LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Quotation For TodayThe Armor of
Ephesians 06/10-20: "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 11, 12/14
Kobane: The anatomy of a disaster/By: Hisham Melhem /Al Arabiya/ October 12/14
On Kobane, the PKK and dragging Turkey to war/By: Ceylan Ozbudak /Al Arabiya/October 12/14
Kurds Abandoned by Canada's Liberals, NDP/By: Tarek Fatah/October 12/14
Kobani's fall would be symbolic setback for Obama Syria strategy/Reuters/October 12/14
Forget Biden’s words, the problem is Obama’s thoughts/By: Eyad Abu Shakra /AlArabiya/October 12/14
Gaza Donor Conference Needs to Send the Right Message on Hamas/By: Neri Zilber/Washington Institute/October 12/14
Lebanese Related News
published on October 11, 12/14
Crisis Cell Agrees 'Steps' that May Free Troops as Report Says They're Held in Explosive-Rigged House
Western, Arab Powers Express Fears over ISIL Plan to Create Passage to Lebanon's Sea
Family of defected Lebanese soldier pleads for his return
Arrest in Shebaa sparks protest
Army Arrest Fugitive Military Soldier in Tripoli
Shebaa Police Station 'Encircled' by 'Members of Resistance Brigades Berri in Geneva for parliamentary conference
Berri Fears Terrorist Expansion in Eastern Lebanon, Chaos in Tripoli Man dies after setting himself on fire: NNA
Lebanese boy killed in road accident after rainstorm
Nazarian: Firms will line up for gas rights
Kerry Expresses Staunch Support to Lebanon in War Against Terrorism
Gemayel Accuses Hizbullah, FPM of Obstructing Presidential Elections
Ministers Gear Up to End Syrian Refugee Crisis
Shelling from Syrian Territories Targets al-Kabir River, Border Villages
Second Lebanese soldier defects to al-Nusra Front in 24 hours
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on
October 11, 12/14
UN envoy warns of massacre in Kobani
Kurds Battle for Heart of Kobane where U.N. Fears for Civilians
|PKK fighters called back to Turkey after protests
Zero logic in Ankara
Kurdish leader threatens Turkey as ISIS continues Syria onslaught
Iran 'tells US that toppling Assad would endanger Israel'
Kerry to call for revived Israeli-Palestinian
Military advance team heads for Kuwait next week to prepare to battle ISIL
Syrian rebels overrun intelligence base on Golan Heights used to spy on Israel
US military says it conducts airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria, Iraq
Car bombs kill 38 in Baghdad London monitoring 'thousands' of jihadists How 2 French girls were lured to jihad online Egypt jails Brotherhood leaders for 15 years
Bahrain opposition to boycott November election Iran's Khamenei goes hiking month after surgery
IS Jihadists Execute Iraqi Journalist, 3 Others
Shebaa Police Station 'Encircled' by 'Members of Resistance
Naharnet/Members of the Hizbullah-linked Resistance Brigades on Saturday “encricled” the police station in the southern border town of Shebaa in protest at the arrest of two residents, media reports said. “Members of political parties and others belonging to the Resistance Brigades have encircled the Shebaa police station in protest at the interrogation of Mustafa and Thaer Ghayyad,” MTV reported. LBCI television said the two men were detained for “assaulting a member of the Internal Security Forces.”Meanwhile, Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5) said the duo had “attacked security personnel” as al-Jadeed TV said they assaulted “an ISF Intelligence Bureau agent.”The decision to create the Resistance Brigades was taken in 1997 by Hizbullah's leadership. The group comprised Lebanese young men who wanted to fight the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon without having to officially join Hizbullah. However, the Brigades were not dissolved after the Israeli army withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000 and they reportedly took part in the fighting against Islamist cleric Ahmed al-Asir's group in the Sidon suburb of Abra in 2013.
Western, Arab Powers Express Fears over ISIL Plan to Create Passage to Lebanon's Sea
Naharnet/International and regional countries are “gravely concerned” of attempts by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to create a safe passage to the sea in northern Lebanon. According to As Safir newspaper published on Saturday, Arab and Western countries voiced concern, during security meetings held in various regional countries, on an ISIL scheme to take control of a swath of territory in Lebanon in order to reach the sea. Sources told the daily that a western official informed Lebanese authorities that such a option is a “red line.”“It will never happen at any cost,” the unnamed official said. Army chief Gen. Jean Qahwaji has accused on Friday the Islamic State group of seeking to ignite civil war in Lebanon and of relying on sleeper cells in the northern district of Akkar and the port city of Tripoli. In an interview with the French daily Le Figaro, Qahwaji said the terrorists were counting on the cells in northern Lebanon and on the backing of some Sunni figures to achieve their objectives. He also accused them of seeking to create a safe passage to the sea in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. They believe they can achieve that in Lebanon by linking the Syrian Qalamun mountains with Lebanon's northeastern town of Arsal and then Akkar district, the General told Le Figaro. The army engaged in heavy clashes with the militants after they overran Arsal in August and took with them soldiers and policemen as hostages. Three of the so-called Arsal hostages were executed in September and August – two of them were beheaded while one was shot dead.
Kerry Expresses Staunch Support to Lebanon in War Against Terrorism
Naharnet /U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry vehemently stressed on Saturday that his country stands by Lebanon in its war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Media reports said that Kerry lauded in a letter sent to Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil the endeavors undertaken by the Lebanese state in its war against terrorism. “The U.S. stands by Lebanon in its war against ISIL along its border,” Kerry reportedly told Bassil, pointing out that his country will continue to cooperate with the state and to support its army.
The Lebanese army has been engaged in battles against jihadists from the Islamic State group and al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front after militants attacked Lebanese security forces in the northeastern border town of Arsal, which lies on the Syrian border in eastern Lebanon.
The jihadists withdrew into the mountains around Arsal after a ceasefire, but took with them several soldiers and policemen as hostages. Three of them have since been executed, contributing to rising anxiety in Lebanon over the encroachment of jihadists and spillover from the more than three-year-old war in Syria. The U.S. diplomat expressed Washington's commitment to pursuit and punish the terrorist Kerry also explained in his letter his country's course of action to form a coalition against IS and similar groups. Ten Arab states, including heavyweight Saudi Arabia, agreed in Jeddah to rally behind Washington in the fight against Islamic State jihadists, as it seeks to build an international coalition. Military chiefs from the 21 countries already committed to the U.S.-led coalition are to meet in Washington next week to discuss strategy, Pentagon officials said. The official acknowledged the fears expressed by Bassil over dangers imposed by ISIL and terrorist organizations on Christians and other minorities in the orient, voicing President Barack Obama's designation not to allow these components to be uprooted from their homeland. The latest developments in Iraq where hundreds of thousands of Christians and Yazidis have been displaced, aggravated fears that the the Christian community in Lebanon would face the same fate.
Christian areas, like other Lebanese regions host hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees most of whom live in popular residential areas that have been raided lately by security forces in search of wanted individuals.
Lebanese man dies after setting himself on fire: NNA
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: A man who set himself on fire Friday night died of severe wounds that he suffered in the incident in the eastern town of Chtaura, the National News Agency said Saturday.The man, identified as Mohsan al-Delbaneh, covered himself in gasoline and set himself on fire in the town's square, the state-run NNA said. The report did not specify the reasons behind Delbaneh's act. He died in a Bekaa Valley hospital where he was transferred the day before.
Family of defected Lebanese soldier pleads for his return
The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The family of a soldier who defected from the Lebanese Army made a desperate appeal to their son to return home, asking the military to refrain from prosecuting him if he decided to do so. The family of Abdallah Shehadeh, who reportedly defected from the Army to join the Nusra Front Friday, invited reporters to their home in the north Lebanon village of Mashha. His weeping mother repeatedly asked her son to return home, defending her family against allegations of extremism. Samar Alloush, dressed in a green veil, said that her son had left for service Friday morning after she had given him sweets to offer his colleagues for Eid al-Adha. Abdallah was stationed in the in the northeast Lebanon town of Arsal, where the Lebanese Army is battling the extremist ISIS and Nusra Front, which sought to overrun the town in August. The clashes in August left 19 soldiers dead, and Nusra Front and ISIS took at least 31 soldiers and policemen hostage. “I sacrificed so much to raise you and I will walk barefoot in the desert until you return because I only live for you. If you care for me, please come back home,” the distraught mother cried, surrounded by Abdallah’s four brothers who are waiting to enlist in the Army. Addressing Nusra Front, the mother asked the group to return her son home "because he is sick and cannot fight." Shehade’s uncle, Ahmad Shehadeh, said the family was religious and that many of its members were soldiers. "We never raised Abdallah or any of our children on extremist values. We are religious, but we are loyal to the nation and the military institution,” he said.
An-Nahar reported that the Lebanese Army had lost contact Friday with one of their Humvees in the Bekaa Valley that Shahadeh was driving at the time. Shehadeh is the second soldier reported to have defected from the Army in two days. On Friday, Nusra Front announced that Mohammad Antar had defected from the military and joined its ranks.Speaking to The Daily Star Friday, a military official acknowledged that Antar had defected on Oct. 3. The Nusra Front and ISIS have called on Sunni soldiers to abandon the Lebanese Army, accusing it of working closely with Hezbollah and attacking Syrian refugees in retaliation for the August clashes.The head of Mashha municipality, Zakariya al-Zohbi, described Shahadeh's defection was an individual act, saying the town was known for its undying support for the Army. "The man is known in the town as a nice military personnel and the son of a family that is devoted to the military institution, and we have never noticed any abnormal behavior,” Zohbi said in a statement. "Everyone is shocked.”
"Mashha is known for supporting the Lebanese Army, and there are no terrorist organizations here or any groups that oppose the Army.” The mayor also denied reports that the Army had raided the town following news of the soldier's defection.
Berri in Geneva for parliamentary conference
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Speaker Nabih Berri traveled to Geneva Saturday to attend the Inter-Parliamentary Union's 131th assembly and meetings. Berri is heading a Lebanese parliamentary delegation including MPs Mohammad Qabbani, Gilbert Zwein and Emle Rahmeh.
The assembly will begin on Oct. 12 and end on Oct. 16 and will address several pressing issues. The Syria delegation is scheduled to present an item on the role of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in addressing the terrorism and extremism of ISIS, Nusra Front and other terrorist groups. The Iranian delegation is also scheduled to discuss the role of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in promoting the U.N. charter to resolve conflicts in a just manner and counter the growing threat of terrorism.
Arrest in Shebaa sparks Resistance Brigades protest
The Daily Star/SIDON, Lebanon: Members of the Hezbollah-linked Resistance Brigades protested Saturday over the detention of two people in the southern town of Shebaa by the Internal Security Forces. Two people from the Ghayyad family were detained earlier in the day for failing to show up to a court hearing over charges a police officer had filed against them. A member of the ISF filed charges against the two earlier this week for attacking him in what some in the town said was a personal dispute. The Ghayyads are also accused of beating the police officer who came to their home in Shebaa to deliver the court notice. The ISF Information Branch detained the two on orders of the prosecutor and held them at the town’s station. Several unarmed men arrived to the station and stood outside, demanding the release of the suspects. Hezbollah formed the Resistance Brigades in 2009 and they are comprised of mainly Sunni supporters from Sidon. But the group has gained notoriety for troublemaking and were blamed for tensions in the coastal city.
Lebanese boy killed in road accident after rainstorm
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: A 13-year-old boy was killed Saturday in a car accident in north Lebanon after his father's car slid due to an overnight storm. Marwan Youssef's Hyundai slid on the Qobayat road and crashed into a tree, killing his son Charbel. The rainstorm also washed out a road in Maamelten in Jounieh, while heavy rains in the northern region of Akkar flooded several roads and shops nearby. According to the Meteorological Department at the Rafik Hariri International Airport, the seasonal rainstorm will end Sunday morning and resume Tuesday. Showers are expected Saturday evening in Beirut and the north. Lebanon is appraching the annual rainy season, much needed as the country reels under a severe water crisis, the worst in 10 years. The Meteorological Department said that so far only 19.8 centimeters of rain had fallen this year compared to 33.2 centimeters in 2013. In Tripoli, rainfall for the year is up at 65 centimeters compared with 28 centimeters in 2013.
Rifi seeks further investigation into 4-year-old's death
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi has sought to further investigate the death of a 4-year-old girl who police said was strangled by a domestic worker earlier this week. "I spoke to the public prosecutor Judge Samir Hammoud about the case, and we decided to refer it to the judiciary for further investigation," Rifi told the National News Agency late Friday. He also said that the ministry was looking into the creation of a medical committee to exhume the body to carry out an autopsy to identify the real perpetrators of the crime."I ask the media to refrain from making conclusions until the investigation is final because every suspect is innocent until proven guilty."Earlier this week, Celine Rakkan passed away from a reported contaminated vaccine but police said Thursday that the family's Ethiopian domestic worker had strangled the girl to death. The worker was trying to hide that she had stolen items from the household, police said in its statement. Rakkan’s father had said his daughter died after a family doctor administered a contaminated vaccine, but he refused to allow the hospital to carry out an autopsy.
Zero logic in Ankara
The Daily Star/Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed Friday to pursue a peace process with his country’s Kurds to his “last breath.” While such a promise is admirable, it highlights his obstinacy, as he ignores the plight of thousands across Turkey’s southern border defending their town to their last breath. Erdogan’s refusal to lift a blockade on the Syrian-Kurdish town of Ain al-Arab, under withering attack by ISIS militants, has been accompanied by Ankara’s demand that a U.S.-led coalition present a comprehensive plan to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad if it is to expect any significant help from Turkey. Turkey has the right to decide that unilateral military intervention in Syria is not in its interests. But by preventing Syrian Kurds from defending themselves against ISIS, Erdogan has already begun to reap the whirlwind. A number of Turkish cities have seen angry protests and deadly violence in recent days, as Erdogan’s Kurdish peace partners grow furious at Turkey’s inaction over Ain al-Arab, known widely by its Kurdish name, Kobani.
Erdogan might be reluctant to do anything to aid Syria’s Kurds but there are obvious, negative consequences when this policy is pursued blindly, with no regard for the repercussions of a massacre about to take place in front of the global media.
Meanwhile, he has fallen back on the blame game, saying “thugs and terrorists” were trying to undermine the Turkish-Kurdish peace talks. Perhaps such rhetoric plays well in Erdogan’s inner circle of Muslim Brotherhood politicians, but not for anyone else. Turkey’s policy on Kobani is in danger of marking a shift in Ankara’s old policy of “zero conflict” to one of “zero logic.”
Crisis Cell Agrees 'Steps' that May Free Troops as Report Says They're Held in Explosive-Rigged House
Naharnet/The so-called ministerial crisis cell on Saturday decided to take a number of “steps” that might eventually lead to the release of troops and police abducted by jihadist groups, amid reports that they are being held hostage in an “explosive-rigged” house on the outskirts of the northeastern border town of Arsal. After a meeting at the Grand Serail, the cell said it “discussed the situations and the latest developments in the negotiations aimed at freeing the captive security personnel.”It also “decided to take a number of steps, which it hopes will lead to reaching practical results in this case through utilizing all the available means.”The pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat had reported on Saturday morning that the captives are being held in a house, not in a cave as previously reported, on the outskirts of the northeastern border town of Arsal. The newspaper said that the house is rigged with a nest of explosives at its entrances to prevent any military operation to free them. A security source told the newspaper that the captives are malnutritioned as they are only being fed bread or rice at times. The troops and police were kidnapped by militants from al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State group when they overran the town of Arsal in August and engaged in bloody clashes with the army. The daily reported that Lebanese officials have been facing difficulties in dealing with a Qatari mediator, who is tasked to negotiate the safe release of the servicemen. “The negotiator is young and is not communicating adequately with those responsible for the case,” a Lebanese source told Asharq al-Awsat.
The source presumed that the terrorists don't “trust the negotiator enough.” He revealed that the abductees had informed the mediator about their demands but he has not yet passed them on to Lebanese authorities. Al-Joumhouria newspaper reported that negotiations are still limited to the Islamic State group and have not involved al-Nusra Front until the moment. It added that Qatar is waiting to achieve a breakthrough with IS officials, expecting negotiations to be easier with al-Nusra Front. The kidnappers have several demands to release the captives. One of them is the freedom of several Islamist inmates in Roumieh prison. Their capture and the failure of the Lebanese authorities to secure their release had sparked protests across Lebanon. The families fear that the extremists would kill their loved ones after they executed three of the hostages in August and September. Earlier this week, the families moved their protest from Dahr al-Baidar to Beirut's Riad al-Solh Square, erecting three tens to pressure the state to exert more efforts to release their relatives from captivity.
Gemayel Accuses Hizbullah, FPM of Obstructing Presidential Elections
Naharnet/Kataeb Party leader Amin Gemayel lashed out on Saturday at the Free Patriotic Movement and Hizbullah, accusing them of having interests to impede the election of a new head of state.“Whoever wants to run for the presidency has the right... If the candidate didn't have enough support at the parliament then he withdraws,” Gemayel said in an interview with An Nahar newspaper. He considered the delay in electing a new president as a “coup against the constitution and violates the constitutional norms.”
Gemayel warned of “Hizbullah's decision to hold onto the candidacy of (FPM chief Michel) Aoun, despite his low chances to reach the post.”“This could only mean that the party (Hizbullah) doesn't want to stage the presidential elections.”
The Christian leader described Speaker Nabih Berri's continuous calls on the parliament to convene to elect a new president as a “constitutional task.”He considered the lack of quorum, which is caused by Hizbullah and the FPM's lawmakers, is “skillfully” played.
Lebanon has been without a president since the term of Michel Suleiman ended in May.Ongoing disputes between the rival March 8 and 14 camps over a compromise candidate have thwarted the elections. The majority of the March 8 alliance's MPs have been causing a lack of quorum in sessions aimed at electing a president, leaving the country without a head of state. Gemayel told his interviewer that his recent meeting with al-Mustaqbal Movement chief Saad Hariri in Paris tackled the “necessity of electing a new head of state, whether it was Amin Gemayel or anyone else who is capable of garnering the votes of half-plus-one of lawmakers.” “My name has been suggested for the presidency post, but nothing has changed yet.”Asked if the political arch-foes are still discussing the election of a consensual head of state, the Kataeb leader said: “A consensual president doesn't contrast the strong president... My candidacy could be the solution.” Concerning the controversial extension of the parliament's tenure, Gemayel reiterated that the shouldn't convene amid the vacuum at the Baabda Palace to legislate as it should only hold sessions to elect a new president. However, he said that his parliamentary bloc will not resign if the parliamentary term was extended, saying: “We cannot boycott the constitutional institutions... If the extension took place we will cooperate.” Hariri had stated on Tuesday after talks in Paris with French President Francois Hollande that the presidential elections should be a priority for Lebanon, revealing that his movement will not participate in the parliamentary polls should they be held in the absence of a president. Some political blocks have been demanding that the parliamentary elections, which are set for November, should be held even if a head of state is not elected. Others have been demanding that parliament's term be extended for a second time given the vacuum, poor security situation, and dispute over an electoral law. Poor security and the disagreement over the law forced the extension of parliament's term last year.On the bombing of an Israeli patrol in the Shebaa Farms, Gemayel described it as a “risk that could involve the country in incidents that it doesn't need.” Hizbullah claimed on Tuesday a roadside bomb in the occupied Shebaa Farms area near the ceasefire line that wounded two Israeli soldiers and prompted Israeli artillery fire into southern Lebanon. “The decision of war and peace should be in the hands of the Lebanese state,” Gemayel reiterated. He rejected the so-called self-security, slamming it as “clear violation of the constitution and the law.”“The only solution is to unite and support the army and the Internal Security Forces,” Gemayel told An Nahar.“Arming the people will become a burden on the Lebanese in later stages.”
Iran 'tells US that toppling Assad would endanger Israel'
Ynetnews/Associated Press /Published: 10.11.14, / Israel News
TEHRAN – Iran has reportedly warned the US that ousting Syrian leader Bashar Assad in the guise of battling the Islamic State would endanger Israel. The report in the Iranian media came as a senior Iranian official confirmed that his country and the US had exchanged messages over the fight against the militant group. Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian also was quoted Saturday by Iranian media as saying Iran warned Washington that Israel's security will be at risk should the US and its allies seek to topple the embattled Syrian president in the name of fighting the extremist group. Iran has backed Assad during Syria's three-year civil war. The US has called for Assad to resign and rules out cooperating with his government in the fight against the Islamic State group. Abdollahian's comments were the first time a senior Iranian official confirmed that Iran and the US had discussed fighting the Islamic State group. Iranian officials have slammed the US policy on fighting Islamic State forces, after US Secretary of State John Kerry ruled out Iranian involvement in the broad coalition formed to fight the radical Islamist group. Iran's Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani told Iranian media last month that "the US logic for annihilating the ISIL (an acronym for the Islamic State) will not result in reforms in the Middle-East and won't destroy the ISIL, rather it will cause an overwhelming fire of hatred in this region."Last week, the Sunday Times reported that the Islamic State is preparing to wage war on Iran in order to obtain the secrets of its nuclear program, citing a manifesto attributed to a member of the Islamic State war cabinet that the newspaper had uncovered.
Military advance team heads for Kuwait
next week to prepare to battle ISIL
The Canadian PressBy The Canadian Press | The Canadian Press/OTTAWA - Defence Minister Rob Nicholson says an advance military team will leave Trenton, Ont., for Kuwait next week as Canada gears up to join the fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq.
In a statement Saturday, Nicholson says the Theatre Activation Team will be comprised of approximately 120 Armed Forces members from across the country.The team is responsible for setting up the infrastructure support required for Canada's part in the battle against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. The government announced Thursday that Canada's fighter jets and surveillance planes bound for the war against ISIL would be based in Kuwait. The base will host CF-18 jet fighters, two CP-140 Auroras and a C-150 Polaris. It is expected to take about three weeks before the aircraft are in place and ready to conduct operations.
Kobani's fall would be symbolic setback for Obama Syria strategy
By REUTERS \ WASHINGTON - It's not a particularly strategic location, the United States and its allies never pledged to defend it, and few people outside the region had even heard of it before this month.
But the symbolism of US-led airstrikes failing to stop Islamic State militants from overrunning the Syrian city of Kobani could provide an early setback to US President Barack Obama's three-week old Syria air campaign - far beyond its battlefield importance.
If Islamic State seizes full control of the city - which US officials acknowledge is possible in coming days - it would be able to boast that it has withstood American air power. A US-led coalition has launched 50 strikes against militant positions around the city, most of those in the last four days. Islamic State also would be able to free up thousands of fighters to pursue territorial gains elsewhere in Syria and Iraq, analysts said.
Inevitable questions would arise over Obama's pledge to keep US ground troops out of the fight and the strength of his international coalition. Turkey, whose border abuts Kobani, has declined to join military action against Islamic State.
"Judging the overall coalition from a single town in northern Syria ... is slightly unfair," said Shashank Joshi of London's Royal United Services Institute. "But I think it will dent overall confidence in the coalition and it will concern many people as to whether the US can really stop this movement."
A Kobani victory would also provide valuable propaganda for the Islamic State, which has proved adept at providing packaged video footage of its fighters in action, while the United States can only produce fuzzy pictures of air-launched bombs and missile blowing up often unidentifiable objects on the ground.
Jeff White of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said Islamic State will "claim it has been able to do this in the face of a US-led bombing campaign." The group's supporters "will find that uplifting" and its opponents depressing, White said.
The city's fate also holds importance for Syria's Kurds, who have enjoyed a semi-independent region that includes Kobani after President Bashar Assad's grip on his country loosened.
For Turkey, the loss of Kobani would appear to be a mixed blessing.
Ankara opposes both Assad and Kurdish independence, and has done nothing to aid in Kobani's defense. But if the city falls, Islamic State will have stitched up a 250-kilometer (155-mile) stretch of territory along the Turkish border, according to some analyst estimates.
TOO MUCH EMPHASIS
Kobani has riveted international attention largely because of its proximity to Turkey - and television cameras there have captured the fighting just across the border. On Friday, Kurdish forces and Islamic State fighters were reported to be engaged in street battles within the city. A UN envoy said he feared a massacre of thousands of people if Islamic State was victorious. While Obama has said his aim is to degrade and ultimately defeat the Islamic State group, his first priority appears to be limiting its advance in Iraq. The air strikes in Syria are designed in part to deprive the group of safe haven there. US officials say putting so much emphasis on a single city misrepresents the US-led air campaign, which will take time. Much also depends on moderate Syrian rebels that Washington will train and equip, as well as US-backed Iraqi security forces."To hang Kobani around the military's neck represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the elements of the strategy we're pursuing and limits of military power in pursuing that strategy," said a US official, speaking on condition of anonymity. US officials, echoed by defense analysts, point out that Islamic State's siege of Kobani has forced the group to bring its military hardware out in the open, where warplanes have attacked it daily.
"They seem to really want Kobani and have their flags flying over it," a second US official said. "They are paying a very heavy price."
NO STRATEGY CHANGE?
The US government says there will be no change in Obama's strategy - which rules out US troops in ground combat in both Iraq and Syria - if Kobani falls. But if it turns out that coalition air power alone was unable to help the Kurds hold Kobani, that "might prompt a redefinition" of Obama's "no boots on the ground" pledge, said retired veteran US diplomat James Dobbins. Dobbins, now at the Rand Corporation think tank, predicted the limits of air power around Kobani would accelerate a debate within the administration over deploying advisers and forward air controllers on the ground - but in Iraq, where they would partner with Iraqi security forces, rather than in Syria. White, of the Washington Institute, said Obama's lengthy timeline for battling Islamic State might also come into question.
"They're fighting the war on their terms," he said of Islamic State. "Their timeline and our timeline don't coincide."
Syrian rebels overrun intelligence base on Golan Heights used to spy on Israel
J.Post/11.10/14/Syrian rebel forces fighting the government of President Bashar Assad overran a military intelligence base on the Golan Heights that served as a joint Russian-Syrian forward post for information-gathering on Israel. In a four-minute video clip which was posted on the Internet by the rebels, Free Syrian Army fighters are seen in a building in Quneitra, just near the boundary between Syria and the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. The footage shows pictures of Russian officers visiting the base as well as Russian-language maps of Israel. There are also photographs of the Russian defense minister’s top intelligence advisor as well as various other senior Russian defense and military officials having once visited the base. The base, which goes by the name “C,” is situated on the “Tel al-Hara” hill in Quneitra.The footage and evidence found suggests that Russian and Syrian spies used the premises to analyze raw espionage data which was gathered by troops from both countries. One of the documents seized by FSA rebels and dated May 31, 2014 gives an order to intelligence officers at the base to “record all of the wireless conversations between the terrorist groups,” a reference to the coalition of organizations seeking to topple the Damascus government. The FSA officer seen in the footage appealed to “all the honorable people of Russia” to urge their government to cease all cooperation with forces loyal to Assad, “who are murdering children and women and using chemical weapons against civilians.”
Kurds Abandoned by Canada's Liberals,
By: Tarek Fatah
The Toronto Sun
Canadians of Kurdish descent, shown here at an October 5 demonstration in Vancouver, feel betrayed by the country's politicians.
Jenan Moussa is a reporter for the Arabic language TV network Akhbar AlAan out of Dubai.
For the past 48 hours she has been witnessing the battle raging in the Kurdish town of Kobane, just south of Turkey's border with Syria.
At 07:00 EST on Monday she tweeted, "ISIS did not manage to enter Kobane yet, Kurdish activist Mustafa Bali just told me over phone. He is still in #Kobane. @Akhbar"
An hour later, she was the first to report: "I can confirm. I just saw an ISIS flag. It is flying on eastern edge of #Kobane. Will try to tweet a pic in a sec."
As fighting raged, news came of the desperate situation of the Kurds.
One female fighter reportedly charged the advancing ISIS jihadists, hurling grenades at them and then blew herself up in their midst. Another reportedly shot herself rather than be captured by ISIS when she ran out of ammunition.
Moussa's tweets from one of her Kurdish contacts from inside Kobane conveyed the sense of betrayal the Kurds felt because of the lack of American help. She tweeted: "Kurdish guy from#Kobane tells me: We hoped American planes will help us. Instead American tanks in hands of ISIS are killing us."The betrayal of the Kurds was not just taking place on the ground in Syria.Closer to home, many Kurdish Canadians felt abandoned by politicians. Keyvan Soltany, a Kurdish exile and human rights activist, told me he felt both the Liberal party and the NDP were catering to the large "Muslim vote bank" in the cities, instead of uniting as one voice with Prime Minster Stephen Harper. It was a surreal experience to follow the battle ground tweets by Moussa and listen to the NDP's Thomas Mulcair and Paul Dewar read well-scripted rhetoric opposing military air strikes against ISIS. Dewar had the audacity to ask Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird whether he had exhausted all alternative means of helping the victims of ISIS barbarism. He sounded as if he was debating the Haiti earthquake disaster, not the man-made catastrophe unfolding in front of our eyes across the world. Both Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau should have been aware of the thret the Islamic State poses to Canada and our allies, be they America, Europe, India or Israel. Later in the evening on CBC's Power and Politics, I heard an exchange between host Evan Soloman and Trudeau's defence adviser, retired Lt. Gen Andrew Leslie. If this is the advice the Liberal leader is getting, then it is no surprise, he knows not what he says.
Here is the exchange:
LESLIE: "Probably the largest single threat to Canada is the ungoverned, those poor desperate people tucked up against the Turkish border, who if they get the sense of abandonment, and get frustrated and get panicky even more so than they are now, that will act as a fertile breeding ground for the next wave of fundamentalists, who may decide to do unpleasant things to those around them or to us ... "
SOLOMON: " But Andrew Leslie, are you actually saying that the greatest threat to Canada is the refugees, not the terrorist group ISIS?"
LESLIE: "No, no, absolutely not."
SOLOMON: "Because you said that is the potential bigger threat."
LESLIE: "If left ungoverned, if left unhelped ..."
SOLOMON: "It seems to me the people beheading might be the bigger threat."
I dread the day Trudeau is prime minister and Leslie his defence minister.
***Tarek S. Fatah is a founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, a columnist at Toronto Sun, host of a Sunday afternoon talk show on Toronto's NewsTalk1010 AM Radio, and a fellow at the Middle East Forum. He is the author of two award-winning books: Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State and The Jew is Not My Enemy: Unveiling the Myths that Fuel Muslim Anti-Semitism.
Question: "What does the Bible say about euthanasia / assisted suicide?"
GotQuestions.org/Answer: Euthanasia, sometimes called “mercy killing,” can be a difficult issue. On one hand, we do not want to take a person’s life into our own hands and end it prematurely. On the other hand, we do not want to prolong the process of dying more than necessary—that is, we want to preserve life, but not prolong death. At what point do we simply allow a person to die and take no further action to extend his or her life?
A related issue is that of assisted suicide. Essentially, a person seeking assisted suicide is seeking to euthanize himself, with the aid of another person to ensure that death is quick and painless. The person assisting the suicide facilitates death by making preparations and furnishing the needed equipment; but the person seeking death is the one who actually initiates the process. By taking a “hands-off” approach to the death itself, the facilitator seeks to avoid charges of murder. Proponents of assisted suicide try for a positive spin by using terms like “death with dignity.” But “death with dignity” is still death, “assisted suicide” is still suicide, and suicide is wrong.
We live in what is sometimes described as a “culture of death.” Abortion on demand has been practiced for decades. Now some are seriously proposing infanticide. And euthanasia is promoted as a viable means of solving various social and financial problems. This focus on death as an answer to the world’s problems is a total reversal of the biblical model. Death is an enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26). Life is a sacred gift from God (Genesis 2:7). When given the choice between life and death, God told Israel to “choose life” (Deuteronomy 30:19). Euthanasia spurns the gift and embraces the curse.
The overriding truth that God is sovereign drives us to the conclusion that euthanasia and assisted suicide are wrong. We know that physical death is inevitable for us mortals (Psalm 89:48; Hebrews 9:27). However, God alone is sovereign over when and how a person’s death occurs. Job testifies in Job 30:23, “I know you will bring me down to death, to the place appointed for all the living.” Ecclesiastes 8:8 declares, “No man has power over the wind to contain it; so no one has power over the day of his death.” God has the final say over death (see 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54–56; Hebrews 2:9, 14–15; Revelation 21:4). Euthanasia and assisted suicide are man’s attempts to usurp that authority from God.
Death is a natural occurrence. Sometimes God allows a person to suffer for a long time before death occurs; other times, a person’s suffering is cut short. No one enjoys suffering, but that does not make it right to determine that a person should die. Often, God’s purposes are made known through suffering. “When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other” (Ecclesiastes 7:14). Romans 5:3 teaches that tribulations bring about perseverance. God cares about those who cry out for death and wish to end their suffering. God gives purpose in life even to the end. Only God knows what is best, and His timing, even in the matter of one’s death, is perfect.
We should never seek to prematurely end a life, but neither must we go to extraordinary means to preserve a life. To actively hasten death is wrong; to passively withhold treatment can also be wrong; but to allow death to occur naturally in a terminally ill person is not necessarily wrong. Anyone facing this issue should pray to God for wisdom (James 1:5). And we should all remember the words of former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, who warned that the practice of medicine “cannot be both our healer and our killer” (from KOOP, The Memoirs of America’s Family Doctor by C. Everett Koop, M.D., Random House, 1991).
Recommended Resources: Ethics for a Brave New World, Second Edition by John & Paul Feinberg and Logos Bible Software.
From the LCCC Achieves/I remember Dany,
Ingrid, Tarek and Julian
By: Zalfa Chamoun
Oct. 23, 2010 http://eliasbejjaninews.com/2014/10/11/from-the-lccc-archieveszalfa-chamoun-i-remember-dany-ingrid-tarek-and-julian-2/
I’d like to take a moment of your Saturday morning to remember my Uncle Dany, my Aunt Ingrid and my cousins Tarek and Julian. This is by no means a political tribute but a celebration of their lives – lives that were taken too soon, almost 20 years ago to the day. I was only 6 years old when they died, on October 21, 1990, and yet I feel as if I knew them well; my cousins, especially, touched my young life in more ways than one – let me tell you about them. Tarek – or Tey – was the leader of the pack. He never walked alone. We’d prowl the poolside at Yarze Country Club, trailing behind him, clad in army-print children’s clothes and always ready to show off our well-practiced Michael Jackson moves. He was kind yet strict and towered over Julian and I (the younger and shorter ones) with his thick mop of golden hair and innate self-assurance. From the height of his 7 years, he was your “go-to-man” if ever there was a problem. And I, the only girl of the pack, was always getting into scrapes in my attempts to impress and gain the respect of the boys. Once, I even went so far as attempt to kill a snake which threatened the safety of the clan. As it turns out, my extermination skills weren’t quite up to par, and Tey had to step in to save me from the reptile I’d only succeeded in angering.
Julian – or Jul – was inherently irresistible. Not just for those bleach blond curls and that cheeky grin, but because he was always, and I mean always, in trouble. He was the renegade of the clique, confrontational at best, but also supremely charming. In fact, I had my mind set on him as my future husband – it was that bad! But the most defining trait of his character was his wisdom. How can a 5-year-old be wise you ask? Here’s an example that stays with me:
I’d come back from church one Sunday and as Jul and I were playing in the bedroom, I said to him: “Can you believe it? This morning in church the priest spoke of love … Ukhhh, love, how disgusting!” In my 6-year-old lexicon, love could mean only one thing – the decidedly icky boyfriend/girlfriend kind. But, unphased, Julian answered: “No silly, it’s not that kind of love, but the love of God.”
I haven’t forgotten that moment.
I can’t but evoke the solemnity with which Tarek read out loud a letter Ingrid had sent her boys at the time when she was held in the house in Ashrafieh. In it, she urged them to stop playing war games, to put down their toy guns. The seriousness with which my cousins took heed and packed away their toy grenades, swords, knives and guns was remarkable, and had us all – including Dany – speechless.
Another belligerent member of the family was Skippy, Dany’s Brittany spaniel. Skippy had a soft spot for chicken and would inevitably steal live hens from the neighbor’s pen. This would infuriate Dany, who severely condemned dishonesty, even of the canine kind. But my cousins would always come to the mutt’s defense and rescue him from Dany’s reprimands. They always had a soft spot for the “underdog.”
Needless to say, I miss them. I missed growing up with them. Tarek would have been 28 today and Julian 26, and I can’t help but wonder and muse and rewrite different destinies for these boys I loved so. And yet one thought keeps recurring, something I’ve always known and which stems from their days on this earth. They’re spoken of, by one and all, as national or even international martyrs – a sentiment I most certainly don’t dispute. But I prefer to think of them as heroes – the kind of heroes you read about in epics, where good always triumphs, in the end, in its long and arduous battles with evil. And for weapons, they had none other than their kindness and wisdom. Theirs is a story our country can learn from.
Please join us this afternoon, in presence or in thought, as we celebrate the lives and legacy of Dany, Ingrid, Tarek and Julian Chamoun.
**Publised on October 23/10.Daily Star
ISIS: Can the West Win Without a
By: Jonathan Spyer/Middle East Forum
The United States and its allies have launched a military campaign whose stated goal is, in the words of President Barack Obama, to "degrade and ultimately destroy" the Islamic State (I.S., also known as ISIS or ISIL) established by Sunni jihadis in a contiguous land area stretching from western Iraq to the Syrian-Turkish border.
Smoke rises from a U.S. air strike on Islamic State positions in Kobani.
As the aerial campaign begins in earnest, many observers are wondering what exactly its tactical and strategic objectives are, and how they will be achieved. A number of issues immediately arise.
Any state—even a provisional, slapdash, and fragile one like the jihadi entity now spreading across Iraq and Syria—cannot be "destroyed" from the air. At a certain point, forces on the ground will have to enter and replace the I.S. power. It is not yet clear who is to play this role—especially in the Islamic State's heartland of Raqqa province in Syria.
In Iraq, the national military and the Kurdish Pesh Merga are now having some successes at chipping away at the Islamic State's outer holdings. The role of U.S. air support is crucial here. But the center of the Islamic State is not Iraq, and both the Iraqi forces and the Pesh Merga have made clear that they will not cross the border into Syria. This leaves a major question as to who is to perform this task, if the objectives outlined by President Obama are to be achieved.
The answer we have heard most often of late is that elements among the Syrian rebels will be vetted by the U.S., trained in cooperation with the Saudis, and then deployed as the force to destroy the IS on the ground.
If this is indeed the plan, it is deeply problematic.
The Syrian rebels are characterized by extreme disunity, questionable effectiveness, and the presence of hardline Sunni Islamist elements among their most committed units. There are certainly forces of an anti-jihadist ideology among them—the most well-known being the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, headed by Jamal Ma'arouf from the Jebel Zawiya area in northern Syria, and the smaller Harakat Hazm. Both movements have benefitted from Western aid in recent months.
The Syrian rebels are characterized by extreme disunity, questionable effectiveness, and the presence of hardline Sunni Islamist elements among their most committed units.
The problem, however, is that these organizations are quite prepared to work with salafi groupings whose worldview is essentially identical to that of the I.S., even if their methods are somewhat different. Thus, if we observe the recent fighting between Assad's forces and rebels in the Quneitra area along the border with the Israeli Golan Heights, it is clear that the main contribution to rebel achievements came from the Jabhat al-Nusra group, which constitutes the "official franchise" of the core al-Qaeda group in Syria.
Reliable sources confirm that Nusra cooperates with other rebel groups in southern Syria and has even been prepared to minimize its own role, so as to allow other groups to present achievements as their own to Western and Arab patrons and thus secure a continued flow of arms, benefiting all factions.
What this means is that by championing these rebel elements as the ground force which will seek to enter and destroy a weakened I.S. in Raqqa province, the U.S. would be putting itself in the position of supporting one group of Sunni jihadis against another.
In Iraq, while the Kurdish Pesh Merga cooperates de facto with Iran, their alliance is pragmatic and tactical, one that the Kurds would gladly break given the possibility of clear Western sponsorship.
But the fierce condemnations in recent days (even by supposedly "pro-Western" rebel groups such as Hazm) of the U.S. bombing raids into Syria indicate that there is a deeper problem here. The alliance between these Sunni rebel groups and the salafis has a common anti-Western component to it.
It is, in any case, not clear if these Sunni rebels will prove able to defeat the I.S., but even if they were to do so, the presence of radical anti-Western elements among them attests to the danger of a policy of support and sponsorship of them.
Of course, the Sunni jihadis are not the only dangerous players on the ground. Another possible, no less troubling, outcome of the air campaign against the Islamic State could be the return of Bashar al-Assad's forces to eastern Syria, from which they have been largely expelled over the last year. It is not at all hard to imagine a scenario in which once the I.S. has been weakened by Western air attacks, the Syrian military and its Iranian-backed allies will be able to make gains.
Indeed, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) are already present in northern Iraq (and, of course, in Syria as well) and IRGC personnel have taken part in the fighting in Iraq in recent weeks. Qods force teams are reportedly located at Samarra, Baghdad, Karbala, and the former al-Sahra Air Base near Tikrit. Iran has deployed seven SU-25 ground attack aircraft which have played a role in offering air support to the Kurds and Iraqi special forces.
The Assad regime and its Iranian backers [are] enemies of the West of significantly greater potency and seriousness than the Islamic State itself.
Following intensive Western bombing, the possibility of the Islamic State eventually being sandwiched between pro-Iranian forces on either side before being destroyed would be a real one. This would achieve the desired goal of destroying the jihadi entity, but it could end up handing a major victory to the Assad regime and its Iranian backers—enemies of the West of significantly greater potency and seriousness than the Islamic State itself.
Such a result would be somewhat reminiscent of the Iraq invasion of 2003, in which the destruction of the Sunni regime of Saddam Hussein ended up largely helping Iran.
How does the West get out of this mess? The discussion about which ground force should be used to replace the Islamic State is itself confused by a much larger misunderstanding regarding the nature of the war now taking place in Iraq and in Syria (and periodically spilling over into Lebanon).
The I.S. has now been depicted as the main problematic factor emerging from this conflict. But the Islamic State is in fact merely a particularly extreme and brutal manifestation of a broader process taking place in this area, in which political Islam of a Sunni variety is at war with the Shia political Islam of Iran and its proxies (especially Hezbollah and the Assad regime).
The I.S. may promote a particularly lurid and repulsive version of Sunni political Islam, but in its beliefs and in its practices it does not represent some unique presence in the Syrian and Iraqi context. Rather, it is little more than a particularly virulent manifestation of a strain of politics and ideology which is the primary cause of the conflict taking place across the region.
In the two scenarios discussed above, both quite plausible outcomes of a Western air campaign, the I.S. would be defeated and replaced by another version of Islamism—either that of its fellow Sunnis, or that of the rival Shi'ites.
A third possibility, however, is that the White House does not actually intend to pursue a policy intended to physically destroy the Islamic State in its heartland in northern Syria. Certainly, more recent statements emerging from the Administration appear to be preparing to "walk back" the President's comments.
White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said in mid-September that success for U.S. policy vis-à-vis the I.S. would come when the group "no longer threatens our friends in the region, no longer threatens the United States." This sounds like the introduction to a more modest policy of degrading I.S. capabilities, rather than seeking to "destroy" the Islamic State.
Of course, such a modified objective would end the dilemma over which ground forces to ally with. On the other hand, it would also have the effect of a tacit admission that the U.S. did not intend to promote its policy as originally stated by the President in the aftermath of the horrific murder of two U.S. citizens by the Islamic State.
What is taking place across Syria and Iraq, and across their borders into Lebanon, Turkey, and Iran, is a sectarian war, made possible because of the decline of the police states which for half a century kept the lid on sectarian differences.
But whether or not the goal of destroying the Islamic State is pursued with vigor, the current failure to see accurately what is happening in the Levant and Mesopotamia looks set to remain. This, in turn, looks set to prevent the emergence of a coherent policy and a coherent allocation of resources.
What is taking place across Syria and Iraq, and across their borders into Lebanon, Turkey, and Iran, is a sectarian war, made possible because of the decline of the police states which for half a century kept the lid on sectarian differences. The regional ambitions of Iran, which has clients and proxies in all three countries, exacerbate this dynamic. The attempts by Saudi Arabia to block Iran's advance toward the Mediterranean, and by Qatar and Turkey to sponsor various Sunni jihadi elements, have produced a far more confused, and far less effective, Sunni side in this struggle.
The struggle itself, in turn, can be traced back to the failure by these states to develop coherent notions of citizenship or stable national identities in the post-Ottoman period. In other words, this war has been a long time coming, but now it is here.
Because the nature of this struggle is not widely grasped in the West, policy appears somewhat rudderless. This is reflected in the current discussion regarding the response to the Islamic State.
First, Assad was the enemy. This was made clear enough not only by his support for Hezbollah and attempts to nuclearize, but also by his unspeakable brutality and use of chemical weapons against his own citizens.
Then, when the brutality of some of the rebels became apparent, Western public interest in supporting the rebels receded. Soon the I.S. emerged as the new bogeyman. Declarations for its destruction became de rigueur, though it is far from clear how this is going to be carried out—and a de facto alliance with Iran and its clients, at least in Iraq, has emerged. This was seen in the expulsion of the I.S. from the town of Amerli, a pivotal moment in the major setbacks faced by the organization in recent days. In that town, Shi'ite militias were backed by American air power—to telling effect against the Sunni jihadis.
But is it really coherent policy to be backing murderous Shi'ite sectarians against murderous Sunni ones? It is not. Of course, when the West backs the Sunni rebels in Syria, the precise opposite is happening. Weaponry donated to "moderate" rebels then inevitably turns up in the hands of Sunni jihadis, who do most of the fighting associated with the Syrian "rebellion." The result is that in Iraq the U.S. is helping one side of the Sunni-Shia war, and in Syria it's helping the other side.
Only when it is understood that the West cannot partner with either version of political Islam does it become possible to formulate a coherent policy toward the Sunni jihadi forces, on the one hand, and toward the Iran-led bloc, on the other.
Such a policy must rest on the identification and strengthening of non-Islamist forces willing to band together and partner with the West. Not all of them are perfect characters, but they all understand the threat that political Islam poses.
Most obviously, there is a line of pro-American states along the southern side of the arena of the war. These are Israel, Jordan, and in a far more partial and problematic way, Saudi Arabia. Both Israel and Jordan have demonstrated that they are able to successfully contain the spread of the chaos coming out of the north. Both are well-organized states with powerful militaries and intelligence structures. Jordan has clearly benefitted from the deployment of U.S. special forces to prevent incursions by the I.S. Israel has also made clear that its resources will be available to assist the Jordanians should this be required. (Egypt, too, while not in the immediate vicinity of the conflict, can be a silent partner as well—as its campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood and tough line against Hamas have shown, it is nothing if not a virulent opponent to political Islam.)
This is what the proper coordination of allied states is supposed to look like. And it works in containing the conflict. To the east of the war's arena is of course Iran. To its west is the Mediterranean Sea. To its north is a long, contiguous line of Kurdish control, shared between the Kurdish Regional Government of President Massoud Barzani in northern Iraq, as well as the three enclaves created by the PKK-linked Democratic Union Party (PYD) in northern Syria. The YPG militia, which is the military force in these enclaves, has fought the I.S. almost since its inception, and has largely prevailed in keeping the jihadis out of the Kurdish areas.
As part of a strategy of containment, the West should increase support for and recognition of both the Kurdish enclaves in the north of Syria and the Kurdish Regional Government itself.
As part of a strategy of containment, the West should increase support for and recognition of both the Kurdish enclaves in the north of Syria and the Kurdish Regional Government itself. Both are elements capable of containing the spread of the jihadis from the north. It has become clear in recent days that the Pesh Merga, despite early setbacks, is a useful instrument in preventing the further advance westward of the Islamic State, and in so doing protecting the investment of international oil companies in the oil-rich parts of Iraq. The YPG militia, though poorly equipped, has also avoided major losses.
Such a principle of alliance will also encourage the West to reconsider the involvement of Turkey. As events of the last few years have shown, Turkey cannot be a reliable ally in the struggle against political Islam, because its ruling party, AKP, is itself an Islamist party. This is not a theoretical formulation. Turkey's support for Islamist militias in northern Syria and its opening of its border for them has been a major contributing factor in the proliferation of these elements. There is also considerable evidence that Turkey at the very least turned a blind idea to the activities of the I.S. in the border area in 2013, and may well have offered some help to the jihadis in their fight with the YPG.
In order to grasp the rationale for a policy of dual containment, the nature of the war between rival sectarian forces must be grasped. There is also a need for the clear understanding that the effort to preserve at all costs the territorial integrity of "Iraq" and "Syria" is mistaken. Rather, what should take place is support for those forces committed to order, as listed above, and non-support for the forces of political Islam.
In other words: If political Islam (rather than one specific jihadi group, to quickly be replaced by another) is the real problem, then the real solution is to ally, forcefully and over the long haul, with those forces most committed to stopping it: Israel, Jordan, the Saudis, and the Kurds.
So it may be seen that a lack of strategic understanding of the nature of the conflict being waged is preventing the development of a coherent response to the specific problem of the Islamic State, along with the parallel problems of Shia terror groups such as Hezbollah, and the ambitions of the Islamic Republic of Iran. At root is the failure to grasp the implacable nature of political Islam in both its Sunni and Shia variants at the present time.
From this original error, all further errors, and as we can see there are many, inevitably follow.
**Jonathan Spyer is a Middle East analyst focusing on Syria, Lebanon and Israeli strategic affairs. He is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, Herzliya, a fellow at the Middle East Forum, and is the author of The Transforming Fire: the Rise of the Israel-Islamist Conflict (Continuum, 2011).
Kurds Battle for Heart of Kobane where U.N. Fears for Civilians
Naharnet/Kurdish fighters halted a thrust by Islamic State group jihadists towards the heart of the battleground Syrian town of Kobane Saturday, after the U.N. warned thousands of civilians risked massacre. The pre-dawn attack came after the IS militants overran the Kurdish headquarters in the border town on Friday, sparking fears they would cut off the last escape route to neighboring Turkey. But U.S. officials warned that while world attention is focused on Kobane, the jihadists have been piling pressure on government troops in neighboring Iraq, leaving the army in a "fragile" position in Anbar province between Baghdad and the Syrian border.
The renewed IS drive on central Kobane sparked 90 minutes of heavy fighting with the town's Kurdish defenders before the jihadists fell back, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
U.S.-led coalition warplanes also launched two air strikes against IS targets south and east of the town early Saturday, according to the Britain-based monitoring group, which has a wide network of sources inside Syria.
It said a sandstorm later Saturday prevented more coalition raids, and reported fighting in southern Kobane and near the headquarters IS captured on Friday. U.S.-led warplanes have intensified air strikes against IS, which has been attacking Kobane for three weeks, but the Pentagon has said that there are limits to what can be done without ground troops.
Small groups of Kurdish fighters were trying to harry the encircling jihadists with operations across the front line, Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told Agence France-Presse.
U.N. envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura warned Friday that 12,000 or so civilians still in or near Kobane, including about 700 mainly elderly people in the town center, "will most likely be massacred" if the town falls.
Kobane was "literally surrounded" except for one narrow entry and exit point to the Turkish border, de Mistura said.
"We would like to appeal to the Turkish authorities in order to allow the flow of volunteers at least, and their equipment to be able to enter the city to contribute to a self-defense operation," he said.
The Observatory said at least 554 people have been killed in and around Kobane since the IS advance on the town began on September 16 -- 298 IS militants, 236 Kurdish fighters and 20 civilians.
Twenty-one jihadists and eight Kurdish fighters were killed on Friday, it said.
Another 16 IS militants died in coalition air raids across the provinces of Aleppo -- which includes Kobane -- and Raqa, where IS has its main Syrian stronghold. Turkey has tightened security of its porous Syrian border after the escalating fighting in Kobane sparked the exodus of 200,000 refugees over the frontier.
Watching the events unfold from across the border, Ahmed Abu-Ammar told AFP that his son was killed when IS attacked Kobane -- three years after he lost his wife in a regime air strike in Aleppo.
"My eight-year-old son was martyred, God bless him. When the shelling became heavier we fled to Turkey and we suffered a lot to reach this place."
Turkey has been deeply reluctant to allow weapons or Kurdish fighters to cross the border despite repeated nights of protests among its own large Kurdish minority that have left 31 people dead.
The situation is complicated by the close ties between the town's Kurdish defenders and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency for self-rule in southeastern Turkey that Ankara is determined not to embolden.
Washington has been frustrated over Ankara's reluctance to commit its well-equipped and well-trained forces to the coalition against IS, but reported "progress" after two days of talks in Ankara by the coalition's coordinator, retired U.S. general John Allen.
Military chiefs from the 21 countries already committed to the U.S.-led coalition are to meet in Washington next week to discuss strategy, Pentagon officials said.
U.S. defense officials insist the primary focus of the coalition's campaign remains Iraq, where there are capable local forces on the ground to work with, particularly Kurdish forces in the north.
But officials voiced concern about the "tenuous" position of Iraqi troops in Anbar province, where the few remaining government-controlled areas have come under repeated attack.
Some of Anbar province fell to IS at the start of the year and most of the rest was seized by the Sunni extremists in a lightning sweep through Iraq's Sunni Arab heartland in June."I think it's fragile there now," one senior U.S. defense official told AFP. "They are being resupplied and they're holding their own, but it's tough and challenging."Agence France Presse
IS Jihadists Execute Iraqi Journalist, 3 Others
Naharnet/Islamic State militants executed an Iraqi news cameraman, his brother and two other civilians in public Friday in a village north of Baghdad, the journalist's relatives said.The jihadists shot dead Raad al-Azzawi, a 37-year-old cameraman for local news channel Sama Salaheddin, and the other three victims in Samra, east of the city of Tikrit.Agence France Presse
Kobane: The anatomy of a disaster
Saturday, 11 October 2014
Hisham Melhem /Al Arabiya
The world is watching with silence and dismay the slow death of Kobane, the mostly Kurdish town in Northern Syria adjacent to the Turkish border, at the hands of the hordes of so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Unfortunately, the valiant resistance of the Kurds will not stop the inevitable fall of Kobane (Ain al-Arab in Arabic), whose political obituary was pronounced days earlier by Turkish President Recep Tayyib Erdogan and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey. But consider this: two NATO powers; the United States and Turkey, members of the international coalition Washington has formed for the purpose of “degrading then destroying ISIS” are not dealing with the impending humanitarian catastrophe with the urgency it surely deserves.
The fall of Kobane is emblematic of a flawed narrowly focused American strategy that is doomed to fail in achieving its declared goals. Kobane is also being sacrificed on the altar of a cynical Turkish policy that is using the plight of its people as a bargaining chip in Ankara’s ongoing negotiations with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the militant Turkish group, for a political settlement on its terms and to punish the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) (which is affiliated with the PKK and the dominant Kurdish force in Syria) for not fighting the Assad regime, and to force it to drop its demand for the establishment of an autonomous Kurdish region in Northeastern Syria.
Kobane as a sideshow
If Kobane’s fate was pre-ordained, it is because of the divergent views and priorities of both Washington and Ankara in Syria. For Turkey, the primary objectives are the overthrow of the Assad regime and the containment of Kurdish political assertiveness and empowerment. For the U.S. the primary goal is to degrade, weaken and disrupt ISIS supply lines, its communication networks, command and control centers, and its ability to produce and illicitly sell oil. Neither the U.S. nor Turkey is actively working to defeat and certainly not to destroy ISIS in Syria.
“It is too late, too late to save Kobane. But its fall will bring to the fore, once again, the tragic failure of the Obama administration in Syria”
It is as if Kobane and the lives of its inhabitants, most of whom have been reduced to refugee status in Turkey, is a sideshow in a bigger conflict. Kobane is not the first Syrian town to be pulverized by the merciless professional killers of the Syrian regime, or the self-styled unholy butchers of ISIS, and unfortunately, it will not be the last.
But what makes Kobane’s slow motion death so salient, is the fact that it is taking place, literally in broad daylight, in full view of the Turkish army massing at the borders, and with the international media documenting the demise of the town and its defenders, while watching the smoke rise over the besieged town amid the thud of artillery. The die was cast for Kobane when ISIS laid its military siege and Erdogan laid his political siege, preventing Kurds from Northern Iraq or from Syria to use Turkish territories to send supplies and fighters to the town. President Erdogan went to the border region, addressing Syrian refugees and expressing fake sympathy for the people of Kobane, and repeated his conditions for Turkey to intervene: the establishment of a no-fly zone over Syria and a safe border zone inside Syria to host refugees and fighters, and called on the coalition to bring down the regime in Damascus. What Erdogan failed to say, is that he does not mind for the time being, having a front row seat watching the unfolding humanitarian tragedy in Kobane, satisfied in the knowledge that until his conditions are met, he will let ISIS and the Kurds bleed each other.
‘No friends but the mountains’
The fall of Kobane will reverberate beyond the Kurdish world in its various provinces in Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Iran and in the diaspora. Symbolically, the fall of Kobane will shake the Kurdish world the way the fall of Mosul shook Iraq. This comes at a historic moment where the Kurds of Iraq at least, find themselves at a rendezvous with destiny, getting ever closer to achieving what is in the heart of hearts of every Kurd; independence. The Kurds who constitute the largest ethnic group in the world without a state, have been struggling for almost a century – since the promised Kurdish homeland in the Treaty of Sèvres (1920) after the demise of the Ottoman empire was later denied by the western powers at the Treaty of Lausanne (1923)- to reclaim their political, civil and cultural rights in the four states where most of them live.
Against tremendous odds, they fought peacefully and violently repressive regimes that denied them even their cultural rights, particularly in Turkey, including the most fundamental one: the right to speak the language of one’s parents. The repression at times reached genocidal proportions as was the case during the “Anfal” campaign waged by Saddam Hussein against the Kurds in the 1980s. In those tragic times, when it seemed that the whole world betrayed the Kurds, They would invoke a proverb that speaks for their collective tragic memory: ‘we have no friends but the mountains’. The Kurds of Iraq have achieved tremendous progress since the 1991 Gulf War, building the institutional foundations for a successful autonomous region, which could potentially become the independent Kurdistan. The fall of Kobane, will revive those dark memories of having no friends but the mountains.
The fall of Kobane
It is a sign of Erdogan’s hubris and recklessness that he does not seem to be overly concerned about the impact of the fall of this Kurdish enclave on the 14 million Kurdish-Turks many of whom will see the tragedy, particularly if thousands of civilians “ will be most likely massacred," as U.N. envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura feared.
Already scores of people were killed and wounded in clashes across Turkey, mainly in the predominantly Kurdish provinces between demonstrators protesting the government’s unwillingness to militarily help Kobane, or allowing Kurds to assist their brethren in the besieged town and rival groups including sympathizers with ISIS. The battle for Kobane makes it clear – whether the Turkish state admits it or not – that the war in Syria has arrived in force and it is likely to stay in Turkey for a while with many unknown variables.
The disaster in Kobane will shake the complex, multidimensional relationship between Turkey and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq. Both sides have worked very hard in the last few years to improve their political relations, but most importantly to develop a burgeoning web of economic and financial ties that brought to the Kurds of northern Iraq unprecedented economic prosperity.
Already the plight of Kobane has deepened the alienation between Turkey and the U.S. with American officials unable to hide their frustration and anger with President Erdogan’s excuses for inaction. Privately, U.S. officials reject and debunk Erdogan’s complaints, and they say that the Turkish armed forces could operate in Syrian territories to stop the onslaught on Kobane without fear of Syria’s diminishing air force, since the U.S. and allied air campaign in Syria has created a de facto No-Fly-Zone in northern Syria.
The prickly Erdogan
Erdogan may be prickly, while his populism makes him unpredictable and his increasingly autocratic behavior could render him a political liability for the Obama administration, yet the U.S. cannot say that all his demands and conditions to be more helpful in Syria are baseless. And if the U.S. is serious about degrading and eventually, with help from the Arabs and the Turks, defeating ISIS militarily and demolishing its ideological appeal to alienated Muslims, it should focus its attention and its fire power on the Assad regime, the very party that provided ISIS the safe environment to grow and metastasize in Syria. If Turkey is willing, as Erdogan says, to participate in the protection of a safe zone inside Syria, then the U.S. should provide safe skies above this exclusion zone by degrading and hopefully destroying Assad’s air force, particularly the infamous fleet of helicopters bearing the primitive but lethal anti-personnel barrel bombs that have been terrorizing Syrian civilians in areas under the control of the opposition. It is worth remembering that morally, the arguments the Obama administration used to justify its military intervention in Libya, to prevent a massacre in Benghazi, and in Iraq, to prevent the mass killings of Yazidis at Mount Sinjar, can also be applied in Kobane. Are the Kurds of Syria, or Syrians in general the children of a lesser God?
America and the Kurds - the complex inheritance
I believe the Kurds of Iraq are the only group in the country that is still very grateful towards the U.S. for getting rid of the regime of their long time tormentor, Saddam Hussein. The political and religious Shiite establishment in Iraq, would rarely and very reluctantly and only after prodding, admit that their empowerment for the first time in the history of modern Iraq is in part due to the American invasion. The Shiites, and of course the Sunni Arabs who lost their political monopoly of Iraq after the invasion, are quick to point out to the admittedly huge blunders committed by the U.S. during the occupation. The safest region in Iraq for the American soldiers and civilians is Kurdistan.
Officially, the U.S. is still pursuing a ‘one Iraq’ policy, and has been counseling the Kurds not to secede, but push for genuine autonomy within the unitary state of Iraq. After ISIS’ stunning capture of Mosul last summer, the U.S. was forced to abandon its previous policy of denying arms to the Kurds. The Kurds were once again grateful to Washington. But the fall of Kobane, will revive the dormant memories of those times of American abandonment and even betrayal of the Kurds, most notably when the Nixon administration in collaboration with the Shah of Iran dropped their support for the Kurds in their fight with Iraq for autonomy in 1975, after Iraq and Iran reached an agreement over riparian rights in Shatt al-Arab’s estuary. The agreement freed Saddam to brutally suppress the Kurds and exacting on them a tremendous loss.
To the extent that one can talk about an American strategy against ISIS, one can say that the Syrian theater, as far as the White House is concerned, is still a sideshow and an afterthought. Obama’s heart would never beat with sympathy and affection for more than three years for Syria’s calamity. Not even after more than an estimated 200,000 casualties and Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons. It was ISIS that forced the leader of the free world to climb down from the tree of denial, after its blitzkrieg into Iraq, occupying Mosul, threatening Baghdad, and causing the collapse of the large but brittle Iraqi army. What followed was the beheading of two American journalists and solid intelligence that the Khorasan group, an offshoot of al-Qaeda, was seriously plotting to bring its terror to Europe and potentially to America.
President Obama tied his own hands when he kept stressing that the use of ground troops in combat role is not an option. No Commander -in-Chief should make such absolute pronouncements since they provide comfort to his enemies. President Obama’s minimalist strategy is flawed if the goal of degrading and ultimately destroying ISIS is serious and not a protracted limited war of attrition, designed in part to kick the can of ISIS to his successor. If President Obama is serious about a credible ground component in Syria, he should accelerate with Saudi Arabia and Jordan the programs of equipping and training the nationalist Syrian opposition, he should take another look at the establishment of buffer zones in collaboration with Turkey and Jordan, and he should use – very selectively - U.S. special forces against ISIS leadership and key assets.
It is too late, too late to save Kobane. But its fall will bring to the fore, once again, the tragic failure of the Obama administration in Syria. When one contemplates the amount of criticism directed at Obama over his shifting Syria policies from his former senior cabinet members, including two secretaries of defense, one secretary of state and one director of the Central Intelligence Agency, one sees the enormity of the failure. Even the deliberative and cautious former president Jimmy Carter, criticized President Obama for waiting too long to intervene in Syria, and for giving ISIS the time to build its capabilities and strengths. One would hope that the tragedy of Kobane would lead to a serious re-assessment of the President’s strategy, and that the lives lost will not have been lost in vain. One would hope...
On Kobane, the PKK and dragging Turkey to war
Ceylan Ozbudak /Al Arabiya
Saturday, 11 October 2014
Despite evidence stating that the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is a Marxist-Leninist terror organization, it has been treated kindly by the EU and the U.S. lately, as if the group were rainbow lovers.
The PKK and the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) – which is affiliated with the PKK – was supposed to save the Middle East from ISIS and bring democracy to a land of oppressors and become heroes. After being badly beaten by ISIS, the same PKK has been rampaging through the streets of Turkey for the last week, showing its true face to the whole world. At least 31 people were killed and dozens injured across Turkey starting Tuesday as sympathizers of the PKK resorted to violent actions in protest of ISIS taking over the Syrian town of Kobane.
Municipal buildings, public libraries, schools, Islamic centers, buses, shops and political party centers were torched by the PKK supporters. Due to the widespread violent protests in the Kurdish populated southeast of Turkey, a curfew was imposed starting from late on Tuesday. The military replaced the police in the cities under a ‘state of emergency’. With these actions, the PKK was not punishing Turkey for not initially joining the fight against ISIS, but punishing the Kurds of Turkey for not joining in.
The protests against the recent advance of ISIS in Kobane were not limited to Turkey. Demonstrations flared up in European cities including Rome, London, Vienna, Cologne and Stockholm. Hundreds of Kurdish protesters have occupied the Dutch parliament building, broke into the European Parliament and even caused disorder in always calm Marseille.
The PKK is trying to drag Turkey into war
As the determined march of ISIS continues, even under the heavy shelling of the coalition forces, (like I explained would have no effect) the Northern Syrian town of Kobane has become a battleground for the PYD/PKK insurgents against ISIS. The PKK is losing the town and is on the brink of complete destruction and apparently aims to drag Turkey down with it. After losing a great majority of its fighters in Kobane (along with the organization’s will to exist) the PKK decided to create a civil war in Turkey to try to divide the country and gain territory along with new recruits. In the PKK's scenario, Turkey would agree with their requests in order to continue the peace process and Turkey would be forced into a war in Syria. Once Turkey enters Syria to fight ISIS, the battlefront would expand to scores of other groups and the Assad regime. Again, according to this scenario, the Turkish military would be too busy fighting a war in Syria - and possibly in northern Iraq - to deal with an internal threat, allowing the PKK to become rooted in the southeastern Turkish towns.
“It is time to listen to Turkey, and not impose decisions from London, Washington, and Paris”
But the PKK did not calculate the fact that neither Turkish bureaucracy nor the Turkish government was open to such provocation and manipulation.
I believe the PKK does not represent all Kurds; the compassionate, Muslim Kurds who are my neighbors, friends, relatives and fellow Turkish citizens. Most Kurds do not support PKK, just as most Americans do not support the KKK. When we look at the demographics of the clashes in Turkey, the majority of the people fighting against the PKK's supporters were Turkey’s religious Kurds. Also on the Syrian side, many residents of Kobane left the town long before ISIS’ occupation because they didn’t want to stay under PYD/PKK rule, which did not bring them freedom but fear. These details, these facts and sentiments are not highlighted in the Western press. PKK, an organized group of Marxists have successfully deceived the West that they are the ‘Kurdish resistance’ and the best answer to ISIS. I believe nothing could be further from the truth.
The U.N., NATO and Turkey’s allies in the West are mounting daily pressure to force Turkey to get into a war in the Middle East using the “Kurdish civilians in Kobane” card. Firstly, there are few Kurdish civilians left in Kobane; 182,000 are in Turkey and in safety. The town is left only to PYD/PKK forces and ISIS. Secondly, Turkey has nothing to feel guilty about since it has been shouldering the spillover of the war alone for the last three years like a champion. Turkey has already proven to be on the side of civilians – all civilians – from all ethnic backgrounds without any segregation. Hosting close to two million Syrian and Iraqi refugees, Turkey also took in 182,000 Kurdish civilians from North Syria recently in addition to tens of thousands of Yazidis and many other ethnic minorities. Turkey has already spent more than $3.5 billion on refugees alone, which spared Europe from a giant refugee influx.
Most of what our Western allies are focusing on now is aerial bombing, which has resulted in civilian casualties. Turkey does not believe in increasing militarization as a solution. It is quite strange to expect that the machinery of war, such as bombs, rifles and missiles, should create an environment of peace and stability.
The world is tired of the conflicts in Syria and Iraq; the West is pushing Turkey to the front lines to get involved in the war and bring it to an end. No one is thinking about the civilian casualties, no one is interested in sustainable peace and it seems that no one is interested in what happens to Turkey. The PKK on the other hand is looking for an opportunity to divide Turkey. Turkey will not bow down to provocations. It is time to listen to Turkey, and not impose decisions from London, Washington, and Paris.
Forget Biden’s words, the problem is Obama’s thoughts
Eyad Abu Shakra /AlArabiya
Saturday, 11 October 2014
One of the most famous quotes by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln is that “you can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” This is something that, in one way or another, applies to what is happening today in the Middle East, as well as Washington’s approach to the regional crises, whether of the chronic or acute variety.
Lincoln, that great American president who was the first American leader to be killed by an assassin’s bullet, assumed presidency at a difficult time in American history. The country was divided and subject to a devastating civil war due to the southern states insistence on what it viewed as its right to maintain slavery. The war as a whole took on a new dimension regarding slave liberation and Lincoln became famous as the Great Emancipator. However, the most important aspect of this civil war was defining the relationship with the federal system as to where a state’s authority ended and the federal nation’s began. Perhaps one of Lincoln’s greatest achievements as a national leader during those challenging times was his keenness to avoid dealing with the southern states as the defeated party, and his respect to equity between the Northern (Federal) and Southern (Confederate) states under the Union.
Lincoln realized, by dint of his idealism, wisdom and deep political awareness, the impossibility of building a national partnership on a zero-sum basis, and the pointlessness of one national component sanctimoniously asking allegiance from another whose patriotism it questions.
As the history of the U.S. tells us, by the end of the American Civil War (1861-1865) the Republican Party (Lincoln’s party) that believed in the importance of the central government collapsed across all Southern states while the Democratic Party (which then defended the states’ rights) actually succeeded in monopolizing political life and power in these states until World War II. Nevertheless, the federal government did not punish the Southerners for their reaction, nor did it accuse them of vindictively uniting against the state or being openly disobedient.
As the years and decades passed, and political thought and factional and class interests evolved, the intellectual identity of both parties changed. The Republican Party became a fortress for the conservative right, losing much of its traditional influence in the liberal North. On the other hand, the Democratic Party became a haven for moderate liberals and secular leftists and labor unionists, thus, its support was almost completely eradicated in the traditionally conservative South.
The victory of African-American Barack Obama, a Democrat, in the 2008 presidential elections greeted by the tears of joy of Jesse Jackson—the first African-American to practically aspire to enter the White House—crowned Lincoln’s victory, despite their different partisan identities.
At the time, Obama’s victory under the “Change” slogan carried huge indications. With the success of the new president’s realistic handling of the economic crisis which had been exacerbated by the dogmatism of the right-wing Republicans, and his pledge to stop foreign military adventures—a step that prematurely earned him the Nobel Peace Prize—Obama managed to win another four-year term in office. But the practical or “pragmatic” approach that characterized Obama’s first term, it seems, has turned into a “dogmatic” one, similar in terms of magnitude to that of the right-wing Republicans, albeit in the opposite direction.
At this point, Obama forgot, either intentionally or unintentionally, that the U.S. is not a medium-sized country that can afford to solely focus on its domestic issues. He deluded himself into believing that so long as he does not fabricate external crises that justify his intervention in foreign countries, the U.S. will remain safe from regional and factional crises and their political, security and economic repercussions. However, as far as the Middle East is concerned, Obama’s gamble has been very expensive and the true cost of his policy may not become clear until years to come.
Defining political Islam
To begin with, Obama has taken a vague line in terms of defining the phenomenon of “Political Islam,” whether in its Sunni or Shiite version, and laying out a coherent strategy to deal with this, whether in the Arab world or in Turkey. Later on, based on his commitment not to deploy U.S. soldiers on foreign soil following the pullout from Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama chose a strategy of “leading from behind” leaving allies at the forefront, as evidenced by what happened in Libya.
“This crisis is not in what Biden said, but rather how the current U.S. administration views the region”
Eyad Abu Shakra
He was also vague in his understanding and treatment of the overlap between “Arab” and “non-Arab” factors in the region. After submitting to the Israeli right-wing’s rejection regarding offering any concessions to rescue the peace talks with the Palestinians, particularly with regards to the issue of halting settlement building, Obama implicitly adopted the concept of unconditional cooperation with Tehran. Indeed, the Syrian crisis and the subsequent emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in both Iraq and Syria have proved that cooperation with Tehran’s rulers is now an essential part of Obama’s vision regarding the region’s political and strategic map regardless of what Iran has been doing across the Mashriq.
Today, with the exception of empty statements from U.S. officials about Iran’s nuclear program or Bashar al-Assad’s regime losing legitimacy, we can clearly see changes taking place on the ground. This includes Iranian officials’ alleged boasting that four Arab capitals—Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa—are now controlled by and subservient to Tehran.
Following Obama’s historic remarks in his interview with Jeffrey Goldberg in early March in which he praised Iran’s “strategic” thinking and blamed Washington’s regional allies who were “taken by surprise” by the “Arab Spring,” his Vice-President Joe Biden has now gone beyond pointing the finger of blame.
Speaking at Harvard University, one of the beacons of U.S. education and politics, Biden accused three Middle Eastern countries of causing problems to Washington and supporting extremist groups in Syria. In fact, this comment represents a dangerous precedent and reveals the Obama’s administration’s true view of the region. Regardless of Biden's apologies, the true crisis seems to be somewhere else.
This crisis is not in what Biden said, but rather how the current U.S. administration views the region; this is characterized by a terribly selective memory in terms of defining terror and extremism, and confronting those who supports terrorists and extremists.
Gaza Donor Conference Needs to Send the Right Message on Hamas
Neri Zilber/Washington Institute
October 12, 2014
Officials at this weekend's summit should reinforce the message that Hamas is not a legitimate go-between for reconstruction assistance, while also pressing PA officials for practical answers about their plans in Gaza.
On October 12, over fifty foreign ministers and high-ranking international diplomats will convene in Cairo to raise money for reconstruction of the Gaza Strip. After nearly two months of war between Israel and Hamas this summer, it is telling that neither of the belligerents will be in attendance. Instead, Secretary of State John Kerry will join with colleagues from Russia, China, Europe, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Qatar, and numerous other countries. The only thing a fractious international community can agree on, it seems, is that the Palestinians require -- and deserve -- financial assistance. Beyond the dollar amounts pledged, however, the most important outcome of the conference will be political: the Cairo summit needs to reemphasize that reconstruction aid and a full-scale lifting of the blockade around Gaza remain contingent on Hamas ceding effective control over the territory back to the Palestinian Authority.
The official request put to donors last week by the PA is significant: $4 billion for the "relief, recovery, and reconstruction" of Gaza, and another $4.5 billion for direct budgetary support to the PA through the next three years. To put these figures in historical context, $4.7 billion was pledged at the donor conference held in Egypt after the 2008-2009 Gaza war, including $1.6 billion for reconstruction of the coastal territory. The official Palestinian request then was only $2.7 billion, so the conference surpassed expectations and looked like a success -- at least on paper. In the end, much of the aid failed to materialize, due primarily to continued Hamas rule over Gaza (in place since a violent 2007 coup ousted the PA). Legally and politically, dealing with a U.S.- and EU-designated terrorist organization was impossible for many donors.
This time around, the dollar figures pledged will be important only insofar as they indicate enduring international attention to the Palestinian question. In other words, with so many other crises vying for scarce international aid, will donors meet -- or again exceed -- the target? More to the point, will nominal pledges made under the bright lights of an international conference actually translate into concrete action afterward?
In this regard, those attending the conference must press PA officials on how they plan to implement their recovery and reconstruction plans on the ground in Gaza. Hamas and Fatah (which controls the West Bank-based PA) recently recommitted themselves to the "reconciliation" agreement they signed earlier this year. As part of that agreement, the PA is to assume control over Gaza's border crossings, ministries, and reconstruction projects. Yet it remains to be seen how this will be implemented in practice given that Hamas will not disarm. There are plans in place to redeploy PA security forces to Gaza, though the process for doing so, the scale, and the timeframe remain opaque. Moreover, rationalization of the government bureaucracy inside Gaza has also been mooted, aimed at vetting the approximately 20,000-30,000 Hamas-affiliated civil servants there. In the interim, the official Palestinian intention is to provide a "temporary solution" that would extend some financial compensation to these employees. Here as well, the timeframe for completing the process has been left open-ended.
Answers will therefore need to be given about the mechanics of the PA's return to Gaza, in terms of both the security environment and actual reconstruction work (especially regarding how authorities will monitor dual-use materials such as cement, which Hamas has previously diverted for military purposes). Given its sizeable armed militia, Hamas will still wield an effective veto over events inside Gaza no matter how much nominal political authority it cedes to the PA.
For this reason, arguably the most important outcome of the donor conference needs to be in the messaging from prominent states and nongovernmental actors. The idea needs to be reinforced that the only legitimate conduit for the opening and rehabilitation of Gaza is the PA, and not a terrorist group like Hamas. The group's rejectionism and violence cannot be rewarded with billions of dollars in international aid, especially after it launched a devastating and needless war just three months ago.
Almost as important, officials at the conference need to make clear that there will be repercussions if Hamas violates the postwar reconstruction regime -- whether by diverting dual-use items from legitimate construction projects, tampering with the operations of UN inspectors or staff, or using violent means to coerce returning PA forces or harass Israel. The people of Gaza need to know ahead of time that the obstacle to a better and more hopeful future is Hamas, and that the solution is the PA. If this latest donor conference for Gaza is to be the last, then it has to mark the beginning of the end of Hamas rule over their lives.
**Neri Zilber, a visiting scholar at The Washington Institute, is a journalist and researcher on Middle East politics and culture.