LCCC ENGLISH DAILY
analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 25, 26/14
Twenty Years of Israeli-Jordanian Peace: A Brief Assessment/David Schenker /Washington Istitute/October 26/14
New Poll Shows Majority of Saudis, Kuwaitis, Emiratis Reject ISIS, Back Two-State Solution with Israel/David Pollock /Washington Institute/October 26/14
Of domestic demons and aggressive neighbors/By: Hisham Melhem /Al Arabiya/October 26/14
How ISIS impacts on Turkey’s daily life/By: CAN SEMERCIOGLU/Open Democracy /October 26/14
How Yemen’s Saleh deceived the media and governments/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed /Al Arabiya/October 26/14
Peshmerga, YPG and ISIS in Kobane as Turkey maintains stance/Ceylan Ozbudak /Al Arabiya/October 26/14
The Zombies of ISIS/By: Mshari Al-Zaydi /Asharq Al Awsat/October 26/14
ISIS scores another propaganda win/By: Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq AlAwsat/October 26/14
Why is Kerry singling out Israel/By: Guy Bechor/Ynetnews/October 26/14
Lebanese Related News
published on October
Lebanese Army battles jihadists in n. Lebanon, 14 killed
Lebanese Army vows to drive 'terrorists' out of Tripoli
Army pounds militant hideouts in north Lebanon
Salam: We Won't Allow a Bunch of Terrorists to Take Tripoli Hostage
Lebanese Army Deploys in Tripoli's Souks, Pursues Gunmen after Clashes Kill 4, Wound 20
Two Troops Killed, Several Hurt in Akkar Armed Attack
Daylight Saving Time Ends Saturday Midnight, Clocks to be Set Back One Hour
Hariri voices support for Army measures in Tripoli
Tenuous calm in Tripoli after cease-fire expires
Fresh violence rocks Lebanon’s Tripoli
Minister: Lebanon to see 2-2.5 pct growth in 2015
Rifi: No safe haven for militants battling Army
Al-Rahi Fears Lebanese Would Adapt to Vacuum
Asoun Terrorist Cell Planned Ashura Gathering Attacks, Assassinations
Makari Says No Presidential Elections in Near Future
Defected Soldiers Still in Lebanon as Strike against Sleeper Cells Reaches Zero Hour
Hizbullah, AMAL Boost Security Measures during Ashura
Nusra Front Warns: Government Taking Country into Abyss
Report: Hariri Says Geagea's Chances to Reach Baabda Limited
Daylight Saving Time Ends Saturday Midnight, Clocks to be Set Back One Hour
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on
October 25, 26/14
US hits Islamic State targets as Iraqis block group's progress
Pentagon reports first US soldier casualty in fight against ISIS
ISIS attacks crossing as Kobani awaits Iraqi relief
Syria rebels battle for Aleppo supply route
Diplomacy: Searching for a realistic formula to restart peace negotiations
Kurds retake north Iraqi town from ISIS
Iran accuses Israel of benefiting from strife in Egypt, after attacks in jihadist-ridden Sinai
Foreign Affairs: Turkey’s elusive promised land and the war on Islamic State
Iraqi army drives ISIS out of key Shi’ite district
Sisi vows decisive measures after deadly Sinai attack
Sisi: Foreign hands behind Sinai attack
Egypt declares emergency in northern Sinai
Egypt: Sisi warns of “existential” battle after Sinai attack
30 Egyptian troops killed in Sinai attack
Analysts: Sisi reforms key to Egypt’s economic upswing
Iran hangs Reyhaneh Jabbari despite world pressure
Ottawa shooting: Michael Zehaf-Bibeau wanted Libyan passport
Two dead, including gunman, in shooting at Washington high school -police
How ISIS impacts on Turkey’s daily life
Canada gunman complained about ‘liberal’ mosque
Israeli troops kill Palestinian teen in West Bank clash: medics
U.S. calls for probe into Palestinian-American's death
U.S. seeking to confirm if ISIS used chlorine gas
Four consulates get suspicious packages in Turkey
Houthis seize historic castle in western Yemen
US officials tried to cancel Ya'alon-Power meet
Daylight Saving Time Ends Saturday Midnight, Clocks to be Set Back One Hour
Naharnet/25.10.14/People who are craving for an extra hour of sleep will be deprived from it on Saturday as clocks should be turned back one hour at 12:00 am. This marks the end of Daylight Saving Time (DST). Standard timing will be adopted as of Sunday and clocks will go back to 11:00 pm. The move will put Beirut 2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. Clocks will have to be turned back to DST at midnight on the last Saturday of March 2014.
Lebanese Army battles jihadists in n.
Lebanon, 14 killed
Antoine Amrieh| The Daily Star/25.10.14
TRIPOLI, Lebanon: At least 14 people were killed in running battles between Lebanese troops and ISIS-inspired militants in north Lebanon Saturday as the military pursued a crackdown to rid the port city of Tripoli of jihadists plotting attacks in the country, security sources said. Two civilians, three soldiers and at least six militants were killed and 20 people were wounded, including 10 soldiers, in fighting in Tripoli that erupted overnight, security sources said. Two soldiers were killed in separate clashes with militants in the village of Mhamra, north of Tripoli, while five others escaped a kidnapping attempt in the area. Hours later, the Army said an officer was killed and two soldiers were wounded in the northern district of Minyeh when a rocket-propelled grenade struck their vehicle.
The Army said it arrested some militants and remained in pursuit of others. The clashes in Tripoli, widely seen as a spillover of the crisis in neighboring Syria, were the worst in the mainly Sunni city for several months.
After fighting through the night and morning, a tenuous calm took hold of Tripoli after the Army agreed Saturday afternoon on a two-hour truce to allow citizens to evacuate their homes and transfer the wounded. The agreement came during a meeting with religious and local figures headed by North Lebanon Mufti Sheikh Malek al-Shaar.
While local religious figures have also took advantage of the break to enter the neighborhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh to negotiate with the militants to withdraw, the Army said Saturday evening that militants retreated from several neighborhoods in the old souks.
A security source said that the Army arrested at least 25 militants who took part in the clashes, which began Friday evening when gunmen attacked an Army patrol unit in the souks. A militant commander was killed in the initial battle.
A 17-year-old Lebanese boy, a Syrian and a Lebanese photographer were among the wounded in the fighting, the most intense in the city since the government implemented a security plan last spring to end sporadic clashes between opponents and supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad. In a statement Saturday morning, the Lebanese Army confirmed eight soldiers had been wounded in the fighting, saying soldiers engaged in clashes with the gunmen after "armed groups were heavily deployed in Al-Zahiriyah Friday evening with the aim of destabilizing the town and inciting sectarian strife.” By Saturday noon, the military was able to tighten the noose on militants holed up in the labyrinth-like old souks as soldiers launched raids in search for the gunmen, who reportedly have links to ISIS. A number of Army helicopters were seen flying over the souks as the soldiers, backed by armored vehicles, engaged the militants. Video footage showed soldiers standing behind an armored vehicle as others ran from one position to the other, firing shots at the gunmen.
While Tripoli, just 30 kilometers from the border with Syria, has been beset by spillover from the neighboring civil war, the latest clashes are the first time that fighting has reached the old city. Previous Syria-related clashes have been largely confined to Alawite-majority Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh, whose residents support the Sunni rebels in Syria. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Tammam Salam said the government would not tolerate any attempts to turn back the clock in Tripoli and “will not allow a handful of terrorists to hold the residents of Tripoli hostage and sabotage their livelihood for goals that are not in the interest of Lebanon's unity or stability.” While commending the loyalty of Tripoli residents and figures, Salam said the Army’s measures in the country enjoyed the “full backing of the political authority.”Friday's attack on the Army was sparked by the arrest of an alleged ISIS commander, Ahmad Salim Mikati, during a raid Thursday in Dinnieh, north Lebanon, a security source told The Daily Star. The Army said Saturday that soldiers raided Mikati's house in Tripoli and confiscated large quantity of explosives. Soldiers also arrested a wanted terror suspect, identified as Rabih Shemali, during a raid on his house and seized a large quantity of arms, ammunition and medical supplies militants use to treat their wounded, according to the Army's statement. Described as a high-value terror suspect, Mikati allegedly told interrogators that he had planned to kidnap more servicemen to exert pressure on the government to accept a swap deal with the militants holding 27 soldiers and policemen hostage.
Thursday's raid in Dinnieh is the latest in a series that security forces have carried out on suspected Sunni militants as a part of a nationwide crackdown after ISIS and the Nusra Front briefly took over the border town of Arsal in August.
The raids have further raised tensions in a country already rocked by spillover from the Syrian civil war, with some political and religious figures criticizing the Army for what they call discrimination against their sect. The criticism is largely driven by allegations that the security forces turn a blind eye to Hezbollah, which is fighting in Syria on the side of Assad, while cracking down on Sunni militants.
Lebanese Army vows to drive 'terrorists' out of Tripoli
The Daily Star/Oct. 25, 2014/BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army vowed Saturday to drive out all terrorists from the northern city of Tripoli, the scene of raging gunbattles between soldiers and militants. “The Army affirms that it will move forward with its military operations until all gunmen are eliminated and prevent any armed presence in Tripoli to allow residents to return to their normal lives,” the military said in a statement. “The Army urges citizens to respect the measures in the city and inform military posts of any suspicious behavior.”It also saluted Tripoli figures and citizens for supporting the Army and its mission. Speaking to the National News Agency, the Army’s leadership said that "there will be no retreat until we eliminate all terrorists.” Army soldiers clashed with Islamist militants, who reportedly are linked to ISIS, Friday evening after the gunmen fired shots at a military patrol unit. The attack was in retaliation for the arrest of an alleged ISIS commander the military detained Thursday during a raid in Dinnieh, north Lebanon, a security source told The Daily Star. One civilian was killed and at least 20 people including eight soldiers were wounded in the clashes. After the Army agreed to a two-hour ceasefire Saturday afternoon, some local religious figures entered the Tripoli neighborhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh to negotiate with the militants to withdraw in a bid to end the clashes.
Army pounds militant hideouts in north Lebanon
Oct. 25, 2014/Antoine Amrieh| The Daily Star
TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Lebanese Army helicopters pounded hideouts of militants in north Lebanon Saturday, hours after gunmen killed two soldiers in the area and five others escaped a kidnap attempt. Army helicopters pounded the surrounding of the Haroun Mosque in Bhanine in Minyeh, where gunmen affiliated with Sheikh Khaled Hablas are based, the state-run National News Agency reported. Earlier Saturday morning, security sources told The Daily Star that gunmen approached two soldiers and shot at them, instantly killing one of them in the Mhamra area in Dinnieh. The second soldier later died of wounds he sustained in the attack, the sources said, adding that the gunmen then fled into the tiny streets of Mhamra. In its statement, the Army said soldiers clashed with a group of militants who tried to block a vital highway in Mhamra, which the military was able to reopen. Two soldiers and a number of others were wounded in the clash. The Army pursued the militants and killed several gunmen. Minutes later, the Army said it foiled an attempt by militants in Mhamra to kidnap five soldiers who were heading to work in the Akkar area. The military pursed the militants, clashed with them and wounded a number of them. The two incidents happened as the Lebanese Army battled militants reportedly affiliated with ISIS in the northern city of Tripoli. The fighting erupted Friday evening after gunmen fired at soldiers in the city’s old souks. The attack was in retaliation for the arrest of an alleged ISIS commander the military detained Thursday during a raid in Dinnieh, north Lebanon, a security source told The Daily Star. The day of fighting across north Lebanon killed 14 people, including two civilians and six soldiers. At least six militants have also been killed.
Salam: We Won't Allow a Bunch of
Terrorists to Take Tripoli Hostage
Naharnet/25.10.14/Prime Minister Tammam Salam stressed Saturday that authorities will not allow “a bunch of terrorists” to take Tripoli hostage, in the wake of fierce clashes between the army and Islamist gunmen in the northern city. “Following the successful security operation that the army carried out in Dinniyeh, which spared Tripoli and the North dangerous terror attacks, the Lebanese were surprised by a series of security violations and attacks on the army and security forces in the capital of the North,” Salam said in a statement. He noted that the unrest is aimed at “spreading chaos, undermining stability and taking Tripoli and the neighboring areas back to the state of disorder that prevailed in the past.” But the prime minister underlined that “the government will not be lenient with any attempt to turn the clock back in Tripoli and will not allow a bunch of terrorists to take Tripoli's residents hostage and jeopardize their security for objectives that do not serve the interests of Lebanon and its unity and stability.”The government “will not turn a blind eye to any insult against the state's image and its military and security institutions under any slogan,” Salam added. He also hailed “the high level of national responsibility shown by all of Tripoli's leaders and figures, which reflects the true essence of Tripoli – the city of peace, coexistence and knowledge.”“The army and security forces are performing their duties with full support from the political authority, in order to restore security in Tripoli and the rest of regions under the scheduled security plan,” Salam emphasized.
Two civilians and two gunmen were killed as 20 troops and civilians were wounded in armed clashes in the old souks of Tripoli that erupted Friday evening and continued until Saturday afternoon. Cautious calm engulfed the area after a mediation by the Muslim Scholars Committee led to the withdrawal of the militants from the streets, state-run National News Agency reported. But military sources stressed to LBCI TV that the army will press on with the battle against the gunmen regardless of “what some parties are trying to do.”
Meanwhile, two army soldiers were killed and several others were wounded in an armed attack that targeted a military vehicle Saturday in the Akkar area of al-Mhammara, which was followed by clashes with the gunmen.
Two Troops Killed, Several Hurt in
Akkar Armed Attack
Naharnet/25.10.14/Two army soldiers were killed and several others were wounded in an armed attack that targeted a military vehicle Saturday in the Akkar area of al-Mhammara, which was followed by clashes with the gunmen. The state-run National News Agency reported that the unknown assailants opened fire at the vehicle near the Lobnan al-Akhdar bakery on the Bhannine-Mhammara road. The army for its part said that its troops clashed with “an armed group that tried to cut off the public road, which prompted army forces to reopen the road and chase the militants who fled to the nearby groves.”The gunfight left two soldiers dead and several others wounded, according to the army statement. Troops managed to inflict casualties on the attackers, the military added. Meanwhile, NNA said “a military helicopter transferred one of the wounded soldiers from the al-Youssef Medical Center in Halba to Beirut due to his critical condition.” The army seized control of “the bridge at the entrance to the town of Bhannine,” NNA added. The Akkar-Tripoli road was also closed at al-Mhammara's intersection to “preserve the safety of civilian passersby, as military helicopters hovered over the area,” the agency said. The attack comes amid violent clashes between the army and gunmen in the nearby northern city of Tripoli, where eight troops and several militants and civilians have been wounded. For the past few months, the military has been coming under increasing armed attacks, mainly in northern Lebanon. Since August, the Lebanese army has been fighting militants from the Islamic State group and al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front on Lebanon's northeastern border with Syria.
Lebanese Army Deploys in Tripoli's
Souks, Pursues Gunmen after Clashes Kill 4, Wound 20
Two civilians and two gunmen were killed as 20 troops and civilians were wounded in armed clashes in the old souks of the northern city of Tripoli that erupted Friday evening and continued until Saturday afternoon. In the evening, the army said its units completed their deployment in the old souks and the al-Zahriyeh neighborhood after arresting several gunmen and wounding many others. “Quantities of arms, ammunition and explosives were seized in their possession, while a number of militants fled from the area and army units are pursuing them in order to arrest them,” the army added. Later on Saturday, state-run National News Agency said "an exchange of gunfire erupted between the army and gunmen near al-Walid supermarket in Bab al-Tabbaneh." And MTV said "the clashes zone has expanded in Bab al-Tabbaneh."Cautious calm had engulfed the old souks after a mediation by the Muslim Scholars Committee led to the withdrawal of the militants from the streets, NNA said.
But military sources stressed to LBCI TV that the army will press on with the battle against the gunmen regardless of “what some parties are trying to do.”
The fighting has resulted in the death of Tripoli residents Abdul Nasser al-Masri and his son Taha and the wounding of six civilians and 13 troops including an officer, according to NNA.At least two militants have been killed in the clashes, with MTV reporting that “the bodies of two gunmen have been found in Tripoli's souks.” A security source had told Agence France-Presse that six militants have been wounded in the battles. In a statement, the army stressed that it will press on with its military operation “until the gunmen are eradicated and all armed appearances are prevented in Tripoli.”It called on citizens to “fully comply with the measures that are being implemented by army units and to report any suspicious behavior to the military posts.”In a sign of its determination to continue the crackdown, the army said it raided “the house of detained terrorist Ahmed Salim Miqati, aka Abu Bakr and Abu al-Huda, seizing a large of quantity of explosives.”“A military expert is dismantling them in order to transfer them to a safe location where they will be detonated later on,” the army added. And in another statement, the military announced that its forces stormed “the house of fugitive terrorist Rabih al-Shami in the Daftardar area, where he was arrested and quantities of arms, ammunition and communication devices were seized.”
“A store containing medical supplies which the gunmen had been using to treat their wounded” was also raided at al-Shami's house, the army said. The lull in the fighting allowed TV reporters to enter the old souks around 3:00 p.m. and broadcast live footage from the clashes-hit area.“Following contacts with Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi and the city's leaders, the Muslim Scholars Committee called on journalists to enter the clashes zone and broadcast footage proving that the gunmen have withdrawn from the streets,” NNA said.
But the Army Command underlined in a phone call with the same agency that the battle “of pursuing the terrorist gunmen in Tripoli will continue and there will be no retreat before the terrorists are eradicated.”“The battle in Tripoli will continue and we have nothing to do with what some parties are doing. We will open fire at the gunmen once we spot them and we won't show them any tolerance,” a military source told LBCI. The clashes had renewed in the morning after easing off for several hours during the night.
The gunbattle initially erupted in the old souks and extended to other areas.
NNA said the army clashed with gunmen in the city's souks area as soldiers besieged the armed men. The army brought reinforcements to the areas of clashes and blocked all roads leading to the markets. A Lebanese army surveillance plane also flew over the area.
Heavy shelling and gunfire was reportedly heard as the army launched its assault on the gunmen's positions. Troops attempted to evacuate families trapped inside the market, where many of the shops have been burned down in the fighting.
The battles caused extensive material damage to shops, buildings and vehicles. Rocket-propelled grenades and heavy, medium and light arms were used in the clashes.
“Terrorists are seeking to destabilize the situation in Tripoli and create incitement and sectarian strife,” the army said in a communique on Saturday. The statement pointed out that the army “is carrying out raids in suspicious areas to apprehend gunmen and refer them to the competent judiciary.”
The military added that eight soldier were wounded in the clashes including a lieutenant. NNA denied media reports that gunmen stormed a church in the area and attacked army units outside the city's internal markets.
The news agency reported that the gunmen who are battling the army are linked to the Islamic State extremist group, pointing out that the army inflicted severe losses on the armed groups. It added that the armed men called for help from other jihadists, including al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front, but no group answered the call. Mufti of Tripoli and the North Sheikh Malek al-Shaar postponed on Saturday a Muslim-Christian spiritual meeting that was set to be held in Tripoli in the upcoming days.
“The National Tripoli Gathering” was planned to stress the “unity of the people on the national principles.” The army has been facing rising assaults in Tripoli recently following the gunbattles between troops and Sunni jihadists who overran the northeastern border town of Arsal in August. A meeting was later held at the residence of Shaar for the city's prominent figures, including former Prime Minister Najib Miqati, ex-Minister Ahmed Karami and MP Mohammed Kabbara. Shaar stressed after the meeting that the residents of Tripoli “support the army's security plan in the city, which wants to stay under the authority of the state.”“Tripoli is our first concern,” the mufti said, expressing hope that calm would prevail soon.
For his part, ex-PM Miqati hailed the postponement of the conference, describing it as a “wise” move. He pointed out that Prime Minister Tammam Salam was contacted in order to discuss the upcoming measures that would restore calm in Tripoli.
Shaar called on the Higher Relief Council to help those who were affected by the clashes. Justice Minister Rifi later said in a press conference that gunmen will not enjoy any political cover, stressing that Tripoli supports the state and will overcome threats.
“We will not slip into chaos,” Rifi pointed out. The minister, who stressed the importance of coexistence in Tripoli, noted that the city will not be turned into a “military zone.” Ever since the war in neighboring Syria broke out in 2011, Tripoli has been the scene of regular fighting between Sunni militants and members of Lebanon's Alawite minority.
Islamist gunmen have also turned on the Lebanese army, accusing it of targeting Sunnis and of cooperating with Hizbullah.
Al-Rahi Fears Lebanese Would Adapt to
Naharnet/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-RAhi renewed on Saturday his call for the election of a new head of state, rejecting to let the Lebanese get used to the vacuum at the Baabda Palace. “There is no justification for not electing a new president,” al-Rahi said during a meeting at the Maronite Diocese of Saint Maron of Sydney in Australia. The Patriarch headed to Sydney on Thursday on a two-week pastoral visit. Al-Rahi pointed out that there's no state that accepts the vacuum that Lebanon is passing through. He urged lawmakers to assume their responsibilities and elect a new president. 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 threatening to thwart the upcoming parliamentary elections. The crises are threatening further vacuum at Lebanese institutions, which could also impact the cabinet. “Christians should not fear because they are not minorities in (Lebanon) and the region,” al-Rahi said. “Wars that fall in favor of narrow political and economy interests and encourage arms trade should end.” Al-Rahi also called for the importance of eliminating all support to extremist and terrorist groups. For the past few months, the military has been coming under increasing armed attacks mainly in northern Lebanon. Since August, the Lebanese army has been fighting militants from the Islamic State group and al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front near the border with Syria.
Asoun Terrorist Cell Planned Ashura
Gathering Attacks, Assassinations
Naharnet /25.10.14/Militant Ahmed Salim Miqati, who was arrested during an army raid in the town of Asoun in the northern district of Dinniyeh, and 12 members of his terrorist cell, had plans to execute violent attacks on the 27th of Oct against Ashura gatherings in several Shiite Lebanese areas, media reports said. The cell that includes Miqati, 5 Lebanese and 7 Syrian nationals had plans to move from Tripoli to Beirut. Another terrorist cell was meant to join them from the Burj al-Barajneh and the Ain el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp to help execute suicidal terrorist attacks against Shiite gatherings in the southern suburb of Beirut, Nabatieh and Lassa in Jbeil. Led by Miqati, the network had further plans to assassinate Lebanese political figures including Speaker Nabih Berri and al-Mustaqbal MP Ahmad Fatfat, in an evil bid to trigger a Shiite-Sunni strife, information said. The Lebanese Army had warned Fatfat lately asking him to take precautions and limit his movement. Fatfat confirmed the report, saying: “Two weeks ago I was asked to limit my movements because of security threats in the region, and that I should stay in Beirut.”“The whole problem lies in the chaos in tackling the issue of Syrian refugees and the failure to control and organize it years ago,” he lamented. He praised the Lebanese army's efforts to combat the terrorists, noting that “the army performed a good military operation in Dinniyeh and the tactics it used were positive.” Army intelligence agents on Thursday raided an apartment in the town of Asoun, which was inhabited by a “group of terrorists,” killing three gunmen and apprehending Miqati. Miqati recently pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and established cells linked to the group in the region. He was planning to carry out a huge terrorist act along with his son Omar, who is fighting alongside ISIL in Arsal, according to a military communique. Miqati is also the relative of Bilal Omar Miqati who is accused of beheading Lebanese soldiers on the outskirts of Arsal. Furthermore, data collected from Miqati's cellular phone showed that he had been contacting al-Mustaqbal bloc MP Khaled al-Daher via the WhatsApp mobile messaging application. The militant sent to Daher “videos of defections of Lebanese army troops” while the MP used to send him “messages of motivation and encouragement,” al-Jadeed said. The Lebanese army executed precautionary measures and arrested several terrorists after raiding a number of locations in Tripoli's Bab al-Tabbaneh.
Report: Hariri Says Geagea's Chances
to Reach Baabda Limited
Naharnet/Al-Mustaqbal Movement leader MP Saad Hariri had said recently that Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea's chances to reach the Baabda Palace faded away. Al-Akhbar newspaper reported on Saturday that Hariri informed Kataeb party MP Sami Gemayel that Geagea will not reach the presidential palace in Baabda. Gemayel traveled on Sunday with Geagea on a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia. It is still unclear whether or not Geagea and Gemayel held a tripartite meeting with Hariri. 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.Al-Joumhouria newspaper reported on Saturday that head of al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc MP Fouad Saniora, head of Hariri's office Nader Hariri, ex-MP Ghattas Khoury and several other figures discussed with Geagea and Gemayel the political crises upon their arrival in Beirut.
Makari Says No Presidential Elections in Near Future
Naharnet /25.10.14/Deputy Speaker Farid Makari expressed doubt on Saturday that the presidential elections would be held in 2014, expecting that lawmakers will link the extension of the parliamentary tenure with the vacuum at the Baabda Palace. “Extending the term of the parliament is a temporary solution until a new head of state is elected,” Makari said in an interview with An Nahar newspaper. He pointed out that the Christian parties still didn't make a clear statement regarding its stance from the matter, expressing belief that they will agree on extending the term of the parliament. The failure to hold the presidential elections has been exacerbated by the inability to organize legislative polls. Parliament will most likely extend its term for the second time under the pretext that the security conditions don't allow the elections to be held without security incidents. Makari accused Hizbullah and the Free Patriotic Movement of impeding the presidential elections by boycotting sessions set to elect a new head of state. FPM chief Michel “Aoun is the one to blame because the vacuum at the Baabda Palace affects Christians at the first place.” He pointed out that head of al-Mustaqbal movement MP Saad Hariri and his parliamentary bloc has no veto against any presidential candidate, including Aoun. The parliament's term extension session is likely to take place early next month to discuss a draft-law proposed by Zahle MP Nicolas Fattoush that calls for an extension of two years and seven months. Fattoush's proposal in addition to another draft-law suggested by the LF - to amend the legal deadline to run in the elections and form a committee to supervise the polls - are expected to top the agenda of the session. Asked if Hariri will return to Lebanon soon to attend the session set to extend the parliament's tenure, Makari said that Hariri's presence is important to “highlight the importance of this matter at this stage.”He considered the matter “legal.” Parliament extended its term last year over security fears and a disagreement among rival MPs on an electoral law. Makari said that stances adopted by al-Mustaqbal bloc MP Khaled al-Daher don't represent the al-Mustaqbal Movement. Daher has skipped recently several meetings for al-Mustaqbal bloc. The MP warned in a vicious attack against the army recently of “a Sunni revolution,” calling for mutiny among Sunni soldiers by calling them “to return to their homes and their barracks.”
Sisi vows decisive measures after deadly Sinai attack
By Staff Writer | Al Arabiya News/Saturday, 25 October 2014
Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi vowed on Saturday to take decisive security measure in Sinai and on the border with the Gaza strip as he blamed foreign actors for a terrorist attack that killed 30 Egyptian soldiers on Friday.
“We have already taken security measure in Sinai and on the border with the Gaza Strip,” he said in a televised address as he was flanked by members of the military. The decision was also taken to close the Rafah crossing into the Gaza Strip. (File photo: Reuters) He also said that “the purpose of terrorist activities in Sinai was to overthrow the Egyptian state,” adding that the peninsula would have been a den for terrorism if it wasn’t for the military operation. The military chief-turned President also reiterated that the fight against terrorism in Sinai would be lengthy. Egypt was set to close the Rafah border crossing with Gaza Strip as part of an emergency measure in the wake Friday’s attack, the deadliest attack on Egyptian security forces in the Sinai Peninsula. Egyptian authorities declared the three-month state of emergency Friday in the north and center of the Sinai Peninsula after a suicide car bombing killed 30 soldiers, the presidency said. The measures would begin on Saturday at 0300 GMT “for a duration of three months,” the presidency said in a statement. The decision was also taken to close the Rafah crossing into the Gaza Strip. “The army and the police will take all necessary measures to tackle the dangers of terrorism and its financing, to preserve the security of the region... and protect the lives of citizens,” the presidential decree said. The bombing was carried out by a suspected Islamist militant who rammed the checkpoint with a vehicle packed with explosives, security officials said. Gunmen also shot dead an officer and wounded two soldiers on Friday at another checkpoint south of El-Arish, Agence France Presse quoted security officials as saying. Since Mursi’s ouster, more than 1,400 of his supporters have been killed in a crackdown by the authorities.Over 15,000 others have been jailed including Mursi and the top leadership of his Muslim Brotherhood, and more than 200 sentenced to death in speedy trials.(With AFP)
Iran hangs Reyhaneh Jabbari despite
Reyhaneh Jabbari, 26, was executed following five years on death row after she was found guilty of killing a man she claimed to have sexually assaulted her.
By Staff Writer | Al Arabiya News
Saturday, 25 October 2014
Reyhaneh Jabbari, 26, convicted of murdering a former intelligence official she claimed raped her, was executed on Saturday in defiance to international pressure to spare her life, Agence France-Presse reported. Jabbari, who was on death row for five years, was executed at dawn, the Tehran prosecutor’s office said in a statement carried by IRNA’s Farsi website.
A Facebook page started by her mother had a cover photo reading: “Rest in Peace,” confirming her death. Amnesty International had released a stern call to Iranian authorities on Friday to halt the planned execution of Jabbari. “The Iranian authorities must stop the execution of a woman due to be hanged tomorrow morning after being convicted for the killing of a man whom she said tried to sexually abuse her,” the statement said. Amnesty International said in the statement that Jabbari, an interior designer, was due to be executed for the 2007 stabbing of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi.
A U.N. human rights monitor had said the killing of Sarbandi was an act of self-defence after he tried to sexually assault Jabbari, and that her trial in 2009 had been deeply flawed, according to Agence France-Presse said.
Jabbari reportedly admitted to stabbing Sarbandi, but maintained that another man present in the house at the time killed him, a claim Amnesty International said “[does] not appear to have ever been properly investigated.”
Iranian public figures, actors and other prominent personalities had appealed for a stay of execution, echoing similar calls in the Western countries.
Efforts to push for clemency had intensified in recent weeks. Jabbari’s mother was allowed to visit her for one hour on Friday, Amnesty said, a custom that tends to precede executions in Iran. According to the United Nations, more than 250 people have been executed in Iran since the beginning of 2014. The U.N. and international rights groups had said Jabbari’s confession was obtained under intense pressure and threats from Iranian prosecutors, and she should have had a retrial. Ahmed Shaheed, the U.N.’s human rights rapporteur on Iran, said in April that Sarbandi had offered to hire Jabbari to redesign his office and took her to an apartment where he sexually abused her.
However, Sarbandi’s family insists that the murder was premeditated and that Jabbari had confessed to buying a knife two days before the killing.
According to Jalal Sarbandi, the victim’s eldest son, Jabbari testified that a man was present in the apartment where his father was killed “but she refuses to reveal his identity”.
He told Shargh and Etemad, two of Iran’s reformist daily newspapers, in April that his family “would not even contemplate mercy until truth is unearthed.”
“Only when her true intentions are exposed and she tells the truth about her accomplice and what really went down will we be prepared to grant mercy,” he said at the time.
Ottawa shooting: Michael Zehaf-Bibeau wanted Libyan passport
CBCCBC – 24/10/14.
CBC - Ottawa shooting: Michael Zehaf-Bibeau wanted Libyan passport
Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the gunman behind Wednesday's shooting in Ottawa, had applied to renew his Libyan passport but was denied, CBC News has learned.
Zehaf-Bibeau shot and killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial in Ottawa Wednesday before attacking Parliament Hill.
Zehaf-Bibeau, whose father is Libyan, applied for the passport renewal on Oct. 2 and was refused the same day, the CBC's Evan Dyer reported. The chargé d'affaires at the Libyan Embassy in Ottawa told CBC News he presented a B.C. driver's licence with a Vancouver address. He did not present a Canadian passport.
Zehaf-Bibeau had received a Libyan passport in 2000 and then travelled to the country in 2007. That document had expired, and Zehaf-Bibeau told officials that he wanted a new passport so he could visit family and friends in Libya.
The Libyan official said Zehaf-Bibeau was polite but that his demeanour seemed off. They were also concerned that his photos didn't seem to match his appearance, or the photos of him in his Libyan documents.
Officials also questioned why Zehaf-Bibeau's old Libyan passport gave his first name as Abdul but his driver's licence listed him as Michael.
Zehaf-Bibeau provided his mother's contact information, but there was no answer when officials called the number, and officials weren't satisfied with his answers when they questioned him about his parents' relationship.
The embassy was also puzzled as to why Zehaf-Bibeau had travelled across the country to apply in person.
"Most Libyans who live outside Ottawa apply online," said chargé d'affaires Yousef Furgani,
Zehaf-Bibeau was warned the embassy would have to look into his background and that it would take at least three weeks to a month. At that point, Zehaf-Bibeau cancelled the application.
RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson said Thursday that Zehaf-Bibeau was in the process of applying for a Canadian passport when he shot Cirillo.
Two dead, including gunman, in shooting at Washington high school -police
ReutersReuters –AP Canada/Canada News/24/10/14
By Eric M. Johnson and Victoria Cavaliere
MARYSVILLE Wash. (Reuters) - A student opened fire in the cafeteria of his Washington state high school on Friday, killing a classmate and wounding at least four others before taking his own life amid the chaos of students scrambling to safety, authorities said.
All of the victims of the shooting at Marysville-Pilchuck High School were young people, and three were in critical condition with gunshot wounds to the head, said Joanne Roberts, chief of medicine at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett.
The fourth wounded victim suffered less serious injuries in the gunfire and had been transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. A spokeswoman for that hospital said the young man was in serious condition.
Two of the wounded were male and two female, hospital officials said.
"At this point, we are confirming that there are two deceased,” Marysville Police Commander Robb Lamoureux told reporters. Marysville is about 30 miles (50 km) north of Seattle.
Police said the shooter died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Authorities said they did not yet know what may have motivated the assailant and declined to release the suspect's identity.
Witnesses described the gunman as a well-liked freshman and member of the school's wrestling and football teams. They said he walked into the school's cafeteria at lunchtime and opened fire at a table of classmates.
"He came up from behind and had a gun in his hand and he fired about eight bullets into backs of them. They were his friends so it wasn't just random," student Jordan Luton told CNN, adding that the gunman fired several more shots.
"Then he turned and looked at me and my girlfriend ... and kind of gave us a smirk and turned around and then shot more bullets outside," Luton said.
Local television stations showed images of students running from school buildings, crossing a sports field with their hands in the air as officers with rifles ran across the school yard. They were taken to a nearby church by bus.
At the church, 15-year-old 10th-grader Gladis Jimenez said she heard two large pops during her fifth period class and then saw classmates frantically running.
"I heard these two big noises, and I see kids running and they looked so scared. Then the fire alarm went off and we thought it was a fire," Jimenez told Reuters. "We lined up to go the auditorium and then they said no, go back and we were just running and running back and forth."
She said she ultimately sheltered with classmates in a classroom and a student's mother told him via text message what was happening.
The violence at Marysville-Pilchuck High School marked the latest in a series of deadly rampages at American schools that have played a central role in a national debate over gun laws.
In 2012, a 20-year-old gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and killed 20 children and six adults before taking his own life in one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history.
(Additional reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington, D.C., Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento and Alex Dobuzinskis and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)
How ISIS impacts on Turkey’s daily
CAN SEMERCIOGLU 25 October 2014
We must face up to the fact that an Islamic terror has now entered Turkey if we are to find a solution to the danger which is ISIS and the political and societal problems that give rise to it.
ISIS has descended on us like a nightmare in the Middle East, forcing itself on all our agendas. This agenda may be new for us in Turkey, but one should note that the history of ISIS goes back a long way. ISIS took rapid root in Iraq, passed into Syria and now is fighting against the forces of YPG to take Kobane, the Kurdish city on the Syria-Turkey border. ISIS has killed thousands of innocent people, and now forced tens of thousands to leave their homes and live in tent-cities. Thousands of women are being sold on a slave market by ISIS, and some of them raped. ISIS terrorizes over daily life where it has seized control.
As ISIS approaches Mursitpinar, on the border between Syria (and Kobane) and Turkey, where the YPG is fighting against ISIS, the AKP has done nothing. On the contrary, despite all the controversy in the western media, neither the AKP nor its supporters accept criticisms of their inaction.
The situation is far too complicated and hard for everyone in Turkey. ISIS potentially taking Kobane and attacking people on the streets and in universities, showed us that the danger was at the door, and may even be already inside Turkey. All this has led to a profound change in our political lives. In fact, Turkey’s daily life has changed in the space of a few days.
Protests and a potential Islamist base
Protests emerged after the pro-minority rights opposition party’s call (HDP) for support for Kobane. Thousands of Kurds, leftists, socialists and various sectors of society went to the streets to protest in different cities, especially in the eastern Kurdish cities and in Istanbul. They were greeted with considerable violence. Efkan Ala, the Minister of Interior has stated that the death toll is 35, and the media reported that the death toll is 37. This was the toll taken in three days of protest. Some of these deaths were due to gunfire on the part of Turkish police and army forces. Cops and army forces attacked protesters with tear gas and water cannon. Of course this is not a new thing – that the Turkish government uses violence against Turkish protesters.
But what was most unsettling was the keen sympathy displayed by some sectors of the Turkish population towards radical Islamism or Islamic terror. Because the protesters were not only attacked and wounded or killed by police and the armed forces. They were also attacked by these supporters of violent extremism who came at them with sticks, knifes, machetes, swords, guns and shotguns. They too opened fire against anti-ISIS protesters and killed some of them. A pro-ISIS group in Istanbul University attacked leftist and Kurdish students with sticks and bottles repeatedly over ten days. By the way, police also attacked an anti-ISIS, pro-Kobane protest in Ankara University and detained students and scholars. On top of these events, a curfew was declared in a number of cities, mainly Kurdish cities. The fear and sense of profound turmoil has risen sharply, because of the many warnings which emphasize that ISIS may launch an attack inside Turkey, and that as a result it is dangerous to go outside, in the streets.
The groups mentioned which attacked anti-ISIS protests with sticks and guns actually contain elements from the mainstream parties, although they have hitherto been considered as ‘marginal’ groups. Except for Huda-Par which it is claimed has a connection with Hizbullah, the rest of the protesters are members of or at least fellow-travellers to the ruling party AKP (Justice and Development Party) and MHP (Nationalist Movement Party). It’s easy to identify this just by looking at photographs of the attackers. Both political leanings have a conservative-İslamist-nationalist character. So, there is sympathy for ISIS because of its Sunniness on the one hand, and there’s a hostility to Kurds because they are the main element which opposes ISIS decisively on the other hand.
So this is the conjuncture in which everyday life now finds itself in Turkey. The eruption of sympathy towards ISIS all of a sudden, coupled with the rapid increase of hostility towards the Kurds, has unsettled everyone living in Turkey. Everyone fears that we might be plunged back into the bad old days of conflict before the September 12, 1980 coup d’état, or the period of counter-guerilla activities in the 1990’s. A short stroll on the streets of Istanbul is enough to see the apprehension in people’s eyes.
Doing politics in a changed daily life
How is it possible to conduct one’s-self and do politics in such a profoundly altered Turkey, one whose daily life, to put it bluntly, has been Middle-Easternized? The standard liberal exhortations to “decrease the tension” and “live in peace” in current conditions is simply not possible and not effective today. Even if these words are the ones we use in our political discourse, this won’t solve Turkey’s problem of Islamism and the hostile atmosphere. On the contrary, such discourses only mask the ongoing problem. The most common example of this is the superficial narrative that maintains that, “this [ISIS] is not the real Islam!” This argument simply frustrates attempts to find a solution to the danger which is ISIS and the political and societal problems that give rise to it.
Where we are now is confronted by a certain Islamism which has not been considered a real threat even a few years ago, but which is now a threat of major proportions to Turkey. Today, Islamists gain their strength from ISIS and use violence to attack protesters, and even innocent bystanders. So we must face up to the fact that an Islamic terror has now entered Turkey, removing any clear lines between moderate-Islam, radical-Islam and nationalism.
Turkey is facing difficult questions. It’s hard to find answers. But we can talk about two fundamental solutions. Firstly, we should construct a new and clear language of opposition which can expose discourses such as “this is not real Islam”. Secondly, Turkey should begin the search for a secular identity with a new content. This is a profound challenge - how can the Turkish state espouse a new and effective secular identity while the Islamists’ base is increasing rapidly. But still, if this does not happen, Turkey will become a Middle Eastern country which witnesses terrorist attacks every day, and which is dominated by a permanent civil war situation.
About the author
Can Semercioglu is editor of Mesele book review magazine from Turkey and a translator.
Another Canadian jihadi slips through the cracks
CBCCBC – 25/10/14
Yet another young Canadian has managed to get away to Syria to fulfil his aim of waging jihad and has boasted of his exploits online, an investigation by Radio-Canada's investigative program Enquête has found.
This comes after news emerged that Martin Couture-Rouleau and Michael Zehaf-Bibeau — two men involved in the killings of two soldiers that shocked the country this week — had been blocked from leaving Canada over fears they planned to travel to the Middle East to join militant groups.
But an investigation by Enquête found that a young Montrealer named Sami did make the journey to Syria. His story was featured in a special edition of the CBC’sthe fifth estate Friday.
Enquête journalists began following the journey of Sami, whose last name is being withheld, with the help of the young man himself — via his active online presence.
On April 2, 2013, a photo of Istanbul was posted on the young Montrealer’s Facebook page.
Sami went to Turkey to wage jihad. Easily accessible, the country is the main gateway for foreigners who want to fight in Syria.
- the fifth estate: 'The Fear Within'
It was a trip motivated by his return to his Islamic roots, which apparently happened in 2011.
Sami is part of a wave of Westerners leaving their homes in countries like Canada to join rebel groups fighting the al-Assad regime in Syria.
The RCMP say there are more than 90 people in Canada considered high-risk travellers who have shown an interest in going to the battle zones in places like Iraq and Syria.
Officials estimate 130 Canadians are fighting abroad, with at least 30 of them in Syria.
According to Canadian journalist and commentator Murtaza Hussain, part of what may have motivated them is Canada's recent commitment in the fight against ISIS.
"You have these horrible events taking place in Syria with a dictatorship that’s oppressing society, and that will generate broad sympathy with people living over there," he told the fifth estate's Mark Kelley.
"Some people will be more galvanized to take part in it and from within that group of people a smaller group will be attracted to extremist ideologies and extremist reaction to that.
"When you talk about kids going over to join groups like Islamic State, you’re seeing people who are engaging in a nihilistic response to terrible circumstances."
On Twitter, Sami wrote that "Islam should not be a style, but a lifestyle."
At the time, Sami was active on social networks under the pseudonym El Sami, and under his fighter name, Abu Safwan (al Kanadi — or the "Canadian").On Facebook he posted, “They told me: There is only one life, you have to know how to live it. I answered: There is only one death, you have to know how to prepare it.”On Facebook, Sami also posted about several Montreal mosques, including one in Pierrefonds where Enquête met someone who knew Sami “once he became religious.”“It’s not since his adolescence, but since he’s been an adult. It’s from that point that he changed, because I know that before then, he was not like that,” the man said.
A criminal record
Sami was born in Montreal in 1988. His mother, a Quebecer, and his Syrian-born father divorced shortly afterward and Sami lived with his father from the age of 18 months. Enquête had trouble finding anyone who remembered his time at École secondaire Dorval-Jean-XXIII, and he left home at a young age. His last known address was in Pierrefonds, where Sami went from one job to another.
According to Enquête’s investigation, he called his father from time to time to give him an update or when he needed some money. Someone close to the family said Sami had “many problems,” including drugs and alcohol. Enquête discovered he also had problems with the law. In 2010, Sami was involved in a violent assault. Following a fight in a bar, Sami and some accomplices entered the home of a couple by smashing down the door. They attacked the man. “It was Sami who gave me the most violent swings,” said the victim.
Sami was convicted. The judge said the motive for the attack remained unclear, but he suspected a connection with drug trafficking. In April 2013, Sami was to appear in court for another charge of assault, but he did not show up. An arrest warrant was subsequently issued.
A religious awakening
Benjamin Ducol, an expert in radicalization and social media and a researcher at Laval University, has interviewed several young jihadists and their families — mainly in France and Belgium. "In almost all those who go to Syria to join jihadist groups, we always have this phase of religious awakening where people will finally rediscover their religion or will directly convert to Islam,” Ducol said. “It's a bit of a do-it-yourself kind of identity that occurs in these people. They learn the religion quickly — in an extremely superficial way.”
According to Hussain, this strain of Islam is highly attractive to young people like Sami. "It offers camaraderie, a sense of purpose," he told the fifth estate. "It's something you may get from a gang, but supercharged by the fact that your existential needs are met, too. It offers you a chance to be part of something greater than yourself and a way to expiate your past sins and be part of something that in your own mind seems to be righteous." The RCMP has taken an interest in Sami’s case. If he returns to Canada, he could face terrorism charges since the Canadian government has declared the al-Nusra Front to be a terrorist organization.
How Yemen’s Saleh deceived the media
Saturday, 25 October 2014
Abdulrahman al-Rashed /Al Arabiya
Over many years I have come to know much about former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and enough to understand him, most notably that he lacks credibility and relies heavily on the policies of deception. For many years, Saleh successfully managed to mislead the United States, Gulf states, Iraq and Syria. Even more, he was deceiving political, partisan and tribal leaders in Yemen. This is Saleh’s history. His manipulative ways helped him remain in power in a country of contradictions and competitors.
What happened in Yemen over the past eight months is another show produced by Saleh. Many were shocked by the Houthi takeover of Yemen’s major cities and provinces with minimal confrontation from government and tribal forces. Houthis are not SIS. They are a tribal militia and an armed organization with strongholds in the north of Yemen. It was very unlikely for this organization to expand to the country’s southwest without the help of any ally. Many believed the story of the Houthi capture of major cities without scrutinizing it.
Saleh's former employees have pushed out much misinformation claiming that current interim president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has struck alliance with the Houthis and that he agreed to give them the capital and other cities. Another misinformation claims that Saudi Arabia accepted the Houthis as part of regional deal with the Iranians. A third misinformation accuses U.N. envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar of collusion.
Similarly, it is implausible that the U.N. envoy would be signing deals on the back of political forces. In my view, when there is a problem in Yemen always look for Saleh and you will find him in every crisis and every deal. It later became clear that all widespread reports were of his making. He wanted to reassure everyone and to buy time to take over the country and disturb his others. Saleh is a deposed president but he continues to manage the former state establishment. Most of the military and security services are under his influence as he tried to overthrow the regime that replaced him and sabotage the country in hope of returning to power as president.
“In my opinion, whenever there is a problem in Yemen, Saleh is behind it.”
Saleh might not know that in the process of sabotaging the current situation, he is ruining the future of his son Ahmad, who is seen as a good person and a potential future leader. It was possible for Yemen to move within two years to an institutional state in which Saleh's party could return to power as it is the biggest in the country and because it was allowed by mediators to continue operating and was not uprooted [after the revolution.]
Now, the picture is much clearer: Saleh teamed up with the Houthis to topple the current regime with the aim of returning to the pre-February 2012 era. Saleh used the Houthis, in cooperation with the Iranians, to serve his own purposes, startle his Saudi neighbors and then present himself as the country’s savior.
It was a good play, but a lie has no legs; the truth will always come out and Saleh has become an open book. In Yemen, there are three main local actors and three influential external powers. The external powers include Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, the United States that is chasing Al-Qaeda and the United Nations through its envoy Jamal Benomar. The transfer of power was signed under U.N. supervision and helped steer the country away from civil war the likes of which we see in Syria and Libya.
“It was a good play, but a lie has no legs; the truth will always come out and Saleh has become an open book.”
Rather than praising God for having escaped death and for a transition of power that guarded his dignity and granted him the right to continue his participation at the political party level, and gave his family the right to work in government, Saleh is still plotting and conspiring to spread chaos from his home in Sanaa. He should have learned from the fate of Qaddafi and his family. To be continued ……
Of domestic demons and aggressive neighbors
Saturday, 25 October 2014
Hisham Melhem /Al Arabiya
Last week a group of scholars, current and former officials and journalists from the Middle East, U.S., Europe, Russia and China met for two days at the inaugural forum of the Abu Dhabi Strategic Debate, sponsored by the Emirate Policy Center. We met to discuss and ponder what can be done about Syria and Iraq – two countries in flames – and to ask are there any chances to prevent Yemen and Libya from moving on the same path of nihilism, whither Egypt after almost four years of tumult and uncertainty, the impact of non-Arab regional powers like Iran and Turkey on the ongoing conflicts of the Arabs, and the major powers policies (assuming that they have coherent ones) toward the Gulf region. And like most conferences the participants met but not necessarily their ideas.
Arabs chafing in the shadows of their neighbors
With the exception of the Americans whose positions ranged from explaining or justifying their government’s policies in the Middle East to denouncing it in absolute terms, the views of the Russians, Chinese and Iranians reflected in varying degrees the policies of their respective countries. Also, Arab participants, with few exceptions, remained fixed in the policies of their governments and the many givens and assumptions of Arabs about themselves, their neighbors and how they perceive the world perceiving them. The Arabs on the whole were on the defensive, seeing that their world is slipping away from them and yet unable to stop the decline, with some lashing at Iran’s hegemonic policies and others chafing at the predicament of living in the shadows of what they see as a belligerent Iran and an assertive Turkey trying to shape the trajectories of Iraq and Syria. It is as if Arabs have to confront their domestic demons of ISIS, sectarianism, extremism, while living in the shadows of their aggressive neighbors.
“It is as if Arabs have to confront their domestic demons of ISIS, sectarianism, extremism, while living in the shadows of their aggressive neighbors.”
The unstated Arab concern that the region, particularly the Gulf, is losing its economic and strategic importance because of the radical changes in the energy landscape which is making the United States less dependent on oil from the Middle East was addressed by Rudy DeLeon, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, who stressed that “there is no U.S. disengagement from the Middle East.”
Vitaly Naumkin, director of the Russian Institute of Oriental Studies made a statement about the Gulf region that would have been unthinkable at the height of the Cold War: “The region is not very paramount in our external strategy, but we are interested in it.” The head of the Chinese Center for Middle East Peace Studies in Shanghai stated simply that “China has neither a strategy nor a vision toward the Middle East.”
Soviet Russia is alive and well
If Russia, as professor Naumkin claimed, is not now focused on or active in the Middle East as it was during the Soviet era, nonetheless the views of the Russian participants of U.S. policies in the region were also a throwback to that bygone era. The Russian scholars were ready to pounce on the United States in the Middle East even if the subject is Ukraine.
When Ambassador Alexander Vershbow, deputy secretary-general of NATO, spoke of “Russian aggression” in Ukraine, Vitaly Naumkin was quick to launch a broadside against the U.S. invasion of Iraq, stressing (partially correctly) that the invasion “unleashed the forces of sectarianism.” His colleague Elena Suponina, of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, spoke in apocalyptic terms about the immediate future of the Middle East, while stressing that “Russia was ahead of the U.S. in responding to Iraq’s military needs.” Suponina, who spoke in almost flawless Arabic, called on the U.S. to admit its responsibility for the terrible loss of life in Iraq after eight years of occupation. Not satisfied with a criticism that many scholars in the United States and the region could identify with, Suponina had to go the extra gratuitous step to claim that “Russia’s position in the Middle East is more principled than that of the U.S.” Oblivious of Russia’s role in Ukraine, she bellowed: “Russia’s position is grounded in the respect of the principle of the sovereignty of states.”
The illusive strategic concept
Even when the views appeared unanimous such as the need to confront the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and to cut off their funding, the agreement would turn out to be incomplete or tentative when the question turned to implementation. Almost everyone agreed that military means, while crucial in this long war against ISIS, will not be enough and they should be complimented by alternative political and cultural visions; very few attempted to speak realistically about the dearth of effective and applicable alternatives. Harlan Ullman, of the Atlantic Council, after criticizing Washington’s “contradictory” policies in the region and the failure of governance in the Middle East and after proclaiming that “there are no good solutions for the crises of the region,” spoke of the illusive “new strategic concept” for the 21st Century to deal with a host of new threats in the region, the “biggest of which is ISIS,” not Iran as other analysts say. He wished that President Obama would visit Iran just to make that point.
The discussions of Iran, Syria and Iraq were stark and rigid and highlighted the need for different paradigms to address them. Former Iranian diplomat Seyed Hossein Mousavian of Princeton University called on the Arabs to stop their hostility toward Iran and seek “regional solutions” to the conflicts between Iran and the Arabs. He obliquely criticized Arab societies for providing the environment that fostered ISIS’ ideology and after he said that the Sunni-Shiite divide is a reality, he pointed out almost cheerfully that “the international coalition is bombing Sunnis …” But Karen Eliot House, of the Belfer Center at Harvard University, would have none of that sanctimonious talk because “Iran wants us diminished in the region so that they will be the regional power.” Iraq’s predicament was summarized succinctly by former American diplomat Ali Khedery: “Iraq is a Shiite theocracy and a client of Iran. Iraq is not sovereign.”
The Egypt’s session generated the most heat. Former Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy set the defiant anti-Brotherhood stand by saying bluntly: “I don’t care if the world thinks that what happened last year was a coup, as long as the Egyptian people think it was a revolution.” When he was reminded of Washington’s concerns about human rights he shot back: “give me a break. U.S foreign policy is not about democracy, it is about your national security interests,” as if democracy in Egypt would blunt America’s national security interests. Fahmy said President al-Sisi believes that Egypt should reclaim its golden age and that the change in the region will come from Egypt. However, Fahmy glossed over Egypt’s tremendous structural economic problems and its historic political polarization. Ayman Al-Sayyad, editor of Points of Views and a former official in the Mursi government, presented a faint counterargument and rejected “the policy of exclusion” and bemoaned the fact that the Sisi government considers anyone with different views as a “Muslim Brother.” Khaled Almaeena, editor of the Saudi Gazette, urged Egypt to enact serious reform and wean itself from foreign aid, saying that “Egypt should not live on the kindness of strangers.”
The most analytical presentation was given by Brian Katulis, of the Center for American Progress, who noted that Egypt has changed substantially in the last few years in ways that are confusing to U.S. policy makers. Katulis, a seasoned observer who lived in Egypt, criticized those who claim that Washington meddles in Egypt’s internal affairs, reminding us that at times “Egyptian officials would come to Washington to urge us: don’t intervene in our domestic affairs, then later they would plead with us to interfere in their internal affairs.” Katulis did admit that the United States should have criticized the Mursi government more forcefully when he began to monopolize power. Katulis said that the strategic relationship is stuck in the past and that there is a need for a new foundation for new relations. Katulis believes that the future of U.S.-Egyptian relations will depend on how the Egyptians see themselves and how they can defeat extremism without undermining civil liberties. He concluded by saying: “Some people say that America may have lost Egypt, but that we could say also that Egypt may have lost America.”
Are “moderate Islamists” moderate?
Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, touched on a debate that is still raging in the region and beyond, particularly since the violent ouster of the Islamist government of Mohammad Mursi in Egypt: are there moderate Islamists? For Gargash there is a need to “reject instability born out of sectarianism and an outmoded and regressive view of religion.” He sees the rise of ISIS as a confirmation that “moderate Islamists” instead of becoming moderated through engagement, “are increasingly being drafted into the ranks of radical groups.” Gargash added: “This demonstrates the fallacy of trying to distinguish between ‘moderate’ and ‘radical’ forms of ideological extremism. Make no mistake: many of these movements that are described as ‘moderate’ in some lexicons provide the environment for greater radicalization and the emergence of groups such as Al-Qaeda and Daesh [ISIS].” That view was echoed by other participants, particularly the opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood and the supporters of the new Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
The proponent of the view that there are “moderate Islamists” and that the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups such as al-Nahda in Tunisia do represent the antithesis of the radical Islamists were not represented in the conference.
While I share the view that many radical Islamists trace their lineage to the Muslim Brotherhood and its views on Islamic governance and relations with the non-Muslim world, still the conference may have missed an opportunity to challenge that kind of thinking and could have enriched a debate that is not going to be settled anytime soon. Finally, it was fascinating to attend a two day conference about the Middle East in times of upheaval in which Israel was mostly ignored, with the only frontal criticism of her policies delivered by an American diplomat.
Peshmerga, YPG and ISIS in Kobane as
Turkey maintains stance
Saturday, 25 October 2014
Ceylan Ozbudak /Al Arabiya
Not a day passes in my ever-tumultuous Middle East without “breaking news.” First it was announced that President Obama called President Erdogan concerning Kobane. Then we heard that the United States airlifted weapons and medical supplies to the YPG. Following this, we received news that Turkey had allowed the Peshmerga into the Syrian town of Kobane through a corridor.
Peshmerga allowed into Kobane through Turkish corridor
We heard right, Turkey allowed the Peshmerga to pass into Kobane through its borders. However, while writing these sentences, the Peshmerga were still reluctant to cross over. Let’s remember the recent history of the Peshmerga reaction to Kobane.
Barzani has been reluctant to fully join forces with the YPG since the northern Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) is closer in ideology to the rest of the Arab-dominated areas and the YPG’s stance has been quite controversial even among the Kurds. Therefore, the Peshmerga were not keen to join the fight in Kobane on the side of the YPG, partly because of the PYD/PKK’s ideological differences with the KRG and also because there are a very small number of Kurdish civilians left in Kobane.
Recently, the KRG announced that they sent arms to Kobane but they would not be able to send Peshmerga fighters since the geographical situation is not suitable (still wondering how it is possible to deliver arms but not fighters).
After a very strong push from the United States, the KRG agreed to send 200 Peshmerga fighters to Kobane through a corridor in Turkey. Two hundred reluctant Peshmerga fighters would have almost zero effect to save Kobane from a very determined ISIS.
This action will only lead to less populated lines of Peshmerga protecting the KRG region and would make it more vulnerable to ISIS occupation by giving the militant group another reason to target them.
Just recently we learned that the KRG was in no mood to send Peshmerga fighters to battle ISIS in an already lost village – Kobane – and therefore was getting ready to send PKK members in northern Iraq through the corridor.
Turkey declared that it has no intention to let PKK fighters dwell freely on its highways to Kobane and asked for the identities of all those who will pass to Kobane. It looks like we are going to wait a long time for the Peshmerga to decide whom to send to Kobane, if ever.
On the other hand, despite pressure, Turkish planes will not be bombing ISIS targets and Turkish soldiers will not be shooting at ISIS members as long as Turkey is not targeted directly. Turkey now shares a 400-km long de facto border with ISIS which it wants to keep stable.
U.S. delivers arms to YPG
Twenty seven containers of arms and medical supplies were dropped into Kobane for the YPG, two of which directly landed in the laps of ISIS. What happened to the rest of them? The majority of the containers were blown up with the existing ammunition when ISIS attacked the YPG arsenal. This very unsuccessful attempt to help the YPG helped strengthen the hand of ISIS more than the United States imagined.
In an environment of ardent uprising against the Baathist Assad regime, the YPG’s relations with the regime have not been welcomed by the opposition forces in Syria.
In 2011, the Syrian regime released 600 PYD prisoners while imprisoning and killing thousands from the opposition. The PYD created a de facto regime of Kurdish cantons in northern Syria without consulting the rest of the opposition, Syrian National Council or the Kurdish inhabitants. The first 30,000 refugees from Syria to Turkey came from Jazira canton after the YPG took control of the area. Now that the human rights abuses of the YPG have hit the fan, the majority of the Syrian Kurds are openly stating discontent. Now that fight in Syria has spilled over into Iraq and the moderate opposition is being crushed between Assad and ISIS.
Since the very foundations of these opposition groups lie in removing the Assad regime, they will not be supportive of a USA that delivers arms to a contractor of the regime. This will eventually force the moderate opposition to join ISIS and with the large Sunni Arab population in Syria ISIS will gain ground without fighting in many places.
The world is constantly forgetting that the main driving force behind ISIS' growth lies in grievances and all that Western powers are doing is enhancing the narrative of ISIS at the moment. Consequently, the fragile alliance the Kurds built between the KRG and the YPG will break and ISIS will control a much larger territory.
“The world is constantly forgetting that the main driving force behind ISIS' growth lies in grievances and all that Western powers are doing is enhancing the narrative of ISIS at the moment.”
Despite strong Western pressure, Turkey has no intention to get involved in an ambiguous war in Iraq or in Syria. Just as the 2003 Iraq War was a mistake and Turkey was right not to join, it is also a mistake now. Just like France, typically an interventionist state, held from taking part in the war against ISIS because the United States does not look reliable with its current Syria policy, Turkey is having a hard time trusting the U.S. intentions. By providing PYD, an offshoot of PKK (despite the State Department’s effort to hide from American public opinion), weapons, the United States has violated the partnership and alliance.
On the other hand, Turkey sees the current Middle Eastern crisis as something more complicated than mafia wars and does not accept reducing the solution to whether or not to support the YPG/PKK in their efforts to destroy ISIS. The United States does not seem to have learned from the past that the policy of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” is always counterproductive and expecting peaceful solutions from gadgets produced to terrorize people, i.e. weapons, is not a civil argument. While the United States arms another communist guerilla insurgency to fight a radical guerilla insurgency, which will only lead to more bloodshed, Turkey will wisely hold its position to maintain its internal stability. The refugees of this violent episode will need a welcoming, hospitable, stable state with a strong economy in the region, which can only be provided by Turkey.
The Zombies of ISIS
Mshari Al-Zaydi /Asharq Al Awsat
Saturday, 25 Oct, 2014
A Canadian national named Michael Zahaf-Bibeau, aged 32, made the headlines this week when he carried out a terrorist attack in Ottawa, killing one soldier standing guard at a war memorial before storming the nearby parliament. He was killed in the subsequent firefight with security officers.
Is there more to this story?
According to local media, Michael Zahaf-Bibeau’s mother is Canadian while his father is Libyan. He did not speak Arabic. In his youth, he had wanted to travel to Libya to learn the language and study Islam. He had a criminal record. His parents are separated. He has been seeking to travel to Syria to join the terrorist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
At the time of writing this article, everything else regarding Zahaf-Bibeau’s motive and intentions is mere speculation.
The media reports delving into Michael Zahaf-Bibeau’s past paint a picture of a confused and angry young man. A man who wanted to express the anger and uncertainty that was boiling inside of himself; a man who wanted to prove something to the world.
Ultimately, Zahaf-Bibeau appears to be completely ignorant of true Islam, just like the two Austrian teenage girls who traveled to join ISIS, and the two British Somali schoolgirls who ran away to join this terrorist organization, as well as countless others. These people have no concept of religion, history or politics; if they did they would never join ISIS in the first place.
To these ignorant people, joining ISIS has become like a dream to quench their thirst for excitement and danger, as if life was a video game. They are unaware of the real repercussions of their actions. This is something that ISIS is trying to encourage and exploit, as can be seen by the publication of their English language magazine Dabiq.
This is a very dangerous phenomenon that needs to be addressed quickly. Why do these confused young people, from different countries and with different backgrounds, seek to join ISIS and its ilk? What of the Australian teenage runaway Abdullah Elmir (who has taken the name Abu Khaled), who is surrounded by ISIS zombies, issuing threats to the West, from Australia to the US and UK?
The ISIS phenomenon goes beyond religion. This is an international phenomenon and an international conflict, precisely like the war against drugs. Just like drug gangs, ISIS is able to recruit people from different countries and different backgrounds.
Although there are clear ties between this phenomenon and Islam, there are other factors as well, and the world must pay attention to these other factors in order to truly address this global phenomenon. The ISIS crisis is an international one that concerns all countries of the world; we must deal with this from all angles and on all levels, not just through the prism of religion.
In a recent interview with CNN, a former Taliban jihadist Mubin Shaikh, who has since turned his back on the movement, said that there is no single pathway or profile for radicalization, but added that a “love of adventure” represents an important factor, as do questions over identity. He said that these young people are also looking to “impress” others.
People from every country of the world are embroiled in this new form of globalized terrorism. Indeed, there are even reports of Japanese nationals either joining or seeking to join this jihadist terrorist organization!
So, how can we understand these young men and women, who don’t speak Arabic and who know little about true Islam or Islamic history outside of empty slogans about the return of the caliphate, who travel thousands of miles to join ISIS to fight and kill?
Eliminating ISIS will depend on understanding how this terrorist group is radicalizing and recruiting the youth of the world and consequently putting a stop to this dangerous phenomenon. This is something that concerns the entire world, not just Muslims
ISIS scores another propaganda win
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq AlAwsat
Saturday, 25 Oct, 2014
Why was the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) eager to promote a video showing its fighters stoning a girl to death as her father stands by, unwilling to forgive her alleged adultery? This video is one of the most dreadful videos to emerge that debases Islam. At the same time, the footage does not only depict the brutality of the organization—which we are all now well aware of—but also shows its ability to remain a top news item by using social media to further its own agenda. ISIS has succeeded in reaching its goals, as the video dominated news coverage soon after it was released.
ISIS’ goal is to shock and terrorize people through harrowing images of beheadings, mass killings of unarmed civilians, and the persecution and stoning of women. Even Al-Qaeda, which first began producing these kinds of videos, did not display cruelty to the extent that ISIS has done.
This violence and brutality are not only showcased to the general public to demonstrate the group’s ferocity, but ISIS is also trying to persuade people that the ideology they espouse is true Islam. The group is trying to assert the claim that they are the alternative regime to that of Bashar Al-Assad and that only they can recruit more members and survive challenges and change by promoting their own interpretation of Islam. The most recent video showed the extremists’ ability to convince the ignorant father that after his daughter was stoned to death she would go to heaven. ISIS also wanted to show that its fighters were even able to convince the girl that she deserved to be stoned to atone for her sins.
ISIS followers circulated this video but they failed to address what happened in the Syrian city of Raqqa, where the group gathered together citizens near the municipal stadium to stone a young girl but the public refused to participate in the crime. ISIS fighters stoned her without circulating the video because they knew that the non-cooperation and condemnation of the city’s citizens would not be the best propaganda material.
Nevertheless, we must not underestimate the success of the organization’s propaganda. If ISIS was able to convince the father and daughter to accept the stoning, it won’t be difficult for the extremist group to convince thousands of naïve people to join or support it when they see and hear about its activities. Although politicians are incessantly talking about the prosecution of hardline preachers and others who spread jihadist ideology, just taking a quick glance at social networking sites and videos on YouTube will clearly show that ISIS is winning the propaganda battle.
Now, Syria and Iraq are no longer the promised land for those jihadists who are getting ready for battle; Yemen has become the new promised land. Taking on the Houthis, the Shi’ite rebel group that has taken over large parts of Yemen, is the new rallying call. Young men are being summoned to fight in Yemen, the goal of course is a bigger army for Al-Qaeda and its affiliates. It is not difficult to cross into Yemen via its extensive borders and rugged terrain, especially as the state is on the verge of collapse due to the alliance between ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Houthi militias who are known for their loyalty to Iran.
We should not view ISIS from our moral and religious standards as it is a group that has decided to turn the world upside down, more so than Al-Qaeda has ever done. The ramifications of what we are witnessing will linger for years, especially when rescue from ISIS comes too late. Most coalition countries set out to fight ISIS in strategic towns such as Kobani, but what about the hundreds of towns and villages scattered across Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya?
There is no effective army to fight the extremists scattered throughout the region. Their numbers will never decrease, no matter how intense or precise the bombardment against them becomes, as they will continue to market their propaganda and recruit more members. Coalition efforts will be a losing battle unless there are coordinated policies by all governments to stop extremist propaganda from spreading, as well as holding all ISIS, Al-Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood supporters to account. That way, we may be able to put an end to their propaganda and exterminate extremism.
US hits Islamic State targets as
Iraqis block group's progress
Islamic State group attacks border crossing as Kobani awaits Iraq Kurdish forces' relief; US, allies stage 22 air strikes in Iraq while Iraqi forces retake part of key town.
News Agencies /Ynetnews
The United States and its allies conducted 22 air strikes against Islamic State forces in Iraq on Friday and Saturday, the US Central Command said, as Iraqi forces make gains in Baghdad area town.
US warplanes also destroyed an Islamic State artillery piece near Kobani, Syria, officials said Saturday. The 22 strikes in Iraq included attacks in the frequently targeted areas near the vital Mosul dam, the city of Fallujah and the northern city of Bayji, home of an oil refinery.
The Iraq strikes hit large and small Islamic State units, buildings, vehicles and fighting positions, Central Command said. The bomber, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft used in the air strikes all returned safely, US officials said.
Meanwhile, Iraqi security forces have retaken most of the town of Jurf al-Sakhar near Baghdad from Islamic State militants, the biggest gains in months of fighting for the strategic area, senior local officials said on Saturday.
Full control of the town could allow Iraqi authorities to prevent the Sunni insurgents from edging closer to the capital and maintaining connections to their strongholds in western Anbar province as well as infiltrating the mainly Shi'ite south.
"We have managed to push out Islamic State terrorists from the town of Jurf al-Sakhar today and now we are raising the Iraqi flag over the government offices," provincial governor Sadiq Madloul said.
IS set to face off against Kurd forces
Islamic State group fighters made a new bid to cut off the Syrian border town of Kobani from neighboring Turkey Saturday as preparations gathered pace to deploy Iraqi Kurdish reinforcements.
The Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq unveiled plans Friday for up to 200 well-trained peshmerga to join Syrian Kurdish forces defending Kobani in the coming week.
Kurdish news agency Rudaw said the first contingent could head to Kobani as early as Sunday but there was no immediate confirmation of that timetable.
Peshmerga ministry spokesman Halgord Hekmat declined to specify what route the Iraqi Kurdish forces would take, but they are expected to travel overland through Turkey, which has said it will allow them transit.
Since Ankara conceded to US pressure to allow vetted reinforcements into Kobani to prevent Islamic State group winning the high-profile battle for the town, the jihadists have made repeated attempts to cut the border before any help can arrive.
Before dawn Saturday, Islamic State group fighters hit Kurdish forces defending the Syrian side of the border crossing with mortar and heavy machinegun fire, an AFP correspondent on the Turkish side reported.
The heavy mortar fire around the Mursitpinar crossing prompted the Turkish army to order the evacuation of nearby hilltops from where the world's press has been watching the battle for the town.
The Kurdish news agency said an initial peshmerga contingent of 150 was ready to leave for Kobani and would be headed by Sihad Barzani, brother of Iraqi Kurdish regional president Massoud Barzani and head of its artillery brigade.
It cited peshmerga officials as saying that an additional 1,000 Iraqi Kurdish fighters would follow.
Rudaw quoted a senior peshmerga officer as saying that the Iraqi Kurdish forces would deploy with heavy weapons, but that undertakings had been given to both Ankara and Washington that they would not be handed over to Syrian Kurdish forces.
"Our enemies in Kobani are using heavy weapons and we should have heavy weapons too," he said.
The main Syrian Kurdish fighting force in Kobani has close links with the outlawed rebel Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which has fought a three-decade insurgency in southeastern Turkey.
Ankara has been adamant that no heavy weaponry should fall into its hands.
Turkey has tightly controlled the flow of both fighters and weapons to Kobani and has accepted only Iraqi Kurdish or Syrian rebel reinforcements for the town.
Washington delivered light weapons to the town's Kurdish defenders last weekend but was forced to do so by air after Ankara refused deliveries by land.
The Turkish government has been one of the leading supporters of the rebel Free Syrian Army in its more than three-year civil war with the Damascus regime and has proposed allowing in 1,000 of its fighters into Kobani.
But Syrian Kurdish officials inside the town have expressed reservations about the Turkish plan, saying that any deployment must have their approval and that FSA forces would be better used opening new fronts against IS elsewhere.
Washington has expressed new confidence that Kobani's fall to Islamic State group can be averted but has cautioned that in neighboring Iraqi a major fight back against the jihadists is still months off.
Reuters and AFP contributed to this report
Why is Kerry singling out Israel?
By: Guy Bechor/Ynetnews
Op-ed: US secretary of state keeps saying Israeli-Palestinian issue cannot remain unchanged. What about the situation in Syria, Iraq, Russia, China and Turkey?
Like a regular mantra, US Secretary of State John Kerry has a habit of saying that the Israeli-Palestinian issue cannot remain unchanged.
Strangely enough, he isn't saying that about the conflict in Syria, where the death toll has already crossed the 200,000 mark with people being slaughtered, beheaded and dying in different ways, on its way to the 250,000 mark; he isn't saying that about four million refugees from Syria and 10 million displaced people; he isn't saying that about the Islamic State, which is beheading people and butchering minorities; he isn't saying that about Iraq, which has been torn into pieces, or about Baghdad's airport which is about to fall into the hands of jihadist terror. He isn't saying that about Libya either, a country controlled by a coalition of insane jihad organizations, on the verge of Europe. He isn't saying that about Yemen, which has died and is controlled by wild tribes navigated from behind the scenes by the "smiling" Iran; he isn't saying that about the intolerable uranium enrichment in Tehran, which has him and the West wrapped around its little finger.
He isn't saying that about Russia either, which not only conquered eastern Ukraine, but also annexed the huge Crimea region. It isn't an "occupation," after all; that only exists in Israel.
He isn't saying that about Turkey, which brutally conquered one-third of the island of Cyprus, and still controls the area; he isn't saying that about China either, which is slowly turning Tibet into a region inhabited by Chinese; he isn't saying that about Hezbollah, which is piling up tens of thousands of missiles on Israel's border; he isn't saying that about his Qatari friends, who are cunningly funding the terror that the United States is fighting against; he isn't saying that about Hamas either, which proudly announced that it is rebuilding its network of terror tunnels targeting Israeli territory.
He is only saying that about Israel – the only safe, stable, democratic place one can rely on in the Middle East. Only in Israel, the situation cannot remain unchanged.
I would just like to mention that it was John Kerry who was Syrian President Bashar Assad's personal friend and sat down with him many times for intimate meetings. It was John Kerry, in his former position as chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, who worked to return the American ambassador to Damascus and pressure Israel, with the price being the Golan Heights of course. Then too, the situation could not remain unchanged, and aren’t we lucky that it did remain unchanged.
The question is why is he always singling out Israel of all the nations in the world? Could it be that it pains him to see Israel secure and thriving, and that's why he has such an urge to weaken it? To sell it to a Palestinian gang whose only goal is to weaken Israel, and then resume the fighting against it after it crumbles?
Can't he hear the leader of this gang, Mahmoud Abbas, referring to the Jews as "impure," as they are defiling the Temple Mount when they visit it? Can't he see the law sentencing a Palestinian to death for daring to sell a house to a Jew? Abbas even added that he would step up the punishment for selling homes to Jews, but how can a death sentence be stepped up? The situation cannot remain unchanged. Perhaps the foreign minister of the United States would care to explain to us why he only uses this expression here. Why is he singling Israel and the Jews out of all the nations?
New Poll Shows Majority of Saudis,
Kuwaitis, Emiratis Reject ISIS, Back Two-State Solution with Israel
David Pollock /Washington Institute
October 25 2014
A rare poll conducted last month in three Gulf Cooperation Council states demonstrates decisive rejection of ISIS and a surprisingly high level of popular support for peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- but also substantial minority support for both the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.
New findings from public opinion polls commissioned by The Washington Institute and conducted in September by a leading local commercial survey firm in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) reveal a very mixed picture of popular attitudes toward regional issues and Islamist organizations. The polls are based on personal interviews with a representative national geographic probability sample of 1,000 respondents in each country, yielding a statistical margin of error of plus or minus approximately 3 percent. Only citizens of each country are included; foreign workers, who outnumber natives by two to one in Kuwait and four to one in the UAE, are excluded from the samples.
ISIS Has Almost No Popular Support in Three Gulf Arab States
As previously reported, a mere 5 percent of Saudis -- and even fewer Kuwaitis or Emiratis, based on these new survey results -- voice a favorable view of the Islamic extremist movement known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), which renamed itself the Islamic State (IS) earlier this year. This is a much lower figure, by an order of magnitude, than suggested in some sensational anecdotal reports -- including one alarming but completely unscientific "poll" headlined in the pan-Arab press early last summer. It suggests, quite contrary to common misconception, that the new anti-ISIS coalition spearheaded by the United States is on solid ground, at least in terms of public opinion in the Arab Gulf. Of course, even a tiny minority of vocal or violent ISIS supporters could create serious problems in any of these (or other) countries.
But Muslim Brotherhood Still Attracts a Surprisingly Large Minority
By contrast, however, the Muslim Brotherhood is rated positively by around one-third in each country: 31 percent of Saudis, 34 percent of Kuwaitis, and 29 percent of Emiratis. This level of popular approval is considerably higher than might be expected, given that both the Saudi and Emirati governments labeled the Brotherhood a "terrorist organization" earlier this year and have very publicly campaigned against it.
The unanticipated extent of continued grassroots support for the Muslim Brotherhood, an opposition Islamic movement, helps explain why these governments are so troubled by it, and why they continue to campaign so strenuously against it. It also helps explain why they back the current Egyptian government so strongly -- and why they are trying so hard to pressure Qatar into reducing its support for the international Brotherhood. And it helps explain the divergent paths these fractious Gulf Cooperation Council states are taking in their separate efforts to support the Syrian opposition.
Hamas and Its Backers Get Very Mixed Reviews
Moreover, compared to the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, its Palestinian offshoot, scores even higher approval: 52 percent of Saudis, 53 percent of Kuwaitis, and 44 percent of Emiratis. (By comparison, the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah scores somewhat lower, at approximately 40 percent in all three countries polled). But given a choice of lessons from the summer's war in Gaza, fewer than half in each country say that Hamas military tactics are likely to defeat Israel decisively in the future. Moreover, a very substantial minority in each country -- 40-45 percent -- agrees that "Hamas brings more harm than good to the Palestinians themselves."
These mixed public attitudes are reflected in views about various regional powers. Kuwaitis are almost evenly divided in positive or negative appraisals of the Egyptian government's recent policies -- which oppose both the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas; and they are similarly divided about the governments of Turkey and Qatar, which support both organizations. Emiratis have equally divided opinions about Turkey and Qatar but are more favorably disposed toward Egypt: 60 percent positive versus 37 percent negative. Saudis are split on Turkey, narrowly negative on Qatar (45 percent vs. 53 percent), and the most favorable, by a two-to-one margin, toward Egypt: 64 percent positive versus 33 percent negative.
Palestinian Cause Remains Popular -- But So Does Peace with Israel
Significantly, looking ahead, a majority in all three of these Gulf Arab societies say that "the best way forward is peace between Israel and a Palestinian state." The figures range from a bare majority of 53 percent in Kuwait, to 58 percent in the UAE, to a striking 61 percent in Saudi Arabia. And around one-third of the public in each country "strongly" agrees with that statement.
Yet equally striking is that even larger majorities, in each country, disagree with the notion that "Arab countries should pay more attention to their own internal issues than to the Palestinians." The proportions who reject that assertion range from 60 percent of Kuwaitis, to 63 percent of Emiratis, to 65 percent of Saudis. Clearly, the Palestinian cause remains a very evocative issue for many Arabs, even in the distant Gulf societies currently facing many other regional challenges.
This enduring empathy almost certainly helps explain the relatively high Hamas ratings in each of the countries represented in this survey. Significantly, however, support for the Palestinians does not extend proportionately to Hezbollah, which claims to be acting on their behalf. Moreover, wide popular sympathy for the Palestinian cause does not extend at all to ISIS, which claims the mantle of an Islamic (but exclusively Sunni) "resistance" movement.
Syria, Iran, Hezbollah All Rate Very Poorly
A different point of even stronger consensus among these publics is a negative view of both the Syrian and Iranian governments. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's regime gets lower than 15 percent approval in all three countries polled. Attitudes toward Tehran are somewhat more nuanced. Among Saudis, just 13 percent voice a positive view of Iran's government. But in the UAE, which has better business and other ties to Iran, this figure rises to 21 percent. And in Kuwait, where roughly 30 percent of citizens are Shiite Muslims, Iran's approval rating stands at 24 percent.
Attitudes toward Hezbollah, the armed Lebanese Shiite movement closely tied to the regimes in Syria and Iran, track closely with views of those two countries. A mere 13 percent of Saudis say they have even a "fairly positive" opinion of Hezbollah. That proportion is almost the same among Emiratis, at 15 percent. But in Kuwait, favorable appraisals of Hezbollah climb somewhat, to 24 percent.
Yet Popular Approval of the United States Is Equally Low
In these three Gulf Arab societies, the United States fares no better than Syria, Iran, or Hezbollah in terms of popular attitudes. The proportions voicing even a "fairly positive" opinion of the United States, "considering its recent policies," are 12 percent among Saudis, 14 percent among Kuwaitis, and 18 percent among Emiratis. Conversely, a large minority in each place expresses a "very negative" view of the United States: 47 percent in Saudi Arabia, 45 percent in Kuwait, and 38 percent in the UAE. To put these figures in perspective, the comparable approval rating for China is around 40 percent in all three countries; and its average "very negative" rating, perhaps stemming from China's repressive policies toward its Muslim minority, is around 20 percent.
The implications of these polls for U.S. policy are mixed. Public opinion does not determine government behavior in any of these monarchies, yet it probably has some limiting effects. From that standpoint, the remarkably low levels of popular support for ISIS are clearly a plus -- even if positive attitudes toward the United States are not much higher. The unexpectedly robust grassroots acceptance of peace between Israel and a Palestinian state is also an encouraging signal, potentially useful for balancing different U.S. interests and allies in the region. At the same time, however, the surprisingly widespread sympathy for the Muslim Brotherhood, and for Hamas, provides a cautionary note regarding the overall foreign policy orientation, and perhaps even the long-term political stability, of these societies.
**David Pollock is the Kaufman Fellow at The Washington Institute and director of Fikra Forum.
Twenty Years of Israeli-Jordanian
Peace: A Brief Assessment
David Schenker /Washington Istitute
October 25, 2014
The treaty's trade and security benefits have been considerable, though many Jordanians continue to reject the likely economic windfall that full normalization could bring.
October 26 marks the twentieth anniversary of the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty. Prior to the agreement's signing at Wadi Araba in 1994, the two countries had not fought a war since 1967, and their leaders had been in routine communication since the 1940s. Yet the treaty was far more than just a formalization of a de facto ceasefire -- it fundamentally changed the nature of the Israeli-Jordanian relationship, enhancing security, stability, and U.S. interests in a turbulent region.
For Israel, the treaty was its second with an Arab neighbor and helped secure its long eastern frontier. Coming so close on the heels of the Oslo agreements with the Palestinians, it also raised the possibility of new relationships with other Arab states. For Jordan, the agreement facilitated a reorientation away from the radical pro-Saddam camp, opening up new sources of urgently needed economic and military assistance from the West. It also cemented the kingdom's position in the roster of pro-Western Middle Eastern states. Today, the strategic relationship with Amman is Washington's closest with an Arab partner.
ECONOMIC AND STRATEGIC ADVANCES
While the treaty was celebrated by Israeli civilians and politicians alike, it has not been popular with the Jordanian public. In a 2011 poll, 52 percent of Jordanians said their government should cancel the agreement. Of course, some of this sentiment may simply be a cost-free way for ordinary citizens to criticize the palace, confident in the knowledge that peace with Israel is sacrosanct. Whatever the case, despite the wobbly public support for close bilateral ties, the two countries have made some progress on economic cooperation.
This progress was initially incentivized by Washington via the establishment of Qualifying Industrial Zones. Created by Congress in 1996, these QIZs allow goods produced in Jordan to enter Israel duty-free as long as they have a certain percentage of Israeli content or value added. Between 1996 and 2010, when the U.S.-Jordanian Free Trade Agreement went into effect, thirteen QIZs were established, providing tens of thousands of Jordanians with employment. As early as 2002, QIZ products were accounting for 90 percent of Jordanian exports to the United States.
Another relatively bright spot has been tourism. Last year, 218,000 Israelis reportedly visited Jordan, while just over 18,000 Jordanians traveled to Israel. To accommodate the tourists, twenty-four weekly flights link Ben Gurion, Sde Dov, and Queen Alia Airports.
Overall, however, bilateral trade has been exceedingly small. According to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, imports and exports between the two states totaled just $365 million in 2013. Notably, the most dramatic development in the economic relationship occurred just last month -- on September 3, Israel signed a "nonbinding letter of intent" to supply Jordan with natural gas from its offshore Leviathan field. The fifteen-year deal, which requires construction of a new pipeline, is reportedly worth $15 billion. It follows another agreement announced in February for Israel to supply $500 million worth of gas from the Tamar offshore field to two Jordanian industrial plants near the Dead Sea.
In addition to trade, the peace treaty initiated Israeli-Jordanian cooperation in a range of strategically important realms, including water scarcity. Apart from a few misunderstandings, the two countries have consistently worked together on water allocation since 1994. This culminated in the signing of an historic agreement last December stipulating that Israel would provide Jordan's capital with 8-13 billion gallons per year of fresh water from the Sea of Galilee, while Jordan would deliver the same amount of desalinated water pumped from Aqaba to Israel's Negev desert region.
Less publicized but equally important has been the emergence of an excellent defense and intelligence-sharing relationship. While little has been reliably published about it, intelligence sources from both countries say that the quality and depth of such cooperation is one of the treaty's biggest achievements.
INCREASED U.S. ASSISTANCE
Once the treaty was signed, it opened the floodgates of U.S. economic and military assistance to Jordan. In 1993, Washington provided Amman with just $35 million in economic support; the 2014 figure is $700 million. Similarly, Jordan received just $9 million in U.S. Foreign Military Financing in 1993, compared to $300 million this year. Some of the bigger-ticket defense articles Washington has provided over the years include fifty-eight F-16s and a state-of-the-art counterterrorism facility -- the King Abdullah Special Operations Training Center (KASOTC) -- constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers in 2006-2007.
As U.S. financing increased, so did joint training and intelligence sharing. On the military front, the Eager Lion multilateral exercises became an annual affair. And according to one former CIA official quoted in 2005 by the Los Angeles Times, the intelligence partnership became so close that the agency had technical personnel "virtually embedded" at Jordan's General Intelligence Directorate headquarters.
Yet an even more important byproduct for Jordan has been its free-trade agreement with the United States, which has had a significant impact on the kingdom's historically feeble economy since 2010. Last year, U.S.-Jordanian trade reached $3.3 billion, a nearly tenfold increase from 1994; it jumped by over 30 percent between 2009 and 2013 alone.
While diplomatic relations between Israel and Jordan have generally been excellent since 1994, the treaty has periodically been tested. In 1997, a rogue Jordanian soldier killed seven Israeli schoolgirls along the border. Later that year, Israeli intelligence botched an attempted assassination of Hamas leader Khaled Mashal in Amman. Relations were again strained during the summer drought of 1999, when bilateral water talks temporarily broke down before a compromise was eventually reached.
The Temple Mount has been another point of ongoing contention. Jordanian officials have long complained -- correctly -- that Israel has not protected Amman's religious equities in Jerusalem shrines as stipulated by Article 9 of the peace treaty. In the late 1990s, Israel began allowing the Palestinian Authority to supplant Jordanian religious officials in the city. More recently, the Israeli Knesset held a debate this February over allowing Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, prompting Jordan's prime minister to call for a "review" of the treaty. And in March, after a Jordanian Palestinian judge was killed at an Israeli border crossing, parliamentarians in Amman demanded that the government withdraw its ambassador -- an almost routine response to adversity since 1994.
Twenty years on, the Israeli-Jordanian peace agreement is solid. Yet as with the 1978 Egyptian-Israeli treaty, the widespread "people to people" ties promised by Wadi Araba have not yet come to fruition. In large part, that is because a significant portion of Jordan's population continues to oppose normalization of relations with Israel. This persistent, Islamist-tinged opposition has made it politically difficult for the palace to move forward with a broad range of political and economic initiatives. In addition to balking at mutually beneficial water sharing proposals, these opponents reject the impending purchase of Israeli gas -- a deal that could provide the kingdom with energy security for decades to come. As with last December's water deal, the gas deal will eventually be inked, but it will come at a high political cost for the palace.
Some of the anti-Israel sentiment in Jordan is no doubt related to the fact that around 60 percent of the population is of Palestinian origin. But even if Israel and the Palestinians reached a settlement of their own, it is unclear whether local attitudes in Jordan would change significantly, since the prevailing negative views of Israel are not the product of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict alone.
Amman's close working relationship with the United States is not particularly popular in Jordan either, despite Washington's largess. In April 2013, eighty-seven Jordanians of tribal origin -- a cohort traditionally considered the monarchy's leading supporters -- penned an open letter to King Abdullah declaring that U.S. troops based in the kingdom were "a legitimate target for all honorable Jordanians."
Yet while the population does not uniformly appreciate the treaty, the palace does, and the king will continue quietly advancing relations with Israel and Washington in the coming years. "Quietly" is the key -- to avoid popular backlash, he will remain loath to advertise ongoing close strategic cooperation with Israel. In fact, during an October 20 meeting with Jordanian legislators, he tempered his critique of jihadist extremism with an equally powerful salvo against what he called "Zionist extremism."
Finally, even with all of its accomplishments, the treaty has not been able to achieve a dramatic improvement in Jordan's economy, which remains the Achilles heel of the kingdom's stability. Amman's alignment with the West and willingness to undertake difficult economic reforms have helped, but the state remains in a virtual economic crisis. Still, two decades on -- at a time when Jordan is hosting more than a million Syrian refugees and continues to struggle against the tide of rising Islamic militancy -- it is difficult to imagine the moderate kingdom persevering without the benefits of peace with Israel.
***David Schenker is the Aufzien Fellow and director of the Program on Arab Politics at The Washington Institute.