LCCC ENGLISH DAILY
analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 22, 23/14
Turkey's Love Affair with Hamas/By: Burak Bekdil/The Gatestone Institute/October 23/14
Will Mahmoud Abbas Reject Israeli Protection/By Steven J. Rosen/The Gatestone Institute/October 23/14
Israel's absurd zigzag policy on Gaza/By: Yoaz Hendel/Ynetnew/October 23/14
Dealing with Iran/By: JPOST EDITORIAL/October 23/14
Malala restoring hope in possibility of defeating darkness/By: Abdel Latif el-Menawy/ October 23/14
The Kurdish way of fighting ISIS/By: Octavia Nasr/October 23/14
Asma al-Assad: Rise and fall of the new Syrian woman/Dr. Halla Diyab/October 23/14
Lebanese Related News
published on October 22, 23/14
Geagea Returns from Saudi after Talks with Hariri, Top Officials
Mashnouq Says Did Not Hint at Hizbullah Link to al-Hassan Assassination
Lebanon plans $450 mln Eurobond issue by end-year
Future-Hezbollah ties rattled, not ruined
March 14 Urges Govt. to Join International Coalition against IS
Bearing the burden
Report: Clashes between Palestinian Group, Nusra Front in Bekaa
Judicial Probe Begins in Celine Rakan's Case
Cypriot Training Plane Disappears En Route to Beirut
Families of Captive Servicemen Carry Out Threats, Block Qalamoun Highway
Security Forces Confiscate Hashish, 500 Pills of Benzhexol in al-Qobbeh Prison
Extension of Parliament’s Term Inevitable amid Efforts to Persuade Christians
Israeli Soldiers Perform Combing Operation Near Wazzani
Soldiers Attacked in Tripoli, No Casualties
Anxious truck drivers wait at border crossing
Borders still open to refugees, UNHCR says
Taif conference kicks off in Beirut
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on
October 22, 23/14
U.S., Canada Air Defenses on Alert after Gunman Kills Soldier at Canadian Parliament
Canada Raises 'Terrorism' Alert after Soldier Killed
Second extension of nuclear talks with Iran on the table
Ya'alon slams Turkey for harboring terrorism
Syria bombardment from all sides: Seven from US, 200 from Assad
UN’s Ban vows inquiry into weapons found at UN sites during Gaza war
Iran: Suspected spies arrested near Bushehr nuclear plant
Erekat: Operation Protective Edge in Gaza was attempt to destroy two-state solution
Secretary of State Kerry simply doesn’t learn from his mistakes
London had no business hosting Iran forum while sanctions remain in place
Erdogan criticizes U.S. for airdropping weapons to Kurdish fighters
Iraqi Kurds Approve Deploying Forces to Kobane As Erdogan Says U.S. Airdrops 'Wrong'
Third ISIS fighter from UK city killed in Syria
Israel says no plan to allow Jews to pray at Al-Aqsa
Egypt jails 25 on terrorism charges
Johnson & Johnson plans Ebola vaccine testing
Two Israeli soldiers wounded by gunfire from Egypt's Sinai
Libya orders army to advance on capital
Middle EastSyria Says Shoots down Two of Three 'IS Warplanes
Future-Hezbollah ties rattled, not
By: Alex Rowell/Now Lebanon
Published: 21/10/2014 07:23 PM
Machnouk's remarks may cool ties between Future and Hezbollah in the short term, but tangible changes in their working relationship are unlikely for the foreseeable future. Relations between the Future Movement and Hezbollah, the leading parties of the rival March 14 and March 8 coalitions, respectively, took a dive over the weekend after a comparatively dovish Future cabinet minister gave a surprisingly confrontational speech on the second anniversary of the assassination of police intelligence chief, Wissam al-Hassan, on Saturday.
Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk, one of five Future officials to have entered into a precarious alliance with Hezbollah in the cabinet formed in February 2014, lashed out at the Shiite Islamist party with which he had recently built closer ties, accusing them of enjoying “partisan immunity” while using their influence on the army and security forces to crack down on Sunni Muslim rivals. Machnouk also likened Lebanon to Iraq, where alleged institutional bias against the Sunni community has deepened sectarian divides and been widely credited with facilitating the takeover of the country’s northwest region by Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists. “We won’t accept that we be turned into Lebanese Sahwa leaders similar to the Iraqi Sahwas specialized in imposing security on one part of the Lebanese, while the other part enjoys ‘partisan immunity’,” Machnouk said, using a term for Sunni forces who successfully fought Al-Qaeda militants in western Iraq in the 2000s. Hezbollah’s conduct is “increasing the feelings of injustice and frustration, which in turn also increase extremism,” he added. Hezbollah was quick to retort, with State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Muhammad Fneish saying areas in which the party enjoyed support had been spared because there were no “takfiri and terrorist groups” within them.
The war of words has led to speculation about the advent of a new phase of friction between the March 14 and March 8 antagonists. The pro-Hezbollah newspaper Al-Akhbar, for example, ran an article Monday headlined “Machnouk’s speech: The first rain of Future’s escalation.”Yet sources close to Machnouk with whom NOW spoke dismissed prospects of a drastic move such as a March 14 withdrawal from the cabinet. “He made it very clear that our position is not to resign from the cabinet,” said one who requested anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the press. “There will not be any resignation or other [comparable] measures,” agreed Future MP Ahmad Fatfat. Instead, the sources told NOW the minister’s comments were intended not as an attack. but rather an expression of frustration with the status quo. “It [was] a wake-up call to get back to the essence of this cabinet,” said one. “Machnouk put forward a security plan that was supposed to be implemented on a [fair] basis. Unfortunately, it turned out to be only a security plan implemented by a Sunni minister against the Sunnis.” Fatfat, too, portrayed it as an articulation of exasperation with an unyielding Hezbollah, adding that he personally knew the feeling. “Machnouk tried to communicate with Hezbollah and discovered that he can’t. Hezbollah considers that when you are good to them, it’s a weak point for you […] I lived my own experience with Hezbollah when I was interior minister [in 2006].” Raising these concerns in vain with the various stakeholders, including Hezbollah itself, Machnouk “decided to speak publicly about the reality of conducting this security plan in which he had invested a lot of capital,” according to the ministerial source. Indeed, the Future Movement as a whole has recently come under unprecedented attacks for its cooperation with Hezbollah from fringe Sunni Islamist hardliners, such as the fugitive militant cleric Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir, who has repeatedly branded it a traitor, “Sahwa,” and collaborator with Iran and America. On Monday, Assir wrote on his Twitter account, “Machnouk didn’t raise his tone against [Hezbollah] to rectify [his error] or resign, but rather merely to titillate the feelings of those Sunnis remaining with Future.” Another factor which emboldened Machnouk to speak out when he did, according to the ministerial source, is the renewed chill in relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran; the principal regional backers of Future and Hezbollah, respectively. Last Monday, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal described Iran as “part of the problem” in many of the Middle East’s crises, a remark that stirred anger in Tehran.
“Obviously, this renewed confrontation between Saudi and Iran helped or made it easier for Machnouk to go public,” the source told NOW. “Although with or without the current circumstances of the Saudi-Iranian relationship, the problem he addressed has always been there.”Ultimately, while the minister’s remarks may cool ties between Future and Hezbollah in the short term, analysts told NOW there was unlikely to be any tangible changes in their working relationship for the foreseeable future.
“The situation is already very complicated between the two but will not reach a point where they will make the cabinet fall apart,” said Nabil Bou Mounsef, a columnist at An-Nahar newspaper.“Governmental partnership is still ‘on’, and it is the last security ‘umbrella’ for Lebanon.”
U.S., Canada Air Defenses on Alert
after Gunman Kills Soldier at Canadian Parliament
Naharnet /Gunfire echoed through the Gothic halls of the Canadian parliament Wednesday as police swarmed in to tackle a gunman who had shot a soldier outside before storming the building. Initial reports at the scene suggested that one attacker had been shot by police inside the building while up to two more were feared to be at large, as officers sealed off the area. Canadian media reported that the soldier had later died, but there was no immediate official confirmation.
Witnesses spoke of gunfire at three locations, very close to one another in the heart of the city -- first at a war memorial, then in parliament and near a downtown hotel and shopping complex. Video footage posted online by the Globe and Mail newspaper showed police ducking for cover as they advanced along a stone hallway, loud gunfire echoing among parliament's stone columns. Police officers outside told AFP that one or more -- possibly up to three -- shooters were feared to be on the roof of the building. A member of parliament, Maurice Vellacott, told AFP that House of Commons security had told one of his aides that at least one suspect had been killed inside parliament. Other lawmakers tweeted reports that an assailant had been shot. "I literally had just taken off my jacket to go into caucus. I hear this 'pop, pop, pop,' possibly 10 shots, don't really know," Liberal Party member John McKay told reporters outside.
"Suddenly the security guards come rushing down the hallways and usher us all out to the back of the parliament buildings," he said, as lawmakers, staff and reporters scurried from the area. CBC radio also reported that one of the suspected shooters had been killed, but there was no official confirmation. Witnesses said they saw a man armed with a rifle running into parliament after shooting a guard at the war memorial. Passers-by told reporters that a bearded man had gunned down the soldier and hijacked a passing vehicle to take him the short distance to Parliament Hill, on a bluff over the Ottawa River. One witness, parliamentary aide Marc-Andre Viau, said he saw a man run into a caucus meeting at the parliament, chased by police armed with rifles who yelled "take cover."
That was followed by "10, 15, maybe 20 shots," possibly from an automatic weapon, he said. "I'm shaken," said Viau. The soldier appeared seriously wounded at the scene. Emergency medics were seen pushing on his chest to revive him.
Police raced to seal off the parliament building and the office of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, pushing reporters and bystanders further back and blocking roads with squad cars.
Harper -- who was attending a meeting with lawmakers at the time -- left the area of the shooting and was "safe," his spokesman Jason MacDonald said. In Canada's southern neighbor the United States, the White House said President Barack Obama had been briefed on the situation and an official said U.S. and Canadian air defenses were on alert.
The U.S. embassy in Ottawa was placed on lockdown.
The incident came a day after 25-year-old Martin Couture-Rouleau ran over a soldier, killing him before being shot dead by police as he emerged from his wrecked car wielding a knife. The government branded this a terrorist attack by a suspected Islamist, amid reports that Couture-Rouleau was a supporter of the so-called Islamic State, a jihadist group operating in Iraq and Syria.
If the driver's alleged jihadist sympathies are confirmed, it would be Canada's first ever Islamist attack, although authorities have warned they are tracking 90 suspected extremists in the country. Authorities raised the security threat level from low to medium after the incident, which came as Canadian jets were to join the U.S.-led air armada bombarding Islamist militants in Iraq.
"This level means that intelligence has indicated that an individual or group within Canada or abroad has the intent and capability to commit an act of terrorism," the Public Safety Ministry said. Outside parliament, police were seen taking cover behind vehicles, as others expanded a cordoned off area to a city block around parliament. U.S. and Canadian air defenses were placed on heightened alert after a shooting in Canada's parliament, U.S. officials. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) "is taking appropriate and prudent steps to ensure we are adequately postured to respond quickly to any incidents involving aviation in Canada," said a U.S. defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The move came as a precaution after a gunman opened fire in and around the Canadian parliament, with a Canadian soldier dying of gunshot wounds and police sealing off the area. NORAD spokesman Captain Jeff Davis declined to provide details of the steps taken, saying only steps had been taken to ensure defenses were "adequately postured." But while the shooting incident in Ottawa raised fears of a potential link to extremists, Davis said there were no signs of possible hijackings or imminent threats to aviation.
"We're not aware of any current, specific threats against the aviation system," he told AFP. U.S. intelligence officials were not immediately available to comment as to whether there were any suspected links to extremists in the shooting in Canada.
NORAD, founded during the Cold War, is a combined U.S., Canadian military command designed to safeguard the air space over the two countries, with its headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado.
After the attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, the command regularly scrambles fighter jets to intercept private aircraft that enter prohibited areas over the U.S. capital or elsewhere, escorting them to the nearest runwayAcegence France Presse
Cypriot Training Plane Disappears En Route to Beirut
Naharnet /A training plane carrying a Lebanese pilot and a Cypriot citizen disappeared from the radar on Wednesday while en route from Cyprus to Beirut, Lebanon's National News Agency reported. The agency identified the pilot of the “Cypriot single-engine Cessna” as George Obagi. The plane was 26 miles away from Lebanese airspace when it disappeared from the radar and all contact was lost with its captain, according to NNA. “Beirut's air traffic controllers communicated with the air traffic control tower in Cyprus and the plane was contacted by radio several times without any response from the crew,” the agency added. It said Cypriot authorities were preparing a search and rescue mission and that air control at Beirut's airport asked the Lebanese land, marine and air forces to contribute to the operation.“They were asked to be fully ready to help should the need arise and were tasked with searching for the plane and its crew,” NNA added. Later on Wednesday, LBCI television said the captain "contacted the airport in Cyprus at 7:02 pm to report a technical problem before the plane disappeared from the radar two minutes later."
Mashnouq Says Did Not Hint at Hizbullah Link to al-Hassan Assassination
Naharnet /Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq noted Wednesday that he did not hint in his latest speech at a Hizbullah link to the 2012 assassination of Internal Security Forces Intelligence Bureau chief Wissam al-Hassan. “Had I meant Hizbullah, I would have named it … We won't announce anything before the completion of the investigation in a full manner based on evidence that is not subject to doubt,” Mashnouq said in an interview on al-Jadeed TV. The minister had on Saturday revealed that “we're on the verge of unveiling the truth” behind al-Hassan's assassination. He also rejected that security plans be implemented “on a part of the Lebanese as the other part enjoys partisan immunity,” in an apparent jab at Hizbullah. The remarks sparked controversy on the political scene, drawing many responses, the last of which was from Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil, who said Wednesday that “we cannot speak of security plans in the country -- not in the North, Bekaa or any other region – while we can't carry out a security plan at the Roumieh prison.”
“We have the courage to escalate when we want to escalate and we have several cards in our hands, but the time now is not appropriate for that,” Mashnouq explained, noting that his statement was aimed at “rectifying the course of the security plan.”The minister stressed that he did not mean to condemn or accuse any party but rather to “open the door of dialogue in order to put the security plan on the right track.” Turning to the issue of the recent clashes between Hizbullah and Syrian militants on the border, Mashnouq said “no one dares” to say what he said in his speech “regarding the situation on the border or the terrorist groups there,” underlining that he is responsible for “the security of all Lebanese.” He also pointed out that “consensus” is possible over Hizbullah's role in defending the eastern border.“The security situation in the country might require consultations about a role for Hizbullah in defending the border,” Mashnouq told al-Jadeed.
March 14 Urges Govt. to Join International Coalition against IS
Naharnet /The March 14 General Secretariat called Wednesday on the government to take the necessary measures to prevent the spread of the Syrian conflict to Lebanon.To that end, it urged the government to “clearly join the international coalition against the Islamic State group.”It made its remarks after its weekly meeting. “Joining the coalition will provide our army with international immunity and practical measures to combat terrorism,” explained the general secretariat. In addition, it demanded that the cabinet vote on expanding the jurisdiction of United Nations Security Council resolution 1701 so that it would be adopted on Lebanese-Syrian border. “Joining the international coalition and expanding the jurisdiction of the resolution should be top priorities for the 'government of national interest',” it stressed. The United States is leading a coalition, comprised of several countries, aimed at combating the spread of the IS jihadist group in Iraq and Syria.Lebanon first joined the coalition when Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil attended talks in Jeddah last month during which ten Arab countries agreed to help the U.S. in its fight against IS. After Bassil's return from Jeddah, some officials began claiming that Lebanon is not part of the coalition over fears that warplanes would carry out strikes in the country in violation of its sovereignty.
Geagea Returns from Saudi after Talks with Hariri, Top Officials
Naharnet /Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea returned to Beirut on Wednesday evening after a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia.Geagea's visit involved meetings with the kingdom's top officials, according to his press office. He also met with al-Mustaqbal Movement leader MP Saad Hariri and they “thoroughly discussed all the issues on the Lebanese and regional scenes.”According to media reports, Kataeb Party MP Sami Gemayel accompanied Geagea on the same plane to Saudi Arabia on Monday.Kataeb announced Tuesday that Gemayel had held talks with Hariri and a number of Saudi officials. It is still unclear whether or not Geagea and Gemayel held a tripartite meeting with Hariri. Media reports said Saudi Arabia wanted to convince the two Christian leaders to accept a second extension of the parliament's term.Lebanon's political scene has reached an impasse over differences between the March 8 and 14 alliances. The country has been without a president since the term of Michel Suleiman ended in May as the rival parties have failed so far to agree on a compromise candidate, which is also threatening to torpedo the upcoming parliamentary elections. The crises are threatening further vacuum at Lebanese institutions, which could also impact the cabinet.
Judicial Probe Begins in Celine Rakan's Case
Naharnet/The judiciary started its investigations on Wednesday into the mysterious death of the toddler girl Celine Rakan, after the case sparked a huge controversy in the country and spawned dozens of sensational media reports. “Beirut First Examining Magistrate Ghassan Oueidat has started his investigations in the case of the child Celine Rakan by interrogating the detained Ethiopian maid in the presence of representatives from the embassy” of her country, state-run National News Agency reported. Oueidat also heard the testimony of the child's father, who had filed a lawsuit against the Ethiopian domestic worker, NNA said. The father – who had initially blamed an “expired vaccine” -- appeared in several TV shows last week and presented footage taken from his villa's security cameras in a bid to prove that Celine was killed by the maid. The shocking videos and perceived contradictions in the father's remarks prompted many journalists and citizens to take to social networking websites to question the authenticity of the footage and the man's honesty.
On October 10, Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi ordered an expansion of the probe and urged media outlets not to make speculations before the release of the probe's results. The Internal Security Forces had announced that the maid “confessed to the Msaitbeh police station that she strangled to death the child Celine Rakan out of fear that she might be busted, after the toddler saw her stealing items from the house.” The case caught public attention after the girl's father announced on Facebook that she died because of an “expired vaccine.”
She was laid to rest on October 3 in the Tyre district town of al-Shahabiyeh, her hometown.
Security Forces Confiscate Hashish, 500 Pills of Benzhexol in al-Qobbeh Prison
Naharnet /Internal Security Forces thwarted on Wednesday an attempt to smuggle hundreds of Benzhexol pills and an amount of hashish hidden in shoes into al-Qobbeh prison in Tripoli. The ISF stated that during an inspection process of the prisoner's belongings, its forces in al-Qobbeh prison “discovered 500 pills of Benzhexol and two grams of hashish hidden in shoes.”According to the statement: “A former prisoner intended to bring them to another prisoner with other belongings.”In June, security forces discovered 40 Benzhexol pills hidden inside a yogurt carton and a cell phone placed inside a cooking pot at the same prison.
Report: Clashes between Palestinian
Group, Nusra Front in Bekaa
Naharnet/Clashes erupted between the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) and al-Nusra Front in the Eastern Mountain range along the border with Syria, media reports said on Wednesday. Al-Liwaa newspaper reported that various kinds of machinguns, rockets and arms were used during the battles in the Qusaya area in the eastern Bekaa valley, where the PFLP-GC has a military base. The state-run National News Agency reported that the clashes were accompanied by the firing of eight flare bombs by the Israeli army, which lit up the sky above its spying station in Mount Hermon (Jabal al-Sheikh) on the outskirts of Qusaya. No further details were available. This is the first such report on clashes between the Palestinian group and Islamists from al-Nusra Front. However, gunbattles erupted between the PFLP-GC and unknown militants in central Bekaa in August. The group said then in a statement that gunmen targeted its post in addition to an army position in Ain al-Baida near Kfar Zabad. The PFLP-GC, the most radical Palestinian faction whose command is based in Damascus with unlimited support from Syria, has maintained military bases in the eastern Bekaa Valley as well as in the hills of Naameh south of Beirut for the last 23 years. The PFLP-GC is the only Palestinian faction that maintains significant military positions outside the 12 Palestinian camps in Lebanon. PFLP-GC bases in Naameh and the Bekaa have long been the target of Israeli air attacks.
Families of Captive Servicemen Carry Out Threats, Block Qalamoun Highway
Naharnet/The families of abducted soldiers and policemen blocked on Wednesday the al-Qalamoun highway in the North in protest against the cabinet's failure to end the captivity of their sons, two days after they warned of a “Day of Anger.”The relatives blocked the two lanes of the highway with sand, iron barricades and cement blocks. A verbal spat occurred later between the families, who are gathered near the Grand Serail in Beirut's down town over the burning of tires. They later headed to Beirut's Saifi area and briefly blocked the road, calling on the army to rally with them, stressing that they will not budge an inch until their sons are safely released. The mothers also urged Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji to assume his responsibilities. Health Minister Wael Abou Faour who arrived in Saifi was able to persuade the protesters to reopen the Saifi road after comforting them. Abou Faour told reporters gathered near the families' sit-in that the protesters want to make sure that the government is serious in dealing with the case.
He called on them to return to their tents that are erected near the Grand Serail and to open the road as blocking roads will not lead to any result. “The families are not outlaws,” Abou Faour added. He said that the demonstrators are asking for assurances from the government, saying: “The government should probably reveal more details” but we fear leaks to media outlets. The minister reiterated that negotiations over the release of the servicemen are not expected to end soon. Abou Faour, who is the aide of Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat, stressed that the party will stand by the families even if the government neglected the case. Kataeb Party MP Elie Marouni urged the families, who had blocked the road near the party's HQ, not to harm the people and open the road. “The Kataeb supports your cause and our HQ will remain open for you,” Marouni said. The Lebanese government had requested from its Qatari and Turkish counterparts to help in mediating the release of the kidnapped men, but there are no indications that negotiations are reaching a breakthrough. On Monday, the families of the kidnapped servicemen gave the cabinet a 48-hour ultimatum to resolve the case of their sons, warning of a “Day of Anger.”They announced the termination of negotiations with the government and the military authorities after the lack of positive signs in the horizon. Last week, the families backed down on a previous warning of staging a “Black Friday” in Beirut. They had announced that the cabinet is “seriously dealing with the case.” The troops and police were kidnapped by militants from al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State group when they overran the northeastern border town of Arsal in August and engaged in bloody clashes with the army. Their capture and the failure of the Lebanese authorities to secure their release sparked protests across Lebanon. The families are fearing that the extremists would kill their loved ones after they executed three of the hostages in August and September. They had moved their protest from Dahr al-Baidar to Beirut's Riad al-Solh Square, erecting three tents to pressure the state to exert more efforts to release their relatives from captivity. The kidnappers have several demands to release the captives. One of them is the freedom of Islamist inmates in Roumieh prison
Bearing the burden
Nadine Elali/Now Lebanon
As Lebanese authorities threaten to stop the flow of Syrian refugees into the country, NOW looks at the economic burdens and benefits the displaced people pose to the economy.
Although the conflict in neighboring Syria has without a doubt sent Lebanon’s economy into a tailspin, the growing number of refugees in the country has had more a subtle effect, straining Lebanon’s infrastructure and growth while at the same time stimulating spending activity in poor regions. The IMF’s latest report on Lebanon published in 2014 offered a troubling look at the effect of the Syrian war on Lebanon. The organization said economic growth in Lebanon has decelerated as top industries—real estate, construction and tourism—have all “been affected by increasing uncertainty and deteriorating security.”“We have a complete collapse in exports of goods outside Lebanon,” Makram Malaeb, a program manager at the Social Affairs Ministry told NOW. “We also have almost a complete suspension of real estate activity, and a complete drying up of investment, all of which are leading engines of the growth for GDP.” According to the World Bank, the cost of the Syrian crisis on the Lebanese economy, i.e. the loss of GDP growth rate, amounts to $2.5 billion a year. This is not the cost of the physical presence of the Syrians refugees in Lebanon, but the cost of the political implications and instability the crisis has had on the country.
“For the past three years, in addition to the $7.5 billion economic loss, there has been an increase in government spending worth $1.5 billion, and a drop in revenue worth $1.1 billion, so over three years Lebanon has incurred a loss worth of $10 billion USD,” said Malaeb. Now with a Syrian refugee population set to reach 1.5 million by the end of the year, Lebanon has moved toward stopping the flow of people fleeing its neighbor, citing the economic burdens of hosting such a large population of displaced civilians.
Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas—who partly handles the portfolio of refugee issues—told reporters Monday that the cabinet would soon finalize a policy to stop new refugees from entering the country. “The issue of stopping the refugees is final, because Lebanon is no longer able to host anymore,” he said.
Recourse- poor, debt-ridden, and cash-strapped, Lebanon is hosting the influx of refugees at very high costs. Despite this, the refugees have helped jumpstart some economic activity.Refugees living in Lebanon are consuming and therefore contributing – although at minimal levels – to the country’s national consumption, a main component of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The paltry 1 percent GDP growth Lebanon is expected to generate in 2014 is believed to be due to the refugees’ consumption, economic analyst Samir Nader said. “Let’s assume that they are consuming $4 a day, given the number of refugees present, that is almost a total consumption of $2 billion a year,” the analyst told NOW.
Jihad Yazigi, editor-in-chief of “The Syria Report”—an online economic digest—told NOW that the importance of the increase in economic activity—whether through spending, consuming or rent—is that it is taking place in relatively poor areas of Lebanon, like the Akkar and Beqaa regions. Moreover, added Yazigi, the refugee presence has decreased production costs partly due to lower labor costs. Syrian refugees are offering to work for cheaper wages in unskilled jobs in rural areas, where an average wage is LBP 20,000 (US$13) per day, while the Syrians charge half that amount. The Syrian refugee presence has also provided an influx of international aid that has been injected into the local economy. “Lebanon has received around $1.7 billion worth of humanitarian aid from 2012 till today through UN agencies which is being spent in the country,” Malaeb told NOW. According to the Social Affairs Ministry program manager, shelter and food are the two sectors most easily identifiable sectors when trying to measure the monetary value associated with the presence of Syrian refugees. Shelter is financed in part by the UNHCR, while food coverage is largely provided by the UN’s World Food Program and spent directly at supermarkets.
Despite the swelling refugee population and increased demand on good, the displace population has had negligible effect on inflation. Malaeb said that Lebanon has so far had the ability to absorb additional demand without inflation on prices of good.
However, the positive economic benefits provided by the refugees have been offset by the strain caused by their presence on Lebanon’s infrastructure and labor market.
Before the Syrian conflict, Lebanon was already saddled with a creaking infrastructure struggling to provide health services, public education, as well as electricity and water coverage. The flow of Syrians fleeing into Lebanon has further strained public infrastructure. Economic analyst Sami Nader told NOW that the direct cost of the refugee population on Lebanon’s infrastructure and public services amounts to $1.2 billion. Therefore when measuring in accounting terms the effect of Syrian refugee presence in Lebanon on the economy, figures, Nader said, cancel each other out. The World Bank in November 2013 warned that “government expenditure will be pushed by billions of dollars over the next 15 months to meet surging demand for public services, including health, education, water and electricity.”
“It will widen even further a fiscal deficit that already stands at 8.7 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), or US$3.7 billion.”
The low wages of Syrian laborers is also expected to also increase poverty and unemployment among the Lebanese. The World Bank estimated that an additional 170,000 Lebanese would be pushed into poverty, joining the existing one million citizens living below the poverty lines, over the next few months. Meanwhile, the IMF said that “the influx of refugees has deeply impacted the labor market, potentially increasing unemployment to about 20 percent.”“Now the competition is between the two most miserable societies,” said Malaeb, “the Syrian refugees and the Lebanese poor.”
Dealing with Iran
By JPOST EDITORIAL /10/22/201
The question remains where the present negotiations will lead.
Expert-level talks between Iran and the six world powers (the US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany) are scheduled to resume today. Unfortunately, as the November 24 deadline approaches, pessimism has grown regarding the chances that the negotiations will bring about their express goal: preventing the Islamic Republic from developing a nuclear weapon and assuring Iran’s program is exclusively peaceful. At the very least, any deal must be structured so that Iran cannot one day make a dash to build a nuclear weapon without the world having enough warning to intervene. Iran’s enrichment capacity should be reduced to the point where it would take a year or more to produce enough weapons grade material for one nuclear bomb. One of the major obstacles to reaching a decent deal, however, is the inability of the sides to agree on how many centrifuges Iran should be allowed to possess for its uranium enrichment program. Though there are disputes among them – with China and Russia taking a more lenient view of Iran’s nuclear program – negotiators from the so-called P5+1 want Iran to drastically reduce the number of centrifuges it has. In all, the Iranians have 19,000 centrifuge machines, which are central to the enrichment process, 10,000 of which are operational. The US has proposed cutting the number of operating centrifuges to around 1,500 or so. But the Iranians actually want to increase the number of centrifuges beyond 19,000. Earlier this month, a graphic was posted to the Twitter account of the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei demanding that enrichment capacity be increased to 190,000 separative work units, which translates into many times Iran’s present output capacity.
The Iranians claim they need these centrifuges to fuel nuclear energy reactors like the one at the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant. But this is not true. Iran does not need such a huge capacity for purely civilian uses. Russia is already providing fuel for Bushehr and can do so indefinitely. In other words, the Iranians are lying. And they will continue to lie because they have no intention of giving up their march toward nuclear weapons capability. In theory, there are other ways of ensuring that Iran’s nuclear program remains peaceful besides focusing on centrifuges. For instance, Iran could be allowed to retain centrifuges in exchange for agreeing to stockpile uranium in powder, rather than gas, form so as to expand the breakout period. But that would entail a basic element that is lacking in the talks – trust. And a central element of any deal with Iran must include on-demand access to Iranian facilities – including military facilities. Ensuring such access is provided also depends on fostering a minimum of trust between Iran and the P5+1.
Iran’s mendaciousness is nothing new. The present nuclear talks come after years during which the UN Security Council and other international organizations have determined that Iran has not met its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and that it has taken numerous steps – often clandestinely – to undermine those obligations. While Iranian leaders have insisted repeatedly that they have no intention of developing nuclear weapons, the evidence has shown to the contrary.
The question remains where the present negotiations will lead. Both Iran and the P5+1 now seem intent on not extending negotiations beyond the November 24 deadline.
If this means that the P5+1 will end negotiations rather than sign a bad deal, this is a good sign. It would allow sanctions against Iran to be put back in place and would put a military option “back on the table.”
If, however, the P5+1 chooses to sign a bad deal rather than break off talks with no deal at all, this would severely complicate the situation. The sanctions regime painstakingly put in place over the years would disintegrate and the military option would become highly unlikely. As soon as it became clear that Iran was being allowed to become a threshold nuclear power, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey would demand a similar status – setting off a nuclear arms race in the region. This must not be allowed to happen. P5+1 negotiators should keep this in mind as they sit down this week in Vienna with their Iranian counterparts.
Second extension of nuclear talks with
Iran on the table
By MICHAEL WILNER/10/22/2014/J.Post
WASHINGTON – Western governments will reluctantly consider an extension of negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program should world powers fail to clinch a comprehensive deal by November 24 – a move Israel would support, sources told The Jerusalem Post this week. Informal discussion of an extension beyond the self-imposed deadline – the second since talks began in January, with the aim of ending international concerns over the nature, purpose, size and scope of the Iranian program – has already started despite five weeks left on the clock. That is because Western diplomats see no movement from their Iranian counterparts. This week, Tehran put forth a proposal it considered chock-full of concessions, but which US and European negotiators dismissed as nothing new.
“The bottom line is that they do not appear willing to limit their enrichment program to a level we would find acceptable,” a European diplomat said. “We may have no choice but to extend the talks past November... It’s either that or let the talks collapse.”
Responding to this article, one Israeli official told the Post that Israel would prefer a second extension to the deals currently under discussion at the negotiating table. Such an extension is allowed under the Joint Plan of Action, an interim agreement reached last year by world powers and Iran that temporarily froze the crisis. The JPOA grants the parties up to a year to negotiate. Israel has vowed to oppose a “bad” nuclear deal with all the tools at its disposal: public diplomacy, the lobbying of foreign parliaments, and perhaps even unilateral military force against Iranian assets, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested earlier this month. But the possibility of no deal – which includes an extension of talks in the short term, so long as caps and sanctions on the program remain in place – was not opposed by the Netanyahu government in July of this year, when the first extension was announced. That logic stands for a second extension, the Israeli official said. “Who is going to announce the Iran nuclear talks have failed and cannot continue?” said Patrick Clawson, director of research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “Consider the Israeli-Palestinian talks under way for more than 20 years: Not everyone thinks they have been a grand success, but neither side is willing to declare them over, finished and done for.”At the table with the US, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany, Iran is no longer demanding a total end to sanctions in return for curbing its nuclear program. It will now accept an initial lifting of only the latest, most damaging sanctions, its negotiators say. But Western officials assert that the Iranians have repeatedly been told that sanctions would end gradually, each measure being suspended and later terminated only after demonstrated Iranian compliance to a deal. “In the likely event that no comprehensive resolution can be achieved by the next deadline, another modest interim agreement is by far the most likely prospect,” Clawson said. Israel wants the infrastructure of Iran’s vast program dismantled, and its uranium enrichment to cease completely. Iran has vowed not to dismantle any of its architecture and has, as of August, suggested quadrupling its operational uranium-enriching centrifuges. Addressing the suggestion of an extension last week, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that the focus on November 24 was serious and deliberate. “We want to send a strong message that our focus remains on the November 24 deadline, and that is where our focus remains,” Psaki said. “We’re just not going to get into ruling in or out things at this point in time.”“We continue to believe we have the time needed to get a deal done,” she added. Reuters contributed to this report.
Israel's absurd zigzag policy on Gaza
Op-ed: Is Hamas really ISIS, as Netanyahu argued, or an organization we negotiate with and offer gestures to, like treating its leader's daughter in Israel?
Once again I find myself courageously defending the Israeli siege policy, and then everything turns over at once. The first time was immediately after the Marmara flotilla raid. A number of killed terrorists from the IHH organization got the entire world talking about Israel's naval blockade policy in Gaza. In a public event, I was sitting in front of a famous left-wing person, who kept rubbing his hands in a pompous manner. He explained fervently that the siege of Gaza was inhumane, exaggerated and indiscreet. I explained with the same passion that there was a need to seize materials which would be used for terror. He called the passengers peace activists; I called them terrorists who should be interrogated in Israel.
The following day, the Netanyahu government decided to change the rules. Previously forbidden goods entered the Strip. Terrorists detained on the Marmara were released.
He probably smiled at home when he heard the news. I swallowed hard, grumbled on my keyboard and went back to my own world, where decisions are made using discretion. The second time was several days ago, when I realized that the siege policy had been changed again. Beneath the radar, without any statements from politicians, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Major-General Yoav Mordechai allowed 600 tons of cement, 400 tons of iron and 50 trucks carrying rubble to enter the Strip.
The conference discussing Gaza's reconstruction – without Israel – ended with several billion dollars which will be handed over to Hamas. And that's just the beginning.
After the war in Gaza, it seemed that every sensible person understood that the siege is a necessity. Hamas turned the civil infrastructures into a tool of war. Part of the concrete transferred to the Strip was used to build offensive tunnels against Israel. Iron was used to produce rockets. Fertilizers for agriculture and sugar, which was meant to make life sweeter, were turned into the fuel which stirred the rockets towards Israel. What was transferred there for civilian purposes came back here as a military threat.
Common sense has it that the entry of materials into the Strip should be tightly supervised. Government members stated that the Strip must be demilitarized. Defense establishment officials spoke about tighter supervision of the goods transferred there. "Without tight supervision and demilitarization, how will we know that Hamas is not using these materials once again to prepare for a battle against Israel?" they asked out loud. And I agreed.
In the newspaper, I argued with radical left-wing organizations, like B'Tselem and Gisha, which voiced their own arguments against the Israeli siege involving construction materials. In distant Australia, I found myself explaining the siege of Gaza to a group of inquiring students and several journalists. And when I sat with my acquaintances over a cup of coffee on Friday, we concluded that now – without any materials and free passage from Egypt – Hamas would find it much more difficult to rebuild its tunnels.
Up to a few days ago. Suddenly, without any explanation or statement to the nation, the siege policy changed. The supervision didn't. Despite the claims of the coordinator of the government's activities in the territories, there is no one to supervise the materials transferred to Gaza today. The Palestinian Authority is not present and doesn't want to be present. Hamas is the same Hamas, and the tunnels are the same tunnels. Israel is reversing the policy it adopted and Hamas' statements contradict the Israeli assessment that the sides are headed to a state of calm.
There are two ways to explain this gap: One explanation is that Hamas is not ISIS, as Netanyahu declared, but an organization Israel negotiates with. There are tense relations, but also gestures like treating Ismail Haniyeh's daughter in Israel (by the way, try to imagine the daughter of the ISIS beheader receiving medical treatment in the United States, and you'll understand just how absurd it is).
The second explanation is that Israel has not decided what it wants to do. It's doing both this and that. The battle has yet to be decided and the operation continues, only with less public relations from the politicians.
Since the disengagement, Gaza no longer belongs to the State of Israel. We have a tense border. A war every two-three years. We have disengaged, but we have failed to disconnect all the way.
As long as the electricity is Israeli, the water is Israeli and the siege is Israeli – there must be a regular policy. Humanitarian arguments, as important and true as they may be, are not an alternative to a policy. Otherwise, the only message conveyed is that the Jews only understand force.
Turkey's Love Affair with Hamas
By: Burak Bekdil
The Gatestone Institute
October 22, 2014
Then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warmly greets Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal in Ankara, March 2012.
"The Palestinian cause" is a unique charm that brings together Turks from different ideologies. Turkish Islamists view it as an indispensable part of "jihad;" the conservatives feel attached to it because it has a religious connotation; for the leftists it is part of an "anti-imperialist" struggle; the nationalists embrace it just because most Turks embrace it. In the 1970s, when a dozen Turks a day on average were killed in street violence, the "Palestinian cause" was the only issue that otherwise warring fractions of the Turkish left, right and Islamists could agree on.
But it was the Islamists who, in the 2000s, made the biggest gains from the concept. Since 2002, when they came to power, they have reaped enormous political gains from the "Palestine-fetish," to which they also love to be ideologically attached. For the Turks, it has been like abusing alcohol and wanting to have a healthier life. It still is.
Turkey's leaders ... are probably the loudest supporters of the Palestinian cause in world politics today.
Turkey's leaders, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, are probably the loudest supporters of the Palestinian cause in world politics today. Only one flag, other than the Turkish, is sported at their party's election rallies: that of "Palestine." It was because of the "Palestinian case" that Erdogan and Davutoglu premeditatedly chose to move from friendly relations with Israel to a "cold war." Votes and ideological satisfaction followed.
But the Turkish rhetoric on "solidarity with our Palestinian brothers" often seems askew to how solidarity should be.
In 2012, the Turks' "Palestinian brothers" sounded an alarm when they found out that they were incapable of paying salaries to 160,000 government employees on time. The shortfall was considered the biggest crisis in Palestinian history, and the authorities said they heavily relied on the availability of Arab and international aid.
Davutoglu, then foreign minister, said of the "Mavi Marmara" incident -- the raid by the Israeli Defense Forces on the Turkish flotilla that killed 10 pro-Palestine activists who wanted to "break the naval siege of Gaza" -- that it was "Turkey's 9/11." He further said that more Turkish-led flotillas would be on their way to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza, that Turkish military planes and ships would protect these "aid vessels," and that "Israel would eventually be entirely isolated."
That was when Erdogan and Davutoglu often boasted that "We are the world's 17th biggest economy and we are running fast to become one of the top 10." Yet, at an international donors' conference for Gaza in March 2009, the Turkish pledges stood at a mere $93 million. That pledge accounted for only 2.1% of all international pledges made there, which totaled $4.257 billion.
As of 2012, of all 216 approved projects for Gaza, 180 were run by international aid organizations, three by the World Bank, three by the Red Crescent, 13 by Germany, two by France, and one by each of Belgium, Egypt, Holland and Sweden. Turkish projects? Zero. In 2010, the Turks purchased $270,000 worth of Palestinian goods – 0.00000033 percent of the Turkish economy.
Hamas's loudest cheerleaders remain Messrs Erdogan and Davutoglu. But their government had to keep a low profile at the donor conference for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, hosted by Egypt on Oct. 12, with only a general director from the Foreign Ministry participating. It seems Turkey has had a "feud" with Egypt ever since the ousting of the Muslim Brotherhood leadership in Cairo in 2013. At the UN General Assembly in September, Erdogan questioned "whether the global summit was a place where those who 'plot coups' are allowed to speak," slamming Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi's appearance. His comments prompted Egypt's Foreign Minister, Sameh Shukri, to cancel a planned meeting with Turkey's Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, on the sidelines of the General Assembly.
Instead of sending its foreign minister, Turkey sent to Cairo the ministry's director general for the Middle East and North Africa, Can Dizdar. Speaking at the conference, Dizdar revealed how generous is the world's 17th biggest economy and the staunchest benefactor of the Palestinians: $32 million for Gaza had been collected in Turkey for humanitarian aid, including fuel, electricity, power generators and relief equipment. Thirty-two million dollars makes up 0.00004% of the world's 17th biggest economy.
At the donor conference, Qatar, Turkey's only ally in the region -- its pro-Hamas, pro-Muslim Brotherhood, Islamist brother -- pledged $1 billion for the reconstruction of Gaza. Tiny Gulf states Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates each pledged $200 million. And so did Turkey, Hamas's savior and loudest cheerleader -- over a period of four years (2014-2017). This makes $50 million annually, or 0.00006% of its economy.
That is a generous gift to Hamas, with love from the Crescent and Star.
**Burak Bekdil, based in Ankara, is a Turkish columnist for the Hürriyet Daily and a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
Will Mahmoud Abbas Reject Israeli
By Steven J. Rosen/The Gatestone Institute
October 22, 2014
Shortly after the death of Yasser Arafat on November 11, 2004, and the election of Mahmoud Abbas to the Palestinian Authority [PA] presidency in January 2005, the U.S. Department of State increased its security assistance to the PA and began to promote Palestinian security cooperation with the Israeli security services. The motive was not personal support for Abbas, but a belief that Fatah under Abbas could become a more reliable partner for maintaining order and keeping peaceful relations with Israel.
President Bush had declared in 2002, "The United States will not support the establishment of a Palestinian state until its leaders engage in a sustained fight against terrorists and dismantle their infrastructure. This will require an externally supervised effort to rebuild and reform the Palestinian security services." To establish his leadership, Abbas was determined to have a monopoly over the use of force. So in 2005, the office of the United States Security Coordinator [USSC] for Israel and the Palestinian territories was created to train Palestinian Authority security forces, especially the Palestinian National Security Forces [NSF] and the Presidential Guard.
This process was credited, particularly during the leadership of U.S. Security Coordinator LTG Keith Dayton from 2005-2010, with measurable improvements in the capacity and effectiveness of the Palestinian security services. It led to a great expansion of Palestinian cooperation and enhanced coordination with counterpart Israeli security services. Today, security makes up a sizeable proportion of the PA budget, accounting for 26% of 2013 expenditures. More public servants are now employed in the security sector than in any other sector. Of the 83,000 PA civil servants in the West Bank, 31,000 (37%) are "defense workers." There is now one security person for every 52 Palestinian residents compared to one educator for every 75 residents.
By 2009, General Dayton was able to report that, "The Palestinians have engaged upon a series of what they call security offensives throughout the West Bank, surprisingly well coordinated with the Israeli army, in a serious and sustained effort to return the rule of law to the West Bank and reestablish the authority of the Palestinian Authority."
The head of Israel's Shin Bet, Yuval Diskin, agreed that the Israeli security services "have established a very good working relationship with the [Palestinian Authority's] Preventive Security Organization (PSO) and [its] General Intelligence Organization (GIO)." Diskin added that the PSO shares with his agency "almost all the intelligence that it collects." The Palestinian Authority, he said, "understands that Israel's security is central to their survival in the struggle with Hamas in the West Bank."
In April 2010, the government of Israel submitted an official report on enhanced Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation to the international Palestinian donors' group, known as the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee [AHLC], which stated:
"Growing coordination between Israeli and Palestinian security forces enabled Israel to take significant steps to help improve the security capacity of the Palestinian Security Forces (PSF)...This reflects an understanding that the higher the level of security reached on the ground... the less Israel will need to act on the ground... A mechanism for enhanced coordination has also been established between the two sides. Priority requests are now processed within just a few minutes. In 2009, coordinated operations numbered 1,297, a 72% increase over 2008."
A year later Israel reported that, in 2011, 764 joint security meetings were held between Israeli and Palestinian security authorities. Israel's Ministry of Justice maintains ongoing relations with its Palestinian counterpart, and the Israeli security network maintains close ties with General Dayton.
Although there has been little public acknowledgement, the Palestinian and Israeli forces have developed an elaborate system of detailed security cooperation.
Although there has been little public acknowledgement, the Palestinian and Israeli forces have developed an elaborate system of detailed security cooperation. Israel produces a great volume of intelligence that is essential for early warning of terrorist threats. Unit 8200, the Central Collection Unit of the Israeli Intelligence Corps, comprising several thousand soldiers, monitors phone calls, emails, and other communication, and maintains covert listening units in the West Bank. In addition, Israel's Shin Bet has a network of Palestinian informers in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, who help target militants and tip off security services to imminent attacks. Important pieces of the Israeli intelligence are shared with Palestinian security services, facilitating preventive action to interdict terrorist plots before they can be consummated.
On enforcement, the two sides share the burden of arresting and detaining Hamas and other militants in the West Bank. Sometimes, Israel asks the Palestinian agencies to perform the arrests, while in other cases the Palestinians stand aside while special IDF forces arrest them. As of August 2014, 5,505 Palestinian security detainees and prisoners, more than 90% of whom were from the West Bank, were held in Israel's Ofer, Ktzi'ot, and Megiddo prisons.
On the PA side, according to one study, Palestinian security services detained 13,271 Palestinians during the years 2007-2011, an average of 2,654 per year, although many were released without prosecution. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said, "We counted 1,040 cases that were handled by the Palestinian security services in 2013. How many of them went to trial? Zero." In the same period, Ya'alon said, Israel had arrested some 3,000 Palestinians, many of whom were later imprisoned.
Palestinian Silence about Security Cooperation
Palestinian officials have generally been silent about security cooperation with Israel. They are loath to acknowledge how important it is for the very survival of the Palestinian Authority. There is also a fear that internal critics -- especially Hamas -- will disparage coordination as "collaboration with the enemy." In 2011, Said Abu Ali, then minister of interior in the Palestinian provisional government, emphasized in a leaked cable that it was "necessary" that the security collaboration with the Israelis remain confidential: "Keep them [the contacts] out of the public eye."
Shlomi Eldar, a seasoned Israeli observer of Palestinian affairs, explained that, "Throughout the years, the Palestinians had one absolutely necessary condition... They demanded that security cooperation remained absolutely secret, [especially] exchanges of intelligence information that led to the arrest of suspects for activities against Israelis. The authority's security men did not want to be perceived by the West Bank population as Israeli collaborators."
On rare occasions, when he is under pressure from the international community, Abbas has felt obligated to defend security cooperation with Israel as a necessity because it serves "the Palestinian national interest". Even then, he is defensive. In a speech to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation on June 18, 2014, he said, "We don't want to go back to chaos and destruction, as we did in the second [Palestinian] intifadah. I say it openly and frankly. We will not go back to an uprising that will destroy us." He used another formulation in 2010, "We are not Israel's security guards. We are partners. If they want us to cooperate, then we stand ready to do that within the limits of our national interests." And he waxes almost enthusiastic when he assures Jewish leaders, as he did on May 31, 2014: "The security relationship [with Israel]…and I say it on air, security coordination is sacred, sacred. And we will continue it whether we disagree or agree over policy."
A spokesman for the Israeli Defense Forces, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, observed dryly that the Palestinians "don't operate out of our interest, but they operate out of their own interests. We have a mutual concern with Hamas terrorism." In interviews with Palestinian security officials, the independent International Crisis Group found, that "The PA believes that the... realm in which the IDF truly facilitates its work is the one where there is... a true convergence of interests, namely the fight against Hamas and other militant groups."
Abbas Threatens to Cancel Security Cooperation
Recent events have put a strain on the security cooperation that Dayton built in 2005-2010. 50 days of fighting in Gaza, from July 8 to August 26, 2014, resulted in over 2,100 Palestinian fatalities and vast physical destruction, changing the climate for relations with Israel. Many Palestinians in the West Bank as well as Gaza were heartened by the fact that Hamas was able to launch 4,564 rockets and mortars from Gaza into the Israeli heartland, even though few found their targets. Hamas was seen as an effective fighting force standing up to the Israelis, while the Palestinian Authority was dismissed as ineffectual. Many voices were raised calling on Abbas to adopt a more militant posture toward Israel and to end his cooperation with the hated "Israeli regime".
Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen
Under this pressure, in recent months Abbas has been making a series of threats against Israel, even including the idea that he will terminate the security cooperation with Israel if his political demands are not met. On August 21, 2014, he said that he had told Israeli Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen, "If [the U.S.] does not agree [to Palestinian demands], we will stop security coordination and cooperation with Israel," and repeated the threat publicly in a press briefing at his Ramallah office on October 1, 2014 .
Israel Warned Abbas that Hamas Was Plotting a Coup
Abbas, however, has ample evidence that this security cooperation he is threatening to cancel is at least as important to his security, and to control of the territory by Fatah and the PA, as it is to Israel. Just weeks ago, in a private meeting that was transcribed and leaked, Abbas told Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani that Israeli security forces had discovered and thwarted a Hamas plot to overthrow his government in the West Bank. His own words were:
"The Israeli intelligence chief [Yoram Cohen, head of Shin Bet, the Israel Security Agency] came to me two weeks ago in Ramallah... He told me I want to keep you appraised of several dangerous issues that threaten your existence and the existence of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank... [The Israelis] had arrested 93 Hamas members who were preparing for a coup against the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank... He said we have names and details about weapons and tunnels they prepared for the coup against you... I have sensed it, and my security agencies gave me reports about this. All the weapons and explosives we seized were not meant for Israel, but for us.... This is proven information... My intelligence chief... Maj. Gen. Majid often tells me we caught Hamas cells seeking to stage a coup."
Additional details of the plot have been reported. During Israeli interrogation sessions after his arrest in June 2014, the head of the Hamas network in the West Bank, Riad Nasser, described his conversations with a high-ranking Hamas operative in Jordan. The operative, Salah Arouri, was in control of the conspiracy in the West Bank to launch a third intifada, which would lead to a collapse of the PA. The overall plan was "strengthening Hamas so that it would take the place of the PA the day the PA collapsed." Toward this end, "We spoke about providing arms and ammunition to the various regions [of the West Bank] and also about bringing in large sums of money to make the takeover of the West Bank areas possible... It was believed that it was just a matter of time and that sooner or later, the PA would collapse, and Hamas wanted to move into the vacuum that would be created. "
On August 21, 2014, at a meeting in Doha, Abbas confronted Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal directly about the Hamas plot in the West Bank:
"You smuggle weapons, explosives, and cash to the West Bank, not for the fight with Israel, but for a coup against the Palestinian Authority. This continued until the Israeli intelligence chief visited me two weeks ago and told me about the [Hamas] group they arrested that was planning for a coup. ... In addition, my security agencies have proof.... We have a national unity government and you are thinking about a coup against me... If you say this is not true, I will tell you I have images.... We believe [the Israeli report]. "
A senior Shin Bet source described the scope of the plot to the Jerusalem Post: The conspiracy began in 2010 and was orchestrated by overseas Hamas operatives headquartered in Turkey. Khaled Mashaal, Hamas's overseas leader in Qatar, was aware of it. 93 Hamas members are in Israeli custody, and security forces plan to indict 70. "This infrastructure stretched from Jenin in the North to Hebron in the South. It is one of the biggest we've seen in Judea and Samaria since Hamas's formation in 1987. They planned to carry out a coup and topple the Palestinian Authority." The head of Hamas in the West Bank since 2010 was indicted in the Judea and Samaria military court in August 2014 for organizing dozens of terrorist cells to advance the plot.
The 2007 Hamas Plot Against the PA
The attempted coup in 2014 was not the first time that Hamas has moved to overthrow the Palestinian Authority. On June 12, 2007, less than three months after agreeing to an earlier national unity government with Abbas, Hamas launched a coup in Gaza. A major Fatah base in the northern town of Jabaliya fell to Hamas fighters, and heavy fighting raged around the main Fatah headquarters in Gaza City, where Hamas militants attacked with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons. On June 13, Hamas seized the headquarters of the Fatah-controlled National Security Forces in northern Gaza, and an explosion wrecked the Khan Younis headquarters of the Fatah-linked Preventive Security Service. On June 14, Hamas gunmen completed the takeover of the central building of the Preventive Security Service's headquarters in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas even made an attempt on the life of Abbas, as the PA President revealed in a speech in June 2007. Abbas accused Hamas of trying to assassinate him during a planned 2007 visit to Gaza and said he had seen videotapes in which Hamas militants discussed the explosives that would be used to kill him. After he revealed this information in a speech at a meeting of the PLO in Ramallah, thousands of Hamas supporters demonstrated in Gaza, burning an effigy of him. After the group's takeover of Gaza, Abbas publicly condemned Hamas as "murderous terrorists" and "coup plotters." He said the takeover was a premeditated attack that had been agreed upon with unspecified "foreign elements" in the region. On June 20, 2007, Abbas reacted to the Hamas takeover by announcing the dissolution of the unity government. Yediot Aharonot reported at the time that,
"Four large explosive devices were uncovered by Abbas' security officers on the road leading from the Erez crossing to Gaza, as the Palestinian president left Ramallah and was about to travel on that route... The assassination attempt took place while the Palestinian president was on his way to meet Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to discuss the establishment of a national unity government... Fatah officials accused Hamas of digging several tunnels... to place explosive devices under... the Salah al-Din route... Israeli defense officials have also said that Hamas plans to assassinate Abbas."
Recently, Abbas repeated his accusations regarding the 2007 plot and gave the Qatari Emir a CD containing some of the evidence. Abbas told the Emir,
"Since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, they [Hamas] have been working to undermine it and to topple it. ... In 2006 [sic], they planted explosives in my route. They want to bomb me. They also dug a tunnel straight under my house in Gaza, and here's a CD containing images of everything. They were heard saying this is a mine meant for Abu Mazen; where are you going with this?.... This is proven information. Ask Majid, my intelligence chief, he has information as well, and not Israel alone. Maj. Gen. Majid often tells me we caught Hamas cells seeking to stage a coup."
When faced with the Hamas insurrection in 2007, the PA turned to the Israelis for assistance, just as it did in 2014. According to a secret cable dated June 11, 2007 (later disclosed by Wikileaks), the head of Israel's Shin Bet, Yuval Diskin, told U.S. Ambassador Richard Jones that the PA had "ask[ed] us to attack Hamas...[and] to train [Fatah] forces in Egypt and Yemen...This is a new development. We have never seen this before. They are desperate."
Will Abbas Reject Israeli Protection?
There is a consensus in Israel that the IDF, the Shin Bet, and other Israeli security services in the West Bank play a greater role in suppressing Hamas than the Palestinian Authority's own security agencies. Most experts inside the IDF and the Israeli intelligence believe that withdrawal of the IDF from the West Bank would quickly lead to the end of the PA and the rise of Hamas. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon reflected this view when he said in September that, if the IDF were not there, Hamas would take over and other terrorists groups such as the Islamic Jihad, Al-Qaeda and Islamic State would be able to operate freely in the West Bank.
Hamas's leaders covet the West Bank: they know that its proximity to the Israeli heartland would make it a far more effective platform for attacks on Israel than firing at it from Gaza. In September 2014, Hamas founder Mahmoud Al-Zahar said that if his movement were to "transfer what it has or just a small part of it to the West Bank, we would be able to settle the battle of the final promise with a speed that no one can imagine." In another speech, he said, "If only the West Bank had one quarter of what Gaza has of resistance tools, the Israeli entity would end in one day... Can you imagine what would happen if the enemy is targeted from the West Bank...?"
While reduced intelligence could be harmful to Israel, for Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority it could be fatal.
If Abbas ends Palestinian security cooperation with the Israeli security services, the move would not remove the IDF from the West Bank, but it might erode the Israeli agencies' performance by reducing intelligence and early warning. While reduced intelligence could be harmful to Israel, for Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority it could be fatal.
Will Abbas end security cooperation with Israel, even knowing this could be a suicidal decision for himself and his government?
What makes Abbas' decision less than certain is that Abbas is under cross-pressure from two different threats to the future of Fatah and the Palestinian Authority. One pressure is that "Since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority," Hamas has "been working to undermine it and to topple it," as Abbas told the Emir of Qatar. Hamas is apparently now more determined than ever to establish itself in the West Bank. Against this threat, cooperation with Israel is vital.
The other pressure is that the government of Fatah is also threatened by the political acclaim that Hamas has achieved in the Arab world by confronting Israel. This shift puts Abbas under pressure to adopt a more belligerent posture to compete with "the strong horse" in Gaza. In the current political environment, any hint of "collaboration" with Israel could be fatal to Abbas's credibility with an increasingly militant public.
It is possible that neither pressure will prevail. In a typical Middle Eastern solution, Abbas could retreat to a posture of calculated ambiguity, pursuing two incompatible strategic policies at the same time, as did his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, who offered an olive branch and a gun. But security cooperation, especially the sharing of intelligence, requires trust. If the Israeli side believes that its information about Hamas might be passed along by double agents, there are bound to be restrictions on what is shared. If Abbas becomes another Arafat, it could be the Israeli side that loses interest in security cooperation.
There is much tension and distrust on both sides of the Israel-PA relationship. So far, the daily cooperation between their respective security and intelligence services has survived in spite of these tensions. The question is whether this precarious balance can hold if Mahmoud Abbas continues to escalate his diplomatic assault on Israel at the United Nations, as he has threatened to do.
For security cooperation to survive, the political leadership on both sides will have to decide what is vital to their respective interests.
**Steven J. Rosen is Director of the Washington Project of the Middle East Forum.
The Kurdish way of fighting ISIS
Wednesday, 22 October 2014
Images speak volumes. Terrorists of the so-called “Islamic State,” or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, know that very well and employ it in their fear-instilling tactics. It is our responsibility to remember that images are often misleading. Their deceptive impact is at the basis of all propaganda.
In the absence of accurate intelligence and un-readiness to fight, the world’s response to ISIS and its likes has been influenced by such images. Add to that, lack of long-term planning for the region, a slow response to threats and you find the U.S. and its allies racing to fight the propaganda and eager to win its war rather than deal with the real problems head on.
“The Kurds are unique in their defense of their land and livelihood”
Kurds know too well the importance of taking matters into their own hands and fighting with all their might the real enemy usually threatening them in plain sight in the form of ignorance, discrimination and all out persecution.
A few short weeks ago, when ISIS set its eyes on Kobane, the world powers gave up on the Syrian town; the U.S. flat out dismissed its strategic importance. Kobane’s Kurdish population fought alone and, with their resilience, forced ISIS back.
Now the U.S. seems convinced of the importance of not losing Kobane. It has airdropped tons of weapons, ammunition and medical supplies to Kurdish fighters on Sunday. Turkey also showed signs of cooperation by approving the airdrops as well as clearing the way for Iraqi Peshmerga fighters to cross the border to help their Syrian Kurdish brethren against what has become the entire region’s enemy.
Had Kobane not resisted in the classical form, by getting vulnerable population out and putting every able body - man, woman and child - to work defending the land, we would be by now seeing images of Kurdish women in queue to be sold as “sex slaves.” Gruesome video of beheading Kurdish men and children would have flooded our screens along with samplings of how wonderful life is under the ISIS-brand if Islam in Kobane.
The Kurds are unique in their defense of their land and livelihood. Their history has taught them to be self-reliant and self-sustaining. They offer a good example of how small communities and minorities can exist and thrive in any region where hostility and violence are daily occurrences and where peace and stability come at a very high price. If the Kurdish resistance leads to serious ISIS losses and a halt of the group’s advancement, Kobane can be the turning point in the fight against ISIS.
Asma al-Assad: Rise and fall of the
new Syrian woman
Wednesday, 22 October 2014
Dr. Halla Diyab
In 2001, Syrian first lady Asma al-Assad set out to undertake gender reform. Her predecessor Anisa Makhlouf never appeared in national ceremonies, nor accompanied her husband on his diplomatic visits. To many Syrians, Makhlouf played the role of a muted, dutiful wife who stayed at home to support her family and husband.
Assad set out to convince a new generation of a new role for Syrian women, and a new era for the country. Her British upbringing and education helped the public forget or tolerate the fact that she was the first Sunni Syrian to marry an Alawite national figure. Her glamorous public appearances showed the public that she was becoming an iconic figure.
“Her fall started with her Vogue interview of 2011, in which she came across as the wife of an Arab dictator who might be in trouble”
She set up NGO projects for Syrian youths, and liaised with British projects and experts to implement parallel initiatives in Syria. She involved her husband in some of her NGO projects, out of fear that her public independence could be seen as marginalizing him.
She pushed for involvement of Syrian women in her youth and NGO projects, and gave them they influential roles. By doing so, she was winning more advocates to her gender-reform cause, but as she focused on the Syrian elite, she alienated women from deprived backgrounds. However, there was a gradual rise in the number of Syrian women in the workplace, and they started to earn as much as men. Cases of sexual harassment or abuse in the workplace were rare, especially in the public sector . Assad became viewed by Syrian women as a symbol of gender equality. However, her fall started with her Vogue interview of 2011, in which she came across as the wife of an Arab dictator who might be in trouble. The interview was a propaganda piece about how free, safe and diverse Syria was. Her naive analysis and lack of political expertise read as a lack of sympathy for the angry masses.
Her silence over the Syrian uprising and international criticism of brutality toward protestors affected her popularity. She became like Makhlouf, a dutiful wife supporting her husband. Assad failed the expectations of the Syrian public, which has grown intolerant toward her because she did not turn her back on her dictator husband. Her passivity earned her the description of mass murderer.
However, as she had no ties to the political scene in Syria apart from being the wife of the president, the conviction that she could have influenced politics if she spoke out is not true. The failure of Syrian women, whether supporters or opponents of the regime, to stop the bloodshed in Syria and bring about a political solution has proved the futility of the gender reform initiated in 2001.
The conflict forced Assad to regress into a stay-at-home first lady. She is no longer a woman of confidence and glamour. The war has turned Syrian women from agents for change to victims of displacement, loss, hunger and abuse. They are stuck between the regime and the opposition, and are ready to liaise with both to suppress their female political opponents.
Malala restoring hope in possibility of defeating darkness
Abdel Latif el-Menawy
Wednesday, 22 October 2014
Abdel Latif el-Menawy
The Nobel Peace Prize was jointly awarded on Oct. 10 to Pakistan’s Malala Yousufzai and India’s Kailash Satyarthi for “their defense of children’s right to education and their struggle against suppressing children and teenagers.”
Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Thorbjorn Jagland, said: “Children must go to school and not be financially exploited.” This is the sublime message that 17-year-old Yousufzai has tried to spread worldwide via her blog, which she started in 2009. She was only 13 years old when she was granted the national peace prize in Pakistan. British and other TV channels and dailies agreed on Jan. 4 that the most important news that day was Yousufzai leaving Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England. She was being treated there after Taliban fighters shot her in the head for defying the movement, exposing its crimes and advocating the education of girls. On Oct. 9 last year, two masked men halted a school bus transporting female students in Pakistan. One of the men boarded the bus and started screaming: “Who is Malala? Speak or I’ll shoot you all. Where is she, who attacks God’s soldiers, the Taliban? She must be punished.” He then identified her and shot her in the head. Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said: “Malala was shot because she’s a secular girl. This must be considered a warning to other youths like her. She won’t be safe if she survives this time. She supported the West and opposed the Taliban. She was young but she supported Western culture.”
“Awarding Yousufzai the Nobel Peace Prize is a significant step that honors this young girl who held on to her principles despite all the threats against her” Yousufzai’s fame began when she started exposing atrocities committed by extremist Islamists in control of the Swat district in northwest Pakistan, where she lived. She did so through a blog using a fake name. In one TV interview, she said: “I wanted to scream out loud and tell the entire world what we suffered from under the Taliban’s rule.” During their control of Swat, religious extremists burnt schools, prohibited the education of girls, and forced women to either wear the burqa or stay at home. Among what she wrote in her blog during that time:
- Jan. 3, 2009: “I was afraid going to school because the Taleban had issued an edict banning all girls from attending schools. Only 11 students attended the class out of 27. The number decreased because of Taleban’s edict. My three friends have shifted to Peshawar, Lahore and Rawalpindi with their families after this edict.”
- Jan. 5, 2009: “During the morning assembly, we were told not to wear colourful clothes as the Taleban would object to it.”
- March 3, 2009: “On our way to school, my friend asked me to cover my head properly, otherwise Taliban will punish us.”
- March 12, 2009: “I had a sore throat. My father took me to the doctor. There a woman told us about a boy named Anis, ‘Anis was with Taliban.’ His Taliban friend told him that he had a dream that he is surrounded by heavenly virgins in Paradise. The boy then asked his parents if he could become a suicide bomber to go to the Paradise. The parents refused. But Anis exploded himself at a check post of security forces, anyway.”
Awarding Yousufzai the Nobel Peace Prize is a significant step that honors this young girl who held on to her principles despite all the threats against her. She is the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner in its 114-year history. Her story may move many to reconsider their resistance to concepts aimed at pushing their societies forward.