or a year. We must absolutely avoid a climate of confrontation with escalation from one side and the other," the source said.
The five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and United States plus Germany -- the so-called P5+1 -- have been locked in talks with Iran since February to turn the interim Geneva accord into a lasting agreement.
Such a deal is aimed at easing fears that Tehran will develop nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian activities.
The Islamic Republic hotly denies it wants to build the bomb and insists its program is entirely peaceful. A European source at the talks said there had been "no significant progress" and that "the chances of getting a deal are pretty reduced". "In order to get a deal the Iranians will have to budge in a rather substantial manner," he said. Many experts believe that the deadline may be extended, as happened with an earlier cut-off point on July 20, but officials insist that this is not on the table -- yet. However, a senior U.S. official said late Saturday that the aim was still to reach a deal by Monday night "but we are discussing both internally and with our partners a range of options". British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and his French counterpart Laurent Fabius also joined the talks on Friday. Both have since left but were expected to return. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, a key player in the talks, is expected in Vienna late Sunday, RIA Novosti state news agency reported, citing a diplomat. - Complex deal - Some areas under discussion appear provisionally settled in what would be a highly complex deal that would run for many years, even decades. But two key issues remain: the enrichment process that renders uranium suitable for peaceful uses but also at high purities for an atomic weapon; and the pace of the lifting of sanctions against Iran.
The OPEC member has been hard hit by the sanctions, coupled with a slide in oil prices. Tehran wants to massively ramp up the number of enrichment centrifuges -- in order, it says, to make fuel for future reactors -- while the West wants them dramatically reduced.
The Pope has this to say about climate change
Francesca Washtell in news/UPVOTE
God always forgives… but the Earth does not.
Pope Francis offered a firm warning about climate change when he spoke yesterday at the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), hosted by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, in Rome. “We must care for Mother Nature, so that she does not respond with destruction,” he told delegates from 172 countries. He urged leaders to use upcoming climate conferences in Lima, Peru (COP20) next month and in France (COP21) in 2015 to tackle the problem of “caring for our planet”.
In the same speech he also pressed leaders to take a new stance on food security, arguing that the fight against hunger and malnutrition is held back by “the priority of the market and the pre-eminence of profit which have reduced food to a thing to be bought and sold, and subject to speculation”.The pontiff argued that food security and solving hunger crises must be led by the right to dignity of those who are suffering, not hand-outs and charity. His encouragement for leaders to consider the environment, food and nutrition as global public issues comes at a time when nations are more tightly intertwined than ever before. “When solidarity is lacking in one country, it’s felt around the world,” he added. He has been outspoken about environmentalism and other international issues since his papacy began in March 2013. At a talk at the University of Molise in May 2014 he called climate change “one of the greatest challenges of our time” and described the exploitation of the Earth’s resources as a “sin”.
Iraq court sentences ex-MP to death for murder
Agence France Presse/Nov. 23, 2014
BAGHDAD: An Iraqi court sentenced former MP Ahmed al-Alwani to death Sunday for murder, a spokesman said, a verdict that could damage Baghdad's relationship with a powerful Sunni tribe battling jihadists. Alwani is a member of the Albu Alwan tribe, members of which are fighting against ISIS in the Ramadi area of Anbar province, a key front in the war against the jihadist group which has seized key parts of Iraq since June."The central criminal court sentenced Ahmed al-Alwani to death... for his killing of two soldiers," judicial spokesman Abdelsattar Bayraqdar told AFP, without saying when the murders took place. He has a month to appeal the decision, Bayraqdar said. Alwani, who was a prominent supporter of a now-collapsed Sunni anti-government protest movement, was arrested in a raid on his house in late December 2013 that killed his brother Ali and five guards. The defense ministry said at the time that one security forces member was also killed and five were wounded in the raid. It said Ali was the target of the raid, but that both brothers and the guards opened fire when security forces arrived. Ahmed had parliamentary immunity, but the constitution permits MPs to be arrested without their immunity being waived in cases of serious crime. Alwani's arrest inflamed Sunni Arab anger with the Shiite-led government, which many Sunnis view as having marginalised and unjustly targeted their community. Just days after the raid, security forces demolished the country's main Sunni anti-government protest camp near Anbar capital Ramadi, setting off a series of events that led to the government losing control of parts of that city and all of Fallujah, farther east. Almost 11 months later, Fallujah is still entirely out of Baghdad's control and is now a stronghold of the IS, while security forces and allied tribesmen are still battling for control of Ramadi.
Iran: Failure to reach nuke deal will
'boost radicals, create chaos'
Roi Kais/ Ynetnews /Latest Update: 11.23.14 / Israel News
Iran says dies will not be able to make Nov 24 deadline, as top Iranian diplomatic aide says Kerry's presence in talks indicate a shift in US position, warns of 'dangerous results' should talks fail.
Iran warned the world of the dangerous ramification of failing to reach a deal over its disputed nuclear program, only a day ahead of the talks' self-imposed deadline, and with chances of a deal looking slim-to-none.
Ali Khoram, an adviser to Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif reportedly told the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat that “Failure of the negotiations will inevitably boost radicals on both sides and will create far more chaotic and dangerous results both regionally and internationally,”
The sides are working frantically in Vienna to reach a compromise and reports said in recent days that despite initial plans to return to their home countries, Iran's Zarif and US Secretary of State John Kerry remain in the Austrain capital over the weekend, possibly in a bid to discuss a new proposal. Updated reports from Sunday morning, said Iran says it will not be possible by a November 24 deadline to reach a comprehensive deal.
Despite his warning, Khoram also voiced optimism, saying that “the active presence of Kerry in the last round of Vienna talks seems to indicate that the US has retreated a bit from the unworkable stand it took (last week) and is discussing an alternative, more practical formula for Iran,” the paper reported.
"Considering the short time left until the deadline and number of issues that needed to be discussed and resolved, it is impossible to reach a final and comprehensive deal by Nov. 24," Iran's ISNA quoted an unnamed member of Iran's negotiating team in Vienna as saying.
"The issue of extension of the talks is an option on the table and we will start discussing it if no deal is reached by Sunday night," the person said.
World powers and Iran struggled on Saturday to overcome crucial differences that are preventing them from ending a 12-year standoff over Tehran's atomic ambitions, raising the prospect of another extension to the high-stake talks.
Kerry said "big gaps" remained with two days to go before a self-imposed Nov. 24 deadline for an accord, despite signs of some headway. A European source said the likelihood of a final deal by Monday was "very small".
Diplomats said a framework accord was still possible, but that weeks if not months would then be needed to agree on the all-important details of how it would be implemented.
Powers are pressing Iran to stop stonewalling a UN atomic bomb investigation as part of a wider nuclear accord, but look likely to stop short of demanding full disclosure of any secret weapon work by Tehran to avoid killing an historic deal.
Officially, the United States and its Western allies say it is vital that Iran fully cooperate with a UN nuclear agency investigation if it wants a diplomatic settlement that would end the sanctions severely hurting its oil-based economy.
The six powers face a delicate balancing act at talks in Vienna, due to end by Monday; Israel and hawkish US lawmakers - wary of any rapprochement with old foe Iran - are likely to pounce on a deal if they believe it is too soft on Tehran.
A senior US official stressed that the powers had not changed their position on Iran's past activities during this week's talks: "We've always said that any agreement must resolve the issue to our satisfaction. That has not changed."
Privately, however, some officials acknowledge that Iran may never be prepared to admit to what they believe it was guilty of: covertly working in the past to develop the ability to build a nuclear-armed missile - something it has always denied.
A senior Western official said the six would try to "be creative" in finding a formula to satisfy those who want Iran to come clean about any atomic bomb research and those who say this is simply unrealistic.
If an eventual accord does not put strong pressure on Iran to increase cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) by making it a condition for some sanctions relief, it could hurt the IAEA's credibility, some diplomats say.
Reuters contributed to this report
Jewish nation-state law can only cause
Published: 11.23.14/ Israel Opinion
Op-ed: Proposed basic law will add nothing and solve nothing. In today's explosive situation, it only has the power to worsen Israel's relations with its minorities.
In 1980, then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin led to the enactment of Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel. It was a year after he signed the peace treaty with Egypt, which promised peace on our southern border for decades.
But the agreement was difficult for Begin and his supporters: It required the evacuation of the Sinai peninsula, as well as all the communities established by Israel in Sinai, in complete contradiction with Begin's declared stances. He had even promised that he would move into one of those communities after retiring.
The agreement also included instructions in regards to the Palestinian people's rights, and it is very well possible that Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel served as compensation for the "dovish" agreement with Egypt. Through the law, Begin was able to prove that the proud national stand had not been abandoned, and is there a more enthusiastic act than an act of legislation clarifying that?
Jerusalem had been in the Jewish people's heart for more than 2,000 years without any Knesset law. It had been the State of Israel's capital without any basic law either. Moreover, despite the world's refusal to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, quite a few countries had moved their embassies to Jerusalem, and by 1980 the city already had nearly 20 different foreign embassies in it.
But most of the world's nations were still unwilling to recognize Jerusalem as our capital, and it was time to "show them."
Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel produced the opposite result of course. It was met with a strong international response. Shortly after the law's enactment, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution calling for its annulment. Most of the countries which had embassies in Jerusalem moved them to the coastal plain area, and the rest did it later on. Today, there is not a single foreign embassy left in Jerusalem.
The law failed to change anything for Israel either. Jerusalem was and remains our capital. The world's nations refuse to recognize that, and Israeli legislation trying to force them to do so means nothing to them.
Declarative laws don't have the power to solve theoretical or social disputes. At best they are useless, but they do have the power to cause damage.
Legislation such as proposed Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People will inevitably reach the Supreme Court, which will be required to decide on ideological disputes which are not in its authority. The right-wing camp, which supports this law, will find itself crying out again that the court is giving the law – which was initiated by the right itself – an activist interpretation.
We have more than enough laws which declare the state's character, and it's enough to mention the Law of Return, which opens the state's gates to any Jew and his family members. We also have, by the way, the Flag, Emblem and Anthem Law, which was enacted in 1949 immediately after the state's establishment.
The additional unnecessary declaration will not add a thing and will not solve a thing. Neither will it answer the question who is part of the Jewish people and whether the State of Israel is also the state of a person born to a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother, or of a person who underwent a Reform or Conservative conversion.
It's possible that the law is aimed at explaining to the Arabs the essence of the State of Israel. But legislative declarations only convince those who are already convinced, as we have learned from Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel.
In today's explosive situation, the law only has the power to cause damage and worsen our relations with the minorities, and the same could happen even if the law is moderated and softened.
And finally, if we annex the territories with all their residents, Israel will become a bi-national state, regardless of what the current Knesset writes in one law or another, even if it is called a basic law.
**Prof. Daniel Friedmann served as Israel's justice minister from 2007 to 2009.
What if Hitler had become an Artist?
Mshari Al-Zaydi /Asharq Al Awsat
Sunday, 23 Nov, 2014
Small events make big history. This is a brief interpretation of the so-called historical coincidence. What if Führer Adolf Hitler’s dream of becoming a famous artist had come true; What would the world’s destiny and the course of human history have been like?
History is a complex series of interconnected events that are too minor to be considered predictable.
Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was killed by coincidence. After failing to intercept the official motorcade of the Archduke, the Serbian assassin decided that his assignment had failed and went to a café located in a side street only to find himself face-to-face with the royal car. Due to this coincidence, the First World War broke out. A casualty of the war was the Ottoman Empire (or Caliphate), and its downfall sent psychological tremors throughout the Muslim world that was loyal to the “Supreme” state. The shock was embodied in the emergence of the Muslim Brotherhood in a series of events stretching up to the present day.
A few days ago a German auction house said it would sell off a Hitler watercolor, saying it could fetch as much as 50,000 euros and cited a strong global interest.
Hitler painted the piece around 1914 and his autobiography Mein Kampf describes how his hopes of becoming an artist were dashed by his repeated rejection by Vienna’s Academy of Fine Arts.
What if Vienna’s Academy of Fine Arts had accepted the young man and entertained his artistic ambitions, even if they were modest?
What if the Americans had not released Ibrahim Awwad, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s self-declared Caliph known as Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, from prison a few years ago?
What if Osama Bin Laden had not entered King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, where he first met Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, the father of global jihad?
What if Saddam Hussein had drowned in the river as he fled Iraq over his opposition to the government in the early years of his Ba’athist career?
What if Gamal Abdel Nasser had been killed during the siege of Faluja in Palestine before he formed the Free Officers Movement?
What if Abdel Moneim Aboul Fatouh had been the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate for the Egyptian presidency, instead of Mohamed Mursi?
Dozens of minor and major coincidences would make for a parallel history had they happened. One school of history argues that history is nothing but mere inevitable events with no room for coincidence. The First World War would have taken place whether the Archduke had been assassinated or not, the Second World War would have broken out whether Hitler had become an artist or not, and so on. According to this theory, the role of individuals, or minor incidents, are details that feed, but do not make, major events. But who knows what the future holds?
The Riyadh summit saves the GCC from
Raghida Dergham/Al Arabiya
Sunday, 23 November 2014
What happened at the Riyadh summit on Sunday, which led to announcing the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit would convene in Doha early next month, rescued the GCC from fragmentation and increased the odds of establishing a GCC Plus with Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco. It also suggested that Qatar has decided to adopt a markedly new policy vis-à-vis Egypt, GCC countries, and the Muslim Brotherhood organization.
These are extremely important developments that have many implications for the GCC, regional security, the international coalition against ISIS and similar groups and the identity of moderation declared by the leaderships of the GCC countries against extremism and terrorism. The Doha summit, which will hand over the presidency of the GCC to Qatar next year, will not be ordinary, whether in terms of the issues raised during its sessions, or the positions and commitments of the new, young Qatari leadership represented by Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.
What happened at the Riyadh summit is a testimony to the wisdom of Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, who chairs the GCC summit this year. The two men worked on healing rifts and giving priority to supreme interests over divisions, as they presented a roadmap to the young emir for holding the summit in Doha and for an exceptional Qatari chairmanship of the GCC at an exceptional time.
Iran, Turkey set eyes on summit
Among those who had their eyes set on the Riyadh summit and who will be carefully observing what will come out of the Doha summit are not just the leaders of the United States, Russia, Europe and China but also the Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iranian President Hassan Rowhani, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The issue involves the future of the regional balance of power and the role of the GCC in these balances.
The first to be resentful of the prospects of rapprochement in the Gulf is Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who believed his distinguished relationship with the leadership in Qatar, especially with the father, Emir Sheikh Hamad al-Thani, was a guarantee for the continuation of the Muslim Brotherhood project. His keenness on having a special relationship with Qatar was based on their joint support for the Muslim Brotherhood, which practically meant permanent division in the ranks of GCC countries, undermining the future of the organization. This was reassuring for Erdogan, first, because division in any Arab ranks is conducive to Turkey’s rise in the region and to the strengthening of its position in the balance of power. And, secondly, because his project, that of the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood to power in the entire region, was his ticket to reviving the Ottoman Empire.
Today, Qatar denies being a sponsor and financier of the Muslim Brotherhood, which the UAE and Saudi Arabia see as the source of many plots against them and the region as a whole. The UAE and Saudi Arabia are determined to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood from taking power anywhere in the Arab region. Under Emir Hamad, there was much talk that he was a major supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood. Sources would report that he did not hide this in closed political meetings. Under his son Emir Tamim, Qatar moved away slightly from the Muslim Brotherhood, with some of the group’s leaders leaving Doha, though some of the have reportedly returned.
What had happened prior to the summit in Riyadh was that Qatar continued to support the Al-Jazeera Mubashir, the mouthpiece of the opposition against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and the supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. As long as the younger Emir continued to be committed to the television network created by his father, doubts continued as to whether he had truly been handed over the levers of power.
The main theme of the Riyadh summit was, in one word, reconciliation. The theme of the Doha summit will include a practical plan to launch the new chapter in the GCC march based on “implementing commitments.” The Riyadh summit included written commitments to the priorities agreed upon, at the top of which was for ending Qatari media campaigns against Egypt and reforming relations with the GCC beginning with an end to naturalization that Bahrain confirmed later had begun, and commitment to the absolute priority given by Saudi Arabia and the UAE to ending Qatari support for the Muslim Brotherhood.
These commitments will constitute a qualitative shift in Qatari policy when it is implemented and will have a major impact on Qatar’s position in the region and the Gulf and Arab perceptions of the Qatari leadership. It is no secret that Qatari policies prior to Sheikh Tamim bin Hamid’s tenure following the abdication of Sheikh Hamad have been the source of controversy, anger, and reproach, causing much accusations in the direction of Doha.
“These commitments will constitute a qualitative shift in Qatari policy when it is implemented and will have a major impact on Qatar’s position in the region and the Gulf and Arab perceptions of the Qatari leadership. ”
The pace of the change has seemed slow since Sheikh Tamim took power. Some even believe the abdication of the father was part of the change, after regional and international criticisms of Qatari policies intensified. Many Qataris encouraged the young emir to end the policy of meddling in the countries of the region, beginning with the open intervention policy led by former Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem under Emir Hamad. The view was that Qatar only reaped blame, while its intervention mobilized Arab public opinion against it, raising questions about its intentions.
When Sheikh Tamim visited New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly this fall, he spoke in a language that suggested more change was coming, especially when he addressed a think tank in New York. He was intent on having good relations with Saudi Arabia and the rest of GCC countries.
The GCC, which comprises Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman, was on the verge of collapse if it hadn’t been agreed to hold a summit in Doha on Dec. 9 at the summit in Riyadh, which Oman did not attend. Oman opposes many Saudi, Emirati, Kuwaiti and Bahraini policies, led by these countries’ stances toward on Iran and Saudi Arabia’s determination to create a Gulf Union, which had been previously agreed at the GCC.
“The GCC, which comprises Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman, was on the verge of collapse if it hadn’t been agreed to hold a summit in Doha on Dec. 9 at the summit in Riyadh.
Last year, shortly before the convening of the Gulf summit in Kuwait, a serious diplomatic row took place between Saudi Arabia and Oman because of what Foreign Minister Yousuf bin Alawi said in the Manama Dialogue conference and in remarks to Al-Hayat. The situation was rectified at the Kuwait summit but disputes remained essentially unresolved and were exacerbated by Oman's role in hosting the secret negotiations between the United States and Iran.
Iran wants to establish a regional security regime that would include it and Iraq with the Gulf countries, to practically replace the GCC. This theses of Iran, actually, requires the dismantling of the Cooperation Council. In other words, Iran’s proposals effectively require dismantling the GCC.
Qatar has helped rescue the GCC from disintegration with the decision of its emir to remain an active player in the GCC and agree to a new direction. If Sheikh Tamim had shown inflexibility and refused to reach an understanding with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, and Bahrain, the GCC would have ended in its current form. But since the young emir of Qatar responded to the initiative of the Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah and deferred to the statute of Saudi King Abdullah, he gave a strong boost to the march toward the Gulf union, regardless of whether Oman will decide to join or not. Most likely, the Qatari leadership will encourage Oman to remain in the Gulf fold instead of gravitating toward Iran.
“Qatar has helped rescue the GCC from disintegration with the decision of its emir to remain an active player in the GCC and agree to a new direction.”
There are many reasons behind Sheik Tamim’s decision, including, most definitely, the joint decision by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain to withdraw ambassadors from Doha to protest Qatar’s policy and intervention in the affairs of these countries, directly, and by supporting the Muslim Brotherhood – according to these countries. The agreement at the summit in Riyadh led to the return of the ambassadors to Doha and gave Qatar the opportunity to host the Gulf summit, which would not have convened in Doha were it not for the summit in Riyadh.
Another reason for the new Qatari attitude could be the fact that the U.S. Congress vowed to go after Qatar because of its ties to extremist groups, regardless of Qatar’s justifications that claim these ties serve as useful channels to arrive at solutions. Perhaps the growing Israeli anger over Qatar’s support for Hamas and encouraging extremism in the region – according to Israel – has led Doha to make decisions to adjust course and head off such a campaign. And perhaps the Arab popular backlash against Qatari policies is another consideration.
“Another reason for the new Qatari attitude could be the fact that the U.S. Congress vowed to go after Qatar because of its ties to extremist groups.”
However, what seem to be the leading considerations are the threats against Qatar, which grew dramatically with the rise of extremist groups such as ISIS. Unlike other groups, ISIS has gone out of control. There are also the issues of national and regional security that Doha decided to deal with practically and pragmatically, instead of continuing with one-upmanship and adventurism.
The agreement at the Riyadh summit for a new Qatari approach is also important because the other GCC countries are also deeply involved in the anti-ISIS international coalition, while the Qatari role has been largely cosmetic. The United States needs this coalition to succeed, and no longer accepts having Qatar as just a nametag in the coalition; it expected more and has demanded more action, clarification, and clarity.
Timing of reconciliation
The timing of the agreement in Riyadh is also striking as it coincided with the nuclear negotiations with Iran undergoing their most serious phase and the attempts to save them in Muscat before moving to Vienna and Geneva by Nov. 24. The Gulf message is clear: The reconciliation summit has launched a new joint action of its kind based on the premise that the regional arena cannot tolerate any meddling, and that the role of the GCC fundamentally is to support moderation against extremism. The message also states that there is no room for security arrangements that substitute the GCC and that the role the world wants the GCC to play will be played.
Nuclear negotiations with Iran have a direct impact on GCC countries, whether they succeed, fail, or get stuck somewhere between success and failure. However, there is another party that will be radically affected by the outcome of the nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 countries, namely, Iranian President Hassan Rowhani. Rowhani has linked his fate to the success of nuclear negotiations and his reputation, which is closely linked to that of the moderate camp in Iran. So far, Rohani seems to be retreating before the hardliners, and moderation seems to be on the wane in Iran. Disputes between the two camps over the nuclear negotiations could lead to internal confrontations in Iran.
Iran will be present in the GCC summit in Doha though not in attendance. Egypt will be both present and in attendance at the summit, because the basis of Gulf understandings is the Egyptian question and the shunning of the Muslim Brotherhood and its role in regional balances.
Qatar realized how serious Saudi Arabia and the UAE were in blocking its presidency of the GCC in 2015 if it had maintained its policies and approach in Egypt. Qatar understood that it needed to make up its mind, and it chose to change course. Qatar saw the leadership of the GCC as a great benefit for it in a fateful period like this, and an opportunity to redraw and rearrange its approaches. The first practical step will be to end the partnership with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in supporting the Muslim brotherhood, while opening a new, natural page with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
This does not mean that Iraq, Syria, and Yemen will be absent from the Doha summit, as all hot topics will be on the table.
What is new is that relationship between the generations, between the seasoned men in wisdom and vision like King Abdullah and Sheikh Sabah, and young rulers ready to receive their wisdom and vision, such as Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad. Hopefully, this is good news for the Gulf with practical manifestations to be seen in the countries of the region living in the shadow of understandings and disputes.
This article was first published in al-Hayat on Friday, Nov. 14, 2014, and was translated by Karim Traboulsi.
The West’s flirtation with terrorists
is a poor joke
Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor /Al Arabiya
Sunday, 23 November 2014
The United States and its European allies, who claim to be working toward the destruction of the Islamic State of Iran and Syria (ISIS) and toppling of the Assad regime, are beginning to lose credibility. It appears their sophisticated surveillance apparatus is unable to track long columns of military Humvees and tanks decked out in black flags moving through Syria at will. And they are making no effort to free the long-suffering Syrian people from a dictator who has killed close to 200,000 of his own people.
It’s unbelievable that U.S. airpower has failed to put an end to the war of attrition still raging in the Syrian town of Kobane between Kurdish fighters attempting to wrest the town from the most vicious terrorist organisation on the planet. One is forced to ask why the United States, which waged a war and occupied an entire country for 13 years to get Osama bin Laden, has taken such half-hearted action to eradicate monsters that proudly cut off the heads of U.S. and British citizens.
“It’s unbelievable that U.S. airpower has failed to put an end to the war of attrition still raging in the Syrian town of Kobane.”
U.S. ignoring Assad, eyeing ISIS
Evidence is piling-up suggesting America’s official policy toward both cruel entities is nothing but a facade in a bid to appease its Middle East allies and a sop to naive sectors of global public opinion that still have faith in so-called American values. I hope this is not a cover-up for back-door deals between the United States, Iran and the Syrian regime to rearrange the region’s geopolitical deckchairs to the detriment of Sunni states.
For instance, the U.S. State Department is about to end funding to the Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA) that relies on human intelligence to gather material evidence of the Assad regime’s crimes against humanity. At the same time, it’s spending more on ferreting out evidence on war crimes committed by ISIS, a move that leads some to suspect that Bashar al-Assad and his Iranian-controlled cohorts will ultimately be handed a get-out-of-jail pass.
“The United States spending more time on ferreting out evidence on war crimes committed by ISIS leads some to suspect that Assad and his Iranian-controlled cohorts will ultimately be handed a get-out-of-jail pass.”
In any event, anyone who imagines that either regime officials or the Mickey Mouse “Caliph” will ever see the inside of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague is either dreaming or easily fooled. In the case of Assad, Syria is not a member of the ICC, which leaves only one option: a United Nations Security Council resolution. But that option would be dead in the water because Moscow would certainly use its veto to block any such attempt. But let’s suppose for the sake of argument that President Putin dumps his Syrian ally, thus paving the way for such action. Even then, does anyone suppose that those indicted would be packing their suitcases and booking their flights to the Netherlands to face justice?
Lest we forget, Hezbollah still refuses to surrender four suspects wanted by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in connection with the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005. If an armed militia is able to ignore the court with impunity, there is no doubt that a sitting president would do the same. And as for the “Caliph” and his henchmen, they must be chuckling at the very idea. Creatures that bury children alive, bartering women in a slave market for weapons and blow themselves up to murder innocents are hardly likely to quake with terror at the thought of a panel of judges thousands of miles away.
And, let’s face it, what’s the point of tasking organizations to accumulate proof of their crimes when video evidence is all over the news and there is no shortage of witnesses lucky enough to escape the terrorists’ clutches. In the days prior to the proliferation of the Internet and citizen journalists armed with mobile phones capable of taking videos and photographs, this type of con on the part of Western powers might have succeeded but fortunately the truth can no longer be hidden.
Worse, the United States and other NATO member states are seemingly turning a blind eye to Turkey’s alleged role in permitting ISIS to gain a foothold in Syria. Ankara has been accused of permitting its soil to be used as a secure re-supply and medical hub for ISIS whose fighters are being treated in Turkish hospitals, ostensibly for humanitarian reasons. Is President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s heart so mushy that he apparently welcomes killers, rapists, bombers, crucifiers and decapitators to enjoy his hospitality? What kind of humanitarian seemingly gives succour to murderers while doing nothing to save innocent Syrians being slaughtered a stone’s throw away from his country’s border?
“The United States and other NATO member states are seemingly turning a blind eye to Turkey’s alleged role in permitting ISIS to gain a foothold in Syria”
Moreover, despite appeals from the U.S.-led coalition, Erdogan still refuses to join their campaign in Syria and Iraq because the coalition has yet to fulfil his conditions, he says. He has barred the United States and its allies from using Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base and, in fact, the only concession he’s made is permission for Kurdish Peshmerga fighters to access Kobane via Turkey.
The Turkish president criticises U.S.-led operations in Syria almost weekly with an unrestrained tongue. No surprise there! But I’m mystified as to why the West is treating this renegade by default with kid gloves. Why aren’t Washington, London, Paris and NATO holding Turkey to account for allegedly providing facilities to crazed extremists threatening the entire region when it’s supposed to be on the same side? They didn’t hesitate to slap Russia with sanctions over its stance toward Ukraine, yet Turkey that openly collaborates with the Muslim Brotherhood and its takfiri affiliates gets away with being belligerently obstructive.
Arab leaders must surely be aware of what’s going on. Western powers are no longer sincere in cleansing our region from terrorists. Sure, they tickle them with a few bombs and threaten to haul them off to the ICC but that’s about it. The UK has even asked the Emirates to explain why the names of certain UK-based Islamist organisations and ‘charities’ have appeared on the UAE’s recently published terrorist blacklist as though the British government is their advocate. For years, they’ve been urging Muslim countries to come out strongly against terrorism and when they do, they’re being questioned!!!
Enough is enough! It’s time that Arab armies acted independently without waiting for a green light from the West whose goals are far from transparent. This is our neighbourhood. This is our fight and we must take matters into our own hands. GCC States and their allies, in particular Jordan and Egypt, have well-equipped, well-trained military forces and, together, they can destroy these threats to our existence once and for all. Once again, I must make a strong appeal to these leaders to recognise the dangers and the need for driving our own chariots into a battle that must be won at all costs.
ISIS continues its state-building
Dr. Theodore Karasik
Sunday, 23 November 2014 /Al Arabiya
Despite coalition air strikes, ISIS, or the Islamic State (IS), is a very dangerous group set on state development. It is not terrorist nor insurgent; ISIS represents a group that mixes extremism with state-building designs. They are mercantilism-fundamentalists if you will. They have their own notion of a state and all the functions of such a state. ISIS plans to produce its own currency soon although its viability is subject to debate. Importantly, ISIS is searching for expansion through a variety of tools that involve violence obviously but also by gaining followers through its social media campaign and accessing tribal networks for state building. Its program of “vilayaat” or “emirates” development, in some minor cases, is beginning to take shape throughout the MENA region and is likely to grow through local grievances and appeals to those who are outcasts in their own countries.
The seven vilayaat
A vilayet is an administrative unit usually translated from Arabic to English as a province or governorate within a state. Currently, ISIS has five vilayaat in their state administrative organization. These are: Salahuddin, Kirkuk, The South/Middle Euphrates, The Border (Syria-Iraq), Anbar, and Baghdad. Most appear to be functioning through the take-over of government services, schools, health care facilities, and courts. According to a Middle East-based banker, a few banks under the vilayat system still maintain contacts outside the “Caliphate.” In other words, “business as usual.” Thus, the Islamic State is not surrounded by a wall to keep commerce and people in nor out in the field of “Caliphate” economics.
The announcement of the Islamic State by “Caliph Ibrahim” on the first day of the Holy Month of Ramadan this year is part of the evolution of recognizing that now is the time to announce the vilayat. These vilayaat build alternative government structures and are attractive recruitment tools across the region and beyond because they offer “a new vision.” There appears to be a growing tendency to announce such emirates and then quick denials. These denials appear to be a test for the local strength of vilayat formation. A little over a week ago, Baghdadi’s audio recording in the wake of the air strikes that reportedly wounded him revealed ISIS’ plans ”for building veleyat and the naming of wulat [governors] to the lands of al-Haramayn [Saudi Arabia], Yemen … to Egypt, Libya, and Algeria ... We ask for all those closest to declare bayat [allegiance] to these wali [governor]. In other words, the model for state development is being tried and tested in the Levant for export to other parts of North Africa.
“The announcement of the Islamic State by “Caliph Ibrahim” on the first day of the Holy Month of Ramadan this year is part of the evolution of recognizing that now is the time to announce the vilayat.
”As part of vilayat building, it is important to recognize that ISIS uses bayat to create local alliances with tribes with extremist leanings. We have seen how ISIS uses its local influence, probably with financial payout from their huge financial reserves from oil exports, taxation, and the illegal selling of antiquities, to seek alliances among tribes along the Euphrates and Tigris rivers in Syria and Iraq. Now ISIS representatives are using bayat in Libya and Egypt in order to place communities under their control. This economic model is easily exportable, with or without oil reserves, to other parts of the region where Caliphate expansion is planned by the ISIS hierarchy.
Popular pledges of bayat on the local level construct a more interconnected area of governance out of the territorial patchwork under ISIS control. The unique ability for ISIS to traverse rival tribal coalitions is known as “blood pledges” (bayat damm) in order to forge blood-based alliances. Of course, tribes will use these so-called legal instruments to their own liking but ISIS knows how to make the most out of such an arrangement, especially execution for those who do not follow the practice. This practice has been demonstrated repeatedly in the so-called “Caliphate.”
Baghdadi’s targeting of North Africa, as mentioned in his above comment, for vilayat development is of immediate concern in Libya and Egypt.
In Libya, Darna serves as an example because it is reportedly the first ISIS enclave on the continent. The tribes – perhaps consisting of Misrata, Al-Awaqir and Obeidat tribal units – are susceptible and in early October some members announced the Barka vilayat where hundreds of tribesmen declared their bayat to Baghdadi as the “Caliph.” All those against the Barka vilayat are being hunted down and executed. There are also battle-hardened ISIS fighters returning to Darna from the Levant to help build the military force necessary to support the Barka vilayat and ultimately corridors of governance. A Libyan-based analyst commented that “Libya Dawn is working with the Barka vilayat to establish Mitiqa airport as an air gateway for the Caliphate.” Here, tribal alliances are helping ISIS achieve its goals of acquiring infrastructure by force.
This acquisition process of logistic hubs by ISIS in the Levant is seen most notably in attempts to grab the international airport in Baghdad. Make no mistake, ISIS wants airfields for mobility purposes.
In Egypt, the Sinai vilayat is apparently taking shape much to the chagrin of the Egyptian President al-Sisi’s government. Egypt's most extremist group, Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, proclaimed its loyalty to ISIS. For ISIS, the Sinai Peninsula is important both symbolically as well as strategically. Mohammad Haydar Zammar is thought to be one of the ISIS leaders who has been negotiating with Ansar Bait al-Maqdis since early 2014.
Although the Sinai and Ansar Bait al-Maqdis are mostly Bedouin, Bedouin society operates very similarly to tribal societies but are of lower class and standing. Thus, Ansar Bait al-Maqdis has made it a practice to target and kill leading tribal sheikhs and authorities from the al-Armilat, al-Manayaa and Sawarka tribes. Thus, these individuals are trying to co-opt local tribal leaders to ISIS authority models and make governability possible. The Sinai Bedouin who belong to the IS affiliate see IS as their model to gain local power and prestige.
Overall, there are now seven vilayaat of the Caliphate, and more should be expected. The MENA region is ripe for this type of governance based on tribal networks. The worse news is that the model is exportable outside of MENA. With other extremist groups declaring bayat to ISIS, there is the high probability that the number of vilayaat will grow. Thus, governments where these ISIS-dedicated groups operate need to undermine the very individuals who are promoting alternative state structures. The weakness of central governments to control their peripheries needs to be reversed. Don’t be surprised if a vilayat comes to a neighborhood near you!
Message in a battle
What Jamil al-Sayyed told us about Syria’s aims
MICHAEL YOUNG/Now Lebanon
Jamil al-Sayyed, the former head of the General Security directorate, is not often in the news these days. So on those rare occasions when he is, it must be a trifle galling for him to be given the role of messenger.
And yet Sayyed’s statement in early November upon his return from Damascus after meeting with President Bashar al-Assad was an interesting one, and confirmed what many observers had been hearing for some time. Sayyed reported that the Syrian president sought more military cooperation between Syria and Lebanon, and quoted him as saying: “Coordination between the Lebanese and Syrian armies [in confronting terrorism] would alleviate the security burden for the two countries and would contribute to strengthening Lebanon’s security.”
The fact is that neither Syria nor Hezbollah was pleased with the government’s laissez-faire attitude in Arsal until last summer. They have for some time been pressuring the army to tighten security along the border in order to cut off the supply lines of the anti-Assad groups in Syria’s Qalamoun district.
There are several ironies here. Not very long ago it was Hezbollah that refused the idea of monitoring the border between Lebanon and Syria, a demand of March 14. After the conflict in Syria started, however, the roles were reversed. March 14 said nothing about the passage of weapons and supplies from Arsal into Syria, while Hezbollah sought to tighten border surveillance.
Sayyed’s remarks cast the situation in Arsal in a new light. When the Lebanese Army was attacked last June, it was because the anti-Assad armed groups in Qalamoun felt that the army was about to close the door on them, blocking their resupply routes to Lebanon. This poses a threat, particularly during the winter months, when they will have to move to lower areas, making them vulnerable to attacks by Hezbollah and the Syrian regime.
That is not to say that those who abducted and killed Lebanese soldiers are anything but criminals; or that Lebanon is not justified in securing its borders. However, there is some question as to how many of the rebels fighting in Qalamoun really belong to the Islamic State or Jabhat al-Nusra. A majority, according to Syrian assessments, are simply young men from Qalamoun who were forced to flee their towns and villages last year. That doesn’t mean that many of them do not sympathize with Jabhat al-Nusra, which reportedly has a larger presence than the Islamic State, or that they are not fighting with the group. All it means is that in the confusion of Qalamoun, it is likely that a vast majority of the combatants are far more concerned with defeating the Assad regime than they are with imposing an Islamic state in Lebanon, or opening a new Lebanese front that would drain their resources as they await an opportunity to focus on Damascus.
An understanding of these dynamics is necessary to determine what should be done next. If the Syrians are still sending messages that they seek coordination with the Lebanese Army, this suggests that the army and the political leadership have not responded adequately to Syrian demands up to now. That’s hardly surprising given how divided the country is and how events in Arsal might negatively affect sectarian relations.
Then there is the question of how long Assad can remain in power. His forces have been taking heavy casualties in recent months and have lost ground in southern Syria, the shortest path to the capital. The regime’s narrative that it is winning the battle and that Western and Arab attacks against the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra are bolstering its position hasn’t been borne out. The regime has made some gains, especially around Damascus, but elsewhere it has failed to break the deadlock. Given its heavy reliance on the Alawite minority, a grinding stalemate is to the advantage of its numerically superior enemies.
That is why the Syrian regime and Hezbollah want the Lebanese Army to become more active. If the border remains open, it will make their efforts to defeat the armed groups in Qalamoun even more difficult than they are today. Hezbollah is caught in a quagmire and is taking significant casualties. It was to avert heavy losses that the party initially allowed the rebels to evacuate towns it was attacking in Qalamoun, above Al-Qusayr. But this only ensured that it would fight a grueling guerilla war later on.
The army would make a terrible mistake in coordinating with Assad’s regime, as this would only draw it further into the Syrian mess. Its best option is to contain and manage tensions along the border. But the armed groups should understand that their abduction and murder of Lebanese soldiers and policemen will only push the army into Assad’s arms, while alienating many Lebanese. Extremists in Qalamoun may thrive on this, but the vast majority of anti-Assad rebels have no stake in allowing it.
Perhaps there was something symbolic in the fact that Sayyed relayed the Syrian outlook. There was a time when Syrian opinions were the law in Lebanon. Those days appear to be over and Sayyed’s political fate embodies this. Often the force of a message can be determined by the standing of the messenger.
**Michael Young is opinion editor of The Daily Star newspaper. He tweets @BeirutCalling