LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Quotation for today/Where do wars and fightings among you come from?
James 4/1-10: "Where do wars and fightings among you come from? Don’t they come from your pleasures that war in your members? You lust, and don’t have. You kill, covet, and can’t obtain. You fight and make war. You don’t have, because you don’t ask. You ask, and don’t receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it for your pleasures. You adulterers and adulteresses, don’t you know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who lives in us yearns jealously”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Be subject therefore to God. But resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament, mourn, and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he will exalt you."
Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on September 03 and 04/14
Lebanon, A state held hostage/The Daily Star/August 03/14
Hamas was Defeated, Until the Next Time/By Efraim Inbar/September 04/14
An Unconvincing Explanation/By: Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/ September 04/14
The Arab world is being hit from every side/By: Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi /Al Arabiya/September 04/14
Lebanese Related News published on September 03 and 04/14
Bomb-Laden Cars 'Destined for Lebanon' Destroyed in Qalamun
March 14 to Discuss its Initiative with Hizbullah: Its
Rejection Jeopardizes Lebanon
Sisi to Jumblat: Domestic Front Must be Fortified to Preserve Stability
Thousands mourn beheaded Lebanese soldier
Al-Sayyed Laid to Rest amid Widespread Anger
DNA test confirms identity of soldier beheaded by ISIS
UN urges Lebanese parties to elect president now
Saudi Arabia, France and Italy renew support for the Lebanese Army
Lebanon's speaker sounds alarm over threats, power vacuum
Hezbollah, Syrian troops kill Nusra Front commander
March 14 question lack of response to Lebanon border proposals
Change and Reform: March 14 Proposal is Meaningless, Aims to Waste Time
Ambassador confirms Russia, Lebanon military ties
Salameh projects GDP growth
Berri Issues Memo to Protect Minorities and Christians of the Levant
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on September 03 and 04/14
Steinitz tells FADC: Unlikely that there will be a nuclear deal with Iran
Obama: US will build a coalition to ‘destroy’ ISIS
Reports: Murdered U.S. Journalist Held Israel Citizenship
JPost Special: The late Steven Sotloff writes about Syria's suffering for 'The Jerusalem Report'
Fidel Castro: Israel, US responsible for creating Islamic State
Kerry warns Islamic State in Syria "will be held accountable
Al Qaeda’s 9/11 anniversary attacks ready to go. New undetectable explosive may
Baghdad delaying delivery of military aid: Peshmerga minister
Clashes between Islamists, rivals in Libya kill 31
Security meeting in Nigeria over Boko Haram attacks
NGO: Regime Air Strike Kills 10 Children in East Syria
Sudan shuts down Iranian cultural center, expels staff
Houthis reject presidential initiative to end crisis
Ten suspected terror cells dismantled: Saudi Interior Ministry
Saudi Crown Prince calls for French investment
Thousands mourn beheaded Lebanese soldier
Antoine Amrieh| The Daily Star/03 August/14
FNAYDEQ, Lebanon: Thousands of Akkar residents and relatives of a 29-year-old soldier who was beheaded by ISIS last week flocked to his hometown in north Lebanon where he was laid to rest Wednesday. His family, distraught by the cruel manner by which Sayyed was killed, called on citizens to revolt until the remaining 23 soldiers and policemen held captive by jihadists were released. "We will not remain silent until they return safely home," said the uncle of Sayyed, looking visibly distressed as his nephew's motorcade - headed to his hometown Fnaydeq - reached Mhammara earlier Wednesday. "Our revolution begins today and it will not stop," he vowed, as the motorcade drove past a grieving crowd that included Sayyed's crying father. "People, stand by us. We call on you to [join] the revolution of dignity, to free those who defend dignity," Sayyed's uncle said. “Ali al-Sayyed was betrayed by his state. He was killed because he is not [Interior Minister Nouhad] Machnouk’s son who is the reason behind his death and not the son of [Speaker] Nabih Berri who allowed them to kill him,” the uncle said, reading a statement released by the soldier’s family. “He is not the son of any of those lying politicians,” he added, saying the state abandoned Sayyed and failed to act similar to the abduction cases of Shiites in Syria and the Maaloula nuns, both were kidnapped by Syrian rebels. Sayyed's father, addressing the same crowd, said he hoped his son's blood would be "sacrificed for the sake of his [comrades'] freedom."
As residents fired shots in the air, the motorcade arrived in Fnaydeq and drove pass Sayyed's house where his family is scheduled to receive condolences for seven days. The funeral procession for Sayyed drew thousands of northerners into the streets of Qalamoun, Mhammara and Fnaydeq, with many firing guns into the air, before he was laid to rest in his Akkar hometown. Sayyed's relatives carried his coffin on their shoulders, white and wrapped in a Lebanese flag, while weeping women, also carrying Lebanese flags, headed the funeral procession. During prayers on Sayyed’s body at the town’s mosque, a military personnel representing Lebanese Army Commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi said the blood of Sayyed protected Lebanon from terrorism. “The martyr saw Lebanon, from its south to the north, from its mountains to its shore, as his home,” he said, surrounded by the thousands who had flooded the small streets of Fnaydeq where buildings were adorned with pictures of Sayyed in his military uniform. “Terrorists were mistaken when they thought that using such horrific ways to kill him ... would terrorize the Army and the Lebanese people because this barbaric manner only made us more committed and stronger to eliminate this phenomenon,” he said.
Sayyed’s father, Adnan, thanked the Lebanese for standing in solidarity with his family, saying his son was Lebanon’s martyr. “He is no longer Ali Sayyed. He is Ali Lebanon now. I forgot my pain today because of the support I saw from Lebanon, from Akkar to Beirut,” he said. Last week, a man affiliated with ISIS posted a picture on social media showing the beheading of Sayyed. Days later, ISIS released a video showing armed men, one of them with a knife, speaking to the camera and standing behind a person they said was Sayyed. He was blind folded and had his hands ties behind his back. On Tuesday, the Lebanese Army confirmed that DNA test results positively identified the body released to the Muslim Scholars Committee as Sayyed. Earlier on Wednesday, the head of the Association of Mayors in Akkar, Zaher al-Kassar, called on local residents to remain united even through difficult times. “Lebanon remained [neutral] because our military remained unified ... Sgt. Ali al-Sayyed sacrificed his life for the sake of Lebanon,” Kassar said in a statement.
He praised the unity among the people of Akkar and Fnaydeq and called for a massive turnout for the funeral. The families of the other captive soldiers had demonstrated Tuesday amid fears that ISIS would behead one of their loved ones. Jihadists are now holding at least 23 soldiers and policemen captive after the beheading of Sayyed and the release of five soldiers on Sunday. Both ISIS and the Nusra Front have called on the Lebanese government to release Islamist prisoners from Roumieh Prison, in exchange for the captive security personnel. While the government has implicitly rejected such a deal the demand has placed a spotlight on the fate of many as of yet untried prisoners being detained in Roumieh. The Judicial Council responded to accusations that the trials of Islamist detainees in the prison have been stalled, arguing in a statement that they had picked up pace last year. Most of the Islamist detainees were arrested over their involvement in the Nahr al-Bared clashes of summer 2007 between the Lebanese Army and the Fatah al-Islam militant group.
Al-Sayyed Laid to Rest amid Widespread Anger
Naharnet/Lebanese Army Sergeant Ali al-Sayyed, who was beheaded by jihadists after being taken captive in the northeastern border town of Arsal, was laid to rest on Wednesday. A motorcade carrying al-Sayyed's body was transported from the military hospital in Beirut to the Akkar region before he was laid to rest in his hometown of Fnaideq. TV footage showed the presence of gunmen as the motorcade passed through villages in Akkar. They opened fire in the air to express their anger at the beheading. Al-Sayyed's uncle vowed “not to remain silent until the safe return of the captives.” “You will regret this,” he said. The soldier's father urged the gunmen not to open fire. “My son is the nation's martyr as well as the martyr of Akkar and Fnaideq,” he said, expressing similar hopes on the return of the captives. "He was betrayed by all the politicians, all of them! By parliamentarians and officials, and by the country. He was sold for a cheap price!" thundered his father at the funeral. Al-Sayyed's body was handed over to military officials on Monday after negotiations with the fighters. The military said Tuesday that DNA tests confirmed the body is that of al-Sayyed. The soldier was decapitated by the militants according to photos posted on social networks on August 28. Al-Sayyed disappeared from Arsal around the time militants from Syria overran Arsal early August, killing and kidnapping soldiers and policemen. The militants included fighters from the Islamic State group and the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front. Families have demonstrated throughout Lebanon by cutting roads to demand the captives' release. The Islamic State group holds roughly a third of Iraq and Syria, including several strategically important cities like Fallujah and Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria. IS has beheaded two U.S. journalists and still holds at least two other Americans hostage. It has also threatened to behead a British hostage.
Bomb-Laden Cars 'Destined for Lebanon'
Destroyed in Qalamun
Naharnet ظThe Syrian army has bombed and destroyed explosive-rigged vehicles that were “destined for Lebanese territory” as part of a plot aimed at waging simultaneous attacks on “civilian and military places,” a media report said on Wednesday. A car carrying a license plate of the U.S. state of New Jersey appears in the TV report, which was filmed in an unspecified location in the countryside of the Syrian Qalamun border region and broadcast by Hizbullah's al-Manar television. The vehicle was shown next to other booby-trapped cars carrying Lebanese license plates as well as a Syrian firefighting vehicle. The video then features a cave “in which the gunmen had stayed” and booklets carrying the slogans of the Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front as well as shells and boxes of ammunition.
Makeshift roads were carved out in order to send these cars towards the Lebanese border town of Brital, a Hizbullah stronghold, al-Manar said. The TV network's report shows a destroyed personnel carrier which the narrator says was booby-trapped.
Quoting military sources, al-Manar said the “major” plot had been “targeted against the Lebanese arena” and that “several vehicles were supposed to be used in simultaneous attacks.” “The first car would target an army or a police checkpoint, clearing the way for the other vehicles to proceed until the final destination is reached,” the TV network added. It said the alleged plot involved blowing up “Lebanese civilian and military places in a simultaneous manner.” Had the scheme succeeded, the results would have been “disastrous,” al-Manar added. It is not the first time that the Syrian army and Hizbullah destroy workshops used to booby-trap cars destined for Lebanon, according to media reports. Last week, the allied forces shelled a vehicle rigging factory in the Lebanese border town of Tufail which overlaps Syria, destructing five bomb-laden cars at what was described as “the biggest” factory for booby-trapping vehicles in the border region.
Hizbullah has been taking part in the Syrian war for more than a year now. Following deadly bombings that rocked its bastions in Dahieh and Bekaa, the party carried out several commando operations in Qalamun and managed to kill several militants involved in perpetrating suicide car bombings against Lebanese regions.
March 14 to Discuss its Initiative
with Hizbullah: Its Rejection Jeopardizes Lebanon
NaharnetظThe March 14 General Secretariat noted on Wednesday that reactions to the alliance's initiative regarding the presidential deadlock were “too hasty,” while warning that rejecting it “threatens the unity of state institutions.”It said in a statement after its weekly meeting: “The March 8 camp's rejection of the proposal will lead to chaos on the border and a disregard of international resolutions, which will lead to the collapse of the state.” “Failure to elect a president will lead Lebanon towards the unknown and will push it toward violence and the unrest in Syria and Iraq,” it warned. “I do not think there is a camp in Lebanon, especially one that is involved in Syria, that would benefit from spreading this violence to the country,” remarked March 14 General Secretariat coordinator Fares Soaid after the meeting. “We should all rise to the occasion and seek the interests of the Lebanese people,” he stressed. Moreover, he said that the General Secretariat will not respond to the Free Patriotic Movement's dismissal of the March 14 initiative “because the alliance has, since Monday, set itself as a power seeking to launch dialogue with all sides and political forces.”“It has demonstrated that it seeks Lebanon's interests. We will discuss the FPM's view with the movement or its allies, particularly Hizbullah, which holds greater sway in ending the presidential deadlock than the FPM,” Soaid noted. The March 14 alliance on Tuesday kept its support for Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea as a presidential candidate, but said it was ready to agree on another consensual candidate. “Out of its keenness to hold the elections, the March 14 alliance calls for the respect of constitutional deadlines and the rotation of power,” MP Fouad Saniora told reporters minutes after Speaker Nabih Berri adjourned a parliamentary session aimed at electing a president. The March 14 alliance holds onto the candidacy of Geagea, the lawmaker said but expressed the camp's “full readiness to discuss with the rest of the factions the name of a person who receives the backing of all the Lebanese and who is committed to the country's principles.”
The FPM rejected the proposal, saying that it offered nothing new and was a waste of time. It instead remained committed to the initiative suggested by its chief MP Michel Aoun. Commenting on the recent unrest in the northeastern border town of Arsal and the kidnapping of a number of soldiers and policemen, Soaid said: “These developments demonstrate the great need to elect a new president.”“Failure to do so and complete the construction of the state will lead to its collapse over all sides without exception,” he remarked.
“This is why the March 14 alliance sought to launch its initiative and proposed the election of a consensual president capable of saving the republic and protecting the constitution,” he added. The security personnel were abducted in light of the five-day Arsal clashes that erupted on August 2 between the army and Islamist militants. They were sparked by the arrest of a member of the al-Qaida-affiliated al-Nusra Front. A number of the captives have since been released, the most recent of whom were five soldiers over the weekend.
Media reports have said that the captors are conditioning the release of the remaining captives to Hizbullah halting its involvement in Syria.
Sisi to Jumblat: Domestic Front Must
be Fortified to Preserve Stability
NaharnetظEgyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Wednesday called for fortifying the “Lebanese domestic front,” warning that some parties might exploit religion to create a fertile environment for “the growth and proliferation of extremist ideologies.”
Sisi voiced his remarks during a meeting in Cairo with Progressive Socialist Party chief MP Walid Jumblat, who was accompanied by a delegation from his Democratic Gathering parliamentary bloc.
The president stressed to his guests “the need to fortify the Lebanese domestic front in order to preserve Lebanon's unity and stability,” state-run newspaper al-Ahram quoted presidency spokesman Ihab Badawi as saying. “Although the diversity of religious sects can provide an environment for intellectual and religious prosperity, some parties are trying to exploit that to sow discord and create divisions,” Sisi added, in an apparent reference to the banned Muslim Brotherhood group.
The Egyptian leader cautioned against “taking advantage of religion to make it a tool aimed at imposing control and authority over the Arab peoples … and spreading extremist ideology, violence and terrorism.”
For his part, Jumblat briefed Sisi on the heavy repercussions of the Syrian crisis on Lebanon, “especially in light of the vacancy in the presidential post,” hoping the Lebanese parties will soon be able to “reach an agreement over a new president, who would contribute to strengthening its security and stability.”The PSP leader highlighted “the focal role that Egypt is playing in the region at the political level as well as its role in spreading moderate Islamic thought and combating extremism and terrorism.”
Jumblat also called on Egypt to “contribute to bridging differences among the various parties in the Middle East region in general and in Lebanon in particular.”
Berri and Jumblat in Wait and See Mode after March 14 Proposal
Naharnet/Speaker Nabih Berri has suspended efforts he was exerting with Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat to resolve the presidential deadlock after the March 14 alliance announced a new initiative. Berri told several officials who visited him on Tuesday that he and Jumblat were severely criticized when the PSP chief said he was in contact with the speaker and Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah to convince the rival parties to swiftly elect a new president. “There were rumors that Muslims were choosing the Christian president. We now stopped our efforts to see what they (March 14 officials) will do,” Berri said in the remarks published by local dailies on Wednesday. The March 14 alliance on Tuesday kept its support for Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea but said it was ready to agree on another consensual candidate for the presidential elections. The camp holds onto the candidacy of Geagea, al-Mustaqbal bloc leader MP Fouad Saniora said, but expressed the alliance's “full readiness to discuss with the rest of the factions the name of a person who receives the backing of all the Lebanese and who is committed to the country's principles.” Berri told his visitors that he knew about the initiative from the media. He said it was not new because it was previously proposed by Geagea.
Its new aspect is the formation of a committee to hold talks with March 8 officials, Berri added.But he stressed that the March 14 camp should first convince Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun with the initiative, although his answer was swift. The Change and Reform bloc of Aoun said Tuesday that the proposal “offers nothing new.”Any suggestion that does not adhere to Aoun's “national initiative is aimed at wasting time,” it said. The FPM chief had called for direct elections, and members of his bloc submitted a draft-law to parliament last month to make a constitutional amendment that would allow the people to elect the head of state in two stages. Change and Reform members have been boycotting parliamentary sessions aimed at finding a successor to President Michel Suleiman whose term ended in May. The latest boycott was on Tuesday when Berri adjourned the session to September 23 over lack of quorum. The majority of the March 8 alliance's MPs, including Aoun's lawmakers, claim there should be consensus on a candidate before heading to the polls.
March 8, PSP Unite in Rejecting Deal with Islamist Gunmen
Naharnet /The March 8 alliance and Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat completely reject any bargain in the case of the abducted Lebanese security personnel, As Safir newspaper reported on Wednesday. “No agreement (with gunmen) will be made,” sources close to the March 8 coalition told the newspaper, warning of the risks posed by such a demeanor. The army command, which isn't interfering in the negotiations with the Islamist gunmen, reportedly expressed belief that the case is “very dangerous” and requires a “delicate” handling. On August 2, gunmen belonging to the two al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) overran the northeastern border town of Arsal as clashes erupted with the Lebanese army, killing 19 troops. Several soldiers and policemen were kidnapped as the Islamist gunmen withdrew from the town. Some have been released recently, the latest batch on Saturday evening. The army command, according to source, had warned of the repercussions of any negative move by the state, expressing concern of the increase of sectarian tension locally. The source considered that Qatar and Turkey are the most appropriate channels that could negotiate the release of the abducted soldiers and policemen. Media reports have said that the jihadists have a list of demands, including the withdrawal of Hizbullah from battles in Syria and the release of ten Islamist inmates held at Roumieh prison in return for each captive soldier and policeman. Judicial sources ruled out in comments published in As Safir newspaper a general amnesty to release the prisoners as it should be issued by either the parliament, which is not convening, or by the president, but the post has been vacant since the end of Michel Suleiman's tenure in May. The sources said that any general amnesty also requires judicial sentences, but the trials of Islamist inmates haven't been carried out yet. “The only real solution is to swiftly stage the trials, which is a necessity despite the demands of the abductors,” the sources added. The March 8 alliance and Jumblat, according to As Safir, would reportedly agree on any sentences issued by the judiciary regarding the Islamist inmates.In 2012, a new courtroom was inaugurated at Roumieh facility to speed up the trials for the Fatah al-Islam inmates, who are held in the prison's bloc B. Roumieh, the oldest and largest of Lebanon's overcrowded prisons, has witnessed sporadic prison breaks in recent years and escalating riots over the past months as inmates living in poor conditions demand better treatment.
March 14 to Discuss its Initiative with Hizbullah: Its Rejection Jeopardizes Lebanon
Naharnet/The March 14 General Secretariat noted on Wednesday that reactions to the alliance's initiative regarding the presidential deadlock were “too hasty,” while warning that rejecting it “threatens the unity of state institutions.” It said in a statement after its weekly meeting: “The March 8 camp's rejection of the proposal will lead to chaos on the border and a disregard of international resolutions, which will lead to the collapse of the state.” “Failure to elect a president will lead Lebanon towards the unknown and will push it toward violence and the unrest in Syria and Iraq,” it warned. “I do not think there is a camp in Lebanon, especially one that is involved in Syria, that would benefit from spreading this violence to the country,” remarked March 14 General Secretariat coordinator Fares Soaid after the meeting.“We should all rise to the occasion and seek the interests of the Lebanese people,” he stressed. Moreover, he said that the General Secretariat will not respond to the Free Patriotic Movement's dismissal of the March 14 initiative “because the alliance has, since Monday, set itself as a power seeking to launch dialogue with all sides and political forces.”“It has demonstrated that it seeks Lebanon's interests. We will discuss the FPM's view with the movement or its allies, particularly Hizbullah, which holds greater sway in ending the presidential deadlock than the FPM,” Soaid noted.The March 14 alliance on Tuesday kept its support for Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea as a presidential candidate, but said it was ready to agree on another consensual candidate. “Out of its keenness to hold the elections, the March 14 alliance calls for the respect of constitutional deadlines and the rotation of power,” MP Fouad Saniora told reporters minutes after Speaker Nabih Berri adjourned a parliamentary session aimed at electing a president. The March 14 alliance holds onto the candidacy of Geagea, the lawmaker said but expressed the camp's “full readiness to discuss with the rest of the factions the name of a person who receives the backing of all the Lebanese and who is committed to the country's principles.”The FPM rejected the proposal, saying that it offered nothing new and was a waste of time. It instead remained committed to the initiative suggested by its chief MP Michel Aoun. Commenting on the recent unrest in the northeastern border town of Arsal and the kidnapping of a number of soldiers and policemen, Soaid said: “These developments demonstrate the great need to elect a new president.” “Failure to do so and complete the construction of the state will lead to its collapse over all sides without exception,” he remarked.“This is why the March 14 alliance sought to launch its initiative and proposed the election of a consensual president capable of saving the republic and protecting the constitution,” he added. The security personnel were abducted in light of the five-day Arsal clashes that erupted on August 2 between the army and Islamist militants.They were sparked by the arrest of a member of the al-Qaida-affiliated al-Nusra Front. A number of the captives have since been released, the most recent of whom were five soldiers over the weekend. Media reports have said that the captors are conditioning the release of the remaining captives to Hizbullah halting its involvement in Syria.
DNA test confirms identity of soldier beheaded by ISIS
Antoine Amrieh| The Daily Star/FNAYDEQ, Lebanon: DNA test results positively identified the body of a captured soldier beheaded by ISIS as Ali al-Sayyed, an Army statement confirmed Tuesday, as the judiciary responded to criticism over the handling of the trial of Islamist detainees.“The body turned out to belong to first Sergeant Ali al-Sayyed,” the statement said, adding that the funeral date would be set later. Sayyed’s body was handed to the Muslim Scholars Committee by ISIS Monday. Meanwhile, fears that the Al-Qaeda linked splinter group would behead another captive soldier led to demonstrations across Lebanon staged by the families of soldiers still being held. The Judicial Council responded to accusations that the trials of Islamist detainees held in Roumieh prison have been stalled, arguing in a statement that they had picked up pace last year. Most of the Islamist detainees were arrested over their involvement in the Nahr al-Bared clashes of summer 2007 between the Lebanese Army and the Fatah al-Islam militant group.
It said that by July 2013, 39 different files related to the case were categorized and in September of that year trials began, with 22 verdicts issued so far.
While five verdicts were issued per year before 2013, the statement said that number rose to 17 per year in 2013 and 2014. The government plans to accelerate the trials of the 93 Islamist detainees in Roumieh prison in a bid to secure the release of at least 23 soldiers and policemen held hostage by ISIS and the Nusra Front on the outskirts of Arsal. Fears that ISIS would behead another captive soldier, Ali Hajj Hasan, spread after an affiliated Twitter account offered the government an ultimatum.
“I think the Lebanese state has abandoned one of the soldiers, the Islamic State [ISIS] is sharpening its sword to slaughter him,” tweeted Abou Misaab Hafid al-Baghdadi, the same account which posted a picture of Sayyed’s alleged beheading last week. “Are you going to negotiate or not?” In response relatives of Hajj Hasan blocked the southern entrance to Baalbek and the international highway with burning tires, and obstructed the road leading to the villages of Shaath and Harbta, according to the National News Agency. During the protest, gunmen reportedly gathered between the villages of Shaath and Maqneh demanding that Hajj Hasan be freed. The family of soldier Mohammad Hussein Youssef, who hails from the Mdoukha village in Rashaya, blocked the road linking Khirbet Rouha to Rashaya in protest. In attendance were preachers, mayors, mukhtars and civil society groups who gathered to urge the government and the Muslim Scholars Committee to act.
In the northern town of Qalamoun, relatives of captured soldier Ibrahim Moghit continued with their protest along the road leading to Beirut for a fourth day, while residents of Fnaydeq and other Akkar villages took to the streets to express their anger over Sayyed’s beheading. Prominent figures in Fnaydeq, from where Sayyed hailed, issued a statement calling on residents to refrain from retaliatory acts against Syrian refugees. Sheikh Malek Jadaideh, head of the Muslim Scholars Committee, said he would do his utmost to free the captured troops and policemen. “We will continue our efforts to reach a happy ending, God willing. “What is important now is their release, and we will not spare any efforts to win the freedom of our sons, without discrimination,” he said, after receiving the family of captured soldier George Khoury. Prime Minister Tammam Salam also received Akkar Mufti Sheikh Zaid Mohammad Bakkar Zakaria to discuss the issue. “We hope things stay calm,” the mufti told reporters after the meeting. The government is set to convene Thursday to discuss the case of the captives. The Army clashed overnight with 30 gunmen from Syria attempting to infiltrate the border town of Al-Qaa from the outskirts of Wadi Rafeq, security sources said. The brief clash began around 10 p.m. and lasted less than an hour around the town’s edge. Sources said the Army opened artillery fire toward the militants, forcing them to retreat. “We were surprised because normally they [the militants] don’t come to our village,” Al-Qaa mayor Milad Rizk told The Daily Star. “The clash was near residential areas, and could have forced people to leave, which is something we don’t want.” Meanwhile, a string of arrests were made and warrants issued across Lebanon in connection to the militants in Arsal. Arrest warrants were issued for six Syrians and one Lebanese man after Military Investigative Judge Imad al-Zein interrogated the seven over their suspected affiliation with ISIS commander Imad Jomaa. The suspects were detained during the five-day Arsal clashes between the Army and militants after Jomaa’s arrest in the town last month.
Arrests were made in Nabatieh of two Syrians identified as Amer and Mustafa Sahu, who were found with ISIS banners and a poster they got from a Palestinian refugee camp in south Lebanon. The Army along with a military intelligence unit raided apartments in a building in the Christian village of Qrayyeh in Sidon, checking the identification cards of Syrians and searching their homes. The raid came in line with a plan to crack down on areas where Syrian workers and refugees reside across the country, to hunt for suspects linked to the clashes in Arsal. Later Tuesday an Army patrol chased arms smuggleres in the area of Smouqa in Rashaya. They exchanged fire and after the smugglers managed to flee the Army confiscated ammunition left behind. Also, 17 Syrians in east Lebanon escaped from a garage in the village of Shmustar they were being held in by the relatives of captured soldiers, a security source said. The group was able to break the door of the garage and escape. Media reports said the families held the Syrians to exchange them for the captured soldiers. – Additional reporting by Mohammed Zaatari
Hezbollah, Syrian troops kill Nusra Front commander
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Hezbollah-backed Syrian troops have ambushed a convoy belonging to the Nusra Front, killing a commander responsible for last year's kidnapping of Syrian nuns, a Lebanese security source told The Daily Star Wednesday.
The convoy was headed by Malek al-Tall, a Nusra Front commander, who was killed in the ambush in the Qalamoun, a mountainous region bordering Lebanon. Al-Tall was allegedly responsible for the abduction of thirteen nuns last year, when the radical rebel group took over the historic Christian town of Maaloula, located on the edge of the rugged Qalamoun region about 60 kilometers northeast of the capital. Head of Lebanon's General Security Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim played a vital role in the release of the nuns who were freed in May in exchange for dozens of female detainees in Syrian prisons. Qatar and the Syrian government also played a part in their release. Hezbollah fighters and Syrian regime troops had launched an offensive earlier this year to root out rebel groups from the Qalamoun region, a strategic area for opposition groups that was used to smuggle gunmen and weapons.
March 14 question lack of response to Lebanon border proposals
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Lebanon must protect its border in the wake of the growing threat posed by Islamist extremists from Syria, the March 14 coalition said Wednesday, reiterating a previous call. March 14 also questioned the lack of response to its request to protect the Lebanon-Syria border with the help of U.N. peacekeeping troops. Speaking at a news conference on March 14’s behalf, Future Movement MP Ahmad Fatfat criticized both Parliament and the previous government of Prime Minister Najib Mikati, blaming them for neglecting the coalition’s repeated calls for border control and the deployment of the Lebanese Army. “Today we reiterate the need for a rescue plan,” Fatfat said, after rehashing the dates and contents of the requests made by March 14 over the past few years.
“We are surprised at the lack of response from the previous governments and from Parliament to our multiple requests,” he told a news conference at Parliament headquarters in Nijmeh Square in Downtown Beirut. Fatfat also slammed those he said were trying to portray March 14 as the group responsible for the lack of Lebanese troops deployed along the border with Syria. “The previous government was the one that refused to take any action to protect the northern border with Syria, and we are reaping the results today," Fatfat argued.
“For the past few days, we have been subjected to a campaign by the March 8 media, blaming March 14 for the previous government’s failure on the security issue,” he continued. The Lebanese Army fought five days of deadly gunbattles with jihadists from ISIS and the Nusra Front last month. The militants are holding at least 23 Lebanese soldiers and policemen captive, demanding to swap them for Islamist prisoners held in Roumieh Prison. Lebanese Forces MP Antoine Zahra, also a member of the March 14 alliance, made a stronger criticism of Hezbollah and its allies in the March 8 coalition. “Why does March 8, particularly Hezbollah, continue to reject an Army deployment along the border with Syria as well as UNIFIL’s assistance?” Zahra asked at the joint press conference.
He pointed to heavy gunshots fired in the air Tuesday in the Akkar village of Qarha in the Wadi Khaled border region that occurred during the funeral of a Hezbollah member killed while fighting alongside Syrian regime forces. “They opened the border with Syria and removed earth mounds in Qarha and more than 70 cars from Syria entered [Lebanon] to take part in the funeral. The sound of gunshots [fired in the air] could be heard for over two hours,” Zahra complained. “Is this the security that Hezbollah wants?”
Russian ambassador confirms military cooperation with Lebanon
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The Russian ambassador to Lebanon confirmed Wednesday that the two countries are discussing possible formulas for military cooperation, without disclosing any details on the possible deal. “There is some news on many media outlets about technical military cooperation, but I am not tasked with disclosing any detail about it,” said Alexander Zasypkin, after meeting Sports and Youth Minister Abdul-Muttaleb al-Hinawi. “I sum up by confirming that negotiations in this concern are taking place, and we hope that positive results come out in the near future.” “The terrorist threat does not only target Lebanon, it is a problem for everyone,” Zasypkin said. “Henceforth, there is a necessity to concentrate efforts and form a coalition based on the UN’s capacities to develop international efforts [in this direction].” U.S. President Barack Obama also announced Wednesday that his country will build a coalition to "degrade and destroy" the fundamentalist group ISIS, whose military victories in Iraq and Syria have topped global priorities.
Zasypkin’s comments came two days after political sources told The Daily Star that former Prime Minister Saad Hariri has revived a 2010 arms grant from Moscow that would provide the military with helicopters and tanks.
The sources said that Hariri has contacted a number of Russian officials over the past two weeks, resulting in the reactivation of a military grant agreement he had signed during his official visit to Moscow as prime minister of Lebanon in November 2010. Under the grant agreement, Moscow would provide the Lebanese Army with six helicopters and 77 tanks, as well as 1 million bullets and 37,000 shells of various calibers, the sources said. The Lebanese Defense Ministry is working to form a delegation that could be headed by Kahwagi to visit Moscow for talks on outlining technical issues related to the grant, the sources said. They added that Kahwagi has met with Ambassador Zasypkin to prepare for the visit. Hariri had announced a $1 billion Saudi grant in August, intended to help the Lebanese Army and security forces in their battle against terrorism. The announcement followed five days of ferocious fighting between the military and Islamist militants in the northeastern town of Arsal. The $1 billion comes on top of another $3 billion grant to be used to buy weapons for the Lebanese Army from France, which was announced by Saudi King Abdullah last December.
UN urges Lebanese parties to elect president now
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Political parties must elect a new president without further delay, the U.N. Special Coordinator in Lebanon Derek Plumbly said Wednesday, while reiterating his support for Lebanon against extremist threats. “I take this opportunity to again stress the importance of preserving Lebanon’s values of democracy, moderation and pluralism, and the institutions of the state which enshrine them,” Plumbly said. Speaking after meeting with Prime Minister Tammam Salam at the Grand Serail, Plumbly stressed that over 100 days had passed since the start of Lebanon's presidential vacuum. Plumbly said he and Salam discussed the security situation in Lebanon, as well as the international efforts to support the county in light of the latest political and security developments. “I expressed the solidary of the United Nations with the government, the security forces and the families of the personnel held hostage by violent extremist groups,” he said. “We of course also discussed the urgent assistance being offered by U.N. Member States to Lebanon through its security forces in the face of these challenges,” he said.
Lebanon's speaker sounds alarm over threats, power vacuum
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri Wednesday sounded the alarm over the growing threats posed by extremist militants as well as the power vacuum gripping Lebanon. "The alarm [must be] sounded due to the institutional vacuum and the threats facing the country," Berri told lawmakers. He spoke of the need to "stand against this terrorist onslaught targeting Lebanon and its diversity.”Berri, according to the lawmakers who attended the weekly Wednesday meeting, has always condemned terror attacks against Christians, adding that the speaker was the first to sign a document that affirms the Christian presence in the Middle East. The speaker urged MPs not to continue to disrupt Parliament’s work “because this would disrupt the country.”Berri also reiterated his rejection to the extension of Parliament’s term, saying this would be tantamount to “extending the power vacuum.”
Lebanese MP Kabbara: Writing on churches 'childish'
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The threatening messages that were written on the walls of churches in Tripoli were childish, and burning Islamist flags in Ashrafieh was stupid, according to Tripoli MP Mohammad Kabbara. “The stupidity that pushed some to burn the Shahada [“There is no God but God”] flag in Ashrafieh, reproduced a similar stupidity in Tripoli's Al-Mina neighborhood, which was translated into writing trifles on the walls of some churches," Kabbara said in a statement Wednesday “The acts are not worth discussion or exaggeration,” he added. Kabbara said the writings were no more than some “childish acts” that contradict Tripoli’s tolerant culture. “We call on everyone to stick to the coexistence formula enjoyed by the city, without giving these instances any dimensions that they do not deserve.” Stressing that Tripoli belongs to its entire people from different sects; Kabbara expressed confidence that the people will together overthrow the "walls conspiracy," as they once overthrew conspiracies that targeted the city’s security.
Tensions have risen in Tripoli since last week, with several incidents of intimidation against the city's Christian community. Crosses were allegedly burned over the weekend and several churches were defaced with threatening messages, thought to be in retaliation for the burning of Islamist flags by several youths in Beirut's Sassine Square. “We came to slaughter you, you worshipers of the cross," read graffiti on the wall of Mar Elias Church in the Mina neighborhood, while several other churches were sprayed with “The Islamic State is Coming.” The incidents have been widely condemned by officials, with Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi promising a full investigation into any attempts to incite sectarian strife, and the Lebanese Army enhancing security arrangements in the city.
Firefighters put out fire near gas tanks in Lebanon's Zalka
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Firefighters successfully contained a fire Wednesday that erupted near a port along Beirut's seaside road, preventing the blaze from reaching nearby gas tanks. The fire broke out in Zalka between the Hyundai dealership and the Gemayel al-Gemayel port, sending plumes of smoke into the area's skyline.Minutes after the fire erupted, Civil Defense volunteers were able to contain the blaze and prevent it from reaching the nearby tanks.
Saudi Arabia, France and Italy renew support for the Lebanese Army
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Italy will empower Lebanon’s Army and enhance the role of UNIFIL troops, the president of the Defense Commission of the Italian Senate said Tuesday, while pledging to support Lebanon in its struggle against terrorism.
The French presidency also announced one day before that Paris and Riyadh were close to signing a $3 billion arms deal for Lebanon. “We sympathize with the families of the martyrs and the captives,” Italian Senator Nicola Latorre said after meeting with Defense Minister Samir Moqbel, referring to at least 24 troops held captive by jihadist groups on the border between Lebanon and Syria in the northeast. “ Italy is committed to strengthen the Army because of Lebanon’s significance in the region. “ Italy is also committed to fight terrorism and extremism with full energy and maximum efforts through the UNIFL force,” Latorre added, expressing his appreciation for the Lebanese Army’s values and performance. Latorre arrived in Lebanon Tuesday, and met Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri earlier in the day. He is also expected to meet other Lebanese officials during his stay. The Italian Ambassador to Lebanon Giuseppe Morabito and the newly appointed head of the UNIFL troops in South Lebanon Maj. Gen. Luciano Portolano accompanied Latorre during Tuesday’s visits.
Meanwhile, France and Saudi Arabia are close to signing a $3 billion arms deal for Lebanon, the Elysee Palace said Monday, following talks between President Francois Hollande and the Saudi crown prince.
“It will not be signed Monday but it is being finalized,” an aide to the president said. The deal is for military equipment and arms that will be supplied to the Lebanese Army. Hollande told an official dinner at the Elysee presidential palace attended by Prince Salman bin Abdul-Aziz, who is also the Saudi deputy prime minister and defense minister, that Lebanon was a “great but vulnerable country” which “needs security.”“We have come together, Saudi Arabia and France, to help Lebanon on the condition that it also helps itself, for its own security,” Hollande added, without commenting directly on the joint contract. The deal comes as Lebanon faces the threat of jihadists on its border with Syria. More than 1 million refugees have fled the war in Syria by escaping to Lebanon, according to figures from the United Nations. Hollande added that France and Saudi Arabia have a “shared priority of peace and security in the Middle East.”
Salameh projects up to 2 pct GDP growth
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Central Bank governor Riad Salameh projected the gross domestic product growth in Lebanon in 2014 to range between 1.5 percent and 2 percent, while inflation will not exceed 4 percent despite the fallout from the Syrian crisis.Speaking during Lebanon’s Financial Market Association Golden Jubilee Grand Celebration, the governor said part of this rise is due to the continuation of the confidence factor, which is the fundamental element in the preservation of stability and growth.
“The monetary situation in Lebanon is stable and we did not witness in our markets any conversion from the Lebanese pound to the U.S. dollar. This fact is like a criteria of confidence in the Lebanese economy,” Salameh argued.
The governor also commented about the interest rates. “Interest rates remained stable. As for the Eurobonds in the secondary markets, we have seen a drop in the return on the Lebanese bonds. We are also applying interest rates that are even better than the actual sovereign rating of Lebanon. Lebanon is classified as B- while the interest rates we are applying is based on BB and even BBB classification,” Salameh said. He added that there are positive signs on the growth of customer deposits. “Until this day, the annual growth of deposits has reached 6 percent and this growth is crucial because we have projected that the deposits in 2014 will reach $140 billon,” Salameh said. The governor also focused on the impact of the banks housing loans on the economy in general.
He noted that the balance of payments achieved a surplus this year. “The Central Bank’s foreign currency reserves is at an all-time high and has exceeded $38 billion, and this does not even include the gold reserves,” Salameh explained. He renewed the Central Bank’s commitment to combat money laundering and respect all international banking requirements. Salameh stressed that consumer loans or personal loans did not reach critical proportions. “We issued a memo to all banks to abide by a certain ceiling in consumer loans. Up until now, the personal and consumer loans represent 50 percent of the income of the Lebanese family and this average is sufficient and the payments of these loans are settled in a normal manner,” he added.
Lebanon, A state held hostage
The Daily Star/August 03/14/The March 14 coalition put forward an initiative Tuesday to solve the impasse over electing a new Lebanese president, after the failure of the latest bid to hold a vote in Parliament. And with little fanfare, politicians from the rival March 8 camp were quick to respond, with a resounding “no.” They required no meeting or discussions to evaluate what was being offered – discussions on a consensus candidate – because they have no interest in seeing an election take place.Even the declared March 14 candidate, Samir Geagea, showed a readiness to give way to a compromise figure, while insisting that he has the right to run. The de facto, unannounced March 8 candidate, Michel Aoun, believes only that he has the right to win, and anything else is a waste of time. The time-wasting, however, as people await the next scheduled parliamentary session Sept. 23, has tremendous costs. Lebanon is in free-fall on all levels – its economy, legislative activity, diplomatic presence and security situation, to name the most glaring areas of paralysis, all at a time of domestic and regional turbulence. The blame for this deadlock and all of the negative repercussions for the country lies with only one party, namely Aoun and his backers. It’s time for politicians and leaders of society to have the courage to identify who is holding Lebanon hostage to the whims of one person, who for a quarter-century has been driven by one belief – that he must be the head of state – and is ready to sacrifice anything, including Lebanon, for that goal.
Berri Issues Memo to Protect Minorities and Christians of the Levant
Naharnet/Speaker Nabih Berri voiced calls on Wednesday to confront the danger of terrorism threatening Lebanon, and has prepared a memorandum on the protection of the minorities and Christians of the Levant. "We must face the terrorist attack threatening Lebanon and its diversity. We must not persist in disabling the state institutions,” media reports quoted Berri as saying. Lebanon and the region are currently facing the threat of the terrorist Islamic State group that has fanned out in Syria and Iraq, killing and slaughtering many in a bid to control various regions. The northeastern border town of Arsal has witnessed early in August clashes between the IS and al-Nusra Front group and the Lebanese army. Furthermore, the Speaker voiced fears of vacuum in the state institutions stating that it threatens the country. Berri was referring to the parliament's failure to elect a new president and the ongoing divisions among the various political parties to extend the term of parliament. He reiterated refusal to extend the legislative assembly's term, saying it would encourage obstruction and cause further vacuum. MP Nicolas Fattoush has submitted a proposal in August to extend the parliament's term for two years and seven months.
Maronite Bishops Renew Army Support, Condemn Desecration of Religious Symbols
Naharnet/The Maronite Bishops Councils condemned on Wednesday the recent desecration of religious symbols in Lebanon, describing such acts as “irresponsible.”It said after its monthly meeting: “The authorities should put an end to such incidents and take action against the perpetrators.”It voiced its fears that such violations “may lead to a vertical divide in Lebanon that may have dangerous repercussions.”In addition, the Maronite Bishops Council expressed its support to the Lebanese army and its confrontation of extremists.
“We demand the release of the remaining soldiers and policemen held by the extremists,” it continued in reference to the kidnapping of the security personnel in August in light of clashes with Islamists in the northeastern border town of Arsal.
The Council, which was chaired by Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi at al-Diman, voiced its solidarity with the relatives of the captives and expressed its support with whatever measures the government deems suitable to ensure their release.
It also condemned the persecution of Christians and other minorities in Iraq at the hands of the Islamic State militant group, saying that the organization “does not reflect the real Islam.”Islamists allegedly burned crosses in the northern city of Tripoli over the weekend in retaliation to the burning of a flag of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Beirut's Ashrafiyeh's neighborhood on Saturday. Reports said however that the flag was burned last month and not over the weekend.
Several threats were written on the walls of Churches in the northern city of Tripoli, the latest of which was on Tuesday when assailants vandalized the walls of Mar Elias Church. They vowed to “slaughter the worshipers of the Cross."
Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi called on Sunday for an investigation to be carried out into the burning of crosses in Tripoli.
Change and Reform: March 14 Proposal is Meaningless, Aims to Waste Time
Naharnet/The Change and Reform bloc rejected on Tuesday the proposal made by the March 14 alliance over ending the deadlock over the presidency, saying that it “offers nothing new.”Former Minister Salim Jreissati said after the bloc's weekly meeting: “The initiative is meaningless and is aimed at wasting time.”Any proposal that does not adhere to Change and Reform bloc chief MP Michel Aoun's “national initiative is aimed at wasting time,” he added. The March 14 alliance on Tuesday kept its support for Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea as a presidential candidate, but said it was ready to agree on another consensual candidate. “Out of its keenness to hold the elections, the March 14 alliance calls for the respect of constitutional deadlines and the rotation of power,” MP Fouad Saniora told reporters minutes after Speaker Nabih Berri adjourned a parliamentary session aimed at electing a president. The March 14 alliance holds onto the candidacy of Geagea, the lawmaker said but expressed the camp's “full readiness to discuss with the rest of the factions the name of a person who receives the backing of all the Lebanese and who is committed to the country's principles.”Aoun, who has not declared his candidacy, has repeatedly said that he would be willing to run in the elections if there was consensus over him. Commenting on the ongoing kidnapping of soldiers and policemen by Islamists, Jreissati said: “Those negotiating with a terrorist organizations should realize that negotiations should be conducted between countries, even if it means dealing with the Syrian government.”
“The main goal remains to release the captives and preserve national dignity,” he stressed. “There can be no equality between the criminal and the victim,” he added. “We direct this speech to the families of the captives and the Lebanese people, army and government, which should assume its responsibilities in this affair,” he stated. “The government should not fall victim to blackmail,” he remarked. “We reject negotiations between the state and army and between a terrorist organization,” continued the former minister. “The abductees should be released at the most minimal cost,” he explained, while emphasizing the need to maintain Lebanon's sovereignty. The soldiers and policemen were kidnapped after clashes between the army and Islamists in the northeastern border town of Arsal in early August.
Some of the captives were released in August, but others remain with the militants. A Muslim Scholars Committee delegation was tasked with negotiating their release, but it recently suspended its activity to allow for other sides to assume this role.
Obama: US will build a coalition to ‘destroy’ ISIS
Julie Pace| Associated Press/TALLINN, Estonia: President Barack Obama said Wednesday that the United States will not be intimidated by ISIS militants after the beheading of a second American journalist and will build a coalition to "degrade and destroy" the group.
Obama still did not give a timeline for deciding on a strategy to go after the extremist group's operations in Syria. "It'll take time to roll them back," the president said at a news conference during a visit to Europe.
Obama's comments came after he said the United States had verified the authenticity of a video released Tuesday showing the beheading of freelance reporter Steven Sotloff, two weeks after journalist James Foley was similarly killed.
Obama vowed the U.S. would not forget the "terrible crime against these two fine young men.""Our reach is long and justice will be served," Obama said.
In the Sotloff video, a masked militant warns Obama that as long as U.S. airstrikes against the militant group continue, "our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people."Obama responded that he will continue to fight the militant threat and the "barbaric and ultimately empty vision" it represents. "Our objective is to make sure that ISIL is not an ongoing threat to the region," he said, using an acronym for the militant group. "And we can accomplish that. It's going to take some time and it's going to take some effort."
Sotloff, a 31-year-old Miami-area native who freelanced for Time and Foreign Policy magazines, vanished a year ago in Syria and was not seen again until he appeared in the video that showed Foley's beheading. Dressed in an orange jumpsuit against an arid Syrian landscape, Sotloff was threatened in that video with death unless the U.S. stopped airstrikes on ISIS.
In the video distributed Tuesday and titled "A Second Message to America," Sotloff appears in a similar jumpsuit before he is apparently beheaded by a fighter with ISIS, the extremist group that has conquered wide swath of territory across Syria and Iraq and declared itself a caliphate. British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told the BBC Wednesday that the masked, British-accented jihadist appears to be the same person shown in the Foley footage.
In the video, the organization threatens to kill another hostage, this one identified as a British citizen, David Cawthorne Haines. It was not immediately clear who Haines was. Last week, Sotloff's mother, Shirley Sotloff, pleaded with his captors for mercy, saying in a video that her son was "an innocent journalist" and "an honorable man" who "has always tried to help the weak."
Obama said the prayers of the American people are with the family of the "devoted and courageous journalist" who deeply loved the Islamic world and whose "life stood in stark contrast to those who murdered him so brutally."
"Whatever these murderers think they will achieve by murdering innocents like Steven, they have already failed," Obama said. "We will not be intimated. Their horrific acts only unite us."
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Tuesday that it is believed that "a few" Americans are still being held by ISIS. Psaki would not give any specifics, but one is a 26-year-old woman who was kidnapped while doing humanitarian aid work in Syria, according to a family representative who asked that the hostage not be identified out of fear for her safety.
Reports: Murdered U.S. Journalist Held Israel Citizenship
Naharnet /U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff, whose videotaped murder by the jihadist Islamic State group shocked the world, also held Israeli nationality, Israeli media reported on Wednesday. The Haaretz newspaper cited a foreign ministry spokesman as saying that Sotloff, 31, held dual citizenship, although the ministry made no immediate comment when contacted by AFP. Public radio reported that Sotloff's family, who live in Miami, Florida, is Jewish and that he had studied in Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv. The Islamic State made no reference to Sotloff being either Jewish or Israeli in the video it posted. His masked executioner said the killing was in retaliation for expanded U.S. air strikes against jihadist fighters in Iraq over the past week.
Agence France Presse
ISIS is no existential threat to Israel
By: Amos Yadlin
Analysis: Despite trail of horrors it is leaving behind, jihadist group is operating hundreds of kilometers away from our border, and even if it were closer, it would unlikely be able to strike at Israeli residents.
The additional brutal murder of an American journalist on Tuesday by ISIS is inflaming the general panic this terror organization has spread in Israel, among other places – but this panic must end. Despite the trail of horrors it is leaving behind, ISIS is operating hundreds of kilometers away from our border, and even if it were closer, it would unlikely be able to harm Israel and its residents.
At the end of the day, we are talking about several thousand unrestrained terrorists riding pickup trucks and firing with Kalashnikovs and machine guns. Together with several other militias that have joined it (and may desert it once the military momentum grinds to a halt), ISIS is now said to include about 10,000 fighters – half of the size of Hamas' military force. And unlike Hamas, which is indeed on our fences, ISIS has no tunnels, no artillery abilities, no ability to strategically target the State of Israel, and no allies to supply it with advanced weapons.
The threat ISIS poses to Israel as a global jihad organization is not essentially different from the threat of al-Qaeda, with which Israel has been living for more than a decade now.
Had ISIS diverted its efforts from Iraq and turned to Israel, it would have become an easy prey for the Israeli intelligence, for the Air Force planes and for the precision weapons possessed by the IDF ground forces. The moment it encounters a modern army, ISIS will get off its pickup trucks, which will reduce its ability to move towards Israel even more.
In the meantime, ISIS is preoccupied with countless other enemies, some of which are separating between them and us: The armies of Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon, and even its sworn Shiite enemy, Hezbollah.
The success that bought ISIS global newspaper headlines has already been mostly curtailed. It was the fruit of long preparations, which took place within a governmental void in Iraq and relied on the support of a local Sunni population that had a vested interest in acting against the Shiite government in Baghdad.
The frightening possibility that ISIS ideology would take root among the Palestinian population, including its most radical factions, is highly unlikely. This terror organization's jihadist ideology is so radical that it has even been rejected by al-Qaeda, and we should not expect it to be seen favorably in Gaza or the West Bank. In fact, ISIS has led to an almost unbelievable broad coalition against it, all of whom seek to destroy it. Here is a short, clockwise list: Russia, Turkey, Iran, the Kurdish militias (Pêşmerge), the Gulf states, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the Syrian army, the Lebanese army, Hezbollah and Israel.
It can take credit for another almost unbelievable achievement: It managed to return the US Army to Iraq under the Obama administration. Apart from the aerial strikes that are already taking place, US Secretary of State John Kerry is also working on building a wide international coalition to eradicate the organization.
For all these reasons, we can take our hand off the siren button. ISIS is not a significant threat to Israel in the near future, and in an odd sense, it even provides some strategic opportunities for Israel to cooperate with other states: With the US – intelligence, logistic and diplomatic partnership that would help the American effort could restore the trust between the leaderships; with Europe, such assistance could remind the Europeans that, at the end of the day, we are fighting together against the Islamic extremism; and with the region's countries, led by the moderate Sunni states, working and trust relations could be created between the respective security communities.
The immediate danger to Israel from ISIS is that the attention in Israel and in the world would be diverted from the Iranian nuclear program, which is the real strategic danger, both to the security of the world and to the security of Israel.
Despite the horrific images emerging from Iraq and Syria, we should maintain a realistic agenda and focus on the main issue.
The most important strategic target for Israel's national security remains unchanged: Preventing a nuclear Iran and stopping an agreement between Iran and the world powers that would fail to supervise its nuclear activity sufficiently, leaving it the ability to make a breakthrough towards a nuclear weapon within a short period of time.
**Major-General (res.) Amos Yadlin is the director of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) and served as head of the IDF's Military Intelligence Directorate.
Iran’s nuclear prowess: Still Israel’s number one problem?
Yossi Mekelberg/Al Arabiya /Wednesday, 3 September 2014
Last week’s announcement by Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC), that it had shot down what was alleged Israeli drone, was drowned in the sounds of sirens and explosions from the war between Israel and the Gaza-based Palestinians. The incident took place near the nuclear enrichment facility in Natanz. Predictably, Israeli military and diplomatic officials refused to comment on the incident. However, unofficial reports from Israel, based on Iranian news agencies’ supplied footage, suggested that the vehicle looked like one that is used by the Israeli Air Force. It is understandable that the Iranians would like to reap the diplomatic and public relations benefits from capturing an Israeli spy drone. Nevertheless, one should not be surprised by the notion that Israel, as other countries, could be investing efforts in collecting intelligence aimed at getting a clearer view of the progress and nature of Iranian nuclear ambitions.
For years, Israel has contended that Iranian foreign policy and particularly her nuclear ambitions are an existential threat to the Jewish state. There is somewhat of a consensus in Israel that an Iran in possession of nuclear weapons would put Israeli security in jeopardy. Opinions, however, differ on what the best approach is to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear military capability. There is a general agreement within Israel that it would be best for the international community to deal with this issue, either through diplomacy, sanctions or even military force. Nonetheless, the declared Israel policy is that if no one else will stop Iran, it retains her right to keep her military option open.
Israeli strategists have devoted more than a decade to developing military options to respond in case Iran acquires military capability which can potentially be directed at Israel. Yet, an Israeli military attack remains very unlikely for various reasons. Thus far, the Israeli policy of keeping her military options open has proved successful. It engaged the international community in proactive endeavors to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Beside a genuine concern among the international community of Iran joining the exclusive nuclear club, there are equally deep concerns regarding the consequences of an Israeli military attack on Iran. Israel is mindful that her threat of taking military actions is more effective than executing the threat. Years of diplomatic pressure and sanctions yielded an interim agreement in November last year with the P5 + 1, in which Iran - for all means and purposes - publicly gave up her ambitions of gaining nuclear military capability. These are ambitions which she was very careful to deny all along, even in the face of a very skeptical international audience. In exchange for gradual relief from the economic sanctions imposed on her, Iran agreed to stop enrichment of uranium to weapon grade level.
“The sources of potential threat to Israel security right now are much closer to home than Iran”
Israel was far from being satisfied, and accused Tehran of deception and the Western negotiators of naivety. From the perspective of the Israeli government, the negotiations have acted as nothing more than a smoke screen to conceal the uranium enrichment as part of a nuclear military program. Interestingly enough, it was reported only last week that Iranian experts have started altering a reactor in the city of Arak to limit the amount of plutonium it produces.
For years, it has been suggested by some that Israel was not only spying on Iran, but was also involved in clandestine attempts to assassinate key Iranian scientists and create computer viruses to destroy Iran’s nuclear centrifuges. Gathering information, even by drones, does not necessarily signal preparation for an imminent and comprehensive military attack on Iranian’s nuclear installations. If it is happening, it might well be in hope of exposing Iranian violations of the interim agreement.
Cripple the Iranian nuclear program
Even if an Israeli military operation to cripple the Iranian nuclear program is technically possible, it is not feasible or probable, especially when international negotiations on a deal with Iran are taking place. Without the consent of at least the United States, this would be in utter defiance of the international community as a whole, and Israel’s closest ally and supporter. Considering Israel’s image in the world following the war in Gaza, aggravating relations with the international community might cause tremendous and long term harm to Israeli military, political and economic interests.
Even if the Israeli government reaches the conclusion that it would be best to ignore the will of the international community, because eliminating the Iranian nuclear program is an existential priority, there is no guarantee that such a complex operation will achieve its aims. Also, the nature and magnitude of the Iranian retaliation for such an attack is hard to predict. Undoubtedly, Iran has the military capacity to harm Israel directly or by proxy, and an unprovoked attack will be seen by the regime in Tehran as legitimizing a retaliation against Israeli targets at home and abroad. The war in Gaza proved that even under conditions of complete military superiority, the desired military and political consequences are hard attain. The Iranians possess far greater military capabilities than the Palestinians in Gaza, and military aggression against them are bound to provoke reprisals against Israeli interests and most possibly Western ones as well.
Moreover, Prime Minister Netanyahu cannot rely on Israeli public support in taking military action against Iran’s nuclear installations. There is a solid majority among Israelis against it. Operation Protective Edge already shows that the general public in Israel is gradually becoming more cautious before rushing to support another military adventurism from the school of thought of Netanyahu’s government. The war in Gaza exposed that rhetoric and military plans aside, the dynamic of modern war produces inconclusive outcomes at best.
The sources of potential threat to Israel security right now are much closer to home than Iran. Not resolving the conflict with the Palestinians, or developments in the wider Middle East, especially the border with Syria, pose much greater strategic threats. Israel has good reasons to be concerned about Iran’s nuclear program and her support of the Hezbollah and Hamas. Yet, both sides need to keep the vitriolic and threatening rhetoric under control in order to avoid an unintended escalation and even war. The diplomatic negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 are far from over, but there are positive signs. The negotiators should be allowed time and space to continue their efforts without interference until they are able to reach a conclusion. Hopefully such an agreement will be long term and ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.
The Arab world is being hit from every side
Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi /Al Arabiya
Wednesday, 3 September 2014
The Arab world has been dealt so many sporadic blows that we can no longer get a grip on where it all started and when this trauma will end. We can also never know how we are viewed by others no matter where we stand in the political spectrum.
Even adhering to the “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” philosophy has become too complicated since allies and adversaries are yesterday’s friends and today’s foes. All eyes are on a part of the world that even Machiavellian thought or political analysis can no longer fathom.
Crises plaguing this part
Indeed, the crises plaguing this part of the world have become the routine work of international agencies and the United Nations at large. Yet no sooner do these organizations fix one problem before tens of other problems surface.
In such an ever-changing, bizarre mess, it has become almost impossible to forecast what will happen tomorrow, let alone in the distant future. This is why it is difficult to take an affirmative political stance on any issue.
“Regimes lose legitimacy the minute they cling to power. Legitimacy is only earned through tangible achievement”
Ironically, supporting the Al-Nusra Front has become synonymous with supporting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Yet if you are with the Free Syrian Army, you would never know which one of these groups, or if even the Syrian regime, is killing your men.
Does this mean, then, that supporting Sunnis in Iraq makes you an accomplice of ISIS, the very group that sees the Iraqi regime as an enemy? Similarly, can we support the rights of the Kurdish people while supporting the very same government that rejects this independence? Or would we be branded Sunni supporters? The answer to this riddle is irrelevant, since chances are that by the time you make up your mind, the political dynamics will have already shifted, rendering these equations futile. Iran, meanwhile, has stopped supporting the outgoing sectarian leader Nouri al-Maliki. Where, then, does Iran now stand?
In short, the questions and answers to these riddles are so entangled that some miraculous software needs to be created to figure out this maze. Yet such complexities are not confined to this part of the Arab world. Move a little westwards, and you will find the so-called “Arab Spring” in a constant state of doom and gloom.
In Libya, for example, you can never know who is on whose side or how parliament or government is run. Indeed, no sooner do you hear of a new president than he has run for dear life or was beaten up in his office or kidnapped from his house.
Taking one side will inevitably land you in trouble with the other. The search for legitimate government has become near impossible as nations fall victim to militias, factions and governments fighting for power, forgetting their people altogether in the process.
The entire Arab map is facing one of its darkest ages, where every possible solution seems to contradict the next. Some have blamed these crises on the U.S.’s lack of interest in the region, thanks to Obama’s ever-changing stances, and have demanded that the mega power directly intervene to douse the flames. Ironically, it is these very same people who complain that U.S. intervention is the root of all evil and repeatedly ask America to stop acting like the world’s policeman. In short, amnesia has hit an Arab nation where everyone applauds whatever comes their way.
What is all the more disturbing is that Arab officials repeat the same old phrase at conferences, thinking the masses will not notice that these “exceptional and critical times” have actually become the rule and not the exception.
The need to improve disintegrating development indices, nevertheless, remains dire amid increasing unemployment, poverty and corruption.
Countries that were defeated in World War II are leaders in today’s global economy. Germany and Japan, once war torn, have fully recovered and excelled after realizing that development and economic advancement, not military might, are the key to success. Germany has since led Europe’s economy and Japan is now an economic rival to the U.S. By contrast, dire developmental failure in the Arab world paved the way for sectarian and territorial disputes. One fact, however, remains clear. Regimes lose legitimacy the minute they cling to power. Legitimacy is only earned through tangible achievement. Arab citizens continue to live the daily miseries of securing income for their families and their future amid these failures. The saddest part of this reality, perhaps, is that Arabs still aspire to emigrate in a bid to get their hands on basic needs that their very own states have failed to provide. In short, changing government priorities and shifting toward a development-based agenda remain our main challenges.
Good governance is the key to a sustainable agenda, a strong economy and a powerful educational system. Indeed, only this can immunize us against the blows that have incapacitated us for so long.
Al Qaeda’s 9/11 anniversary attacks ready to go. New undetectable explosive may
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 2, 2014/
Credible information has reached Saudi, British and Australian agencies that two al Qaeda branches – IS in Iraq and Syria and AQAP at its base in Yemen - have wrapped up plans to roll out coordinated terrorist spectaculars around the 13th anniversary of the September 11, 2011 attacks on New York and Washington. According to debkafile’s counterterrorism sources, they are preparing to strike simultaneously in the Middle East and a West European city. Next, they will go for US targets in the Middle East and Europe.
In the estimate of Islamist experts, the IS and AQAP have decided to delay direct terrorist action in the United States, calculating that an attack on America will have a greater shock impact some time after the first cycle of outrages, toward the end of 2014 or early 2015.
It was this information that galvanized Saudi King Abdullah into warning the West that Al Qaeda’s plans were imminent. “If neglected,” he said strongly last week, “I am certain that after a month they will reach Europe and, after another month, America.”
The king issued his warning on the occasion of the US Ambassador to Riyadh, Joseph W. Westphal’s formal presentation of credentials. This gave his warning added weight, because it was a fabricated opportunity. In the two years that Ambassador Westphal has officiated in the Saudi capital, the king has never found time to confirm his accreditation. This cold shoulder reflected the nonagenarian Saudi ruler’s opinion of US President Barack Obama’s Middle East policies and what appears to Riyadh to be his lackadaisical attitude towards fighting Islamist terror. Sharing the view that this peril is too grave to be ignored any longer, the prime ministers of Britain and Australia, David Cameron and Tony Abbott, appear to have prevailed on the Saudi king to signal this indirect warning to Washington - especially since Saudi intelligence shares the view that a great number of lives are at stake if Al Qaeda consummates its plans. Our intelligence and counterterrorism sources disclose that the data on the two Al Qaeda groups’ plans to mark the 9/11 anniversary with major attacks has been in the hands of Middle Eastern, European and US security agencies since the second week of May, i.e., five months ago. They were also anxiously aware that Al Qaeda’s top bomb-maker, Ibrahim Hassan A-Asiri, who works out of Yemen, had developed a secret explosive substance that can pass undetected through the screening devices and security measures currently in use at international airports and public places in the West and the Middle East. Intelligence experts believe that this novel substance, when hidden in special shoes or electronic devices like iPhones and Samsung Galaxy phones, can beat even tight security scrutiny. However, information has also been received about the new undetectable explosive substance being implanted in the bodies of suicide jihadists, to produce the ultimate “body bombs.” It is feared that this hazard is already in place and that a surgical procedure may have been carried out to implant it on carriers of American or European passports, at a secret clinic in Yemen or a Gulf emirate by a surgeon dedicated to the radical Islamist cause. These human bombs will have been able to travel through Jordan or Iraq through Turkey to their targeted destinations. Such carriers of invisible bombs may be Americans, Belgians, Britons, Australians, French citizens or Germans, and already on standby for the prearranged signal to push a certain button and demolish a selected target. The novel invention has made it infinitely easier for terrorists to move around and approach their targets, unnoticed and without arousing suspicion. Prime Minister Cameron has woken up to the peril. He announced Tuesday, Sept. 22, he would ask parliament to urgently approve sweeping legislation to combat the “scourge of extremism” - including the power to seize passports of an estimated 500 British Muslims known to be frequent travelers to Turkey, Syria and Iraq and strongly suspected of identifying with Al Qaeda’s jihadist ideology. Most counterterrorism experts fear that these measures if approved would come too late to pre-empt Al Qaeda’s 9/11 anniversary plot.
Hamas was Defeated, Until the Next Time
By Efraim Inbar/BESA Center Perspectives
September 03 2014
Executive Summary: During Operation Protective Edge, Hamas was clearly defeated, but not destroyed. Israel was successful in significantly degrading the military capabilities of Hamas and forced it to accept the Egyptian-Israeli ceasefire unconditionally. Despite criticism of Israel's "disproportionate" response and over seventy Israeli casualties, the operation was supported by many key international actors and the fighting caused little damage to Israel. As there is no political solution to the conflict in sight, Israel may be forced to "mow the grass" again and more vigorously so. Hamas was clearly defeated by Israel in "Operation Protective Edge,' but not destroyed. Its destruction was not a goal of Israel's military campaign. What Israel wanted was a weakened Hamas to continue to rule Gaza. The separation between Gaza and the West Bank serves Israel's interest in weakening the Palestinian national movement, which has been and remains a mortal enemy (not a peace partner), at least for the foreseeable future.
Israel decided to once again "mow the grass" in Gaza under the assumption that it is engaged in a protracted intractable conflict where a patient strategy of attrition is needed to significantly degrade the capabilities of Hamas to harm Israel. This was achieved. About one third of Hamas' missile arsenal and most of its missile production infrastructure was destroyed. Most of the attack tunnels (32) were probably demolished, and almost one thousand Hamas fighters and a few of its leaders were eliminated. More targeted killings and an earlier removal of some of the self-imposed constraints on the use of airpower might have speeded Hamas' acceptance of a ceasefire and might have spared Gaza much destruction.
The Hamas defeat is clear, because it finally capitulated to the Egyptian cease-fire proposal that Hamas had been rejected since July 15. The unlimited ceasefire, as Egypt and Israel demanded, constituted the precondition for future negotiations, and it had no input from Qatar and Turkey, both Hamas supporters. All crossings into Gaza will continue to be controlled by Israel and Egypt, making sure that the rearmament of Hamas will not be easy. Egypt even forced Hamas to swallow a bitter pill such as the presence of the Palestinian Authority (PA) at the Rafah crossing. The Hamas "victory speeches" cannot erase the fact that Hamas eventually gave in unconditionally to Egyptian-Israeli pressure.
Despite much criticism abroad of Israel's "disproportionate" use of force, Israel was allowed for 50 days to pulverize Hamas installations and their surroundings. It was clear that a large number of Arab states tacitly supported the Israeli endeavor to administer a heavy blow on Hamas. Important international actors, such as India, China and Russia, were rather mute on the Gaza issue for their own reasons. Moreover, the US, the EU and parts of the international community demanded demilitarization of Gaza too. This is of course not attainable without collecting Hamas weaponry by force, but it delegitimizes Hamas violence, while lending legitimacy to Israel's defensive measures.
Any assessment of "Protective Edge" must also calculate the cost to Israel of this offensive. The "Iron Dome" system neutralized almost all rockets fired at Israel's population centers. Most of the country was little affected by the Gaza war, although the sound of sirens probably had a negative psychological effect. Disciplined behavior on part of the civilian public minimized the loss of lives. But the death toll was 72 (over sixty soldiers) and hundreds of wounded. Limited damage was caused primarily to property in the proximity of the Gaza. Direct and indirect costs of the war that amount to several billions of dollars are bearable for the strong Israeli economy.
The caution and the reluctance to use ground forces displayed by Israel were useful in garnering domestic and international legitimacy, but might have a corrosive effect on Israel's deterrence. Such qualities, commendable in a democracy, do not enhance Israel's deterrence in the Middle East. Eagerness to fight, determination and ruthlessness are the prerequisites for building deterrence. Unfortunately, the military campaign against Hamas underscored tensions in US-Israel relations. The ambiguous attitudes and actions toward Israel on part of the US administration signal less willingness to back its Middle East ally. Moreover, the US was largely irrelevant in the Gaza outcome, as it foolishly tried to involve Turkey and Qatar in management of the crisis and it failed to perceive the centrality of Egypt in the Gaza equation. The Gaza war was another example of the confused Obama administration foreign policy towards the Middle East. The American misfortune is also an Israeli loss as Jerusalem needs and prefers a strong and relevant America.
"Protective Edge" left Gaza in Hamas hands. There is a widespread feeling of unease among Israelis with this outcome. The frustration is understandable, but not warranted. It is beyond Israel's abilities to impose its preferred leaders on its Arab neighbors. But it is not easy to come to terms with the thought that there is no resolution to the conflict in sight and with the realization that another round of violence is around the corner. Nevertheless, polls have shown for some time that most Israelis understand this predicament, and during the war Israeli society displayed tremendous resilience and solidarity. Indeed, routinization of protracted conflict remains a main challenge for Israeli society. The domestic political impact of the Gaza war will depend upon the length of the period of calm to be achieved. The longer calm will prevail, the more Prime Minister Netanyahu will be its main beneficiary. The next scheduled election is in November 2017, which is plenty of time for Netanyahu to recover, if the calm holds. If deterrence does not hold and Hamas decides to challenge Netanyahu by firing into Israel over the next three years, the Prime Minister may be forced to "mow the grass" again and more vigorously. *Prof. Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, is a professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University, and a Shillman/Ginsburg fellow at the Middle East Forum.
An Unconvincing Explanation
By: Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat
Wednesday, 3 Sep, 2014
Over the past few days, it has been said that the Gulf states have been compelled to put their disputes aside out of fear of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Has this terrorist organization’s threat reached the extent that it is capable of ending the Gulf’s disputes? And is ISIS really capable of threatening the capitals of these states? Of course, no one familiar with the region could believe this could happen, unless they were clueless about its political developments. Geographically speaking, any threat from ISIS should be impossible, unless it has an air force, which it does not. The city of Ramadi—in Iraq’s Anbar province, close to the Saudi border—is the closest ISIS stronghold to the Gulf. Kuwait is the closest Gulf capital to Ramadi, but despite this, the distance between them is still huge—more than 470 miles (760 km), most of which contains barren desert. The Saudi capital is almost twice as far away from Ramadi. Any arrival of ISIS via land into the capitals of Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Oman would be impossible, no matter how strong, speedy and well-armed the organization might be. ISIS fighters, traveling in armed vehicles, were able to cross from Syria into the Iraqi city of Mosul via the Al-Qa’im border crossing because of the short distance between the two places, the chaos in Syria and the security vacuum in Iraq, which was the result of the weakness of the central government in Baghdad. Therefore, arguing that Gulf governments could put their disputes aside out of fear of ISIS would be an overestimation of its capabilities. Logic, and many good arguments, dictate that Gulf governments should end their disputes. However, the specter of ISIS is not among them.
The paradox is that the concerns of the Gulf states are also their assets. They are similar to each other in three areas: financial influence, strong relations with the West and political stability. Instead of directing these common assets towards similar objectives to benefit the people of the region in general, and the people of the Gulf in particular, there has been an increase in “proxy wars” on which billions of dollars have been spent, despite the fact these struggles will injure everyone who takes part in them. Those assets were used in buying international military, legal, media, political and commercial services as part of a “cold war” among the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). This is absurd on a level the likes of which the region has not seen before.
When the Gulf states act together, they are a potential powerhouse, but when they disagree, they fight in other parties’ arenas. A particular incident when the Gulf states cooperated was when they decided to support Bahrain during its ordeal in 2011. At the time, there were fears that the smallest Gulf country, which faced the most sensitive situation in sectarian terms, could collapse as a result of interference by Iran and other parties. The GCC succeeded in saving Bahrain, both internationally and domestically, and it also succeeded in preventing chaos and an extended state of war. The concern about the Gulf arises from concern about the actions of its people, not ISIS. Terrorism poses a direct threat to the Iraqi and Syrian regimes because it grows and expands where it finds chaos and a security vacuum, as we have seen in Afghanistan, Libya and Yemen. Gulf countries are protected against ISIS, just as they were against Al-Qaeda in the past. This is not to deny the threat armed extremist groups pose to Gulf stability, or their desire to shake the internal order of the Gulf states and embarrass them internationally. The Gulf states’ current crisis stems from the fact they are fighting among themselves for influence over a vast geographic area, stretching from Syria to Mauritania. However, even if one Gulf state emerges victorious over another, it’s still a pyrrhic victory, because Gulf states are not global superpowers that can turn these victories into spheres of influence where they can expand their interests. They cannot even maintain their gains for long, as we have witnessed in the case of Qatar’s intervention in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and Syria, and Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Syria and Yemen. It’s akin to playing an expensive videogame that offers no real reward, except for Saudi Arabia, as it has to protect its borders with Iraq and Yemen, as well as having to support Egypt, because chaos there may directly harm the Kingdom. In general, putting an end to this competition among the Gulf states would be to everyone’s advantage, but claiming that any reconciliation has occurred out of fear of ISIS is an unconvincing interpretation of the situation.