LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
For Today/The Jews and the Law
Romans 02/17-28/: "Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and boast in God; if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of little children, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. So then, if those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker.A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God."
Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 19, 20/14
The Shia-Sunni war Reaches Lebanon/By: Jonathan Spyer/The Jerusalem Post/October 20/14
Iran’s aggressive information campaign/By: Tony Badran/Now Lebanon/October 20/14
Sam Harris is wrong about Islam/By ALI SINA/J.Post/October 20/14
Analysis: Joining Islamic State is about ‘sex and aggression,’ not religion/REUTERS/October 20/14
Christian persecution/By JPOST EDITORIAl/October 20/14
What went wrong in Kobani/By: Wafiq Al-Samarrai/Asharq Alawsat/October 20/14
Turkey's Boomerang War in Syria/By: Burak Bekdil/The Gatestone Institute/October 19, 20/14
Mr. Baird, how are Saudi Arabia’s beheadings different from Islamic State’s/Shenaz Kermalli /The Globe and Mail/October 20/14
Why Europe Is Irrational About Israel/By: David P. Goldman/PJ Media/October 20/14
What does Kobane mean for the international community/By: Kanar Talabani/Open Democracy/October 20/14
Stop pointing fingers. Many sources lie behind ISIS’s rise/Manuel Almeida /Al Arabiya/October 20/14
Lebanese Related News
October 19, 20/14
Rouhani Lauds 'Steadfastness and Resistance' of Lebanese Army, Moqbel: Iranian Donations "are of Extreme Importance"
Qaouq Calls on March 14 Against Being 'Arrogant': All Who Incited Against Army are Partners in Crime
Lebanon flooding forces residents to flee, strands motorists
Salam wary over Lebanon's future: report
Palestinian premier visits Salam
Lebanon's defense minister in Iran on anti-ISIS arms visit
Fars: Moqbel to return Beirut with Iranian aid
Army detains 11 after arms cache found Syrian refugee influx into Lebanon reduced, but not stopped
Derbas: 100,000 refugees had military training Residents flee floods in north Lebanon
North Lebanon mufti: Fifth column destabilizing Tripoli Hariri: Hour of reckoning coming for Hasan's killers
Lebanon pulled into war with Islamic State
Israeli Arab soccer team pays tribute to fugitive MK alleged to have spied for Hezbollah
FM slams Israeli Arabic soccer team for Hezbollah tribute Jumblatt: Army requires absolute backing
Abu Faour condemns counterfeit medical trade Report: Militants to Target Mourners Commemorating Ashura Occasion
Rifi Says He Supports Barter for Freedom of Soldiers
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on
October 19, 20/14
ISIS executes man for 'filming HQ' in Syria
Activists: Airstrikes kill 16 in rebel Syrian town
Families of slain UK aid workers call for unity
Two Egyptian soldiers killed in border tunnel collapse
Rome's mayor defiantly registers 16 gay marriages Egyptian troops killed in Gaza tunnel collapse US: Kerry didn't 'link' Israel, Islamic State PLO supports Kerry's link between conflict, IS
Former Iraqi pilots train Islamic State fighters to fly MiG jets
Iraq parliament approves new Defense, Interior ministers
Nigeria: Suspected Boko Haram jihadists mount deadly attacks after “ceasefire”
Yemen: Houthis continue southern advance, clashes intensify
Yemen's Houthi rebels take town south of Sanaa
Israeli Bedouin killed while fighting for Islamic State
Jihadists Take Heavy Losses in Battle for Syria's Kobane
Qaouq Calls on March 14 Against Being 'Arrogant': All Who Incited Against Army are Partners in Crime
Naharnet /Hizbullah was surprised on Sunday that March 14 "has not yet abandoned its alliance" with the Syrian armed opposition, declaring that anyone who incited against the army is a partner in the crimes by "Takfiri gangs" against it. "The Lebanese army is being exposed to open aggression by Takfiri gangs, which are not just passing separate attacks, its an external decision to continuously attack the army," said the Deputy head of Hizbullah's Executive Council Sheikh Nabil Qaouq, in a memorial service celebration in the town of Dwair. The army was exposed to a series of attacks, from the beginning of the week, by hand grenade attacks and shooting in both Tripoli and Akkar. Apart from the injuries, two soldiers died one in Akkar's al-Bire, Jamal John Hashem and another in Akkar's Rihaniyya Miled Mohammed Issa. Here Qaouq explained that "the Takfiri aggression against the army showed the truth of many in the north, and exposed the supporters of the Takfiri groups.”“The people covering up for and helping the Takfiri emirate in Roumieh are the same people that are covering p and helping the Takfiri gangs in the north," he added. The assaults, murder and bloodshed are results of all those who instigated against the army, and they are all partners in crime," said Qaouq. He addressed the other team, as saying: "Enough pride and stubbornness from the March 14 forces, we advise them to quit arrogance and join the honor of participating in fighting against the Takfiri attacks on the military and on Lebanon." “It is not the national responsibility of March 14 to act as if the battle of Arsal and Brital is non-existent," he stressed. At the same time, Qaouq said: “Hizbullah was not waiting for a permission or satisfaction from March 14 to practice our national and humanitarian responsibility to defend our people.”He expressed his regrets towards the March 14 for not abandoning its alliance with the Syrian armed opposition, which is attacking Lebanon. Two weeks ago, gunmen stormed a Hizbullah position in the outskirts of Brital causing the death of eight of its men, while Hizbullah regained its site after clashes.
Rouhani Lauds 'Steadfastness and Resistance' of Lebanese Army, Moqbel: Iranian Donations "are of Extreme Importance"
Naharnet/Sunday "the steadfastness and resistance" of the Lebanese army in facing "Takfiris", calling for "the expulsion of terrorist groups from the region."While, the Lebanese Defense Minister Samir Moqbel announced that the donation that Islamic Republic intends to submit to the army "is extremely important." "The need to praise the Lebanese army for its steadfastness and resistance against aggressors and terrorist," Rouhani stressed during his meeting with Moqbel on Sunday as quoted by the Iran's Fars news agency. Iran's offer of military support -- made when Supreme National Security Council secretary Ali Shamkhani visited Beirut last month -- followed aid packages for the Lebanese army from Tehran's regional rival Riyadh as well as from Washington. The Iranian president hoped to, "the union and rapprochement between the two countries and the two people witnesses steady growth."“The Lebanese with all their sects and parties are in agreement today to support the Lebanese army to face the terrorist groups,” said Moqbel, “The Lebanese army has the complete readiness and cohesion needed.”The defense minister added: "What we have significance is the maintenance of the Lebanese border and the fight against terrorist groups," stressing "the importance of Iran's continuous support for the Lebanese people."
In addition to the willingness of the Islamic Republic of Iran to provide armament support for the Lebanese army, it is ready to transfer its experiences to promote security in Lebanon and the region and to counter terrorist movements, said the Secretary of Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani upon the the Lebanese Defense Minister's visit to him. Iran's state news agency IRNA reported that Moqbel expressed in front of Shamkhani "his satisfaction after his visit to Iran," saying that Lebanon "is currently passing through tough circumstances and the aid from the Islamic Republic of Iran, as a friendly country, is of paramount importance."He also pointed out the need to provide the Lebanese army with modern and necessary weapons considering that this action "leads to the improvement of the army's operational force in the face of terrorist groups and Takfiris.""Maintaining stability and tranquility in this country," he added. Moqbel is not entitled to sign any agreement or make any commitment to the Iranian military grant, As Safir daily reported on Friday.
His role is limited to informing the Lebanese government about the pledges made by the Iranian officials to take the appropriate action, said the newspaper.
Lebanon flooding forces residents to flee, strands motorists
The Daily Star/Oct. 19, 2014/BEIRUT: Flooding caused by heavy rain swept through homes and disappeared roads across Lebanon early Sunday, causing some panicked residents to seek refuge, while defense forces scrambled to rescue those stranded. About 50 families from the village of Qarsita in the northern district of Dinnieh had to evacuate their homes overnight because of the floods, the National News Agency reported. Many homes were inundated with water, mud and rock. The roads to the village were completely blocked by the floods, and only a few entrances were partially reopened Sunday morning. The heavy rain also caused a water crisis in the area, as springs and streams became contaminated with debris, the NNA added. All the homes were either completely cut off from their water supply, or were receiving polluted water. Further north, in Akkar, the Lebanese Red Cross relocated dozens of Syrian families from villages and towns damaged by flooding. The Disaster Management Unit of the Red Cross also surveyed the needs of 140 Syrian families and 40 Lebanese families affected by the flooding. Motorists posted photos of the scenes of the flooding online. One picture posted on the Traffic Management Center’s official Twitter page showed the Antelias-Bikfaya highway covered in soil, rocks and water. Another picture from the area of Joumhour showed cars stuck in pools of water as a giant civil defense forces truck tried to pull them out. In Mount Lebanon, vehicles were stuck under the Mazraat Yachouh Bridge. Waist-high waters prompted civil defense units to help rescue those stranded. Northern winter winds coming in from Russia have led to an overall decrease in temperatures as well rainy and stormy weather, according to the meteorology department at Beirut’s international airport. The department forecast a cloudy Sunday, heavy with rainfall and intermittent storms. Sunday evening is expected to be very windy, which causes elevated sea levels. However, the weather will improve late Sunday night, as rainfall levels begin to decrease. Regions in the Bekaa Valley and north Lebanon above an altitude of 1,800 meters may witness slight snow fall Sunday night.
Salam wary over Lebanon's future: report
The Daily Star/Oct. 19, 2014/BEIRUT: Prime Minister Tammam Salam expressed concern over the security and political situation in Lebanon, saying there are no simple solutions to the many unresolved crises facing the country. “I feel that the country is living through a cycle that nobody knows when it will stop or where it can take us,” Salam was quoted as saying by his visitors in report published in An-Nahar newspaper Sunday. “The situation in Lebanon is unenviable, and most files are obstructed.” Salam’s comments come five months into a presidential vacuum since Michel Sleiman's term ended in may without a successor being chosen. Lawmakers meanwhile appear posed to extend their mandates for a second time, having voted to postpone parliamentary elections by 17 months nearly a year and a half ago.Salam’s visitors said the premier also expressed pessimism concerning the outcome of the hostage crisis, and skepticism on Qatar and Turkey’s ability to end the deadlock. About 27 soldiers and policemen are still held captive by extremist groups ISIS and the Nusra Front on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria. The servicemen were abducted during a five-day battle with troops in August. Their families have set up tents near the Grand Serail to pressure the government to negotiate their release by offering up Islamist prisoners.
Palestinian premier visits Salam
The Daily Star/Oct. 19, 2014/BEIRUT: Prime Minister Tammam Salam met Sunday with his Palestinian counterpart Rami Hamdallah to discuss the political developments in the Arab world and the situation of Palestinians in Lebanon. Held at Salam’s residence in the Musaytbeh area of Beirut, the meeting was also attended by the Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Mohammad Abdullah Mustapha, Palestinian Ambassador to Greece Marwan al-Toubasi, and Palestinian Ambassador to Lebanon Ashraf Dabbour. Sources from Rafic Hariri International airport told The Daily Star that Hamdallah and his companions will also pay condolences to the family of Said Khoury, the Palestinian businessman and philanthropist who passed away Thursday at the age of 91. Khoury was the chairman of the biggest construction company in the Middle East, Consolidated Contracting Company, and previously the head of the Arab Monetary Fund.
Derbas: Over 100,000 Syrian refugees received military
The Daily Star/Oct. 19, 2014 /BEIRUT: More than 100,000 Syrian refugees received military training in their home country before entering Lebanon, Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas said Sunday. The staggering figure poses “a real threat to internal security," he added, saying that Lebanon can no longer absorb any more refugees. Speaking to the local radio station Voice of Lebanon 93.3, Derbas said the borders will only remain open to receive special cases.“Lebanon has not totally closed its borders to refugees,” he said. “We are still receiving humanitarian cases, but other reasons for refuge are not being accepted.”He commented on the Syrian war, saying that it is not a mere political dispute, but rather an “Arab catastrophe, the burdens of which are being carried by the two smallest states: Lebanon and Jordan.”Nearly 1.2 million Syrians in Lebanon have registered with the UN refugee agency, but the actual number is thought to be significantly higher. He condemned attempts to frame the crackdown on militants in Lebanon as a conflict between the Sunni sect and the Army, saying “this is a shameful thing, especially since most of the Army’s martyrs are Sunnis.” Derbas, a centrist, also backed the Future Movement’s call for the extension, saying that if elections were held in the absence of a president, there would be no one to conduct the consultations and form a Cabinet afterwards. “Electing a new president is related to internal and external files, especially the crisis in Yemen,” Derbas said, stressing that MP Michel Aoun and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea has lost all chances of being elected, and the goal is to find an impartial candidate.
Syrian refugee influx into Lebanon reduced, but not stopped
The Daily Star/Oct. 18, 2014/BEIRUT: Despite remarks from Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas that Lebanon was no longer allowing the entry of Syrian refugees, a General Security source said such a measure had not been officially implemented, saying the influx was reduced, however, by new restrictions. “Lebanon is no longer officially receiving any Syrian refugees,” Derbas said in remarks published Saturday in Al-Akhbar daily. “These are measures that were agreed to in the ministerial committee and have received the preliminary agreement of the Lebanese government, and we have stopped the influx.” “Anyone who passes the Syrian-Lebanese border will be questioned and should have a humanitarian reason for their entry. This will be decided by the Interior and Social Affairs ministries.”The ministerial committee tasked with following up on the Syrian refugee crisis has made several recommendations to stop the influx of refugees, measures that the government has adopted. Among them is stripping Syrians of their refugee status if they return home. A source at General Security told The Daily Star that border security needed an official order from the Interior Ministry to stop the entry of Syrian refugees, an order that has yet to be issued. However, the source said the number of Syrian refugees coming into Lebanon have drastically declined due to other measures taken by the government to restrict the influx. Refugees who returned to Syria are not allowed back into Lebanon while General Security at the border has continued to facilitate the movement of Syrian labor. Ninette Kelley, representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Lebanon, told Reuters that "many fewer people are being allowed in than would normally be coming in to get refugee status."Kelley said "there has been no publication of the criteria used" at the border. Derbas also said that the government was conducting an evaluation of the refugees in Lebanon every six months, to update the numbers and determine whether the refugees met the conditions laid out by officials.“We have also informed the refugee agency that we can no longer receive any more and the government has also asked the refugee agency to remove the name of any Syrian who returns to Syria and comes back,” Derbas said, referring to measures taken by the government.
Hariri: Hour of reckoning coming for Hasan's killers
The Daily Star/Oct. 18, 2014/BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri said Saturday that the time would come when the killers of Wissam al-Hasan, the security chief who was killed in a car bomb in 2012, would pay for their crime, remembering the family friend as a “true statesman.” “They assassinated him just like they did [former Prime Minister] Rafik Hariri. ... The criminal is one regardless of their various names and descriptions. The hour of reckoning is coming no matter how long it takes,” Hariri said on the second anniversary of Hasan’s assassination. Hasan was 47 when he was killed in a car bomb on Oct. 19, 2012, as his vehicle passed through a bustling Beirut neighborhood. His driver and a passer-by were also killed in the explosion. “Hasan was part of our lives, an element of trust and became a brother and a son in the house of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri,” Hariri said. “But Lebanon's loss is bigger than mine and cannot be briefly described.” Hariri said Hasan introduced a modern and developed approach to security that was now a basis for security agencies in Lebanon, “which are bearing unprecedented responsibility in protecting national security and civil peace.” He said the head of the Internal Security Forces’ Information Branch was able to overcome his "political commitments" and offer a true model for a statesman without differentiating between the Lebanese. The March 14 coalition has accused Syrian President Bashar Assad of being behind the assassination while others went so far as blaming Hezbollah for the killing of Hasan, who uncovered Israeli spy networks and an assassination attempt in Lebanon that was allegedly backed by the Syrian regime. At the ISF headquarters in Beirut, ISF chief Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Basbous and Brig. Gen. Imad Othman, the head of the Information Branch, laid wreaths at the bottom of a statue of Hasan at the courtyard, which was built following his assassination.
Fars: Moqbel to return Beirut with Iran military aid
Oct. 18, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Defense Minister Samir Moqbel is expected to return home from his trip to Tehran with the military aid Iran promised to donate, Fars News Agency said Saturday. Moqbel is in Iran on a three-day official visit to the Islamic Republic to discuss the military grant with Iranian officials. While Fars reported that Moqbel would return to Beirut with the aid in hand, the pledge has been at the center of a controversy in Lebanon. Several ministers have raised concerns over whether the arms transfer would be a violation of U.N. sanctions, and some media reports have said that Western diplomats have pressured Lebanon to reject the offer. Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil said earlier this week that he would soon draft a proposal for the Cabinet to consider the aid. Moqbel will hold meetings with Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, and Secretary of Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani during the visit, according to Fars. Shamkhani said Iran would provide Lebanon with needed military aid during his trip to Lebanon last month. The aid aims to help the Lebanese Army battle extremists who have infiltrated the border with Syria. Army has been engaged with militants from ISIS and the Nusra Front since clashes erupted in the northeastern town of Arsal last month. While the Army was able to drive the militants out of the town and into its outskirts by the Syrian border, the militants were able to take at least 30 soldiers and police captive during their retreat
Army detains 11 in raids after arms cache found
The Daily Star/Oct. 18, 2014/BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army detained 11 people in Jezzine Saturday during raids that were launched after the discovery of explosives near the residence of the head of General Security, Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim. In a statement, the Army said its unit in Mount Lebanon and Iqlim al-Kharroub raided several gathering spots of Syrian refugees in Bisri and Marj Bisri and detained nine for illegal residency. Soldiers also detained an Egyptian and another person whose nationality was unknown.
The military referred the detainees to the judiciary. A General Security source told The Daily Star that members of the security agency had discovered large quantities of ammunition, weapons and explosives in Bisri near the vicinity of Ibrahim's house there.
Bisri is located between the southern town of Jezzine and the Mount Lebanon region of Iqlim al-Kharroub. The source said General Security detained a group of people but refused to give an exact number. The National News Agency reported Friday that the weapons were carefully stashed in plastic bags and scattered in three separate locations. Security forces discovered a quantity of TNT, hand grenades, telecommunications devices, and ammunition, the NNA said, adding that Military Prosecutor Judge Saqr Saqr had tasked Army Intelligence with investigating the case.
North Lebanon mufti: Fifth column destabilizing Tripoli
The Daily Star/Oct. 18, 2014/BEIRUT: A fifth column is working to destabilize Tripoli, north Lebanon Mufti Sheikh Malek al-Shaar warned Saturday, blaming recent attacks on the Lebanese Army on foreign provocateurs. "Everything that is happening is the act of foreign individuals. The problem is not between the residents of the north and the Army or between Muslims and Christians or even Shiites and Sunnis, there is a fifth column that wants to destabilize,” Shaar told reporters after meeting Greek Orthodox Patriarch John X Yazigi at Balamand Monastery near Tripoli. “But Tripoli and the north will remain as Lebanon’s beating heart full of love, unity and cooperation and I think that religious figures generally should act as the safety net for our national course.”Shaar was referring to repeated attacks against the military, with the recent most one Friday's killing of a 19-year-old soldier riding a military bus on his way to work in Tripoli. On Sept. 23, gunmen shot dead a soldier in the northern city of Tripoli. A soldier died in a bomb blast in Tripoli on Oct. 7, while another serviceman was killed in an attack in the Akkar district two days later by gunmen on a motorbike. The attacks reflect simmering tensions following the fierce battles between Lebanese troops and ISIS and Nusra Front militants in the northeastern town of Arsal in early August. The militants are still holding hostage 27 soldiers and policemen captured during the fighting. Speaking to reporters, Shaar, who spent nearly a year in 2013 outside Lebanon for security reasons, also said that he discussed with Yazigi the upcoming Christian-Muslim summit in cooperation with Dar al-Fatwa, the country's highest Sunni authority. "This summit will be an opportunity to raise a unified voice about or national principles,” he said.
Jumblatt: Army requires absolute backing
The Daily Star/Oct. 19, 2014
BEIRUT: The Army requires absolute political backing to restore security in the country, Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt said Sunday, after meeting with a group of of Arab tribal leaders in Khaldeh.“Before the tanks and airplanes, the Army needs political immunity,” Jumblatt said in the meeting as part of a recent effort to reach out to different communities. “Let us stand in one position behind the Army, which is engaged in a very harsh battle.” MPs Akram Chehayeb, Ghazi Aridi, Fouad Saad and Henry Helou accompanied Jumblat during the first visit of Sunday’s tour, as well as the Druze leader’s son Taymur. Jumblatt greeted the Arab tribe leaders, calling them "the people of glory, generosity, heroism and manhood."He also lauded their efforts at resisting Israeli attacks on Lebanon during the 1975-1990 civil war. Jumblatt then headed to the neary town of Aramoun, where he stressed on the need to sustain the good relations between the Druze and their fellow Muslims and Arabs. "We are not here to simply speak about coxistence, but rather to stress on the common destiny," Jumblatt said, calling on his supporters to establish a total reconciliation with the Arab tribes. A clash had erupted between the son of Aramoun's mukhtar and members of the Arab tribes two years ago, which increased tension between the two sides. A reconciliation ceremony was held in October 2012, but tensions have remained until the present. Jumblatt had called in a previous visit to the eastern town of Rashayya on the Druze to go back to their Muslim roots, promising to rebuild the mosque in his hometown Mukhtara which was destroyed during days of aggression between Druze and Muslims
Abu Faour condemns counterfeit medical trade
The Daily Star/Oct. 19, 2014 /BEIRUT: Lebanon has devised a plan to ensure the quality of pharmaceuticals despite the drug market being flooded with counterfeits, Health Minister Wael Abu Faour said Sunday.“The Health Ministry has a clear plan that aims to preserve the quality of medication,” Abu Faour said at a conference on pharmaceutical production, warning that local “markets are rife with counterfeit pharmaceuticals.”The Lebanese have lost confidence in their drugs because of a culture that has allowed for the proliferation of counterfeit medicines, the minister lamented. He announced that authorities shuttered a drugstore Saturday that sold counterfeit products, the latest in a series of raids over the past two weeks to seize fake drugs. Speaking about the price of pharmaceuticals, Abu Faour said that the health ministry took a “qualitative step” by reducing medication costs by 22 percent. The health minister denied that pharmaceutical companies were negatively affected by the price reduction, saying that any profit lost as a result of the decrease in pricing only minimized “surplus profits.”“This means that drug companies in Lebanon are still one of the most profitable in the world."Turning to political matters, Abu Faour said that political factions “must find a successful medication” for national problems. Condemning assaults on the Army, the health minister said that the attacks would not have taken place had it not been encouraged by certain officials and their statements. “The Free Patriotic Movement calls on all political factions to reconsider their stands,” he concluded, referring to his political party.
What went wrong in Kobani?
By: Wafiq Al-Samarrai/Asharq Alawsat
Sunday, 19 Oct, 2014
I have been of the opinion that directing airstrikes on Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) positions in Syria has been a mistake since the international campaign against the group began. ISIS must first be defeated on Iraqi territory and thereby driven out of the country and cornered in Syria, as a prelude to the terrorist group’s final destruction. It has taken US strategists some time to understand the situation; there is no harm in this delay so long as the international coalition commits to this tactic on the ground and, in particular, intensifies low-altitude airstrikes.
If the security setbacks in Mosul and Tikrit can be attributed to the shock factor, some of the subsequent incidents that have taken place defy logic. Areas such as Tal Afar, Sinjar, Nineveh valley and western Ramadi should never have fallen into ISIS hands. But their capture by ISIS reflects the panic that hit the defense philosophy of Iraqi government and Kurdish Peshmerga forces. Were it not for the popular mobilization which saw hundreds of thousands of Iraqi volunteers joining militias to fight ISIS, the situation in Iraq would have slipped out of control and the country as we know it would have been eradicated. Everything that happened previously can be explained, in one way or another. However there is no explanation to ISIS militants carrying out maneuvers close to Baghdad four months after the group was supposedly pushed back; this is something that cannot be overlooked. This is even after international forces have carried out hundreds of sorties over Syria and Iraq, striking ISIS positions in both countries.
ISIS has demonstrated unusual persistence in its attack on Kobani and continues to besiege the town. The Islamist group has managed to continue fighting on several fronts in addition to fighting psychological war by threatening to capture Baghdad.
With the attack on Kobani preoccupying ISIS, Peshmerga forces should have carried out extensive operations in a bid to retake the Turkmen-majority city of Tal Afar and the predominantly Yazidi city of Sinjar. Instead, ISIS has been left to roam freely in this region without coming under any serious pressure in key strategic areas in and around Mosul. This has led the Islamist group to take the initiative elsewhere. All of this reveals a lack of strategic thinking and cooperation as seen by the Iraqi central government’s lack of influence over Kurdish defenses and the marginal and insignificant coordination between Iraqi and Kurdish forces in Diyala, Salah Al-Din and Kirkuk.
While the inability of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to influence the Turkish position—despite their commercial interests and coordination on other issues—impacted the relationship between the political blocs in the region, dealing a serious blow to KRG aspirations to lead international Kurdish nationalist sentiments. Kurds in Turkey and Syria have been very disappointed by the failure of the KRG to adopt a reasonable position on the events in Kobani. Reports even suggest that the international coalition’s airstrikes have caused losses in the ranks of Kurdish Islamist groups fighting ISIS. High-altitude laser-guided missiles have proven less effective than the deployment of combat helicopters flying at medium and low altitudes. An offensive of this scale requires a direct and coordinated ground offensive to engage with opposition forces.
Despite all this, the Kobani operation has brought the people of Iraqi Kurdistan closer to Baghdad, paving the way for the convergence of interests between Iraq’s central government and Kurdish parties away from the Kurdistan Alliance. This will also prepare the ground for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) to restore its clout regardless of the setback it suffered during the previous elections. This could ultimately redraw the political equations in Baghdad based on the new web of mutual interests between the various political parties and figures.
Major changes in the fight against ISIS are unlikely to take place in the foreseeable future. Such changes would require a radical development on the ground and aerial capabilities within a time-frame that cannot be measured in weeks. Unless something completely unexpected happens, ISIS will gradually lose its momentum and be pushed back. Although ISIS’s control of major cities represents a significant obstacle for the international coalition, the war on ISIS is going to be a protracted one unless the West decides to directly engage the Islamist group.
Boomerang War in Syria
By: Burak Bekdil/The Gatestone Institute
October 19, 2014
At the end of 1998, Turkey threatened to take military action against President Hafez al-Assad's regime in Syria unless Damascus immediately stopped harboring Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the violent Kurdish separatist group, PKK. Al-Assad decided not to take the risk. And the Turks, in cooperation with the U.S., finally captured their public enemy No. #1 in Kenya, brought him to court and sentenced him to life. In a war-torn region, a war had been averted.
A decade or so later, the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (now president) and his foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu (now prime minister), declared al-Assad Jr., Bashar, and heir to the elder al-Assad's throne, their country's best regional ally.
Erdogan once said al-Assad was more than an ally: he and his wife, Asmaa, were the Erdogans' family friends. Visa restrictions between the two countries were removed; bilateral trade boomed; joint cabinet meetings were held; and Turkey became the first NATO member to have joint military exercises with Syria.
After the Arab Spring spread to Syria, Erdogan and Davutoglu changed their rhetoric and started to call al-Assad a dictator -- as if a year earlier the man had been the elected prime minister of Sweden. Once again, Syria was the foe -- not because its regime had changed, but primarily because Erdogan and Davutoglu thought that the downfall of the Alawite al-Assad, under the powerful winds of change during the days of Arab Spring, could help create a Sunni belt of states subservient to a rising Turkish empire.
Davutoglu, who boasted that he had been to Damascus 62 times and knows the city "street by street," a reference to his self-declared knowledge into Syrian affairs, claimed more than three years ago that "al-Assad's days in power are numbered... perhaps a few weeks."
Erdogan and, to a lesser degree, Davutoglu, made al-Assad's downfall a personal ambition, presumably to send a message that al-Assad's departure from power would illustrate to all countries in the world that a regime unwanted by Turkey could not survive.
Erdogan and Davutoglu thought that the downfall of the Alawite al-Assad could help create a Sunni belt of states subservient to a rising Turkish empire.
By 2012, al-Assad had become such an obsession that Ankara was prepared to make the strangest of all bedfellows to get rid of him. It supported all (Sunni) opposition groups, including radicals; funded them, and sent them arms and logistical equipment. That support, together with other regional factors, created Turkey's own Frankenstein Monster: The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria [ISIS].
Just when optimists started to think that the most important men in Ankara finally understood that a one-dimensional regional policy in the Middle East -- one that prioritizes only the downfall of a former ally -- would not work, the Turks show that they do not learn lessons.
"We will do everything possible to help people of Kobani because they are our brothers and sisters. We don't see them as Kurds or Turkmen or Arabs. If there is a need of intervention to Kobani, we are saying that there is a need of intervention to all Syria, all of our border." This statement of Prime Minister Davutoglu to CNN needs to be decrypted into plain language: "Kobani may be a critical Kurdish town bordering Turkey. It may be facing the danger of falling to ISIS. Kurds may be facing ethnic cleansing. We understand all that. But if our Western allies and Kurds want us to engage ISIS militarily, we want guarantees that al-Assad must go." So, it is the same obsession again.
Naturally, only one day after Davutoglu spoke of Turkey's "Kurdish sisters and brothers," Turkey's own Kurds put parts of Turkey into flames. On Tuesday and Wednesday (Oct. 6 and 7), riots started in Istanbul, home to millions of Kurds, then spread to Turkey's overwhelmingly Kurdish southeast. Within a day, fourteen people were killed in anti-government demonstrations and clashes with security forces. The death toll would later reach more than 40.
Davutoglu's government had to declare a curfew in six Kurdish cities and 22 towns, while in France, Austria and Switzerland, Turkish consulates were attacked by angry Kurdish demonstrators. The security situation in Kurdish cities reached its worst in 22 years. Interior Minister Efkan Ala warned: "We will respond to violence with violence."
Do the scenes look familiar to another, nearby place? Absolutely. The Turkish interior minister was right when he said that legitimate states have a right to use proportionate violence when they face violence. But he is wrong to think that this right can only be enjoyed by his own country. He belongs, after all, to a government and ideology which seem to hold that Israel should not respond at all, in any way, to the killings of its citizens, bombs or to rockets sent into its cities.
Davutoglu is a man who once said that, "hopefully one day we all will be praying at the al-Aqsa mosque in the 'Palestinian capital al-Quds [Jerusalem].'" He also said he hopes one day he will pray in Damascus. Both references to Muslim prayers symbolize his strong inner desire for "conquest:" the "conquest" of Jerusalem by the Palestinians, and the downfall of al-Assad and the establishment of a Sunni, pro-Turkey regime there. His references do not necessarily have a military connotation but most likely would not rule it out either.
Davutoglu's CNN interview is an indirect expression that he would be willing to risk the lives of Turkish soldiers on Syrian territory if he is given assurances that his dream about ousting al-Assad would come true. To which a prominent Turkish columnist, Ertugrul Ozkok, replied in the daily, Hurriyet: "Stop there a minute! So you [Davutoglu] think Turkish mothers and fathers will send their young sons into Syria so that you can say your collapsed Syria policy has proven right?"
Ankara never seems to learn from its mistakes.
**Burak Bekdil, based in Ankara, is a Turkish columnist for the daily Hürriyet and a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
Mr. Baird, how are Saudi Arabia’s beheadings different from Islamic State’s?
Shenaz Kermalli /Special to The Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Oct. 17 2014, 1:51 PM EDT
Shenaz Kermalli is a Canadian freelance journalist with an interest in faith and politics. She has previously worked for Al Jazeera English, BBC News and CBC Television.
It’s something the Canadian Foreign Minister still fails to grasp.
On Wednesday, the same day that John Baird was greeted warmly by his Saudi Arabian counterpart to discuss coordinated efforts to combat Islamic State militants (also known as ISIS or ISIL), a Saudi court judge decided to pass a death sentence against a leading opposition figure on charges of sedition and “breaking allegiance to the king.”
“We consider the Kingdom and Kuwait important allies in combating violent extremism and terrorism,” Mr. Baird said before leaving for his trip to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait on Tuesday.
Does Canada really see an ally in a country that has carried out twice as many beheadings over one month than the militia it now claims it wants to destroy? According to Amnesty International, 59 people have been decapitated in Saudi Arabia since January this year, and eight in the past month alone. That’s twice the number of Western hostages who have been featured in IS’s execution videos (though there have also been non-Western hostages beheaded by IS). Saudi Arabia’s track record actually makes IS look scant in comparison.
For more than a decade, Nimr Baqer Al-Nimr has been considered a revolutionary hero in the Shia Muslim world for peacefully calling for an end to corruption and discrimination against religious minorities. But in a country where political opposition and insulting the monarchy is tantamount to suicide, the reformist cleric clearly crossed all red lines.
During his sermons in 2011, Mr. Al-Nimr exposed the government’s ill-treatment of political prisoners, calling out Saudi princes and princesses by name to stop “killing our sons.”
In another sermon following Arab Spring-inspired protests the following year, he questioned the very legitimacy of the Gulf monarchies on the basis that they were inconsistent with Islamic law.
“The House of Saud and Khalifa (in Bahrain) are mere collaborators with and pawns of the British and their cohorts. It is our right, and the right of the Bahraini people, and all people everywhere, to choose our leaders and demand that rule by succession be done away with as it contradicts our religion.” What Mr. Baird needs to grasp immediately is the horrific impact executing Mr. Al-Nimr would have in fuelling sectarian violence in the region. Carrying out the sentence also gives zero credence to Saudi Arabia’s purported claim of opposing the militant group. Saudi Arabia already shares their extremist ideological roots in Salafism with IS and their love of decapitating people who don’t agree with them - won’t the execution of a prominent Shia cleric only encourage them to continue their persecution of religious minorities? There’s only one message Mr. Baird needs to deliver to Prince Saud Al-Faisal: Pressure Saudi Arabia to release Mr. Al-Nimr and disavow the violent and regressive ideology that lies at the heart of its state.
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Why Europe Is
Irrational About Israel
By: David P. Goldman/PJ Media
October 19, 2014
Coming soon after Sweden's recognition of a non-existent state of Palestine, the British Parliament's 274-to-12 resolution to recognize "Palestine" flags a sea-change in European sentiment towards Israel. France is thinking of following suit. The European Community bureaucracy, meanwhile, has readied sanctions against Israel. One remonstrates in vain. The Gaza War should have taught the world that Israel cannot cede territory to Mahmoud Abbas, now in the 10th year of a 4-year term. Hamas has the support of 55% of West Bank Palestinians vs. just 38% for Abbas, and Hamas openly brags that it could destroy Israel more easily from firing positions in the West Bank. Only the Israeli military keeps Abbas in power; without the Israelis Hamas would displace Abbas in the West Bank as easily as it did in Gaza; and a Hamas government in the West Bank would make war on Israel, with horrifying consequences.
To propose immediate Palestinian statehood under these circumstances is psychotic, to call the matter by its right name. The Europeans, along with the United Nations and the Obama administration on most working days, refuse to take reality into account. When someone tells you that Martians are transmitting radio waves into his brain, or that Elvis Presley really is the pope rather than an Argentine Jesuit, one doesn't enquire into the merits of the argument. Rather, one considers the cause of the insanity.
The Europeans hate Israel with the passion of derangement. Why? Well, one might argue that the Europeans always have hated Jews; they were sorry they hated Jews for a while after the Holocaust, but they have gotten over that and hate us again. Some analysts used to cite Arab commercial influence in European capitals, but today Egypt and implicitly Saudi Arabia are closer to Jerusalem's point of view than Ramallah's. Large Muslim populations in Europe constitute a pressure group for anti-Israel policies, but that does not explain the utter incapacity of the European elite to absorb the most elementary facts of the situation.
Europe's derangement has deeper roots. Post-nationalist Europeans, to be sure, distrust and despise all forms of nationalism. But Israeli nationalism does not offend Europe merely because it is one more kind of nationalism. From its founding, Europe has been haunted by the idea of Israel. Its first states emerged as an attempt to appropriate the election of Israel. As I wrote in my 2011 book How Civilizations Die (and Why Islam is Dying, Too):
The unquiet urge of each nation to be chosen in its own skin began with the first conversion of Europe's pagans; it was embedded in European Christendom at its founding. Christian chroniclers cast the newly-baptized European monarchs in the role of biblical kings, and their nations in the role of the biblical Israel. The first claims to national election came at the crest of the early Dark Ages, from the sixth-century chronicler St Gregory of Tours (538-594), and the seventh-century Iberian churchman St Isidore of Seville.
As I observed on the First World War anniversary, Saints Isidore of Seville and Gregory of Tours were in the Bialystock and Bloom of the Dark Ages, the Producers of the European founding: they sold each petty monarch 100% of the show. Europe's nationalisms were not simply an expansion of tribal impulses, but a nationalism refined and shaped by Christianity into a ghastly caricature of Israel's Chosenness. In turn, each European country asserted its status as God's new people: France under Richelieu during the 17th century, England under the Tudors, Russia ("The Third Rome") from the time of Ivan the Terrible, and ultimately the Germans, who substituted the concept of "master race" for the Chosen People.
The flowering of Jewish national life in Israel makes the Europeans crazy. It is not simply envy: it is a terrible reminder of the vanity of European national aspirations over the centuries, of the continent's ultimate failure as a civilization. Just as the Europeans (most emphatically the Scandinavians) would prefer to dissolve into the post-national stew of European identity, they demand that Israel do the same. Never mind that Israel lacks the option to do so, and would be destroyed were it to try, for reasons that should be obvious to any casual consumer of news media.
Europeans cannot live with their past. They cannot live with their present, and do not plan to have a future, for they do not bear enough children to forestall demographic ruin at the hundred-year horizon. With its high fertility, national spirit, religiosity and unabashed national self-assertion, Israel reminds the Europeans of everything that they are not. Much worse: it reminds them of what they once desired to become. The idea of Israel as well as the fact of Israel are equally intolerable to them.
It remains to be seen whether Germany–the one European country that has made a vigorous effort to come to grips with its dreadful past–will allow anti-Israel sentiment to turn into diplomatic isolation. One hopes that Angela Merkel, Germany's talented and well-intentioned chancellor, will stand in the way of this. Europe may not be quite a lost cause for Israel, but it is at grave risk of becoming one.
**David P. Goldman is Senior Fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and Wax Family Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
What does Kobane mean for the international community?
Kanar Talabani/Open Democracy
19 October 2014
There is still time to quell IS in Syria but the world must be prepared to act immediately, before it is too late.
Hundreds rallied in Istanbul after the news that ISIS militants had entered the Syrian-Kurdish town of Kobane, at the lack of response from the Turkish government. Görkem Keser/Demotix. All rights reserved.
For local groups of Kurdish fighters keeping IS at bay, the numbers of IS fighters flooding into the town has created a significant drain on resources. Whilst accepting hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees escaping the Syrian civil war, thousands of Arab refugees fleeing IS clashes in Iraq, and thousands of Yezidi Kurds fleeing IS capture, Iraqi Kurdistan now faces the prospect of accepting refugees from Kobani. Despite maintaining a stronghold within Northern Iraq and steadily progressing against IS’ attempts to take Mosul, so far the only international support given to the Iraqi Kurds has been a series of airstrikes. Kurdish Pershmerga fighters are insistent that without the aid of better arms to help them to combat forces armed with advanced equipment which originated from the US military, strategic cities such as Rabia may be captured by IS.
“Kurds are fighting ISIS tooth and nail with Turkey standing by. That’s the image abroad, and that’s the image for Kurds.” – Asli Aydintasbas, a columnist at the daily Milliyet newspaper commented, as reported by Alexander Christie-Miller in Newsweek.
Despite western assurances that the prevention of an IS takeover has become a priority, Kurdish fighters have become one of the only constant forces tackling IS encroachment. This has become particularly clear following the US’s reluctance to accept that the events of Kobane are more than a minor civil disturbance. The US claim of focusing on the IS threat in Iraq is increasingly losing credibility, as Kurdish Pershmerga fighters are forced to beg for more arms aid without success.
Past the localised significance of the events of Kobane, the region as a whole has become increasingly unstable. The events in Kobane sparked an eruption of protest from Kurds across Turkey, bringing decades of civil strife back to the surface. This came as Turkish forces refused entry to the thousands of refugees attempting to flee the fighting in Kobane. The Turkish government has come under attack by pro-PKK protestors across Turkey.
Protests were also sparked by the refusal to allow Turkish Kurdish fighters to cross the border in order to provide military aid to Kurds fighting IS soldiers. Most embarrassingly for western powers, reports have focused on the lack of aid by NATO’s second largest army within Turkey, witnessing the events of Kobane. These events have all culminated in the gradual decline of the peace talks that were being conducted between the Turkish government and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a process which was crucial for the future of stability and peace in Turkey after decades of internal conflict.
Turkey has now suffered a series of protests, spanning not only across its Kurdish dominated region, but also into Istanbul and Ankara. Reports so far claim that more than 30 people have died, and the Turkish government has made over 1000 arrests in order to quell the demonstrations and rioting. Whilst soldiers patrol the streets of the Kurdish cities of Dyarbakir, Mardin, Van, and Batman, the violence is escalating, suggesting that Turkey may undergo a devastating civil war between Turkish nationalists and Kurdish separatists.
Beyond the region, the so-called ‘Islamic State’ and its aims to dominate a vast area under an extremist Muslim ideology has major repercussions for world security. Once Kobane falls to IS, the threat of further encroachment across the unstable political plain of Syria may become a reality. Although Kurdish fighters are currently maintaining their front against IS in Iraq, they will be faced with an almost impossible challenge of fighting off IS on two separate plains if the conflict in Kobane is not contained.
The acts of terrorism conducted by IS during their rampage across the region have sparked worldwide disbelief at the levels of brutality shown. This includes the extent to which IS has targeted alternative Muslim ideologies, alongside their horrific actions towards Christians, Yazidis and other minority groups. A United Nations Human Rights investigation has concluded that IS had ‘carried out attacks deliberately… with the intention of killing and wounding civilians.’ So far, western deaths have been limited in comparison to localised and regional deaths. However, if aid and arms are not provided to the Kurdish army, and Kobane is left to burn unaided, an Islamic State may become a reality in Southern Syria and Central Iraq. Could we then see a repeat of devastating events such as the 7/7 bombings in London and the 9/11 fall of the Twin Towers in New York?
Decisions made by western powers in response to this crisis will play a major role in preventing the nightmare of a large IS-controlled region from becoming a reality. It is only a matter of time before we hear about the fates of the 10,000 to 13,000 people currently trapped at the border awaiting IS advance. This, and all we have seen to date, will only be the precursor to the levels of terrorism we may face if IS is not stopped now. There is still time to quell IS in southern Syria but the world must be prepared to act immediately, before it is too late.
About the author
Kanar Talabani completed a BA in Middle Eastern and African history at the School of Oriental and African Studies. Currently completing an MSc in Global Co-operation and Security at the University of Birmingham's Institute for Conflict, Co-operation and Security.
The Shia-Sunni war Reaches Lebanon
By: Jonathan Spyer/The Jerusalem Post
October 19, 2014
Nusra leader Abu Muhammad al-Julani (left) and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah don't exactly see eye to eye. Hezbollah is under pressure as the consequences of its ongoing intervention in Syria have come back to bite the terrorist organization. There are increasing indications that the sectarian war raging in Iraq and Syria is now moving irrevocably into Lebanon. The Shi'ite group is currently seeking to shore up its legitimacy by reminding its constituents, and other Lebanese citizens, of the role that gains it the most domestic sympathy – resistance against Israel. It is likely the strike at Mount Dov last week was part of this effort. It is also, in its propaganda, somewhat oddly trying to assert that Israel and the Sunni jihadis of the Nusra Front and Islamic State are allies. All this activity comes as the Nusra Front is demonstrating its ability to hit at Hezbollah across the border with increasing impunity. Attacks by Sunnis in Lebanon are not new, and similar incidents have taken place throughout the Syrian civil war. The longstanding tension in the Tripoli area between the mainly Alawi, pro-regime inhabitants of the Jebel Mohsen neighborhood and the mainly Sunni, pro-rebel Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood is continuing. The Nusra Front is demonstrating its ability to hit at Hezbollah across the border with increasing impunity. Hezbollah, in cooperation with the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), managed to stem a bombing campaign by the Sunnis in the Shi'ites' heartland of southern Beirut in the middle of 2013. And tensions between Hezbollah supporters and the local Salafi leader Sheikh Ahmed al-Assir in June 2013 ended in pitched battles and the destruction of Assir's local power.
The current tension, however, differs from previous episodes. It does not involve Hezbollah fighting much weaker local Sunni forces. This time, the movement is clashing directly with Syrian Sunnis. The current phase began with the seizure of the Lebanese border town of Arsal in August by members of both the Nusra Front and Islamic State. They left with a number of captured Lebanese soldiers, some of whom have since been executed. The LAF then tried to crack down on local support for the jihadis in Arsal, carrying out a large raid on the town in September, arresting hundreds accused of being Nusra Front members or for supporting the movement. More importantly, most of the individuals in the crackdown were not Lebanese Sunnis but rather members of the 1.5 million Syrian Sunni refugees, now in Lebanon. The Nusra Front then struck back hard in an operation whose stated goal was to "avenge Syrian refugees whose tents were burned" during the crackdown on Arsal.
Hundreds of fighters of the organization attacked from across the Syrian border, forming a line from Baalbek up to Arsal itself. The attack wasn't directed against the LAF, but against Hezbollah's positions. The attackers were eventually defeated (or the battle was intended to be a hit-and-run attack, depending on who one chooses to believe). But the jihadis fought a two-hour pitched battle with Hezbollah fighters near the village of Britel. The Nusra Front overran a Hezbollah position, killing at least 11 of the movement's fighters. The Sunnis filmed the attack, as well as its aftermath. The jihadis can be seen moving backwards through the Hezbollah position, removing equipment, nonchalantly ignoring the corpses of dead defenders. The Britel battle represents an eruption into Lebanon of a wider campaign, in which Hezbollah and other pro-Assad forces have been desperately trying to clear out the Sunni jihadis from the Qalamun mountain range along the border and seal the line between Syria and Lebanon.
The Nusra Front and its allies are trying to establish a connecting route between Arsal and al-Zabadani, west of Damascus, long held by the rebels. The fight for Qalamun has turned into a grinding affair for Hezbollah, costing the lives of many of its fighters, while it never quite seems to end. The Britel losses indicate the failure of the pro-Iranian bloc's efforts to finish this fight, and show that the direction of events, for now, at least, are in the Nusra Front's favor. But the wider implications and challenges of the intensification of cross-border Sunni activity are political. As its casualties in the seemingly unending Syrian war continue to mount, Hezbollah needs to redouble efforts to explain to its constituency why this sacrifice makes sense and how it fits into the movement's more familiar justifications for its existence. Hence the increase in public statements by top officials, including leader Hassan Nasrallah.
Nasrallah paid a rare visit to Bekaa this week. In his speech, he sought to link the fight with the Sunni jihadis to Hezbollah's war with Israel. "Victory will be the ally of the mujahideens in their fight against takfiri [apostate Muslims] and terrorist groups, the same way it was their ally in the confrontation against the Israeli enemy," Nasrallah said. Interestingly, the Hezbollah leader didn't stress the military campaign in Bekaa, but rather boasted of the attack in the Mount Dov area, which he said showed "the resistance, which is always vigilant, will protect any attempt to attack Lebanon or its people."Pro-Hezbollah publicists, meanwhile, are seeking to color in this picture with claims that Israel and the Nusra Front have reached an understanding with one another and are cooperating against Hezbollah, as Jean Aziz, a columnist at the pro-Hezbollah al-Akhbar wrote in a recent article. These statements and claims notwithstanding, the main concern for Hezbollah and its supporters is the effect that the Nusra Front's offensive into Lebanon is having on the delicate balance between the Sunnis and Shi'ites in the country. Since the internal political and military conflict in 2008, with the humiliation of the mainly Sunni March 14 Alliance by Hezbollah and its associates, it looked like the Lebanese Sunnis were finished.
The Shi'ites, because of their political and demographic strength, achieved a clear dominance. The underlying concern of recent events is that this balance may be shifting. There are 1.5 million new Sunnis in the country. For a country with a population of less than five million, this is a major shift. A number of articles in the Lebanese media this week have reflected the widespread sympathy felt among many Sunnis for the Nusra Front, which is widely felt in both Lebanon and Syria to be less extreme and more local in its orientation than Islamic State. It is noteworthy that the Nusra Front mentioned the desire to avenge an affront against the refugees as the main goal of its Bekaa offensive. All these topics point to a possibly emergent, new strategic challenge for Hezbollah – namely the emergence of a new, powerful, Sunni Islamist opponent, one possessing some popular legitimacy, considerable military ability and a capacity to operate across borders. Hezbollah appears to be aware of this threat and is currently attempting to formulate its response to it. This is a new and emerging front in the sectarian war that has already consumed Syria and Iraq. It remains to be seen if the Shi'ite Islamists of Lebanon will succeed in resisting the challenge from their Sunni opponents.
**Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.
Former Iraqi pilots
train Islamic State fighters to fly MiG jets
Oct 18, 2014/BEIRUT — The Islamic State group is test flying, with the help of former Iraqi air force pilots, several fighter jets captured earlier from air bases belonging to the Syrian military, a Syrian activist group said Friday. The report by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in Britain could not be independently confirmed, and U.S. official said they had no reports of Islamic State militants flying jets in support of their forces on the ground. The new development came as the Islamic State group in Iraq pressed its offensive on the strategic city of Ramadi, west of Baghdad.: Their advance on the Syrian city of Kobani, however, has stalled as the militants have been forced to retreat on several fronts, shifting the monthlong battle increasingly in favor of the Kurdish fighters defending the city, according to commanders and Kurdish and U.S. officials. Dozens of air strikes this week by the U.S.-led military coalition killed hundreds of Islamic State fighters, allowing Kurdish units to regain territory, said Gen. Lloyd Austin, head of the U.S. Central Command on Friday The Observatory said the planes, seen flying over the Jarrah air base in the countryside of Aleppo province in eastern Syria this week, are believed to be MiG-21 and MiG-23 jets. Rami Abdurrahman, director of the Observatory, said the planes have been flying at a low altitude, “apparently to avoid being detected by Syrian military radar in the area.”He described the flights as a “moral victory” for the Islamic State group, saying “the jets could not fly much further without being knocked down by the (international) coalition.”…
crucifies 17-year-old boy for apostasy
Robert Spencer/Oct 18, 2014
The Independent hauls out Charlie Winter of the UK’s Quilliam Foundation, a group that claims to stand against jihad terror but attacks genuine counter-jihadists and opposes Israel. Winter does his best to absolve Islam of any responsibility for inciting this barbarity, but it is getting tougher to do so all the time. He admits that the Islamic State uses Qur’an 5:33 (described moronically by the Independent or Winter below as a passage from “the fifth book” of the Qur’an) to justify crucifying people, but then says that the next verse mitigates the punishment. However, the next verse just says: “Except for those who return [repenting] before you apprehend them. And know that Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” What if this boy didn’t return repenting? The learned Mr. Winter of the Quilliam Foundation doesn’t explain that, and the Independent doesn’t ask him to. “Isis fighters ‘crucify’ 17-year-old boy in Syria,” by Heather Saul, the Independent, October 17, 2014 (thanks to The Religion of Peace):
Boko Haram jihadists mount deadly attacks after “ceasefire”
Robert Spencer/Oct 19, 2014
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria, Oct 18 (Reuters) – Suspected Boko Haram militants have killed dozens of people in five attacks on Nigerian villages that occurred after the government announced a ceasefire to enable 200 abducted girls to be freed, security sources and witnesses said on Saturday. However, the government cast doubt on whether the attacks really were Boko Haram or one of several criminal groups that are exploiting the chaos of the insurgency. A spokesman said talks to free the girls would continue in Chad on Monday. The fresh attacks dashed hopes for an easing of the northeast’s violence, although officials remained confident they can negotiate the release of girls whose abduction by the rebels in the remote northeastern town of Chibok in April caused international shock and outrage. A presidency and another government source said they were aiming to do this by Tuesday. Boko Haram, whose name translates roughly as “Western education is sinful”, has massacred thousands in a struggle to carve an Islamic state out of religiously mixed Nigeria, whose southern half is mainly Christian in faith. Nigeria’s armed forces chief Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh announced the ceasefire on Friday. On Saturday, two senior government sources said it aims to secure the girls’ release as early as Monday or Tuesday, although they declined to give further details. In the first attack, suspected insurgents attacked the village of Abadam on Friday night, killing at least one person and ransacking homes, while another assault on the village of Dzur on Saturday morning left at least eight people dead. Three other attacks in Adamawa state on Saturday killed dozens of people, witnesses and a local politician said. “I was just boarding a bus when the gunshots started,” Adams Mishelia, who was in the adjacent town of Shaffa, said of the Dzur attack. “People were fleeing into the bush, so I got off the bus and headed to the bush too. I later learned they slaughtered eight people.”…Several rounds of negotiations with the jihadist movement have been pursued in recent years but they have never yielded calm, partly because of Boko Haram’s internal divisions. Since the girls’ kidnapping, the Nigerian military has twice asserted that it rescued some or all of the girls, only to have to backtrack hours later….
Sam Harris is wrong about Islam
By ALI SINA/J.Post
Harris said Islam is the mother load of bad ideas and Ben Affleck retorted it is an ugly thing to say, it is racist.
The debate between Sam Harris and Ben Affleck on Bill Maher’s show generated a lot of controversy.
Harris said Islam is the mother load of bad ideas and Ben Affleck retorted it is an ugly thing to say, it is racist. Of course Islam is not a race, but it helps to shout “racist” if you run out of arguments.
Islam is an idea and no idea, whether good or bad is above criticism. Good ideas welcome criticism. Bad ideas want to silence them because they have no defense against them.
Affleck is wrong. That does not mean Harris is right.
Harris contended, “Hundreds of millions of Muslims are nominal Muslims, who don’t take their faith seriously, who don’t want to kill apostates, who are horrified by ISIS [Islamic State] and we need to defend these people, prop them up and let them reform their faith.”
Reforming Islam the way he envisions it, is an illusion.
His error drives from the fact that he equates Islam to Christianity, and concludes that since Christianity was once upon a time a violent religion and then reformed, Islam can do the same.
Even though at one time the religion associated with Jesus had become violent and intolerant, there is nothing violent and intolerant in his teachings. The Crusades were the response of Christendom to jihad, and the Inquisition was the copycat of mihnah, a practice started by Caliph Ma’mun, which means “inquisition.” They have no basis in the teaching of Christ.
The Christian Reformation aimed to get rid of un-Christian practices. They suggested that the Bible should be read literally and its allegorical interpretations should be rejected.
An analogous reformation also took place in Islam. It is called Salafism.
The Prophet Muhammad reiterated repeatedly that he is the best salaf, the best example to follow and after him, his companions are the best model for Muslims to emulate.
He raided villages and towns, massacred unarmed men, beheaded his captives, raped their women and sold them as slaves. His successors, the so-called “rightly guided Caliphs” and their successors did the same. These are the very things the Wahhabis advocate and Islamic State is doing.
Islamic State is the true embodiment of the Islamic Reformation.
Is this what Sam Harris has in mind? No, he is talking about people like Maajid Nawaaz, Irshad Manji and Zuhdi Yasser.
These people are not suggesting that Muslims should go back to the original teachings of Muhammad, as the Christian reformers did. They want to get rid of them while somehow acknowledge the legitimacy of Muhammad as a prophet of God.
How is that possible? How can we tell people Muhammad was a true prophet, but don’t believe him – that his message was from God, but don’t follow it? Furthermore, isn’t it what the majority of Muslims already doing? Most Muslims don’t practice the violent parts of the Koran. As long as Islam is accepted as a true religion there will always be a minority who will want to practice it fully and honestly.
Yusra Hussein, a 15-year-old British Muslim of Somali origin, suddenly disappeared – and it transpires that she has gone to join Islamic State to become a “jihadi bride.” Her family is distraught.
“If it can happen to Yusra it can happen to anyone,” her aunt said. “She was just a normal, young girl. She was a home girl. There was no anger, no frustration. We had no idea,” she opined.
One does not have to be a neuroscientist to figure that out. Yusra’s family call themselves Muslim. At the same time they lived a comfortable westernized life, which is contrary to Islam. The young Yusra felt the cognitive dissonance and saw the hypocrisy of her family. If Islam is from God, why should she dilute it with the decadent ungodly ways of the unbelievers? Thousands of young Muslims join Islamic State. The great majority come from moderate Muslim families. It is easy to radicalize them. You ask them whether they believe in the Koran and they respond “yes.” Then you read it to them and show them that God enjoins jihad, that their parents who prefer this world to the next are hypocrites, and the Koran orders true believers to neither associate with the hypocrites nor take them as friends and guardians, even if they are fathers and brothers.
Kids understand this. It is a no-brainer. Their parents also understand it. But they want to have their cake and eat it too. They want to live in comfort and at the same time enter the Islamic paradise. What is Sam Harris’s excuse for not understanding it? He is a neuroscientist.
In an article published on his blog Harris announced he is conducting a debate with Nawaaz, which will be published as a book in a few months, where he expressed his support for “reformers” like him. I wrote to him and explained that reforming Islam is only a deeper layer of Islamic deception.
Islam is already undergoing its Reformation, and Islamic State is it. He did not reply.
I wrote a second letter cautioning him that Nawaaz is using him, that this sleek snake oil salesman is selling false hope, that what he proposes is the transformation of Islam, something any Muslim knows is not possible. The Koran warns against believing in parts of it and rejecting other parts. He ignored my second letter too.
Does Harris expect Muslims to disregard the Koran and follow Nawaaz and Manji, who is a lesbian? Harris is aware of the absurdity of such a proposition. He admits that the majority of Muslims would kill these self-styled reformers.
Why then, does he support something he knows is not going to work? The Islamic Reformation is in full swing and transforming it is an illusion. But it will become convincing when people like Harris support it. If someone else advocated a harebrained idea like this I would have called him a useful idiot. But Harris is no idiot, which makes his defense of an absurd proposition like this incomprehensible. How can a smart man not see something so elemental? Islam is what is. It can’t be molded. It can’t be reformed. It is rigid like fossil. You can’t reshape it, but you can break it. I have shattered the faith of thousands of Muslims. If I could reach all Muslims I could destroy this faith. Truth liberates.
There is a way. We need a biopic of Muhammad that depicts his savory life, tastefully, that can then be downloaded, even in Mecca, and can be seen by hundreds of millions of people. A truthful movie about Muhammad can change the course of history.
Islam is either from God or it isn’t. If it is then we have to accept it because that is what the Koran says. If we don’t, we should not complain when Muslims kill us. They are following the religion we acknowledged to be true. If Islam is not true, we better tell it fearlessly. Stop tiptoeing around lest you offend Muslims’ sensitivity. Take sides. Be either hot or cold, never tepid, because it achieves naught.
Truth hurts the delicate sensitivity of Muslims, but lies kill. Thousands are killed every day to uphold a lie. If this is not insanity what is?
**The writer is Canadian-Iranian former Muslim and the author of Understanding Muhammad and Muslims. He is also looking for a publisher for his newest book The Life of Muhammad, a complete biography and backers for his biopic of Muhammad. He can be reached at faithfreedom.org and on Twitter @AliSinaOrg.
Analysis: Joining Islamic State is about ‘sex and aggression,’ not religion
It is easy to look to religion for an explanation of why young men – and some women – become radicalized.
But it is psychology, not theology, that offers the best tools for understanding radicalization-and how best to undo it.
The appeal of Islamic State rests on individuals’ quest for what psychologists call “personal significance,” which the militant group’s extremist propaganda cleverly exploits. The quest for significance is the desire to matter, to be respected, to be somebody in one’s own eyes and in the eyes of others.
A person’s sense of significance may be lost for many reasons, such as a personal failure or a stigma that comes from transgressing the norms of one’s society.
We are reminded of this when we examine the backgrounds of female suicide- bombers in Israel. The first female suicide-bomber in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was divorced by her husband after she was found to be infertile. Another would-be bomber had been disfigured by burns, believed to have been caused by her family, after she had an affair. These women suffered from personal stigma and went on to volunteer for suicidal missions against the Israelis.
Loss of significance can also be caused by hopeless economic conditions. It can grow out of a sense of disparagement and discrimination, a not uncommon experience of many immigrants.
And it can come from a sense that one’s brethren in faith are being humiliated and disgraced around the world.
Ideological extremists like those leading Islamic State deliberately employ the ideas of collective hardship and victimization of Muslims worldwide to galvanize and recruit potential jihadists.
In a 1997 interview with CNN, Osama bin Laden fulminated: “The mention of the US reminds us before everything else of those innocent children who were dismembered, their heads and arms cut off.”
Another senior al-Qaida leader, Yehia Al Libi, stoked anger and indignation by saying: “Jihad in Algeria is your hope from the hell of the unjust ruling regimes whose prisons are congested with your youths and children, if not with your women.”
The appeal to one’s trampled identity, combined with the depiction of one’s group’s degradation, can have a profound visceral effect, incensing and redirecting individuals who are otherwise well-adjusted and on their way to a seemingly bright personal future.
According to reports, Nasser Muthana, a 20-year-old volunteer in Islamic State, had acceptance offers from four medical schools. Muhammad Hamidur Rahman, who died in August while fighting in Syria, was employed at a Primark store in the coastal city of Portsmouth, United Kingdom, and had a father who owned a restaurant. His personal future thus appeared assured and yet it could not undo the pain and humiliation he saw his Muslim community facing.
Extremist ideology is effective in such circumstances because it offers a quick-fix remedy to a perceived loss of significance and an assured way to regain it. It accomplishes this by exploiting humans’ primordial instincts for aggression and sex.
Consider the latter. Sex is the most primitive assertion of one’s significance; it’s a means to perpetuate one’s name – and genes – into the future.
Islamic State strategically uses it as a reward for aggression.
The militant group has set up marriage centers where women register to be wed to its fighters. Captured Iraqi women and girls are forced into sex slavery, living in brothels run by female jihadists.
Rape of non-believers is considered legitimate, while fatwas proclaiming a “sexual jihad” encourage brutality against females. Lastly, martyrdom is associated with sexual bliss in paradise.
Understanding the magnetic appeal of Islamic State’s extremism is a prerequisite to developing a suitable, psychologically sensitive counter narrative. For example, an appeal to moderation and a life of patient struggle seems ill-suited to win over the hearts and minds of jihadists.
Instead, the glamor of jihad must be countered by an alternative glamor; the charisma of martyrdom pitted against a different kind of charisma, the appeal to primitive drives redirected, jiu jitsu style, against the brutality of the enemy, turning the psychological tables on Islamic State as it were.
For example, young men vulnerable to the appeal of extremist ideology might be persuaded to fight the desecration of their religion and promised a place in history by defeating the satanic evil that soils their faith. Social media may need to be turned abuzz with the glory of standing up to evil, encouraging the bravery needed to undertake personal risks for “breaking bad.”
This message should not be presented in faint pastels but in bright, bold colors.
Measured arguments against Islamic State wouldn’t do the job. Countering it requires fiery, impassioned appeals.
**Arie W. Kruglanski is a senior researcher at START, National Center for the Study of Terrorism and the Response to Terrorism.
The opinions expressed are his own
By JPOST EDITORIAL/10/19/2014
It is important for Israel to keep shining a light on persecution in the region and remain a haven for Christians in these difficult times.
Last week, as 4,500 Christians from more than 80 countries converged on Jerusalem to show support for Israel, prominent leaders of Jewish and Christian organizations spoke out against the persecutions Christians face daily throughout the Middle East.
World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder told the large Feast of Tabernacles celebration in Jerusalem on Monday night that the persecution of Christians must be stopped.
“Our enemy has shown its true face with rapes, and with the slaughter of Christian women and children and with beheadings,” Lauder said. “There is no safer place in the Middle East for Christians than here in Israel. In Israel, Christians can pray in the open. In Israel, Christian holy sites are protected. In Israel, Christians do not fear for their lives.”
He said it was time for leaders around the world to speak out against the “anti-Christian terror.” Christians were facing “a genocide” in the region, Lauder said. “Together we must speak as one and tell the world: No more discrimination, no more terror no more death and no more silence,” he declared.
During the event, organized by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem and the Christian Allies Caucus, a letter signed by 120 leaders was unveiled. “We call on Western democratic leaders to take collective action in confronting the problem through firm diplomatic action against those nations that allow the religious persecution against Christians to continue,” the letter said.
As if to underline the points made at the event, as the leaders were speaking out against persecution of Christians it was reported that the Islamist terrorist group Nusra Front had released a Catholic priest named Father Hanna Jallouf and 20 Christian hostages who had been kidnapped in northwestern Syria, near the town of Jisr al-Shughour. The abduction was just the tip of the iceberg of the monstrous assaults carried out against Christians during the Syria conflict.
Nusra kidnapped Greek Orthodox nuns in Maaloula last December. An Italian priest named Paolo Dall’Oglio, who had been promoting dialogue with Muslims in the country, disappeared in July 2013 and is presumed kidnapped.
The Islamist rebels create various sham reasons to excuse their assaults on clergy. Jallouf was accused of being a “collaborator” with the Syrian government.
But the truth of persecution is obvious. Holy sites of Christians are ransacked and they are forced to flee. When Syrian rebels captured Homs, more than 66,000 members of the ancient community left. Father Frans van der Lugt, who remained behind, told the Catholic News Agency: “I can’t leave my church.” He was murdered in April 2014.
Christian communities that survived for almost 2,000 years in the country are on the brink of extinction as they are forced to leave their homes. The fate of Christians in Syria mirrors what happened in Iraq in the last decade. Islamists took advantage of the chaos after the US-led invasion to slaughter Christians.
The emergence of Islamic State was merely the final cycle of massacre and persecution. In Mosul, more than 95 percent of the Christian community was forced to flee. Mark Arabi, a Chaldean-American business who speaks on behalf of Iraqi Christians from his community, noted, “They are absolutely killing every Christian they see. This is a genocide in every sense of the word. They want everyone to convert and they want Shari’a law to be the law of the land.”
“Genocide” is the world now being used among many Christian leaders tuned into this issue. Catholic Bishop Thomas John Paprocki in Illinois told his church that Islamic State was committing a “genocide of Christians.”
In Libya, gunmen have killed Christians, primarily Coptic emigrants from Egypt, by going door to door in attacks in Benghazi. In Pakistan, a suicide bomber killed more than 81 at a church in Peshawar in September 2013. In Turkey, a priest named Andrea Santoro was killed in 2006 and Christians face ongoing harassment.
Greek Orthodox priest Father Gabriel Nadaf, an Israeli Arab, has estimated that a Christian is murdered in the Middle East every five minutes. “Israel is the only place where Christians are safe,” Nadaf said.
“Just as Christians defend Jews against anti-Semitism, just as Christians support Israel, we Jews have an obligation to speak out against the growing persecution of Christians in many parts of the world,” Lauder said.
It is important for Israel to keep shining a light on persecution in the region and remain a haven for Christians in these difficult times.
Stop pointing fingers. Many sources
lie behind ISIS’s rise
Manuel Almeida /Al Arabiya
Sunday, 19 October 2014
The tens of thousands of jihadists and would-be-jihadists that have flocked to Syria, coupled with the rise of ISIS, have placed the public debate about radicalism on the spotlight. This is the case in Western countries worrying about returning jihadists, but also inevitably in Arab countries where discussions about militant jihadism alternate with broader debates on possibly the worst crisis the region has faced in everyone's living memory. In the same way that the question "why do they hate us" marked the debate in the U.S.-post 9/11, the plainer question why do they hate seems to be marking the debate everywhere.
The most common answer I have come across points the finger to the main geographical source of the problem, the Sunni communities of the Arab world. After all being a Sunni is generally a requisite to join ISIS or other jihadist groups. Radicalism has taken over much of the Sunni armed rebellion against the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and a sizeable chunk of the disgruntled Sunni minority in Iraq has either joined or sided with ISIS. It has been forgotten that Iraqi Sunnis, starting in Anbar province, fought al-Qaeda successfully and then were abandoned by the U.S and the sectarian government of Nouri al-Maliki.
“The most common answer I have come across points the finger to the main geographical source of the problem, the Sunni communities of the Arab world”
It is obvious that Sunni communities face a radicalism problem. Some influential mosque and online preachers keep encouraging young and susceptible people to commit to a distorted version of jihad. Wealthy and non-wealthy individuals and groups around the world continue to provide funds for the likes of ISIS. The very closed and conservative nature of much of the region’s Sunni majority states, societies, and education systems, often so difficult for outsiders to grasp, also plays a role. So do repression, intolerance, sectarianism, and youth unemployment.
A lot remains to be done to tackle radicalism within Sunni communities. The issue has been at least partially acknowledged in the Arab world, with a few pockets still in denial or in the process of reckoning. Yet to place the blame entirely on a sort of malaise generated by Sunni Arabs alone is to overlook many other important drivers of radicalism.
The lessons of the Afghan war against the Soviet Union that gave rise to a new generation of militant transnational jihadists continue to be overlooked. Turkey, like Qatar a new player to the “game’’ of using jihadism as a tool of foreign policy, has considerably misplayed its hand in Syria. In its eagerness to get rid of Assad, it opened the way for jihadists to flow into Syria, thus helping to prop up the radicals that joined ISIS and undermined the influence of the moderate opposition.
Keeping radicalism alive
Iran and Israel, the two arch-enemies who constantly grumble about the threat of Sunni radicalism, have done plenty to keep it alive. Prominent Iranian leaders such as former president Mohammed Khatami may well boast about the dialogue between civilizations and cultures, but Iran continues to pursue an overtly aggressive foreign policy. The aim of cultivating proxy Shiite militias across the region, that in some cases (Lebanon, Iraq) have outgrown national armies, only reinforces radical and sectarian tendencies. It also undermines the already fragile sovereignty of various Arab states. The massacres of Sunni civilians in Iraq at the hands of these Shiite militias, a common practice during Maliki's reign, are ongoing.
Iranian attempts to uphold Assad's regime, no matter the human and material cost, is the best terrorist recruitment tool. Iran's disregard for the nefarious consequences of steering radicalism even leads it to back Sunni groups such as Hamas or the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Israel has undercut every U.S. attempt to help secure a peace deal with the Palestinians and opposes the idea of Palestinian statehood, while it presses forward with settlement building. Israel’s intransigence has given the various radical groups in Gaza a reason for being. More often ignored is that Abdullah Azzam, Osama Bin Laden’s mentor, was Palestinian, or that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of ISIS's predecessor al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, grew up in Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan.
Then with great power comes great irresponsibility. In its inglorious efforts to return Russia to an imagined splendor of the Cold War era, Vladimir Putin has buoyed Assad, who has used all means at his disposal to burn Syria to the ground to remain in power. These means include killing civilians with chemical weapons and releasing hundreds of jihadists from Syria's prisons so he can claim to be the moderate.
Unfortunately the U.S. has in some occasions given continuity to the dark era of European imperialism in the region, most notably in Iraq. This feeds into the idea, cherished by radicals and none-radicals, that the main factor behind the crisis of the Arab world is foreign interference. Successive U.S. governments have been unwilling or unable to get Israel to make a deal with the Palestinians and recognize Palestinian statehood. The U.S. has also repeatedly failed to seize the opportunity to normalize ties with the Iranians, greatly contributing to strengthen the hardline factions within Iran.
As the anti-ISIS coalition contemplates how to shift away Iraqi Sunni tribal leaders' support for ISIS and the world worries about returning jihadists, it is about time for a collective recognition of responsibility for the region's radicalization problem. This could be the first step to a drastic change of course.
Manuel Almeida is a writer, researcher and consultant focusing on the Middle East and emerging markets. He holds a PhD in International Relations from the London of Economics and Political Science, and is the former editor of the English edition of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper. He can be reached on @_ManuelAlmeida on Twitter.
Iran’s aggressive information campaign
Tony Badran/Now Lebanon
The Islamic Republic of Iran is managing an aggressive information campaign capitalizing on President Obama’s war against the Islamic State group (ISIS). Recognizing that Obama’s priority of combatting ISIS and Sunni extremism has created a huge opening for them, the Iranians have charged right through, high stepping all the way to the end zone. Tehran is pressing its advantage to portray itself as the indispensable manager of regional security, while also having a great time deriding the US and its regional allies. In that sense, the Iranian campaign is as much about messaging as it is about trolling.
With their information campaign, the Iranians are exposing publicly the extent to which the White House is pursuing them, even as they continue to talk trash to it. For the Iranians, this is designed to signal clearly to their regional rivals that they have the Americans in hand.
Take for instance the ongoing series of photo shoots Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani has been doing in Iraq. Soleimani models in different settings — under the cover of the US Air Force. There’s the jovial Hajj Qassem dancing, weapon in hand, with Iraqi forces. Then there’s Soleimani the General visiting his men on the front, shaking hands with Peshmerga from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan or with fighters from the Shiite militias he runs. Hajj Qassem also sports different styles from one photo shoot to the next — though his Palestinian-style black and white keffiyeh is always wrapped around his neck; after all, he is the commander of the force named for Jerusalem. The latest is the cool special ops look, in black fatigues complete with his cap turned backwards.
Although the White House had sent unmistakable signals about its desire to work with the Iranians, it also was concerned about not angering Sunni regional states, whose participation in the coalition it needed. Soleimani’s photo shoots were designed to make clear to everyone in the region that not only were the Iranians and the Americans in alignment, but also that the Iranians were the real force on the ground. Hence, US air power serves only to shore up the Iranian order.
Iran’s trolling extends beyond Iraq to the other theater where Washington and Tehran have had a tacit understanding: Lebanon. Earlier this month, the Iranians set in motion a play centered around support for the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) in its role against Sunni armed groups. At the end of September, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani, accompanied by Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, arrived in Beirut where he met Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam as well as Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. Following his talks, Shamkhani declared that Iran was ready to offer military aid to the LAF, specifically to help it fight “extremist takfiri terrorism” in the border region with Syria. The Iranian ambassador to Lebanon Mohammad Fathali followed up on the matter and met again with Salam, very publicly underscoring the seriousness of Iran’s offer.
This was a carefully choreographed production, supported by local pro-Iranian media. The Iranians know full well that they were putting Salam and his government in an impossible position, especially with Saudi Arabia.
The Saudis have already pledged $3 billion to Lebanon, part of which is to be used to purchase French weapons systems for the LAF. But the deal continues to be delayed. Thus, it was a perfect opportunity for Iran to show up the Saudis — and the Sunnis more generally — and present the Iranians and their allies as the only genuine supporters of the Lebanese state. The Iranians, it was reported in the pro-Hezbollah Al-Akhbar, deliberately specified what types of weapons they were ready to provide, free of charge, as soon as the Lebanese government consented. They also offered to provide training. The objective was to contrast the Iranians’ concrete offer with the yet unfulfilled Saudi promise.
But the Iranians also wanted to force Washington to reject their aid to the LAF. It was no coincidence that it was Al-Akhbar which revealed that the US privately put significant pressure on the Lebanese government against accepting the Iranian offer. Iran’s Abdollahian seized on that to chastise the Americans on Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV, calling on them “to back the armies of regional states which are battling terrorism.”
The Iranians knew that the US would oppose their offer to arm the LAF. They also knew that the Lebanese government could not accept it either, as it would be, for one, a direct affront to the Saudis. The whole Iranian campaign, as retired Israeli Brigadier General and Hezbollah scholar Shimon Shapira put it to me, was “a wily trick.” They orchestrated the whole affair, framed it, and controlled the flow of information about it. Also, and perhaps more to the point, it was an irresistible way for them to troll the Americans.
The trolling goes all the way to the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. Last month, Khamenei disclosed that the Obama administration had asked Iran to cooperate in the fight against ISIS. But Khamenei refused because the Americans “had dirty hands.” Khamenei can afford to publicly spit in Washington’s face because he recognizes the White House’s desperation to cut a deal with him. He also knows that the US administration will continue to back the Iranian order in Lebanon, as well as in Iraq, no matter what he says against it. The US will provide the LAF with military aid regardless, and continue to look the other way as the LAF works hand in glove with Hezbollah.
Secure in the knowledge that Obama has aligned with Iranian interests, Khamenei and Soleimani are obnoxiously rubbing the Sunnis’ noses in the dirt: We are on the ground with our allies, and we offer them real support. What’s more, not only are the Americans running after us — offering concessions in the nuclear negotiations and begging us to join their coalition — they are also publicly saying that you, not we, are the problem in the region.
In other words, the Iranian messaging campaign is about spiking the football and celebrating in the end zone.
**Tony Badran is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He tweets @AcrossTheBay.
**Picture shows Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani poses alongside peshmerga fighters in Iraq. (IRINN state television)
Israeli Bedouin killed while fighting
for Islamic State
Othman Abd Alkiaan, 26, a resident physician with Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, reportedly dies while fighting among ranks of murderous terrorist organization • "We don't know how this could have happened," a family member says.
Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon confirmed Sunday that Othman Abd Alkiaan, 26, a former Bedouin physician with the hospital, was killed while fighting for the Islamic State group. It is unclear at this time exactly where the battle in which he was killed took place.
"Othman Abd Alkiaan had graduated from medical school in Jordan, and after passing his certification exams in Israel, he was granted a temporary medical license and began his residency at Barzilai Medical Center in February," the hospital's statement said.
"He chose to do his elective residency, which was supposed to begin in May 2014, at Soroka Medical Center [in Beersheba] but he failed to report for duty. Later that month, we were approached by defense officials who inquired after him, which was when we learned that Alkiaan had joined the Islamic State group," the hospital said. Alkiaan was one of 13 siblings. A relative told reporters the family, which resides in the Negev, was shocked to learn of his fate. "We don't know how this could have happened," he said.
While Islamic State is continuously trying to enlist operatives worldwide, the defense establishment believes only a handful of Israelis have joined the terrorist organization. A gag order lifted last week revealed that three Israeli Arab residents of the Galilee had joined Islamic State, and that a fourth -- 24-year-old Ahmed Habashi -- was killed while fighting with the group in Iraq.
Jihadists Take Heavy Losses in Battle for Syria's Kobane
Naharnet /The Islamic State group was taking heavy losses in the Syrian battleground of Kobane Sunday as Iraqi forces fought the jihadists buoyed by U.S. backing for top government security appointments. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the appointment of defence and interior ministers after weeks of delay was a "very positive step forward" in the fightback against IS in Iraq, which Washington has made its priority. But U.S.-led warplanes kept up their strikes on the jihadists around Kobane on Syria's northern border with Turkey, helping the town's Kurdish defenders to repulse a new attempt to cut their supply lines. The Kurdish fighters, who have been under IS assault for more than a month, weathered fierce street fighting and at least two jihadist suicide bombings but the front line remained unchanged on Sunday, a Kurdish official said. "(IS) brought in reinforcements... and attacked hard," Idris Nassen told AFP by telephone. "But thanks to air strikes and (the Kurdish fighters') response, they did not make any progress."The IS fighters suffered heavy losses in their effort to seal the battle for the town, which has become a key prize as it is being fought under the gaze of the world's press massed just over the border in Turkey. From Saturday into Sunday morning, a total of 31 jihadists died in the battle, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Coalition air strikes killed 15, while another 16 died in the ground fighting, including two suicide bombers. The Kurdish lost seven fighters, said the Britain-based Observatory, which has a wide network of sources inside Syria.
On Friday, IS lost 35 of its fighters while the Kurds lost three. Medics and witnesses reported a steady flow of bodies from the Kobane fighting arriving at an IS-controlled hospital further east, the Observatory said. The bodies of at least 70 IS fighters had been brought into the mortuary in the town of Tal Abyad over the past four days, they said. The U.S. military has said it sees "encouraging" signs in the battle for Kobane, although it warns the town may still fall. But commanders have said repeatedly that the main priority remains the battle against IS in neighboring Iraq, where the jihadists swept through much of the Sunni Arab heartland north and west of Baghdad in June. The minority community's grievances against the Shiite led-government were a major factor in the lightning advance and Washington has been piling pressure on Baghdad to form an inclusive government capable of mounting a fightback. On Saturday, the remaining posts in a new government line-up were finally approved by parliament, including a Sunni as defense minister and a Shiite as interior minister. "These were critical positions to be filled, in order to assist with the organizing effort" against IS, the U.S. top diplomat said. "So we're very pleased."With Washington voicing approval, Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi's office announced that he is to head to Tehran on Monday to discuss the fightback with his other key ally. Washington has acknowledged that Tehran has an important role to play in the battle against IS, although it has kept the main Shiite power out of the coalition it has forged against the jihadists for fear of alienating Sunnis. Abadi's talks in Iran are part of his bid "to unite the efforts of the region and the world to help Iraq in its war against the terrorist group," his office said. Although it has not been part of the U.S.-led coalition, Tehran has been a key backer of Abadi's government in its efforts to hold back the jihadist advance. According to a senior Iraqi Kurdish official, it has deployed troops on the Iraqi side of the border in the Khanaqin area northeast of Baghdad. Iranian forces also played a role in the Shiite Turkmen town of Amerli, where security forces and allied militiamen broke a months-long jihadist siege at the end of August, another senior Kurdish official has said. Evidence also indicates that Iran sent Sukhoi Su-25 ground attack jets to Iraq, though it is unclear who subsequently piloted the aircraft.
The U.S.-led coalition is carrying out air strikes against IS in Iraq as well as neighboring Syria. It has also deployed military advisers.Source/Agence France Presse